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Old 09-17-2012, 12:36 AM   #1
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Starting E350 from scratch...and not "handy"

Hola! Been checking out this forum for a while now, great pointers and lots of great ideas so thanks!!

I'm working on a from-scratch build out of a 2005 E350 cargo van. I've had the van two years and have been living in (or out of) it since then (went down the Colorado River/Grand Canyon two years ago and within 9 months I had quit my job & bought a van!).

It was a work/paint van in its previous life so had the steel cage around the passenger area and steel walls in the back. In Version 1 of the van set-up, I took out the cage but left the walls and used them to mount a large platform for sleeping. My idea was to have a high platform for sleeping with plenty of room underneath to slide gear bins and kayaks, etc. This layout was not great for living in or camping for extended periods and the van was always a mess (huge storage bins way under the platform aren't easy to get to--only good for things you need to access rarely, which is not everything).

So I've started to re-build it on my own. I have a place to live right now so I could take everything out but am anxious to get the van done so I can have my own space and start traveling again. I am not what you would consider "handy" although I can figure things out usually and I do have access to tools right now. My budget is pretty tight as I'm trying to do all of this (insulation, convertible bed, "camp kitchen" with a sink) for around $1K.

I've been working on insulation...and working...and working. Sigh. I have covered the bare walls, where I can, with Reflectix, and today I covered all of the little holes in the wall with aluminum tape (as a vapor barrier) and stuffed the holes with polyester filling as much as I could (full info about my progress to date is on my blog if you are interested:

I am torn between mounting plywood panels on the walls or gluing carpet directly onto the walls. I don't want to mess with the plywood because it will add considerable time, expense, and weight to my build. Also the walls have so many curves and different levels with nooks and crannies that I have no clue how I'd cover all that up and I'd lose a lot of space on either side.

The high top was installed when I bought the van. It has the inside shell, although I have no idea what is in between the two layers (and have yet to find anyone who will cut a hole in it to install a fantastic fan). The inside shell is mounted via screws and metal plates, but there is a gap--which I might have to cover as I'm doing the insulation or carpeting.

Would I be crazy to go straight to carpet?? I'd love your thoughts or advice. Thanks!!
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Old 09-18-2012, 06:41 AM   #2
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Starting E350 from scratch...and not "handy"

Hola back, and welcome to the forum! Looks like you've got some good ideas in place already. The good thing for you is that Lowe's, Home Depot, etc. are everywhere so you can probably do your van projects as you go. Careful though, $1k goes out the window pretty quickly!
If I were you, I'd attempt to do some thin paneling of some sort before you carpet the walls. I think you will iike it better in the long run. Probably quieter and with 1/4 inch stuff, you won't loose hardly any space. You just have to make templates as you cut it, and work around the spots where you might lose a lot of space. That's a real challenge with these vans, but it's doable.
Another thing you could do (for being on the road more) is fab up a roof rack for your expensive toys to they don't wander off as easily. It's not a big deal to add "tracks" to a fiberglass roof and add a homemade or Yakima basket rack up there, but you do lose an mpg or 2 depending on the setup.
Keep us posted!

Currently vanless. Weird.
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Old 09-18-2012, 11:23 PM   #3
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Join Date: Sep 2012
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Re: Starting E350 from scratch...and not "handy"

Thanks for the advice, Scotty! I think I can make the panels work, just might be sloppy but if I cover it with carpet, that'll help.

I would love to add a roof rack! My high top has an interior shell, and I have no idea what's between them but I don't think there is any support there, so it would be difficult to secure a mount from the inside of the roof. (Does that make sense? Not sure I'm explaining it right.) I thought of having a super tall rack fabricated that ran up from the rain gutter, but that would be a lot of money. A cargo basket is also an option (again, I looked at having a custom basket that swung out and had some sides for kayaks, etc. but it was pretty pricey, may re-visit that at some point when I have more money).

The hardest lesson I've learned from all of this is to prioritize, and that it's a work in progress...and can stay that way infinitely as you're always adding more features or starting new projects as you get more funds, your needs change, or original plans don't work out. It's a lot of trial-and-error for me.

Keep you posted on those walls! Hoping to work on that this weekend...
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