The Bat Van: Conquering SoCal With a 2002 Ford E-350 4x4

    The Bat Van

    Ali MansourPhotographer, Writer

    Long before people were strapping tents to the tops of their 4x4s and toting fridges in the bed of their pickups, if you wanted to live off the grid in something other than an RV, you bought a van. While high-top sleeper vans have long been replaced by the painfully practical minivan, the Ford E-series platforms have become the go-to for those looking to build a van for off-road adventures. Take Adolfo Zesati’s ’02 Ford E-350, for example. Living in Southern California, Adolfo has access to thousands of acres of prime wheeling and camping destinations.

    When you factor in his love for outdoor adventures and surfing, it quickly makes sense why the fullsize Ford van fit his needs perfectly. While the all-black van (cleverly plated as “DBATVAN”) is fully outfitted to handle all of his people-hauling and outdoor requirements, it took a good bit of work to get it to this point. In fact, the van started off life as a basic, all-white service model fit with a V-10 engine. With so much work needed to get the van up to par, he decided to let the 4x4 van experts at Ujoint Offroad make his vision a reality.

    Over the course of six months, the Ujoint team did just that. From a complete four-wheel-drive conversion to an assortment of armor, storage, and traction mods, this van was built to handle everything Adolfo planned to throw at it. We got to check out the build firsthand at the Flats Offroad Park in Marion, North Carolina, and were impressed with how easily it handled the dirt. Of course, it’s not every day you run across a van with ARB Air Lockers and beadlock wheels!

    While an E-350 might not be as common of a build platform, this one definitely proves that when set up properly, it can make for an excellent all-purpose 4x4.

    At a Glance

    General
    Vehicle: ’02 Ford E-350
    Owner: Adolfo Zesati
    Stomping grounds: Monrovia, California
    Build Time: 6 months
    Drivetrain
    Engine: 6.8L Ford V-10
    Transmission: 4R100
    Transfer case: NV271
    Low range ratio: 2.72:1
    Crawl ratio: 33.61:1
    Front axle/differential: High-pinion Dana 60, Dynatrac outers, Warn hubs, 4.56 gears/ARB Air Locker
    Rear axle/differential: Semi-float Dana 60, 35-spline axleshafts, 4.56 gears/ARB Air Locker
    Suspension
    Front: Ujoint Offroad 4x4 conversion w/6-in progressive leaf springs, dual Fox 2.0 shocks
    Rear: Ujoint Offroad 6-in progressive rear springs w/Fox 2.0 shocks and airbags
    Steering: Ujoint Offroad crossover
    Tires/Wheels
    Tires: 35x12.50R17 Toyo A/T II
    Wheels: 17x9 Innov8 Racing beadlock
    Miscellaneous
    Armor: Ujoint Offroad front bumper, Aluminess rear bumper/tire carrier and steps
    Cool stuff: Ujoint Offroad roof rack, onboard air, rear skid system, underfloor storage, Rigid Industries LED lighting, Warn VR12-S winch, Rhino Lined interior floor and rocker panels, dual sPODs, Deka 8A4D battery, Aluminess ladders, Darche awnings, Road Shower 4L