My camper build pending, and shifting gears...

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  • dbhost
    Slow and steady
    • Apr 2008
    • 9267
    • League City, Texas
    • Ryobi BT3100

    My camper build pending, and shifting gears...

    So due to my health challenges, my needs are changing. I literally need a vehicle with an easy to access bathroom (UC / IBD in full flare up is no fun let me tell you!). So I may kill 2 birds with one stone...

    I am looking for a raised roof full size van, in good shape, and for not an obscene amount of money, the latter is the hard part of course...

    My idea here is to try to find a hi top luxury conversion van, and basically gut the interior behind the drivers / passengers seats. Including the sidewalls as conversion van sidewalls usually bulge out into the passenger compartment and house things like stowage cubbies and cup holders that I do not need and that extra 4 to 6" of depth is actually meaningful...

    Will likely re-skin the interior with some pine bead board, if I recall that stuff is 1/4 or 3/8" so not awful, the big issue is going to be rounding the corners. If I end up with a Ford or older Chevy / GMC van, I can simply terminate the bead board right at the corner where the reinforcement sheet metal makes a turn, probably upholster the corners and call it good...
    A raised bed platform, tall enough to clear and conceal a 5 gallon port o pot, and under bed storage, the bed being a cut down length wise twin lateral across the back. I am fine sleeping diagonal on a twin so no worries there...
    And then a cabinet on the drivers side, to house the 12V fridge, 12V battery bank and charging system (Lifepo4, no worries about offgassing), and, well kitchen stuff...
    I am working on the dimensions I will need, but most of the cooking will be done outside, so whateer I go with, I will need to stow a 2 burner Coleman stove and fuel...

    Compared to the truck bed camper I was working on, this should be simply enormous, and give me privacy should I need to pull to the shoulder of the road for an emergency.

    My biggest concern is no 4wd. It is easy enough to slap a limited slip differential in, especially a Ford 8.8, or GM 10 bolt rear end, but I do a LOT of beach camping and will likely ramp that up in the coming seasons. A 4wd system would be best. However 4wd vans tend to be extremely expensive...

    Now for the fun part. Matching the wood finish to the trimmed out interiors these things come with. I will likely be asking you fine folks for assistance in figuring this out. I know there are wooden bezels on most conversion van roof lights, TV surrounds etc... and I will probably want to match the woodwork to that... So yay fun.

    Anyway, no van in hand yet, and who knows, maybe I will find one already completed... Wouldn't count on it though.
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  • capncarl
    Veteran Member
    • Jan 2007
    • 3578
    • Leesburg Georgia USA
    • SawStop CTS

    #2
    Saw this picture of a custom van rest room and thought it was a good use of space, and made sense by not trying to incorporate a rest room appliance in a living and dining area. I also like that it can easily be deep cleaned, especially without having to deal with soiled carpet and fabrics. It also looks like the room could be used as a shower?
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    • dbhost

      dbhost
      commented
      Editing a comment
      Very nice, but also pretty cramped. One thing of note. I do fully intend to take every stitch of carpet out of the back / living area of my van and replace it with pet friendly laminate flooring. Sportsmobile fitted this thing with a false floor to flatten it so just dropping laminate in place of the carpet, once the cabinets are temporarily removed should be a non issue. This camper no longer has a sink and I don't think it ever had a fresh water tank either. I need to figure out how to get those back into it. I have some ideas that will be coming shortly. First things first, get it in here and get the mechanicals fully sorted out. There is a 1999 Extended length E350 Sportsmobile that is in my price range, but it has been sitting for 10 years, meaning pretty much everything would need to be disassembled and every seal replaced, new radiator, heater core, etc... It was more of a project than I wanted, but it has a bathroom compartment at the back like what you show here. Except no sink... It does however have a shower... I guess you wash your hands with the shower head?
      Last edited by dbhost; 08-29-2023, 04:57 PM.
  • dbhost
    Slow and steady
    • Apr 2008
    • 9267
    • League City, Texas
    • Ryobi BT3100

    #3
    Okay unless the deal falls through, I have found the van, and know what needs to be done. It is already a camper van, Sportsmobile conversion to be specific, but there is some wear in the conversion. The flip up table that is usable by the rotated passenger seat has stripped out the screw holes for the brackets. It is just a melamine panel so out it goes and will replace it with a duplicate made from plywood, and yes I will keep the factory T molding and at least TRY to match the early 90s stain of the majority of the interior.

