for the Jet Set
Reprinted from The Robb Report Collection, June, 2005
Becker Automotive JetVan™
Howard Becker of Becker Automotive Design espouses a new
form of transportation based on chauffeur-driven utility.
"Not only does it give you the ability to rest, relax,
and enjoy," he asserts, "but, given the mobile office,
the amount of concentrated work you can do in an hour's commute
can be enhanced by high-speed wireless Internet. When you
get to the office, you're an hour ahead of where you would
Consider this Mercedes Sprinter-based Becker JetVan™ custom-built
for Eric and Diane Holm, who own a chain of restaurants in
Florida and Georgia. They also own "his and her"
Bentleys, Benz SLs, and Land Rovers, and a private Jet. They
are well-accustomed to comfortable, quick, high-quality transportation.
The base U.S.-market Dodge Sprinter is a thinly disguised
Mercedes-Benz commercial van powered by a federalized 2.7-liter
turbo-diesel 5-cylinder engine producing 154 hp and 243 ft
lbs of torque. But Becker's Sprinter-based conversions are
anything but standard. Appropriately dubbed JetVan™ s for the
executive aircraftlike interiors, they are easily the most
functional, well-designed, and opulently equipped Becker Automotive
He exterior is transformed with Mercedes-Benz trim augmented
by tastefully designed front spoilers, headlights, tubular
side steps and custom wheels and tires - and nothing is ostentatious.
"Our customers want a low-key presence on the outside,"
Becker explains. The engine is tuned to deliver approximately
200 hp and more than 300 ft lbs of torque. Bigger brakes,
a better-balanced center of gravity resulting from substantial
floor insulation, and a choice of suspension improvements
round out the package. Soft Ride provides gentler springs
that are teamed with beefier shocks and sway bars, and a custom-designed
independent rear suspension - offering the ultimate combination
of agility and rear passenger comfort.
The best part of a JetVan™ is its custom-designed interior:
state-of-the-art mobile office married to a top-of-the-line
home theater - an executive jet for the road. "The substantial
application of lightweight aviation materials is apparent
in our work," Becker says. "Until now few have been
used in automotive conversions, partly because of the expense
of those materials. We're not trying to outdo our customers'
private jets or luxury cars, but we are trying to provide
a seamless transition from on to the other. A vehicle like
this looks like and feels like the rest of their world while
fulfilling their needs for room, privacy, and function."
One thing Becker learned along the way is how to please A-list
artists such as Burt Bacharach, Cher, and Barbara Streisand.
"They're not just kicking back and enjoying music of
a movie," he says. "They're listening to their own
stuff and dissecting it. To say that they're critical would
be very accurate, so we have been well schooled in how to
satisfy their standards. We got schooled in video as well
by some of the entertainment industry's top performers, managers,
producers, and directors.
"The outcome is that we can compete well with a high-quality
home entertainment environment," he continues. "The
music can be powerful but must be stress-free - good at high
volume but very accurate, very rich, and very comfortable
to listen to. That's what our customers expect video-wise
In the 1980s, the company began developing and building its
own parametric equalizers form acoustically tuning each vehicle's
interior. "When we're finished," he says, "it's
what the entertainment industry calls 'voicing a room.' Once
you've got the basic room as good as you can get it, the next
step is to correct any problems, which has been done with
parametric equalization in sound studios, theaters and high-quality
home environments for a generation. It's the guy in the back
of the concert with the big mixing board - an absolutely vital
Becker's mobile work environment includes a laptop with a
high-speed Internet card that fits into a port replicator
to integrate with a wireless keyboard, gyro-mouse, and printer,
and displays on a large LCD screen. Visitors' laptops can
also be plugged into the system.
Becker JetVan™ s are built to order, and because customers'
requirements can vary significantly, the company offers six
floor plans and two wheelbases. "Some customers want
more than four-passenger seating," Becker explains. "Some
don't want the divider so the driver and front passenger can
walk through to the back."
The pictured example features seating for four, privacy curtains,
and an array of advanced - yet easy-to-use - electronics fir
the Air Force One. A pair of ultra-comfortable, electronically
adjustable custom recliners slide eight inches forward or
back between the rear wheel wells to optimize cargo space
behind them. Three characteristics make them unique: The seat
backs recline to the optimum position for crash safety, leg
extenders deploy electronically from under the cushions, and
the bases rock back to distribute body weight evenly from
head to heel, for the lowest possible stress. The console
between them contains two aviation-style stowaway tables that
can slide fore and aft, which are made of strong aluminum-skinned
and hand-veneered honeycomb material.
Two large rear-facing buckets sit behind the divider, with
a 1.5 cu ft top-opening refrigerator/freezer between them.
Along one side of the van is a well-secured row of glasses
and an upholstered ice bucket atop a beverage service cabinet.
Along the other are the mobile office, a magazine rack, and
a beautiful burlwood and upholstery liquor cabinet with safety-glass
The overhead lighting emulated that of a private jet aircraft
with the most advanced LED strip, map, and dome lighting.
"It's very expensive," Becker says, "but has
tremendous longevity and puts out a light that I've heard
described as 'white sunshine' - easy on your eyes, but it
illuminates wonderfully in terms of detail and reading ability.
And all the lighting is on dinner circuits so you can adjust
the intensity to the level you want."
The Holms' JetVan™ sports factory-original, two-stage silver
metallic paint and rolls on matching Brabus wheels. "Eric
has been instrumental in selecting a lot of the function,"
Becker says, "while Diane has been tremendous in working
with us on the cosmetic and interior appointments." We
think they've achieved a new standard in custom ground transportation.
In addition to the new Becker JetVan™ , Becker Automotive Design
transforms Ford Excursions, GMC Yukon Denali, and Cadillac Escalade
SUVs into fully equipped and gorgeously turned-out mobile lounges,
offices, and theaters ranging in price from $125,000 to $275,000.
Comprehensive armoring programs are available at additional
cost. - GARY WITZENBURG