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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Welcome to my third attempt at this compendium of unrelated euphamisms and superlatives. Here goes again:

They say to start with the end. So, let's go!

After 2.5 years, here's where ended up:

Travel/Chill mode
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Storage, some electricals, and portapooper location:
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Closer view showing battery, B2B (under blue tape I forgot to take off for the pic) and storage, including wet/dirty clothes storage on the left:
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Bunk bed mode:
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Really big storage drawer (5' deep, 500lb rating) and access to the fridge:
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A close up of the step showing the junkyard kids seat mount:
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Some pics of the finish details:
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Factory slider door trim kit:
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And the bed:
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
The garage:
Dual slide outs 500lbs rating each:
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They are both 5' deep and slide out fully. Fridge mounts to driver's side, tool box to passenger. Pile a metric **** ton of other crap in there and you have yourself a trip:
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Gotta figure out something to do with the rear doors. Figure I'll tackle that in 2022.
Back-end of the giant drawer opens so you can load it from both sides:
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All kinds of **** back here. Air system, backside of the solar, converter, air regulator for the air powered shower. And yes, @njvagabond, a lot of shoddy craftsmanship. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
What we're gonna do right here is go back, way back, back into time. Back to Aug 2018. The fam and I were headed from Downeast Maine south and had reserved a couple nights on Sequin Island (100% recommend). As we were driving south in our trip modified Mazda 5, I got the urge to do something irresponsible. Take this little converted Mazda 5 and go big. Go yuge. A wild hair was creeping across my ass as we drove. By the time the ferry ride ended on Sequin, the hair was in place. So, we started looking for a Transit. I played around with layouts on paper (no internet on that island) eyeballing super rough dimensions and decided I wanted a 148, ext, HR. As soon as we hit land, the search was on!

Not one to let the moss grow, I found our van relatively nearby in Charlotte a week later. I settled on a price via email and drive up a week after we got home. Brought home this big ass, doofy, tiny wheeled, blank slate. Holy shite was I pumped!
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Here I am trying to stam it into our tiny driveway. Little did I know that for the next 2.5 years, I'd be in that driveway, sweating, freezing, and swearing my way over the pass of excess enthusiasm, through the valley of despair - twice - and eventually into the verdant land of the stability and sanity. Join me as I recount that journey.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
So, what was first? Well, lots of staring at it like this squirrel:
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Trying to visualize how I could use this utterly colossal space to best fit our family. I mean I had SO much room for groceries now...
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I had a few ideas, but I think and plan best by doing, so wanted to get the ball rolling. I knew three true facts:
  1. I wanted to have a van warming drink
  2. I wanted a contiguous subfloor
  3. I had an OEM hitch from the dealer
So, time to do it to it. Started with the drink. Picked up a random Canuck who was more than willing to drink Salmon Vodka with me and Momma. Good folks those Canuckers.
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Next was the hitch. Super straight forward. Toughest part was fishing a couple bolts and finding the right place to connect to the wiring harness. Ended up custom cutting in the 4-pin/11-pin connector right above the hitch, That was a little annoying, but a hole saw and measurements got me what I wanted.
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The subfloor was a bigger undertaking.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
We started by leaving the stock vinyl flooring in place, then using tape and paper to make a complete tight fitting template:
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Made a giant layout table of my saw horses and some 12' 2x4s, then taped three sheets of 1" polyiso to themselves. Flopped that obscenely heavy template down on the polyiso and cut out around the template:
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Set the polyiso in place and made final fitment changes:
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Then used the polyiso as the template for the 3/8" Home Chepot special:
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Cleaned the van floor supa clean, left a couple notes for the future and glued the polyiso down with Great Stuff Pro. Weighed it down with a gazillion bricks and let it set for a day:
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Repeated the process for the plywood:
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Once the Great Stuff dried, we sanded the seams fair, caulked the edges, and pattern bit routered the finished edges:
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We did not bolt or screw any part of the floor down, did not fill the gaps between the ridges, and have not had an issue since. 100% recommended method.
 

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This is a really nice build. Great job, you should be proud of your work!

My only personal gripe is the toilet...I can't understand the location being practical but that is just me. Good job.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
We started to get the itch for layout, so I made detailed measurements of the interior and hit SketchUp hard. Made many iterations the layout based on a prioritized list of what was in and out.
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Turns out this list was pretty close. Ended up cooking mostly outside, doing dishes 100% outside, and we did not install a grey water tank, at all.

