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My Sprinter Photography Adventure Van Project

Update 2017-08-06: all issues fixed now. Had a bad lifter, replaced and all lifters cleaned.


Background... I adore my Porsche Cayenne Turbo which I bought used at 26K miles on the cheap when no one wanted them back in 2009, driving it from Colorado to California. It is now over 10 years old, and has served me well for 8 years, excepting the security/ignition system failures that are all now repaired (all 3 modules involved), running great.

But what concerns me is being miles down a dirt road—while all the involved parts are now finally replaced, it took four strandings to get there. Probably it will run fine for a long time now, but no way to be sure—not a big deal on the highway, but a very big deal 20 miles down a dirt road.

I’ve slept in the Cayenne probably 300 times for better comfort than a tent, and saving a bundle on motels/hotels. There is really nothing like it on the market in design or function and build quality and might never be again (I refer only to 2004-2010 models), IMO, and I’ve looked at everything. And now that I’ve sunk all the repair costs, it will probably run a long long time (purrs great). It is incredible—shrugs off 10,000' elevation at 10% grade due to the turbos.

Mercedes Sprinter cargo van
(without side/rear windows)

But... the Cayenne Turbo pepper is now for sale (106K) miles. That’s because I’ve decided to get a Mercedes Sprinter 2500 4x4 HiTop van, what I call a mobile photography adventure van.

My key goal is to be able to work as efficiently in the van up high in the mountains as I can at home. That means a computer desk with my wide gamut workhorse NEC PA302W 30" display, driven by an Apple iMac or Apple Mac Pro, with battery power sufficient for two days (solar is a non solution for this kind of primary power). Along with OWC peripherals for storage and more.

Storm Light Illuminates the Pepper

I’ve put considerable thought and effort into planning out this project, some of which is captured in my Sprinter van area. I felt it important to be sure that I could travel down a long dirt road and be sure I’d be able to drive out—no way to know that with the Cayenne, though it has been running perfectly.

Early on, I found that I did not want a canned solution. Most “solutions” I’ve seen are camper vans built on the premise that it has to be just like home—well that’s not for me. The generic builds offer poor value or anti-value for me and/or are overwrought on costly add-ons.

My needs are specific and unusual, my budget is tight (which is why I must sell the Cayenne, regrettably and still get a loan). The payback is productivity in the field (that bad light middle of the daytime for starters), as well as greater comfort and much more space. Basically I can work like at home without having to make a 500 mile round trip to do so. Another 4 or 5 mpg and longer range is a nice bonus too.

I’m sharing all this for two reasons. First I am sure some readers will have ideas for me. And I am also sure that like everything else I write about, that I have much to say about my own decision process that others may benefit from.

All About diglloyd’s Sprinter Mobile Photography Adventure Van

Sprinter Design: Bed Platform, Bike Storage, Layout Design

The Sprinter van is supposed to arrive in late July; I have a deposit on it and it is in transit. See the Sprinter van build page for details on what it has, as well as wheels and tires for offroading, more.

My plan then is to outfit the electrical and battery stuff, install a temporary table as a computer desk, implement the Yeti bed platform, then take it on a two week trip to confirm my assumptions about layout and storage. There may be some scheduling hiccups for battery delivery latency, and lead time to install the battery and electrical, but it will sort out. After that first trip, I’ll schedule the rest of the upfit for later in the year (windows, venting fan, insulation and interior).

Mercedes Sprinter cargo van 4x4 HighRoof
diglloyd Mercedes Sprinter van layout schematic

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