Our 52nd year!
Reprinted from Motorhome Magazine (condensed)
by Jeff Johnson
With This 4WD Class B,
The Trip Is Definitely An Adventure
Although the company will build its product to order on a GM, Ford or Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis, 4WD is not available on the GM or Spinter chassis.
Interestingly, Sportsmobile's proprietary 4WD system used in the Ford motorhomes is considered so well-built that a number of law enforcement and government agencies needing a van-based 4WD unit are regular customers.
Right up front we need to be clear that this RV is not for those on tight budgets and it's tough to pin down a price on a typical Sportsmobile. That's because every one is custom-built. The one we tested here is stickered at around $100,000 because it has just about every option in the book, although we're sure a determined shopper could find something else to add to the list.
At that price, why choose a 4WD Class B? Because it's easy to drive, can be parked almost anywhere and can tow a boat or other toys. And this is a motorhome that can take you anywhere.
The standard Regular Body (RB) 50 4WD motorhome we tested included the signature Sportsmobile Penthouse fold-down-roof hardtop with fabric side walls.
In travel mode the top offers a low profile and is aerodynamic for reduced wind resistance. In camp, the roof lifts easily with the assistance of the optional electric top feature to provide 6 feet 8 inches of interior headroom.
Other optional features, such as the utilitarian Trojan front end and rear bumpers, Warn M12000 winch, Hella fog lamps, and Bushwacker flares certainly helped to increase the RV's adventure image. The winch and lamps would be worth every penny when needed.
After loading the motorhome with our gear, and easy task because of the many storage cubbyholes built in, we headed up the highway for the brief high-speed part of our jaunt into the Sierra Nevada east of Fresno, Calif.
The optional two-tone Ultraleather captain's chairs made the ride as comfortable as desired for a 4WD heavy hauler. A full complement of Ford's comfort and convenience options, plus a darn good stereo, helped the miles roll by easily.
A foldaway cabinet/work shelf/storage unit on the side door supports a portable stove, acts as an outdoor galley and can be used as a food-prep area.
Off the pavement is where the Sportsmobile's real "adventure" becomes apparent. The floor-mounted 4WD shifter is readily accessible and easy to use. The van offers surprising rough-road agility limited only by the driver's enthusiasm for travel in really tough spots.
Our campsite at Whiskers Campground, above Bass Lake, was easy to access and provided peace and quiet in beautiful Sierra Nevada surroundings.
There's no getting around the fact that making comfortable use of a smaller motorhome like this one takes some practice and patience. By judicious use of duffle bags and packing no more than needed, and shuffling things back and forth as needed during meals or sleep time, we found the Sportsmobile comfortable and cozy.
This motorhome featured a 2.7-cubic-foot, all-electric refrigerator and a microwave oven as the built-in galley appliances. A small LP-gas tank plumbed to quick-disconnect fittings made it possible to run a portable LP-gas stove, and the company also supplied a small portable butane-fired stove.
A combined solar panel, inverter and a GM 4D battery setup powered the electric appliances in this vehicle when off the grid.
This motor home is well set up for those RVers who like to cook outside. The Class B includes a foldaway cabinet/work shelf/storage unit on the side door that supports a portable stove and some kitchen utensils or supplies. We used this setup every day, and the awning placement means it's also a rain-weather facility. There's no bathroom in this model, however a Porta Potti stored in its own special garage is included.
We especially value a good night's sleep when camping, and this motorhome delivered. We slept on the penthouse-level bed that measures about 44 inches by 72 inches. The bed is 53 inches up from the floor so some climbing using the kitchen counter is needed. Once there, we zipped open the large surrounding vinyl windows to expose the bug screens and enjoyed marvelous flow-through ventilation. Privacy flaps are standard equipment inside.
The pop-top houses a bunk, but the lower level can be converted to either a lounge (pictured) or a comfortable bunk for sleeping.
We're both full-size adults, and we found the nicely padded platform a comfortable place for a sound night's sleep. Users can choose to sleep on the lower fold-down sofa bed and rear padded platform combination as well.
