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Ultimate Windsurfing Van

Freightliner Sprinter to Mercedes Sprinter Conversion

       

 

 

 

 

 

 ULTIMATE WINDSURFING VAN

Ultimate Windsurfing Van - Freightliner Sprinter Van Dodge Sprinter

I spent ten glorious years with my original Ultimate Windsurfing Van, a Dodge B250 that I customized (click here to see the original ultimate windsurf van). I used that van to visit 42 states, and windsurf and surf the entire US coastline. From Key West, FL to Portland, ME on the East Coast, from Naples, FL to Brownsville, TX on the Gulf Coast, and from the Baja Mexico to Seattle WA on the West Coast. 

Despite ten wonderful trouble free years with the original ultimate windsurf van, I was ready to move on and build my next JIC van (JIC = just in case - Just in case the wind is blowing, just in case I lose my house, just in case my wife gives me reason to hit the road, just in case .... -  well you get the idea!!!!!) 

Being the type of person who is never satisfied, I set out to make my new Ultimate Windsurfing Van V2.0, an even better vehicle. 

There were some obvious things I wanted to add, and some that I wanted to improve. 

I chose the Freightliner Sprinter Van with its high roof as my obvious choice. The fact that it is a Mercedes Benz, gives it an almost unbeatable advantage over the Ford, Dodge and Chevy vans that I looked at. Starting with an integrated steel hi-roof was a major factor, but its legendary 5 cylinder turbo diesel engine with its 22mpg economy also played a part in the decision.

So herewith is a short resume of my recent journey into making the ultimate windsurfing van V2.0. If it gives you some ideas or even helps you to make your own, then this page had some relevance. If not, too bad. I had fun building the van, that's for sure!

Disclaimer - This page is to be used as an idea source only. I am no mechanic nor am I an expert in any of the modification processes I undertook below - do your own research and make you rown decisions.

 

  The Final Result - Freightliner Sprinter / Dodge Sprinter / Mercedes Sprinter Ultimate Windsurfing Van

   Customizing the interior of the Mercedes Sprinter / Dodge Sprinter / Freightliner Sprinter Van

   Installing the Sound and GPS Navigation systems in the Mercedes Sprinter / Dodge Sprinter / Freightliner Sprinter Van

   Installing board racks fin the Mercedes Sprinter / Dodge Sprinter / Freightliner Sprinter Van

   Jazzing up the Exterior of the Mercedes Sprinter / Dodge Sprinter / Freightliner Sprinter Van

   Installing Mercedes G-Wagen 18" mag wheels on the Freightliner Sprinter Ultimate Windsurfing Van

   Converting the Freightliner Sprinter Van badges over to the Mercedes Sprinter Van Badges

    Customizing the Optional Rear Step Bumper to accept the factory Tow Hitch on the Mercedes Sprinter / Dodge Sprinter / Freightliner Sprinter Van

   One final warning about the Mercedes Sprinter / Dodge Sprinter / Freightliner Sprinter Van


The Final Result - Freightliner Sprinter Ultimate Windsurfing Van

       

Follow the story below and take a journey with me as I detail my Ultimate Windsurfing Van customization project below!


Customizing the Interior on my new 2002 Freightliner Sprinter Ultimate Windsurfing Van

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My new Ultimate Windsurfing Van started its life as a plain vanilla white Freightliner cargo van with high roof option, rear and side window glass, and rear step bumper.

I purchased the Van from Jamie Smith of Freightliner South Florida (jsmith@freightlinersf.com - 954 545 1013) - she gave me a great deal and treated me really well - she is one of the top Freightliner sales people in the USA. 

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The first step in creating the Ultimate Windsurfing Van was to completely remove all the stock liner boards, by carefully drilling out the rivets.

I made sure I could get replacement rivets from my local auto body shop before I started drilling!

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Removing the supplied tie-down "D" hooks. You do need a Torx head for these hooks.

