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Vanspeed Is the One-Stop Shop for Mercedes Sprinter Van Builds

The beach. The desert. The mountains. Southern California offers some of the most diverse and spectacular natural playgrounds, if one is willing to put up with some hefty congestion to get there, of course. Residents are bound to see some spectacular toy haulers, travel trailers, and adventure vans headed to and from these majestic havens, these sanctuaries where city dwellers get a dose of crisp fresh air and often work up a sweat and burn some calories under a canopy of healing natural sunlight before retreating into home-away-from-home basecamps for the night. Not that they’re bound to SoCal by any means, but if locals have paid any attention, they’ve probably crossed paths with a decked-out adventure van built by Vanspeed, or at least seen a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van sporting some van accessories from The Van Mart.

Yes, the custom off-grid, off-road adventure van scene has hit SoCal and the whole nation. Hard. Very hard. #Vanlife is hot, spurred on by the pandemic, the rise in overlanding popularity, and by the general advantages of traveling by van (versatility, protection, easy storage, easy parking, etc. ). Duran Morley and his team at Vanspeed are among the lucky passionate van builders who have ridden the glorious wave of van popularity, prospering in the satisfaction of doing what they love for people who love the same thing. In beach-speak, it’s the tube ride of a lifetime.

We recently visited the Vanspeed Shop facility during working hours, getting a firsthand glimpse at the inner workings of the large van conversion company. Sprinter vans in various build stages occupied the well-established assembly line nestled in the 30,000 sq-ft warehouse that was plopped in the heart of an industrial complex in Orange County, California. There was also room for short-term day projects, where customers could drop by for add-ons. One build that particularly caught our attention belongs to a high-profile guy in the action sports world. We can’t talk about it yet, but we’re pretty stoked that Ken Block’s getting a Vanspeed whip.

Vanspeed is rather unique in that it builds all its van accessories in-house, allowing for full control over the engineering and manufacturing of the parts, products, and accessories that constitute Vanspeed conversions—which also happen fully in-house. That means the warehouse is full of wood, metal, and all kinds of materials needed for the custom cabinetry, metal fabrication, and upholstery. Vanspeed doesn’t install other companies’ products. It builds and installs its own (and customers can buy those products, too). If a customer breaks a drawer, for example, Vanspeed can cut out a replacement with no fuss. Vanspeed prides itself in being a one-stop van shop where like-minded van enthusiasts become friends.

During the visit, we jumped aboard one of Vanspeed’s converted Sprinter vans, conveniently visible from the busy freeway that butted up against the well-labeled building. Vanspeed offers four layouts for the Mercedes Sprinter (144-inch wheelbase) and two for the longer 170-inch wheelbase. The example outlined here is a Loft, based on a sliver/gray 4×4 Sprinter 2500 (144-inch wheelbase, high roof) backed by the 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel engine, which has recently been replaced by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder diesel. It has 40 gallons of fresh water and holds 6 gallons of gray water (under the sink). It has a MaxxAir roof vent fan, 2000W inverter, shore power, two 215Ah AGM batteries, 170 watts of solar, outdoor shower, and tons more to make it competitive in the Class B camper van segment.

The Loft layout has an indoor shower, Queen-sized bed in the back with lots of storage underneath (those bulgy back window capsules allow more room for the big bed), and a split-kitchen (meaning the sink is on one side and the two-burner induction cooktop, microwave, and Isotherm Drawer 85 fridge/freezer are on the other). The interior’s well-lit and bright thanks to LED ceiling spotlights, a ceiling cabinet LED strip, and more LED spotlights under those cabinets. Vanspeed says it’s an ideal off-grid option for surf, snow, and desert trips. If you have more than two passengers, however, you’ll need to ditch the shower and choose a different layout.

The outside of the Vanpeed Loft looks the part thanks to a bounty of in-house Vanspeed accessories: Dakar roof rack, side window capsules, Baja front bumper, side steps, rear step, side ladder, rear tire ladder combo, backdoor box, flip-down workbench, and surf racks. Exterior lighting is handled by six 6-inch KC SlimLites on the roof rack and two Baja Designs LP9 amber lights in the front bumper. It’s certainly not a plain vanilla Sprinter van.

A Vanspeed Loft of this caliber runs north of $200,000, right on par with other Sprinter vans of similar nature. If you’re into craftsmanship and competency, it’s worth looking into how Vanspeed runs its operation. Cheers to an adventurous, memorable 2023.

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