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Shoot. All I needed to go on a 1 month road trip was my bicycle with panniers, 30 pounds of camping gear and a hundred and fifty bucks (US). Equipment research was magazines, local shops and mail order catalogs. Route planning was library books an AAA maps/travel guides. Communication of location and life with my parents was refused payphone call from person with name = current location.

I sometime think about how I got through life before the "benefit" of having the internet. In reality were better off in a LOT of ways.

Overchoice takes place when the advantages of diversity and individualization are canceled by the complexity of buyer's decision-making process - Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, 1971
Wow, I did the same kind of bike ride in 1988. I had only what was on my bike. Travelers checks dude. That’s how long ago it was.
 

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I did a lot of that, filling my garage with tons of components when they came on sale or were hard to get during the Covid shutdown. My worry with doing this was I was going to get a defective part and not be able to return it after a few months, but so far everything has worked as promised. I will admit to ordering one or two duplicate plumbing parts, forgetting that I had already ordered it.
That's actually what we've done with the small house build we're working on. We bought over the last year when we found deals, and I'm tracking every dime we spend (I build Excel-based business intelligence tools for a living, so nerd-level stuff is fun for me anyway :)). Doing this has allowed us to save 32% off retail prices, and pay cash for everything, to date. I didn't realize it at the time, but it also allowed us to stay barely in front of the huge spike in building material prices. I'm thankful for that, especially given that we have 98% of the lumber we need, all cabinetry, all mechanicals, most plumbing fixtures, 90% of our rain water harvesting/water supply components, and all of our furniture. Our house plans have morphed along the way, but the core plan has remained the same, with very little rework/waste. My Excel spreadsheet has absolutely saved me from the duplicate purchasing more than once, as I always double check that before making a spend. I have the same (mild) concern about potential defective parts, but we're rolling the dice on that, and have gone with higher-end products/manufacturers that at least appear to have great quality control.


About lessons we learned: it take a lot more time and money than we initially expected, and it's good to take your time, re-think a lot before doing something and not to be in hurry. And seems this project never completed. We stopped at about 95%-98% or so it's usable for us and make some improvements/fixes time to time...
I'm not sure if we're ever really "finished" with a build. We just reach a point where it is functional for its original intended purpose and then with each trip discover items that perhaps need to be modified, removed or added.
^^^ This is what I realized, as well. I'm a planner by nature (and to a great extent, by trade), and want to do things right the first time. That said, I just pulled the nice LVP floor back out of my van to reconfigure some things (a DECKED system install necessitated that). Half of the floor will be reinstalled between the DECKED system and the cab area, though.

What I thought we wanted early on, based on "pretty pictures/videos" we saw online, was quite a bit different for us once we spent time in the van. I lived out of the van, including working remotely, for a few weeks while prepping for our house build, and will continue to do so once we break ground and I start building, hopefully in a month or two. Spending that much time in the van helped me realize that a full-on "RV-style" van isn't for us. We need something more flexible/adaptable...somewhat of a Transformer...that will also allow us to haul materials when needed. So now, I'm focused on function/adaptability more than the wow-factor from installing pretty stuff that limits our van's flexibility.


Craig
 

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My LESSON LEARNED---KEEP IT SIMPLE
I had a $50K travel trailer that I lived in for 18 months before I got the transit.. I live in a house now, so for me, it was ALL about keeping is SIMPLE.. I paid $33K OTD for my van, maybe $500 in the conversion with the most expensive part being the memory foam.. I LOVE IT.. Nobody suspects I am sleeping in here and I can go anywhere (just like amazon). All my fishing tackle and hunting gear stowed under the bed, and dog box built right in so shes is safe too. (Weapon is not chambered, I'm retired military and carry for YOUR protection, if you don't like, I don't care and I don't need your hate post)
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Discussion Starter · #44 ·
Great responses to this thread and lots of common themes. I think an important one is finding the balance between hitting the road in whatever shape your van is in vs. designing and building a freakin' cool van. Ideally you can do both, but for me anyway, Covid shifted the balance to building, rather than hitting the road. I'm usually on the road 6-8 weeks each summer, but lost last summer as I waited for Ford to build my van. I didn't realize how much I had missed traveling and camping in a van until I took her for a shakedown weekend cruise about ten days ago. I have about one month more of van work before I head for the Left Coast, and then I'm gonna relax and enjoy the experience.

"If you can't be with the one van you love want, love the one van you're with." -- Stephen Stills
 

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It affirms that old saw about how it's not the destination, it's the journey.
 