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The completely stripped and denuded interior once all the wall panels have been removed. Note that the Sprinter van is not supplied with any ceiling treatment at all, and the lack of insulation and steel roof will really heat up the large volume interior

The straight walls provide very efficient space utilization and make customizing very easy, but the curved ceiling would prove problematic.

There are factory ceiling panels available for the passenger van that would make life easy, but I only found out about them after I finished mine!

But knowing freightliners parts prices, I am sure mine at around $150 total excl labor, is waaaaay cheaper than the factory.

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Cutting the lined Styrofoam roof insulation material with a utility knife and straight edge. Once cut into size, it is held in place with double sided tape. The R-value of the 1-1/2" Styrofoam is 6.5.

Before installing the ceiling boards I ran 5 sets of additional wires in the ceiling to make provision for the soon to be installed sound system, vent and 110V auxiliary power system. 

Two sets are currently unused but are in place  should I need them in the future.

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The Styrofoam easily takes the curvature of the ceiling and with its light weight is easy to hold in place with double sided tape.

I was concerned about the Styrofoam squeaking if it moved as the van twisted, but this fear proved unfounded.

It squeaked while I was installing it, but is absolutely quiet once in place.

 

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The insulated roof when complete - a couple of hours of fairly simple work. This was the easiest part!

Installing the shower stall fiber board as the ceiling was a lot more difficult. Unfortunately I misplaced the photos of this part of the process. Lets just say it was character building and it is definitely a two man job.

I used shower stall liner available at Lowes and Home Depot, as it would take the curve of the ceiling. I was unable to find bendable plywood that would confirm to the sharp radius of the ceiling, and I wanted to preserve all the space available.

 

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Under the passenger seat I had the optional auxiliary battery installed as well as the oversize alternator. 

The auxiliary battery is a great asset if you are going to camp in the van and run appliances off the battery. 

An isolator isolates the auxiliary batter from the primary battery, so you can completely run the auxiliary battery dead and still start the van off the main battery.

 

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I also installed a 1000W inverter next to the auxiliary battery, which is the partly hidden red box in the photo to the left, and wired the van for 110V with 3 dual outlets at strategic places around the van. 

This allows me to run most electric appliances including a microwave, small fridge, fan, heater, and all my power tools should I need them. 

Watch for this feature to start appearing on all pickups and utility vehicles in the future.

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This photo shows the partially finished ceiling, the new upholstered wall paneling and the partially installed Fantastic Roof Vent. 

I used two longitudinal pieces of shower stall lined board seamed along the roof center line for the front of the roof. The back piece is installed as one lateral piece with a cut out for the vent. 

Self adhesive tape is uses to temporarily secure the boards until they are riveted in place. 

I used rivets with oversized heads available at any automotive paint supplier

Cutting a hole in the roof of a new vehicle is a tough thing to do - make sure that you seal and rust-proof the steel before installing the vent . Roof vent gaskets are prone to leaking and the surrounding steel is partial to rusting, but careful installation can prevent these problems.

 

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This photo shows the Fantastic Ceiling Vent installed with the trim cover (white) - you can see that the color of the fan itself is cream, but it doesn't bother me too much. I made the mistake of not specifying the vent color and received a cream colored vent - white vents are available and would look a lot better. 

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I installed the Fantastic Roof Vent over the back of the van directly over where our heads hit the pillow. This excellent fan features dual direction so you can reverse the direction to blow onto you at night to keep you cool during those long hot summers nights.

I installed the vent at the back of the van , and had to custom make a gasket to fit the valleys created by the roof ribs. I cut the gasket out of the same ceiling Styrofoam.

The vent runs off the auxiliary battery.

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For the wall paneling, I used the original fiber boards that we removed, and covered them with 1/2" batting and a durable fabric. The batting provides minimal insulation, but creates a plush cushioned look.

The ceiling material I used formed to the curvature of the ceiling really well and has a factory installed look. Shower stall seams are used for seaming the ceiling material. 

