One look at the image above, and you can’t help but be amazed that it started as an empty cargo van…
But that’s the allure of the Mercedes Sprinter 170; you get a blank slate for customization, so the result perfectly reflects your wants and needs. But transforming that space takes a lot of planning, preparation, the right materials, and a dedication to perfection. If you ask me, it’s a job for professionals (or amateurs with a lot of time!).
I recently published an article highlighting some of the best overlanding vans of 2023. On that list is a company called Camplife Customs. Their headquarters are just down the road from me in San Diego, and I wanted to learn more about the process of transforming a Mercedes Sprinter 170 into the masterpiece you see in the photos above and below. So, I hopped in my car, spent the afternoon with the Camplife Customs team, and learned a lot about the van and the quality of work these folks do.
Needless to say, I found the whole trip really interesting, and I’d like to share some of the details with you. Check out the highlights below!
Table of Contents
- Basic Specs of the Mercedes Sprinter 170
- Why the Mercedes Sprinter 170 is an Ideal Candidate for a Campervan
- How a Custom Mercedes Sprinter 170 Should Be Built
- Sometimes the Name Says It Best
Basic Specs of the Mercedes Sprinter 170
This custom Mercedes Sprinter 170 extended van by Camplife Customs benefits from a Stage 4.3 Vancompass suspension kit.
The Mercedes Sprinter 170 gets its name because of its 170-inch wheelbase (which is one of the longest wheelbases available). With an extended body, this van offers even more interior room for creating a custom camper interior – which is exactly what you want in a campervan. That added space (you get over 500 cubic feet) gives you more room for interior upgrades while also giving you plenty of room to maneuver around inside.
These vans come with a 6-cylinder turbodiesel engine that offers improved fuel mileage and increased low-range torque over traditional gas engines. More specifically, you get 161 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque, which is plenty for cruising down the highway or navigating off-road situations. That power is put to the rear wheels via Mercedes’ 7G Tronic automatic 7-speed transmission. You can upgrade to 4×4 if you wish.
Why the Mercedes Sprinter 170 is an Ideal Candidate for a Campervan
First and foremost, the Mercedes Sprinter 170 is a great option for a campervan because of its strong and durable build. These vans are so popular for a reason – their robust build quality provides a solid base for customizations. For example, the structural integrity of the 170 means you can add walls, shelves, kitchens, beds, and other accessories, and the van can easily accommodate the added load.
As an aside, Camplife Customs adds steel-fabricated frameworks that enhance the strength and durability of these vans. As a result, it’s an even more robust and durable option for converting to a campervan. More on that later…
Drivability is another reason the Mercedes Sprinter 170 is such a popular campervan option. Even though these vans are big and tall, they’re also really comfortable to drive and quite nimble, too, for a big vehicle. You won’t win a quarter-mile race or come in first in a hill climb in one of these, but for everyday driving on-road and off, it’s tough to beat this bad boy!
Where the rubber meets the road: This Mercedes Sprinter 170 extended van boasts Black Rhino wheels with Goodyear Duratrac tires.
Many other features are available to enhance the driving experience of the Mercedes Sprinter 170. For example, you can opt for features like Crosswind Assist, which detects when wind is hitting the side of the van and adjusts the braking power of each wheel to keep you on the road. Nice!
Other drive options include the following:
- Active Lane-Keeping Assist
- Adaptive Distance Assist
- Blind Spot Assist Mirror
- 360-Degree Camera
- LED Performance Headlights
But, as I mentioned above, the primary benefit of the Mercedes Sprinter 170 extended van is the limitless possibilities for customization. And for that, Camplife Customs does it better than anyone else…
How a Custom Mercedes Sprinter 170 Should Be Built
The interior of this Camplife Customs Mercedes Sprinter 170 exudes luxury and has features like an Airtronic diesel heater, Dometic fridge, Dometic cooktop, and a Bose soundbar.
