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  1. #76
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Portland, OR, U.S.A.
    Posts
    2,529
    I had my heart set on an Element for a long time. I used to have a 1987 4wd Toyota Van (hi-ace) that I converted to a camper and I loved sleeping in it, hated maintaining it (it required lots of work), and thought the 4wd did pretty damn well. Here in the PNW I found that Elements had way higher resale values than other parts of the US (especially Florida and Texas). I test drove a few and was saving up to get just the right one. I bought a 1996 Tacoma 4wd instead.
    Why? I own 2 houses and need a truck for the work I do on them (and future houses) and I found a Tacoma for half the price of a comparably priced Element. I've used my truck mostly as a truck (dump runs, lumber, other heavy/dirty/shouldn't touch and interior stuff) and needed the clearance more than I thought. Since the gas mileage isn't so great and it isn't as comfy to drive, I drive it less than I would drive an Element - this may offset some of the gas cost difference.
    Maybe I could've gotten a utility trailer to go with the Element, or maybe I could've rented or borrowed someone else's truck for the dirty stuff. I could probably get someone else to drive those higher clearance trails, or choose different trips.
    I'd still love to play with one of those cool little vans. I got an extraordinary deal on my truck (should've cost double) and I'm happy with it. The element is an awesome little platform, the E-camper is ridiculously expensive and not necessary for what you describe.
    another Handsome Boy graduate

  2. #77
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Bend, OR
    Posts
    109
    Quote Originally Posted by GordonShumway View Post
    I ended up getting a Westfalia with a Subaru engine conversion and new tranny. Its still an older vehicle, and I expect to have to do maintenance on it, but it's pretty simple to work on. I paid 12.5 and that was a good deal.
    For $12.5 did it already have the SA Grill, Rhein wheels and GoWesty Bumpers? If so, and the rest is as good as it appears, that was a smokin deal.

  3. #78
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Hood River, OR
    Posts
    655
    I hate this thread for introducing me to the awesomeness of the Element.

    My astro (w/ camper setup) is on its last legs. The element seems like a perfect ski car if you don't need off road ability (and I don't). Now to see if I can swing it w/ grad school.

  4. #79
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    EC
    Posts
    2,343
    It surprises me what's been said about it's excellence in the snow. I had the impression it had a weak AWD system.

  5. #80
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Edge of the Great Basin
    Posts
    1,648
    One of the better overviews of the various AWD systems: Subaru Symmetrical AWD vs. Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen.


  6. #81
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Wash.
    Posts
    166
    I've wrestled with this question for years. I actually owned a Toyota Chinook for awhile. That was a sweet setup - fiberglass camper replacing the bed - but they stopped making them in 1979. Now we've got a 13-foot Burro (like a Scamp trailer). It only weighs a little over 1,000 pounds and is always setup, unlike a popup. FWIW, a couple people on the fiberglass trailer site I go to actually pull theirs with an Element. I can't imagine that's a good idea in the mountains.

    I still lust after a Wildernest (why can't Flip-Pac design a better-looking top?), but it'll probably never happen. Of all the suggestions here, I like the Astro and the Tundra the best. You get the most space for the least price.

  7. #82
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Bend, OR
    Posts
    109
    SaltMind, that video is great! THanks for sharing. For what it's worth, i had a 2000 Subaru 2.5RS with a manual transmission. I got stuck in the snow and it was only spinning one wheel. If it had actually spun all four, i think it would have moved. I had a 2005 S...ubaru Legacy GT with manual and I never got stuck in it, i was amazed at some of the spots it got through.

  8. #83
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    421
    Quote Originally Posted by TroySmith80 View Post
    For $12.5 did it already have the SA Grill, Rhein wheels and GoWesty Bumpers? If so, and the rest is as good as it appears, that was a smokin deal.
    It had all of that, plus almost all the major maintenance stuff...new Bilstein shocks, all new brakes, new fuel lines, tires, and it came with a stack of receipts as thick as a phone book. I'm really stoked about the van, I can't imagine ever selling it. Next summer I'm going to put in a new SewFine interior and a dvd system.

    Sorry for the derail, back to your Element weiner sucking

  9. #84
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Bend, OR
    Posts
    109
    Right on man. I only paid $4900 for mine, but it isn't near as nice. By the time i finish my subaru swap i'll have close to 10 in it, but i still don't have the other stuff you've got. Except i did score some mercedes 16" wheels and some snow tires on craigslist for about 380 all together.

