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Old 11-05-2017, 07:59 PM   #1
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What are the basic stages of building a Camper Van?

Hi again

I am just starting my build and wanted to get some feedback. What would you think are the stages of a build? What do you start with and what do you end with and all steps in between? My hunch it looks something like this:

1) Build a sketch or game plan. Determine what is important and what to include. This is more note booking I guess.

2) Mechanical check up to make sure the van is up to par for the transition.

3) Clean. This also includes looking for leaks and fixing. Get rid of rust spots. Seal holes.

4) Cut external holes for vents, electrical, etc. I am thinking this should be done before insulation?

5) Insulation. Comprehensive top to bottom Insulation and covering this with floor, walls, and ceiling.

6) Install Solar Panels?

6) Electrical? Figure out and line this up.

7) Install bed and cabinets? Basically, build the home.

8) Go camping

9) Realize what you should have done, tear it down, and start again. (I kid, perhaps)

What do you guys think? Did I miss any? Is anything out of order or is the order all wrong?

Thanks!!
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Old 12-13-2017, 02:56 PM   #2
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1) Longing (before The van exists): You self-pity and ponder, If only I had a van. Why donít I have a van? Iím more adventurous than the other boys. Poor me.

2) Triumph (when the van is located): You found a van! You swell with pride and elation. A van is no longer an abstract wish. The van is an impending reality. woot!

3) Expectation (prior to the build): Your idle mind invariably wanders to The van, and you fantasize about the possibilities. Maybe weíll have great travel van. Maybe it will be a camper. Maybe i'll build it into a full boondoggling rig. It WILL be the best van ever!

4) Anxiety (elbows deep in the build): You begin to question your prospects, your compatibility, your wardrobe options, and the assumption that the van is ever getting back on the road. Maybe i should have sent it to SMB or CCV? is this even within my skill set? Your enthusiasm shrivels. Maybe Iím not interested in the van anymore. Am I just going through with this because I'm too stubborn to fail? Will I ever get to post pictures on FB of my van in the wild? Why do I want a van? Vans are horrible; the motor is impossible to reach to work on. Maybe I shouldnít keep this build going? Iím getting a headache. I have a lot of work to do.

5) Despair (beyond to the point of no return, but before the end is clear): This was a huge mistake. You have no clue when this will be done, nothing to say, no money left, and no chance of finishing this build. You collapse onto your toolbench, hoping it won't collapse under the 10 tons of stress sitting on your shoulders from this build.

6) Resignation (get back to work): You approach your designated completion date, and the punch list gets smaller. The van build is happening, might even be done soon. There is no escape. Youíre resigned to the fact that it will be Fine, and you will finish it....

that is how it is going for me at least...
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Old 12-13-2017, 06:53 PM   #3
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Old 12-13-2017, 07:17 PM   #4
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** Trying to stop laughing at BetonBlack's response enough to type a decent response. Ok, here goes:

This is a great question. I'm sure it's been asked before but I like your approach. I've built several and I have no special skills. 5 or 6 years ago I realized how much vans call to me and how universally utilitarian they are and I've pretty much adopted them as my only vehicle needed in life. Well, maybe a sports car in the garage. I certainly can't follow through with selling my old BMW.

OK, moving on. I like your list but here's how I would ammend it. 1, 2 and 3 are things I would do really before I bought it. I'm always imagining different floor plans and have 10 or so perpetually improving ones in my head. Making sure the vehicle side of the van is up to snuff is kind of a given. For me, after taking ownership of the van I would throw what you need in it for family, work, commuting and light camping and just start driving it. How you move about in it and how your floor plan will come together, for me, comes from spending time in it. I'm sitting in my Transit right now (camping while on the road for work) and staring at the rear half trying to figure out how I want to do the cabinets. I've been doing this for a month. So, that's #1 for my list. Use it a bit and gauge your needs.

#2 Lay out your basic electric and plumbing. If you go with modern technology (vs. old school RV guts) there will be very few holes in the van. More importantly than cutting those holes at this stage is checking to see if you can cut them where you basically want to place things when the time comes. So, recapping, plan and lay out your plumbing and electric. Drag extra 12-14 gauge wire EVERYWHERE! It's cheap. You will inevitably want a light or switch here or there later and it's easier to do this now. I've only started to do this on my 5th or so van build. Run extras behind the walls and under the floor from side to side. If you plan on using Romex for AC outlets (via shore or inverter power) then run extra Romex. It doesn't hurt for wiring to lay there unused, and it's a pain in the ass to run it later. I recommend running at least one run (or circuit) to the driver's side cabinets, one run to the passenger side cabinets and one to an outside outlet, preferably for most campers by the side door somewhere, maybe even hidden under the van in a waterproof box. Don't forget your shore power inlet run.

