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Topic: To buy or not to buy

Posted By: Terra-Sea on 02/15/10 01:29am

Noob here.

I'm looking hard a very clean, garaged-whole-life 1987 GMC 2500 camper van for 5k. Exterior and interior is immaculate. It does not have a raised roof. However, it has the essentials I'm looking for, namely a sink, microwave, front curtain, house battery, and frig. All systems are in perfect working order. Tires are nearly new, high quality Toyos on chrome wheels. No propane, nor is there any bathroom facility, which suits me fine. The floorplan is two front seats with the passenger able to swivel to the rear. In the middle, driver side, is the kitchen unit. The rear is a back seat extending the width of the van. It folds down to a good size bed. A removable table sits in front of it. My attraction to it is that it doesn't look like an RV. It's powered by a 351 engine with 116k miles. I plan to use it in stealth mode in urban enviroments. It has no overhead storage but there is sufficient room, under the back seat, for toys like golf clubs and inflatable kayak.

Is 5k too much? He will not budge and looking at Craigslist, I don't see any comparisons. Most are well used with dated, unsuitable floorplans.

Also, will I tire quickly of not being able to stand up in it?? I plan to use it weekends, solo.

TIA

Terrance


1991 Dodge Ram 250 Turtle Top (aka Turdle)


Posted By: jambo101 on 02/15/10 02:55am

My idea behind a B class is to have a touring vehicle that is small,easy to drive and park,easier on gas than the bigger classes and basically a bed on wheels with a few amenities that dont come in a tent.
Head room shouldnt be a factor as you are basically only sleeping in the vehicle and outside activities take place in the kitchen tent that you've brought along,here's the idea
$5000 sounds like a good deal for a well maintained B class.

* This post was edited 02/15/10 03:06am by jambo101 *


"Second star to the right, and straight on till morning."


Posted By: Bumpyroad on 02/15/10 05:00am

IMHO the main reason to have something like this is to have a potty on board. you say this doesn't and you don't care.
bumpy






Posted By: topless on 02/15/10 06:28am

I have a 1987 Chevy pickup that I bought new and 240,000 miles later I've rebuilt or replaced most moving parts, at least once.
The motor should be a 350 (351 is a Ford), it is TBI fuel injected, has a 700R4 transmission, disc brakes in front, drum in rear. If the body is in great shape and it's mechanically sound, $5000 is reasonable. Unlike new vehicles, that van is quite simple (like my truck). The only computer controls just the engine, the transmission is controlled by a CV cable off the throttle linkage. Parts are cheap, (I just put a new, not rebuilt, water pump on my truck, cost $30). Properly maintained you'll get a lot more miles out of it.
I'd still take it to a qualified mechanic and have it inspected, no reason to get surprised with something wrong.
Expect gas mileage around 12-14mpg, remember when that van was built the hiway speed limit was 55 and they set it up to get the best economy around 55-60. Also, it will have an old style catalytic converter (a large 3-1/2" thick oval, about 20" long x 12" wide) those tend to clog up, I replaced mine years ago with a new style free flowing one, picked up 1-2 mpg. But don't give it away, it's full of platinum beads, and worth more than the $150 for a new style. Last year those converters were selling for $1000 to scrap yards, that's why thieves were cutting out of vehicles in parking lots.






Posted By: Dick_B on 02/15/10 07:19am

Suggest going to www.rvknowhow.com and read/heed the Kieva's suggestions for how to select an RV.
How old are the tires? Replacing them could be $$.
But, if that's the rig that meets your criteria go for it! There aren't that many GMC's around to get a second chance.


Dick_B
2003 SunnyBrook 27FKS
2011 3/4 T Chevrolet Suburban
Equal-i-zer Hitch
One wife, two bikes (both Electric Schwinn's with motor assist)


Posted By: turninghawk on 02/15/10 09:28am

If it's what you want, buy it.
Comparables will be difficult to find on such a unit, especially on Craigslist. Bear in mind if you DID find a comparable on CL, it would only show what somebody is ASKING for theirs, not what it sold for. Forget CL and go to a real site, Ebay. Go to the 'advanced search' option & search 'completed listings' -- those in green are the ones that actually sold.
But, back to my original thought -- if it works for you, buy it.


Posted By: Terra-Sea on 02/15/10 11:10am

Hmmm...excellent advice. Much to ponder. I was hoping for 16-18 highway mpg. I agree that it could last me 5 years until I retire, then move up to a larger rig (Chinook). If I only put 10k miles/yr., on it, then it could serve my purposes until then. I'd only lose $500/yr. in value if I'm fortunate to not have any major mechanical issues.

