Building a home for the road

We started from scratch but, a lot of research and online reading later, we built our van. This is a brief account of everything we did. 

The van began life as a makeshift camper created by the previous owner. It suited his needs as a travelling climber but wasn't quite the ultimate surf van we desired.

Our budget was limited so we decided to reuse the original components as much as possible. Once we had removed all of the wooden bed and cabinets and the warped laminated flooring, we were left with an acceptably insulated van; and this was our starting point.

We bought some hard wearing vinyl floor and actually used a very cheap layer underneath our more expensive top layer. This gave us a smooth finish that didn't bump and bubble over any defection in the ply wood below.

The existing ceiling was the original board that had flexed and discoloured. We removed it and stuck a fresh layer of headlining that matched the front as closely as possible. Some flush mounted halogen lights were placed down the middle and the whole thing was reseated with some fresh push fit clips. This freshened up the look and feel of the van and made it feel our own for the first time since we bought it.

The van needed storage and we ended up going with a tried and tested layout simply because it works. Three quarters of the width would be bed, one quarter; storage. The cooking area would be below the window and higher storage units would then run to the rear.

 We used some off cuts of our kitchen worktop to create a really solid surface for preparing food. Its relatively easy to cut and shape and can be manipulated with any tool used for wood. This worktop was placed onto a roughly created wooden box made from 18mm marine ply and wooden baton. The shape of the walls in the van are awkward and uneven so the units were constructed piece by piece in situ. This led to a few wonky bits but we weren't too bothered. 

Once the shape of the units was realised and sturdy, we planned out where the individual cupboards would be, made holes for openings and cut appropriately larger pieces of 12mm ply for the doors. We ended up using basic hinges and pop handles and simply sanding the door edges by hand for a smooth tactile finish.

The right angled corners that revealed the layers of ply were covered with a basic wooden trim and we stained and waxed the rest of the wood to match.

Our life on the road would inevitably involve some electronic equipment and so it was necessary to have a good leisure battery and accompanying circuits. This was a daunting challenge when we first began but after reading through a good few examples on forums we created something that works. The previous owner had left a decent leisure battery and split charger set up in the van and we used it as a good starting point. We installed a set of household power sockets running off an inverter, hooked up the lights and redirected the main stereo to run off the leisure battery. A panel was made from a couple of heavy duty switches placed in a dimmers base, one for the lights and the other as an additional way of turning the stereo on (without using the keys). We got a 240v mains hook up kit and set that up so that when we are in a campsite or have access to power we can run everything from mains. We bought a cheap 240v fridge because we couldn't afford a 12v and decided we'd run this off the inverter. It turns out this isn't particularly effective but works long enough for a fews days on the road's worth of chilling.

I couldn't resist upgrading the sound system in the van and bought a couple of new small speakers for the front. They are clear and reasonably loud but as they are so small they would never be able to produce anything below a couple of hundred hertz. So i bought a 10" driver and made an enclosure underneath the drivers seat. The enclosure is definitely too small for the speaker but we just simply couldn't afford to lose so much space in the van, and there was nothing under the seat! Its sounds perfectly acceptable even when on the motorway.

The last and possibly the most important item was the rock and roll bed. We had this made for us as we wanted something safe and secure to use as additional seating, complete with seat belts.