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View Full Version : Poor man's 4 x4: Best suspension lift combo?


wanderingstar
05-06-2018, 04:20 PM
Was wondering if anyone can direct me to a thread that discusses the best combination for a 140 hi roof, of suspension components for rough road, expedition long distance traveling campervan?

Suspension lift front and back?
Shockers, sway bar?
Air suspension?
Big tyres like KO2's on 16" rims?

What I am looking for is a general consensus on the best combination of components that does not compromise the vehicle's handling too much. And the total approximate cost. Thanks for your attention!

MillionMileSprinter
05-06-2018, 04:49 PM
You are sending some conflicting information in your post. You mention four by four, which implies a newer style Sprinter. But then you mention 140 in. That implies an older Sprinter. Which year Sprinter do you have? That would help a lot of people be able to give you the information you're looking for.

wanderingstar
05-06-2018, 05:24 PM
I said "poor man's 4 x 4" which does not have anything to do with the new 4 x4's - or technically a 4WD vehicle - but the next best to it, I thought I made that quite clear by posting under T1N. Thanks for the clarification. I do not have a T1N yet and will not until early next year.

You are sending some conflicting information in your post. You mention four by four, which implies a newer style Sprinter. But then you mention 140 in. That implies an older Sprinter. Which year Sprinter do you have? That would help a lot of people be able to give you the information you're looking for.

lindenengineering
05-06-2018, 08:16 PM
I said "poor man's 4 x 4" which does not have anything to do with the new 4 x4's - or technically a 4WD vehicle - but the next best to it, I thought I made that quite clear by posting under T1N. Thanks for the clarification. I do not have a T1N yet and will not until early next year.

Well reading this and my thoughts immediately swing to a Yankee cobble up that won''t work in 4LWD and hardly does a job in 4HWD 'cept perhaps tangle itself and over steer on bends. Worst at medium speeds on the highway & Interstates at 65 mph. Oh beejezus !

If you must and have lottsa money why not import an old inspection failed 4WD van from Europe. Then you have all the "right" undercarriage to convert it.
Hope you understand electrical stuff 'Michael" !!
You'll need it

Otherwise its spectacles, testicles, wallet flush and watch!
An Irish Catlick benediction!:laughing:
Dennis

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouQVthzlvOU

DesertAdventures
05-06-2018, 09:04 PM
Plenty of folks drive T1N's off road, I've seen mention here of conversion but it's more involved $$/labor/etc. than most would consider worth it.

lmao Dennis, what a mantra "spectacles, testicles, wallet flush and watch! " and "the church sells afterlife insurance!":laughing:

Midwestdrifter
05-07-2018, 04:08 AM
There is not a huge amount of aftermarket support in the USA, and we never got 4x4 T1Ns, so that is part of the reason.

You have two approaches.

Approach 1: This will net you about the same (or slightly greater) clearance as a factory T1N 4x4 on stock (15") wheels. (note most sprinters in the USA are 16" wheels)

2" lift kit from Vancompass
Rear Fox shocks (standard or adjustable if you have extra $$$)
Vancompass Skid plates
Go to a 30-33" tire (stock is 225/75R16, about 29") If you want larger than 245/75R16 (about 30.5-31") you need to change wheels. Factory wheels are 6" wide


Approach 2:
Extended Temporary Import from Europe. With Temporary vehicle import permits, you can keep a vehicle in most countries for a year, sometimes indefinitely (some south american countries). Located a LHD 4x4 sprinter in Europe (they are generally not very expensive I hear). Load it into a container, or a RORO ship, and send it to the USA/Canada/Mexico. Under a temporary import permit you can bring a vehicle into the USA for a year as long as you are here with it. If you leave the USA with your vehicle, you can generally cancel, then renew the import when you return.

The vehicle needs to be tagged/plated and registered in the foreign country for the duration of your travels. It is easy enough to forge/fake a registration if it is tough to renew on the road.

Myself and others have written some about the cost of vehicle shipping. From Europe to the USA costs would generally be less than $3,000USD, possibly significantly less.

The advantage of the temporary import method, is that you can take your time in europe, and find a vehicle. In this case you have a decent set of options. A T1N 4x4 with low range, and locking rear diff is a true off road oriented 4x4 with no center (locked) diff. In factory condition I would perform the following to get one ready to roll.