I do appreciate the simplicity of that model and it's classic looks/styling. Plus I prefer Chevy/GMC's vans in term of handling.

Hmmm......

Terrance


Posted By: Gene in NE on 02/15/10 02:02pm

topless wrote:

I have a 1987 Chevy pickup that I bought new and 240,000 miles later I've rebuilt or replaced most moving parts, at least once.
The motor should be a 350 (351 is a Ford), it is TBI fuel injected, has a 700R4 transmission, disc brakes in front, drum in rear...
Expect gas mileage around 12-14mpg, remember when that van was built the hiway speed limit was 55 and they set it up to get the best economy around 55-60...
I am not as sure as you on the size of the engine. I agree the Ford had a 351 Windsor and Cleveland engine. There was a period of time when GMC was making their own engines and not using the same as the Chevy. Also somewhere in that age, General Motors switched to throttle body injection and electronic ignition increasing the MPG. I inherited my Dad's 1990 Chevy and have documented it getting 18-19 on the highway. Could be the exception and not the rule.


2002 Trail-Lite Model 211-S w/5.7 Chevy (click View Profile)
Gene


Posted By: STINGRAYRVMAN on 02/15/10 02:04pm

Does it have overdrive transmission? If it doesn't It won't be much fun to drive.


Posted By: smkettner on 02/16/10 02:08pm

If that is what I was looking for I would pay his price and go have some fun.


2001 F150 SuperCrew
2006 Keystone Springdale 249FWBHLS
675 watts solar
Send a PM if I missed something


Posted By: bananadanna on 02/16/10 01:46pm

Does no propane and one(?) house battery imply the fridge and micro need shore power to operate? That'd kind of ruin any stealth factor...

Does no bathroom means no holding tanks?

Sounds like less than a grand would buy you an ac fridge, micro, swivel seat, folding table, inflatable mattress, electric heater, bar sink.

How new a passenger van could you buy for $4000?

I'm sure its pretty but I'd think the buyer should be prepared to fix the unusual things that happen to vehicles as they pass through the 10-15 year window where anything rubber may go soft and metal corrosion or fatigue causes difficult to fix problems. I assume the van has never seen road salt in its lifespan.

Nothing wrong with keeping a well-cared for van alive, particularly as a local weekender. $5000 is much more than I'd pay for something old without expensive features.


Dan
02 Freightliner Sprinter 2500 long tall home brew conversion



Posted By: topless on 02/16/10 02:02pm

I didn't heard of GMC having different motors than a Chevy when I was looking back in the summer of 1987, I was looking for a truck with specific options and I went to both GMC & Chevy dealers. By the time I bought my truck the new '88's were showing up on the lots. I've had 2 different rear axle gears in my truck, it came with 3:42 (which was one thing I was looking for) and the current 3:73. Because of the boxy body, the best I ever got was 16-1/2mpg at 60 mph. The stock differential wore out (and they will on the van unless it got a 12 bolt, mine was a 8-1/2" 10 bolt) and ruined the gears, so I replaced them with 3:73's and it really didn't change gas mileage at 60 mph. Later I lost the water pump 100 miles from home and 20 miles from anywhere, and it overheated. That made me replace the motor with a crate motor that makes 55 more hp than the original. The faster 70 mph speed limit is where I lost the gas mileage.
It is possible that the van may not have an overdrive transmission. It's easy to determine, look at the shifter indicator. If it has "PRND21" there's no overdrive.


Posted By: Terra-Sea on 02/16/10 04:04pm

I'll be test driving it this Friday and definitely will check the overdrive situation. I believe the frig is AC/DC. With the house battery, it can be ran in AC mode. How long is uncertain? I do have a 2k watt Honda genny but I prefer to use an inverter.

Buying an existing van and converting it is an interesting idea. However, I would prefer one that is turnkey. The modification on this one is first class.

My big concern is the headroom. It does not have a top, like VernM's GMC as pictured in his signature. I'm 6'0" but blessed with a limber back. Still....I don't want to buy and wonder why.

Have any of you had experience with a campervan with the original roof?


Posted By: LVJJJ on 02/16/10 04:35pm

Mid-80's GM trucks were built really well, I had an '88 Suburban 2500 we towed big TT's with and it never failed and was bullit proof. The engines were strong and lasted a long time, but they had the first throttle body injection systems (instead of a carburetor) so gas mileage wasn't that good.


1965 CHEVY VAN, 292 "Big Block 6"
1985 WILDERNESS 3000CL
2008 HHR
L(Larry)V(Vicki)J(Jennifer)J(Jesse)J(Jason)


Posted By: Jeff49783 on 02/16/10 06:16pm

Terra-Sea wrote:



My big concern is the headroom. It does not have a top, like VernM's GMC as pictured in his signature. I'm 6'0" but blessed with a limber back. Still....I don't want to buy and wonder why.