Along the edge where the ceiling meets the steel, I edged the fiber glass shower liner with rubber auto edging, which is available at any auto paint shop. This prevents the material from squeaking against the steel frame.

What you don't see behind the panels is the R30 fiberglass insulation taped in place in the frame cavities, prior to  re-installing the panels.


Installing the Sound and GPS Navigation systems in the 2002 Freightliner Sprinter Ultimate Windsurfing Van

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I do a lot of driving and put on a lot of miles in the pursuit of great windsurfing, and I love my music. Great sound is something that I have always been prepared to pay for, and I spend more time listening to music in my van than I do in my house, so it makes sense to put a great system in the van.

The original Becker CD Radio supplied with the Freightliner Sprinter must be the worst unit ever produced by Becker - the sound is atrocious and the unit is non intuitive.

 I immediately replaced the Unit with an Alpine CDA 7995 FM AM CD player. The original Becker unit is easy to remove using the factory tools, and the Alpine unit is almost a straight swap. 

I had wanted to install an MP3 Vault, but the current prices are absurd and I will wait till all portable MP3 players like the iPod have FM transmitters to play through the head unit.

Despite the Alpine's  4 x 60W built-in Amp, I installed two Alpine amplifiers to drive the speaker system 

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 The Alpine MRP F320  4-channel amp drives the front Infinity separates and is mounted behind the passenger seat. This amp provides 50W RMS into 4 channels.

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The Infinity 605cs separates are mounted in the ceiling board above the drivers and passenger's heads. There is just enough space to mount 6" mid rage drivers, along with the titanium tweeters. This speaker set handles 90W RMS (or approx 270W) peak, and is in the ideal position for clear mid to high notes, and has superb stereo separation. 

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The rear speakers are Infinity 6952i's 6x9's and are mounted in the cargo section in the lower door panels - this is the only are deep enough to accept the large magnets on these exceptional speakers. They handle 100W RMS (300W Peak) as well. 

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The Alpine MRP M200  mono channel sub woofer amp with 200W RMS drives the Alpine 12" subwoofer and is mounted behind the drivers seat.

The sub woofer is a single 12" Alpine SD speaker mounted in a large Q logic enclosure. 

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The Alpine head unit allows complete control over the setup and apart from the regular balance and fader controls, has separate controls for the subwoofer output.

Additionally the Alpine amps have built in adjustable crossovers and gain controls allowing simple and easy fine tuning of the overall sound quality.

I am sure that a lot of you think that this sort of sound is a waste of money, but the joy of hearing every crisp tap of a tympani cymbal  above the thundering double bass, is something I really appreciate. 

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The final indulgence to the interior is the Magellan 750 Nav GPS system. This is essentially the same GPS system as used by Hertz with their NeverLost ads. I had used it several times in my rental cars around the US and loved it so much I had to put it in the Ultimate Windsurfing Van

The Magellan 750 Nav GPS system features a complete map of the USA and Canada that runs in the included computer which I mounted in a custom made bracket below the glove compartment

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Its as great as having MapQuest installed in your car - but even better, because it always knows here you are, so you never have to type in your start address, only your final destination . 

If you make a wrong turn it prompts you to turn around, even prompts you which lane you should be in to make the next turn. An amazing gadget, well worth the price.


Building the racks for my new 2002 Freightliner Sprinter Ultimate Windsurfing Van

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After carefully measuring the curvature of the walls I started welding up the windsurfing racks to hold the boards and the booms. By bending the frame uprights to closely hug the walls ensures that I get the most efficient use of the available space.

Getting he formula bard to the top rung  is critical, as it takes up the most space. The narrower slalom and wave boards don't project as far out as the formula board and leave the bed space open.

I used 1" square steel tubing for the racks, bent it to conform to the walls using Oxy-Acetylene torch, and welded the frame with a small 110V wire fed welding machine. 

