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2023 AWD Sprinter Cargo Van Weekender Build for Family

Updated: 7 days ago

We finally got a hold of a 2023 Sprinter for a small fortune. :) We decided to show how to build out a cargo van vs a crew or passenger trim in our "modular" family style as we always do. These are MORE expensive to build out. They have no seating, no walls (for the most part), no headliner. This greatly ads to the costs and time it takes to build a van with seating. More parts, significantly more labor hours, just more money and time! However a lot of DIY builders start this way without thinking about what the complications are so we are going to tackle one our way and elevate the build a bit more than what we normally do since we are starting with nothing might as well go for it! This van however is similar to a passenger van and fully loaded. It even has a fully automated door and a rear heat duct. Super unusual for a cargo van.

What do we have planned? Van Speed Capsules, Fully capable lithium electrical system with solar, alternator charging, inverter, shore power, and 270ah of power! More than enough for a weekender. Other goodies planned L track floor, Z bed, Outside Shower, and even some eye candy such as an Aluminess Roof Rack, Ladder, and larger wheel/Tires to make the van look cool. :) A pretty big list which will likely put this van in the mid 100's pretty easily.

We document our demo builds as these will be for sale eventually and the build blogs are a great way to show the detail and value of the build compared to many vans for sale that look the same but greatly differ in overall build quality and detail. We could easily save 10-15k by taking shortcuts and have the same "look". The van however will not perform, sound, or function nearly as well in a lot of different ways. It also shows the van isn't all hacked up behind the walls or poor quality materials are used.

First things first...let get ready for some larger wheels and tires. Its always fun to put on cool wheels. You cannot just bolt larger tires on a Sprinter. They don't fit. You have to modify the fenders. We don't use the typical fender mods as they don't let you widen the rear fender area as well. The Van Compass kit allows you to do this, but its a bit more labor and you gotta to some cutting.

You can see here when done, it still looks stock but WAY more room. We will be going to a 265/70/17 tire. Why; this give a bit more room for debris, snow, and won't rub. You can also put on a 265/75/16 tire on your "spare" and not have to use a super expensive tire carrier on your door. Its the same height as the 17" wheel/tire combo. We find the other popular size of 275/70/17 looks good, but it does rub on hard turn/articulation on rough roads. The practical size of 265/70/17 we find perfect as a more practical larger tire to run.

Rear Wheel Well modification- done, the rear of the tire now has an inch more room.

Front Fender Modification completed opening up the rear, way more room for larger whee/tire combo

265/70/16 BFG KO2 on Black Rhino Arsenal wheels. I find this size the best all around. You can go larger but you compromise in all around performance due to wheel clearance over rough terrain. Also you can put on a 2365/75/16 on your steel spare tire and avoid buying an extra wheel and don't have to put on a tire carrier saving thousands.

Full size spare tire 265/75/16 is same size as 265/70/17. We keep costs down using the steel OEM wheel and we could not put on a spare tire carrier on the rear door with 270 degree hinges and Van Speed Capsules with out a significant door stop or swapping out 180 degree hinges.

First things first getting ready for a roof rack you need to do some things FIRST before you start putting on all that eye candy just like before you put on wheels. We start by putting on a fan and solar gland for the solar panels that will go on later.

Then we wash the van to make sure ALL debris are off the roof. 99% of the time a roof needs a good washing and clay treatment. This was a brand new van...roof was horrible. So we gave it a very good cleaning before the roof rack will go on.

Then we are cutting in windows and finishing with OEM rubber for an OEM Look. AMA Vented/screen slider windows.

and need to wash the van to get all of the metal dust off 100% after cutting into the van. Yep no fast way to wash a van. It even takes me an hour and I have all the super slick tools like a professional foam gun. Hand dry to make sure its very clean.

Its a lot eye candy in a very short time and a small fortune $. Notice this was all done in sequence...wheel fender mod, fan, solar, windows, roof rack, windows, blew way past $15k...very quickly in mods. Looks cool, but the real work is to come inside. This was the easy stuff and in comparison of whats to come a fraction of the build time. Aluminess roof rack with perforated top, double loop, and a Fiamma Awning. Cut out hole for fan was done as well. Solar panels will sit on top deck of rack.

Why is the fuel door missing? Notice? We pulled this off to use as a paint reference for the VanSpeed Capsules that need to be painted that will go on the back of the van. It's expensive and a pain to get them painted, but one of the many very time consuming steps needed to get this build together.

Aluminess Tread Steps - a bit easier now to get in

Ladder to get to the rack. Since the doors are 270 degree opening type, a ladder on the rear door will hit the side of the van especially once the Capsules are put on.

