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Discussion Starter #1
So my 2014 RAM Promaster 159" wheelbase extended with the 4 banger turbo diesel is here, time to build.

Bought the van in Pittsburgh and immediately went on a 2 week adventure to get it back to Denver. I borrowed an air mattress, couple of chairs, a table, propane heater, and an LED lantern from WalMart but otherwise used my backpacking gear. Stayed in a couple of parking lots, a WalMart, and a couple of cool campgrounds. Great success, but learned a few things:

1) Insulation is key. The bare metal van is f'in cooold
2) No one gives a **** about this van, it's perfect for stealth camping. Going to have to keep that profile
3) It drives WAY better than I expected and 23mpg combined on my bigass road trip back to Denver. 26-27mph @ 55mph 21 or so @ 80mph.

Now that it's in Denver, it's time to start modifying and getting it all campered out. So far I've purchased the solar panels, batteries, electrical system, wiring, pastidip, and slider for the bike mount. After the solar is installed and the electrical is mocked up, it's going into Colorado Camper Vans to get the insulation, interior panels, and bed platform made. The day it comes back (Xmas Day), I get to hook the solar/batteries up to the lights, install the bike slider, and I'm leaving for Sedona, AZ for a 10 day adventure.

As a reference, here are a couple of planned pics of the interior:





The "To Do" items for the next few weeks are

1) Lowering the rear of the van and extra support spring removal (done)
2) Build version 1 of the bench seat and mock up the batteries and electrical to make sure everything gets installed properly by CCV
3) Plasti Dip the wheels and debadge the logos. Will look a whole lot better with that
4) Build the sliding bike rack. I can build the whole thing in the garage without the van and just install into van once I get it back
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Lowering time
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The 3500 comes with some super ass heavy duty springs rated for 5000lb payload and the ride sucks and the van is pretty raked out from the factory. It's a 15 minute job to remove the secondary helper leaf spring, which both lowers it 2" as well as softens the spring.

It was such a piece of cake I didn't take any pictures of doing the actual work

1) Disconnect rear swaybar
2) Jack up via axle
3) Put on jackstand
4) Remove 2 U bolts holding the springs
5) Lower axle, remove secondary
6) Raise it and reconnect the U bolts

Took me about 45 mins total for both sides from start to finish. The van looks a lot better and also drives better. Definitely less jarring on sharp edge hits on the road.

Didn't take a good before pic, so here's someone elses with the rear all jacked up.



And here is the after pic of mine

 

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Discussion Starter #3
Bench Seat
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Next up is building the bench seat. I'm not exactly sure of the exact measurements that I want, and I'm not exactly sure of the design, so I just decided to go ahead and build version 1 from some cheapo plywood and see how things feel before I build out the nice out of nice birch or whatever.

The idea is to have a bench where I can store the electrical system and batteries inside and also have some space for extra storage. I plan on putting 4" of foam padding on the seat, as well as attaching a back with 4" of foam padding. Just like regular RV/Camper dinettes. At this time I don't think I'm even going to have a back as the bench seat will back up to the plywood of the wall, so I can attach the board with the 4" of foam padding directly to that. Going to figure this part out once version 1 is in the van and usable :)

I made a quick planned design in sketch up. Final dimensions are a 58" wide, 17" tall and 21" deep box with a 24" deep top, leaving some space for your feet when you are sitting up straight. Also the 24" seating surface should give plenty of room with 4" of back padding. If I decide that I need another inch or two of seating surface, that's where version 2 will come in. The electrical area is 32" wide and the batteries will live on the floor with a shelf panel, hinged via piano hinge where the charge controller, inverter, and DC wiring sub panel will live. The whole top will also be hinged via a piano hinge to access both the electrical system as well as storage area. I left a 3" piece where the hinge attaches. For the electrical shelf, that static 3" panel is where the wiring will run through so tilting that panel up doesn't mess with wiring lengths. For the very top, I figured that 3" static piece will provide some structural strength.

Here is the Sketchup of the design:



And with the front and top hidden:



I got a start on building the bench seat today. Went over to HD Racing and picked up the plywood. I'll be using glued Kreg pocket joints everywhere and already had that jig and materials. Super easy to build stuff with the Kreg joints and in a few mins I've got my outside box. The HD cutting is about +- 1/16" of an inch, so I'll do a bit of sanding tomorrow to better match level everything. 100 grit sandpaper in the electric sander should make that happen in just a few mins.





