2019 FORD TRANSIT 350 WITH TH 3.5L ECOBOOST V6. 148 EXTENDED HIGH ROOF
Special Thanks to Kendall Ford Of Meridian - Jacob Blewitt
We have known that we needed a van for quite a while. We really underestimated how important a van would be to our business until we got our Ford Transit and started using it. And when your core product is given away for free and keeping our overhead low is critical, we had to be pretty thoughtful about our choices. As Shamu the Moto Van's upfit has progressed, we have received more and more questions about it and the choices we made. Yes we call her Shamu. So we thought it would be a good idea to put together a comprehensive overview as a resource for anyone that's curious.
All three of us have driven a number of Sprinters over the years. The Sprinter is unquestionably the spark that kicked off the current van trend. Our first instinct was to simply get a Sprinter and that would be that. On the recommendation of a knowledgable friend, we ultimately started looking at the competition from Ram, Ford and even Nissan. We test drove them all and ultimately chose the Ford Transit over the rest. Every single one of the vans had their pros and cons. For us, the Ford stood out in a couple of ways that made the decision pretty easy. First, our local dealer really went out of their way to make it work for us. Jacob Blewett at Kendall Ford of Meridian didn't sell us once. He listened a lot. He asked questions and made an effort to understand our business and needs. The second decision making factor was the engine. The 3.5L EcoBoost is simply amazing. It's just fun to drive. It pulls way harder than any van has a right to. It still makes us laugh out loud. Price was also a big factor. The Ford Transit in a pretty basic 1-ton configuration with the engine we wanted, tow package and a hi-output alternator was many thousands of dollars cheaper than a comparable Sprinter. **We're not going to break down the dollar amounts because that's a moving target day to day and region to region. We recommend calling your local dealers and getting the latest pricing.
Another small thing that ultimately stood out on the Ford was visibility. We did not want any side or rear windows in the van so the side mirrors and backup camera became an important consideration. For us, the Transit's mirrors and backup camera were superior to the other options. These vans are big and knowing where you are in the world in relation to other things is important. Hitting stuff is expensive.
Having made a choice and getting things rolling with Kendall, we put together a plan with Jacob to get the van upfitted for our needs. As mentioned before, a significant part of our decision was made based on the local dealer and their ability to take care of us. We are not in the van business and needed to stay focused on our business. We discussed a number of options and ultimately came away with a really solid combination.
Here are some of the upgrades we made and why.
Bolt It On
The very first thing we did to Shamu was to get our hands on a Bolt It On wheel chock system. We really did not like the idea of bolting chocks to the floor. Bolted down chocks take a lot of flexibility away from the van. With the Bolt It On Transit kit, we are able to use the stock cargo tie-down points at the C pillar. A simple J bolt and threaded knob secures everything in place and we can tie down 2 - 3 motorcycles no problem. They also make different chock attachments for ADV bikes, enduro bikes, mountain bikes, different offsets and angles. Scott Corgiat the owner and chief tinkerer there keeps coming up with new ways to make the system more usable. Bolti It On also makes a set of rear cargo door handles that bolt to existing holes. Super easy to install and no drilling. Read our Tested feature about the Bolt It On system here: https://www.upshiftonline.com/magazine-issue/december-2019
Wheel Chock Kit
Rear grab handles with hooks for tie downs. https://www.boltiton.com/
Crew Van Co
Once we had wheel chocks sorted out, we were able to hit the road. But it didn't take long to realize that we needed some sort of bulkhead to separate the bikes from the cab. The clattering and rattling of various things while rolling down the road is one thing, but the fumes from fuel tanks and cans was another thing altogether. Plus adding some seating would be a big advantage. We talked to Jacob about this and showed him some pictures of other moto vans we had seen out and about. He did some digging and came back to us with some concerns. All of the custom bulkhead install he found were extremely expensive and he also found out that insurance companies were pushing back on these types of modifications. In reality we were looking at plywood bolted to the ceiling and floor and some sort of bench seat that didn't cut it as far as crash testing was concerned.
A couple of weeks later he asked us to stop by the dealership where he introduced us to David Haslam one of the owners of a new company local us in Boise called Crew Van Co. His company was just starting to import a second row seating product to the US made by Snoeks Automotive of Amsterdam. Snoeks is a proper OEM supplier and their Crew Van Kit is crash tested and meets all Federal Transportation Safety Administration standards and is insurable. The Crew Van Kit is a huge improvement. Not only doe it seperate the cab area from the cargo area, but part of the kit is a proper floor and headliner which cut the amount of road noise down significantly. It's also much easier to get the passenger are warm in the winter. Before, on a cold day it took a very very long time to heat the entire van if at all. And we had an additional 3 seats with proper 3 point seatbelts.
