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Last Post 21 Sep 2011 12:21 AM by  old fart
Anyone tried towing with a camper van and staying at campsites for autocrosses?
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IntegraR0064
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16 Sep 2011 01:45 PM

    Hi,

    So I'm looking at tow vehicles and trying to decide. I've never towed other than the harbor freight tire trailers. I have an STR S2000 that I would drive to local events, but tow it using an open trailer to further away events a) for a more comfortable ride and b) so I can have tools, extra tires, beer, etc. I live in Philadelphia, we'd probably tow to all the pros and tours on the eastern half of the US, and of course nationals.

    We have no kids with no plans for them ever (do have a dog though), and my wife and I both have a 5 mile commute to work (not the same place). The plan is to have the S2000 (which will be daily driven except in winter when the roads are salted), our miata (with blizzaks), and the mystery vehicle. In general we'd drive the miata and s2000 to work, except in winter when it'd be mystery vehicle plus miata. Longer trips without towing we'd probably take mystery vehicle. Also mystery vehicle would be used for home depot runs, etc. I doubt we'll ever get much of an advantage from pickup vs. van since I don't foresee hauling anything real dirty like mulch, etc. It'd probably only get about 5000 non-towing miles on it per year. Maybe 4000 towing miles per year. So a total of 9000 miles/yr.

    Budget is about $10k, so obviously we're looking used. $10k including trailer would be even better, but I'm not too hopeful about that. I might even be willing to spend a little more like $12k if it seems like a good idea.

    What seems to make sense is to make up kind of a camper/RV van, although not quite as self contained as a normal class B RV. I was thinking if I could get either a 140" (middle length) sprinter or a high top regular length E-250 type van, then just toss some kind of convertible bed/bench in the back, and bolt down a small sink with a 5 gallon water bottle and just have it drain into a small jug or something that I'd drain every day since it'd be used infrequently, and have a microwave and a small electric or propane camping stove, and a portable air conditioner for hot nights. I'd stay at a campsite and plug in to 110V to be able to use the microwave and air conditioner. We wouldn't have showers or toilets because I imagine going to real water tanks plus sewage, etc, would be annoying and space consuming...so we'd use campsite facilities for that. I'd also section off a section of the van for hauling tires and cargo where it would be secure. Of course in places like new jersey I'd still have to get a hotel, but it seems like some sites (Lincoln maybe?) I'd be able to do the camping thing and save quite a bit of money.

    While towing we'd just have myself plus wife (she autocrosses too), and possibly the dog depending on circumstances. The S2000 will probably weigh 2600-2700 lbs, plus the trailer. Right now I'm thinking 1500 lbs for a steel econo-trailer, although I could be convinced to go aluminum to save another 500 lbs if it'll enable a better vehicle. So about 4000 lbs and not too much wind resistance. Then I'd have a set of tires, a pop up, etc in the van, plus all the stuff I listed above. So maybe 1000 lbs or 1500 lbs conservative estimate in the van given 2 people, all the camping stuff, plus cargo (haven't gone through and added up weight so 1000-1500 is a broad guess)?

    The camper van seems to make a lot of sense to me, yet I don't see anyone doing it? People usually have trucks, or there are a few with the huge self contained RVs. Has anyone tried this? Do you think it'll work out?

    And for those who have thought about going this route but haven't....why? Do you think I'll get worse gas mileage? Some other disadvantage? Vans seem far cheaper than trucks.

    Any input on gas mileage of different things you've towed with, particularly vans, would be appreciated.

    Finally a specific question - anyone tried towing with a sprinter? I'm a little concerned it's smaller diesel won't be able to handle 1000 lbs payload plus 4000 lbs trailer.

    Any recommendations or input on any of this is welcomed :)

    fastmike
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    16 Sep 2011 02:37 PM
    I towed with a ex "cablulance" Dodge 2500 hi top. The hi top is very nice. I stayed in it a few times. I installed 2 big batteries and a big inverter. Had a portable toilet.