Tomorrow I'll finish up the bench and the electrical shelf and start mocking up the electrical components. I'll go through everything I bought for that and how it all ties together in the next post
 

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Looks promising. We found that the seat of our dinette at about 20 inches deep seat and a back that was vertical was not optimum. I ended up taking off the seat-back cover and tapering it from about 4” at the bottom to 2” or a bit less at the top. Ah-hh, much more comfortable. Good chairs have a curved seat, kind of a reclining S shaped front to back and the backrest is a reverse of that with lumbar support low and the ability for one to recline back up higher. Our seat was flat like you plan so think about adding some material near the front and less at the back. Same for the backrest when you get to it.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the advice, was wondering about that. Was thinking the 24" depth might help mitigate that, but maybe not. The way this is setup, it should be really easy to just build a 2" tapered wood back and attach it to the wall.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Solar Update
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Got the wiring ran for the solar panels into the interior. Also mocked up the panels and I'm excited to say that 4 are going to fit between the two fans. I thought 3 would, but I can actually put them vertical instead of horizontal. Going to go 2 panels for now, and get 2 more at a later date if needed.

I found that the backup camera makes a perfect place for wires to go through. I bought this $15 solar wiring pass through on Amazon that fit perfectly on the backup camera housing and also matched color wise. Attached it via 3M VHB and it looks perfect.

For now, I'm going to wait on actually attaching the panels, which will be attached with VHB tape also, until I get the van back from CCV with the fans installed. That way I can be perfect with the first installation instead of accidentally putting them in the way of the fans or anything.





Also Ms. Nomer, you mentioned you didn't like how the backup camera showed a bunch of the door. If you notice in that picture the lens is just screwed in to that plastic housing. Would be super easy to shim it up just a touch :)
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Bench Update
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Finished the build of it. Here's a pic of the top open and the electronics as they will sit on the middle piece, that also opens. Pretty excited with how that turned out.



I'll post more pics of it as I actually install the electronics and run all the wiring. The 3" piece that doesn't swivel on the electronics shelf is where I plan on cutting holes for the wires to run through. That way the shelf can tilt up and not mess with the length of the wiring.
 

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tr,

Nice work! I like the design ideas too. My couch works pretty much the same way with the electrical parts on a board that's vertically located next to the batteries. I would suggest maybe one change. If I visualize it correctly, the bench is behind the drivers seat.

You might consider putting the 12 circuit fuse panel in the cabinet above the bench instead of in it. Then run some heavy cables to feed the fuse panel up the back of the B column from the bench to the top cabinet. I did it that way and it's really easy to make wiring changes, add a voltmeter, etc.

Why?

Lotsa wires coming off that fuse block and they are easily fed along the side frame of the van.
A lot less wired going out of the bench.
Easy to get wires anywhere in the van from there.
In that cabinet I have added 12V and USB jacks so I can charge my phone, flashlight, etc in the cabinet.
If you need to move or change the bench, all the rear wiring stays put, you just disconnect the heavy red and black going to the bench batteries.
On mine, I can temporarily connect the fuse block to the van battery if the couch with the aux batteries are out for moving something big.

Just a suggestion. It looks like you have a great plan in place!

Ed

ps. If you get a chance, post your design plan to the thread titled, "Floorplans"
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for the tip. I think I'm going slightly different in that I'm going to mount the DC panel below, next to the batteries. We'll see how that works. I'm going to leave it up to Colorado Camper Vans really, as they will be wiring all the stuff to the DC panel for me. I REALLY do like the idea of being able to only remove a couple of wires to move the bench. What I might do is use a jigsaw to cut a decent size hole in the back of the bench, that way if I do need to remove/move it, I can just remove the 1 wire from the DC panel and put it through the hole, so I don't have to undo that wiring.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Update
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No pics, as it's not that exciting, but I got the #2 wiring run for the batteries, charger, and through the shunt into the inverter. The inverter turns on, powers my (ha, Cembors, I think I never gave it back) 1500W heat gun just fine, and seems to work. Going to spend Saturday as a big van work day, and finish up the wiring for the charge controller and get that mounted as well. I'll then let CCV finish up the wiring by wiring in the DC panel.