Have any of you had experience with a campervan with the original roof?


We had a VW Vanagon Westfalia and a VW Eurovan Camper previously. Both had pop tops; however, we were in and out of them frequently with the tops lowered. Lunches, rest stops, and brief stops were occasions where we would be in the van tending to the dogs, making a sandwich, or changing clothes with the top down. The crunching and stooping was less than desirable. SO had a problem of hitting her head. We much prefer a raised roof, and probably will not go back.

That said, for 5K you can't have it all. It sounds like this one has what you want and parts for a GM will be plentiful and reasonable. I say if it blows your skirt up, go for it. As was previously mentioned, you can have a lot of fun for 5K.

Good Luck


Jeff
2006/2007 Roadtrek SS Agile 40K miles


Posted By: Handbasket on 02/16/10 06:50pm

If you test drive it, try parking it and getting in the back with the doors closed. Move around & simulate doing a few real-world chores, like you'd have to do on a cold or rainy day. If you're still happy & it passes mechanical, buy it. You could always add a high top later for maybe $2K, and probably get 1/2 of that back when you sell.

Jim, "Chicken Litle only has to be right one time."


'06 Tiger CX 'C Minus' on a Silverado 2500HD 4x4, 8.1 & Allison (aka 'Loafer's Glory') www.tigervehicles.com


Posted By: Gene in NE on 02/16/10 09:21pm

The truck division of GMC had a different series of V-6 engines in the 60's, 70's and possible 80's. The V-6 351 cubic inch (5.8L) had a 4.56" bore x 3.58" stroke according to my Motors Manual. They also had a 305, 401, and 478 cubic inch 60* V6. Not sure when General Motors standardized their engines across all their lines.

I tend to agree with "topless" that in 1987, the engine is very likely a 350 Cubic Inch V-8. It may or may not be the same as the Chevy 350. There was a time when Buick, Pontiac, Chevy, and Olds all had a 350 and they were not the same engine.


Posted By: Terra-Sea on 02/16/10 11:28pm

Well there has been a new wrinkle. This '91 Dodge Turtle van has come on the market with 93k miles. Asking price is $4500 but I think they will take 4k, which is 1k below the price of the '87 GMC. It features the following...

5.2 L engine
Full Trailer Package
hitch in front for maybe a bike rack
power locks, power steering
microwave, small portable tv
radio am/fm with tape deck with speakers throughout
table top that stores in back closet with pedestal
cabinets overhead on both sides
sink, stove, fridge
two couches facing each other that will come together to make a bed
nice curtains, carpeting all over
porta potty in back closet separated from rest of van for privacy

Here is a URL for some pictures. (Hope this works)

http://tinyurl.com/y8pmdwx

Upside seems to outweigh the GMC. Big bed, 6+ foot of headroom, solid engine (318), awning, curtain and shades, portapotty, cabinetry, stove, trailer hitch.

Downside is my uncertainty about a Dodge 250 Ram Van. I've heard there are some issues with Dodge vans. Fact or fiction?

One more thing...sorta related. If I buy this, I will need to tow my Honda Del Sol behind it home, roughly 180 miles. It's RWD. Is that easy or do I need to rent something special.

Thanks again!!


Posted By: Handbasket on 02/17/10 07:00am

I don't think any Dodge camper van/B has ever been accused of having sports-car handling, but I think most of the problematic drivers were an unknown percentage of the long 3500's built after the '98 redesign. I had one. A test drive on a 4-lane among fast-passing big trucks is the quickest way to sort the good from the bad. To be fair, make sure the tire pressures are right. Dunno what pressures to suggest for a 250, but there's probably a door post sticker.

The only other weakness that I know of for sure is the overdrive unit, and I think they started using that maybe sometime after '91 (?). If it's just the plain 3-spd Torqueflite, it has a rep for being bullet-proof if the fluid & filter are changed occasionally.

(on edit... ISTR they called the 3-spd auto in truck & van applications the 'Loadflite', not that it matters.)

Jim, "Mo' coffee!"

* This post was edited 02/17/10 08:13am by Handbasket *


Posted By: Islandman on 02/17/10 07:10am

I think that the '91 Dodge is a better buy, it's already set up as a camping van which will save you lots of time and expense of converting the GMC, and the one picture that downloaded shows a pretty nice interior. You won't have any problem with the 3/4 ton Dodge chassis or the 318 engine. Maybe rather than messing with towing your Honda back home, just take along a friend and have them drive it back for you, saves time and trouble of getting a hitch, lights, etc for towing, and who knows what the weather will be like.


