Help!! Custom/DIY roof raise and sleeper loft/attic on retired ambulance??!??

Juliacecere

New member
I wasn’t sure what section to post this in and I’m HOPING for some answers ASAP as it may affect my decision to buy a certain vehicle this week :) I just joined this website today, and could really use some advice. I am looking to purchase this week a 2006 Ford e-350 ambulance and convert it into my off-grid, overland, adventure mobile / tiny home. However: I want to raise the roof a foot or so, because as it is it’s just an inch shorter than my height, and I can’t imagine always stooping down in the vehicle for any standing activity. It’s also fairly small square-footage wise, and I would like to maximize space by building a double-bed sized sleeper attic/loft over the cab. I’m not really interested in a convertible bed space, where I have to make an entire bed every night and then put everything away every single morning. I’m also a woman, and minimalist or not, I have a lot of ******** and I want all my wall space to go towards storage for my things, not blankets and cushions and Murphy beds lol. I know what you might be thinking,....just wait and buy the right size vehicle so you don’t have to do such extreme external modifications, but the thing is this ambulance Only has 71k miles has a 4 x 4 Quigley conversion, and the guy is selling it literally thousands of dollars less than the conversion itself... it’s SUCH a steal, and I can’t imagine finding another opportunity like this one and can’t wait around for it (especially because a bear broke into my personal vehicle recently and completely totaled it 😂 so I generally need a vehicle ASAP and would prefer it to be THE vehicle that I will transform into my dream camper). I’ve looked into buying box trucks, but there’s a lot of benefits just going with the ambulance since it’s already outfitted with an electrical system that I can integrate solar with, and the 4 x 4 conversion would cost 10,000 or more on any box truck that I could buy. I am also not used to driving anything larger than a cargo van so the learning/nerves curve for this vehicle won’t be too terrible.

Anyways, there are so many resources for raising roofs on cargo vans, with pre-fabricated roofs, and there’s even demonstrations on how people lift the roofs of school buses but the only video I can find of a professional looking ambulance or box truck roof raise is this one here (which also shows a custom attic...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5qiy0VftYg.). There are people who have done complete DIY roof additions to their cargo vans or box trucks with wood, metal, fiberglass etc, but at the end of the day, I have absolutely no clue what kind of issues these people ran into with their builds. I don’t have the skills to do it myself, but I am wondering if anyone knows of a company on the East Coast that could do such a conversion, or if anyone could advise on how to best do it in a safe way if I hired a few people with welding and building experience to do it with/for me. My main concern is that it’s 100% solid and safe to drive and is still aerodynamic after the transformation. I also would want the roof to be safe to stand on.

Any advice would be great!! Thanks!
 

NatersXJ6

Explorer
Is it a 6.0 Diesel? If so, that explains your thousands of dollars discount. Make sure it is comfortable to live in, cause it won’t be driving very much!

seriously though... rethink your plan if it is a 6.0 Diesel and you aren’t absolutely comfortable working on mechanicals and spending nearly 1500 on specific software for diagnostics... or alternately, have a mattress stuffed with cash.
 

Juliacecere

New member
Is it a 6.0 Diesel? If so, that explains your thousands of dollars discount. Make sure it is comfortable to live in, cause it won’t be driving very much!

seriously though... rethink your plan if it is a 6.0 Diesel and you aren’t absolutely comfortable working on mechanicals and spending nearly 1500 on specific software for diagnostics... or alternately, have a mattress stuffed with cash.
Ahhh, yep. It says, 6.0L V8 F DIESEL. Haha, uhhh, I am not a car person....I'm going to be learning A LOT. Can you explain further what the issue is with a 6.0 Diesel? Thanks in advance! Seriously don't want to get myself into a bad situation, so I definitely want to hear cons as much as I want to hear pros.
 