A small motorhome like this Class B certainly isn't for everyone. The high cost/compact size conundrum doesn't fit many people. But if a 4WD motorhome that screams "adventure" and is capable of taking you almost anywhere and keeping you comfortable in camp sounds like your idea of fun, the Sportsmobile may be for you.
Sportsmobile's Cruiser RB-30
Van Motorhome Offers Comfortable Livability
in a Compact, Practical Package
Reprinted from Motorhome Magazine
by Jeff Johnson
Class B RVs were the "original" downsized motorhomes. Builders fit many motorhome self-containment components into compact packages. Collectively, Class B units represent a relatively small portion of the RV market, yet they offer functional characteristics unavailable from any other type of rig.
We discovered during our road test the Sportsmobile RB-30 is a highly functional, comfortable vehicle, which offers a lot of real-world livability in a small space. At the same time, it's a snap to operate, and even the most timid driver should have nothing to fear about spending time behind the wheel of a Sportsmobile. Sportsmobile Inc. has been building camping conversion vans since 1961. During the company's early years, Sportsmobile was building the official VW camping vans. It was during the "VW era" that Sportsmobile technicians learned to build vehicles following the German engineering requirements for total space efficiency and quality construction techniques. The lessons learned back in those days still carry through to today's contemporary products.
Sportsmobile has engineered into this vehicle many small details that make the best use of the available space. Shelves at the back of the Porta-Potti compartment are sized to hold toilet chemicals and paper. Both the removable dining table and a pair of lawn chairs are stored aft of the hanging clothes closet in the space between the closet door and the rear door. Storage compartments are built into the hollow interiors of the side doors, and the small cabinet on the forward end of the galley cabinet can be removed for use outside as a small free-standing table. With few exceptions it's obvious that whoever designed this unit has spent some time in such vehicles under real life camping conditions.
One of the strong selling points for a self-contained van motorhome is its versatility as daily transportation for taking care of household chores. Mom and the kids can use the RV for family driving almost as easily as they could the family station wagon.
The galley is part of a long curbside cabinet stretching from the rear wall to the middle of the side doors. All told, the countertop measures 20.5 x 93-inches, with 28 and 35-inch sections of clear counter space fore and aft of the stove and sink. Storage space below the galley is ample and well-planned, and opposite streetside, there's a nifty slide out pantry adjacent to the Emerson microwave and Norcold 3-cubic-foot refrigerator. With the pantry extended, the cook still has access to the complete kitchen facilities, which is a nice touch when the pantry's storage space is used for frequently needed items.
A pair of storage drawers and the Porta-Potti are housed in a compartment at the front end of the kitchen cabinet. The toilet is placed in the 22-inch wide aisle for use with plenty of stand-up room in the aisle when needed.
We discovered during our road test the Sportsmobile RB-30 is a highly functional, comfortable vehicle, which offers a lot of real-world livability in a small space. At the same time, it's a snap to operate, and even the most timid driver should have nothing to fear about spending time behind the wheel of a Sportsmobile.
Topping off the Sportsmobile is the Penthouse fold-down roof. The hard roof section is a single piece, reinforced fiberglass shell supported by the exclusive proprietary spring balanced Dual-U-Tube arm-lift system. Concealed springs provide the force to raise the top into position. The side walls are made from a vinyl-impregnated automobile convertible-roof fabric and are fitted with five large screened windows.
We found the overhead bed in the Sportsmobile to be one of the most comfortable sleeping spaces we've ever enjoyed in an RV. Sounds and smell from the outdoors are appreciated while reclining on a padded foam mattress. A pair of large windows on each side of the top and one in the forward end provide copious flow-through ventilation and illumination during the day. Zippered clear vinyl windows provide blowing rain protection. Roll-down shades add privacy if desired. There is easy access to the lower area for trips to the fridge or Porta-Potti during the night, and no squeezing around a folded-down sofa was necessary.
Folding the top down is almost as easy as setting it up. After closing all the windows and rolling up the curtains, one person simply pulls downward on the ceiling mounted handles. The roof comes straight down, more or less, and usually settles right into place. If the vehicle is tilted slight to the right or left, the roof may shift over as it comes down. In that case, you need only push slightly against the exterior "down" side, as per the manufacturer's instructions to place the fiberglass roof squarely on top of the van. Elastic cords permanently mounted around the fabric walls apply pressure to fold them inward, so no stuffing from outside is necessary. The three latches are refastened, the cover fabric is snapped over the latches and the unit is ready to roll.