Posted By: topless on 02/17/10 01:34pm

I don't post this very often, but in that generation of Dodge 2500 vans, I drove some for work. There were 2 constant reoccurring problems with the vans I drove. One was the front suspension, could not keep it in alignment for very many miles, seemed like 1 set of train tracks was all it took, and it wore front tires out every 8-10,000 miles.
The transmissions I drove were not very good. We flushed and changed fluid every 20,000 miles and still had failures every 40,000-50,000 miles. This was over 5-6 years and 3 vans. Finally got them to change to Fords (had to have long bodies).
I know everybody is different and some have had great luck with the older Dodge vans, but I learned to hate them. The backup van for the 3 Dodges was a '73 Chevy, it never broke down and left me stranded and the bosse's son like to jump it over train tracks for fun.


Posted By: thriftydutch on 02/17/10 03:16pm

Go for the 91 Dodge. I have a 1990 Dodge B250 with 111,800 miles on and I'm happy with it. But I did have the transmission rebuild at 88 thousand miles. Check to see if they had their rebuild.


1990 L.E.R. Dodge B 250 Class B 17'



Posted By: Terra-Sea on 02/17/10 04:20pm

I'm going with the Dodge. Offer accepted for 4k. She has received a lot of response so I had to move quickly. I leave tonight and will meet with the seller tomorrow. If I buy it, I'll tow my Del Sol behind it with a U-Haul tow dolly, which I've reserved.

I did some checking with a transmission specialist and learned that the problems were with earlier years, when Dodge introduced the overdrive.

The only issues with this van is that the carpet is somewhat worn. That's not a huge bill to replace. I'd planned to replace it with a dirt colored carpet regardless.

Thanks for the terrific advice. I'll keep you posted.


Posted By: vangogo on 02/17/10 04:33pm

It's worth what any other conversion van of that age/mileage/condition would be worth.

Without a bathroom it's basically just a van. And over time not having the raised roof will come back to bite you.

I've owned several vans... camper vans. And the raised roof is a big deal. Except it does complicate parking in some neighborhoods.

I wouldn't pay that much for it. Because I know I could find an equally good raised roof van that is newer for less than that.

My opinion.


Posted By: ennajean on 02/17/10 04:48pm

Hope the van is exactly what your looking for. Keep us posted as to how your doing with your B.


Anne and Dick

DABEE a 2006 Ford Sportsmobile Penthouse top.
States we've camped in.



Posted By: Terra-Sea on 02/17/10 04:54pm

vangogo wrote:

It's worth what any other conversion van of that age/mileage/condition would be worth.

Without a bathroom it's basically just a van. And over time not having the raised roof will come back to bite you.

I've owned several vans... camper vans. And the raised roof is a big deal. Except it does complicate parking in some neighborhoods.

I wouldn't pay that much for it. Because I know I could find an equally good raised roof van that is newer for less than that.

My opinion.


I appreciate your opinion, though I think you're referring to the GMC in my original post. I've switched gears to a Dodge with a raised roof. As for comparable value, through CraigsLook, I've viewed every camper van in a 500 mile radius. Closest to it, in terms of value, is a nice one in Az for $3500. Trouble is...it's a half ton. I need a 3/4 ton to haul my boats. The rest are considerably higher in price with similar mileage.

As for the bathroom, I prefer a porta-potti. Holding tanks can be like petri dishes in the summer. Also, it can be a hassle finding a dump station. Porta-potti's are much easier to deal with, especially for the little business.


Posted By: Islandman on 02/17/10 06:57pm

Congratulations! I think that you made a good buy and will be happy with the Dodge. Replacing the carpet won't be much trouble, you can probably go to one of the discount carpet places and pick up a small piece left over from a big job for not much money. They might even install it for you for less than doing it yourself by the time you figure in tack strips, tape, a good cutter, etc.


Posted By: Terra-Sea on 02/17/10 07:54pm

Islandman wrote:

Congratulations! I think that you made a good buy and will be happy with the Dodge. Replacing the carpet won't be much trouble, you can probably go to one of the discount carpet places and pick up a small piece left over from a big job for not much money. They might even install it for you for less than doing it yourself by the time you figure in tack strips, tape, a good cutter, etc.


Thank you but I'm afraid the congrats are premature. I just received a call from the seller. The title is being held up in probate and it will not be ready to sell for another week. However, they are willing to hold the vehicle for me.

Sigh.....


Posted By: sergeant76 on 02/17/10 08:34pm

Terrence,

I believe you will be happy with the Turtle Top, I ordered a Turtle Top Van, they were known as a Week-Ender in 1990 it was a Ford, was a darn good unit.

