New Overlander, want to stay a Ford man

maxster17

New member
Hi Everyone, looking for some advice on an Overland vehicle for my family. I'd like to be able to get us reliably in and out of places off the beaten path, but I don't need to be able to rock climb in MOAB. We also have a lot of stuff - bikes, camping, hunting and photography gear. I already own an Excursion so my default is to convert it. I am just considering other options (as long as they were Ford) and trying to weigh the pros and cons of going with the other vehicles. I'd appreciate any thoughts/advice on the way ahead. Overall budget is about $60-70k (low end if I stick to the excursion I have now, high end if not).

Here's what I've gathered as pros / cons of the options I'm considering (Excursion / 4x4 Econoline / 4x4 Transit)

Excursion
+ If I'm going this route, it's gonna be the 6.0 diesel. I have one already, and have a spare motor to keep getting stupid on. Lots of power potential, easier to maintain/mod versus the Econoline. I don't think I would go beyond a stock transmission though, so that'll limit the power I built it out to. It's still a family hauler after all.
+ Gonna have the best tow capacity of any of the options 11k+
+ Probably easiest to upgrade due to the similarities with the f250, lots of options available and probably cheaper
+ Best ground clearance and overall handling
+/- Has windows, good for travel, although not great for camping if we're using it as a primary shelter
-I wanted to be able to stand up while inside the vehicle, so it's gonna take a significant topper or pop-top in order to make that happen on the Ex

#1 modification priority is suspension - I want it soft on paved roads but able to handle some rough terrain if we come to it. So will have to swap out leaf springs for some kind of dual-rate coiler.
Some good reference videos I found for Excursion builds (Towverlander being more entertaining than substantive at this point. "It's a Suburban... For Men")
(Overland Excursion)
(Project TOWVERLANDER)


Ford Transit (practical, but ugly)
* I think I'd go with EcoBoost/10r80 combo. Everyone I've talked to loves the EcoBoost. It performs well, and gets good gas mileage. It's in a ton of ford products so I'm confident that parts/repair will not be astronomical (still high given the pieces but it's not a Land Rover). I5 diesel combo seems like a good alternative, but I am not a fan of modern diesels with all their BS.
+ Definitely the largest interior capacity. Squarish dimensions are practical and going with the cargo version eliminates a lot of window shielding problems. Won't need a topper for this one assuming I design the interior right.
- Unibody construction. Still capable of a 7k tow capacity (decent). It's strong enough for what I'm looking to do, but I'm assuming that this increases the risk of an astronomical repair if I hit the wrong bump while off roading.
+/- Lowest ground clearance, but easier to get into. With the 4x4 install, I'm confident it will have the height I desire.
- Could be most expensive option, but it's not that far off when I spec out all the things I also want to do with the other vehicles. Getting the same headroom in any other vehicle is at least $10k for that mod alone, and is not going to be as strong as built like that from the factory.
Some Transit build videos
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcoBgHoqTUU


Econoline Build (A-Team nostalgia)
* 6.0 diesel / v10 - I think I'd go with either option here since I'd keep the engine factory for best reliability. Not fun working on this engine bay.
* 10k tow capacity, depending on suspension upgrades. Pulled this stat from some Sportsmobile builds.
+ Body on frame construction, sturdy and easier to repair
+/- Some compatibility with f250/excursion, don't think suspension though
- Worst for crash/rollover risk of the 3
https://www.drivingline.com/articles/alpha-van-the-ultimate-overland-ford-e-350-4x4-video/

Some other notes:

The most ideal is if the vehicle is able to be lived in full-time (ie. bath/shower internal). REALLY TOUGH to do in the Ex, but it is possible. I'd still like a sink/fridge internal as well. Stove would be nice, but I think having to cook inside is not necessary. Also, since I'm taking the family, I'd still like to be able to seat four and sleep at least two in the vehicle (two more on outside or in roof tent).

