We got our Vivaro panel van (who is called ‘Big Red’) back in July and it is now October and we have barely started the conversion. So, what happened…?
If you have read the previous blogs on our campervan quest you know that I have been researching the conversion design for months now and live a large part of my life on YouTube so I have been pretty clear on the design for ages. But there have been a few unforeseen obstacles to climb over and, although we are learning a lot and they have altered my design for the better, it has been a bit frustrating.
Clearing the Van
First there has been the epic journey or just clearing the van before we could even start any build work. The van was a crew van that had been part of the Coco Cola fleet so at least we knew that it had been well maintained but that did mean that there was a lot of furniture in the back to remove including 2 seats, a partition and racking. The silver lining in all that was that we are going to turn around one of the seats to face a flip-down table that will be like a desk area so that we can easily work on our laptops. Glyn likes to get up quite early while I am still in bed so he can easily sit there and go on his laptop for an hour or so while I snooze in bed.
Extra Passengers a Bonus
As the seat has a seat belt it means that the van can carry an extra passenger so now Big Red can carry 4 passengers which means that it is possible for 2 friends or kids to come along too if they sleep in a tent or the awning. I do like flexibility in a van.
The partition also gave us the idea to have a partial wall half way along which kind of sections the bedroom from the living area. This provides an extra vertical surface for our laptop table which also doubles up as a table top for our induction hob for when I want to cook something inside (especially the kettle for a morning cup of tea in bed!).
The racking we sold for £50 so that helps towards the build costs.
However, it was SO HARD to remove these bloomin’ things. I know Glyn and I are not DIYers and only have basic tools but, as the rack was bolted through the floor, it meant that somebody had to go underneath the van and unscrew the nuts while somebody held the bolt with a spanner above. I won’t tell you how long it took us to work that out!
Removing the Seat Rails Drama
The seats behind the driver come off easily from the floor rails but to get the rails off so that we could lift that part of the floor for insulation/lining would mean that we would have to pay the local garage for 2 hours labour. This is because the fixings are partially under the fuel tank and a cover held on by chunky metal bars. We decided that it just wasn’t worth it so we are going to leave that half of the floor as it is and work around the chair rails which might work out well as we are intending to have underfloor heating on that part which needs an underlay matting to go on a level surface. Who knows, it might work out for the best.
We were also wondering how we were actually going to do all this complicated stuff (well it is to us anyway) as neither Glyn or I are naturally skilled in these areas. We don’t have the funds for a full-on, professional conversion, the converter quoted £4,500 for the conversion that we wanted which was a fairly basic one, and we don’t want their standard design anyway. What we want is a little bit quirky and, luckily, we have found a local craftsman who is happy to work on this project with us. Terry is one of those people who can turn his hand to anything and has done boats and holiday lodges before and really enjoys the whole Tiny House concept. So, I’m sure he will have lots of creative solutions to our design challenges as well.
Getting Ready to do the Insulation
At the moment, Glyn and I are at the stage of getting ready to do the insulation which we will do ourselves and then hand the van to Terry to do the lining and first-fix electrics. We have decided to use acoustic foam rolls that have a silver lining on one side and are self-adhesive on the other to make it a bit easier. We will stick these directly to the van metal after cleaning with degreaser (with the silver radiant barrier facing inwards) to reflect the heat back in. It’s interesting that, in the States, they sometimes put the silver radiant barrier facing outwards as they often want to keep the heat out.
We’ll then fill the panels with Dacron (white ‘wool’ made from recycled bottles) that we’ll stick on to the acoustic foam with (high temperature resistant) spray glue. Anyway, that is the theory and, from my research, it seems to be the most effective and easiest way to insulate a van. It’s important that whatever materials you use are not going to soak up or hold moisture and get mouldy or rot and, personally, I prefer to have materials that are reasonably healthy for us and the environment.
So, I’ll let you know how it goes. I realise that for people who have bought a completely empty, clean van this is a stage they won’t have to go through and I can see the joy in that. But having to get around the initial interior obstacles has taught us so much and I do believe that everything happens for a reason so I’m sure it will be worth it in the end.
‘Big Red’ is Worth It
We particularly wanted Big Red as our campervan, despite the challenges, as he has a 2.5 litre engine (unusual for Vivaros) which makes him fun to drive and will be important when he is loaded. He also has a lot of personality so I guess he was just meant to be ours and I think your van soulmate always finds you in the end anyway.