QUEST FOR A NEW CAMPERVAN: Good Progress at the New Forest DIY Van Converters Meetup

Yay, good news at last! We made some really good progress on converting our Vivaro campervan,  ‘Big Red’, at a DIY campervan converters meetup in the New Forest in March. We had been feeling stuck for a while but, with the help of the Dorset/Hampshire/Sussex Self-Build Get Together Facebook group, we were able to get some of the more scary things done like, putting a solar vent in the roof and cutting a hole in the side of the van for the hook-up panel. And the great thing is that this has now given us the confidence to try more of the DIY work ourselves and we can see how to do some of the trickier parts as we have our ‘converters eye’ switched on now.

The Facebook group meet up at the Nordic Farm campsite in the New Forest who are happy for us to work on campervans there. The group is run by Darren Thrower who is one of those people with a natural flair for creative DIY and he is part of the way through converting his own van now. He seems to know all about the electrics, bodywork, as well as the interior lining and furniture and he was kind enough to help us two beginners with advice and some practical demonstrations.

Darren Helping Out with Big Red

Cutting Holes in the Van – Scary!

Cutting the hole for the hook-up panel

I even drilled in to the side of the van to cut the hole for the hook-up myself which I realise is probably easy stuff for you DIY experts but to me this was a big step as, despite having a degree in engineering, I am just lost when it comes to the practical stuff and to be honest a little scared of it. But, having done it now I can see the principles and, with the right tools, I’m sure I could do it again. Glyn was able to cut the hole in the roof for the solar vent and we were able to install that too.

Glossy White Ceiling

Glyn drilling in the Glossy White Panels

After a shopping trip to B&Q in Christchurch, we were able to get some of the batterns for the ply lining for the walls and start putting up my funky, glossy white ceiling. I have been researching campervan designs for a while now but wanted something a bit different to the standard side-kitchen/rock and roll bed set up or the all-wood set up that, for me, can sometimes look a bit like a sauna. However, I totally respect everybody’s right to design their van in the way that is right for them and, hey, life would be dull if we were all the same. However, as our van is red, I wanted to go for a more neutral, contemporary look inside with just a few colourful items as accents. I wanted it to be fairly light and bright, so I chose some glossy white paneling for the roof (the stuff they use in bathrooms and kitchens) and, although it is a bit trickier that wood to install, it is looking really nice so far.

Zoning the Van

I am also thinking of ‘zoning’ the van into two halves, with the front half as the ‘kitchen/living’ area and the back as the softer/cosier bedroom. Of course, being a campervan, the bedroom will take over the kitchen at night, but you get the idea.

Want to Do the Pretty Stuff Now

I am really itching to get the van to the point where I can focus more on decoration (yes, I am a girl) but at least we can see how to do some of the build now. We have had to invest in some more tools and we are on the lookout for a second-hand circular saw now and a proper workbench. This will be really important for when we build the bed and I think I have chosen the design for that now. It is one of those flip-out beds but I have yet to measure it up in detail so that may change. One thing I have realised is that converting a campervan is a constantly evolving thing but that is partly what makes it’s interesting.

The next DIY van converters meetup is on the 8th June in the New Forest again at the Nordic Farm campsite so if you are interested just check at the group on Facebook.