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Back in a van or Overland van build

34645 Views 126 Replies 37 Participants Last post by  Go Transit Further
Im Back in a VAN after many years. this will be my build thread for my personal van from a guy who has built sprinters and overland trucks professionally. ill explain some

i got the van buzz a long long time ago before "vanlife" and "overland" was ever a thing. my first van was a 66 VW Kombi split window bus i did a full ground up restoration on over a 5 year period. i got a hair up my *** one day and sold it in 20 minutes online before i could even rethink my decision

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Then i got into VW Vanagon Syncros (4X4 VW vans), actually during ther same time i had the split window. I ended up building 6 of them. Basically when i wanted to start redoing something i would just sell it and build another one from scratch. most got converted to subaru power, 2.2l, 2.2l turbo, 2.5l and my favorite one was the big subaru H6 3.3l form the SVX. i never should have sold that van. i even converted one hard top to westfalia poptop, lots of cutting and welding and bodywork.

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anyway, my wife kind of got tired of me always working on these VW's (as anyone who has owned one knows) and i decided to chase after something i always pined after--7.3L diesel ford econoline 4x4!. i found a fairly decent one, had a colorado camper van pop top installed and built out the interior
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long story short, i wasnt in love with it and decided to put a Four Wheel Popup camper on my shop truck and sell the econoline. Talking to the dealer in Colorado (where i lived for 22 years) when i was ordering it, he needed help at the shop. I ended up being shop manager selling and servicing four wheel campers for 4 years part time since i had my own business. we grew the shop from just a four wheel camper shop to a full overland shop setting up all kinds of trucks and offgrid trailers. I've built so many rigs for people to explore the world in.. this included sprinter work. I still have my four wheel camper, on a different truck now, but love it. Transit has some big shoes to fill!

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fast forward, i move to Quebec canada, spend over a year building a house and eventually start working at a local shop building Sprinter vans into campers, kind of elaborate ones--way to elaborate for me. should have seen the electrical system in the last one i built--crazy and crazy $.

all this time im thinking how much i think i would prefer the transit platform, but AWD or Quigley is a must. When the AWD option finally became available i ordered one almost immediately and finally received it yesterday
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my plan is to build an "overland" style camper, everything you need and nothing you dont. definitely some luxuries, but not over the top. I've accumulated quite a bit of supplies while waiting for the van and ready to get started (as soon as my CR Lawrence windows show up)

i own or have owned a shop that is pretty weird (keeps me from being bored) that does automotive upholstery, motorcycle mechanic, metal fabricator, and vintage auto restoration. so this is kind of an experiment for me to test the viability of the Transit and maybe help others. ill try to keep a good log going
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2017, cargo, 130inch, mr, dbl sliders, 3.2 dsl, 3.31 rear end, used 13.5k mi.
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I'm watching you coguzzi; I'm really watching you...
When the new rig becomes passe (some luxuries, but not over the top), please let me know. I pay cash. Kudos to those who can fabricate and are not politicians.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
shop dog approved
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and when i built my house i made sure i had adequate garage door, everyone thought i was crazy....

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
not a whole lot to report since i seem to be missing/waiting for 1 component out of everything i want to get started on. such is life building a van is this weird time.

so ive been doing a lot of measuring and redrawing since i lost 4" from my plan now that i have a real van. stupid driver seat and long legs--ha.
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but its been like Christmas around the last few days, getting to know the delivery guys/gals well (even if i dont speak french well yet).
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and the shelf is getting full. NO, the microwave IS NOT going in the van, its the shop microwave which i havent plugged in yet
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
i so thought i would actually have something to report by now, but with difficulty in getting product and back orders now in this weird time... it is the "get ready for winter" time of the year as well, cutting trees for next years wood etc.

anyway, finally got some time. started fabbing brackets for overhead shelf before i remove the headliner to insulate/sound deaden. seemed like a good idea, but now the Russian birch is sold out locally, so.....
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and i finally got the roof rack installed. i toyed with the idea of buying the tube bender i wanted for ever and making my own rack, but decided i needed to pick my battles on this build and make some progress (might still buy a bender to make a ladder since nothing out there fills my desires). i went with a local company, Remora in Montreal. it went together really well and impressed with quality. so you canadians-check em out. now that i have the basic rack installed i can figure out my solar/maxxair placement and get my solar parts ordered
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
solar and maxx air installed. best thing about cutting a hole in the roof is you can see where you left your beer. just 100 watts of solar for now with room to add on. 100 watt fit perfectly where i wanted the fan to go, and not interfere with the XM antenna. i could run some 160's down the sides buy leaving room for cargo box etc. i did a lot of crazy solar installs for customers over the years and on my personal four wheel camper rig i have a 55 watt panel and am usually full after a couple hours of sun. i find solar to be one of those areas where people go way to crazy, plan your energy use carefully and no need to have a whole roof full of solar
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
started working on my floor, mostly because my knees are tired of dealing with the ribs. there will be some minimal insulation (not 6" thick...) before permanent install but im of the thinking it needs to be able to breath under and probably going to wait to install until i figure out my electrical runs some more (might run a few wires under). so ply runners will be glued down, some insulation in the others, landau foam to prevent some squeaks and offer minimal insulation, ply glued and stapled to runners.
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ps, love my new plunge cut track saw. makes breaking down sheet goods a lot easier if you dont have a full cabinet makers space eating table saw. a lot of my cabinet maker friends have ditched full table saws for them
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
my sister in law suggested i make a time lapse of the process. hmmm--maybe i should. im actually kind of having fun with it, if i remember to turn on the camera.

