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cycle61's Adventure Van build

21238 Views 255 Replies 34 Participants Last post by  cycle61
Yesterday, after a couple years of looking, hoping, planning, and dreaming, my wife and I bought an van to convert to a four season camper. Our platform of choice is a Ford Transit AWD, 148" HR. The one we purchased was used, private party, but had less than a thousand miles on the clock. Previous owner already installed flares in the sides, a roof rack, tires, and some sound deadening. Other than that, it's a blank slate for us to start building.

I'm an electrical engineer by trade, grew up helping my dad build wooden boats, and generally enjoy all the pending aspects of a massive project like this. Wife and I are skiers, backpackers, runners, mountaineers, paddleboarders, and we both love long road trips and probably walks on the beach.

Planning on a build that's 4-season capable, able to support all of our various hobbies and travels, comfortable for longer trips, self-sufficient, durable, and reliable.

That said...Meet Denali.

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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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Re-cycle61 new adv van= great new blank slate as you say! Will look forward to future posts as you guys design and build. Oh, the places you will go......giddyup!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks! Incredibly excited about it. We're going camping this weekend, mostly to get our dog away from any chance of fireworks, and CycleWife has been busy getting things ready for the maiden voyage.

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Just ordered four windows and accoutrement from Van Windows Direct...hopefully be able to start cutting holes in the van next week.

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Congrats on your new adventure! Hey, I installed three glue in windows from VWD over Father's Day weekend and had ordered fresh primer as you have. I'd say its about a 50:50 chance the VWD primer is dry. (See other recent threads about dry primer here) Mine was less than two weeks old and it was like a rubber eraser (unusable). VWD was great and the following Monday they refunded my money for the primer but it left me on Sat with four large holes in the van in a place where I couldn't just leave it like that. Luckily I found a local glass shop open on Father's Day Sunday that sold me a 4 oz. bottle of primer so we could finish the job. Long story short, use that primer that they rebottle as soon as possible, check that its liquid before you start cutting and/or (my recommendation) buy the primer in the metal bottle. It lasts a lot longer & has a plastic stopper that works. VWD has the unopened primer in it's original metal bottle and they sell tubes of urethane. You don't have to get that little kit they show. Amazon has the Sika Urethane also for a good price. Primer always seems back ordered. Call VWD after the holiday, they are really flexible and if it hasn't shipped they may alter your order if you choose to do so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the heads up! I definitely wouldn't have checked that before firing up the jigsaw.

Previous owner gave us quite a nice collection of goodies as a package deal with the van. One unexpected one was a passenger side Scopema seat swivel. Internet said allow an hour for installation. I'd call it an easy one-beer job. Four bolts out, one electrical connector, seat comes out, swivel goes in, thread and torque, and done!

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Very impressed overall, and will be ordering one for the drivers side after the weekend.
 

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Nice find! And you sound prepared to do the conversion (and like you will enjoy it as well - bonus!).

Yours is the first van I've seen that has the "Center Console with Right Side Shifter" (option 67F) (I've only seen it in the Order Guide otherwise). Sure makes it roomy up in the cab (y)
 

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Yesterday, after a couple years of looking, hoping, planning, and dreaming, my wife and I bought an van to convert to a four season camper. Our platform of choice is a Ford Transit AWD, 148" HR. The one we purchased was used, private party, but had less than a thousand miles on the clock. Previous owner already installed flares in the sides, a roof rack, tires, and some sound deadening. Other than that, it's a blank slate for us to start building.

I'm an electrical engineer by trade, grew up helping my dad build wooden boats, and generally enjoy all the pending aspects of a massive project like this. Wife and I are skiers, backpackers, runners, mountaineers, paddleboarders, and we both love long road trips and probably walks on the beach.

Planning on a build that's 4-season capable, able to support all of our various hobbies and travels, comfortable for longer trips, self-sufficient, durable, and reliable.

That said...Meet Denali.

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That is a great find! Looks just like we ordered. We are in Bend. Look forward to the build. Might as well live vicariously through others until we get our own!:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
That is a great find! Looks just like we ordered. We are in Bend. Look forward to the build. Might as well live vicariously through others until we get our own!:)
Would be happy to meet up and compare notes and ideas if you're interested! We're in Redmond.

