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Old 02-02-2011, 11:31 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Seattle, WA
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Land Shuttle Endeavor

Last week, I made my first posts to this forum 3 days before flying to Eugene, OR to purchase my first SMB sight unseen. That was a little crazy. The good news is that I paid $6200 for a 1994 Dodge B350 EB with vista top and 70,300 miles that drives perfectly. The bad news is that rats once called it home. Please, please don't tell my wife, or she'll never go anywhere with me in this thing. At first, I thought that funny smell was moisture damage, which may still account for some odor, but when I saw the droppings, it became clear that Norwegian rats were the 3rd owners of this van. As you can imagine, I'm now preparing to gut the coach and rebuild. I'm reasonably happy with the layout; so I'll be keeping most things the same, but I thought I would share my plans and pictures with you on the chance that you might share some guiding wisdom. Here's what I'm planning:

After removing all the cabinets, see if the carpeting is salvageable by cleaning.

When I realize it's not even close to salvageable, replace the coach floor with something durable. I like the idea of Loncoin, but don't have the coin for it. I've been thinking about recycled rubber flooring. I know this is a storied topic, but input on floor material is still appreciated. Part of me has a delusion that the rats stayed out of the front of the van and that this carpet is fine. When I see through this delusion, I'm thinking I might have to buy one of those molded carpet replacement kits. Anyone have experience with those?

Remake cabinets with 3/4" prefinished maple ply using a template bit and router. I might make the cabinets a little nicer and rely a little less on the vinyl T-molding for edge-banding. Part of me wants to skip the vinyl T-molding all together and use prefinished maple edge-banding, but then would it still be a Sportsmobile?

I would like to make new bench seats with new foam and upholstery. I can't sew to save my life, so I might be asking my wife to assist here. If she's not interested, does anyone have any resources?

The kitchen has a large cooktop/oven and tiny sink. I would like to change these to a larger sink and two burner cooktop. What's your recommendation for a cooktop?

While I've got all the cabinets out, I would like to add hot water and a shower faucet attached to the rear cabinet and accessible through the back door. Any recommendation for water heaters would be great. Any advice on exterior shower set up also appreciated.

I'm sure I'll find water leaks that need sealing once I get into it. I'm hoping there's lots of info already available through these forums regarding that.

I'll post some pictures as it is now, and document its progress as I work on it.



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Old 02-02-2011, 11:33 PM   #2
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Re: My new 1994 SMB project.

A few more pictures:
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Old 02-02-2011, 11:52 PM   #3
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Location: SE Washington
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Re: My new 1994 SMB project.

Welcome to the forum and congratulations on your purchase! You are a brave soul to rebuild a camper -- it's like peeling an onion.

There's nothing like the smell of packrats. We tried to stay in a cabin once that had been ratted out but it was unbearable.

For inexpensive flooring just use inlaid vinyl flooring - the one where the pattern goes all the way through the vinyl. It will need to be waxed (not a no-wax floor) but it is the least expensive and very durable. Make sure the plywood and glue under it is waterproof.

For cabinets you might consider using 1/2" for much of it. It is lighter but also harder to edge-band. The ultimate cabinet (in my mind) is plywood with high pressure laminate overlay. Edges can also be done in laminate. I think they make Formica with a maple grain pattern.
2009 E250 RB 5.4L "SilVan"
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Old 02-03-2011, 06:34 AM   #4
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Re: My new 1994 SMB project.

Congratulations, and unwelcome furry visitors aside, that van looks super clean inside and out.

SMB-less as of 02/04/2012. Our savings account is richer, but our adventures are poorer.
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Old 02-03-2011, 08:30 AM   #5
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Re: My new 1994 SMB project.

Very nice unit super clean, {looking} and dont worry most of us never tell our wives the whole stories when it comes to our Van's.
I would only redo what you really have to. The older Vans were really put together well and if it works dont fix it!!! IMA

Going where most dont
"one day at a time"
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Old 02-08-2011, 11:42 AM   #6
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Re: My new 1994 SMB project.

