Well, after a year of camping and 15,000 miles, I decided that it was time to remodel my van from a Transformer bed-across-the-back style to a center aisle style. There were two main drawbacks to the floor-plan I started with: first, even with a three-step ladder, I couldn’t reach the contents of the rooftop pod (it’s a long way up there! ) -- but of course that’s why I could sleep comfortably crosswise.
And when I wanted to get to the “stuff storage" under the bed through the rear doors, I had to remove the bicycles from the bike rack. Because I carried my Coleman stove there, this was a daily hassle.
The old design considerations continue to hold:
- Comfortable for long-term 2WD camping (NFS/boondocking) and touring[/*:m:3n987kcu]
- A place to work with my photos on my laptop[/*:m:3n987kcu]
The new constraints were:
- Access to all storage areas from inside the van (so I wouldn’t have to open the rear doors)[/*:m:3n987kcu]
- Storage for van stuff and sporting goods on a rear hitch haul (along with one or two bikes) [/*:m:3n987kcu]
- Repurpose as many components of the previous build as possible (reduce, reuse, recycle…)[/*:m:3n987kcu]
Note that this is a passenger van, and that I did not remove the interior trim, so that reduces somewhat the available area. In fact, I have about 66” side-to-side to play with. I should have removed the trim and added insulation, I suppose, but maybe that will be a project for the next remodel…
my tools and skills are somewhat limited, so I'm just making this up and humming a few bars as I go along. I’ve got a circular saw, a 12V drill, a random orbital sander, a Bernina, a jigsaw/saber saw, and an electric screwdriver. Add to that list a Workmate folding workbench, a miterbox/saw, two homemade jigs for making rip and cross cuts with the circular saw, and a small collection of hand tools like a hammer, a hacksaw, a framing square and a level. Sorry – no welding or soldering in this build.
Here’s the sketch of the new plan. (It’s a sketch drawn with PowerPoint, not a drawn-to-scale plan: the template, scored from the SMB website, is for a naked cargo van, not a passenger van with interior trim.)
You’ll note that there is a very strong influence of LenS’ floorplan.
And here’s the starting point for the remodel. Saabman will immediately recognize the floor installation equipment:
The floor is Allure vinyl on a 3/8” plywood base, making a ½” stack. The blue crosses mark the floor bolt-holes for the original bench seat brackets, some of which I'll use to secure the new components.
I started with the rear components: the bunk and the counter/cabinet opposite. Framing is made of 2x2 and 1x2s; large surfaces (other than the countertop) are ¼” and 3/8” BC ply. Most of the wood has been given at least one coat of latex enamel to retard warping:
For storage, I used IKEA’s Antonius baskets on wooden runners. By orienting some of the baskets sideways, I could clear the wheel-wells. I don’t know if I will want this much “basket” storage, but if I want space for bulky items, I can just pull out the baskets and have cubby holes. My concern at this point is that, over time, the runners may warp; if so, I will replace them with aluminum.
The back of the bunk is just plywood, articulated in four sections to approximate the curvature of the van trim and covered with indoor/outdoor carpet for a snugger feeling (and a slightly more finished look that Ford interior trim); the black splotch in the photo is a 12V socket (there are three 12V sockets wired to the AGM house battery, which is under the side door step.)
There are three pairs of drawers under the bunk: one pair oriented the narrow way, and two pairs oriented the wide way. The doors on the bunk side are hinged at the bottom, and close with two roller-catches each:
The bunk still needs a front trim strip to keep the mattress from sliding. The mattress is a standard foam twin mattress: I opened up the covering, cut the 4” thick foam to fit the bunk profile (angles along the van wall, as well as 9” narrower than a standard twin mattress), and tailored/restitched the covering. Then I altered a twin mattress pad and sheet to fit the contoured mattress securely. And, in a Martha Stewart sort of miracle, Walmart has gray sheets this year…
On the cabinet side, there are three sections for storage. The forward section has two baskets and storage underneath (a milk crate fits nicely); the middle section has a single basket and more open storage (I might put a shelf there), and the rear-most section has no baskets or shelves, as I need to keep ready access to the jack feasible. Because of the narrowness of the aisle (about 18” or so) I made bifold doors, again closed with roller catches:
Both the bunk and the opposite cabinet are secured to the floor with lots of sturdy angle irons and screws or bolts (if using the old seat bracket holes). The almost-final view, front to rear is:
(Wow, the floor really needs polish, doesn't it?)
The countertop (the desktop in the previous build) is a 19.5” wide edge-glued aspen "project plank" plus a 1”x2” rear lip, sealed in five coats of Polyshades.
A 12V triple socket is screwed on the back lip; the wire runs to the 12V wall socket.
Recall that one “must” is to have a place to work on photos in the evenings. In the previous build, I had a dedicated desk, but that wasn’t very space efficient, and it wouldn’t work well in a constrained center-aisle design anyway. So this time, I drew on the old “pastry board” kitchen design, and included a pull-out desktop made from 1/2" birch plywood:
In this photo, it’s pulled out about 2/3 of the way. I need to make a removable leg to support the rear front corner when it is fully extended, as it tends to slant downward a bit when it is past the tipping point. But you get the idea: when I need to use the laptop, I can pull out the desktop, plug the computer into the nearby 12V socket, and sit on the bed.
To be continued….