Other downside of this shifter/console configuration is I don't have a spot to install the available factory upfitter switches. Will probably end up using one of the aftermarket solid state switch panels in the overhead console somewhere.

We're spending the holiday weekend camping in the van. Our dog hates fireworks so we decided to get out of town. Basically grabbed all the junk we normally pile into the Subaru and set it up in here. It's working well so far.

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Other downside of this shifter/console configuration is I don't have a spot to install the available factory upfitter switches. Will probably end up using one of the aftermarket solid state switch panels in the overhead console somewhere.
I'll be interested to see what you come up with for this. Even though I would have the large console (because Trailer Brake Controller forces it), I don't like how the upfitter switches stick out from the front of it. I don't have a van to experiment on at the moment, but I have wondered if they could be relocated from the console to somewhere up above (then there is a cubby that fits that "hole" in the console for those that have it).
 

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Other downside of this shifter/console configuration is I don't have a spot to install the available factory upfitter switches. Will probably end up using one of the aftermarket solid state switch panels in the overhead console somewhere.
What will you be connecting to the upfitter switches? We have them but don't use them as I use the leisure batteries for all of the accessories we added. Would be nice for extra driving lights.
 

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Looks like you’re going to have fun and a lot of work finishing the conversion. Everything looks great so far.
Wish I had ordered the right side shifter. My size 14s are a tight fit getting to and from the rear. 😬
I looked at the upfitter switches before ordering and I’m glad I didn’t get them. I agree with Timetogo since everything behind the front seats in my van is/are connected to the house batteries. I probably would have hit the switches every time with my aforementioned size 14s.
Simon at VanMadeGear enlightened me about remote switches. I use two Directed Electronics 611T Timed/Latched Relays to control my two lighting circuits. The latching relays allow me turn on/off either circuit from several locations: slider and rear door, chest high on both driver and passenger side and the overhead console above the windshield. I can’t tell you how many times with previous rigs I’ve driven off forgetting to turn off the lights. 😖 It sure is nice to turn the lights on from either door, too. No need to climb inside to turn on the lights. Might be worth your time to investigate.
MaxxAir remote takes care of my other forgetful problem.
Good luck with your build.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Simon at VanMadeGear enlightened me about remote switches. I use two Directed Electronics 611T Timed/Latched Relays to control my two lighting circuits. The latching relays allow me turn on/off either circuit from several locations: slider and rear door, chest high on both driver and passenger side and the overhead console above the windshield. I can’t tell you how many times with previous rigs I’ve driven off forgetting to turn off the lights. 😖 It sure is nice to turn the lights on from either door, too. No need to climb inside to turn on the lights.
I'll take a look at those, thanks!

What will you be connecting to the upfitter switches? We have them but don't use them as I use the leisure batteries for all of the accessories we added. Would be nice for extra driving lights.
Probably some exterior driving/offroad lights, onboard air compressor, and ??? As mentioned, most of the other stuff is going to be powered by the leisure batteries.
 

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Congrats! Fun road ahead for y'all.

I know you just ordered your windows but since you plan to use the van in winter, I'd seriously consider skipping the rear door windows at least. Most people with a lot of windows have the covers in a lot of the time, because pretty often the temperature outside is not what you want transmitted into your van, or there's sun making it hot, or snow making it cold, or it's night and you don't want to be in a fishbowl for lookey-loos.

Have you planned your layout yet?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I'm probably going to install the side windows when they arrive, and plead time constraints for the rear door windows. See how we like it for a few trips. We have a layout pretty firmly in mind, standard E-W bed in the back, kitchenette on the passenger side extending into the slider door, wet bath on the drivers side, and a bench seat behind drivers' seat. Both front seats to swivel, some kind of lagun or similar table mounted on the B-pillar, and about a million other details to consider.

So this weekend's adventure went better than could have been hoped. Put a couple hundred miles on the van, poked around some forest roads we've driven in our lifted Outback, and discovered the AWD system works really **** well.

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No pics of the crawly bits since the wife was driving, I was a little nervous, and video never does them justice anyway. Here's a mud hole instead.

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We did discover, while making a 3-point turn back up onto an embankment, that large rocks are prone to finding squishy undercarriage components. Fortunately it was the muffler and not the fuel tank.

