Baby Shamu - 170 4x4


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I'm really digging like your updated battery setup. Was set on having the batteries inside due to cold weather issues but after seeing your insulation/warmers I'm now thinking otherwise. Is there anything you would change in the design of the warmers/insulation?

Was able to score 6 of the same lion batteries you've got. Those would take up major interior space which I need for our toys!

Btw, where's your goto for the baltic birch? I'm in the Bay Area Peninsula and it's difficult to find larger sheets.
The only change I would make is to make the battery cages from lighter steel or aluminum. The original cages were a bit beefy consisting of 3/16” angle to support 130+ lbs of AGM batteries on each side. My new Lion batteries are about 45 lbs per side. Mounting the lithium batteries outside will work for people that live in a temperate climate and occasionally visit cold climates.

Sources for Baltic birch include hardwood and cabinet supply shops. I shop mostly at The Hardwood and Hardware store, TH&H, in San Diego. I recommend paying a few dollars more for the quality birch ply. My shop offers both including a cheaper Imported birch ply that typically contains voids when cut but will work in projects where the edges are not exposed.


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Very awesome build/posts! I am impressed at how you managed to photo document everything as you went along, great job! Did you ever think to add a rear AC unit, and if so what type system do you think you’d try? Just curious.
Thanks for the compliments. As for an AC system I have been following some forum member’s efforts to add “split” AC systems to their vans. This includes @Midwestdrifter and his 5000 btu AC. I do not want to sacrifice my Maxxair fan or solar on the roof for a noisy roof mount AC. So far I have not seen anything with enough cooling power or efficiency to warrant adding AC at this time, but definitely interested.


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During the summer of 2016 three friends and I spent two weeks driving around the Pacific Northwest for a combination of river rafting and mountain biking. My friend from Spokane had recently taken delivery of his newly outfitted 2015 Sprinter. The van was outfitted by Van Specialties in Oregon. The build layout was similar to the yet to be introduced Winnebago Revel. Van Specialties had removed the factory three person seat and replaced it with a two person seat from a Transit van. The seat was only 31” wide yet it was comfortable for our two week adventure. The narrow seat allowed for plenty of room to maneuver around the van. And the rotating front seats allowed all four of us to dine together. I was convinced to try and use a similar seating arrangement on my new van. I ordered my 2017 4x4 170 crew van in May of 2016. I took delivery of the van in late February 2017.

I learned that double wide Transit seats come in two widths. The last row of a Transit van consists of two 31” wide double seats. Rows forward of the last row utilize a 36” wide double seat.

I located a seller on EBay that was selling numerous Transit seats they had removed from new vans. The seller had a pair of opposing 31” seats for sale but was unwilling to sell one separately. I was not sure which seat, passenger or driver side, would work best in my new Sprinter. I negotiated to buy the pair of seats for $350. As expected the shipping costs from Pennsylvania to San Diego was not cheap, $350. I picked up the pair of seats at a local freight dock. They were shrink wrapped and strapped to a pallet.


I test fit both seats to determine which one would work best. The seats are basically identical except the legs are offset in opposite directions. I selected the seat that had the legs offset toward the driver’s side. This provided approximately a 1 inch gap from seat to the finished wall and positioned the legs directly over the high points of the sheet metal floor while avoiding the frame rail below the floor. The offset legs also made it less likely I would be stubbing my toes on the seat legs while maneuvering around the van.

I sold the extra Transit seat for $250 and sold the OEM Sprinter three person seat for $400. So my net investment in the new seat was about $50.


My plans called for full height cabinets directly behind the driver’s side window. I positioned the new seat to sit about 6 inches forward of the tall cabinet. I would later add a triangular shaped mini-bar to take advantage of the space between the seat and the vertical cabinets. The fore-aft position provided plenty of leg room, probably 12-18” more than the Revel which I think is very cramped.