Upgrade to 16" wheels, and 225, 235, or 245/75R16 tires. Install fox shocks in the rear. Maybe a set of sumosprings front bump stops. Install a front trans/engine skid plate. Most of the wear parts for the 4x4 specific bits are common to the 2wd version, or are common parts (bearings seals). The front axle CV joints, wheel bearings, and boots are specific to the model, so getting a set of spares before leaving europe would be a good idea.

Edit: If you feel like selling your 4x4 import when finished, it could possible be sold as a "parts" vehicle. There is likely a number of T1N owners in the USA that would salivate at converting their T1N to a manual 4x4... (I am one of them...) Yes I know, Overlanding is a disease!

lindenengineering
05-07-2018, 04:54 AM
Well I suppose at east if you are using this new found 4WD Sprinter in NA at least you won't encounter wild elephants!:lol:

My daughter has pictures and a cell phone clip of a German 4WD Sprinter being kicked on its side by two pi$$ed off elephants in Kruger National Park .:laughing:

As she says in Africa as a doctor when you REALLY want a true 4WD in rugged conditions there are only two--Landrovers and Toyotas.
Here's an example:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_203PSyA2UM


Oh fond memories seeing Datsun PU disappearance completely into the mud and the smiling faces .
Dennis

Midwestdrifter
05-07-2018, 04:55 AM
I am not sure if you have driven a sprinter, or taken one on crap roads.

These vans generally handle quite well. The factory suspension is tough, breakage is rare. Being a commercial vehicle the design margins are better than most.

Issues with the factory suspension

Shocks (front/rear) have way to little low speed damping for heavy/tall vans.

Front suspension has somewhat limited articulation


When lifted you will experience handling impact. Adding decent shocks can reclaim most of the loss. Keeping your weight down, and close to the ground helps a lot too. Tall narrow tires will also make handling a bit more vauge. Even then the van will still ride/handle better than most leaf spring solid axle 4x4s (in factory condition).


As far as Africa goes, there is really only one 4x4 for the task, the LC 70 series.

wanderingstar
05-07-2018, 04:55 AM
Thanks once again for your detailed response! Can you give me a ballpark figure of how much Approach 1 cost you in parts and labour? Around $5,000? I know you did it yourself as I read alot of your build, so hours of labour would be useful to gauge if I got a pro to do it. You have had no problems with instability with wind or steering I take it?

Approach 2: I had no idea that they made a T1N 4x4 and I am currently based in Europe. Its a definite possibility, though the customs hassles and shipping could be a complicated process. Let alone registering it in the country of purchase. Probably several weeks to ship and wait for clearance I expect. But it is an attractive idea in terms of going back to Europe and using the van there as well.

I guess Germany is the cheapest place to buy one as it is for most RV's I have noticed in the past. (http://www.ooyyo.com/germany/van/used-mercedes+benz-sprinter-for-sale/c=CDA31D7114D3854F111BFE6FBA1F355B11AF1D7FC7D489B6 160EFE7BBE733772CC/#_)

Any other suggestions or links about locating one in Europe appreciated. I am currently in Sweden and I think the prices are higher here.

There is not a huge amount of aftermarket support in the USA, and we never got 4x4 T1Ns, so that is part of the reason.

You have two approaches.

Approach 1: This will net you about the same (or slightly greater) clearance as a factory T1N 4x4 on stock wheels.

2" lift kit from Vancompass
Rear Fox shocks (standard or adjustable if you have extra $$$)
Vancompass Skid plates
Go to a 30-33" tire (stock is 225/75R16, about 29") If you want larger than 245/75R16 (about 30.5-31") you need to change wheels. Factory wheels are 6" wide


Approach 2:
Extended Temporary Import from Europe. With Temporary vehicle import permits, you can keep a vehicle in mos countries for a year, sometimes indefinitely (some south american countries). Located a LHD 4x4 sprinter in Europe (they are generally not very expensive I hear). Load it into a container, or a RORO ship, and send it to the USA/Canada/Mexico. Under a temporary import permit you can bring a vehicle into the USA for a year as long as you are here with it. If you leave the USA with your vehicle, you can generally cancel, then renew the import when you return.

