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VAN LIFE: Off Road 4x4 conversion vans on Ultimate Adventure #UA2020

These three 4x4 vans prove van life is more than just overlanding and hauling plumbing equipment

Christian HazelAuthor, PhotographyDave EisenbeilAuthor, PhotographyHarry WagnerPhotography

Our web guys keep track of what key phrases are trending on the Internet, so when one of our managing editors, Phil McRae, came to us and said, "Hey, the phrase 'Van Life' is super hot for search engine returns right now," we immediately thought of the three bitchin' 4x4 vans we had on Ultimate Adventure 2020. Mind you, the off-road industry is awash with overlanding, inclement weather fleet vehicles and all sorts of other 4x4 conversion vans. But when it comes to doing some really hardcore off-roading in a huge beast of a vehicle, you have to admit it's not every day you see a van on 38s or 40s crawling up rock ledges and over boulders.

So we're upping the Van Life ante here with a photo gallery of our three UA2020 vans. The first is the beloved "video van," which is owned by Quigley Motor Company and has chased along with the Ultimate Adventure for several years over all sorts of terrain. This year it was piloted by Dave Eisenbeil, whose photos appear in the image gallery alongside those of Christian Hazel and Harry Wagner. The 2009 Ford E-350 was given the Quigley treatment with an NV271 T-case from a Super Duty pickup, 1-ton axles, and special upgrades to help it survive off-road in a variety of situations including seating for the entire video crew, storage solutions to safely secure all their gear, and cooking and camping equipment. The other is Quigley's 2010 Chevy G2500 race van, piloted by Tiger and Renee LeBrun. The race van was entered in Baja as a long-travel 2WD go-fast competitor, but mere weeks before UA2020, Tiger converted it to 4x4 using a 1-ton axle and a factory GM NV261 T-case. The van is equipped with fewer amenities than the commonly encountered overlanding conversion van you might stumble across out and about, but that's not to say the LeBruns had to rough it. When you're pushing a vehicle this size through the woods, you've got room for all the stuff you need to live off-grid for a week and then some. And finally, the crowd favorite of Travis Farmer is the 1985 Chevy G10 van. Travis ditched the factory drivetrain for a modern 5.3L engine backed by a 4L80 transmission and Atlas T-case. The burly 1-ton axles are hung on simple leaf springs and the Sheetmetal and sliding door hardware were modified to accommodate massive 40x13.50R17 tires. Travis has a sleeping setup inside his van, camp gear, and the ability to drive pretty much anywhere. That's a kind of Van Life you can sign us up for.