    There is also no night stand at the main bed, which is a problem for me being a CPAP user. I need to design, build, and install a bracket that will hold the CPAP and not allow it to slip, fall, and brain me at 2 A.M.

    The van itself is pretty old, 1993 to be specific, but is relatively low miles at under 100K, and has the Ford 4.9L fuel injected inline six. Or in SAE terms, 300 striaght six. Notoriously more reliable than anything else Ford has ever produced. There is an issue with the ABS the seller is getting taken care of though. Once that is done, we can close the deal and move forward with this...
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    • dbhost
      Slow and steady
      • Apr 2008
      • 9267
      • League City, Texas
      • Ryobi BT3100

      #4
      So CPAP shelf... I think I have it figured out. Basic lidless box, and cut out the one side where the hose and power cable run through. Roundover every single edge so I don't damage myself if I somehow manage to ram my head into it, and bond it to the wll using of all things, command adhesive strips. The whole CPAP doesn't weigh but 3 pounds for everything, unit, power brick, mask and hose. Cable is long enough the power brick will just be able to sit on top of the cabinet where the 12v outlet is anyway...

      The big issue is going to be matching the stain, again this is early 90s, so think maybe Minwax Early American (I have some) I will probably do some samples with the intended type of wood, and stains and see what happens.

      I do want to remove the replacement fridge that is in this van and use the one I have, but it doesn't fit in the space. It SHOULD fit in the space where the sink should be though. I may do a little minor cabinet surgery and see if I can get my 12V fridge in here, and move the sink location...

      My goal this year, as it was last, was to have it ready to go, as well as me ready to go, to be able to not be here for Thanksgiving. I need to make some reservations, but I think I just want to take the time around Thanksgiving and drag the dog with me and go fishing...
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      • capncarl
        capncarl commented
        Editing a comment
        I really like the ford 300 6, but it was an absolutely gas thirsty beast. Both ours were in F150s not vans though, first was a carb engine and the second was the fuel injected model, I believe it was a throttle body, but anyway we hoped for better mileage. I think I got .5 mpg better. It was later replaced by a f150 with a 302 v8 that got somewhat better mileage. Regardless to the fuel mileage it is still a great engine. I like in-line 6s, my houseboat had a pair of 165 GM gas engines. (250 ci 3.7l) all of these inline 6s are great engines. It’s a shame they have been replace with turbocharged 4s and v6s with overhead cams driven by bicycle chain, water pumps located in the chain box and timing phasers…. and a sorry reputation for reliability. But they do get noticeable fuel economy compared to the old engines.
    • dbhost
      Slow and steady
      • Apr 2008
      • 9267
      • League City, Texas
      • Ryobi BT3100

      #5
      My last exposure to the 300 straight 6 was a work van when I was in college. Kind of the same van, and E250 with an automatic, just no camper conversion. Loaded, unloaded it didn't care. A steady 17mpg pretty much everywhere we pointed it... The worst I have heard about with these is around 13mpg, which is still okay enough ish... Yes more modern engines get better mileage and produce a LOT more power, but are so fragile that they break if you look at them wrong... Oddly enough the simultaneously best, and worst engine I ever had was an AMC 258 CID (4.2L) inline six in an old Jeep, great engine, but the factory fitted Carter 2bbl carburetor was absolute garbage.I never could get it running right until I swapped in a Weber 2bbl... An expensive upgrade for a Carburetor for sure!
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      • capncarl
        capncarl commented
        Editing a comment
        I forgot about the AMC 258, another great engine. Too bad the plumbing wasn’t worth a crap. We had a beautiful burnt orange Hornet Sportabout that I picked up cheap with only 80k miles, probably was 180k and possibly 280k. 150 k later it lost power, I pulled the head and found the intake manifold completely clogged with crunchy carbon? Replaced the manifold and it ran until Obama’s cash for clunkers took it out.
    • dbhost
      Slow and steady
      • Apr 2008
      • 9267
      • League City, Texas
      • Ryobi BT3100