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NatersXJ6

Explorer
I owned one for 100k plus miles in truck form. When I drove 100 or more miles a day it was awesome. They don’t like short commutes. While my old Chevy trucks would break to the time of a few hundred dollars here or there, my F250 was thousands every time, and I do the work myself. It can be a good engine, but not for the feint of heart. Lots of sensor, injector,
Emissions, turbo, wiring issues. $150 oil changes every 4K miles and $50 fuel filters every 10k. Special software
Because OBD II doesn’t apply. I’ll send more detail, but if you aren’t in love with diesel or learning to be a mechanic, Probably Not the right base for you.
 

NatersXJ6

Explorer
Most of the 6.0 Diesel issues come from the emission control systems added to the basic engine itself. Ford used an Exhaust Gas Return (EGR) system that includes a cooler with engine coolant running through it. Exhaust is really hot, and can cook the coolant to the point that it gels or crystallizes, this gel/crystal then plugs the fine passages in the cooler until it can’t flow enough and the cooler melts and starts to leak. It leaks coolant into the EGR, where it is sucked through the cylinders (bad) and blown out the exhaust through the turbo (bad). If you can drive the truck, watch the mirrors for a puff of white vapor when you accelerate on a warm day, this isn’t smoke, it is coolant. You will hear various people tell you that they “bulletproofed” a 6.0. Basically they installed a more robust cooler, or removed it entirely, there are various legal concerns with doing this. You might get away with it in some places, but I don’t recommend modifying emission systems.

These crystals in the coolant can also plug the oil cooler. This is a bigger issue than on most vehicles because the engine takes engine oil and boosts it to very high pressures (1200+ psi IIRC) to run the fuel injectors. There are known failure points in that boost pump and the tubes that carry The oil to the injectors.

The injectors themselves are know for sticking and probably don’t often go past 125-150k miles. There are 8, about$300 each, and the work to change them is significant.

Repairing any of these items requires tearing apart the whole top of the engine to get the intake off. Turbo, Cooling system, Intake System, Oil System, Fuel System, Wiring Harness, Valve Covers... you get good at it after the 2nd or 3rd time.

There are also common failure points in the head bolts / head gaskets, exhaust down pipes, rear main seals, electronics to run the fuel injectors (FICM), and some of the sensors.

With all that said, my truck always did everything I asked of it, and I loved driving it on the freeway. It was great for many years, but when I started commuting short and not driving it far or often, reliability dropped off quickly. If you are mechanically inclined or plan to become so, this could be a great option, but it won’t be cheap, it won’t be fun, and you won’t be happy at least 25% of the time. Everything you might need to do is easily seen on YouTube, so the resources exist to learn, but you will either learn or pay, there is no third option.

To your original question, I don’t think I would try to modify an Ambulance Box for more height, simply because they are pretty well build to begin with and anything you do cutting into it will have a high chance to make it worse.
 

da/dt

Member
It is a shame the 6.0 has so many struggles as it really is one of my favorite engines to drive. As was suggested above, long trips are key to it. I’ve seen many without a sign of trouble into the 200k mile range but I’ve also seen more than a few with significant trouble well under 100k miles. It can be a crapshoot. The bulletproofing makes it a fantastic engine but it runs around $4k on a truck engine...I imagine it would be quite a bit higher in the van body.
 

hoodlum

New member
Hi Juliacecere., Check out my rig for ideas. Look up.... Ford E450 4x4. It’s for sale here on EP in the classifieds. We had considered buying a bus years ago for conversion. We also faced needing to raise the roof. I customized both vehicles and homes and you need experience and tools to tackle what you are suggesting. If you have that it just takes time and money...and more time. It is doable.
As far as the 6.0 Ford diesel.... we passed on that motor. The old 7.3 Ford diesel is excellent. My mechanic along with others told me to steer clear of the Ford 6.0. Reading online the consensus is ...when... you have trouble not if.
Hope this helps. You are smart to ask questions now.
 

