Well, our search for a base vehicle for our new campervan conversion is now over – he has arrived at last and a very handsome boy he his! Our red, Vauxhall Vivaro is a bit of a hunk but needs some TLC to bring out his full potential. Now the only thing we need to do is to work out how on earth to do the conversion…
Glyn and I have never done anything like a van conversion before and neither of us is naturally good at DIY (he works in finance and I’m a writer so go figure) but I guess we are going to have to learn pretty quick. I confess to being addicted to YouTube now and I can tell you all the theory on lining a van, fitting a vent, and I’m even learning how to do the electrics (my degree was in engineering but it was several centuries ago so it’s hard getting the tech brain cells going again). I’m really enjoying all this research but I still find the thought of actually doing it a bit scary (and bloomin’ hard work) and I am wondering if there is a sweet spot somewhere between doing it all yourself and handing it all over to a converter with the considerable cost that that entails.
We took ‘The Red Van’ to a local converter (Colin at CJ Van Designs Ltd Checkout CJ Vans ) at the weekend to let him have a look and we are now waiting on the quote. We saw some of the vans he is currently converting and he clearly does a very nice job but, as our van is a bit older (2007), I am wondering if it is worth spending so much on such a high-end job? And, to be honest, we don’t really want a super sleek conversion, I want it to look stylish but homely and I have some very clear ideas about the features I want in the van and what I don’t want.
Flexible Cooking Facilities
We don’t want the traditional side kitchen/rock-and-roll bed layout. We find the rock-and -roll beds uncomfortable and too narrow for comfort and when it comes to cooking, I want flexibility so that I can cook inside the van if I absolutely have too (I hate cooking in the van) or just want to boil a kettle for morning cup of tea without leaving the bed, yay! Well, OK, Glyn does the tea while I am still in bed! At the moment, I feel that I want a ‘mobile kitchen’ for outside. As much as I admire the Slidepods, I don’t want to be tied to the back of the van when I want to be looking out on a beautiful view around the side of the van while I cook. I also want to have some sort of portable cooker that we can carry with us away from the van if we want to cook up some pasta on the beach or some other fantastic place to have lunch or supper.
I have worked out the cooking facility I want inside the van now (induction hob on flip-down table) but I am still researching how to do the outside kitchen and I’ll let you know when it becomes clearer.
Laptop Table to Work At
We have also decided that we want somewhere in the van for one of us to sit at a table and work on a laptop while the other is in bed/reading/watching the Tellybox. I sometimes take the van away by myself and I need my writing/office area so that I can work on my blogs and books.
Storage, Storage, Storage
It’s all beginning to sound like a lot to get in a 1.4m (H) x 1.6m (Width) x 2.4m (L) space especially as we also have to fit in the battery box, clothes storage, food storage, kitchen equipment, sleeping bags/bedding as well as the bigger stuff like awning and chairs. However, the more we work in the van the more the ideas are dropping in.
For example; sleeping bags. When they are rolled up in to a bag they can take up a lot of valuable space and they are a real pain to roll up and get back in the bag anyway. Usually I can’t be bothered (life is too short to repack sleeping bags) and Glyn (who is ex-army and good at that stuff) does that job. But then you are left with two large lumps that eat up your cupboard space. Soooo, my current idea is to have two large fabric pouches on the wall at the back of the bed (the head board area in other words) where we will put the folded up sleeping bags during the day and they will make a nice padded back rest when we are sitting there. I am planning to create a board padded with memory foam for the ‘head board’ area anyway as Glyn and I love to sit on the bed in the evenings (cup of tea and biscuits – yes, we do lead a wild life) and catch up on films/box sets so that feels nice and cosy. In this way, the sleeping bags not only don’t take up key storage space, they also do a useful job. Anyway, that is the theory and I’ll let you know how it works out.
Clearing Out the Van, Groan!
At the moment, we are just going through the tricky bit of clearing out the van which has been some kind of crew van with two back seats and then a utility area behind with racking. The advantage of this is that it already has two back windows and two seat-belted seats in the back (one of which we are going to turn around and use as our ‘office’ chair) as well as an extra travelling seat. The disadvantage is a lot of hassle drilling out rivets and finding how to undo bolts that don’t want to be undone. However, this is teaching us a lot (I realise that for you DIY experts this is probably child’s play but to us this is new territory and we are regularly running to YouTube to try and find out how to do this stuff). How did we ever exist before YouTube!
We are now getting to the stage where we can actually start thinking about lining the van although, to be honest, if the quotes that come in are reasonable, I am wondering whether it might just be easier to let the professionals do that. I think I might price up what it is going to cost us in materials to do and see what the final quotes are and, to be honest, if the difference isn’t too great that it might be worth letting them do it and getting a more professional finish that we could probably get. If not then I think we’ll try it ourselves and save the budget to pay for a professional converter to do the craftsman work – like the flip-down table for our induction hob and the flip-up table for our laptop as well as some clever cupboarding for storage.
Trying Out the Van First
It’s all open to change at the moment and, once it is lined, we intend to go away in it a couple of times with just a mattress in the back and a portable cooker to try it out before we do the final design. I think you see a lot more of what works and what doesn’t work once you have camped in a vehicle.
Anyway, I’ll keep you posted and any useful suggestions, advice and information would be appreciated.