The beach. The desert. Mountains. Southern California offers some of the most diverse and spectacular natural playgrounds, if one is willing to put up with heavy traffic to get there, of course. Residents are sure to see spectacular toy haulers, travel trailers and adventure vans to and from these majestic havens, these sanctuaries where city dwellers get a dose of fresh air and often sweat and burn. calories under a canopy of natural sunlight before retiring to base camps away from home for the night. Not that they’re tied to SoCal in any way, but if locals were paying attention, they’ve probably crossed paths with a decorated Vanspeed-built adventure van, or at least seen a Mercedes- Benz Sprinter sporting a van accessories from The Van Mart.
Yes, the custom off-grid, off-road adventure van scene has hit SoCal and the entire nation. Difficult. Very difficult. #Vanlife is trending, boosted by the pandemic, the rise of overlanding, and the general benefits of van travel (versatility, protection, ease of storage, ease of parking, etc.). Duran Morley and his team at Vanspeed are among the lucky and passionate van builders who have rode the glorious wave of van popularity, thriving in the satisfaction of doing what they love for people who love the same. In beach terms, it’s the subway ride of a lifetime.
We recently visited the Vanspeed Shop facility during working hours, getting a first-hand look at the inner workings of the large van conversion company. Sprinter pickup trucks in various stages of construction occupied the well-established assembly line nestled in the 30,000 square foot warehouse that was located in the heart of an industrial complex in Orange County, California. There was also room for short-term day projects, where customers could pass for add-ons. One build that particularly caught our attention belongs to a top guy in the action sports world. We can’t talk about it yet, but we’re thrilled that Ken Block is getting a Vanspeed whip.
Vanspeed is rather unique in that it builds all of its van accessories in-house, allowing full control over the engineering and manufacturing of the parts, products and accessories that make up Vanspeed conversions, which also take place entirely in internal. This means that the warehouse is full of wood, metal, and all kinds of materials needed for custom cabinetry, metal fabrication, and upholstery. Vanspeed does not install products from other companies. He builds and installs his own (and customers can also buy those products). If a customer breaks a drawer, for example, Vanspeed can cut out a replacement with no problem. Vanspeed prides itself on being a one-stop-shop where like-minded van enthusiasts become friends.
During the tour, we hopped aboard one of Vanspeed’s converted Sprinter vans, clearly visible from the busy freeway bumping up against the well-labeled building. Vanspeed offers four configurations for the Mercedes Sprinter (144-inch wheelbase) and two for the longer 170-inch wheelbase. The example pictured here is a Loft, based on a silver/grey Sprinter 2500 4×4 (144 inch wheelbase, high roof) backed by the 3.0 liter V-6 turbodiesel engine, which was recently replaced with a 4- 2.0 liter cylinders. diesel cylinder. It has 40 gallons of fresh water and holds 6 gallons of gray water (under the sink). It has a MaxxAir roof ventilator, 2000 W inverter, shore power, two 215 Ah AGM batteries, 170 watts of solar power, outdoor shower and plenty of water. others to make it competitive in the class B motorhome segment.
The Loft layout includes an indoor shower, a rear queen-size bed with plenty of storage below (those bulky rear window pods leave more room for the queen bed) and a separate kitchen (meaning the sink is on one side and the two-burner induction hob, microwave and Isotherm Drawer 85 fridge/freezer are on the other). The interior is well lit and bright with LED ceiling spotlights, ceiling cabinet LED strip and other LED spotlights under these cabinets. Vanspeed says it’s an ideal off-grid option for surf, snow and desert travel. If you have more than two passengers, however, you’ll have to ditch the shower and choose a different layout.
The exterior of the Vanspeed Loft looks the part thanks to a host of internal Vanspeed accessories: Dakar roof rack, side window caps, Baja front bumper, side steps, rear step, side ladder, rear tire ladder combo , backdoor box, flip-down workbench, and surf racks. Exterior lighting is handled by six 6-inch KC SlimLites on the roof rack and two Baja Designs LP9 amber lights in the front bumper. It’s definitely not a vanilla Sprinter minivan.
A Vanspeed Loft of this caliber costs north of $200,000, on par with other Sprinter vans of a similar nature. If you like craftsmanship and skill, it’s worth looking into how Vanspeed runs its operations. Long live an adventurous and memorable year 2023.