The famous Red Oxx Sprinter Delivery Van "Big Oxx" that prowled across the American landscape for the past nearly dozen years was all set for retirement this year. Red Oxx owners Jim Markel and Perry Jones spent many days and nights on the road driving the Big Oxx delivering inventory for cross-country promotional events, displaying its recognizable face at the popular Overland EXPO, among others.
Instead of putting the old beast up for sale, Jim decided it was time for a retrofit. The Big Oxx would now tour the state of Montana while meeting up with made in Montana manufacturers to develop a cohesive cross-marketing effort. Jim plans to bring along his crew of trusty cinematographers and interview the owners and operators of multiple Montana companies while establishing relationships to cross-promote Montana sourced products.
To do so he needed a van that was more suited for RV living, instead of product transportation. Here’s Jim’s take on the history of the Big Oxx, his first objective of removing the wrapping, and his thoughts behind his current personal crusade of retrofitting the van.
Eleven years ago after a quite a few seasons on the road it became apparent that we needed a purpose-built trade show vehicle to replace our old "The General" pickup and trailer option. The usual set-up went something like this: buy a new truck and destroy it after a few seasons of trade shows, wearing it out with too many miles while dragging a heavy load from the mountains to the prairie. Then rinse, repeat. The old General needed a suitable reliable replacement.
Red Oxx The General Takes a Breather.
The new Big Oxx to replace the General would be a 2009 Sprinter, which had a fuel efficient diesel motor and heavy-duty dually rear wheels. It looked to be big enough to haul the mail and then some. A cavernous rolling box of metal — yet fast with decent brakes. Working with a literal blank canvas we set about making it our own.
The Sprinter I found came equipped with dual sliding doors. This was going to be ideal for quickly getting the crew in and out of the shows. I hit the junkyard and pulled the rear seat out of 1970s Suburban while trying not to drag home that ’64 Impala missing the front clip.
Red Oxx Mascot Rhodesian Ridgeback Boss Rooibi
Security being an issue after some bandits made off with my gear in Reno, I hit Tuffy Security Products up for a suite of lock boxes for securing our valuables and rescue gear. Other considerations were a "bumpin sound system" and of course — more security. Then we needed a double axle Featherlite trailer to haul our event display booth in as well as a custom-built cradle to secure said booth.
My friend Big Tony was the artisan who magically crafted our booth out of aluminum panels. Broken down, it was like a Jenga puzzle that fit into a tiny area. Yet when expanded it created a 400 square-foot retail experience. The booth kit was quite extensive to the point of requiring a Warn Winch to haul it back into the trailer when loading out.
After shifting the main bulkhead to middle of the vehicle we had a nice passenger compartment and a large cargo area behind for our gear. I had picked up a National Luna refrigerator at the Overland EXPO from Equipt, along with the proper mounting kit and wiring to go with it. Paul and his team are also responsible for the incredible three meter awning with side curtains. A truly one-of-a kind set from Eezi-Awn of South Africa. With it all bolted together and finished in some dark suede we hit the trail for many a show from one side of the country to the other.
Big Oxx Goes Overlanding
From Overland EXPOs to conventions or even a weekend run to go camping, the Big Oxx as it has become to be known, turned out to be an excellent platform. Of course nothing stays the same and I had noticed that attendance at events was starting to slide while costs continued to rise. What to do?
After giving a trade show in Salt Lake one more chance, I decided that we had come to the end of an era.
I must admit that I’m a bit addicted to pet projects and travel. The reasons are varied and for those of us who have that malignant wanderlust we all feel the pull.
First move was to generate some capital to reinvest and reinvent my trusty ride. So the Featherlite double axle trailer went off to a new home. Of course I salvaged the winch even though I haven’t decided to use it on the Sprinter or install it on my Tundra.
The next step was to remove the wrap which had been on for over a decade. It was a bit tattered and I wanted to start with a blank canvas and allow for whatever we come up with on this build. This part is not exactly fun and after Big Tony and I spent a couple of hours with heat guns we decided to call a professional. Our local detail shop has four strong youngsters on the payroll, Problem solved…..
In the meantime I’ve been trying to figure out how exactly to proceed regarding the retrofit rebuild. My main source of ideas has been coming from Youtube and custom rigs I’ve seen at various Overland EXPOs.
Cheers, Jim Markel CEO
Join Jim at the Expedition Portal Forum and help give him some tips on his Sprinter retrofit here.
Big Oxx Stops to Smell the Flowers