I mounted the seat temporarily on 1” thick wood blocks to simulate the floor thickness. My plan was to use the original 3/8” thick crew van OEM composite floor on top of some added 1/2” Baltic birch and the OEM rubber flooring. The Transit floor brackets were included with my seats. I trimmed a short amount off the leading edge of the mounting brackets and tapered the end to eliminate any sharp corners. I used the existing reinforced holes in the mounting brackets to locate the holes in the sheet metal floor. 1/2” grade 5 bolts were used at each corner.



More details below....
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REAR SEATING continued

The location of the four mounting bolts was such that two were just inboard of the frame rail and two were about 10+ inches outboard of the frame rail. Three of the four were easily accessible at this early stage of my build. One of the four bolts was above the fuel tank. With less than 1/4 tank of fuel I lowered the tank enough to access the one bolt. The only fuel tank connection affected was a vent off the rear of the tank. This hose was inserted into a crossmember and was easy to remove. I left the remaining fuel, electrical, and vent connections in place and just lowered the rear end of the tank onto some cardboard boxes.

I used a combination of 3/16” plate steel and angle to reinforce the floor mounts from the underside. The plate steel was approximately 4” square. I bolted the assembly in place and then tack welded the plate/angle to the van floor. I then tack welded the nuts to the plate/angle. This would allow removal of the floor brackets without fear of losing the backing plates and nuts. At this point in time I still had not installed the flooring.



The Transit seat has release mechanisms on the rear that allows the seat to rotate forward so that it can easily be removed. For the table I used a Springfield marine table from West Marine or Amazon. The base of the table post is secured to the floor. The table post has a simple twist lock to allow removal. I added two optional clips in the corner behind the driver’s seat that can secure the table post when not in use.

I decided the plastic Springfield table did not make full use of the space between the Transit seat and the front seats so I made a custom table from some 1/2” pre-finished maple ply. I veneered the edge and added four stainless cup holders. The post to table bracket was transferred from the original plastic table. The table can be rotated 360 degrees.

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New member
In the picture below the two wires from the ambient temperature sensor, located behind the front grill, are connected to one pair of the outer terminals of the DPDT switch. The two wires from the ECU that previously were connected to the ambient temperature sensor are connected to the center pair of terminals on the switch. Between the remaining pair of terminals is a resistor.

Your choice of resistor will determine what temperature the ECU will see. The various Espar D5 run times associated with the outside temperature are documented in the owner’s manual. In the pictures I initially attached a 22k ohm resistor. This should represent 5F on the dash but as you can see it occasionally reads 4F. This was a problem because the temperature cutoff for a 40 minute versus 50 minute D5 run time is 5F. I wanted it to cycle 40 minutes and not 50 minutes so I changed the resistor to 15k ohms which represents 18F.

I recommend you only utilize this switch to fool the ECU while the van is stationary with the keys removed from the ignition. Switching it while the ECU is “awake” could cause a momentary interruption which the ECU might interpret as a fault. Not a big deal if you have an Autel to clear the fault.

I am using this switch, the factory D5, and an Isotemp Spa marine heater as another option to heat my water.

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When you are heating the van with the Espar are you heating the engine block too or did you isolate it out of the loop somehow. Are you heating hot water with the Espar too? Thanks, Charlie


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When you are heating the van with the Espar are you heating the engine block too or did you isolate it out of the loop somehow. Are you heating hot water with the Espar too? Thanks, Charlie
The Mercedes Espar D5 is intended to heat the engine coolant and my hot water. I posted details on this build thread of my “bypass” plumbing modification which allows the Espar to primarily heat the Isotemp hot water and bypass the engine block and heater core.


Active member
Dumb question, but where do you get these recessed mounting plates? Or what are they even called? I've tried googling all sorts of things include, recessed mounting plates for RV's. Nothing.



