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What a great job! I will be using many of your cabinet framing techniques.....really like the way you built the frames, attached them to the van, and then skinned them. I really like like the shower build as well. Now go enjoy that Promaster!
 

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Discussion Starter #63
What a great job! ... Now go enjoy that Promaster!
We did - just got back from a 2-1/2 week trip to the southwest. Everything worked great except for the dreaded "Service DEF System" message along with the 200 mile speed limit warning at Bryce Canyon. It was more than 200 miles to the nearest dealer in Provo so there was some anxiety with the freeway speed limit at 80 MPH. It turned out that the speed limit is not invoked until the first restart after 200 miles so the trip to Provo was uneventful. The problem was quickly fixed by updating the engine control software at Larry H. Miller Chrysler in Provo. They were great and we were on our way in 1-1/2 hours.
 

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We did - just got back from a 2-1/2 week trip to the southwest. Everything worked great except for the dreaded "Service DEF System" message along with the 200 mile speed limit warning at Bryce Canyon. It was more than 200 miles to the nearest dealer in Provo so there was some anxiety with the freeway speed limit at 80 MPH. It turned out that the speed limit is not invoked until the first restart after 200 miles so the trip to Provo was uneventful. The problem was quickly fixed by updating the engine control software at Larry H. Miller Chrysler in Provo. They were great and we were on our way in 1-1/2 hours.
Great to hear stories of good dealer service, and on the road no less!

I hope I have the same good fortune should I need it.

Cheers,

Dave
 

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Discussion Starter #66
I've been to Bryce Canyon. It's hard to take in all the beauty at anything over 120mph, so that's a valid warning... >:D
:eek: Oops, that phrase wasn't quite right, however that speed may have been appropriate to avoid the impending storm. The forecast called for 12 - 24 inches of snow, below freezing temperatures, and 55 mph wind gusts. There were a fair number of tent campers at Bryce that may be in the market for a camper van soon.
 

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Wow

I had to join simply to comment on this. I don't even OWN a ProMaster. Your attention to detail is insane.

I have bought two separate vehicles now to convert to "stealth" campers -- a 2001 Ford E150 van, and a 2000 Ford E350 Uhaul box van (14'). I spent a lot of time (and a LOT of money) building the 2001 into a camper over the summer, only to gut it and start over, because I realized that the vehicle was never going to be as mechanically sound as I wanted, and I didn't want to pour heart and soul into something that was going to break down over and over. Plus, I thought, the inside of that cargo van was just TOO small to be anything more than a glorified tent. I managed to build out a bed, panel and insulate the inside ("insulation" being Reflectix), and (my proudest achievement) wire it for sound, power (I apparently went WAY overboard on that, with two 155Ah 12 volt batteries rigged in parallel, connected with a battery isolator to the van's power system, and fed by 200 watts of solar on the roof), and a portable Dometic 12V refrigerator. No heat. No toilet. No shower.

I camped in it for a week, before the lack of space, the lack of toilet facilities, the lack of heat, the lack of shower, and (something I hadn't expected) the lack of the ability to ever STAND UP straight got me down. Plus during that week, it broke down twice. I'm very handy with engine repairs, but I didn't want to spend all my time on the side of the road broken down. Plus, it's an old van; the two breakdowns were minor things I could handle (once a fuse burned out, killing my 12V circuit, once the air intake snorkel came off the intake manifold, leading to stalls and loss of power), but how long before something terminal happened, and what if I was 2000 miles from home? I'm not rich, I can't afford to just take an airplane back home every time something goes wrong.

For reference, I'm a middle aged computer programmer. I've been geeky all my life -- if you want "computer stuff," I'm your man. I'm probably one of the best people in the world at what I do, and that's confidence, not ego. But when it comes to working with my hands? Pffft. I know NOTHING. I never even took shop class in high school.

