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Business Fleet - Current Articles

March 2008, Business Fleet - Feature

The Armadillo’s High Profile

by Chad Simon

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Vision Manufacturing LTD’s new high-capacity van (HCV) offers fleets an American-made OEM upfit with the characteristics of the Dodge Sprinter, while taking advantage of Ford and GM’s powerful V-10 and V-8 gas and diesel engines and thousands of service centers.

The HCV, aka the “Armadillo,” is designed to fit the Chevrolet Express, GMC Savana and Ford Econoline van chassis. The walk-thru van provides more than six feet of headroom and plenty of cargo capacity while being fuel efficient for its size.

The Ford regular and extended vans are currently available for upfitting. The full GM line is expected to be ready in April.

“Our vision was to give the Ford and GM customer an intelligent alternative to the Dodge Sprinter,” says Darryl Connors, president and CEO of Vision, an authorized Ford and GM pool manufacturer.

Where the Chassis Meets the Upfit

In business for more than 25 years as a conversion van maker, Vision spent more than $2 million to design a product that Ford and GM customers would embrace.

“We are able to provide a vehicle that has the ergonomic benefits and the same easy ingress and egress as the Sprinter while benefiting from Ford and GM architecture,” says Connors.

In terms of design, consumers will not be able to tell where the chassis meets the upfit, Connors says. The design incorporates a complete van chassis instead of a cutaway. The vehicle is cut below the beltline to enable integration of the upper and lower portions of the vehicle with a seamless finish. “It improves aerodynamic appeal,” Connors says.

The HCV van was designed by Applied Technologies, an automotive engineering firm that specializes in chassis and drivetrain design for the Big Three.

The upfit is designed to incorporate the factory door hardware and electronics to cut down on servicing issues. Metal support systems were integrated into the top to reinforce the vehicle’s structural integrity.

“Safety is carried through the entire design from the ground up,” says Craig Winn, president of Applied Technologies. “Because the design uses the full body of the van, not just the chassis, the new top and doors incorporate the structural rigidity engineered into the original van body.”

The van has met the government recertification requirement for roof crush, Winn says.

Specs Offer Flexibility

With 75 inches of rear-door clearance and 73 inches of side-door clearance, Vision offers cargo doors on both sides as opposed to the Sprinter’s passenger-side slider. Vision’s standard high top is approximately 6 inches taller than the Sprinter and offers a slightly wider footprint.

Total cargo volume ranges from 395 to 500 cubic square feet, depending on make and model.

The HCV conversion adds only 90 to 120 pounds of extra weight, according to Bill Molitor, fleet chassis manager for Jackson, Miss.-based Watson Quality Ford. Other upfits can add significantly more weight, which lowers the payload capacity.

Molitor says the vehicle is ideal for any industry with payload needs ranging from 3,300 to 3,900 pounds and walk-in convenience.

The Vision HCV takes advantage of Ford’s numerous powertrain options on the Econoline E-150, E-250, and the E-350 chassis, in both standard and extended versions. The E-150 and E-250 models offer 4.6-liter and 5.4-liter V-8 gas engines with automatic transmissions. The E-350 models offer 5.4-liter V-8 gas, 6.8-liter V-10, and 6.0-liter V-8 diesel engines.

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