Do You Have A Weight Problem?

Well, not you personally, but rather your van! One of the main questions that you ask yourself when contemplating your new van is, ‘just how much will all he fittings and my gear end up weighing?’ All very well if you’re a coach-build business that has optimized the design and is building multiple vans, but what about those of us setting out on our first van conversion?

One of the key factors in my decision-making to buy a Transit 350 was the load capacity. Short of moving up to a light truck it was about as much capacity as I could get – the Jumbo version of the Transit is slightly longer and has a gross laden weight of 4250kg. Beware however, it soon gets used up unless you are planing a very minimalist built or intended to use carbon nanotubes and titanium! It is more than adequate in reality, but it is surprising just how quickly the weight builds up. A trip to the local weight-bridge revealed mine weighs in a tad under 3000kg Gross leaving a bit to spare for passengers etc. I was hoping to find a ‘Jumbo’ for the extra length and slight increase in gross weight, but they are hard to find in the SW of England, so a long wheel-base, high-top was the compromise.

Handling and fuel economy are also factors for consideration in relation to the weight. For me, fuel economy was never really an issue since this is my ‘home’ and a marginal saving of, say 10% over 10000 miles, is likely in the same range of variability as the differences in fuel prices between countries across Europe. Based on a fuel price of say, £1.15 and an average fuel economy of say, 31mpg* over 10000 miles, the fuel bill is about £1670. A 10% saving of ~£167 per year is not something I’m going to lose sleep over in the big scheme of things.

Handling, on the other hand, is potentially more of a consideration. The Transit’s 2.4L diesel (in 115 bhp configuration) has plenty of power, even when loaded to the gunnels, so unless you intend to spend all your time living and travelling amongst mountain goats or Chamoix, it’s a moot point. More important is the load balance and how the suspension handles the weight, since the last thing you want is to be driving a van that feels like an old tub wallowing in the swells with every bend or corner. In this respect modern vans in general are a vast improvement on their earlier models. The Transit has a very good ride, however from about the 2500kg gross mark and up you will begin to notice a subtle change in the handling – it’s a bit like easing into middle age!

* Loaded, but clean, the van consistently returned about 34mpg, however the addition of the roof bars, solar panel and roof rack (with jerrycan and push-bike on) has reduced it to a steady 28mpg. Probably much more to do with drag than the 100kg, or so, in additional weight.


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