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2020 High-Extended AWD EcoBoost Cargo with windows
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Paint to match your ceiling. Might not be your final solution. But they will recede into the background when they aren't in such contrast with the ceiling. Use a good primer then your ceiling paint.
Maybe it was yours I saw... been thinking that would be better than leaving them as-is until I do the fabric-wrap. (y)
 

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Shoot. All I needed to go on a 1 month road trip was my bicycle with panniers, 30 pounds of camping gear and a hundred and fifty bucks (US). Equipment research was magazines, local shops and mail order catalogs. Route planning was library books an AAA maps/travel guides. Communication of location and life with my parents was refused payphone call from person with name = current location.

I sometime think about how I got through life before the "benefit" of having the internet. In reality were better off in a LOT of ways.

Overchoice takes place when the advantages of diversity and individualization are canceled by the complexity of buyer's decision-making process - Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, 1971
Exactly ! It took me about a month of the over thinking and planning to realize I'd lived out of a backpack on the Adirondack Trail in the early 70s for weeks eating spam and powdered eggs and an occasional meal of fresh fish was a luxury. Now it's become do the minimum take the propane stove and ice cooler and to me it's still Glamping.
 

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For me, it's not even that it is prototyping. It's you prototype, throw away, prototype v2, realize "Oh, right", then v3 is finally good. Pretty sure a v4 is coming. It's kind of like software development. The first time, you're not really sure what you're even trying to build, so you throw it away, realizing what the actual goal is. Then you build it again, and at the end, you see all the things that really should have been done differently, so you toss it out, and get a final system in place. At least that's how my bed went. Sideways V1, realized that adding 2 inches on either side meant there wasn't enough space in between, v2 where it was 3/4" on both sides, bed fit, but I smacked my head on the top of the bump, v3 lowered the bed, no more smacking, but then realized that East/West was silly, because there was 10" of space between the bump out and the door, so I might as well go north-south, and get storage. I think north-south took one or two iterations as well. The funny thing is, it's not like planning it out before hand would really solve any of this. It's not until you actually screw stuff in, for example, that you realize that the distance from the cross brace to the edge of the van skin isn't consistent as you move the length of the van. On the plus side - it's interesting and fun, and always something new. I also have way more power tools.
 

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Hello all,
So, I went down the road of building a van and along the way the lesson learned is to really think about it and be honest with yourself on planning and do ability. My story like others was to buy a Transit and build. There were at least 3 times I went to a dealer to buy one off the lot or order a 2021. They all ended up with me not getting a van for one reason or other. This gave me time to think about what I want to do and watch videos and read forums about this project. I started to realize that even though I had the skills to do this I just wasn’t going to have the time, as noted it will take longer than planned. I also didn’t really have a place to build it. I live in a condo/townhome and the HOA and neighbors were not going to like it.
So, I looked at builders, all are booked up for at least a year and the price reflected this. With a builder including the van it was looking on average $150-$180k. While contemplating on what I wanted to do I stumbled on the Coachmen RV, it’s based off the Ford Transit, the only one out there right now. The price tag on these were in the $180k area but I’ve seen most RV centers selling them for about $130-$150k, this was a little too much for me. I found one in AZ for $110k and bought it. I bought it in November and used it 5 times since. Now the plan is to modify and tweak it as I want. There are a good number of used ones I’m seeing now for less than $100k. There are cheaper vans that others have started on Vanlifetrader.
Too the discussion point of this thread, the lesson learned for me is really to be honest with yourself. I came to the conclusion that this wasn’t going to be easy and it was going to take a long time. There are builds here that are over a year, I would have eventually got burned out. I’m an aircraft mechanic by trade and I really didn’t want to spend hours after working lots of hours on the van.
 

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Discussion Starter · #51 ·
An interesting perspective @Scott S . Building your own camper van is definitely not for everyone and it's good to have realistic expectations. For me purchasing a van for $100K plus wasn't an option. I'm fortunate that as an educator I have big chunks of time between semesters to do some serious van work. I had most of the tools I needed and the space to work. I'm also the kind of person that needs a project to be happy, so if I wasn't doing this I'd probably be building something else.

I've wondered a couple of times lately how my build might have been different if not for Covid delaying everything for months. I spent that time researching components and learning by reading build threads on this forum. I think it's fair to say that my build has gone a lot smoother with that prep work than it would have if I had been able to get my hands on a van sooner.
 

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It is such a comfort to read this thread. I’ve been so jumpy trying to get things done but hubby and I have been bemoaning the time it takes to design each first-of-a-kind item and then do the runs to HD or wait for deliveries of screws when we can’t find just the right ones, or modifying stuff we can find to make things work. It is so emotionally and physically exhausting because we want to get it mostly done. Did a shake-out trip and now there is stuff to fix what we thought was done. However, it was a fantastic trail and we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Of course still need to get the ceiling in and bathroom and doors to the garage. Have at least 2 more months of work.
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It's kinda like building airplanes. If you are going to build an airplane, you should first build one for practice.
A quote from Vans, an airplane kit supplier: Either you have to build it or you get to build it. I am enjoying the latter.
 
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