My layout was different had the sofa bed on the passenger side behind the rear passenger seat, there were 4 seats.

The Turtle Top Vans were built in New Paris, IN, they are still in business, but do not build the Camper Vans, they build specialty vehicles and buses.

Here are photo's of the Turtle Top and also the Sierra Van which were built in Elkhart, IN another nice Van.

Rose and I visited both manufactures in the early nineties.

If you have problems viewing the photo's send me your E-mail address and I will send them to you.

Ron

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/TurtleTopVanCamper001.jpg

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/TurtleTopVanCamper002.jpg

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/TurtleTopVanCamper003.jpg

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/TurtleTopVanCamper004.jpg

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/TurtleTopVanCamper.jpg

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/TurtleTopWeekEnderVan-Model-W-17-30.jpg

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/SierraVanCamper001.jpg

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/SierraVanCamper.jpg


Ron & Rose Cabral
New Bedford, MA
2010 Chevy/RoadTrek 190 Popular
FMCA-303873 ~K1RRC~ RRCRT@aol.com


Posted By: Terra-Sea on 02/18/10 01:55am

sergeant76 wrote:

Terrence,

I believe you will be happy with the Turtle Top, I ordered a Turtle Top Van, they were known as a Week-Ender in 1990 it was a Ford, was a darn good unit.

My layout was different had the sofa bed on the passenger side behind the rear passenger seat, there were 4 seats.

The Turtle Top Vans were built in New Paris, IN, they are still in business, but do not build the Camper Vans, they build specialty vehicles and buses.

Here are photo's of the Turtle Top and also the Sierra Van which were built in Elkhart, IN another nice Van.

Rose and I visited both manufactures in the early nineties.

If you have problems viewing the photo's send me your E-mail address and I will send them to you.

Ron

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/TurtleTopVanCamper001.jpg

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/TurtleTopVanCamper002.jpg

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/TurtleTopVanCamper003.jpg

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/TurtleTopVanCamper004.jpg

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/TurtleTopVanCamper.jpg

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/TurtleTopWeekEnderVan-Model-W-17-30.jpg

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/SierraVanCamper001.jpg

http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab351/Roadtrek_photos/SierraVanCamper.jpg



Thank you very much, Sergeant. These pictures were especially helpful to the boss...er my wife....who is very visual. Great info for me....the techie guy.

Given the dimensions of the floorplan, I suspect our bed (with the two sofas combined), create a king size bed. 7' in length by 5' in width. That's a bonus, especially since I'm a six footer with a shrinking prostrate!!! I can take care of the little biz without disturbing the boss.

I can't wait to go get it. We have a weekend planned in the Bellingham area, rain or shine.


Posted By: lizzie on 02/18/10 07:44pm

"Nough said on this topic, but I am so glad you found a high top van. It will be way worth it in the long run. We converted a standard Chevy van into a camper (of sorts) back in the 70's and it was literally a pain in the neck to do anything but drive and sleep in it. Good luck. lizzie


Posted By: Terra-Sea on 02/25/10 11:06pm

Well, to buy or not to buy has been resolved. We bought and now are a very happy owner of a '91 Dodge Ram 250 Turtle Top. All for a mere $4000.

"Turdle" is a diamond in the rough. She has sat for a while and is in dire need of a good scrubbing, inside and out, which will farm out to a good detailer next week. Design wise, I'm very impressed with the ingenuity of this van. It surprises me that Turtle Top is out of the campervan business.

It's most urgent need are shocks. The ones on it are acceptable but I want to improve the comfort level. I intend to do a quick search after posting this. However, I'm very open to suggestions. The van will be doing some limited boat towing. That's it.

Thanks for the great advice. Hope to cya on the road.


Posted By: Handbasket on 02/26/10 05:09am

Congratulations! Most folks are very happy with Bilstein shocks on B's. You can buy them online for about $75 ea. Monroe makes an RV shock that some folks say they've have had good results with, for less money.

(on late edit: Don't overlook the brake fluid and power steering fluid when changing the fluids. It's amazing how much moisture and crud collect in brake fluid over a few years, and how much better brakes feel with fresh fluid.)

Jim, "Mo' coffee!'

* This post was edited 02/26/10 06:54am by Handbasket *


Posted By: GailS on 02/26/10 06:17am

So glad to hear the purchase is complete. Post some pictures after it's spring cleaning. Enjoy all your travels. There's nothing like it.


Posted By: ennajean on 02/26/10 07:19am

congrats on your B. Yes pictures would be appreciated....maybe before and after the clean up.


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