by Lazelle Jones - Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Sportsmobile of California has converted vans and built off-highway/backcountry vehicles since 1961. Its four-wheel drive, high-clearance vehicles span a broad spectrum of demands for utility and functionality from basic—“get into the backcountry and hunt”—to luxurious—“get into the backcountry, hunt and enjoy a full range of residential comforts.” More specifically, its off-highway vehicles are offered on two different platforms; each is designed for a specific application. These include the Sprinter 2500/3500 and the Ford E350. Sportsmobile is a Mercedes factory-authorized “up-fitter” just as it is factory-authorized by Ford to convert vans using the E350 cut-away chassis. Another important plus: Purchasers can take advantage of 15-year financing, with interest on the loan often being tax-deductible.
Mercedes Sprinter 2500 and 3500 (1-ton) 4WD Vans
Both the single rear-wheel and dual rear-wheel Mercedes Sprinter platforms feature uni-body construction. The 2500 features single rear wheels, the 3500 dual rear wheels. Either comes with Mercedes factory-installed 4WD (high, low range) and a five-speed automatic transmission. Available in both roof heights (fixed and pop-up), the Sportsmobile Sprinter features a 3.0L turbo-charged V6 diesel engine that produces 188 hp and 325 lbs.-ft. torque.
The Sprinter is adept at navigating muddy and snow-covered Forest Service roads and is rated as capable of negotiating trails with a rating between 1 and 3 (out of five). Aftermarket sway bars and shocks can be added at the discretion of the owner. The ground clearance at the rear differential is 9 inches; wheels are 16 or 17 inches. Towing capacity is 5,000 pounds for both platforms; cargo carrying capacity on the 2500 is 1,000 pounds, on the 3500 it is 1 ton.
The cabin interior measures 68x132 inches, and features an interior height on the fixed-top model of 75 inches. Interior height of the pop-up roof model that houses the sleeping quarters Sportsmobile calls the Penthouse is 93 inches (standup height) after the roof is extended via electric motors. Using rails and pods, the roof is rated to carry 150 pounds of cargo. Holding-tank capacities for fuel, fresh, gray and waste water are 24, 20 and 12 gallons, respectively.
The Sprinter is equipped with a host of standard features: power windows; driver and passenger airbags; cross-wind assist; and keyless entry. Optional features include: a removable rear winch (fits into the hitch receiver) rated at 9,000 pounds; a snorkel; LED lighting packages; and hood wraps. Several exterior color choices are offered; interior color and decor options are unlimited and client-driven. Base MSRP is $90,000. Fully appointed, the Sprinter 4x4 carries an MSRP of $120,000-$150,000.
Ford Classic E350 4WD
Starting with the E350 cut-away chassis, Sportsmobile fabricates cabin walls and a roof using lightweight composite materials that reduce gross weight by 600 pounds compared to previous models. With a body-on-frame chassis, the Classic Sportsmobile provides the torsion strength and clearance required to engage primitive trails rated between 1 and 4 (but it’s not a rock-crawler).
For navigating extreme trail conditions, the 4WD system features a Dyna-trac front axle, Atlas transfer case and Fox suspension (26 inches of wheel articulation). This unit is available with detachable sway bars and lockers. A total of 10 forward gears and two reverse gears are available for changing trail conditions. Two-wheel drive, 4WD (high, low) and front-wheel-drive-only is selectable by the driver. Ground clearance (at the rear differential) can measure 9 inches, but is determined by tire size. Tire size choices range from 32-35 inches. Total cargo-carrying capacity is rated at 2,000 pounds. Towing capability is 10,000 pounds.
The interior measures 72x136 inches, sufficient to accommodate whatever level of residential amenities the hunter requires. Floor-to-ceiling height when a campsite is reached (with the pop-top raised) measures 79 inches. Floor-to-ceiling interior height on the fixed-room model is 74 inches.
The type of gear you may haul determines your choice of two roof lines. One is a pop-top design with a sleeping area (the Penthouse) that accommodates two adults. It is raised and lowered by electric motors. This system is designed to carry up to 150 pounds of gear on the roof (rails and pods required). Interior camping residential features may include: a full galley (counter, sink with hot/cold water faucet); water heater; electric water pump; two-burner LP cook-top; two-way 2.7- or 4-cubic foot refrigerator; and microwave oven. Special requests for built-in or portable dog kennels can be accommodated.
An optional 3 kw auxiliary generator provides stand-alone power for a 7,000 BTU air conditioner in primitive bivouacs. Heat is provided by a 14,000 BTU forced-air furnace. Other amenities can include: a full-service bathroom; inverter; freezer; LED flat screen television; gun vaults; truck bed liner on the floor and walls in the rear cargo bay; and front and rear winches (rated at 12,000 pounds each). Holding-tank capacities (when equipped) for fresh, gray and waste tanks are 20, 12 and 6.1 gallons, respectively.
The Classic sleeps four adults (two in the Penthouse, two on the fold-out bench-seat bed in the cabin below). Five exterior colors are available, all sealed with Body Armor. Interior color and décor is limited only by the imagination. Base MSRP begins at $120,000. Fully equipped, the MSRP is $150,000.
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