Juliacecere

New member
Most of the 6.0 Diesel issues come from the emission control systems added to the basic engine itself. Ford used an Exhaust Gas Return (EGR) system that includes a cooler with engine coolant running through it. Exhaust is really hot, and can cook the coolant to the point that it gels or crystallizes, this gel/crystal then plugs the fine passages in the cooler until it can’t flow enough and the cooler melts and starts to leak. It leaks coolant into the EGR, where it is sucked through the cylinders (bad) and blown out the exhaust through the turbo (bad). If you can drive the truck, watch the mirrors for a puff of white vapor when you accelerate on a warm day, this isn’t smoke, it is coolant. You will hear various people tell you that they “bulletproofed” a 6.0. Basically they installed a more robust cooler, or removed it entirely, there are various legal concerns with doing this. You might get away with it in some places, but I don’t recommend modifying emission systems.

These crystals in the coolant can also plug the oil cooler. This is a bigger issue than on most vehicles because the engine takes engine oil and boosts it to very high pressures (1200+ psi IIRC) to run the fuel injectors. There are known failure points in that boost pump and the tubes that carry The oil to the injectors.

The injectors themselves are know for sticking and probably don’t often go past 125-150k miles. There are 8, about$300 each, and the work to change them is significant.

Repairing any of these items requires tearing apart the whole top of the engine to get the intake off. Turbo, Cooling system, Intake System, Oil System, Fuel System, Wiring Harness, Valve Covers... you get good at it after the 2nd or 3rd time.

There are also common failure points in the head bolts / head gaskets, exhaust down pipes, rear main seals, electronics to run the fuel injectors (FICM), and some of the sensors.

With all that said, my truck always did everything I asked of it, and I loved driving it on the freeway. It was great for many years, but when I started commuting short and not driving it far or often, reliability dropped off quickly. If you are mechanically inclined or plan to become so, this could be a great option, but it won’t be cheap, it won’t be fun, and you won’t be happy at least 25% of the time. Everything you might need to do is easily seen on YouTube, so the resources exist to learn, but you will either learn or pay, there is no third option.

To your original question, I don’t think I would try to modify an Ambulance Box for more height, simply because they are pretty well build to begin with and anything you do cutting into it will have a high chance to make it worse.
It is a shame the 6.0 has so many struggles as it really is one of my favorite engines to drive. As was suggested above, long trips are key to it. I’ve seen many without a sign of trouble into the 200k mile range but I’ve also seen more than a few with significant trouble well under 100k miles. It can be a crapshoot. The bulletproofing makes it a fantastic engine but it runs around $4k on a truck engine...I imagine it would be quite a bit higher in the van body.
Hi Juliacecere., Check out my rig for ideas. Look up.... Ford E450 4x4. It’s for sale here on EP in the classifieds. We had considered buying a bus years ago for conversion. We also faced needing to raise the roof. I customized both vehicles and homes and you need experience and tools to tackle what you are suggesting. If you have that it just takes time and money...and more time. It is doable.
As far as the 6.0 Ford diesel.... we passed on that motor. The old 7.3 Ford diesel is excellent. My mechanic along with others told me to steer clear of the Ford 6.0. Reading online the consensus is ...when... you have trouble not if.
Hope this helps. You are smart to ask questions now.
Hey everyone! Yeah this is all super helpful. I also talked to someone at length from Quigley earlier today (just to double check the records on this vehicle) and he was like UHHHHH yeah you might wanna steer clear, unless you have 10-15k to bulletproof it.

I now know that a 7.3 would be a better investment. However, I also brought up the fact that I have intentions to tour Canada and tour through Mexico and Central America and he said diesel can get tough to find south of border, and the deisel I will find will be pretty dirty. Has anyone had experience with this?? So now I'm thinking of sticking to gas.

Thanks so much, might have made a bad decision this week!
 

Jnich77

Director of Adventure Management Operations
The 6.0 is a great motor... Once you dump 10-15k into "bullet proofing" it.
 
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