Vanessa, our retirement travel home

After towing a 39-foot horse (llama) trailer for 12 years of vacations including a 6-month full-time sabbatical and after we had an empty nest, in June 2012 we decided to have built a custom class-B (van-based) motorhome suitable for two people. We wanted access to small forest campgrounds, good mileage, the convenience of never having to hook up a trailer or towed car, access to the living space while driving, and the ability to park almost anywhere.

We chose the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, a van that I can stand up in which gets 18-20 mpg and is 7 feet wide and 23 feet long. To build the interior we chose Sportsmobile, Huntington, Indiana. The interior was completed in January 2013. About 4 months of the wait was for the Sprinter to be built in Germany, shipped to North Carolina in crates, then reassembled.

We named her Vanessa for "Van odyssey". Our uncle Den, who named his yacht "Dovekie", told us that seven letters and a repeated vowel bring good luck. I hope this works as well for us as it did for him and not like it turned out for the Titanic.

Major features that make Vanessa stand out above other class-B RVs, especially for extended dry camping:

  • Large 40 gallon water tank and 16 gallon black holding tank that lasts a week
  • Diesel generator and furnace run off the van fuel tank
  • Storage space for a 2-person inflatable kayak, gas grill, and much more
  • 4G antenna for internet in the wilderness
  • 7 Cu ft refrigerator/freezer
  • Plumbing system that can be used below zero degrees
  • Swivel seats up front with permanent laptop table


Other features that make living in Vanessa great include:

  • Large 70x82 bed
  • Full bath with shower, toilet, sink, and window
  • Galley with lots of counter space
  • Four-person dinette in back with seat belts
  • Quick easy conversion from bed to dinette
  • Valve to bring hot water to sinks without wasting water
  • Audio/visual equipment convenient to bed and dinette


Click on links below for details

Sprinter options

Floor plan



Packing list



There are comments by me (Llamadave) and others on the Sportsmobile Forum.

Click here for Vanessa's complete building experience.

You can also comment and ask questions at the bottom of this page.

Click for large view