With the new Ram ProMaster cargo van now for sale at your local car dealership and the new Ford Transit coming early 2014, it was time to compare the 5 most popular cargo vans.
With the European styling of the current models, a substantial shift in their use as a RV conversion may occur. Changes in exterior AND interior height, available floor area and engine choice will influence new buyers to forget about the old American work van.
The 2014 line-up of the Ram ProMaster Van is the second introduction of a European style commercial van, after Ford’s early announcement of its Transit van.
The ProMaster is based on the Fiat Ducato, with some adjustments and refinements for the American market.
As a front-wheel-drive-only, it differentiates itself from other currently available vans. The exclusion of a driveshaft resulted in a decreased overall weight and a lower floor height.
Prices start at $28,630.00. A high-roof, long wheelbase model’s base MSRP is $32,875.00.
Van buyers are offered the ultimate choice of three lengths in addition to two roof heights. The 2014 ProMaster features a low roof ( 90”ext. ) (1500 model only) and a high roof ( 101”ext. ), while supporting a 118 inch (1500 model only), 136 inch or 159 inch wheelbase. Its rear cargo doors swing open up to 270 degrees and give complete access to the van.
The van supports a cargo volume of 530 cubic feet and features 56 inches between the wheel wells. The driver’s seat is fairly elevated, which enhances the view of the driver.
The 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are implemented with your choice of the following engines.
A standard 3.6-liter V-6 engine with 280-horsepower (260 lb-ft of torque).
The Fiat-derived I-4 3.0-liter TurboDiesel engine option (295 lb-ft of torque).
All configurations will be produced at the Saltillo Van Assembly Plant in Saltillo, Mexico.
All information in this article updated as of September 2013.
The application of the dye to the wood is done with an old cotton rag. To that extend, the wood is sanded, starting with 80-grit paper, followed by 150-grit. As the curl absorbs more of the dye, after another sanding, the curl is visibly enhanced.
The larger bottom panel after a partial application of the dye.
The assembly is discussed in the third and final posting.
Utilizing every available space is a priority; the area to the right of the rear side window is large enough to accommodate a magazine rack and is conveniently close to the bed. This will allow for some late night reading. Back to the workshop for some woodworking!
The main wood choice is again Cherry in combination with some Tiger Maple as a front panel.
After dimensioning and sizing the lumber, everything must be put together, including two extra pieces which are added to the side to act as a pen/pencil holder.
The Cherry plywood back panel first gets a solid Cherry strip glued to its top.
The Tiger Maple front panel gets two tenons that will fit into slots, routed in the side panels. The tenons are flush with the bottom, while the tops are cut back for an invisible joint.
Both side panels now receive the slots that will hold the front panel; at the same time, a full-length rabbet is routed that will hold the back panel. A bit of sapwood is showing, but will be largely hidden in the final product.
The bottom panel gets a similar rabbet.
Pencil holder supports.
Now a stylish curve is added to the Tiger Maple panel.
To save a bit of weight and add some more style, two slender slats will support the magazines. A little more work was involved to chisel out the four rectangular holes.
The assembly and finishing are discussed in the next two postings.
In the second half of this year, Ford will introduce the 2014 Transit van to the American market, thereby replacing the aging E-Series model. It is basically the full-size van that Ford has been offering in the European and Asian markets for many years.
Despite a recent make-over in these markets, Ford made further adjustments and refinements to this version of the Transit van, to account for the different uses and expectations of the American consumer.
In addition to the currently available wheelbases and lengths in the Econoline models, the Transit will offer a selection different heights, lower weight but increased payloads and reduced fuel consumption and maintenance costs. Of course, that will probably be offset by higher suggested retail prices, which are, as of this moment, not yet released.
Van buyers are offered the ultimate choice of three lengths in addition to three roof heights. The 2014 Transit features a low roof ( 56”int. / 83”ext. ), a medium roof ( 72”int. / 101”ext. ) and a high roof ( 82”int. / 110”ext. ), while supporting a 130 inch or 148 inch wheelbase and single- or dual rear wheels. Its rear cargo doors swing open up to 270 degrees and give complete access to the van.
The extended roof lines have led to improved interior heights, with heights that start with 56 inches for the low roof, 72 inches for the medium roof and 81 inches for the high roof model. With the latter one easily accommodating a full-size person.
The 6-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are implemented with your choice of the following engines.
A standard 3.7-liter V6 engine.