All joints were completely seam welded and all tube openings welded closed to minimize rust. All welds were completely ground smooth for appearances.

 

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Here you can see the finished board rack frames, prior to painting, showing the subtle bend to conform to the curvature of the van waistline.

The spacing between the boards is kept to a minimum to maximize the usable space. I left just enough space to ensure the footstraps had some clearance.  The short lower rack is designed to accommodate 8 booms. 

The windsurfing board and boom frame is bolted to the wooden floor at the bottom and to the van body on the walls and ceiling. 

This three point fastening ensures that the frames stay put even in a violent crash. The last thing you want is those boards hitting your head as you come to a sudden stop

 

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This shot shows the bed frame at a fairly advanced stage. I used 1-1/2" rectangular steel  tubing for the bed. I wanted the bed frame to be made in two pieces so that I could easily remove one side to make space if I needed to haul large items in the van. 

Here I am making adjustments to the female receivers for the removable side.

The long unbroken side is the protective cover for the masts and long sails. The notch in the bed allows the booms to hang below the bed level.

I wanted the maximum amount of storage height under the bed, so the height of the bed is 22" off the floor. This is the maximum height that an average 5' 8" tall person can comfortably sit on the bed and still have their feet touch the floor. 

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Now its time to add the base of the bed. Here I am measuring the 5/8" plywood to provide the base for the bed and forward seat.

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Adding the second plywood base. As you can see the right half of the bed will be able to be removed in one piece.

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This is what the finished bed will look like when installed in the van, and the cut out for the booms is clearly visible.

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In this photo you can see how the frame is curved to meet the walls of the van and maximize the usable space. The frame is bolted to the floor and to the stringer above the checkered wall covering.

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Here I am stapling the carpet to the wooden floor supplied with the Freightliner van. I purchased inexpensive commercial grade carpeting from Lowes.

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The bed frame has been installed in the van and bolted to the floor at 12 points. The last thing I want is the steel frame coming loose in an accident and moving forward.

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The boards have been placed on the racks. 

The boards are secured with standard 5/16" shock cord obtainable from any marine store, and used stainless steel hog rings to make the loops at the securing end so that they would always be easily accessible and make it easy to remove the shock cords. 

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The racks were designed to allow easy access to the three boards. 

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The 3 boards, 10 booms and 10 masts are shown in their respective spaces. 

The formula board is the board I most often sail (light Florida winds) and it would be more convenient to have it on the lowest rack. However at 1m wide it would intrude in the bed space so that's why it occupies the top rack. 

The rack that supports the formula board looks too narrow, but it has been purposely cut short to allow the formula board to be raised up at an angle and then placed horizontally on the rack.

The boards are all the way to the back of the van to provide seating space on the bench behind the drivers seat.

I will custom design a protection partition behind the drivers seat to protect the driver from the boards in the case of a sudden stop.

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As my sail quiver is always changing, making fixed storage for the sails didn't seen the prudent thing to do, so the sails are not quite as neatly stacked. 

It was critical to ensure that all sails were protected from above so that now one would step on or sit on the sails by accident, permanently creasing the monofilm.

The formula sails share the first partition with my Hobie 16 sail. These are the longest sails and get protection from the bed extension above. 

The rest of the sails are short enough to get their protection from the bed.

In the storage containers are all the wet suits, harnesses, extensions, fins, bases and other windsurfing paraphernalia. 

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For appearances and for protection from wet clothing and dripping boards, I varnished the plywood bed boards with Cetol Sikkens marine varnish

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The bed boards have been secured in place, and you can clearly see the cut out for the booms, as well as the forward seating area behind the drivers seat.

The right hand board is easily removable along with the steel frame

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Here is the detail of the simple support connection for the removable bed.

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The finished product - View 1.0

With my wife's good taste, I chose a blue and green nautical patterns to tie in with the wall panels.