One of the strong selling points for a self-contained van motorhome is its versatility as daily transportation for taking care of household chores. Mom and the kids can use the RV for family driving almost as easily as they could the family station wagon. In that respect, a Class B motorhome is an attractive vehicle for people who can't afford to have a large motorhome sitting idle in addition to owning the regular complement of family cars. Sportsmobile RB-30 has a lot to offer in terms of functional versatility. We best enjoyed its drivability, efficient living space and quality construction.
In rush-hour traffic or relaxed RVing,
this camping van is a performance package.
Reprinted from Trailer Life Magazine
By Steve Tracey
CAMPING CONVERSIONS OFFER FLEXIBILITY uncommon in the self-contained , motorized RV arena. These smallish rigs are agile enough to scoot around town as primary transportation, but are still a home in a campground setting, providing many of the creature comforts that please RV enthusiasts.
Sportsmobile is one of the pioneers in the camping-van business, with roots that go back to the early '60s when converting the classic Volkswagen bus was its forte. For over four decades, the company has specialized in van conversions produced and distributed from plants in Texas, California and Indiana.
While it would seem that these vans would appeal especially to the younger family-type crowd, a surprising number of buyers are retired, according to Charles Borskey, the president of Sportsmobile. Many new customers have stepped down from larger motorhomes and find van motorhomes easier to handle for sightseeing, shopping and storing.
A good example of Sportsmobile's multipurpose camping vehicle is the EB-30. The timing was perfect for us to find out if such a van could double as a daily driver. We scheduled three business days in Louisville, Kentucky, while attending the national RV trade show, followed by a four-day vacation exploring the thoroughbred pastures surrounding Lexington. During the show, a local KOA campground was home base, and the van was used for commuting.
Sportsmobile's interior reflects a bright, clean contemporary look, largely influenced by the light-gray cabinetry and blue/green patterned upholstery and curtains. The floor plan in the EB-30 model includes a streetside sofa bed, driverside. A low cabinet, a closet, a refrigerator and a toilet are located curbside, front-to-back. This layout is one of many offered by the manufacturer and customization is encouraged. Sportsmobile markets directly to retail customers and provides templates for Ford, Chevy, GM and Sprinter chassis — scale-sized top-view profiles of appliances, galleys, cabinets and sleeping/dining furniture can then be cut out and arranged to suit the buyer's personal taste.
The company's confidence in both the quality and performance of its products is further evidenced by the 50-month /50,000-mile warranty.
At the campsite, the Sportsmobile offers a refreshing surprise: setup is a breeze. The Penthouse patented spring (both compression and tension) assisted elevating system sets up, as advertised, in less than 10 seconds. Once the three interior locks are released, a gentle nudge activates the patented dual U-tube counter-balanced spring system that snaps the roof to its upright position. The interior of the coach is immediately transformed into a spacious living area with 6 feet 10 inches of headroom.
Side walls of this roof extension are made of automobile convertible-roof, vinyl-impregnated fabric with five large screened windows with clear vinyl zippered flaps. Snugly affixed to the ceiling is a 42x78-inch bed, which drops down to a perimeter ledge that is formed by the van's reinforced steel roof, providing top-bunk occupants with 30 inches of headroom.
Luckily, when a fast morning getaway is called for, the Sportsmobile take-down is equally as easy. The counter-balanced spring system also assists with lowering the roof, and bungee cords automatically blouse-in the side fabric, so the roof seals neatly after clamping. It's necessary to crack a door or window during take-down in order to evacuate interior pressure.
The EB-30 is made specifically for a couple of serious campers. Although it can sleep four, it is primarily designed for two people. The forward living area features a streetside sofa that easily converts to a 48x74-inch bed. Because of cold weather, we opted to sleep on this bed instead of the overhead bunk. In summertime, the airiness of the higher berth would be a better alternative.