I'd like to incorporate this batwing awning no matter what build I go with:
I'll also go with Li-Ion power system, so will need space for that internally as well.
I'm a fan of the Aluminums setup for the Excursion, and probably would look for something similar on either of the vans too. (full size spare / bike rack, big box)

Anyway, if you made it this far, I applaud and thank you for enduring my stream of consciousness and would appreciate any feedback/ideas you may have.

Thanks!
 

McCarthy

Is it riding season yet?
70k budget would build a badass expedition truck, what I would do;

2011-15 F2/350 6.2l Gas, ~$30k buys you a very nice one.
Used FWC, ~$20k should get you one.
Basic flatdeck, ~$4k gets a nice basic one with a few boxes
35" tires & 18" wheels, ~$3000
Carli 2.5" backcountry system $~2500 with install
Air bags, onboard compressor, daystar cradles ~$1500
Full maintenance on the truck (All fluids, brakes, bushings etc) $~2000
Steel winch bumper + winch ~$3000

Total: $66,000

$4000 under budget to cover any overages in the estimate.
 

phsycle

Adventurer
Of the 3, Excursion. Your desire to get off the beaten path rules out the vans for me. E-series can be offroad worthy but so many mods necessary.... Keep it as stock as possible for ease of service and parts availability. So, Excursion. Plus, you already have it.
 

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glock7018

Member
I also own a excursion. And while its the perfect vehicle for vehicle camping, its only good for two people. If i had a family and also wanted to sleep inside of the Ex, it wouldn't work for me. As previously mentioned i would get CCSB F250 and a 4wheel camper. Since you like the 6.0 I would try to find the cleanest 05 to 07 6.0 you can find. Add a larger fuel tank, upgrade the suspension that is tuned for the weight of the camper and you will be all set.
 

phsycle

Adventurer
For your budget:

Super Crew F250/F350
7.3 gasser
Slide in camper
If another rig was an option, I’d go that route as well. Although I don’t know if you can swing a new 7.3 and a slide in camper for under $70k? Haven’t looked at prices lately though.
 

Jnich77

Director of Adventure Management Operations
If another rig was an option, I’d go that route as well. Although I don’t know if you can swing a new 7.3 and a slide in camper for under $70k? Haven’t looked at prices lately though.
The 7.3 isn't an expensive option. Its when you click the Lariat/Platinum/Limited box that they get pricy. A 4x4 STX with the 7.3 should be right around 40k if you shop around.

The nice thing about buying a brand new, beefy truck is the OP can slide the camper in and hit the road...instead of spending months (or years) twisting wrenches and trying to appease the "mod gods."
 

billiebob

My Uncle drove a government issued Jeep in Europe
First
On
Race
Day

I doubt I'd buy an Excursion but if I had one.... or inherited one..... they are an awesome family overlander. Great seating for the family with the safety of proper seatbelts etc. And a massive storage capacity. Sleeping.... how about a deal on 2 RTTS to sleep kids in one, adults in the other. Plus roof top hot water to one of those little free standing shower shelters. A pull out kitchen of course. A 270 awning plus an annex under the RTTs.

Whatever you do on an Excursion it is easily transferable to a same era SuperDuty if you ever go there. Me, I'd stick with the Excursion til you out grow it.

I know I'd never do the van conversion thing if I had kids just because of the safety engineering in an Excursion or Quad Cab regarding seating. Heck in 1992 we traded in our 1990 Honda Accord just to get the rear shoulder belts for the kids in the 1992 Honda Accord.
 
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carleton

New member
Quigley Transit owner here.

Crew van version of the Transit will allow for 4-5 legal seats from the factory, which is a plus for if you have children. As someone noted above, however, you have to ask yourself realistically how safe you can make a van build (Econoline, Transit, Sprinter, whatever) in an accident, which may be a consideration for you if you have children. A bulkhead will up the safety factor, but then that cuts down on the ability to have a shower, especially if you have 2nd row seating.
An indoor shower is possible with the 148" RB Transit (pictured in the video above), but you have to have a very smart layout. But the EB Transit has the same wheelbase and a HUGE overhang in the rear, which may get in the way of your offroading.
Transit is also the least off-road of the above listed option. Smallest capacity for upgrading tires (tight wheelwells), low ground clearance, AWD instead of 4wd.
The ecoboost truly is great in the Transit, though.