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The finished product - View 2.0

The view from the rear. Doesn't this look like a really comfortable bed?

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The finished product - View 3.0

The protection offered to the sails and the extra jump seat.


Jazzing up the Exterior of the Freightliner Sprinter Ultimate Windsurfing Van

Presenting a smart looking exterior, as opposed to an obvious windsurfing camper van, is a critical component in how to build the Ultimate Windsurfing Van. The plan is to be able to park and sleep on the side of the road in any neighborhood and hopefully fit in and not attract any attention. I prefer to sleep in the better neighborhoods, as they are generally more secure, and an attractive looking vehicle fits right in. 

A large rusty van plastered with surfing and windsurfing stickers will get you rousted by the cops before your head has touched the pillow. Believe me - I spent over a year living in my original ultimate windsurfing van, and I have many fun and not so fun experiences to tell you about.

But if you don't want to accept the above, lets just accept that I just wanted a cool looking van!

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The newly painted Ultimate Windsurfing Van V2.0 returns to park next to my original ultimate windsurfing van. As you can see the width of the vans is similar but the 140" wheelbase Freightliner Sprinter is significantly taller and approx 20" longer.

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The superb silver and gun metal two-tone paint was professionally done by Efren Diaz of A1 Body Shop Repair Centers in Deerfield Florida (954 974 4479). They specialize in Freightliner and other large vehicles. Only body shops that do trucks can accommodate the height of the Sprinter in their tall painting booths.

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What a great job. The plain vanilla white cargo van is transformed into a spacey executive looking vehicle - very futuristic by current American van standards. Now all it needs is a decent set of after market wheels to finish off the executive look.


Finding and Installing Mercedes G-Wagen 18" mag wheels on the Freightliner Sprinter Ultimate Windsurfing Van

Finding 18" wheels for the Freightliner Sprinter Van

 

Finding 18" wheels to fit the Freightliner Sprinter Van  took me over 3 months of research. I looked at several hundred styles and sizes of wheels, and test fitted 3 styles that met the exacting specifications for a van of this weight.


The Ideal Wheel Spec for Freighliner Sprinter Van

Diameter = 18"

Width = 8"

Offset = 60-70mm

Bolt Pattern = 5 x 130mm

Center bore = 84mm

Load Rating = 2250lbs per wheel minimum


I would have considered staying with the 16" original wheel size but the tire options are so limited that I started looking for 18" wheels that would meet the load requirement and offer a larger tire selection. In the 16" diameter rage, there are very few tires with load ratings over 2200lbs.

In terms of overall look and style, I wanted to wheels that would enhance the understated executive looking style that would be in tune with the paint job, but as you will find out, there are only a very few wheels that will fit this van.

Note that the 5 x 130mm bolt hole pattern is only found on Porsche sports cars and the Mercedes G-Wagen. 

Unfortunately none of the hundreds of really cool Porsche wheels meet the 60mm - 70mm offset needed, and only a few met the load requirement of at least 2,200lbs per wheel. 

Wheels that meet the above criteria and that are 8" wide will fit within the bodywork. As soon as you go beyond the 8" width, the wheel/tire combo starts to project past the body work - basically pimping the look (which I didn't want) and also creates an issue of the wheel spray residue on the lower body panels behind the wheels.

I didn't want to spend my whole life keeping the lower panels clean, so I kept looking for my ideal wheels.


Wheel Option #1

Antera 323 wheels

18" Antera Type 323 Wheels for Freightliner Dodge Mercedes Sprinter Van

I really liked the attractive Antera 323's for light trucks shown above, and they would have been my first choice. They almost have the right offset, and they have a deep polished lip which I like,  but they only come in 9" width at the required load specs, and would have required getting some custom wheel arch flares made up to hide the protruding tires on the sides of the vehicle.