Water tank installed for the future outside shower, This is right next to the gas tank. Plumbing and pump to be installed soon.

Electronics- this is our configured "core" of the electrical system by craft autoworks. Super compact DC to DC charger, 2000w pure sine wave inverter, Shore power, DC panel, and solar charger all in a really small package. Just add connections-solar, alternator, shore power, and other various outlets. These are really nice super compact pre-loaded systems, really simplifies the installation of an electrical system and if there is a problem easy to chase down to component level and just swap out. This will easily run a microwave, hotplate, CPAP or charge an ebike. This type of system tripples the costs at least of a typically DC to DC AGM system and takes up interior space.

You are looking at 10k in parts on this table...just a small example of how quickly builds ad up just in materials. Some of the audio, heater, and part of the electrical system, bracing, and a $600 roll of insulation in this photo. Not to mention putting this stuff in the van will require even more parts and a very significant amount of hours.

This is what your front doors look like. Many builds they don't do anything to the front doors-a huge build short cut saving a pretty good amount of money.

What do we do? Start with sound deadening with Dynamat Extreme. Unlike most of the sound deadening material this doesn't have tar based material. Take a smell of most of the stuff you see online used it smells like tar-cheap and sub par performance. If you smell that it cheap junk. Who wants to breath that stuff in on a hot day? Another shortcut using inferior product you see a lot. It helps, but not nearly as good as the stuff we use. However Dynamat Extreme is really expensive in comparison.

With 3M Thinsulate. You need to keep the center area clear for the window that comes down into the door.

Door panels and upgraded speakers as part of the audio upgrade. Adapter rings have to be used to get the 6.5 inch speakers to fit. We cover this as well in many of our other builds comparing stock vs upgrade. You don't need to go to a crazy speaker to get better sound but you have to insulate and sound deaden the doors otherwise you really cannot take advantage of the upgrade to it fullest. Its a very big difference when this is done. Speakers alone without sound deadening and sound dampening can still really sound not that great.

Audio and Heater upgrades require the front to be taken apart significantly. Lots of work and should be done in the first stages of a build for sure, especially if you are running speakers in teh back.

5 channel Kenwood Class D amplifier fits perfect under the passenger seat leaving room for the heater and if need be a fuse panel. Still have to wire in the sub and rear speakers when rear wiring for every thing is started. The system will have proper rated Kicker CS speakers and a 8" Kenwood subwoofer to fill in the base all connected to OEM head unit. Nothing crazy just a clean sounding system integrated. Its important to use properly rated speakers to the amp power. Its a fair amount of work to put a system into a van. L

We have the heater in position next to the amplifier. We only use Espar D2L heaters with automatic high altitude adjustment from an authorized dealer for reliability and warranty support in all of our builds. You pay more, but you get what you pay for. A huge mistake builders do is cut corners on their heater. Its way to expensive of an item to do that, not to mention the safety factor.

Got batteries will will use in this van. Very tech, very expensive Dakota smart heated ultra compact lithium batteries. This is a system we don't feel is needed in 99% of our builds, but in this van we decided to show what we would do for a fully featured "basic" lithium system. To put a system like this in is 3-4 times more expensive than our typical AGM system. No generic cheap brand stuff used here. 11 year warranty on these batteries!

Lots of wiring. All of those switches, lights, and outlets have to be wired up some place. Here we are laying them out to figure where they will have to go to finally be connected to the power system.

An area often over looked is sound deadening and insulation. We spend a huge amount of time and materials costs to well insulated our vans. They are super quiet and very well insulated. Also make the upgraded audio system in this van sound amazing. Its a very large difference. We don't take short cuts with material.

Rear door

Front Floor

Since we have the slider door open, thought we would share another mod that is over looked a lot. We are putting DOT seats/mounting in back so it make sense for safety...

Sound deadening throughout the van as we do in all of our shop builds. This step makes a big difference, using the right materials a bigger difference, and putting in as much coverage as possible even more of a difference. Driving different customer vans, I can say confidently our vans are quieter than most for sure because of the steps we take to do this simple but very time consuming step along with insulation that is sound absorbing. Wiring now can be cleaned up more, insulation, and additional wiring still yet to be done at this stage. We always want to be able to service a van or do additional wiring in the. We don't use spray foam (horrible idea), or wool/denim as the sound absorbing isn't nearly as good as 3M Thinsulate.