    It worked ok but I only got about 10 mpg and I bought a 40' diesel pusher and got 8,90 mpg towing to Nats and back. Motorhome is WAY better but it sounds like that option is not allowed.

    FM
    IntegraR0064
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    16 Sep 2011 05:23 PM
    fastmike wrote:
    I towed with a ex "cablulance" Dodge 2500 hi top. The hi top is very nice. I stayed in it a few times. I installed 2 big batteries and a big inverter. Had a portable toilet.

    It worked ok but I only got about 10 mpg and I bought a 40' diesel pusher and got 8,90 mpg towing to Nats and back. Motorhome is WAY better but it sounds like that option is not allowed.

    FM

    Between those two, that makes sense. I'm not able to get a 40' pusher for my budget though right? That's really the critical thing. Plus I can't use it as a car replacement.

    Also, is there a van that I can actually get decent mileage with? That's really what I'm trying to figure out. Some places I look it's just like what you say - the van only gets 10 mpg. Other places, the van gets more like 15 and if you get a sprinter maybe it's even higher. There's a huge difference between 10 and 15 mpg so it's a little tough for me to decide.

    Dick Rasmussen
    Advanced Member
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    16 Sep 2011 06:28 PM

    We have towed a CMod formula ford on an open trailer with an 88 Class B camper van since 1992. Camper vans are great as a "studio apartment during the day" for us but we have not camped with it. Having closets, toilet, refrig, A/C, microwave, genset, and a bed/couch for my wife to relax on during those long autox days when I'm busy is very nice. For events like Nationals where the weather is "variable" it is pretty easy to bring clothes for any weather. Ours is not dual purpose since it is full of RV stuff and we also spent a bunch of effort and dollars to rehab the interior recently. Gas mileage never exceeds 10 with our 360 Dodge at 65 mph max.

    A big advantage of a Class B (or van in general) compared to a Class C or A is the fact that they are not "big" so you can take them places conveniently that a bigger unit won't work, even with the trailer. Look at the Roadtrek or Pleasure Way websites for some of the advantages of a B that would carry over to your "do-it-yourself van. Also note the prices. We bought ours used in 92 and the prices since have sky rocketed . . . which is why we rehab'd ours.


    A V-8 Van or a Sprinter without a heavy RV interior probably will have plenty of tow rating. The specs are readily available. To tow 4 or 5K with an actual B typically requires a bigger V-8 and maybe the Sprinter (rated 5K as I recall). However, I don't know where you would find a low priced Sprinter van that hasn't been run into the ground, let alone a B.

    Dick
    snaponbob
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    16 Sep 2011 07:18 PM
    Jon, you are not going to get all that you want for 10K. That said, it is worthwhile to put a few things in perspective. If you get a van with enough hauling capacity for low bucks, it will not have the power of newer stuff, nor the fuel mileage. BUT, for the cost of a new van (with more power, etc.) you can buy a LOT of gas to make up a 3-5 MPG difference !!!!!

    I have a 97 Chevy Express 1500 with a 5.7. It has the rated capacity to pull my trailer and Saturn Sky, but has to work as it is rated at only 225bhp. Our Region has a 2004 Express 2500 utility van with a 6.0 (small c.i. difference) but with 300bhp, it hauls our 7000 pound timing trailer with no issues. The down side is that the mileage is not much difference, but the upside is that the 6.0 pulls GREAT. My experience with Fords is that mileage was a BIG problem (lower). If you want a 6.0 Chevy van, most are 3/4 or 1 tons, and vast majority will be utility vans. If the 5.7 is not a problem, 3/4 ton conversion vans are out there for reasonable money. The big difference between the 1/2 and 3/4 ton vans will transmission and brakes. And as soon as I can budget the money I will probably dump the 97 and buy a clean use 3/4 ton 6.0.