We found the rear kitchen a cook's delight, featuring lots of storage and plenty of open counter top. Since I confess to being a serious chef of some gastronomic ability, this seven-day test provided a good analysis of Sportsmobile's design. There was no problem storing cooking equipment and groceries for the week.
Since we camped in winter, heat was a high priority. Unfortunately the propane furnace decided to quit the first night out. Sportsmobile provided an optional shore-powered ceramic heater that saved the night. This portable unit was up to the task, even though the temperatures dipped below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unlike the somewhat ponderous feel sometimes experienced when driving a motorhome, our overall impression behind the wheel of the Sportsmobile reminded us of passenger vans.
Sportsmobile's low-profile roofline and resulting lower-than-usual center of gravity kept the cornering, lane-changing body roll and cross-wind reactions to a minimum. Whether fighting rush-hour madness on U.S. 265 or winding through the stone-fenced lanes of pastoral Lexington, the small-block V-8 and the van's suspension kept us abreast with most passenger-car traffic.
Hills were no problem for the Sportsmobile; we climbed from the Ohio River basin to the foothills of the Smokies on a continuous 4-mile, 4-percent grade, maintaining a steady 60 mph without dropping to a lower gear.
For the right couple, a Sportsmobile camping van can be an affordable alternative to owning and maintaining both a family car and an RV. The functional versatility and easy drivability combined with quality fixtures and workmanship, make almost any destination reachable without sacrificing comfort.
Practical and Powerful
The Sportsmobile RB-50 Has It All
Reprinted from Road Test Magazine
By Brent Peterson
The Ultimate Test
As a true camping vehicle, I give the Sportsmobile high marks. I was simply wowed at how functional, easy to use and enjoyable the living quarters were and driving was never a chore. However, I was going to make sure it also earned its stripes as an everyday vehicle. as such, I devoted much of the week-long evaluation to putting the van through its paces in one of the toughest tests I could think of: February in Chicago.
Riding high, thanks to my Ford 350 chassis, afforded me a lofty view to survey the scene, and it wasn't pretty ahead. The one-two punch of an overturned car and a construction crew was making a royal mess of things. An ill advised race to the off-ramp was the only answer. But could my lengthy van deliver under pressure? Fortunately, the Sportsmobile has no major blind spots on the passenger side. The lively V-10 engine transforms daring thoughts into thoughtful actions, and the deed was done. Jockeying among the truckers, irate commuters and uppity sports cars was wonderfully easy, despite piloting nearly 20 feet of vehicle.
All this begged the question: Why own a SUV when you can own a camper van that's fun to drive, great in the outdoors and complete with sink, galley and sleeping quarters for four? Why indeed? Why indeed?
During the next few days, my trusty Sportsmobile and I faced difficulties of a more suburban nature. Navigating the smallish parking lot of the local dry cleaners; visiting the in-laws over their unplowed roads; and worst of all, the supermarket, overrun with soccer moms at 4:30 p.m. I was shocked at how well such a big vehicle moved. Turning was excellent and backing up was a breeze thanks to good rear visibility, enlarged side mirrors and, again, no ominous blind spots. the Sportsmobile continued to overachieve. I parked in conventional spaces, never feared for low clearances and even wound the rig through the snug confines of the drive-up ATM machine.
The final hurdle was the nephew test. For the cost of a few hours at the arcade, I carted around my brother's three kids to gauge whether this was a true family vehicle. According to Sportsmobile, 98% of their vans are used as a second vehicle and I can see why. The Sportsmobile is a smooth customer around town.
Alas, after more than a week with the Sportsmobile, it was time to say good-bye. We had gone everywhere together and it performed admirably, the go-anywhere vehicle with the can-do attitude. Dropping it off at the plant, I felt a tinge of sadness as I handed over the keys. Had I made the cardinal sin of journalism by becoming emotionally attached to my subject? You betcha! And I was floored when I learned that I could have it all for less than the price of an upscale sport utility vehicle. All this begged the question: Why own a SUV when you can own a camper van that's fun to drive, great in the outdoors and complete with sink, galley and sleeping quarters for four? Why indeed? Why indeed?