Had a few learnings in building the bench/electrical shelf thing. Realized that when the stuff is mounted to the shelf, it prevents it from opening more than like 45 degrees. Oops. I might reorder stuff around a little bit to make it open more, but since I already made the cables, I might just leave it alone for now and plan to move it around better in version #2 , as I'm sure I missed a few other things.

Also went to HD racing and picked up the wood to make the drawer. That's also going to be part of Saturday Van Day in terms of build. Shouldn't take too long to get that done, as it's just a small box. I'm going to wait to mount the actual 15mm adapters until it's all installed in the van, as I'll have to figure out handlebar clearance and all that.

I got the pooper delivered, and it's pretty compact and looks good. Not going to be a planned use item, but available in case of poopmergencies or middle of the night, it's freezing outside, peeing.

And lastly, I ordered the window as well. It's a CR Lawrence factory fit window, so looks exactly like the OEM glass. It was $350 and there's no shipping, as they have a warehouse in Denver. Win. That's the major and only real goal for Saturday's Van Day, as that's the last thing to do before I drop the van off to get CCV to do the interior.
 

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Master Overland Custom Vans Tampa
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Awesome progress! Wish you hadn't taken out the rear leaf as the weight of your conversion will level the van quite nicely. It did for my 3500. Take a look at any commercial RV build on a Promaster. All are level. If you read any of the van forums like ClassB forum you will learn that folks are asking for ways to lift the rear.
 

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Just to back up Jostalli's comments... my conversion added approx 2400lbs to the rear which dropped it by 1-1.5 inches... nice and level now.
 

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Depends on where you put the weight. My 136" fully loaded for an extended trip is 6,900 pounds, almost exactly equal between front and rear axles. I still have the rake, and I like it.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Putting the springs back will take all of 20 minutes if I ever choose to. Also, 2400lbs for a conversion? Hoooly **** what do you have in there? :)

With the one spring removed, the rear is still higher than the front for me. Figured with the conversion complete, it will be even. We'll see.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
This afternoon was window day! Was going to do it tomorrow, but the weather was nice today, which gives me the opportunity to play outside more tomorrow.

The CRL windows are direct OEM replacements, so the install is fairly straightforward. You're supposed to be just able to cut out the factory sheetmetal around the factory inside edge and stuff the window in. There were reports out there that the window frame was slightly off though, so that if you did cut that sheetmetal, it would be too much, leaving some exposed opening. Also, the instruction were pretty adamant about measuring twice, using a template etc, etc, so I decided to.

Used the box that the window came in, cut out a template, and test fit everything with carboard. Looks like the people were right, to where you had to be on the edge on all the straight sections, but the corners, you needed to be 1/4" or so inside. I predrilled a couple of holes, did some test cuts and off to work.

Cutting ended up being super easy. I didn't quite get all the way to the edge so I ended up doing a decent bit of trim cutting, but I got a really nice fit and finish. Definitely looks factory. I'm undecided on the drivers side window. I think with the fans and this window, it will be enough interior light. But might be cool to have a window behind the couch. That will be a summer item for sure.

Tomorrow is the drawer build, wiring up the battery isolator, and test fitting the bench. After that, she goes off to CCV on Sunday for the interior install. Stoked!









 

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Discussion Starter #17
Moar Updates
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Had a van half day work day on Saturday. Got a few things done:
1) Built the drawer and test fit everything in the back
2) Test fit of items and some cardboard where the kitchen will go
3) Ran the wiring from starter battery to where the house batteries will live
4) Got the plans finalized and the van ready to be dropped off

The drawer was modeled off this build exactly: http://faroutride.com/slide-out-bike-rack/ It was super easy to build and the slides are SUPER beefy. I'll mount it to the floor once the van is back. It fits perfectly and even though the Megatrail is a touch over 60" overall, it will fit perfectly under the bed. Excited about that. I got the lockable slides and it looks like those are key. I can leave the front of the drawer open to be able to sweep out garbage that falls off the bikes easily and the locks can be used as handles to pull the drawer out.