So, imagine my surprise to discover that I LOVED it! I took, on a whim, one welding/metalworking class and fell in love -- promptly went and bought a (cheap, Harbor Freight) flux-core MIG welder, and a (cheap, Harbor Freight) band saw. I've since then learned a thing or two and tossed the HF welder in favor of a sturdy little Hobart unit, and the HF bandsaw in favor of a DeWalt portaband and a plasma cutter, but hey, you gotta start somewhere. And my welds would probably make a journeyman welder sick to his stomach, but hey, they're strong enough (I know better than to weld anything that my life would depend on; I let the experts do that).

Same thing with woodworking. I discovered that it was incredibly fun to cut, nail, screw, and glue wood. I discovered things that any competent woodworker was probably born knowing (yes, pilot holes are a thing. Yes, grain direction is important, yes, even painted wood will not do well in the Seattle rain over the winter if unattended. OSB is cheap for a reason.)

Anyway, this has been over the last mmm 18 months or so. I've spent a small fortune amassing tools, and I still don't have half of what I need (my fantasy tools are a lathe and a mill, but I just can't find any pressing NEED to justify those multithousand dollar purchases! I should probably get a real table saw, first.) My garage is messy, and crowded. I'm learning that tidiness isn't just for neat freaks; it's a survival instinct.

I'm still not "handy." I'm pretty good with a wrench, and could probably fix your engine or suspension if you break down. And of course, anything technical, I'm your man -- fix or program your computer, connect you to the internet in 12 ways from Sunday. I know enough to be dangerous with metal and woodworking, but I still spend FAR too much time and money making mistakes.

I've got a 2000 Ford box truck sitting in my driveway, staring back at me, asking me to "RV-ify it." I was worried that I couldn't fit in all the basic amenities -- I don't need much, but I'd like to "**** shower and shave" (as my Dad, an old Navy man, would say).

But now, looking at your build, I'm both humbled, awed, and motivated. Motivated because I know I'm just being silly; I could probably PARK your van in the back of my box truck. It's not immense, but it's a 17 foot box with seven foot ceilings. Unlike cargo vans, the floor, walls, and ceiling are perfectly flat and square (dealing with all of the curves, braces, and cutouts in the cargo van was MADDENING to someone with no skills... how do you even take a MEASUREMENT of something that has a decreasing radius curve, and oh, a cutout and a brace in the middle?). The biggest challenge is that the box is completely sealed, aside from the rollup door. So my first big modification is going to be -- gulp -- cutting a hole in the front of the box and the back of the cab and sealing them up (there's about a 4" air gap) with a rubber accordion boot I found online. Then I'll probably start putting in the electrical stuff (I learned the hard way that running wires AFTER insulation is HARD), then the insulation. Then I'll start building basic amenities, furniture and stuff -- and when I say "building" I mean mostly buying them cheap from a second hand construction supplies store I found locally (another hard lesson: when you have no skill, thinking you can just go "buy some wood and hinges and stuff" and make e.g. a cabinet is just basically throwing away money on good wood and hinges. I have SO. MUCH. SCRAP WOOD. in my garage!) I'll git 'er done, although my motivation to be crawling around on the 11' high roof of the box to put on the 600 watts of solar and the vent fan in icy, sub-freezing weather is ... low. I'll probably just fix up all the mechanical stuff (a check engine light that looks mostly like a clogged air filter, a tuneup) and wait for warmer weather.

You've given me inspiration and ideas. I now know that my idea that "hey, I wonder if I could mount one of those sideways propane tank thingies underneath and do heat and hot water?" isn't all that silly. I can do it, I just need to be very careful not to asphyxiate myself, burn myself alive, or blow myself up (can you tell propane plumbing frightens me?). My thought that "hmm, I wonder if I could set it up with a switched shore power setup like RV's have?" is actually doable, with care and planning (I'm fine with 12V work, but 110V makes me nervous... I've never wired up a light socket in my life!). My thought that I could have a real, stand-up shower and hot water in the truck -- not a pipe dream.