  10. #85
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Land of Brine Shrimp and Magic Underwear
    Posts
    5,943
    That is an awesome video thanks.
    There's nothing better than sliding down snow... flying through the air.

  11. #86
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    Beautiful BC
    Posts
    2,762
    Quote Originally Posted by SaltMind View Post
    One of the better overviews of the various AWD systems: Subaru Symmetrical AWD vs. Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen.
    Nice Subaru ad but I found their technical analysis a little weak. Symmetrical vs Asymmetrical drivetrain has nothing to do with power distribution. I'm guessing Toyota was using an open center diff which would allow all the power to go to the spinning wheels. (You can always use the brakes to stop the spinning wheels but now you're talking about driving skills.)

    I'd like to have seen a Jeep in the mix just to see how it's AWD/4WD systems would perform. Still, Subaru does make some nice AWD systems. Personally I'd take an AWD with a limited slip or locking center diff and limited slip or locking rear diff. That would get you through anything without needing a fancy traction control system.
    If you have a problem & think that someone else is going to solve it for you then you have two problems.

  12. #87
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Sandy
    Posts
    782
    Quote Originally Posted by SaltMind View Post
    One of the better overviews of the various AWD systems: Subaru Symmetrical AWD vs. Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

    thanks for the video, that is very informative. Symmetrical awd ftw!

    edit: this whole thread is full of win. I now want a pickup truck with a camper shell.

  13. #88
    BSS Guest
    Queen size bed, fridge, sink, stove, rooftop storage for boats/bikes/skis, a furnace for the cold nights, 4WD, dirt cheap insurance, fulltime livability (if you really needed to,) and ease of maintenance of a 4 cylinder Toyota. Bottom settee also slides out and doubles as a twin bed for stealth camping. Yeah, it's slow and I only get 18 mpg. So what? Total investment: about six thou. You can buy a lot of gas and burritos with that leftover twenty grand.

    FWIW; I've owned two westys and a smb - all WAY overpriced, crushing on maintenance costs, and shitty on gas. Not to mention everybody is always trying to talk to you about your rig. Trust me, they all draw way too much attention. Hondas and Subarus are great (for what they are,) but anybody who has ever tried living out of the backseat of their car with a cooler, wisperlite, and a water jug will tell you that it sucks pretty bad.

  14. #89
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Bend, OR
    Posts
    109
    BSS, you really got the truck and camper for $6K? Is it common to be able to do that or did you find a good deal? I would have thought it would cost a lot more than that, like 10K at least.

    With the pop-up pickup campers, can you keep them warm inside with the top up? I would think the canvas sides (or whatever they're made of) would offer pretty poor insulation. That's one concern i have with my westy, but i can still camp and use the appliances with the roof down if needed.

  15. #90
    BSS Guest
    Actually it was $7K now that I think of it. I paid 4500 for the truck w/ 75K mi from a farmer here in town and $2500 for the camper. Had to drop everything and drive 8 hours one way for that. Still - not "everyday" deals, but if you know exactly what you're looking for, where to look, and have cash ready, it's not too tough to find. That 7000 is not including quite a few upgrades I've done, but that gives you an idea.

    The pop top is made from the same stuff as snowshoe decking. It's kind of a rubbery reinforced nylon type stuff. It's pretty tough. I have an insulation kit that I built from reflectix for the cold nights that fits right up against it real nice.

  16. #91
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    CO
    Posts
    202
    That video was money...

  17. #92
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    SLC
    Posts
    188
    Quote Originally Posted by BSS View Post
    Actually it was $7K now that I think of it. I paid 4500 for the truck w/ 75K mi from a farmer here in town and $2500 for the camper. Had to drop everything and drive 8 hours one way for that. Still - not "everyday" deals, but if you know exactly what you're looking for, where to look, and have cash ready, it's not too tough to find. That 7000 is not including quite a few upgrades I've done, but that gives you an idea.

    The pop top is made from the same stuff as snowshoe decking. It's kind of a rubbery reinforced nylon type stuff. It's pretty tough. I have an insulation kit that I built from reflectix for the cold nights that fits right up against it real nice.
    That's a really good deal you got on the truck.

