Before we could start designing the interior of the campervan, we had to choose the van itself. We chose the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van for a variety of reasons including the reviews we read at the time (early 2015) and the look and feel after going to see one in person. We liked the dimensions, maneuverability, reliability, superb turbo-diesel engine, fuel economy (20-25 mpg), and solid cargo van reputation. We were selecting the van at a time of transition in the US as the larger eurovans Ford Transit and Dodge/Fiat Ram ProMaster were just coming onto the scene.
There are multiple lengths and heights to choose from, which factors into the choice of conversion options and your intended use for the vehicle. The Sprinter comes in three lengths:
19′ 4″ (144″ wheelbase)
22′ 9″ (170″ wheelbase)
24′ (170″ wheelbase)
The length of an average parking space is around 18′-21′ (depending on the angle of the space). This decision was pretty easy for us, as we wanted the regular body (RB, 19′ 4″) to fit easily in a regular parking space and not have to worry about looking for special parking. The van conversion company, Sportsmobile, states the RB gives you 123″x 69″ of conversion space (plus 5″ in the back of the van that is more restricted, but useable space). The cab area is not included in the conversion dimensions.
Next consideration was the height of the van. The Sprinter came in two heights:
low roof (7’8″ high exterior, 5’4″ interior standing height)
high roof (9′ high exterior, 6’3″ interior standing height)
I’m going to ramble on about the exterior/interior standing height with the penthouse top (PT), so if you aren’t interested in details, you might want to skip to the next paragraph. Since we wanted the PT, our only option was the low roof.
Height of the van with Penthouse top (in down position):
exterior height is 8’3″
interior standing height is 5’10”
interior standing height with bed is 5’4″
If you add the optional bed (foam mattress attached to a platform) for the PT then the interior standing room becomes 5’4″. What’s cool is that the bed is removable. Since we have nowhere else to store the bed right now, we keep it in the van. However, we plan to make space in our garage, so that we can leave the bed at home when we don’t need it, giving us an interior standing room of 5’10” (except for the last 22″ in the back of the van that is fixed at 5’4″).
So how does it really feel?
When the penthouse top is down in our campervan, I can stand in the campervan only slightly hunched over (I’m 5’6″), or when my head is tilted down looking at the counter I’m not hunched over at all . When I walk in the alley, I do have to hunch over more because I don’t want to drag my head along the top. This interior height means that my 6′ hubby is definitely hunched over. He doesn’t usually stand for long periods of time when the penthouse top is down. Having a gaucho (sofa that converts to bed) in front of our counter where we do our food prep and cooking has worked out very well, making it easy to cook on the counter while sitting or take breaks from standing and still be able to watch over the stove (the front edge of the gaucho is only 19 inches from the front edge of the counter). When the penthouse top is up, the interior space has plenty of headroom (8′ interior standing room minus the height of the bed). So, all in all, choosing the penthouse top limited our choices to a van with a low roof, but the interior standing space is pretty decent with the top down and spacious and airy with the top up.