    Good luck !!!!!!!!!!
    4manracing
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    16 Sep 2011 07:34 PM

    Jon,

    We camp in our enclosed trailer, it is very nice. We installed air conditioning and a heater, we have an outdoor shower with hot and cold water and a pump to pump it, porta potty and find it quite comfortable. I have seen some really nice diesel motorhomes for $12 , that might not be the direction you want but it would be nicer then a van as far as camping. We tow with a 2500 diesel duramax, our racecar is a camaro, this could also be an option for you and buy a truck camper. It is great to camp on site especially at lincoln, we really enjoy it. Just some words of wisdom what ever you decide you can't go wrong with it. We could of charged for our shower set up so always remember we will have that at nationals if you need it.

    Joe_914
    Advanced Member
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    19 Sep 2011 12:37 PM
    Just picked up a 28 ft Toy hauler made by camp master. it is on a box trailer frame and with 12 ft of living 16ft of garage I can fill it with car or karts. 9,000 for the trailer and have had a 2000 Super Duty 7.3L for a few years. It is a match made in heaven. truck makes 19.5 empty cruising 70-75 MPH and will travel the same speed with the trailer @ 11 MPG.

    Shower/toilet, A/C, cook top, microwave sleeps 4 technically. 2 comfortable.
    IntegraR0064
    Basic Member
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    19 Sep 2011 05:14 PM

    Thanks for the input. Our budget might be higher now so I have to think about our options. I'm considering doing a real class B. For the RV owners - how much time/annoyance is the extra RV work like everything having to do with emptying/servicing the water tanks and anything else that exists on an RV but would not have to be done if I were towing with a truck and staying in a hotel?


    Also do you find that most solo national tours/prosolos/national championships you can either camp onsite with generator or camp at a campground that's not far away? Or do you still have to do hotels at a bunch of them?
    kb_solo2
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    19 Sep 2011 05:58 PM
    the RV maintenance stuff is not a big deal, but some of that depends on where you will store it... If you can store at your house, draining and filing water can be done in a few minutes in an evening. We had a sewer clean out installed so I can also dump the gray and black water at home. (this is really not a big deal once you find a convenient sewer dump on the way home from the event site)

    If you can't store it at home, everything get more complicated, and from my experience, the likelihood of using the motorhome decreases.

    I can only speak about the west coast events, but the only site we can't stay at is El Toro... (well, Lincoln for spring nationals, but that will be fixed for next year)
    IntegraR0064
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    19 Sep 2011 06:12 PM
    Yes we can store it at home, thanks for that
    Dick Rasmussen
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    19 Sep 2011 07:01 PM

    RV maintenance may or may not be a big deal. Remember that an RV is a miniature house on wheels made with a bunch of low quality stuff that gets shaken while travelling and ignored while parked. Remember also that the wet systems must be winterized if you live in or travel to places where it can freeze . . . including western mountain passes in late fall or early spring. A class B has small tanks for everything so filling/dumping must be factored in. Class B's are very nice (assuming you are the size of most CMod drivers like I am) but they can be harder to service given a "ship in a bottle" construction. We usually don't use the wet systems at all. Basically the genset, refrig (propane), microwave, and sometimes a stove burner. If you plan on sleeping in a B, check the genset versus bed location if you will want to run either AC or heat using the genset versus shore power. Running a genset and sleeping really requires a CO detector in any RV so make sure you have one that works. Check the tow rating very carefully. As I said previously, you probably will need the bigger chevy or ford engines. The Mercedes diesel will probably be far too expensive and would have the complication of needing propane for the genset (B size gensets are either gasoline or propane the last I checked). That said, I'm still glad we have ours.

    FYI most Class B's after the mid to late 80's do not really have much storage space compared to ours unless you get a bigger B+. Ours has more closet space and has an over the cab bunk area that we use for a big shelf. I use an open trailer with custom boxes and a small tire rack for most of the race car stuff. For Nationals I add a big rubbermaid bin for extra stuff. If I had about $90K I would buy a new big engine B and an enclosed trailer . . .