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I just read your very good description of your rear seat installation, great pictures. I'm growing interested in adding this in same location in my build. Any chance you have a drawing with measurements and locations of holes in floor? I think I can read them from what is written on the van walls, but just to be sure :)


2020 170 4x4 Owner

My van is one of a few 2017 vans with a 2016 VIN. The van was ordered from the 2017 Dealer Ordering Guide in May of 2016. 2017 production was originally estimated to be October of 2016 for my 4x4 but it slipped to December of 2016. Because of the recent VW emissions scandal the EPA had placed additional demands on manufacturers for all new models. Rather than delay delivery of a number of 2017 vans built in 2016, Mercedes decided to give them 2016 VINs. The good news was that the pricing was adjusted to 2016 prices saving me about $1500. I had already negotiated a sales price below the MSRP at the time.

My 4x4 170 had most of the available options including a few fleet only options. The option list did not even fit on the window sticker. I did omit a few major options including the roof mounted AC, the Radio, and rear mounted camera. The Radio delete option, ERO, I would learn later changed a few unexpected items.

The only options i ordered that I felt were of little value were H01 and H04, the heat insulation. I have yet to make use of the Parametric Special Module, PSM. And the rear window wipers see little use but were part of a package.

One of the first things I did was test the Espar D5 heater by placing the ambient temperature probe into a bag of ice water. This allowed me to determine the hot water flow path from engine to D5 and thru the H88 rear heater loop.

I then followed up by installing a DPDT switch with resistor to fool the ECU into thinking it was 4F. Again tested the D5 successfully.

The last few things I accomplished in the initial weeks of ownership was to “blackout” my chrome Mercedes emblems and remove the entire headliner. The emblems can be removed easily for painting by snipping off a few anti-theft tabs on the back. The headliner would not be installed again for almost two years.


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Great job, quality shows through. I am about to start my 2020 170” conversion and insulating under the cabin headliner is an early task. Is it difficult to remove and are there any special tips you would give ? Thanks ,



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Before I post some actual build details I will summarize the build specs for the van.

Tires: Cooper 255/85-16 ST Max on OEM alloys
Skid plates: Van Compass
Front Suspension: Agile MAX Auxiliary Shock/Coil Over
Rear Suspension: Agile Spring Pack - 8 leaf, Fox Shocks
Rear Step: Van Compass
Bike Rack: Kuat NV + Kuat Pivot swing away

House Batteries: 4 x Fullriver 224amp 6 volt GC2
Vehicle Batteries: Starter and Auxiliary
Auxiliary Alternator: Nations 280 amp
Inverter: Go Power 3000 watt Pure Sine with remote
Solar Panels: 5 x Renogy Eclipse 100watt
Solar Charge Controller: Victron MPPT 150/35
Circuit Panels: Blue Sea DC 8 position /AC 6 position
Radio: Pioneer AVIC 8200

Fresh water tank: 46 gallons
Hot water: Isotemp Spa 4 gallon engine/electric/Espar D5
Gray water tank: 16 gallon
Pump: Shurflo
Sink: Dometic 7.5” deep oval
Shower Fixture: 2 x Ambassdor Marine
Toilet: Thetford Curve
Propane Tank: Manchester 6813 7 gallon

Heater: Espar D2 with EasyStart timer, Remote+, HAK
Refrigerator/Freezer: Isotherm Cruise CR-195
Range/Oven: Force 10 two burner propane
Microwave: Panasonic 1.2 ft3 1200/1800 watt

Awning: Fiamma F65 Eagle legless
Compressor: Puma 3/4 HP 12 volt 135 psi 1.5 gallon
Cell Phone Booster: Weboost 4G-X

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Great build.
It looks like your propane tank is mounted behind the rear wheel on the passenger side?
Which one is it? It looks like this one:
Did you install it yourself?
Is your van the 170WB?


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I just realized that what I was looking at was your air compressor.
Where is your propane tank for the stove?


