While most Mercedes-Benz Sprinter owners use their vans for commercial hauling, others see it as the perfect limousine.
“I don’t know how I’d live without it,” said Daniel Elperin, a stock trader and Sprinter owner.[box_posts_by_date]Elperin owns a custom van from Bespoke Coach in Van Nuys, Calif., one of several customization shops that cater to wealthy Sprinter owners looking to turn these work vans into luxurious custom cruisers, outfitted with plush leather seats and over-the-top amenities.
“I went to their showroom and I was like, ‘Man, I’ve got to get one,’” Elperin said, seated in one of the six quilted leather seats in his custom Bespoke B28 outside his home in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Other outfitters including RB Components in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and Creative Mobile Interiors in Grove City, Ohio, are also known for elaborate custom Sprinters.
“It is a blank slate with every customer,” said Aaron Lane, spokesman for Creative Mobile.
Elperin’s custom Bespoke Coach, for example, uses a stark white partition to separate the two front seats from the luxurious rear. Once an empty cargo hold, the back is now appointed with gloss-black furnishings and the glow of soft, ambient LED lighting. The plush white seats would easily seem at home inside a Bentley or Maybach super-luxury sedan.
Television monitors are mounted in the partition and rear wall. Elperin had a third screen hoisted onto the side wall and programmed to Bloomberg TV to keep up on financial news. As with all Bespoke Coach vans, the entire setup is controlled by a centrally installed iPad.
“I was building it primarily to use as a mobile office,” Elperin said. “During market hours if I’m not [in the office], I’m not trading. So it makes sense to have a full office here.”
Customers typically buy Sprinters from a dealership and have them shipped directly to Bespoke Coach to be upfitted, or customized. Workers inside the 12,000-square-foot facility on an industrial lot near the 405 Freeway use CNC machinery and laser-cutting tools to produce custom parts. The shop does its own assembly and upholstery.
On a recent morning, Bespoke Coach employees neared completion on two orders and prepped a third for pickup. On one nearly finished model, designer Sharon Mashal demonstrated the motorized sliding door that comes standard on all Bespoke models.
“We’re the only ones that offer it,” Mashal said. “If someone else does it, it comes from us.”
Mashal and Bespoke Coach take pride in engineering much of the customizations themselves. The crew engineers and installs control boards under the front seats, and includes a motorized airplane-style table in all models. Depending on customer preference, Bespoke Coach also installs controls for the router, intercom, Apple TV, DirecTV, HDMI and other tech features within the partition. Guests can cruise along while viewing a 48-inch flat-screen television at the front of the former cargo area or a 32-inch TV at the rear.
“You’re not getting an off-the-shelf experience,” Mashal said. “Everything is engineered and catered to have this bespoke experience.”
But such work can equate to hundreds of thousands of dollars per van. Besides the price of the Sprinter itself, a custom order from Bespoke Coach starts from between $150,000 and $220,000, Mashal said. A demo vehicle that closely resembles the one Elperin purchased was originally priced from $225,000 on the Bespoke Coach website.
“It’s a good investment for me,” Elperin said. “The computer’s on, and boom, I’m trading again.”
The lofty price is hardly unique to Bespoke Coach. Rugged adventure vans – particularly those built by renowned Sprinter custom shop Outside Van in Troutdale, Ore. – can ring up costly tabs.
“People have the ability to make whatever they want inside this box,” said Christopher Schey, spokesman for Outside Van.
The company’s base OSV Core van, built on the standard wheelbase Sprinter 4×4, is priced from $89,000, with extended wheelbase models priced from $96,000. Custom work adds to the bill.
The expense hasn’t slowed demand. Sprinter orders at Creative Mobile Interiors have increased each of the last six years, Lane said. At Outside Van, the introduction of the Sprinter 4×4 model in 2015 helped volume grow “tremendously” to about eight jobs per month, Schey said.
Bespoke Coach is looking to expand by launching a more affordable Touring Solution line and is hiring more fabricators to keep up with demand for 2017 models.
But Mashal knows the carriage trade remains its bread and butter. “We have some customers that come back and say, ‘OK, I want round two.’”