- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

Recreational vehicles are often seen as being less than exciting; however, there's a whole crowd of RVers who search for real adventure behind the wheel of a rolling home. To meet that group's needs, Sportsmobile sells an exciting Class B van camper that also includes an optional four-wheel-drive powertrain for the ultimate in portable palace mobility.

Any RV, including the largest Class A motorhome or the plushest fifth-wheel trailer, can be used as an adventure RV. Most such rigs work best as comfortable base camps from which to start activities, but size alone and places to park such large rigs dictate they must remain close to major roads and conventional campgrounds.

There are several good reasons why the Sportsmobile is a terrific adventure RV. Its compact size, four-wheel-drive powertrain, pop-up roof and overall functionality all contribute toward its high fun quotient.

Class B van campers aren't for everyone because of the assorted size and space compromises involved with van camper use. For those who find them sized just right, this rig has features that help it stand out from the rest.

The Sportsmobile shown here started as a Ford E-350 1-ton long-box van. There are more than 70 floor plan options available, plus a nearly endless list of mechanical, cosmetic and electronic options, so each such rig is truly custom-tailored to fit the owner's needs. Very few RV manufacturers offer such flexibility.

You want an adventure RV to be reliably driveable under the worst possible road conditions. The optional 4WD package, expertly installed by Quigley Engineering and included in the unit's full warranty, gives the coach true go-anywhere ability. Careful spring selection and suspension tuning provide a ride that's firm but not objectionable.

Tall, upright bucket seats and a broad windshield make for a great view of the road, which is important when the road may be no more than a poorly defined dirt track. An optional winch up front is handily available should the driver make an error in judgment regarding the road surface and the tires' ability to provide traction.

Bad-road maneuverability goes hand-in-hand with the rig's Penthouse top, one of Sportsmobile's most popular features. On the road, the Penthouse is a low-profile Fiberglas top that helps the van maintain a low center of gravity a real plus on some trails with off-camber surfaces, as well as on the high-speed pavement. The Penthouse top creates very little wind drag for improved fuel economy compared with a fixed raised-roof Class B van camper. Once parked at the camp, the Penthouse top raises on spring-loaded lift arms and provides full stand-up room inside the van. A fabric wall enclosure similar to those used for fold-down tent camping trailers is attached between the Fiberglas Penthouse roof and the van roof, and keeps the weather at bay.

The Penthouse top is fitted with zip-down window coverings for privacy and zip-down flexible plastic windows that open for lots of cross-breeze ventilation. A full-length bed platform is positioned at the van's original rooftop level so even the tallest campers can enjoy stretch-out space on the nicely padded surface.

Extra sleeping capacity is provided by various optional arrangements of fold-down sofa/beds in the van's living space. Likewise, the number of passenger-approved seat-belted riding spots aft of the cab is variable, depending on owner needs. Interior storage spaces abound, so there are lots of places to stash your stuff. Exterior rack options are available for hauling along skis or other recreational toys.

At the end of an adventuresome day, it's good to have a comfy place to relax. The Sportsmobile offers a wide array of full self-containment features, including a demand-type pressurized water system, a water heater fueled by LP-gas, a refrigerator with variable 12-volt DC, 12-volt AC and LP-gas power supplies, an LP-gas stove and more. The company's patented Starcool air-conditioning system keeps things comfy on hot days and requires either 120-volt AC shore power or the optional generator for power in campsites without hookups. Plush seats and sofa-beds provide nice places to relax when inside the rig, and plenty of lighting throughout makes for eyestrain-free reading or other activities.

In addition, the Sportsmobile can also be easily parked and driven as a daily commuter vehicle when it's not taking on the wilderness. That feature gives this somewhat costly rig (the unit shown in the photo retails for about $80,000 with full options) an even greater appeal as an awesome adventure RV. For more information about Sportsmobile write 425 N. Minnewawa, Clovis, Calif. 93611; call 800/827-3071; or visit www.sportsmobile.com.

MOTOR MATTERS


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