    Dick
    CM 85
    88 Coachmen Class B Tow Vehicle
    4manracing
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    19 Sep 2011 08:00 PM
    We've camped on the east coast everywhere on site except Toledo but Big sandy campground is very very close but we tend to get a hotel because we stay in our enclosed trailer. I really find that being on site is wonderful and lots of us get together and cook out. Good luck on your hunt it\s a good time to get a motor home at a fair price.
    IntegraR0064
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    20 Sep 2011 11:31 AM
    Great info from both of you guys, thanks a bunch.

    4manracing wrote:
    We've camped on the east coast everywhere on site except Toledo but Big sandy campground is very very close but we tend to get a hotel because we stay in our enclosed trailer. I really find that being on site is wonderful and lots of us get together and cook out. Good luck on your hunt it\s a good time to get a motor home at a fair price.



    Like I said our budget has increased substantially so I'm kind of musing about what the best option is. Finding a used 26 or 28 foot trailer along with a used heavier duty truck than we were originally looking at and doing similar to what you have done is a possibility. I'm trying to think what the disadvantages are of doing the trailer route - that was one thing I was thinking about, whether or not it would be much harder to do actual campground camping when we couldn't be onsite. It sound like you could do it right? Just maybe it's annoying to get in and out?


    kb_solo2
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    20 Sep 2011 12:14 PM
    With an RV, yes, leave the race car and trailer on site, drive to campground, return in morning. with a toyhauler like ours, loading the race car, stowing gear, etc makes it a lot less convenient.
    JBrettHowell
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    20 Sep 2011 01:15 PM
    No campsites, but I do live in a van down by the river!

    old fart
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    21 Sep 2011 12:21 AM
    I started towing with a 1964 Chevy panel truck . The truck must be insulated! 50 degrees you freeze and your breath condenses on the inside of the walls and roof. Damned unpleasant as my English friend said! Rigid foam the thickness of the ribs held in place with paneling made an acceptable difference.As I aged and lost flexibility, I went to step vans in order to stand up to put my pants on. The first (1969 14 ft P30 w/ staight 6& 4 on the floor and single rears) slept 3 longitudinaly(2+1not 3 together) carrying a Formula V under the bed. There was space for a Porta-Potti and I carried a solar heated plastic bag shower. The second step van was a Snapon/Mack tool truck(1979 16ft P30 w/350 auto and dual rears),slept 2 transverse with the "old dog" Amod sprint car under the bed. The porta pott & solar shower stayed and a microwave was added. The shower moved to the rather large entry step for privacy inside. The current step van is a 1996 12ft P30 with a 350auto(3 speed +OD) and single rears.PP,microwave,shower and narrow transverse double over two three wheel hpv bikes. All three had/have a widow AC in the rear bulkhead of the bed enclosure. I used al 2x2 angle from Home Depot to frame the bed and rigid foam covered with cherry stained beadboard to line the interior. Home Depot outdoor carpet with foam carpet pad insulate the floor. Some feel the interior is boat like and one solo acquaintance calls it a caveman camper. The PP lasts 4days w/2 people at a campground and driving(windshield washer fluid doesn't freeze so the system works in upstate Ny winters). The current Amod minisprint rides in aToyCarrier dual motorcycle trailer(the van and trailer were E Bay finds). Without the trailer the vehicle gets11 to 12 mpg,the trailer causes 10 to 11 mpg. Best ever was 14.7mpg w/o the trailer. A self built Sprinter long body should have enough room w/o bikes for comparable accommodations at 17 to20 mpg if you go with the diesel and keep the weight as low as possible. We use our vehicle for 6 to 8 week trips from Syracuse to Key West to visit our son in the winter. Factory built RV's have fresh, grey,and black water tanks(freeze problems plus weight),entertainment builtins and complex (heavy and costly) designed for home style luxury,rather than what you decide you want/need for a race support transport. Good luck. English specials builders in '50's said," simplificate and add lightness". Always maximize the fun factor!
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