Another note, it's gotten a little outlandish the used market for Econoline 4wds. Pre-pandemic you could pick up a new Quigley/Quadvan 4x4 Transit for a few thousand more than what folks were asking for their Quigley e-350 with 100k.
 

gatorgrizz27

Active member
You’ve got a lot going on in terms of goals. IMO, I wouldn’t want to be “full timing” with a family of 4 in anything smaller than the largest transit van, and that assumes the kids are small.

Are you planning to take a 3-6 month trip, or will this be for weekend/week type deals? Will it still serve as a DD, or just be an adventure rig? You seem to be focused on towing ability, but not interested in a trailer as living space?

Personally, if you already own the Excursion, and aren’t going places that are super tight (whether it’s downtown Key West or technical trails), that plus something like the Airstream Basecamp X would be my pick.

Build out a drawer system with fridge in the back of the Excursion, and carry a ground tent if you want to spend a couple nights further in the backcountry than the trailer will let you get.
 

rruff

Explorer
Like McCarthy an Jnich77 said. Truck. Already has 4WD and potential for plenty of room with a detachable camper. The work you do then is fun stuff, rather than an absolute necessity. If you're bored you could build the camper yourself.
 

85_Ranger4x4

Well-known member
Excursion pricing around me has gotten stupid lately. Unless it is a wreck, has a salvage title or has over 300k a diesel is stupid money (like $20-30K)

A slide in camper is a cool thing though. I just got one myself (it found me, I wasn't even looking for one) Within an hour or two either of my pickups will sleep 4, has an 110v inverter, a stove, sink, icebox (fridge was optional) and a heater. And within an hour two it is back to being a normal pickup. Mine is old, the newer ones have tons of options (like A/C, showers etc)

It would take a lot of work to get all that in a van/SUV... and when you are done that is all it is.

I would rather have the Econoline than the Transit but that is just me.
 

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Shovel

Dreaming Ape
Don't overthink and don't overbuild.

The vehicle you have now fits you, right? And it's a known quantity. So give it a subtle work-over with a focus on reliability and serviceability above all else and then hit the road.
 

Martinjmpr

Wiffleball Batter
I think the biggest difficulty with this kind of thing is that some of your requirements are mutually exclusive. You want something that will sleep your family and have a bathroom but it also needs to be able to go off road. Bath and sleeping requirements mean HEIGHT. You have to be able to stand up, at least 6' of headroom. Unless you have a pop up that's a tough thing to accomplish without getting something that is tip-over prone.

Maybe you're trying to do too much with one platform? The simplest solution to your dilemma, IMO, is one that hundreds of thousands of people (or millions, I don't know) choose every year and that's a capable tow rig + a travel trailer of appropriate size.

Now it's true, that "combination" is not as capable overall - you aren't pulling a travel trailer over a rugged trail (hell I wouldn't pull a small Teardrop over one.) But if you can modify your method of traveling, it could work. Essentially, you would "base camp": That is, go to a specific location and set up your trailer in a "base", then unload everything you'll need to live while using the tow vehicle to explore.

Is it as versatile as an all-in-one arrangement? Absolutely not. But it also requires a lot less compromising in terms of comfort for your family.

The nice thing about the tow rig/trailer combo (full disclosure: That's what the wife and I have) is that it allows you to maximize each separate portion of the whole setup without compromising the other portion: IOW you can have a trailer big enough to be comfortable to be in AND have a vehicle with decent-enough off-road chops to get you far into the back country. An all-in-one arrangement forces you to prioritize one over the other.

Yes, in a perfect world, we'd all be driving vehicles that could run 4+ off road trails, sleep 5 comfortably, has a full shower and bath and gets 40 MPG. But that vehicle has a perpetual motion machine engine and unicorn-skin seats.
 
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