Even went so far as to try a layout on the floor with painters tape. We just couldn't get a layout that jived. They all had too many compromises, specifically when it came to kids seating.

We iterated on those seats ad nauseum. Fold away public bus seats, zillion dollar RV seats, Transit stock seats, Sprinter seats, and on and on. We wanted integrated seat belts so I didn't have to do any chicanery with attaching them, something that could be removed easily, and wasn't a mint. Tough requirements to meet!

I was stumped. So, to keep the party rolling, I decided to reroute the wiring harness into the body. Was a bit intimidated by this at first. But, I labelled everything clearly, took my time, and it worked like a dream. Here's what it took:
Disconnect all the connectors:
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You have to remove the passenger rear quarter panel to get at one of them (its behind the one-way vent):
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Label both the connector on the wiring harness and the connector at the module/light/switch/doohickey.
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Left "chase lines" through the tough to access areas, like the rear pillars, so that I could easily pull the wire harness back through.

All in all, the whole process took about 6 hours. Took my time, was patient and diligent, and it went remarkably easy. I zip tied everything down and have not had an issue since.
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You can see that in a couple spots had to route the wire harness outside the body. Was fortunate in that I was able to cover those spots later. That said, I didn't know that then, and it was definitely one of those things I fretted about for a solid year. But, very glad I did it and would 100% recommend everyone do it. Makes the follow up finish work a ton easier.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
This is a really nice build. Great job, you should be proud of your work!

My only personal gripe is the toilet...I can't understand the location being practical but that is just me. Good job.
Hey! Thanks! Yeah, that is actually something I would be flexible about were I to build it for someone else. Had a few other thoughts, including having it in the garage. 😋

But, for us, its all good. We both came from sailboats and backpacking, so we're used to privacy being a rare premium. For #1, if it has to be inside, or we're underway, nobody cares and you just make it happen. For #2, we just open the CRL window, crank on the fan, and kick everyone out. Once the deed is done, there's no stink thanks to some bacterial de-stinkifier. In fact, for us, the location has been clutch. Allows us to pull 15 hour days with two young kids. They just take care of their toilet on their own and we keep chugging down the road. 😃
 

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@Benj "All in all, the whole process took about 6 hours. Took my time, was patient and diligent, and it went remarkably easy."

Can't fool me, I see that sawzall in the second photo.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
@Benj "All in all, the whole process took about 6 hours. Took my time, was patient and diligent, and it went remarkably easy."

Can't fool me, I see that sawzall in the second photo.
😂 Never said I didn't use a sawzall... even though I didn't.



I used a hackzall. 😉 Had to modify one spot where the wire harness passed through in the body.
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Still stumped by the layout, I figured I could install the frames for the walls and ceiling since I had clear requirements for this and it was unlikely to interfere with the layout:
  1. Maximize the interior space. Knew I wanted to sleep E-W, and I wanted to milk every last millimeter of interior space.
  2. Allow for optimal insulation.
  3. Maintain the sexy curves of the van.
  4. Limit the use of fasteners and drilling into the van.
That led me to decide on a design that hugged every curve, including the window wells. In order to allow for that, I glued 3/4" firring strips cut from HD's finest "white wood" 1x2s. Used Gorilla Construction Adhesive to adhere the strips. Half my van is held together this ****, and I am infinitely impressed with the product. It is everything they say it is.

Did the walls and ceiling this way using the 1x2s to force the strips into the curves. Here's the walls:
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Also added a "chair rail" around the lower part since space was not as crucial as insulation and ease of construction at that point.

And the ceiling:
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To get the firring strips to fit the ceiling curve, I soaked them in hot water for a couple hours and kerf bent the tight curves. Since this was subframing, I just cut the kerfs by eye with a hackzall:
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As you can see by my hands and the rail below the rear window wells, I was also filling strength members with Great Stuff Pro. Pretty sure I kept them in business for a couple months. Drilled holes anywhere the access was limited:
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Yes, I cleaned up the burrs and painted the holes.

With the subframes installed and me still having not having a super clear picture of the layout, I went after the next logical thing: insulating the living bejesus out of the rest of the strength members and lower portions, designing the solar and electrical, and installing the propane tank.
 

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Beautiful!
Please continue the build thread.
I'm sure I'm not the only one studying your google photos.

