I found the ‘almost’ perfect van. It had all the best systems, designer wallpaper, natural woods, exquisite lighting – but no flush toilet and minimal solar. AND, it was $100,000. Stop. My handy husband convinced me that we could build it better, and that it would be more ‘me’. He was right. We still have a way to go, but we are enjoying the process. So many friends have asked for more pictures and a bit of info- so here you go!
After sifting through thousands of vans online we found this beauty at a dealership in Georgia. She’s a 2009 Dodge Sprinter van with only 42,000 miles on her. And fun fact, her previous owner was NASCAR racer Bill Elliot. Tommy and I flew down, and started the road trip home. Now she lives in front of the house. Our living room has become a tool shed, and the front porch our workshop. Our neighbors have been patient and supportive of this long and noisy project. They will be pleased when I finally get her out in the wilderness for a spell.
We began with the electrical, cut in our first of two windows, an AC outlet, and a hole in the roof for a fan.
After running the wiring and getting the window and fan installed, Tommy did the nasty job of insulating the van.
I taped it all off though, and stood close by (outside) in case he needed some help. I was very happy NOT to do this part myself.
We installed the wood ceiling, and the walls and began to frame in the refrigerator. Tom convinced me that I will be very happy to have a larger fridge on the road, and a freezer will be nice too. Smoothies. Lots of Smoothies. It will be nice, but it was a bugger getting it all installed, vented, and connected. It runs on propane or AC power. Fitting it in also forced us to shift around some interior layout – which worked out better in the long run anyway, creating more interesting angels and a feeling of more space.
We cut in the intake and the vent for the fridge, and added the second window on the sliding door.
Now I can load up the veggies and cold beverages. We framed out the first cabinet and the bathroom walls. The faucet looks large for a little camper, but the hose extends out the door to rinse off shoes or pets, or whatever. It has already come in handy! The bathroom will be a toilet/shower combo. More on that soon.
All along we though we would hire a professional to build the cabinets, but considering the time and the money, we decided to give it a shot ourselves. It involved a few re-cuts, and some tricky maneuvering to install the slides, but they came out pretty great.
The nights are coming on early now, and we’re working in the cold. We will be installing a furnace in the van this weekend, and we may even get to the front end bench seating (which will pull out into an extra bed for my friends). This has been quite the learning experience, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m really lucky that my sweet husband is so handy, and that he loves me like he does. I’m very grateful, and excited to be making this long time dream a reality. Check out this super cool fabric that I’ll turn into bench seat cushions!!
After working in the cold for a while, we installed a furnace that runs on propane with a 12 volt igniter. It keeps the van toasty warm. The thermostat is right by the bed so I can flick it on in the morning with my toe if I want to warm up the cabin a little before emerging from the my comfy bed. I don’t plan to do a whole lot of cold weather camping, but it sure nice on those chilly mountainous mornings.
Up next – the bathroom/shower, the floor, the folding counter top, the swivel passenger seat, more solar, and perhaps an AC unit.