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Today after work I removed everything from the van and went up to get a "before" weight ticket. 1/2 tank of fuel and absolutely everything else removed. The factory cargo mat is thin rubber with felt backing, and it was already getting damp and manky. Out you go. Van hit the scale at 5,660#. Our max GVW is 9,070# so that gives us a pretty generous capacity to build this thing properly.

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McMaster delivered an order of M6 Rivnuts (couldn't bring myself to use the Amazon ones this time around) and a box of 10mm drill bits to enlarge the factory 9mm holes to fit them properly. Stoked to see their house brand drill bits are Viking!

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Made sure my Amazon rivnut tool could properly compress these, and set to work putting in the first couple rows to support the bed platform.

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Drill to 10mm, dab of primer to prevent future rust, and the rivnuts popped right in!

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Looks like your four-season mini home is receiving a proper introduction. I am a firm believer that a warm van is a cozy van in cold weather and vice versa. Will be especially interested to see how you flesh-out the thermal envelope for four season comfort. Keep it going!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Insulation is definitely going to a big part of the design, and I know that it conflicts somewhat with the "lots of natural light" requirement. Planning Havelock wool in the walls, ceiling, and cavities. The floor is going to be a VanTred cargo mat base layer, followed by 1.5" Zip System sheathing. This is a thicker version of the same stuff AVCRig uses for their floor kits, and has an R 6.6 rating.

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We have one maxxfan currently, to be installed in the rear bay. Still researching AC options. We're planning on a substantial 24v electrical system, and although Dometic's RTX2000 isn't available in a 24v version in the US (yet) we're also considering a split system from Undermount 12V Split System Air Conditioner for RV's

Van came with a Propex heater (not yet installed) so that will go in fairly soon. We'd like to have a Webasto/Espar fed from the fuel tank eventually. Either replacing the propex or using it as a backup instead.

Hot water is still TBD. Probably on-demand fueled by propane, but a hydronic system isn't off the table yet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Spent some time last week working on the first bit of installed furniture, if you will. We planned an East-West bed platform as part of our permanent configuration, and getting the bed off the floor immediately gets us back about 30 square feet of space.

Starting off with a couple sheets of 1/2" ply from the local big box store. The final build will be done with Baltic birch, this is long term temporary stuff.

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Got it all broken down and rough cut, and commenced adding lightness. I'd love to have a 5x10' CNC router like my buddy up in Eastern Washington, but this will do for now.

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Pieces all made up and dry fit. I'm used to building with 3/4" material for house cabinets, so this feels incredibly delicate until it all comes together.

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Flat surface disease immediately kicks in.

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And done (ish). Added a bit too much lightness, the structure felt rather flexible when I sat in the center, so added a set of legs underneath to support things for now. Picking up a mattress this evening and will be spending most of the week camping in the van while on the road for a work trip.

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Also rolled out our new floor, a VanTred cargo mat. The Ford OEM floor is a thin plastic/rubber sheet with felt backing, and it was already getting manky. This is more an open cell foam material with a fairly durable top layer, and it fit perfectly once we let it unroll in the heat for a day.

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Finally, pulled the drivers' seat and installed the other swivel. This one was a bit more involved than the passenger seat, due to the dual batteries that live underneath it. There's a plastic cover that needed a new hole to pass the seat electrical connections through, and a battery retaining bracket that gets deleted, since the swivel base is flat and will hold down the battery cover quite nicely on it's own.

Under the seat pedestal. There's a lot going on in here, and dropping a steel plate across 1300 CCA of batteries would make for a very bad day. The box at the rear of the enclosure holds the fuses for the customer connection points, and the pre-wired auxiliary circuit plugs. The two studs at the lower left are the Customer Connection Points (CCP from now on) 1 and 2. CCP1 is fused for 60 amps, CCP2 is fused for 175 amps, and the van monitors load on those circuits as well as battery voltage. They stay hot anywhere from 30-60 minutes after shutting off the van, and are protected from drawing down the AGM's below a safe restart voltage. I'll be connecting most of the van-powered auxiliaries to these points. CCP2 will be dedicated to a 1200w inverter that will eventually be my "generator" input to the real electrical system, and CCP1 will power everything else. Air compressor, exterior lights, any other 12v loads I want powered only while the van is running.

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Had to trim the back of the slide rails a bit to clear the door plastic when it swivels, discovered after scratching it pretty good on the first rotation.

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And done. Now there are two good seats in the living room!

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