 

Wheel Option #2

AMG Wheels

18" Mercedes AMG Wheels for Freightliner Dodge Mercedes Sprinter Van

I did test-fit the set of AMG wheels shown above that met all the specifications, but the 8.5" width also projected past the wheel arches and gave it a bit of a ghetto/pimpmobile look that I wasn't keen on. I did like the style and I have always been an AMG fan (as you can see from my awesome 2004 Mercedes AMG E55 and 2006 Mercedes AMG CLS55 vehicles, and I was really  disappointed that they didn't work for me.


Wheel Option #3

Mercedes AMG G-Wagen 18" Wheels for Freightliner Dodge Mercedes Sprinter Van

Recently a great looking set of AMG G-Wagen wheels were being offered on eBay. These are standard on the $100,000 2004 MB G-Wagen and they obviously fit the Sprinter van bolt pattern, offset and center bore specs perfectly, and meet all the wheel loading specs  but they are 9-1/2" wide and that is just too wide for the Sprinter. They will cause interference with the front bumper when turning lock to lock, unless you modify the front bumper.


Wheel Option #4

16" Borbet Wheel for Freightliner Dodge Mercedes Sprinter Van

Tire Rack is now offering a Borbet 16" mag wheel for the sprinter - ONE wheel style only, and if you know Tire Rack than you understand how rare these 5x130mm x 60mm offset wheels are, because Tire Rack usually has at least 20 wheel styles to choose from for each vehicle type. They offer no 18" wheels.

But as the Sprinter becomes more popular expect to see more wheels becoming available.


Wheel Option #5

The G-Wagen wheels were my final choice. The 18" x 8" gave just the right proportions, looked smart and not overtly aggressive.

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18" Mercedes G-Wagen Wheels for Freightliner Dodge Mercedes Sprinter Van

While you can now buy these wheels on eBay or from the local Mercedes Dealer, I imported my G-Wagen Wheels from Germany. Please note that the tires often sold with the G-Wagen wheels on eBay will definitely not fit Freightliner Sprinter Van. (These wheel and tire combos taken off from G-Wagens where owners are trading up to 20" and 22" wheels)

The Mercedes Benz part# is 4634010902 or 4634011202
and the wheels should cost you around $500 or more each, including the longer wheel bolts and Mercedes Emblem center caps, excluding the tires.

You will need the extra long 17mm alloy wheel bolts to hold these wheels to the hub - the wheel bolts on the Sprinter Van are for the steel wheels and are not long enough for the thicker aluminum wheel.

You will be limited to 255x55x18' tires or they will interfere with the body work on the front fender when turning lock to lock.

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18" Mercedes G-Wagen Wheels for for Freightliner Dodge Mercedes Sprinter Van

The first set of G-Wagen 18" rims shipped to me from Germany included one 16" rim by mistake - hence the odd rim in the photo above.

What a difference the wheels make!

It really does change the look of the vehicle overall.  Compare it to the shot above.

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Before - Standard Freightliner 16" Rims and tires

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After - With 18" Mercedes G-Wagen Wheels

The wheels do not project past the side of the van. They are shod with 255x55x18 Continental tires. Tire Cost is around $200 each

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Total cost of rims and tires for my Sprinter van was around $3,000 and made a huge improvement in the ride.

Just owning a Sprinter always gets a lot of attention, and people are always stopping me and coming up to me to talk about the van. 

Now with the executive looking wheels, my ultimate windsurfing van draws even more than its fair share of attention. Its impossible to go anywhere without being questioned about the vehicle.

Heaven help you if you pull up to a Home Depot or Lowes - there will be a crowd around the van - you just have to deal with it.

Its amazing that a plain old cargo van can attract so much attention.

And lets face it - its pretty cool to have a Mercedes Ultimate Windsurfing Van!


Converting the Freightliner Sprinter Van badges over to the Mercedes Sprinter Van Badges

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Yup, I finally succumbed to the temptation to do the Mercedes badge conversion on my trusted Freightliner Sprinter Van. 

I now present to you my new Mercedes Sprinter Van!

