After ten years of spending way to much time and money trying to keep my Sprinter reliably and cost efficiently running I decided it was time for a replacement. Fortunately, Ford was planning their new replacement for the old and tired Econoline and rebirthing it as a Eurovan called a Transit and Chrysler was planning to introduce their new eurovan the Promaster based on the Italian Ducatto. I immediately assumed the Transit would be the one I would replace my tired Sprinter with before ever seeing either of the new vans in person.
The more I read up on both vans I figured the Transit would be the winner only because it was a Ford, made in the USA and readily available and serviceable everywhere unlike the Sprinter. Along the same lines of reasoning I hardly even considered the Promaster as an option for the very opposite reasons.
Fortunately, the Promaster made its debut first and had a six month lead on the Transit. I started reading great things about the Promaster and its design and popularity as a camper base vehicle throughout most of Europe and I was actually able to see and drive one in person just about the time the Transits were being introduced. I immediately could see the extra value all around in the Promaster as compared to the Transit and decided it was time to act. I sold my Sprinter and bought a new Promaster off a local dealers lot the next day that basically fit all my needs and wants.
The Promaster was to be my daily driver and camper toy. I also wanted to be able to carry building materials and other large bulky items from time to time but that was a very secondary consideration. It had to be comfortable, easy to drive, and tall enough to stand up in plus wide enough to sleep across plus have seating for four, if necessary. All in and all if fit all those criteria perfectly.
My first modification was to add two bucket seats in the back that could be easily removed for camping, etc. I found two seats on CraigsList from a Dodge Caravan that were inexpensively priced and the correct size and set about mounting them on aircraft or L track. My van came with the factory floor so I cut out slots in the wood floor to mount the L track and secured it down with stainless steel 5/16” bolts and nuts. Before installing the track I covered the floor with strip vinyl flooring (if I were to do it again I would use a single sheet of flooring rather than strip goods, however. It simply lays on the factory wood floor and is held down by the four pieces of L track the seats bolt into in the front.
Here is the finished product,
Next I wanted to add two small windows on the drivers side for extra light and ventilation, one behind the drivers seat and one at the far back where the bed would be. I found just the right ones on eBay at a very good price, including screens and mounting rings. I wanted them to fill half the the space in each window bay.
I drilled out the spot welds holding the reinforcing braces in each bay and had to move them over several inches or so as the new windows were slightly more than half the opening. I reinstalled the braces with pop rivets and put a bead of spray foam behind each one to stop squeaks and rattles and provide more strength to the sheet metal. Next, I drilled a hole in each corner of the window bay (from the inside) to give me points to position the cut from outside. I put heavy masking tape on the outside and drew a line around a template I had made from stiff paper and cut the openings out with a fine tooth metal blade in my jig saw
then I put butyl tape around the back of the window frames and put them in place (holding them temporarily in position with bungy cords. Next I screwed them in place from the inside using the mounting rings that came with them and 3/4” self drilling screws.
The finished job
Once I had the seats in windows in it was time to start on the cabinetry. The van came with factory lower wall panels but as I had no intention of using them other than on the sliding and rear doors, off they came. I decided to use oak to construct the cabinets, primarily because it is easy to work with, readily available, reasonably priced and I like it. I knew basically what I wanted for cabinets from my Sprinter conversion but I was planning some improvements, of course. I’ve done enough of this kind of work that all I had to so was make up some simple sketches on a note pad and start building. The wardrobe closet was the first cabinet as it determined the location of everything else on the drivers side. I knew i wanted it to be 2” square with a shelf and full length door.
next to the wardrobe I built a two drawer cabinet that would eventually be the base for the fridge and microwave cabinet and the bed frame cabinet with storage underneath.
Here is the basic cabinet layout on the drivers side before making up the drawers and doors.
The cabinetwork on the passenger side was much simpler, just the other side of the bed and a cabinet for the sink with storage beneath for water, food, etc and a full compliment of overhead cabinets the same as on the drivers side
I made aircraft style top hinged cabinet doors on the uppers and used spring loaded openers to keep them open
Here is a photo of the finished cabinets after completion
I had made a bed/dinette combo in my Sprinter but in ten years we never used the dinnette once as it was just too big a PITA to set it up and then make the bed up again at nightime. This time I simply made up some 1’ sq steel braces to span the opening between the bed frames and then cut a piece of 3/4” oak plywood to rest on the steel braces. I bought two full 4” thick foam mattress blanks an my wife covered them with fabric. The bed is very comfortable and at 48” wide by 72’ long a perfect fit for the two of us. I attached all the cabinets to the van walls with either 1/4” rivnuts or bolts with locknuts depending on the access. I covered all the exposed walls with 1/4” oak plywood screwed into the sidewall braces with flat headed self tapping screws. I purposely installed the cabinets first, before any insulation, as I planed to only use 2” foam insulation board in the walls and 1” on the celling with reflective aluminum facing on one side. I didn’t use any sound deadening material as I knew all the cabinetwork and insulation would more than keep any noise down that would bother me. As it turns out, the only noise comes from the Fantastic roof vent, opened or closed.
