Van Life – Building a Malo’o Daily Driver

I’ve been a Ford f-150 guy for the last 12 years. I get a new one every 2 years on lease, and it has served me well. I have a board pad on the tailgate for my surfboard and I can haul all of my snowboard gear in in the back. But, something was missing. When we go snowboarding, Mammoth Mountain is our favorite, and it’s about 6.5 hours from San Diego. So, it’s not just around the corner. What was missing was more room in the cab. I had a F-150 crew cab, the biggest they make, but with my wife, 2 dogs and the gear that can’t be thrown in back, it wasn’t a pleasant 6+ hours.

We decided a van would provide us much more room and we stated the search. We wanted a van that we could use every day and didn’t want an RV.  We looked at old VW buses, and new Dodge, Ford, Nissan and Mercedes vans. The Mercedes won by a far margin and we decided to go with a Passenger Van, short/tall, so I could stand up in it (I’m 6’4”) and it can be parked anywhere. We also decided to get 4x4 for the Mammoth runs.

So now what? We’ve bought a great van, but with 3 rows of seats, we looked like more of a short school bus than a multi-purpose van. We figured we’d go to the van conversion folks and see what they had. If we wanted it converted to a mini-rv, lots of folks did that. If we wanted to deck it out like a limo, lots did that also. But a comfortable, basic custom, no one would do, so we did it ourselves.

The Project:  

  • Demo: First was to take the 3 rows of seats out. Simple enough. Then we listed them on Craigslist and after having to show them to too many kooks, we eventually sold them.
  • Flooring: We wanted a wood look and decided to go to Lumber Liquidators. We found what we needed and bought the required flooring and sub-flooring strapping.
  • Basics: Interior was pretty well set as we purchased the “passenger van” model. So rear air-conditioning, all around windows, and side and roof panels were present.
  • Seating: We decided we’d keep the drivers and passenger front seat and wanted new captain’s chairs and a reclining couch for the back. I remember seeing a manufacturer’s name on some of the boxes at the van conversion places and I called them directly. Discount Van Truck in Lake Havasu was the answer. We custom ordered the seats (massage, heat, reclining) and the couch from them directly and about 6 weeks later we had a 500lb carton sitting at the end of our driveway.
  • Assembly: I’d love to say we did this all ourselves, but after looking at the wiring harnesses that came with the furniture, we decided to find someone to install it. We actually found a good mobile stereo guy in Oceanside, that did it for us. 

Finishing Touches

  • Tires: We went with Nitto Terra Grappler. It fit, has good traction and looked aggressive.
  • Wheels: We went with the Method MR701 as they came in black and looked great.
  • Rack: We decided to put a rack on top of the van so we can put all of our snowboard gear up there on the Mammoth runs. It so happens that the best MBZ Sprinter Rack is made by Aluminess and they are here in San Diego. We got a full overhead rack, ladder and surfboard hooks. Now I can take it surfing every day and I don’t get wax, water or salt inside.
  • DryRack: Got to have the DryRack. It does it all. It’s great for my wetsuit, towels, hats, gloves, booties, jackets, pants, waders, you name it. We use it at the ocean, in the mountains and just about anywhere we go. It portable, compact, easy to store and once you start using it, you’ll find a zillion different uses.

 So, we’ve fully converted from a F-150 daily driver to an MBZ Sprinter 2500 4x4 daily driver. Only 2 things that I wish were different on the MBZ. First, it needs to have a “smarter” key/door. When I open the driver’s door, all doors should be unlocked. Secondly, it needs a bigger gas tank. It seems like I am always filling it up. A 30 or 35-gallon tank would rock.

You can check our van out on Instagram @malooracks and MBZ Sprinter can be a daily driver! Remember the DryRack and share with us your van project #maloovanproject


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