I purchased the badge kit from Nick in the UK for around $150, and I used my own FedEx account to send it over. If you want to order the parts from Nick you can contact him at nick.mercedes@ntlworld.com - just tell him you found his address at www.danny-steyn.com

It included the complete Mercedes front grill and two trim pieces, the blue Mercedes Emblem that appears above it on the hood, and it included the silver Mercedes Benz decal that goes on the left rear door in place of the Freightliner badge.

The kit was supposed to include the 4 wheel caps, but these were not shipped. I did not make a big fuss as I already have installed the Mercedes G-Wagen Alloy wheels.

The kit arrived well packed, and the installation and took less than a morning. 

However I still had to paint the hood as it had not been painted under the Freightliner badge when we changed the van from white to silver.

I left the painting up to my good friend Efren Diaz at A-1 Body and Paint in Pompano beach South Florida - once again they did an awesome job.

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It is really simple to remove the Freightliner grill, hood emblem and side trim pieces that appear under the front headlights.

Just use a star screwdriver for the grille and trim, and just pull off the badges - they are glued in place with double sided pressure sensitive tape. The new grille and trim pieces just screw in place.

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I carefully measured, center punched and drilled the hood for the blue Mercedes hood emblem, and made sure that the hole was well prepped prior to painting the hood to avoid corrosion.

In my case I had to repaint the entire hood silver as the hood was originally white under the original Freightliner badge, and I had to paint the two trim pieces gun metal to match the lower paint waistline.

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As you can see here, I have taken several liberties at the rear of my van. 

I drilled and secured a large Mercedes Benz star emblem on the left rear door. I purchased this from my local Mercedes Dealer, and it uses a single bolted post. I measured, center punched and drilled the rear door, and again prepped the hole properly with zinc primer.

 This Star is not found on the European version, but since the star emblem appears on every Mercedes Benz car in the USA, I thought it would be appropriate to add it -  (just one mans opinion!)

I also placed the Mercedes Benz decal below the tag in the darker gun metal waistline. The decal shipped by Nick was silver and would have disappeared into the silver background had I placed it in the correct location above the tag, and the lower location seemed like the best option.

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And yes - the Mercedes Conversion does make a tremendous difference. To Me at least!

My Mercedes Sprinter now draws way more looks than my Freightliner Sprinter ever did, and people take more notice of it because of the Mercedes Badge. 

But in the end it ALL MEANS NOTHING! - I just happen to prefer it with the MB badges! 


Customizing the Optional Rear Step Bumper to accept the factory Tow Hitch

They said it couldn't be done!  

You either have a tow hitch, or you can have the optional step bumper, but you cant have both. That was the word from my dealer and from several other sources, including suppliers of the tow hitch.

Well phooey to that - and here is how I set about rectifying that problem, and its pretty simple. 

DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO MODIFY THE TOW HITCH - tow hitches are factory certified and are specifically engineered for their duty.

Please note - I am just an amateur and if you choose to follow my procedures, you do so at your own risk.

I have to thank Ron, my learned service technician at Freightliner of South Florida Pompano, who gave me the tip. You see the factory approved bumpers attach to the exact same place that the factory step bumper supports attach to, hence the conflict.

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1. The first step is to remove the plastic bumper - this is easy to do - just remove the 2 reflectors to remove the two bolts hidden behind - then pop off the 4 black plastic rivets holding the bumper skin to the metal step below. They are sacrificial rivets - you will need new ones so don't try and conserve them when you remove them.

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2. Then pull off the bumper - Sit behind the vehicle and pull it of towards you - it pulls off in one piece bringing the rear side bumpers with.

The side bumper moldings slide in plastic retaining grooves which are mounted to the body of the van - there is no need to remove these retainers.

3. The next step was to remove the steel step. both of the step supports are secured with one bolt through the rail and with two bolts under the rear cross member. A pneumatic wrench and socket makes quick work of this.