3M automotive specific insulation can be put in place in the walls. The rear quarter panels will all be cut out so nothing goes there. We also put insulation in some of the cavities as well just giving it that bit extra. This entire step of insulation and sound deadening can easily take 20-30 hours for an entire van. Its super easy but really time consuming if you are doing more than just putting in a few patches in the van. This really is a much farther step than that. Makes a big difference compared to stock and really helps the audio quality. Next step is to handle all the primary wiring as its only pre-run at this point but not really fully wired in. Will have to be all organized and tidy as the next step. Shore, solar, and alternator power wires has to be ran as well as some exterior/interor lights need to be put on.

More wiring still. Mounted Zamp Solar panels to the roof rack. These are very nice low profile panels that can fit on the side of the fan to give a lot more open room on the back of the roof rack. They are expensive panels but worth the price both in quality and the unique fit to be able to be mounted here. You can access the roof via side ladder.

Wired in side outside Rigid lights front and back. All of this needs to be done when the van has no walls.

Also got around to making some of the custom panels for the van. I got lucky and found a headliner someone was selling out of a new crew van which will enable us to finish the interior easier at a more economical costs saving money and time. The headliner will take care of some of the curves and corner transitions easier.

Preparation on upper rear door panels. Another light for rear as well as speakers are mounted. All the wiring was ran earlier in the first part of the build for these items.

Finally got the Van Speed Capsules. I personally like the looks of these much better than Flarespace. They are deeper as well but you can't use CRL awning window on you slider. (not a problem in this build). These are color matched as well.

They are designed to go on the van a bit easier as well

Mounted/glued in

Now with CRL Pill windows

Passenger side. This is the side you can't use a CRL on your slider door, handle hits the capsule. One of the thousand things you have to figure out when building a van, usually from trial/error.

Inside panels. These had to be modified and test fitted prior to upholstery. These are from Van Speed, but even then I had to modify them, not a direct fit.

Upholstered panels test fit. Starting to look more like a van, but a lot more work to do, only about half way done on this build.

Finally getting around to building a box for the power system and batteries. I wanted to keep this as compact as possible to leave more room for gear in the van. I was originally going to build a big cubby/cabinet but decided it was better to leave more room for flexible storage. Normally the battery would be in the hood (for a DC only system), but since this has AC/DC/shore/alt/solar power set up it has to be inside the van. I started with making this super small cabinet and testing out how it will fit.

After spending some time getting all the wiring to fit, it looks like it will all work ok, but its a very tight fit. This is a pre-fit. This will all have to come out again when the new floor comes in, but I designed it to be able to be removed with out to much work.

Also got around to pre-fit the bed panels. This is a basic bed, that's all you need as when you have flares/capsules you are not going to be really adjusting bed height. They of course are full removable. A bit more finish work is still to be done. This is all test fitting stages.

Front angle of bed. Towards the front side window I have about 4-5 inches of the bed towards teh front than most beds of this type. If I did not do this the person in the front kinda has a very narrow bed compared to the back. I hate that. Makes no sense to me unless you need that extra space for a rear stock seat. In fact on a Flarespace for example I have to cut 3 more inches of front/back width to get a stock bench seat to still work in the 3rd row. Since this van will have seating that slides front/back on tracks that will not be an issue. A custom mattress however will need to be made. I ordered a high end Roam Rest custom mattress specially to fit these capsule's. These have so much more space in them compared to the tapered Flarespace ones. The pre-cut panels however Van Speed makes are not the most ideal panel to work with. I have had to modify every one get them to fit ok. If you have a MOAB bed you really have to cut them up. Not a plug and play panel.

Just this bed and box took about 26 hours to get to this point even with all the wires "pre-wired". Still more work to be totally done with them. Just an example that van builds take a lot more time than you would think. It this is done at a very fast speed compared to a DIY for sure. I still have more work to do on the box and bed to get it dialed. It looks simple, which it kinda is, but really time consuming to get it all to fit perfectly, and these panels and box for sure do.

Plenty of storage, these semi rigid cabinets have more storage, lighter weight, and won't cut your head when you hit them when compared to normal wood cabinets. (you will)

These storage lockers are removable in just a few minutes

Additional storage under bed can be done as well with Semi Rigid Van Wife Bags or Campo bags hanging off of L track

Swivels seats are added as we come to a close on the build till we get our custom mattress and the Smart Floor system using the new track layout that is not yet available that will work with captains chairs as well at a new Z bed offering they are finalizing. This will make this van crazy flexible for any use and make it easier to sleep a family of 4. Build cost for this van so far are about $60k not including the flooring and seats which will bring this van depending on the type of seats around 160k.

110 outlet and a Victron battery monitor as well. The outlet on bottom is a 12v cigarette DC outlet for a fridge.