For the electrical, I mounted a RV style 110 vac receptacle in the rear bumper and fed it with 14 gauge extension cord to a receptacle that only powers an AGM battery charger then on to a three way toggle switch. Depending on the position of the toggle switch on/off/on I can either power the 110 volt AC appliances with shore power thru the RV recepticle in the bumper (while charging the batteries) or with the 2000w inverter.
which is fed from either the vehicles alternator or the 300 watt solar panels depending on how I have it switched. I ran several 110 VAC outlets (one for each side of the van and another to run the dorm style fridge and a 800 w microwave. I chose an inexpensive dorm type fridge as it is very quiet, will freeze anything in it if I set it low enough and uses minimum power. I didn’t want any other inside cooking facilities than the microwave as it is perfect for making simple meals while traveling. I do have both a small 110 vac hot plate and a small propane grill that uses small disposable gas cylinders I can take with me depending on the length of the trip and destination but they are really only backups. I also have a small pod style 110 vac coffee maker (not because it makes good coffee particularly but, because its clean, simple and easy to use. I found some 110vac LED strip lighting in various lengths that actually ran on 12 vdc and attached them under the upper cabinets and on several of the roof ribs.
The only plumbing I have is a composite bar sink fed with a waterfall style faucet. I keep a 5 gallon stainless steel soda keg under the sink which provides enough water for a weeks worth of washing and cleaning up and simply lifts out so it can be refilled at any water source. I have a small 12 vdc on demand water pump that simply sucks the water up out thru a tube in the top of the soda keg - it works perfectly.
I also made up a chopping block to fit in the sink while it’s not in use to give me more counter space. I have no grey water tank and simple drain the sink thru a 3/4” hose that runs through the floor into a small plastic bucket that i place underneath the van while parked. As i live in New England where we have a good four months a year of freezing temperatures, I have no desire to fool around with grey water tanks and I simply remove the 12 vdc water pump in the winter to protect it from freezing (unless I'm planning a trip to a warmer climate). I have an RV style porta potty that fits beside the wardrobe closet where one of the buckets seats is mounted (when not camping) and it is the ultimate in simplicity and convenience. I have no shower or hot water at the present time but may decide to incorporate either in the future (if I get bored)!
I bought two 150 watt solar panels from Renology and mounted them on the roof behind and out of the Fantastic fans shadow. I used the mounts that Renology sells for their panels but I wasn’t happy with them at all and ended up modifying them to bold through the side rather than the botton as there would be no way t remove them if they were bolted thru the bottom with only an inch of clearence.
If I were to do it again I would simply buy 2” X 2” X 1/8” aluminum angle and cut it into 4” long mounts. It would cost the same and be far easier and better. I bought 3M VHB (4950) tape to hold down the mounts but as the bottom of the mounts were not perfectly parallel to the roof ridges I ended up also putting a #10
X 3/4” stainless steel self tapping screw in each mount also to draw them tight to the roof. 1/4-20 rivnuts would have worked just as well, if not better as the steel on the roof isn’t a particularly thick gauge but by then it was too late. As it came out it works fine and is very solid so I can’t complain. I connected the two PV panels together with connectors made specifically for that purpose and used #10
awg solar power cable to connect the panels to the Tracer MPPT 30 A controller/charger. I had bought a PVC box to run the wires through the roof but I wasn’t happy with its size or construction and ended up buying a 4” sq X 2” PVC electrical box with a waterproof cover which I held to the roof with 3M VHB tape and a 3/4” electrical bushing through the roof. I did use the two wire glands from the original roof box as the were perfect for the job.
I also put a 30 a fuse and switch in the + line before connecting it to the controller (only to be able to disconnect the panels from the controller from inside if need be. I then connected the controller/charger to the two AGM batteries under the bed frame with another 30 a fuse at each end of the + line.
I’ve only had the solar connected up for several months but it seems to be working just as I planned and is barely visible from street level as a bonus! At noon time it is putting out about 22 vdc even on a cloudy day and is sending 17 -19 vdc to the batteries and then reducing it to a 13.6 vdc float charge after they are fully charged.
I chose to run the bed across the back as there is more than enough room for my wife and I to stretch out that way. I made up three supports out of 1” sq steel tubing to span between the two side cabinets. A piece of 3/4” plywood (with wood cleats on the bottom to hold it in place) goes over the steel tubing.
I bought two pieces of 4” thick foam to use as a mattress. My wife covered them with some mattress covers and the work very well and are extremely comfortable.