4. Here is Ron's secret. Swap the mounting brackets on the metal step right to left. Then the brackets will mount from the outside of the rail, leaving room for the tow hitch to mount to the inside of the rail.

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5. Once the step removed, the next part is the toughest. Using a grinding wheel to remove as much of the welds as possible, and then using a 4lb hammer and cold chisel, I pried off the two mounting brackets off the step. Since the plastic bumper is going to hide all the modifications, I wasn't too gentle and the supports came off easily. Here you can see the right hand bracket (with towing hook) removed.

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6. To get the plastic bumper to fit when you re-weld the step supports it is critical to take time to mark the positions really carefully. I re-installed the brackets in place in their new position, and rested the metal step in place on top of the brackets, and then remounted the plastic bumper.

  ultimate-windsurf-van-bumper-06.jpg (89726 bytes)

Here you can see that the step brackets have been swapped from side to side - what was previously the Right hand side bracket (with towing hook) is now mounted to the Left hand side

From the underside I carefully measured where the brackets now contact the step. I then took off all the items again, and carefully laid them out and secured them in place with several vise grips and clamps, and welded the brackets to the underside of the step again.

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7. Once welded I repainted the completed assembly to prevent it rusting . While it was drying, I installed the tow hitch. The hitch is bolted in place with 4 bolts through each frame rail, and with 4 bolts and an angle support (supplied) into the cross member and is really simple to install. Leave off the bolt for the step brackets on each side of the rail.

I used a jack to lift the heavy duty tow hitch into place while I bolted it to the frame rails.

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8. Next I  installed the modified step on the outside of the rail - it fits perfectly and is simply bolted in place. 

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9. I installed 2 super heavy duty (2500lb ea) Quick link rings to make it easy to hook up the safety chain.

 

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10. Once it is secure, slide on the plastic bumper and secure. I obtained the replacement rivets from my local auto body shop.

11. The final part of the mechanical installation is to install the Quick load 2x2" square ball mount and ball. I chose a 2" drop for the ball mount to match my existing Hobie Trailer height, and I installed a cool combo 1-7/16 & 2" quick change ball. 

I had to trim 1" off the length of the ball mount as I wanted it to be recessed to be as inconspicuous as possible. In the original length it projected too far into the rear and would have interfered with lowering the spare wheel carrier. I drilled a 2nd 11/16" dia hole for the locking pin.

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12. With the ball mount and ball removed, the tow hitch almost completely disappears, leaving the original step bumper looking original and absolutely functional. 

13. The electrical hook up is COMPLICATED yet simple thanks to the most comprehensive set of instructions I have ever received for any auto accessory, and the longest wiring harness in automotive history!!!!!

It has to be routed a specific way and has to hook up to 4 items in order for the computer to function correctly - just follow the instructions and its very straight forward.

You cannot just hook up the wires to the brake lights and the turn signals as with most tow hitch installations - the computer will malfunction (or so I am told).


One final warning about the Freightliner Sprinter Ultimate Windsurfing Van

WARNING - BEWARE

There is one problem with the Sprinter Van being so conspicuous.  It has to do with its superb acceleration and ease of driving, plus its tall roof line.  You will get speeding fines!  Believe me, before you know it, you are way over the speed limit, and the Sprinter Van stands out in the traffic.

Cars can zip by you going twice your speed, but you are going to be the one that catches the cops attention, and you will be pulled over.

Mark my words! Take it easy and stay out of trouble

Happy Trails my friends and let there be wind and waves!

If this web page has helped you in any way, or inspired you to try your own conversion in any way, a simple thank you email to dannyATdannysteynDOTcom would be appreciated.

Regards,

Danny Steyn - Creator of the Ultimate Windsurfing Van!

Disclaimer - This page is to be used as an idea source only. I am no mechanic nor am I an expert in any of the modification processes I undertook below - do your own research and make you rown decisions.

 

         

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