 

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Thanks for creating this build thread coguzzi! Similar to you, we have a 4x4 E350 which has been a great rig but we aren't in love with it. We also ordered a similar Transit, build date is Nov 30 and I hope to get it in hand before the new year!

Thanks for letting me know about the Remora Roof Rack, always keen to support local businesses. What are you future plans for your roof rack? I like the idea of being able to expand solar capacity, I think a similar setup to yours, 100W panel would be enough for us. We also have a 180W solar suitcase if needed, are you planning on an awning at all? Have you decided on what kind?

Keep up the great work! We will be doing a coast to coast next summer (I'm in Vancouver) and would love to check out your rig if the environment allows.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks for creating this build thread coguzzi! Similar to you, we have a 4x4 E350 which has been a great rig but we aren't in love with it. We also ordered a similar Transit, build date is Nov 30 and I hope to get it in hand before the new year!

Thanks for letting me know about the Remora Roof Rack, always keen to support local businesses. What are you future plans for your roof rack? I like the idea of being able to expand solar capacity, I think a similar setup to yours, 100W panel would be enough for us. We also have a 180W solar suitcase if needed, are you planning on an awning at all? Have you decided on what kind?

Keep up the great work! We will be doing a coast to coast next summer (I'm in Vancouver) and would love to check out your rig if the environment allows.
thanks for the kind words

I plan to put a box on the roof for inflatable kayak and paddle boards, already have it. also may put a basket up there, that i already have as well. but kind of thinking a deck of some form. rear door ladder and MAYBE tire carrier if i have to (prefer not, but--am putting a lift after all). since i dont need that right now see what comes to market or develop my own. i will still have room for more solar if i need to, but plan to run an exterior portable plug next to my shore power inlet for portable suitcase.

i do plan on an awning. i used to be a fiamma dealer at FWC and like the f45's, but harder to get up here so may try the Thule which looks like a decent copy actually. just trying to spread out my spending and its low priority.

for sure let me know when you head this way
 

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thanks for the kind words

I plan to put a box on the roof for inflatable kayak and paddle boards, already have it. also may put a basket up there, that i already have as well. but kind of thinking a deck of some form. rear door ladder and MAYBE tire carrier if i have to (prefer not, but--am putting a lift after all). since i dont need that right now see what comes to market or develop my own. i will still have room for more solar if i need to, but plan to run an exterior portable plug next to my shore power inlet for portable suitcase.

i do plan on an awning. i used to be a fiamma dealer at FWC and like the f45's, but harder to get up here so may try the Thule which looks like a decent copy actually. just trying to spread out my spending and its low priority.

for sure let me know when you head this way
I had not considered using the roof rack as additional storage for gear, I do have an existing Yakima Skybox 18 which I could throw up there but then I would need a ladder to access it. Not sure if we need the extra cargo room yet but we are looking to get an inflatable kayak as well. I believe a tire carrier (and maybe the ladder as well?) will likely negate the ability to fully swing the doors back to secure on the magnets but my E350 doesn't have that feature so not sure how much I will use/miss that feature. Also planning on a lift, I believe the biggest obstacle based on my travel style with the Transit will be ground clearance, I am a firm believer in always having a full size spare but I have not decided on what tire to use yet or where it would be stored (original spot with maybe some mods or a rear tire carrier.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
figured i should post a design sketch. been through a couple revisions and bet it has some more. my darn windows are holding me up, still only have 1 of 4. i like to do all the metal cutting BEFORE i insulate or any finish work. still finding plenty to do--like spending $ on supplies. am taking the time to make some of the interior panels, mostly to help me visualize the finish before i install the 1 window i have (behind driver)
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
quick write up on this since ive seen it discussed some on the FB pages. re routing the factory wiring harness. Ford put it in a very non-ideal location. i can deal with the driver side, but do wish they ran it up high. not easily possible to pass it in the wall, have to cut through some frame members. anyway, my wall plan i can easily work around it.

BUT, how they ran it over the rear door and then down in the wall was not friendly
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first rule of thumb when working on electrical stuff--disconnect the battery
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then it was "maybe" 8 plugs to disconnect on my van, no wire cutting for me and probably would not. 1 plug is tail light, must be removed--easy. 6 other plugs were easy, but 1 wire ran way down deep into the rear wall cavity. only way i could access it was to remove bumper corner, magnet cover, rear side trim, wheel arch trim and finally the "pressure relief flaps". bingo--got it. no idea what this thing even is--sensor maybe? exit wire goes no where

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end result--cleaner sheet metal to finish better

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i have some edge protecting grommet on its way, so final install isnt 100% yet
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I'll be using a Redarc Manager 30 for my battery management needs, and it calls for 50A fuse/breaker at the main battery side. obviously the best place to hook up is CCP1 which is factory 60 amp fused, so i added a 50 amp in line. i normally prefer breakers, but the ANL fuse is slightly smaller and terminals are more protected since its "exposed" anyway, made a small bracket to mount it.
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been wrapping my head around my wall panels and have them mostly fabbed now. didnt want to do my window install until i was definite on finish here (let alone i was missing 3 of my 4 windows due to backorder).
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once i was sold on it and my 2nd window showed up, i decided it was time. got slider door and behind driver done. still waiting for my bunk windows.
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anyway--it was so nice in Quebec i had to pull one of the bikes out that i already had winterized and go for a ride. be a while til i can take some powder days i think--sigh--i miss CO mountains
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