      #6
      capncarl. I had a 76 Hornet Sportabout (Wagon) with the inline six. I believe there were 2 different sizes used. The 232, that my Hornet had, and the bigger 258 that my Jeep had. If I recall correctly the only difference between the two was the 258 was basically a bored out 233. That Hornet lasted all the way until my Mom decided she wanted a Volvo, and then the guy that we sold it to ran it, yep up unti Cash for Clunkers. How do I know? The guy we sold it to was one of my high school friends. Super high mileage car. What shocked me the most is how well that Torque Command automatic (rebadged Chrysler TorqueFlight) just kept doing its thing...
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      • dbhost
        Slow and steady
        • Apr 2008
        • 9267
        • League City, Texas
        • Ryobi BT3100

        #7
        So the counter top for the "Kitchen cabinet" where the sink is supposed to be at some point was swapped out for, well it looks like a solid pine piece, the flip up counter extension that is Melamine / MDF has the screw holes blown out of it. I am SERIOUSLY considering getting a low $$ maple butcher block counter top, and cutting it to size for each piece, cutting CAREFULLY out a sink hole for an undermount sink, such that the slug that comes out of the undermount sink hole can be used as a cover / cutting board / counter top extension when the sink isn't being used... The sad thing about this, and most but not all factory built RVs is they used MDF extensively. It has held up very well, but I will admit, given enough time. I am tempted to pull it apart, use the OE cabinets as templates and redo it properly, possibly doing a combination of Maple and Cedar so I can keep the weight down...
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        • d_meister
          Established Member
          • Feb 2009
          • 209
          • La Conner, WA.
          • BT3000

          #8
          I had to cut out section for a TV lift in a very nicely finished teak countertop on a yacht. It was going to be re-used as the fill for when the TV was in the recessed position, so couldn't be damaged or become glaringly obvious. I ended up covering the entire work surface with 2" 3M Blue tape and hot-gluing guides to the surface and incrementally cutting with a small router and small bit. The small router was necessary due to the proximity of an adjacent bulkhead. It was then possible to edge trim both the take-out piece and the hole edge with the minimal amount of material. In your application, an angled router base like the Bosch Colt base in the kit would make it interesting, since you can "grow" the slug with maple.. Angling just the length dimension would work to enable refitting the slug/cutting board for storage or even use. A triangular finger hole large enough to slide cut off bits into the sink near the corner would be useful, too. A fun project!

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          • capncarl
            Veteran Member
            • Jan 2007
            • 3578
            • Leesburg Georgia USA
            • SawStop CTS

            #9
            Dave, enjoy your retirement and quit wasting your time worrying about re purposing every little scrap of wood. Get on building the camper van and enjoy every minute using it!

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            • dbhost

              dbhost
              commented
              Editing a comment
              LOL, retirement for me is about 10 years off still... Not worried about repurposing everything. Wanting to camp this thing before I disembowel the interior and redo it. I like the floor plan and cabinet designs, but want to rebuild them in better and lighter materials as like many RV MFGs Sportsmobile used MDF / Melamine extensively in the construction. I only want to use it, then use it as a template to redo it... I figure utilizing Birch ply, and maple / cedar for drawers and doors should be durable, attractive and much lighter than sawdust and TONS of glue.... I mean MDF. I should mention, I am not planning on pulling the interior cabinetry from the van, until the truck is done. I still have the camper shell interior that I can slap in it, and camp the truck while I am reworking the van. However that MUST wait until the ulcerative colitis is in remission. I am getting closer for sure...
              Last edited by dbhost; 09-09-2023, 10:23 AM.
          • dbhost
            Slow and steady
            • Apr 2008
            • 9267
            • League City, Texas
            • Ryobi BT3100

            #10
            I have the 12v upgrades done to Lifepo4 with alternator and solar charging, and am moving on to exending 12v services. I need to provide a control panel for my inverter, battery monitor and furnace / heater controller / thermostat which is surface mount. Plus a couple of control switches, 12V power ports and USB charing ports. I do not want to consume space INSIDE my already way too limited closet, so I am repurposing a magazine rack next to the bed, which is frighteningly shallow, to accomodate that I am making, well... spacers for the purpose. Starting with a spacer for the usb charging ports.