But I have SO MUCH TO LEARN. That's why looking at your build is inspiring and humbling. Inspiring, because I know it's possible. My box truck could have all the amenities of your van; of course there is NO WAY it will look as pretty and polished, because I don't have the budget for that level of fit and finished, and mostly because I have NOTHING like your degree or depth of construction skill. And humbling, to see what "the right tools, the right materials, and the right inspiration in the hand of a master" could accomplish.

Side note: I asked a local RV shop for a SWAG about mounting an 11 gallon propane tank and plumbing the inside of the box. Not installing appliances or anything, just a tank, mounted to the underbody, with the "correct" kind of plumbing run into the box. Their answer? $2500. I'm not rich, and that's just disgusting. Now that I KNOW it's possible, I'll just read, read, read, figure out what safety precautions to take (I know I need gas-ready fixtures, I know LP's heavier than air, I know about the dangers of CO poisoning and asphyxiation), and git 'er done. It'll just take me longer. I may not be very smart, but I'm stubborn, and determined.
 

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I had to join simply to comment on this. I don't even OWN a ProMaster. Your attention to detail is insane.
Tom, that's quite a 'first post' . . . and apparently last? Come back with some photos and stories of what you've done.
 

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Discussion Starter #71
Modifications for Winter Camping

We recently took a trip in January from Washington State to Joshua Tree in California. Prior to leaving I was worried about my external water tanks and plumbing freezing up in cold weather. I considered tank heaters but the power requirements are just too high without needing to be plugged in. My solution was to use temporary internal tanks for fresh water and gray water in freezing conditions. I purchased a 16 gallon plastic tank from Northern Tool that just fit on the floor at the back of the van and plumbed the outlet to a diverter valve at the fresh water pump inlet. I also built a wood box to keep the tank in place and that can be used as storage when the tank is not needed.

The internal gray water tank is a spare Thetford toilet cassette that is connected to the galley sink drain through a plastic diverter valve. This tank is ideal because it has a float valve vent that prevents overflow when the tank gets full. It is also easy to carry and empty. Since the internal gray water system only serves the galley sink the bathroom sink and shower cannot be used in freezing weather. The toilet can be used because its cassette is in the heated space. A small amount of RV antifreeze poured into the bath sink and shower drains protects the drain traps against freezing.

It turned out that the outside temperature was above freezing for the whole trip so I ended up using only the external tanks. However I liked having the internal backup system available if needed. Here are some photos showing details of the installation:
















 

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Your build sir is demoralizing to some of us just starting out. Kidding of course. How can any one person have so much talent in so many areas? Impressive build! I'd never thought you could fit so much in a 136" and still have it look so roomy and clean.
 

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Your build sir is demoralizing to some of us just starting out. Kidding of course. How can any one person have so much talent in so many areas? Impressive build! I'd never thought you could fit so much in a 136" and still have it look so roomy and clean.
Thanks! This project would not have been possible without the wealth of information shared by other talented builders on this forum.
 

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This spring my wife and I decided to sell our travel trailer and try a camper van instead. This would allow me to handle the "let's stop here" request without anxiety over an exit strategy with the trailer. I hate disconnecting to get out of a jam.
Hi Eric thanks for allowing me to ask a few general build questions on your original (2015) build thread.

Funny how you and I gravitated to van travel after having had it with travel trailers.
Aside from earlier VW camper van build in another life and an assortment of cab over and class A, I ended up towing trailers while kids were small.
Like you with your fiberglass Big Foot, I had a 21ft Escape travel trailer we waited 14 months for the BC Canadian company to build for us.
It was great but for reasons you mentioned, it slowed us down and that's no way to tour quickly.
Didn't take long to figure out we needed a camper van to tour all North America for months at a time for many many years.

While I don't agree with some of the concepts you implement in your build, I have to tell you, I admire your excellent component designs and overall workmanship.
What you did with 136" wb is mind blowing. I will have 159" wb to work with.