#3 Insulate and do your floors and wall and ceiling panels.

#4 Start building cabinets. Don't fret if you build them more than once. I usually do. I think I've built almost every good cabinet that I really liked at least twice. Vans are getting more square so this is getting easier to accomplish. Ford Econolines generally take 15 or 20 builds due to not having one single straight line in the design.

#5 IMO all exterior mods, even a 4wd conversion can really just happen when you get to them, at any stage of the process. Inside and outside mods are generally exlusive, except for water/waste tank and battery mounting if needed on the exterior. I'd recommend doing an exterior battery mount early on with any van since the house batteries are more or less the foundation of your electrical system.

*The most frustraging part of a van build to me is that I prefer, and benefit from, using the van while I'm building it, but this is hard. It's a lot harder if you don't have a dry, warm place to work on it and store your tools and supplies, but it's hard to me to stop and start. I'm doing that now working out of my van during the week and trying to get my head fully into building on the weekends when home. It's a slow, painful process.

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Old 12-13-2017, 08:24 PM   #5
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I'm about a #5 on bet on black's scale. Inside is 70% camperized. Outside is 2wd, however I have ujoint diy kit, front axle and transfercase. Money is running low for gearing, traction adders and driveshafts. Wondering if anyone needs any body parts so I can finish one part of this build.
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Old 12-13-2017, 08:40 PM   #6
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Don't forget:

1) Spend money

2) Spend more money

3) Cash in IRA or kid's college funds, to finally get it right

4)Announce to your S.O., neighbors, and this forum "I'm done spending money on this van!"

5) Spend more money on your van.
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Old 12-13-2017, 09:07 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 86Scotty View Post
...I've built several and I have no special skills..
Eric, don't underestimate yourself, your special skill is being fearless in tackling jobs you've never done before. That takes some guts too.


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Old 12-14-2017, 10:39 AM   #8
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Somewhere in here is doubt, decision remorse, and acceptance of sunk costs. Improving on a decision means accepting that what you tried didn't work.

Closely related in learning to enjoy the process. This has been very hard for me since my recent build wasn't planned. Every. Single. Frustration. has been an opportunity to hate the whole concept.
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Old 12-14-2017, 10:50 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bet on black View Post
1) Longing (before The van exists): You self-pity and ponder, If only I had a van. Why donít I have a van? Iím more adventurous than the other boys. Poor me.

2) Triumph (when the van is located): You found a van! You swell with pride and elation. A van is no longer an abstract wish. The van is an impending reality. woot!

3) Expectation (prior to the build): Your idle mind invariably wanders to The van, and you fantasize about the possibilities. Maybe weíll have great travel van. Maybe it will be a camper. Maybe i'll build it into a full boondoggling rig. It WILL be the best van ever!

4) Anxiety (elbows deep in the build): You begin to question your prospects, your compatibility, your wardrobe options, and the assumption that the van is ever getting back on the road. Maybe i should have sent it to SMB or CCV? is this even within my skill set? Your enthusiasm shrivels. Maybe Iím not interested in the van anymore. Am I just going through with this because I'm too stubborn to fail? Will I ever get to post pictures on FB of my van in the wild? Why do I want a van? Vans are horrible; the motor is impossible to reach to work on. Maybe I shouldnít keep this build going? Iím getting a headache. I have a lot of work to do.

5) Despair (beyond to the point of no return, but before the end is clear): This was a huge mistake. You have no clue when this will be done, nothing to say, no money left, and no chance of finishing this build. You collapse onto your toolbench, hoping it won't collapse under the 10 tons of stress sitting on your shoulders from this build.

6) Resignation (get back to work): You approach your designated completion date, and the punch list gets smaller. The van build is happening, might even be done soon. There is no escape. Youíre resigned to the fact that it will be Fine, and you will finish it....

that is how it is going for me at least...
I am currently at #4 and drift back into #3 constantly. I am betting I hit #5 as soon as I cut the hole in my roof for the Pop top.
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Old 12-14-2017, 11:27 AM   #10
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There are no stages, just one long timeline that never really ends. I decided to spend this year using my partially finished van to have fun and trying to recover financially from the build.
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