Red Van Build, a Simple Camper - Ford Transit USA Forum
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post #1 of 43 (permalink) Old 11-12-2016, 05:11:PM Thread Starter
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Red Van Build, a Simple Camper

I thought I'd start a thread about our conversion. The goal is to have a simple, but well-made interior. Anyway, here it goes

So we bought this big Red Van from a small dealer in Maryland. We got a great deal; it seems that they sell almost all their Transits to tradesmen and non of them wanted a bright red cargo van with windows all around. Who would have guessed? It has limited slip, tow package, sync and a few other things I wanted.

The first step was to get the windows tinted, limo tint on the sides which is 5% I think. The rear windows were done with 35% tint.

Then I spent a week ordering stuff: insulation, roof fan, Plus nuts, plywood, various goops and sealers....

Installing the Maxxair fan was traumatic.
I used one of Hein's spacers as a template and cut this big hole. The trick to getting a smooth cut is to use a super fine jigsaw blade made especially for thin sheetmetal, not a regular metal blade.

I drilled holed holes for the screws, 1/8". Then I glued the spacer down with 3M 4200. I used butyl tape on the fan flange and screwed the sandwich into place. Once the butyl had squeezed out I trimmed off the excess a had lunch. Finally I added a bead of lap sealant. I'll add a little more lap sealant tomorrow. It should take about three hours to do this, but I spent an hour getting rid of a wood chip that attached itself to the 4200, didn't notice until all was screwed down.
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post #2 of 43 (permalink) Old 11-12-2016, 05:42:PM
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It is hard to chop a 14"x14" hole in a brand new van..

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2015 Transit 250---148" MR---3.7 L
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post #3 of 43 (permalink) Old 11-12-2016, 05:47:PM Thread Starter
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The next task was insulation with Thinsulate. We did about 80% over three days after work, maybe 6 hours total. It's pretty straightforward doing the bigger pieces. We simply cut them and stuck them into place with 3M 90 spray adhesive.

We tried shoving strips of insulation into the narrower channels with a flexible stick, but found it was much faster to pull it through. We cut the strip, threaded a length of stiff string into the channel, then pushed the string through a hole in the insulation I'd made with an awl and secured it with an overhand knot. Now we fed and pulled the strip into place. A sharp tug pulled the knot out of the string by tearing the hole. Fast and simple. I still have to do the doors and a few spots where I'll be running wires.

Insulating the floor was pretty easy. We used 1/2" foam cut into strips on a table saw. I ripped the strips while my lovely wife cut them to length and held them in place with bits of masking tape. Once we were satisfied with the fit she stuck them down with Roberts Maxgrip double-stick tape (made for vinyl flooring). It took us 3 or 4 hours for this, including a lunch break.
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post #4 of 43 (permalink) Old 11-12-2016, 06:05:PM Thread Starter
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This afternoon I cut the floor out of 1/2" MDO, which is basically plywood covered with waterproof paper. I love MDO; it's very smooth, cheaper than marine grade plywood and waterproof; I've used it for house siding and painted interior boat panels.

I traced the floor using the floor mat that came with the van and cut it out out with a jig saw and circular saw.

The floor fit like the proverbial glove. Since it was the cocktail hour we called it a day. Tomorrow I'll pull the floor back out and seal the edges, then reinstall it and join the three sections. I'll eventually cover this with vinyl fake-wood planks, but I might as well leave it bare while we build and test fit the cabinets, no point in scratching up the vinyl. It took about 2 hours to cut and fit the floor.

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post #5 of 43 (permalink) Old 11-27-2016, 03:49:PM Thread Starter
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This van building project has already taught me a few things:
1) Planning is the hardest part, particularly so when I change my mind a dozen times about everything.
2) I'm almost always waiting for one last item to arrive.
3) Once I finally have everything, including a firm plan, building is not so hard. But it does take twice as long as I thought it would.

My current project is the galley. It's 48" long 23" deep and 36" high.


That's an 8" deep heavy duty sink. Many years of sailing have taught us that deep sinks are the only way to go. It was the one galley feature my wife insisted on.

The stove is an alcohol fueled (non-pressurized) Origo 3000. It's more expensive than a propane stove, but it's safer and self contained. Plus we can lift it out of the cutout and cook on a picnic table; it's the other one galley feature my wife insisted on. We've cooked with kerosene, propane, and alcohol on our various boats, and these Origo stoves are our favorites. I might inset it deeper into the counter; right now the bottom 2" in inset.

The counter is oak butcher block which will be finished with tung oil. The cabinet is 12mm Baltic birch which may be finished with Watco oil or marine varnish or something else. We have little cutoffs in the kitchen with various finishes being tested. I've never worked with Baltic birch, so if anyone has finishing suggestions please chime in.