The vehicle needs to be tagged/plated and registered in the foreign country for the duration of your travels. It is easy enough to forge/fake a registration if it is tough to renew on the road.

Myself and others have written some about the cost of vehicle shipping. From Europe to the USA costs would generally be less than $3,000USD, possibly significantly less.

The advantage of the temporary import method, is that you can take your time in europe, and find a vehicle. In this case you have a decent set of options. A T1N 4x4 with low range, and locking rear diff is a true off road oriented 4x4 with no center (locked) diff. In factory condition I would perform the following to get one ready to roll.

Upgrade to 16" wheels, and 225, 235, or 245/75R16 tires. Install fox shocks in the rear. Maybe a set of sumosprings front bump stops. Install a front trans/engine skid plate.

Midwestdrifter
05-07-2018, 05:06 AM
Thanks once again for your detailed response! Can you give me a ballpark figure of how much Approach 1 cost you in parts and labour? Around $5,000? I know you did it yourself as I read alot of your build, so hours of labour would be useful to gauge if I got a pro to do it. You have had no problems with instability with wind or steering I take it?

Approach 2: I had no idea that they made a T1N 4x4 and I am currently based in Europe. Its a definite possibility, though the customs hassles and shipping could be a complicated process. Let alone registering it in the country of purchase. Probably several weeks to ship and wait for clearance I expect. But it is an attractive idea in terms of going back to Europe and using the van there as well.

I guess Germany is the cheapest place to buy one as it is for most RV's I have noticed in the past. (http://www.ooyyo.com/germany/van/used-mercedes+benz-sprinter-for-sale/c=CDA31D7114D3854F111BFE6FBA1F355B11AF1D7FC7D489B6 160EFE7BBE733772CC/#_)

Any other suggestions or links about locating one in Europe appreciated. I am currently in Sweden and I think the prices are higher here.


Vancompass.com has the prices for their products. They offer install services if you need, their install instructions give a ballpark figure for a shop install time.

The lift-kit is probably around 8 hours in a shop with a lift. It took me two full days in my driveway on jack stands. I did some other stuff at the same time.

Skid plates are pretty easy, 2 hours tops.

Shocks are less than an hour.


Tires are around 1,000$ for 5 mounted in a decent brand. Cooper/BFG etc.

There is MUCH more to making a 2WD capable off paved roads though. Most of that is gear. Tire deflation/inflation tools, traction mats, recovery strap etc. Having a shop fabricate a decent front recovery point is also very important.


My van as it sits, rides and handles amazingly well for a 2.6 meter tall, 8,600lb van. I had some issues the last few months with vague steering, but that was due to worn front end parts. After replacing them it is 90% better.

Cross winds do require active drive input. Lifting the van did make this slightly worse, but fox shocks do wonders...

The factory 4x4, and the lift kits I mentioned all have basically the same factory steering and suspension geometry. This means they will all handle similarly. Higher center or gravity will obviously have an impact.

Midwestdrifter
05-07-2018, 05:11 AM
Believe it or not the temporary import process is fairly easy. No CPD carnet is needed for most of the Americas. You file a few forms etc. You still have to deal with the import process, which is pretty similar for all cargo. I would guess 1-3 weeks waiting to ship, 1-2 weeks in transit, and 3-7 days for unloading and release at destintion.

You do not register the vehicle in the USA. You couldn't even if you wanted to. Instead it stays registered in whatever country you brought it from. You just get a permit to operate it with foreign plates. This is similar to what we are doing in the Aus and NZ. When you drive across the border, you have to get a TIP issued for the country you are entering. This would be the same with a USA sourced vehicle, except in Canada, which does not require one for USA tourists.

AdrianD
05-07-2018, 05:41 AM
As she says in Africa as a doctor when you REALLY want a true 4WD in rugged conditions there are only two--Landrovers and Toyotas.


A friend of mine, also in the Jeep club, works in Algeria and according to him, if you drive a 4 door Landcruiser, the bandits in the desert ignore you. If you have a flatbed or pickup Toyota and meet bandits, they take your car and at best give you a bottle of water.

wanderingstar
05-07-2018, 05:42 AM
Back in 2005, I had a 2001 313 cdi longtail and I took it to some pretty inhospitable places in Australia. I have always maintained that most people who own 4wd's barely use that function and that in the right hands, other non 4wd vehicles can get through tough roads - such as my old 75 Kombi and a multitude of Toyota hi-aces, none of which were 4wd. (You can import the 4wd version from Japan.)