Below is assortment of questions, since I was not around while you were building years ago, and comments:


1. Now that you have had it for a while, how has it been working out? If starting over, anything you would change?

2. What was the driving force behind your decision to make everything easily removable? It's a good concept. I would do that for ease of maintenance and expanding or changing later.

3. I agree with making good use of poplar. I use it to build nice window casings and yes its wonderful, easy to machine and shape. What you introduced me to was Lite Ply. Will look and try out instead of Baltic.

4. Your grey drain, did you implement an exit pump because the elevations would not permit gravity drain or you wanted to pump grey to a receiving drain such as a nearby bathroom or sewer dump using a garden hose? I might end up having pumping as an option should that be necessary depending on campground or site location, gravity drain for sure.

5. How is the shower stall holding up with regards to moisture or leakage. Today, would you glass the wood panels instead of just resin coating ?

6. Love your drop down water tank fill arm. Doing same except it will be longer as my tank will be inside and a bit further forward. Still, seeing it in action as you did was a joy to see.

7. Your grey water level method, truly is unique. Not sure I will follow as it requires a small air pump and while I own and am familiar with using a manometer I rather install Horton sensors.

8. Your galley is beautiful, the stainless back is wow.

9. With a hefty LPG tank what made you decide to space heat using van fuel ? There are quite a few LPG space heaters ?

10. Like your Nova Kool marine fridge. I installed their 6800 two door model in my trailer and loved how it performed. Good choice.

11. Your cabinet work is terrific.



Thanks a lot for sharing your excellent build, I know I and others will benefit from your work.

Santiago
 

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Discussion Starter #75
Hi Eric thanks for allowing me to ask a few general build questions on your original (2015) build thread.

Funny how you and I gravitated to van travel after having had it with travel trailers.
Aside from earlier VW camper van build in another life and an assortment of cab over and class A, I ended up towing trailers while kids were small.
Like you with your fiberglass Big Foot, I had a 21ft Escape travel trailer we waited 14 months for the BC Canadian company to build for us.
It was great but for reasons you mentioned, it slowed us down and that's no way to tour quickly.
Didn't take long to figure out we needed a camper van to tour all North America for months at a time for many many years.

While I don't agree with some of the concepts you implement in your build, I have to tell you, I admire your excellent component designs and overall workmanship.
What you did with 136" wb is mind blowing. I will have 159" wb to work with.

Below is assortment of questions, since I was not around while you were building years ago, and comments:

1. Now that you have had it for a while, how has it been working out? If starting over, anything you would change?
Santiago
Using the 136" wb has resulted in compromises that has worked well for us. We don't necessarily like making the bed every night and there is no room for any large items on the inside, like a bike. However van is a joy to drive and can be parked anywhere. With the diesel I am always worried about the availability of service when on a trip. We had the "Service DEF system" warning while at Bryce and nearly didn't make it to Provo before the speed was limited to 5 mph. I would like to drive to Alaska but probably will not because of this issue.

2. What was the driving force behind your decision to make everything easily removable? It's a good concept. I would do that for ease of maintenance and expanding or changing later.
Santiago
The Lite Ply is very soft so the cabinets needed to be painted inside and out. It was much easier to spray them outside the van. There was also so much cutting and fitting involved that I was always moving the cabinets in and out. Once the wiring and plumbing was installed they were no longer easily removable.

3. I agree with making good use of poplar. I use it to build nice window casings and yes its wonderful, easy to machine and shape. What you introduced me to was Lite Ply. Will look and try out instead of Baltic.
Santiago
Lite Ply is probably half the weight of Baltic Birch and a joy to work with. The inside plys are clear and void free. Cuts are nearly glass smooth using a fine tooth carbide blade. The downside is the it does not take stain well, is soft, and is very expensive (about $70/sheet).

