There is a special allure about four wheel drive vans. Some people just don’t think pickup trucks are all that comfortable to ride in, though recent four door, king cab models have changed that somewhat. A four wheel drive van though, is like a mini motorhome though in that you ride AND camp inside the vehicle without getting out, hitching and un-hitching and so on. With a pickup you have to exit the truck and then go back to the camper, i.e., they are separate. A four wheel drive van camper is probably the smallest camper you can get way out into the boonies with the added bonus that it can also tow quite nicely if equipped properly. Let’s examine the current offerings in the four wheel drive van camper market.
The downside of this segment of the RV industry is that there are few offerings to choose from. The plus side is that what is available is top notch as far as high quality manufacturing and top of the line aftermarket components. Sportsmobile has been around for over 50 years having produced their first van conversions from the classic VW platform. Currently they offer four wheel drive vans with a wide range of customization and options from specialized vehicles for any purpose, to full blown self-sufficient off road machines that can handle most any terrain you can through at them.
Quigley is another interesting player in this small corner of the market. They have been producing four wheel drive vans for some 27 years using common Ford and Chevy parts found in the 4×4 truck segment, making their vehicles serviceable anywhere a Ford or Chevy truck could be. Common to both of these companies are that models can be had in either regular body lengths or extended bodies which offers another 20” to the length, providing more interior room for bathrooms and such.
Of the two by far, Sportsmobile has the greatest and most comprehensive menu of options and equipment to choose from, as well as the customization of floorplans as far as obtaining a custom van camper goes. They also offer many options for those who would like a more “normal” van conversion but since we are focusing on four wheel drive vans, we shall lean our focus towards van campers. There are also a number of smaller individual businesses you can find on the internet offering custom 4×4 van campers, but by far Sportsmobile offers the largest and most complete that you will find.
Interesting to note, is that Sportsmobile bases their four wheel drive vans on the Ford platform only while Quigley conversions can be had on both Ford and GM chassis. Quigley in general is an aftermarket van converter meaning that they are mostly in the market to install four wheel drive systems on vans. If you are thinking of building out your own custom four wheel drive van interior, this is by far the most economical way to go. You can order the 4×4 conversion and then do the interior yourself.
Four wheel drive van campers appeal to a wide spectrum of people from those who are avid outdoors people, to mobile professionals, to TV crews and the like. Anyone needing a small mini motorhome camper will find a lot to like in these rigs. They have the tightest turning radius by far compared to Class A or C motorhomes so if you are one who likes to seek out the more rustic and pristine campsites that can be found out along forest service roads and other rustic byways, do yourself a favor and take a good look at the offerings.
The interiors of these coaches though based on a narrow van chassis width of some 6 and ½ feet can be still quite comfortable. Multiple sleeping areas based on convertible couches, dinettes or even sleeping “upstairs” in pop top tent areas are available. Full blown galleys are available with running hot and cold water, even toilet rooms complete with showers. Though conditions inside are a bit tight, keep in mind that when coupled with the four wheel drive van foundation, these engineering marvels can safely travel to some of the most remote and beautiful locations you can find, comfortably.
They can be equipped with a wide menu of comforts and conveniences, and you can arrange to have special gear installed specific to your needs such as diesel cook stoves and water heaters that run off the main fuel tanks and other goodies. All manner of electronics can be ordered from high end stereo and entertainment systems to solar electric generation and battery storage systems.
As stated earlier, the cost of just a base 4×4 add on is the cheapest route to go especially if you already own the van intended for conversions. Quigley charges over $11,000 and up for their add-ons and Sportsmobile some $17,000 and up. If you buy the van new and also pay for the conversion at the same time you can expect to pay some $70,000 and up depending on options and extra gear providing off-road, full blown self-sufficiency.
Though a bit pricey at first glance, a four wheel drive van camper has a definite appeal especially if you are one who wants to get away from the congestion of the typical RV parks that must be sought out for those who own the really big motorhomes and fifth wheels. What you give up in terms of indoor comfort you make up for in breathtaking external surroundings. If you find yourself dreaming of these out of the way gem campsites, take a look at four wheel drive vans.