Well-known member
I just read your very good description of your rear seat installation, great pictures. I'm growing interested in adding this in same location in my build. Any chance you have a drawing with measurements and locations of holes in floor? I think I can read them from what is written on the van walls, but just to be sure :)
I think the measurements in the picture are your best bet. That and the other pictures should give you a good idea. Let me know if you need specific reference measurements and I can get them for you.
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Great job, quality shows through. I am about to start my 2020 170” conversion and insulating under the cabin headliner is an early task. Is it difficult to remove and are there any special tips you would give ? Thanks ,

Jeff, I removed my entire headliner in the early stages of my build and did not install it again for almost 18+ months. The forward headliner is the most difficult to remove but not a big deal. The newer vans might be a little different. The airbags above the doors seem to give people the most difficulty. Removing the “A” pillar covers helps. There should be some videos online. I did install almost 4” of Thinsulate under the forward headliner and 2” under the remains headliner.


New member

My propane system consists of a Manchester 6813 tank which feeds a standard two stage propane regulator. The low pressure propane feeds my Force 10 two burner range and oven as well as my outdoor portable fire pit.

The Manchester 6813 propane tank is perfectly sized to fit under the Sprinter. The tank measures 10”D x 23”L. The space on my drivers side measures approximately 12”W x 13”H. This tank has a volume of almost 7 gallons and can reportedly hold 5.5 gallons of propane. I have managed to get a maximum of 5 gallons into the tank which has lasted me for well over a year before refilling.

Manchester Tank 6813 10 x 23 Horizontal 6.9 Gallon Capacity LP Tank

On my 170 van this propane tank fit just behind my Isotemp water heater and forward of my driver’s side batteries. The gauge protection shield hangs down just below the van sheet metal providing just enough room for refilling at my local propane distributor.

I looked at a few 8” diameter propane tanks but most were longer and had a smaller volume. I modified the hanger brackets on each end of the tank to provide an optimum amount of up and down adjustment. The custom made brackets holding the tank are secured to the van crossmembers using 5/16” Rivnuts. The forward mount is shared with the Isotemp water heater.

To monitor the propane level I installed a snap on magnetic dial gauge. The tank comes with a built in level indicator. The magnetic dial has a two wire feed which is connected to my See Level tank monitoring system.

Manchester Tank G12653 LP Gas Tank - Snap-On Dial Gauge

I used a 10’ long high pressure propane hose to supply my regulator which is mounted to the backside of my slider door step. I wanted both high and low pressure propane available on the passenger side to feed my portable campfire pit. The hose is rated for 350psi.

Bayou Classic 10' Stainless Lpg Hose

The regulator is a standard horizontal two stage propane unit.

Camco 59323 Horizontal Two Stage Propane Regulator

I used an assortment of low pressure hoses to supply my range and a quick release for the campfire pit. I installed a valve just upstream of the quick release just in case it leaks. The low pressure hose supplying my range follows a circuitous route thru the slider step and then up and over my water tank. The propane connection is accessible via the downdraft vent at the rear of the range.

Camco 59913 3' Propane Hose Assembly - 3/8" Female Flare x 3/8" Female Flare

GASPRO 3/8 Inch Natural Gas Quick Connect Fittings, LP Gas Propane Hose Quick Disconnect Kit, 100% Solid Brass

Homewerks VGV-1LH-T2B Premium Gas Ball Valve, Flare x Flare, Brass, 3/8-Inch

I purchased a Camco portable fire pit and a 12’ long low pressure propane hose which allows me to position the fire pit along the passenger side. I have plans for an alternate high pressure propane connection for the fire pit in the future.

Camp Chef Gas Fire Ring

DOZYANT 12 Feet 3/8 inch ID Natural Gas Grill Hose with Quick Connect Propane Gas Hose Assembly for Low Pressure Appliance -3/8 Female Pipe Thread x 3/8 Male Flare Quick Disconnect - CSA Certified

The interior range/oven is a Force 10 two burner. It is very compact measuring 16”D x 19” W. The oven is 0.7 ft3. Made for marine use, the oven door retracts beneath the oven when open. I installed a stainless backsplash and a downdraft fan along the wall.

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Very informative thread. Can you tell me the model number of the stove? Is it the 63269? There are a few that are similar.

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