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Vanshite - sleeping in Trafic.


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I have one of those that I deal with on the volunter bureau fleet with a comical 'automated manual' box. In auto it is hopeless, changing gear whenever you don't want it to, up on steep hills etc. The manual over-ride on the other hand appears to work really well. I had a play in it to test drive it today & it was a right laugh!

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The upshot of the whole #vanlife thing with cute couples quitting the rat race and posing on top of their vans watching sunsets is that everyone wants to make a conversion, which is great. Except that now anyone flogging overpriced tat on eBay can add 'camper' to the keywords and sell it for three times as much. Bubble wrap? Camper insulation! 12v pc case fan? Camper ventilation!

I'm not rich, I can't really afford to buy £400 of laminated ply to make some cupboards or blow a grand on a rock and roll bed. Even simple things like water tanks, battery boxes etc seem to be massively overinflated. When you add it all up it's a massive industry of making money from very little and you can very easily barf £10k- £15k on a small van like this. That figure would keep me up at night.

From the beginning I vowed to make pretty much everything I could from scratch. At the same time I'm aiming to stay away from the whole rustic look, union flag bunting and furniture made from rotten old pallets. 

Budget wise I didn't really want to break a couple of grand absolute tops.

Here is what I started with. 


I found a pair of tinted sliding windows online for not too much. I like privacy but one thing I learned is how hot a van gets in the sun and you need airflow.

I didn't take enough photos of this part as to be frank I was shitting myself. It's pretty straightforward though. Cut hole using Jigsaw. Sticky stuff goes on van. Primer goes on window. Stick the windows on and pray. It's a noisy and messy job but doing one side makes the other easier.




Mrs J put some cheap Chinese parking sensors in while I was doing that. They're totally fine.


The bulkhead then got taken out. It's just a few bolts and then a hammer and chisel to smack the rivets out.



Mrs helped chop up the ply lining while it was out. The window hole needed cut out but I also wanted the lining to fit flush into the gaps.




Meanwhile I took the floor out and filled and tidied up all the screw holes.


The lower parts of the voids were painted just as an extra bit of protection against condensation.


I used bitumen flashing tape as an anti drumming layer. Bought in bulk off Amazon, a couple of large rolls did the whole van and was cheaper than one small roll at Screwfix.


It's really good stuff this and way cheaper than the car specific stuff that comes in sheets. After adding it the whole van is noticeably quieter and the panels thud rather than clang.

Meanwhile I was still using the van every day for work.. it's pretty good on diesel.


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6 hours ago, juular said:

This is a broad church, right?

Vans. I like driving with my elbow on the windowsill, being able to see over bridge parapets, being level with the folk at drive throughs, and generally having a nice view of everything. I like bullying owners of immaculate new Audis out of the way. I like having no centre mirror so that they just disappear when they aggressively tailgate me afterwards. I like big wing mirrors and being able to see the rear wheels when parallel parking. I occasionally like being everyone's best friend when they need long planks of wood shifted, but not when they tell me they've also got two tonnes of foosty leylandii to go to the dump.

Damnit.  I now need to buy another van THIS INSTANT.

These are all the reasons I liked driving my old C25 van.

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As mentioned earlier, a van in the sun even in the north of Scotland turns into a tin oven and it can get pretty unbearable very quickly (especially when you can't open a window or door because of the midges!). I dread to think how bad it would get in the south of France. For that reason I think insulation is more important for keeping the heat out than keeping it in, although of course it does both. It's also important to stop condensation forming on the walls and roof, which will drip on you constantly / rot the van from the inside out.

Ultimate Insulation Supplies in Stirling get a mention for being so helpful even though I was only buying small amounts in dribs and drabs. I was even given a tour of the stock in the warehouse to weigh up options. I narrowed it down to 50mm PIR boards, 25mm PIR boards, sheep's wool, or various other synthetic wool type materials.  In the end I went for 25mm unbranded PIR boards (about 20% cheaper than Celotex and Kingspan but basically exactly the same spec sheet). The 25mm fit in the shallow voids easier than 50mm, but could be doubled up to provide the same level of insulation as the 50mm where needed.

Added to this I used recycled plastic bottle loft insulation. This is the stuff that comes "Diall" branded in B and Q in the black/yellow packaging - the non itchy one!  Recycled glass bottle (itchy) insulation needs to be avoided as it soaks up and retains water almost permanently and is guaranteed to rot the van. Sheeps wool is another option and has better insulation qualities, but it is quite heavy, expensive and has a tendency to smell of lanolin (sheepy smell) a bit.