You know when someone posts a photo to social media of a beautiful landscape and they say something like, “This photo doesn’t do this place justice?” Well, this is a similar situation – as good as this Camplife Customs conversion of the Mercedes Sprinter 170 extended van looks in the photos, you simply cannot appreciate the build quality and attention to detail unless you’re there in the shop checking one of these vans out in person.
When I popped down to San Diego to meet the Camplife Customs folks, a number of their vans were there, including a recently finished model called the Nautilus. Alex, the proud owner of the van, was kind enough to let me take photos of his rig, which is what you see throughout this article.
You immediately get a sense of that extra space I referenced earlier in the 170 extended version of this van. It’s absolutely cavernous! As you can see in the interior photos above and below, this van has room for cooking, storage, sitting, eating, and sleeping, and it looks easy to accomplish all of that inside this van. Well, it’s easy when a professional team is responsible for doing it, anyway!
Inside, you’ll find the highest-quality materials and systems on the market. In addition to the steel framework I mentioned earlier, Camplife Customs adds marine-grade substrates to ensure there’s no worry about rot or mold. And don’t think that these finishes are just utilitarian…
As you can see, this van looks like a high-end boutique hotel. Every surface and every material shows an attention to detail that highlights the dedication of Camplife Customs to developing a comfortable, functional, and beautiful space.
The woodwork you see on the countertop and cupboards in the foreground beautifully complements the stainless steel sink and matte black faucet. The large window next to the sink brings the outside in so you can enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and the beauty of the van at the same time!
This wood inlay on the galley countertop is another indication of the quality you can achieve in a van like this. It’s also a testament to the craftsmanship of these vans and the skill of the Camplife Customs team in bringing their clients’ vision to life. But, I have to say, the custom alcohol dispenser you see in the image above is one of my favorite custom features in this van.
The bowtie inlay in the wood wall paneling in the background of the image above is yet another example of the attention to detail put into this van. Sure, an inlay like that isn’t necessary, but it adds a layer of sophistication and customization that you don’t find in most van conversions. In all, there are 186 wood inlays in this van.
This particular van also sports extensive LED lighting. This lighting is both functional and beautiful, and helps you use the space more functionally (like when cooking, eating, or using the van as a mobile podcast room, as Alex does) while also allowing you to get creative and funky to set the mood for watching movies, listening to music, or simply hanging out with friends after a day of adventuring.
This van is a great place to chill, too. Note the bench seating on two sides (both of which are covered in a beautiful, durable, soft fabric) that accommodates you and a few of your closest friends. The bed at the back is a full-size king when it’s deployed, and below it is a slide-out table for eating meals.
Also note the abundance of storage running along the top of the van. Between those cabinets, the kitchen cupboards, under-bench storage, and the storage space under the bed, you can keep all your gear neat, tidy, and organized no matter how long you’ll be on the road.
I could go on and on about the possible add-ons and customizations you can add to a Mercedes Sprinter 170, but that would be a really long article. Instead, here’s a quick overview of just some of the features this particular van has:
- Baja Front Bumper
- Custom roof rack
- Custom side steps
- A mule carrier
- 22-gallon freshwater tank
- 22-gallon gray water tank
- Tank heaters for winter camping
The Nautilus also sports a 3,000-watt inverter with 400 watts of solar and 800 amp hours of Campluxe off-grid batteries. It’s a robust electrical system, to say the least!
Sometimes the Name Says It Best
At the end of the day, the Mercedes Sprinter 170 offers the potential for an incredible campervan. Ultimately, though, it’s up to the folks customizing the van to turn it into something truly incredible.
As I noted earlier, regular folks who are handy and have a lot of time on their hands can turn one of these vans into something pretty spectacular. But I know that no matter how long or hard I work, I could never create something like the pros do!
When it comes to making your “vanlife” dreams come true, turning to a resource like Camplife Customs is simply the way to go. These folks have decades of experience building high-end, custom products – and it absolutely shows. The proof is in the pudding with vans like this, but sometimes, all you need to know is the name. Between Mercedes and Camplife Customs, you get a match made in heaven!