Crew Van Co offers a number of kit configurations for the Transit, Sprinter and ProMaster through their dealer network. There are some limitations as to who can install these kits and we recommend reaching out to them directly to see if they have a solution for your van specifically. https://crewvanco.com/
Email questions to Crew Van Co at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Aluminess Rack and Bumper
The first thing we wanted to do was get a rack and some sort of bumper for it. We chose Aluminess for these because that's what they specialize in and they had exactly what we wanted. To be honest, a lot of the choice of installing a bumper was based on aesthetics. We ultimately went with the Aluminess light bar. We really did want it for mounting lights, but it also just ads some dimension and scale to the front end that looks good to us. For the rack, we chose the Aluminess Touring rack with the perforated plate option. The perforated plate creates a floor for the rack so you can stand on it easily and even set up tripods etc. Brandon has even slept up there in the desert a couple of times. It simply gives us a lot of flexibility to carry gear or have an elevated position when needed. The build quality and fit are top notch. The only real downside to the Aluminess product was the lead time and aerodynamics. The Aluminess racks are in very high demand. Lead times are at least a couple of month out. And adding all that tubing and plate to the top side definitely does not make the van slippery and does impair overall gas mileage on long trips.
* Touring Style Roof Rack with the perforated aluminum deck and the side ladder. https://www.aluminess.com/ford-transit-standard-roof-racks/
* Front Light Bar https://www.aluminess.com/ford/transit-van/ford-transit-light-bar/
* Cast aluminum body
* Billet aluminum bezels
* Polycarbonate lenses
* Optics that throw really even light where you need it. No dark or hot spots.
* S8 LED Light Bar - 40” Driving/Combo: Maximum trail coverage in a single light. The Driving/Combo pattern is equipped with both Driving (42°) and spot (9°) optics to provide you with a smooth blend of light for both near field applications and distance. 6,300 lumens
* Squadron Sport Driving Combo - The Squadron® Sport utilizes 4 LEDs producing an impressive 3,150 lumens at 26 watts per light, making it ideal for near field, side/backup and scene lighting application.
* S2 Sport Work Light - Compact light putting out a wide swath of light. 1130 lumens https://www.bajadesigns.com/products/Automotive-Lighting.asp
Tires, Wheels and Suspension
Besides the massive roof rack, the biggest thing you will notice visually about Shamu is the tire and wheel package. We did not get a 4x4 conversion and we are a model year before the all-wheel drive Transit became available. But we still wanted to change the stance and get a slightly larger tire under it. We spend a lot of time on rough back roads and dirt roads and the pinner stock wheels and tires just weren't cutting it. Idaho winters and traction were also a consideration. After a lot of research talking to a handful of knowledgeable people we decided to go to a 17" wheel and 245/70-17 tires.
Wheels were a substantial challenge. I should clarify, finding wheels that we liked was a substantial challenge. The Transit has been on the market for a little while now. But the transit becoming a popular option for upfitting is just now happening. So there just were not a lot of options in the Transit 5 x 160 bolt pattern and offset available. Everything we wanted was back-ordered. Even when calling in all the favors we could dig up. Eventually, a new wheel came on the market that we really liked and we were glad that our other choices had fallen through. We had been talking to the guys at Black Rhino and they let us know about their new Journey Wheel. https://www.blackrhinowheels.com/truck-wheels-truck-rims-journey.php
For tires, we chose the Falken Wildpeak A/T3W. In the past we have all run the Bridgestone KO2 offroad tires on our personal trucks. It has always been a great tire and fits the variable conditions here in Idaho really well. Unfortunately, the last set that was purchased was kind of a disappointment. One had a delamination and another wasn't very round and had a hop. This sent us looking at other options. During some of our wheel conversations, tires were also discussed and the Falken was brought up more than once. We also found out that Falken and Dunlop are a part of the same company and Dunlop has supported Upshift for a long time so that made that decision easy. We like to support those that support us.
We have been very happy with Wildpeak A/T3W. It rolls really well and is much quieter than we expected. We went with the 10 ply option make sure dirt roads aren't a problem. The Wildpeak was recently put to work on a really muddy and icy dirt road and it handled great. They bit in when needed and kept us on track. https://www.falkentire.com/tires/light-truck-suv-cuv-tires/wildpeaka/t3w-tire
To make it all fit and work properly Kendall Ford of Meridian sourced a lift kit from Agile Offroad. The kit gives the van an extra 2" which ultimately increased ground clearance by 3" overall with the larger wheel and tire. We also decided to go with the Agile Offroad FOX 2.0 rear shock package. Agile offers the FOX 2.0 tuned specifically for the van you own. This was a huge improvement in how the van rides and tracks going down the road. Before the rear shock kit, Shamu kind of wallowed around a bit and was easily pushed around in the wind. The combination of the better tires and suspension really improved handling overall. We were worried lifting the van might do the opposite. In reality, it only helped make it feel more planted. Transit Lift Kit: https://agileoffroad.com/product/foes-fabrication-lift-kit-ford-transit/#1561156303551-b026c9bb-eab3 FOX 2.0 Shocks: https://agileoffroad.com/product/agile-tuned-fox-2-0-ifp-rear-shocks-ford-transit/
To top everything off, we went with Kendall Ford's go to wrap installers. Creative Wraps in Kuna did an amazing job. Chris developed the design in house and we sent it to Creative Wraps with a number of very specific requests. We tend to really geek out about the aesthetics of what we do and the van was no different. They took the time to look at what we do as well as the spec's we gave them and came back with a bunch of suggestions. They even purchased materials they didn't normally use to run some test prints until we had everything just right. We really can't say enough about these guys and the effort they put in.
Creative Wraps: creativewrapsid.com