My second Cargo Van Conversion has been coming along fine, yet it’s time now to make some choices about the actual vehicle. The next few weeks, I’ll be reviewing the 5 main contestants: Ram ProMaster, Ford Transit, MB Sprinter, Chevy Express and the Nissan NV.
These reviews will focus on the elements of a van conversion, and are strictly my personal opinion and how that impacts on my conversion needs.
This week: Ram ProMaster
The visit to the local dealer would not involve any haggling about price, making it less stressful. My intention for now is to resolve some final issues and most importantly get a good feel of the different interior lengths and heights and looks of the van.
I was fortunate, that all the different models were available for inspection. The medium & high roofs and the 118”, 136” & 159” wheelbases including the extended version; the only drawback was that it included several 2014 models, but the salesman assured me that the only major difference between model years, was the addition of a new diesel engine.
The big, plastic bumper is unattractive and seems more intrusive than on the Transit and Sprinter. At the rear, the two very rectangular doors look awkward and their exposed hinges seem to have been an afterthought.
The payload floor is lowered by approx. 5 inches, which makes entry a little bit easier, yet it seems to have a major drawback. The result is less vertical space available for waste tanks and a possible propane storage tank.
The roof seems to have 2” ribs that run along the length of the roof, that form depressions in the roof, which can collect water when it rains. That is similar to my old Dodge B-250 and which results, over time, in some rust issues. The MB Sprinter seems to have ribs that extend only above the roof, which avoids the problem. This issue needs more scrutiny on my next visit to the ProMaster and Sprinter.
The integrated fuel fill location at the drivers door is a nice design feature.
The interior black door panels on the white finish have an inelegant look, though that may be less noticeable when the van has a different color scheme.
Switching between driver and passenger seats or just moving to the rear payload area has also improved since the old B-series. The dashboard has only a single USB port. A swivel chair option is available.
The Wheelbase & Payload
The ProMaster has three different wheelbase options: 118”, 136” and 159” plus an extended version of the longest wheelbase. GVWR preference goes to the ¾ and 1-ton cargo van, which eliminates the 118” WB as a choice. The larger 159” WB and certainly the extended version are my favorites for a van conversion, but as a one-person vandweller and the fact that the van will be used for my daily transportation needs, may restrict my choice to the 136” WB.
The new commercial vans are very similar in specifications and looks, and the Ram ProMaster is no exception. With a conversion in mind, the lack of sufficient underfloor space and the sizable wheel housings, seem to be its major drawbacks.