In the lower voids of the van where I couldn't fit boards, the plastic insulation was very loosely layered in. If it's too compressed it basically does nothing. Above this the voids were filled with a double layer of 25mm PIR. Where necessary boards were held in place with gorilla tape.



The upper voids were filled with 25mm board cut to shape.



Gaps in the metal, like where the minibus seatbelt reels would go, were filled with a layer of wool and taped over with layers of gorilla tape. A lot easier than boarding up and just as strong.


The next layer may be a wee bit controversional as it has been debunked as a sort of snake oil : foil backed bubble wrap.  Its poor R value means that it is basically useless as an insulation layer despite all of the advertising nonsense. If you fancy putting this up in a garage / loft, don't, it does nothing. If you want to copy the #vanlife folk and use 3 layers glued to the inside of your van - don't! It'll be a complete waste of time.

I'm not an insulation expert or a scientist. However, in my mind, in this situation it does four things - it provides a vapour barrier to stop condensation getting through and lurking in the insulation. It provides a radiant reflective barrier, so heat from (for example) a gas flame will be reflected inside the van. Third, it makes the walls much warmer to the touch where bare metal is exposed, quite important when the van is this small.  Finally it acts a bit like the soft rubber backing you get on very expensive velour trim, everything becomes soft to the feel rather than tinny. Sold!

As usual I hunted for a supplier of this, as the campervan suppliers were up to five times more expensive per metre.

I used spray glue to put this on - the edges are sealed with foil tape.





Before finishing off the wheel arches I covered them in some bitumen tape to cut down some road noise.


Then finished off in foil wrap.




On top of that, some gorilla tape to stop the silver wrap from getting torn.


Then the ply boards that Mrs had cut went on top.




It turned out to be an excellent time to test out the insulation! This always happens to me whenever I get a project on the go.


The next job : carpet!


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I didn't take pictures of the work in progress because the spray glue is like silly string and gets on everything, plus it was a three handed job keeping the carpet held up while trying to align and stretch it. I did the whole offside in one bit of carpet so it was pretty awkward.

It's a really satisfying job though. The carpet has a lot of stretch and it's quite easy to get a good finish. The knack is to start from the centre of where you're working and push outwards, stretching it into every contour with the handle of a small screwdriver.



I lifted the rubber trims and carpeted under them.





Then onto the back and side doors. As before, a layer of bitumen, then insulation, bubble wrap, ply and carpet.









Fittings removed from back doors before carpeting.





Back doors were shut and a line drawn around the inside of the seal for trimming.





The trimmed end of the carpet was a bit ugly, so it was hidden in rubber U-channel which also gives a better seal when the doors are closed.







The best thing about all this is that the doors now shut like a vault, with a proper satisfying thunk.  Before this they were a bit vanny and a bit clangy.

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20 hours ago, motorpunk said:

Looking good.

As a co-incidence, I was just having dirty thoughts about rescuing this from frog land. How much hassle would it be to register here without a foreign logbook thingy?


A mate of mine imported one of these & converted it as a mobile catering wagon & does a roaring trade at festivals, functions etc. (or at least he was until Covid 19 struck!) and I've been servicing it. Easy to fix, easy to drive and a HUGE capacity for stuff! Oh, and you "MUST" fit it with French-style yellow headlamps! 

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1 hour ago, colc said:

Superb job............have you noticed a drop in decibels ?

The van is really quiet when driving, none of the usual noise of air rushing over the panels and hardly any road noise. If you've ever driven an empty van about with no bulkhead, it's deafening! The difference with the insulation is immense.

  It's pretty quiet inside when parked up too. You can watch a film on a laptop at a high volume and not hear it outside the van, so it's definitely an improvement in privacy as well.

1 hour ago, BlankFrank said:

Got an ebay/web site link for the type of carpet used?


Their kits have gone up in price a bit since I bought it but the carpet is heavier than the cheaper version you can find on eBay. It's nice stuff. 5m did all of what you see above.

On 11/17/2020 at 5:12 PM, dollywobbler said:

I hear the gearboxes are a little 'French.'

To put it politely. I've never been in one that didn't whine constantly from the box. It's the worst part of them to be frank. Mine is about to tick over to 90k and sounds really knackered, which is a shame as the rest of the van is so good and feels like it just rolled out of the factory yesterday. The saving grace is that when rebuilt with uprated bearings they tend to go on indefinitely.

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