Sounds like I might just do with some beefier tyres and shocks and reconsider the lift option somewhere down the track! Thanks again for your generous response MidwestDrifter.

I am not sure if you have driven a sprinter, or taken one on crap roads.

These vans generally handle quite well. The factory suspension is tough, breakage is rare. Being a commercial vehicle the design margins are better than most.

Issues with the factory suspension

Shocks (front/rear) have way to little low speed damping for heavy/tall vans.

Front suspension has somewhat limited articulation


When lifted you will experience handling impact. Adding decent shocks can reclaim most of the loss. Keeping your weight down, and close to the ground helps a lot too. Tall narrow tires will also make handling a bit more vauge. Even then the van will still ride/handle better than most leaf spring solid axle 4x4s (in factory condition).


As far as Africa goes, there is really only one 4x4 for the task, the LC 70 series.

wanderingstar
05-07-2018, 05:55 AM
I wonder what the best ports would be to and from. English speaking would be handy of course. Denmark to Jacksonville, FL looks a good bet, then hop across to CA or Mexico. Could be expensive though and its a trade off between shorter port destinations and longer drives.

On the other hand, if I buy in USA, I can register it in my own name and keep it there between trips south. But would I be allowed to take it to Europe in reverse of this process?

Believe it or not the temporary import process is fairly easy. No CPD carnet is needed for most of the Americas. You file a few forms etc. You still have to deal with the import process, which is pretty similar for all cargo. I would guess 1-3 weeks waiting to ship, 1-2 weeks in transit, and 3-7 days for unloading and release at destintion.

You do not register the vehicle in the USA. You couldn't even if you wanted to. Instead it stays registered in whatever country you brought it from. You just get a permit to operate it with foreign plates. This is similar to what we are doing in the Aus and NZ. When you drive across the border, you have to get a TIP issued for the country you are entering. This would be the same with a USA sourced vehicle, except in Canada, which does not require one for USA tourists.

Midwestdrifter
05-07-2018, 06:07 AM
Back in 2005, I had a 2001 313 cdi longtail and I took it to some pretty inhospitable places in Australia. I have always maintained that most people who own 4wd's barely use that function and that in the right hands, other non 4wd vehicles can get through tough roads - such as my old 75 Kombi and a multitude of Toyota hi-aces, none of which were 4wd. (You can import the 4wd version from Japan.)

Sounds like I might just do with some beefier tyres and shocks and reconsider the lift option somewhere down the track! Thanks again for your generous response MidwestDrifter.

It all depends on what/where you want to go. The extra ground clearance has been a great help to us, as most of the time your limiting factor is ground clearance.

I wonder what the best ports would be to and from. English speaking would be handy of course. Denmark to Jacksonville, FL looks a good bet, then hop across to CA or Mexico. Could be expensive though and its a trade off between shorter port destinations and longer drives.

On the other hand, if I buy in USA, I can register it in my own name and keep it there between trips south. But would I be allowed to take it to Europe in reverse of this process?

It is not possible to permanently import a European vehicle into the usa (unless its 25 years old). Canada is 15 years.

Europe is a interesting mix. Some countries will let you permanently import a north american vehicle, but I have never looked into the details. Some folks mention it may be possible to keep a North American Vehicle (registered/tagged in the USA) in Europe indefinitely? At a minimum you could do the TIP process. Which is supposedly easier in Europe.

Some shipping details in this thread.
https://sprinter-source.com/forum/showpost.php?p=617465&postcount=319

This thread is about shipping to europe.
https://sprinter-source.com/forum/showthread.php?t=51713


Most major ports on the USA east coast are common rated for container shipping, so costs would be about the same. Container shipping goes just about everywhere.

RORO routes are more limited, but regular RORO ships depart from Europe to the USA and Mexico.

If you are driving from the USA to South American you will have to ship your van around the Darien Gap in Panama at a minimum, and probably from South America to home when you are finished. If you plan on returning to Europe, it makes some sense to take a vehicle from there. At least if you are investing a significant amount of time and money into it.