I also ran the #2 wiring from battery underneath the floor panel/seat out to the couch. I was going to hook the battery isolator up and everything, but decided to wait until CCV got a hold of everything to make sure exactly where the couch will sit.

Lastly, I put in the couch and measured everything and it seems it will all work as planned. The couch is 56" long and next to it will be a wardrobe where my plastic totes will go. As of right now, it looks like I can fit two of the 14"x19" totes next to each other, which is ideal. That will mean 6 totes worth of storage as well as storage up top for bed like things. Love that. The kitchen will be 44" wide and overlap the door by ~4", which should be totally fine. A 44" wide x 21" deep kitchen counter top will be super nice. The sink is 16" in diameter, but will have a top on it that will give you the full use of the counter. Stoked about that.





 

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Discussion Starter #18
The van got dropped off at CCV today. SUPER impressed with these guys so far. They moved into a new shop a month ago and went from a small place to an entire compound. The shop looks amazing with 13,000 sq ft of space and vans absolutely everywhere. I think there were doing about 4-5 at a time while I was there. Sprinter getting a full build, an overland with 33" tires, short top Ford getting a tall top and another Promaster getting an adjustable height bed, and a few more around the corner.

I think I already put up a list of what they are working on, but it got a touch expanded, so I'll write it down again, if not to make sure I remember :lol:

- Full Thinsulate insulation walls, floor, ceiling with some extra Dynamat on the wheel wells
- Full paneling. 1/4" plywood on the whole interior and ceiling. The drivers door is getting paneled over and has already been disabled.
- Reinforcement on the ceiling and above the couch and kitchenette to be able to attach overhead cabinets
- 3/4" floor with 1/4" fake laminate hardwoods. It's a light ash colored hardwood look and it's going to look so awesome with the gray walls. I decided I'll do white cabinets, which will be a nice modern-ish look feel to the i
- 2 Maxxair fans in the ceiling. One up front and one in the back. Should have enough room to do 4 solar panels up there as well, even though 2 are going up for now.
- Adjustable height bed. It will go down as low as 28" and as high as 50". If there are no bikes back there will be a ton of headroom or it can go fairly high up if the van needs to transport something. The main point of adjustability is to go as low over the handlebars/seats of the bikes as I can, not to make the garage a living space
- USB and AC outlet in the garage area
- USB and light switch for 2 lights above bed
- USB and AC outlets with a switch for 6 lights next to the sliding door
- DC wiring for the kitchenette with wire for fridge and water pump
- Finishing my wiring from the starter battery with a breaker and mounting the batteries to the floor
- Replacing my 200 amp fuse for inverter with a breaker
- Installing a DC panel next to the batteries and wiring in the lights, USB, etc to it

I'm picking it up on Christmas Day and will basically be ready to take off for Sedona for 10 days. I have a few things to finish up before I leave, but with CCV finishing the wiring, that list is very short.
- Install fork mount and install drawer into the floor
- Put in mattress
- Attach couch permanently to floor using fancy corner braces

Since I'm really just in Sedona to ride bikes for a whole week (my work is closed that week), I'll finish up a couple of things there on the van that I've been waiting for warm weather for. Actually attaching the solar panels to the roof as well as plasti-dipping the wheels and logos. I was originally going to JUST attach the solar panels with the 3M tape, but CCV strongly recommended to run a small sheet metal screw through the Z mounts just in case. It'll mean 8 small holes in the roof, but since there will be 3M tape all around it AND lap sealant over it, it will be 1000% waterproof.

A final "before" picture. Looking forward to picking up on Christmas morning. Best present ever :)

 

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Discussion Starter #19
Just a couple of "in progress" pics from CCV as they do some insulation/etc. We decided to keep the indention in the wall panels making for more space for the bed. Should make the width of the sleeping area a full 73-74". While there is going to be slightly less insulation at the head/feet, there will still be a layer of Thinsulate and plywood there.



 

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Looks great so far! I like the idea of leaving the indentations for more stretch out space. How exactly are they insulating there? Just thinsulate on the metal and then what allows it to be nice and smooth transitioning to the rest so it looks good covered?

Are they doing E-track up the walls to allow for height adjustment of the bed?

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