The optional 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 that currently can be found in the Ford F-150. A good choice for towing in combination with the trailer towing package.
The new 3.2-liter five-cylinder Power Stroke Diesel option.
The 2014 Transit has integrated the opening for filling the 26-gallon fuel tank with the driver’s side door.
The new design has resulted in improved fuel efficiency and substantially lower maintenance costs.
All information in this article updated as of January 2013.
Between the window and the side doors is a narrow strip of wall available to house a small console. It is the future location of the battery monitor and a reading light.
With a narrow piece of wood, the length of the console, placed against the inside wall, the curve of the wall is transferred to the wood. Back in the workshop the form is cut and adjusted to get a perfect fit.
In the meantime, some wood is planed to a 1/2” thickness and the form is temporarily attached to it. With a straight-edge bit, the form is exactly copied to the wood. This and another copy are the two sides of the console.
The front of the console is a piece of hardboard.
Three blocks are sandwiched between the two sides, glued and screwed together.
For a good hold, these blocks will be attached to the metal frame with screws.
Next the front of the console. This is primarily glued, while further strengthened with a few additional brads.
Time for some drying.
The back consists of 3 blocks, equally separated along the back of the console, glued and screwed to the side panels.
Finally, a soft curve is routed to both corners of the console.
The console will be covered with a fabric material and placed on top of the plywood wall board.
Before continuing with the other side of the van interior, it’s time to put the wall and window above the bed, back together again. Two issues remain: the battery cables and the solar controller cable need to be installed. The other is the decision I have to make, whether to go ahead with batting as insulation or choose a foam product. Despite some negative comments about the batting material, it has served me well over the years. On the other hand, spray foam would do a better job in filling all the little air pockets in the walls. Some people, however, have mentioned a squeaking noise while driving. Have you any thoughts about it?
The original wall panel is still around. The covering is removed and the plywood base is what we have to work with. I could copy it to a new, one-piece sheet of plywood, but it is in a condition to be reused.
To conform to the new bed, the bottom part is cut off, just below the window frame.
The bed frame, along the wall, has an indentation, that will hold the wall frame.
After some fitting and adjusting, the panel slides in place. The window frame is next.
Recently a fan was installed to cool the solar components, like controller, battery charger, etc. As it is not necessary to run the fan continuously, a switch can regulate its use.
Radio Shack sells this 12V switch with a ground (+), a power (-) and a accessory spade.
Right now there is a wire running to the batteries, a 12V socket, the fan and the switch that have to be interconnected.
First the red (-) fan wire gets a connector.
After crimping the tiny wire, a little bit of solder is applied for an improved connection.
For increased longevity of these joints, this assortment of heat shrink was acquired from Harbor Freight.
The fan wire plug is finished by adding the heat shrink.
After adding all the required plugs to the different wires, we move from the workshop to the van to make the final connections.
The solder iron is clamped to the bed rail in order to have both hands free.
The 12V socket comes with two short wires. The power (-) wire that slides on to the center of the socket has a ring connector on the other end, which is replaced with a square one that will connect to the switch (-). Then the wire is folded in half and some insulation is stripped from the new end, without cutting through the wire.
The battery wire is then guided through the loop and folded to create a stronger joint. The wire is heated by the solder iron until the solder flows into the joint. The heat shrink is slid onto the connection and heated. What we have is the power from the batteries that is split into two wires, one to the socket and one to the fan switch.
The other power socket ground wire (+) is doubled up similarly, joined with the black fan ground wire (+) and connected to the ground (+) of the battery wire. There is no electrical hazard, as the batteries haven’t been installed yet.
Now the wiring is largely completed, a hole is drilled with a Forstner bit to accommodate the fan switch.
First we’ll check that the switch fits, then we pull the wires through.
The ground (+) is connected to the left blade, power (-) to the center and power (-) to the fan to the right. Slide the switch into the hole and fasten it.
Now there is a small bundle of wire that has to be sorted out.
Two small staples will collect most of the wires.
The remaining battery wire is guided along the top of the compartment towards the batteries.
The wiring cleans up nicely.
Finally the exposed connectors of the switch are treated with a tiny bit of anti-oxidant, which is available at your local hardware store.
To complete the installation the thermal sensor of the fan needs to be attached, the circuitry must be tested and a fuse box installed. All that is done at a later stage of this project.
Close up look of the socket, switch and fan. Only the fan is really visible; the 12V power socket and the switch are largely hidden from view by the overhang of the bed.