  18. #93
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
    Posts
    6,592
    This past weekend was a perfect example of the limitations of the Suby on the comfort level and after weighing options between Element or p/u + shell or van or whatever, I'm thinking my list has gone something like this:

    1. AWD minivan (Sienna, Previa, or MPV).
    2. p/u w/ shell of some sort (Alaskan or something like BSS would be ideal, or a high-ish regular shell).
    3. another suby.

    I'm not planning on living out of the thing for months at a time, but it would be extremely nice to be able to actually chill in the thing w/o being totally cramped. That's the #1 sucky thing about the suby and the majority of p/u w/ "normal" shells; they are fine for sleeping only but you can't really sit up in them.

    Minivans, OTOH, have enough space to be able to kind of hang out in, which could be lifesavers on those drippy crappy surf or ski missions when there's nowhere else to go besides taking refuge in your rig. I don't really need the full off-road capabilities of a truck.

    Why oh why are there no US-spec Delicas??!?!?!??!??!? Goddamnit.
    Putting the "core" in corporate, one turn at a time.

    Metalmücil 2010 - 2013 "Go Home" album is now a free download

    The Bonin Petrels

  19. #94
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    BKLYN
    Posts
    850
    Element.

    Shit. I am friggin sold on it.

  20. #95
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Hood River, OR
    Posts
    655
    I posted this in the "sleeping in your car" thread, but this is the setup I have in the back of my astro. W/ the single captains chair on a swivel and the bench/ sleeping platform/storage cubbys you can fit like 4 people in there just hanging out. When its time to sleep, I just swivel the captains chair around, slide my sub box under the other corner, and unfold the top plywood layer of the platform. It's pretty perfect for stealth camping/ hanging out...


  21. #96
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
    Posts
    6,592
    Quote Originally Posted by Sinfield View Post
    I posted this in the "sleeping in your car" thread, but this is the setup I have in the back of my astro. W/ the single captains chair on a swivel and the bench/ sleeping platform/storage cubbys you can fit like 4 people in there just hanging out. When its time to sleep, I just swivel the captains chair around, slide my sub box under the other corner, and unfold the top plywood layer of the platform. It's pretty perfect for stealth camping/ hanging out...

    This is the one photo out of all of the ones posted in this thread and the "sleeping in your car" thread that has done the most to sell me on the minivan.
    Putting the "core" in corporate, one turn at a time.

    Metalmücil 2010 - 2013 "Go Home" album is now a free download

    The Bonin Petrels

  22. #97
    BSS Guest
    That's a clean little setup.

  23. #98
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Banff
    Posts
    3,389
    These have some pretty nice living arrangements...not cheap, and probably not great on gas, simply invade and take over your own oil well

    http://www.unicatamericas.com/photos_ex53.html
    http://www.unicatamericas.com/photos_man14264.html

    This one has it's own wind generator by the looks of it, complete with missle launch style buttons built into the stairs
    http://www.unicatamericas.com/photos_ex58.html

  24. #99
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Upland, CA
    Posts
    5,400
    Well, I'm thinking of doing the Element thing here in Hawaii - think I'd do the 2WD option though as the 4WD is a bit of a joke, major penalty on gas for little or no gain. Don't exactly deal with snow here, just lots and lots of rain.

    I personally would prefer an Element SC, but the only thing I don't like about that model is you get carpet on the floors inside instead of the rubber/vinyl...I'd prefer to go the rubber route for ease of cleaning.

    The pop-top camper would be really nice to get, but that's not an option I think I'd easily be able to get over here. However I think the air matress over the seats thing would work just fine...the wife and I like camping, but she's not wild on rolling around with bugs, so car camping seems to be the way to go.

  25. #100
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Hood River, OR
    Posts
    655
    Quote Originally Posted by hop View Post
    This is the one photo out of all of the ones posted in this thread and the "sleeping in your car" thread that has done the most to sell me on the minivan.
    Yeah man, Astros are pretty great. Mine is an absolute beast in the snow w/ good tires. Like can't get it to slide even on panic braking/ corners.

    I will say however that my big regret is not buying the cleanest, newest one I could find. I rolled the dice on a 1991 for a thousand bucks, and now I think the tranny is giving up, as well as a host of other shit that probably isn't worth it to fix. I don't have a lot of cash into the build out (around 100 bucks for materials) but I do have a lot of blood, sweat, and love.

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