We haven't decide on the faucet and pump yet. My wife wants a simple marine foot pump and a spout while I'm thinking of the luxury of pressure water. She points out that our first cruising boat (an old Hallberg Rassy 31) had only a foot pump and we used only about half as much water on that boat. Of course we were cruising in places where filling up was a hassle, not so in a van so I'm not sure that it matters.
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post #6 of 43 (permalink) Old 11-27-2016, 04:02:PM
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Your red van looks great! Mine is a cargo with windows too - this looks very familiar.

I agree with your van building findings - planning takes forever and the actual build takes longer too. Still fun though. I can't wait to see what's next.
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post #7 of 43 (permalink) Old 11-27-2016, 09:04:PM
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Good start.

2016 Transit 250 Medium Roof 148 LWB 3.7L for stealthy RV conversion

Ordered : 21 april 2016
Got VIN from Dealer : 28 april 2016
Got window sticker : 10 june 2016
Etis build date : 20 june 2016
Delivered to dealer : 5 july 2016
Pick up date : 14 july 2016

stealthy RV conversion in progress
i van's build thread :
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post #8 of 43 (permalink) Old 11-27-2016, 10:46:PM
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Originally Posted by ChrisKul View Post
The counter is oak butcher block which will be finished with tung oil. The cabinet is 12mm Baltic birch which may be finished with Watco oil or marine varnish or something else. We have little cutoffs in the kitchen with various finishes being tested. I've never worked with Baltic birch, so if anyone has finishing suggestions please chime in.

We haven't decide on the faucet and pump yet. My wife wants a simple marine foot pump and a spout while I'm thinking of the luxury of pressure water. She points out that our first cruising boat (an old Hallberg Rassy 31) had only a foot pump and we used only about half as much water on that boat. Of course we were cruising in places where filling up was a hassle, not so in a van so I'm not sure that it matters.
Nice build!

I have an Ikea birch countertop. I covered it in 3 coats of Linseed oil, as recommended by Ikea, then took it to high country in very low humidity. It shrunk and split along the glue lines. The shrinkage was about 1/8", front to back, none that I could see side to side. My strips and grain are oriented in the same way yours are. For my second try, I re-glued with high quality wood glue, belt sanded the oil finish off, then coated the countertop completely with clear bar top epoxy. My hope is that the moisture won't be able to move through the thick epoxy. So far, so good, but I haven't been able to repeat the same ultra low humidity test yet. I'll be in the desert soon though.

I have built plenty of indoor cabinets out of Home Depot Birch plywood. The more typical use is to have a nice, smooth surface ready for painting. If you roll paint onto them, they will look very smooth. You can stain them, apply finishing oils, etc., but they will blotch. To the untrained eye, the blotching might not be objectionable. The clear epoxy basically freezes them to look as they do when the epoxy is applied, if you would be interested in that effect.

I mounted a minimalist Ikea faucet and used a small water pump, mounted inside the van walls. I can provide you more details if you are interested.

Last edited by pjtezza; 11-27-2016 at 11:23:PM.
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post #9 of 43 (permalink) Old 11-28-2016, 12:08:AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisKul View Post
This van building project has already taught me a few things:
1) Planning is the hardest part, particularly so when I change my mind a dozen times about everything.
2) I'm almost always waiting for one last item to arrive.
3) Once I finally have everything, including a firm plan, building is not so hard. But it does take twice as long as I thought it would.

My current project is the galley. It's 48" long 23" deep and 36" high.


That's an 8" deep heavy duty sink. Many years of sailing have taught us that deep sinks are the only way to go. It was the one galley feature my wife insisted on.

The stove is an alcohol fueled (non-pressurized) Origo 3000. It's more expensive than a propane stove, but it's safer and self contained. Plus we can lift it out of the cutout and cook on a picnic table; it's the other one galley feature my wife insisted on. We've cooked with kerosene, propane, and alcohol on our various boats, and these Origo stoves are our favorites. I might inset it deeper into the counter; right now the bottom 2" in inset.

The counter is oak butcher block which will be finished with tung oil. The cabinet is 12mm Baltic birch which may be finished with Watco oil or marine varnish or something else. We have little cutoffs in the kitchen with various finishes being tested. I've never worked with Baltic birch, so if anyone has finishing suggestions please chime in.

We haven't decide on the faucet and pump yet. My wife wants a simple marine foot pump and a spout while I'm thinking of the luxury of pressure water. She points out that our first cruising boat (an old Hallberg Rassy 31) had only a foot pump and we used only about half as much water on that boat. Of course we were cruising in places where filling up was a hassle, not so in a van so I'm not sure that it matters.
Looks great!

Do you have a source for that sink?
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post #10 of 43 (permalink) Old 11-28-2016, 07:47:AM Thread Starter
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I hadn't thought about butcher block cracking in low humidity environments (not an issue in humid Maryland). I might route a groove and epoxy in a spline at each end; I've done that on cherry table tops and it seems to stabilize them.

The sink can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Phoenix-Undermount-Stainless-Square-Kitchen/dp/B00Z8AL0ZQ/
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