Sunday, March 4, 2018

I bought a minivan and converted it into a camper!

Beautiful free campsite outside of Buena Vista Colorado 

Here is a picture of the van when I first got it. I am not sure when I exactly got the idea that I would convert a van but by the time February of 2017 rolled around I sold my trusty Subaru Impreza RS.2.5 and bought a mini van with the intention to convert it to a camper. My friend Pdubs just did a conversion on his Toyota Sienna and got me thinking that a minivan could make a great camper. I considered a full size van or even a mid sized but decided to go with a minivan to get better gas mileage and reliability. Also I backpack quite a bit and learned that I do well in small spaces with the time spent in my tiny ultralight backpacking shelters. 

I came across this 2003 Honda Odyssey that was from a single owner with about 145k miles and was purchased for only $2900. The van came from a very nice Canadian family and was very well taken care of and extremely clean.

Here is the view of the back after I first purchased the van with the mid section seats removed and the rear seats folded down. 

Quickly the demolition process started. Everything was ripped out from the front seats back. Here is my friends son Steele. Steele loved helping out an was a joy to have around during this project. 

One of my very first projects was installing LED lighting that will run off the second battery system. I was planning on removing the rear heater/AC core (that you will see later on) to make extra space in the back. This meant that the vents for the rear climate system were going to be useless and could make a great place to recess some lighting.

So what I did in place was install LED lights into the fixtures to make a really cool recessed light with blinds!

LED lights strips were installed where seat belts used to mount on the pillar between the rear quarter and the sliding door.

This picture does not do a good job showing the final result but I cut a piece of light diffusing material and glued it to the inside of the trim that covers the pillar.

Here is a good shot showing the lights installed and working! Its really cool that you can open and close the vents to adjust and direct the light. The lights on the headliner and the lights on the pillars are on separate circuits so I can turn them on and off independently.

So this was a big surprise in the demo process. After removing all the rear trim I was left with this huge heater core tucked away in the back quarter panel. I consulted with my mechanic and we were able to remove it and cap off the lines.

 Here is the core removed.

Lines Capped. I had to have the lines by the front AC core capped off by a tig welder.  Sorry I did not get a picture of that. These are the lines running to the back that my mechanic closed off that were no longer being used.

My next project was to cover the rear metal with sound deadening material called RattleTrap. Once this was put down we could start the floor.

The floor was a HUGE project! After everything was removed from the back  there was an endless sea of uneven bumps, curves, nooks, and crannies. It took hours and hours of cutting, trimming, and sanding to get these large pieces to fit snugly and create a flat surface. Many nights at my friends Nick house were spent crafting this floor. Thanks again for your help Nick!

Here is a shot of the first stages of wiring the second battery system. I went with a CTEK Charge controller, and my friend Keith gave me a very nice AGM 12v battery. Next to the charge controller is a cut off switch to the front battery and then a fuse block. This system uses both the alternator and solar panel to keep the auxiliary battery charged. I had to run a 0 gauge wire all the way from the front battery to the rear of the vehicle. Let me tell you that was fun!

 I insulated the crap out of the van using a combination of Reflectix, denim style insulation,  and foam board.

Renogy 100 watt Solar Panel installed on the roof rack and my Thule Cargo Carrier I got off Craigslist.

Nick and I are anchoring the braces and setting them at the right elevation for the wood floor to be secured. It is always nerve racking drilling screws into the sheet metal of your vehicle not knowing if there is a gas or brake line on the other side!

The next step was to fill the spaces between the braces with foam-board insulation.

Here is the completed wiring. Many hours were spent getting this right. Truthfully I knew nothing about Solar setups but thanks to YouTube University and a little trial and error I quickly came up to speed.

 Another shot of the Solar Panel installed on my roof rack.

 Access panels cut into the floor.

Adding a nice dark stain to the floor. Out of all my projects staining the floor was the most stressful due to me not really knowing what I was doing.

Alright! Making some serious progress here. The floor is finished and installed for good.

Even though I did a nice stain on the floor I covered it with a coin grip vinyl floor covering. The grey flooring is not glued down so you can lift up the vinyl mat and have access to the compartments below. Also you can see the blue futon I purchased in the back. I am glad I decided not to build a permanent bed in the van and instead go with this futon mattress on the floor. It allows me to configure a sitting area or sleeping area with this nice and comfortable twin xl foam mattress I got off Amazon. The futon cover also comes off so it can be washed.

Taking the Van out for its maiden voyage to go mountain biking in Fruita CO.  The van was purchased in February and now it's late April. It only took a couple of months to get a functioning camper van but still there is lots of work to do.

 Enjoying a lovely spot that I discovered in the San Luis Valley over Memorial day weekend.

I took 3 months off from working on the van to focus on other things and camp in it a bit before making the finishing touches. Here is my friend Nick helping with the small cabinet on the driver side.

Small cabinet done now time to work on the large cabinet. These pieces were even more difficult to cut and shape into the sides of the van than the floor was.

Large cabinet done! I decided to make these cabinets as simple as possible and went away with cabinet doors and drawers and instead made simple storage cubbies!

 Switch panel complete and a 600w pure sine wave power inverter installed.

 Rear cabinets stained.

Ventline 12v roof vent installed.

Dometic 12v refrigerator and water jug with pump.

 Mr Buddy Heater and 1lb refillable propane tank.

 Coleman single burner stove and GSI cookware.

 Another shot of the switch panel, USB socket, 12v socket, and 600w pure sine wave power inverter.

 Bed Mode with my down quilt.

 Living space mode. Looks cozy huh!  Check out the cool Hike, Bike, Ride, Live sign my friend Jeremy made on his 3D router.

So this year is going to be a big year filled with a lot of this!!! In addition to the conversion I had the  suspension completely replaced and beefy springs installed in the rear to keep it from sagging with all the extra weight. I also installed an ARB awning that mounts to the passenger side of the roof rack. Stay tuned to this blog for more adventures in this van to come.