            I still need to drill the pilot holes for the mounting screws, and wiipe it down with some Minwax American Walnut to come at least close-ish to the factory interior faux wood grain color. . No it isn't super fancy, this is literally a cut off via hand saw not being super careful from a disassembled pallet. It was meant to be effective, and go with a rustic appearance, which is why I picked cast off lumber in the first place...

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            • LCHIEN
              Internet Fact Checker
              • Dec 2002
              • 21149
              • Katy, TX, USA.
              • BT3000 vintage 1999

              #11

              A router bit - FLush trim, top (bottom) bearing, can make that look much nicer, if you want to. Won't take long an a router table if you have one with a router permanently set up.
              if table mounted it would be called a top bearing.

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              On second look, it migth be a pain​ there's no surface front or back that can lie flush on the table. Never mind. You'd have to make a cradle for those protrusions.
              Last edited by LCHIEN; 11-20-2023, 05:45 PM.
              Loring in Katy, TX USA
              If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
              BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions

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              • dbhost
                Slow and steady
                • Apr 2008
                • 9267
                • League City, Texas
                • Ryobi BT3100

                #12
                LOL, you came up with the same thought, and conclusion I had for the cosmetics of it. There really isn't anywhere good to let the router bit ride... if there was, this would be quite different... And the parts are small enough routing them would be a safety concern.
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                • dbhost
                  Slow and steady
                  • Apr 2008
                  • 9267
                  • League City, Texas
                  • Ryobi BT3100

                  #13
                  Hmmm. Obviously remove the sockets. glue the plate to a workpiece, add some dowels to guide the workpiece to where the holes will end up, but long enough to keep fingers safe. route the outside edges. Drill the holes big enough to get the router bit through, and trim out the holes. But how to control the workpiece keeping fingers away from router bit?
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                  • twistsol
                    Veteran Member
                    • Dec 2002
                    • 2913
                    • Cottage Grove, MN, USA.
                    • Ridgid R4512, 2x ShopSmith Mark V 520, 1951 Shopsmith 10ER

                    #14
                    Rockler has a solution for that:

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                    and if you don't want to spend a bunch of money for no reason, I just us an "F" clamp. I usually need to do half of it at a time and move the clamp, but it's better than being called stumpy.
                    Chr's
                    __________
                    An ethical man knows the right thing to do.
                    A moral man does it.

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                    • dbhost

                      dbhost
                      commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Hmmm. F clamp might just do the trick.... Trying to avoid Rockler. I hear the money vacuum turn on every time I get near there....
                  • dbhost
                    Slow and steady
                    • Apr 2008
                    • 9267
                    • League City, Texas
                    • Ryobi BT3100

                    #15
                    So on the electrical panel. I do NOT want to intrude into the closet space as that will likely cause problems with adjusting shelves etc... so I am going on the outside and using the space used by a magazine rack, I don't know about back in 93 when the van was new, but in 2023 I do not carry magazines to read when camping... I have laid everything out, looked at the spacer idea and gagged, came up with a new plan. Just use the space and build a new control box. Still using cutoffs from the pallet wood just to say I put it to use, and I need to source up some 1/4" hardwood plywood in fairly small quantity. Like 12" x 24". That is going to be a tough call. I Probably smallest I can do is 24" x 48"... Just have to put up with extra...

                    Simple design idea. Just make a quick U shaped frame, bottom doesn't have to be enclosed. Glue and dowels for fastening simple butt joints. Face will be 1/4" ply, glued and pinned far enough away from the edge and roundeover bit has zero chance of colliding with a pin, and then 1/8" roundover OR chamfer 1/8", whatever it takes to not have a pointy edge to mash my dome into... Make my cutouts / holes for the various items, wipe down with some sanding sealer, then American Walnut stain, and finally a quick poly coat to protect it before the goodies get installed, and the panel gets installed to the wall... And a cord duct covers the wiring...
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