Going where no RV has gone before

Behind the Wheel: Sportsmobile 4WD

January 13, 2014 Reviews : Behind the Wheel By Photo by Bradley Hasemeyer
Found in deserts, jungles and mall parking lots.

When Charles Borskey started Sportsmobile in 1961, he had no idea the brand would rise to its current reputation as the ultimate vehicle for adventure camping — or for simply making drivers look badass. Specializing in converting full-size vans into custom recreational vehicles, Sportsmobile turns your base people hauler into a rugged, rock-lovin’ beast. For approximately $70,000 to $80,000 you can buy a Ford, Chevy or Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and have it converted into arguably the most powerful and versatile RV around.

More Off-Road Goodness: Vintage Explorers: 7 Adventure Vehicles for the Perfect Off-Road Trip | Torture Testing Tires on 400 Miles of Baja | 7 Off-Road Trailers For Your Next Adventure

Sportsmobile strips down its full-size vans to their bare essentials before building them back up. They cut in windows, add the signature pop-up “Penthouse” top, install rugged flooring, insulation, custom cabinets and appliances such as stoves, microwaves, furnaces and more. Customers have the option of taking things much further to meet their needs: Sportsmobile has received requests for everything from a dance pole to a large hole in the floorboard for ice fishing. More conventional add-ons include solar panels, a refrigerator, full leather, a bathroom, roof racks, entry steps, Hella lights, aluminum bumpers, infrared cameras and just about anything else you can come up with.

Though the toys are fun, the real heart of the Sportsmobile is its off-road capabilities. A Dynatrac Pro Rock axle, Atlas transfer case, 6-inch suspension lift, quick disconnects on the sway bar, twin-stick transfer case to shift front and rear axles independently make this an off-road machine that will get you access to places only a Jeep could roam. From a tool for search and rescue squads to a mobile getaway for flyfishing and nature enthusiasts, the flexibility and potential of Sportsmobile’s vehicles are dizzying.

We recently visited Sportsmobile West’s Fresno, CA location to see the factory and take a van on the road. About an hour outside the city and up into mountainous territory was the perfect playground to test the rock climbing, off-roading durability and ride comfort of these ultimate vans.