Congrats and welcome.
I agree with Herb and Ron, it does look very clean and unless looks are deceiving, the cabinets and cushions look to be in good condition. I would recommend that you give it some time before you gut anything. Rent a carpet cleaner and go crazy with it, clean out the inside of your cabinets as best you can. Then give yourself a chance to get to know what you like and dislike about it and then make a plan. But here are a few things to think about. If you do gut it and put in a new floor, and if you plan on doing cold weather camping, think about putting down some insulation first. A lot of cold comes in from the floor of my van. As for the cabinets, Vinyl T-molding or no, it's still a SMB. I suggest you go with a 1/2" prefinished maple euro ply or apple ply. It's just a little more expensive then 3/4" prefinished and is stronger. This plywood is made up of thinner plies, (9 in the 1/2" thick plywood). It will hold a screw much better then normal plywood. If you sand and apply a finish to the edge, it looks good and will hold up better then any prefinished edge-band. And if you go with the 3/4" ply, you won't be able to use the old cabinet as a template because it's all 1/2", and all those 1/4"s will add up and throw things off somewhere down the line. I like your idea about a bigger sink, I would like to do that in mine.
If you start to pull your plumbing apart, you may as well redo all of it. If your van does not have Pex pipe, you should use it to replump it. It can withstand freezing and the vibration better then anything else out there. The most expensive thing about this system is the crimping tool, I spent $65 on mine. I have seen cheaper ones at Home Depot but I couldn't bring myself to trust it. What ever you end up using, lift it off the floor as much as you can, this will help minimize freezing. As for a shower, go with the Israeli made system that SMB now offers. I got my van with the Attwood aft-deck shower and I never really liked it and then it froze and the valves failed. I replaced it with the Israeli made unit (sorry, but I don't know the real name of it). Water heats come down to money versus space. For me the 6 gal water heater just took up to much space. In a bigger motor home it would be okay but not in one of these. I have the flat plate water heater and it works very well.
Looking forward to seeing you progress.
Good luck,
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Old 02-15-2011, 10:50 PM   #7
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Re: My new 1994 SMB project.

Thanks everyone for your replies.

I got the van back from the mechanic last week after instructing them to tell me everything that it need. Luckily, the only thing they found were some leaky transmission cooler lines and aging sidewalls.

I've been attempting to remain calm and not dive into the refinishing of this thing, but every time I get inside the smell hits me and I return to planning its overhaul. So I'm going to dive in despite the good advice to show restraint.

I've calculated 7 sheets of plywood to cover the cabinets. I'd love to go with 5/8", but I cannot find a source for prefinished in this thickness, so I'm going with 3/4" and resizing as I build. I'm also going to change the build of the cabinets slightly by using concealed Euro inset face frame hinges for a flush look with recessed pulls.

I found a source for the vinyl bead welt that is used where cabinets meet van body to conceal any minor gaps. I am also getting the vinyl t-mould from Outwater.

I will be leaving the layout mostly unchanged.

I'm going with the suggestion for inexpensive inlaid vinyl flooring.

I'll update as I dig into this.

Thanks again.

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Old 02-15-2011, 11:10 PM   #8
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Re: My new 1994 SMB project.

If your only goal is to eliminate the odor, i would first consider all the fabric and upholstery, carpets, cushions, curtains and things like that. Also, there are many products made to combat odors by eliminating the source, not just covering it up with a different odor. Some you can buy in a can at the autoparts store, some require specialized equipment and professional execution. There are foggers, o-zone machines, enzyme cleaners, etc.

If you just wanna build cabinets, then knock yourself out. But if your ONLY goal is eliminating the odor, it seems like a lot of work and it probably won't eliminate the odor.

I guess you understand all that and i'm just being redundant. Sorry :-) Either way, cool van and have fun with the project!
For Sale: 1992 E-350 EB 4x4 High-Top
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Old 02-16-2011, 08:59 AM   #9
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Re: My new 1994 SMB project.

IMHO 3/4 inch ply is total overkill. That's strong enough to build the van frame out of. And it's HEAVY! You should be looking at 6 mm for cabinets, 3-4 mm if you have good frames already. Only if the cabinets are going to be structural, use 9 mm where absolutely necessary. Marine ply is expensive but is worth the price for the weight savings and workability.
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Old 02-23-2011, 12:35 AM   #10
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Van is almost gutted

This weekend, I removed all of the cabinets from my van, carefully labeling as I went so that I can rebuild using the old panels as templates. I discovered lots of interesting things along the way. First, many of the 1/2" mdf panels had swollen with moisture up to 5/8"+ and were harboring some serious mold. There's some cracks in some important looking plastic parts on the Starcool that need further investigation. Lot's of moisture damage to areas of the OSB subfloor. About 1/3 of the L brackets that hold the cabinets to the floor were very loose because of the rotted subfloor. A little bit of sketchy wiring, but nothing crazy.

I'm now planning on using a combination of 1/2" and 3/4" prefinished domestic ply to save some weight. Hinges are on their way along with t-moulding. Pulls as well. I'm going to reuse the catches. I sold off the stove/oven and ordered a two burner cooktop. I'm considering downsizing the 4cu/ft Norcold to a 2.7cu/ft so that I could fit it under my sink counter, but that cost is giving me pause. I ordered interlocking vinyl garage floor tiles that have a raised coin pattern that should be arriving this week.

Today, I removed all the anchor brackets and seat belt anchors. This is a two person job; so my 3-1/2 year old daughter ran the impact driver inside the van while I had a wrench on the nut underneath the van. One of my favorite parenting moments ever.

Carpet will come out sometime this week as well as the side wall panels. I think I'm going to patch the subfloor, unless it looks to far gone and then I'll replace it all.
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