Exploring the great outdoors with three small children can be incredibly fun, but challenging. In fact, just toting around all of the gear for three tiny humans for a weekend off the grid can be tricky. Chris Steuber, however, has a pretty good solution for his people moving and off-road needs. He calls it V7. It’s a ’05 Ford E-350 that’s been converted to four-wheel drive using a Ujoint Off Road conversion kit.
While building a 4x4 van for the trail might seem a little extreme, the ample cargo room and seating makes for an excellent option. In fact, this V-10-powered machine serves as a daily driver and tow rig. While Chris has an affinity for diesel vans (he’s owned a few), he’s been pleased with the power the 6.8L engine offers.
We recently caught up with Chris on one of his camping weekends at The Flats Offroad Park in Marion, North Carolina. While there, we got a closer look at his latest build. And yes. We asked him. No, he doesn’t live in it down by a river.
While you can just make out the K&N cold-air intake, much of the 6.8L V-10 engine remains hidden. To give the van a little more go-power, it was paired with a 5 Star Tuning engine tune. The big-block engine is backed by a 5R110 automatic transmission, which remains mostly stock.
To convert the van to four-wheel drive, an Ujoint Off Road solid-axle conversion was installed. This setup uses Ujoint’s 6-inch progressive front leaf springs to secure a high-pinion Dana 60 front axle. This Super Duty-sourced frontend was fit with Ujoint’s crossover steering system and heavy-duty track bar. A Yukon diff cover protects the 4.56 gearset, while a Hellwig front sway bar makes sure the van stays planted.
Splitting power to the axles is a NV271 transfer case. This chain-driven unit is another Super Duty-sourced component, which spins custom driveshafts fit with 1350 joints. Peaking just off the side framerail is a Ujoint air compressor mount, which holds an ARB single-cylinder compressor.
Out back, the stock semi-float Dana 60 was fit with an ARB Air Locker and a matching set of 4.56 gears. Four-inch progressive leaf springs secure the axle, while Fox 2.0 shocks work to absorb the terrain below.
A set of 35x12.50R17 Toyo Open Country R/Ts are wrapped around 17x9 ATX Cornice wheels. To help stop the meaty treads, eight-piston SSBC calipers are used up front. Another frontend upgrade comes via a SpynTec hub conversion, which transitions the frontend from a unit-bearing to an easily serviceable spindle and bearing configuration.
Securing the dual D-ring mounts and Warn VR 12 12,000-pound winch is an Ujoint front bumper. This high-clearance front bumper is comprised entirely of aluminum and secures four amber-covered Rigid lights.
Inside, the van remains mostly stock, save a cleverly mounted sPOD switch panel secured to the driver-side door panel. Yes, those are three car seats in the back. We’re going to go out on a limb and say this is probably the coolest van in the daycare parking lot.
Securing the fullsize spare out back is a tire carrier from Aluminess. The ladder on the side also comes from Aluminess Products, which allows access to the Ujoint roof rack.
Secured to the top of the rack are a set of Maxtrax mounts, fuel cans, and ARB awning. To create a little more evening light, Rigid LED lights were fit around the rack.
At A Glance
Vehicle: ’05 Ford E-350
Owner: Chris Steuber
Stomping grounds: Asheville, North Carolina
Build Time: 3 weeks
Engine: 6.8L Ford V-10
Transfer case: NV271
Low range ratio: 2.72:1
Crawl ratio: 38.57:1
Front axle/differential: High-pinion Dana 60, SpynTec hub conversion/open, 4.56 gears
Rear axle/differential: Semi-float Dana 60/ARB Air Locker, 4.56 gears
Front: Ujoint Off Road 4x4 conversion w/6-in progressive leaf springs, Fox 2.0 shocks
Rear: Ujoint Off Road 4-in progressive leaf springs, Fox 2.0 shocks
Steering: Ujoint Off Road crossover
Tires: 35x12.50R17 Toyo Open Country R/T
Wheels: 17x9 ATX Cornice
Armor: Ujoint front bumper
Cool stuff: Ujoint onboard air mount and roof rack, ARB awning, Rigid lights, Warn VR 12 12,000-pound winch, sPOD, 5 Star Tuning engine tune