How do you finish your walls and trim?
Near the end, I'll see a photo of seams and trim that seem within my skill set
(nail holes, seams close, pencil marks, scorch marks)
then a later photo after you've filled, caulked, sanded, poly'd, whatever,
and it's now beautiful. Could you provide a few sentences on that?
What do you use for filler?
Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Beautiful!
Please continue the build thread.
I'm sure I'm not the only one studying your google photos.

How do you finish your walls and trim?
Near the end, I'll see a photo of seams and trim that seem within my skill set
(nail holes, seams close, pencil marks, scorch marks)
then a later photo after you've filled, caulked, sanded, poly'd, whatever,
and it's now beautiful. Could you provide a few sentences on that?
What do you use for filler?
Thanks.
Sorry for the major absence. Got bored with the forum and more interested in the rest of life. I'll continue the thread, I suppose.

To answer your question, sanding, nail filler, more sanding, and Bona water based post cat finish. I would use a different filler next time since this one got into the grain of the wood and I was not able to sand it out. It's not perfect, but I like the end result.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Filling strength members with foam:
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Spraying in tiger foam. Trimmed the excess with a super sharp machete.
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Cured and trimmed. Btw, ran all the wires before spraying everything in.
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Had planned a Christmas road trip for SC to Newfoundland via Downeast Maine, so wanted to get heat, solar, seats, bed, and full vapor barrier.

First step for heat was a propane tank. Got a Manchester DOT tank and found the perfect spot to mount it behind the drivers door:
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Has more ground clearance than the gas tank and is super easy for the propane folks to refill. Coated it with a couple cans of spray truck bed liner and it's has stood the test of time.

Next step for heat was the heater. Used a Propex 2211 so everything propane could stay outside.
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Ran the heat tube and return air up through the floor and sealed that all with spray foam. That heater is an absolute dream. Did get the digital controller and happy I did.

Next did the solar. Not going way into the design unless someone wants me to. In short, 200W flexible panels in series (make better use if low sun), 200ah LiFePO4, Sterling b2b charger. Good for 3 days no sun, no driving. If we drive more than an hour or so, good forever. Do have an AC to DC charger, just in case, but rarely use it (mostly to top up when it's parked at home). Panels mounted to roof with VHB, wires run through a watertite cable channel into rear view light. No issues to date.
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Did the first go of the controls in a movable box. You'll see where they are now later. Everything is mounted on Lexan.
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Next, built the bed. Used Ikea lonsat cut to size and three barn door rails (500lb rating each). I've had five sheet of 3/4 baltic birch ply on the bed and it is rock solid. Used plusnuts to attach it to the wall.
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Mattress is a 3 inch Ikea mattress cut to fit. Comfy, cheap, and washable. Love it.

Had to sort out the kiddos seats. Sweated that for months. One night, as I was almost asleep, it hit. I sat up and said, "Backwards! We'll have the kids sit backwards!" That sealed it. The rest of the layout fell together and I started looking for seats. Wanted fold away, integrated seat belt, split seats. 2000s Tahoe third rows were perfect. Found a set of leather Escalade third rows for a song. Went to the dump with a hackzall and liberated the mounting brackets and attached floor from an old Tahoe. Welded up a base fit for an elephant, cut the flooring, and through bolted that bad Larry in place. About $300 of repurposed parts and its my favorite part of the van:
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The last trick before Newfoundland was vapor barrier. Used polyiso, reflectix, and heavy foil tape. No gaps anywhere, 100% sealed barrier.
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We were ready!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Forgot that we installed the fan before we sprayed insulation. Hands down the easiest job of the built.
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Also installed a Transit Off-road lift and BFG TKOs. Did it initially for looks, but it is one of the smartest things we did. Absolutely love it. And has proven indispensable for **** roads. Quick plug on AWD or 4WD vs good tires and 2WD. For the Ext HR like mine, AWD or 4WD is completely unnecessary. I have been able to go everywhere I could ever want in a 10'6", 8000lb, 22' long vehicle. That includes in 14" of snow in Newfoundland, rutted iced over BLM roads, up mountains, across rivers, and to the most remote camping spots. No issues.
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I have step by step instructions for the install if anyone wants to DIY. Just need basic tools, a jack, and a solid helper. Do it close to a tire shop and have them do the alignment when you're done.

Here was the end result. Looks cooler and works way better.
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Newfoundland. Our first big trip in the van. Its utterly spectacular and we will go back. 11 hr ferry ride, frigid weather, unreal scenery, high adventure, lovely people, **** leaking from our toilet all over a gas station... couldn't beat it.
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