4. Your grey drain, did you implement an exit pump because the elevations would not permit gravity drain or you wanted to pump grey to a receiving drain such as a nearby bathroom or sewer dump using a garden hose? I might end up having pumping as an option should that be necessary depending on campground or site location, gravity drain for sure.
Santiago
I used a pump to allow fast draining through a short garden hose. With my trailer I hated looking for a dump station, dragging out the drain hose, and walking in other people's sewage to drain the tank. Now each morning I pull out the toilet cassette, pump the gray water into the remaining space in the cassette, and walk to the nearest rest room to dump the contents.

I was worried about the situation if the pump failed so I added and alternate gravity drain connection that could be used in an emergency.

5. How is the shower stall holding up with regards to moisture or leakage. Today, would you glass the wood panels instead of just resin coating ?
Santiago
The shower has been great with problems or leaks. The panels without fiberglass are holding up fine. We do put a mat on the shower floor when not in use to protect the finish from grit.

6. Love your drop down water tank fill arm. Doing same except it will be longer as my tank will be inside and a bit further forward. Still, seeing it in action as you did was a joy to see.
Santiago
It works great as long as you don't forget it is deployed and shut the door.

7. Your grey water level method, truly is unique. Not sure I will follow as it requires a small air pump and while I own and am familiar with using a manometer I rather install Horton sensors.
Santiago
The level sensor has worked well for the most part. Sometimes it plugs up and I clear it by blowing out the pressure line. I settled on this system because the level sensor in my Bigfoot trailer never worked.

8. Your galley is beautiful, the stainless back is wow.
Santiago
Thanks. The stainless was necessary because the back stove burner was close. If I was doing it again I would choose an RV stove with a fold down cover for more counter space.

9. With a hefty LPG tank what made you decide to space heat using van fuel ? There are quite a few LPG space heaters ?
Santiago
You are right that the propane tank is overkill, and it would have been easier to have used a smaller tank. I liked the diesel heater because I had a source of fuel and it did not require punching a hole in the side of the van.

10. Like your Nova Kool marine fridge. I installed their 6800 two door model in my trailer and loved how it performed. Good choice.
Santiago
The fridge has been reliable but unlike the two door model the thermostat only regulates the freezer section. This may be OK for a marine application where the ambient temperature is somewhat constant. The inside temperature of the van varies widely, from 50 degrees in the morning to over a 100 degrees if the van is parked in the sun. Consequently the temperature of the fridge also varied a lot, sometimes freezing the contents and other times being too warm. To solve this problem I added a second thermostat to measure the fridge temperature and used it to control fans that circulated cold air from the freezer compartment to the fridge compartment. This also involved thermally isolating the freezer compartment from the fridge with additional insulation. The temperature in the fridge is now really well regulated at 40 degrees independent of the van inside temperature.

11. Your cabinet work is terrific.
Santiago
Thanks. The do get dinged up a little more that cabinets built of a harder material but hey, this is a CAMPER van.
Santiago[/QUOTE]

Thanks a lot for sharing your excellent build, I know I and others will benefit from your work.

Santiago
 

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Hi Eric, thanks for your thoughtful response, very informative.

As you might have guessed by now, I ask a lot of questions.

Another important question that you can help with.

Your use of 11 mm thick Home Slicker 10 stay dry mesh.
What exactly is it's role attached to the van wall. I can see it on a house wall as that is normally permeable to the outside and the mesh allows any condensation to run down to weep openings.

What would it do when next to a solid van wall ? How does it prevent/reduce condensation, by allowing air circulation at wall boundary lowering moisture concentration? Allow any condensation that took place to run down to weep hole, dry out ?

The top reflective layer, without a gap on either side, how would that help? Is that layer taped as to reduce moisture travel to inner wall assembly as you show in post #8 ?

Right now, without a van in my driveway to better measure, inspect wall steel wall assembly and mock up, we can only see what we want on paper. As ours sits in Mexico at the dock and waiting for a ride, we have the luxury to continue tweaking our design.

--------

I would have loved a 136" van, for the ease of use and freedom you mentioned, even a low top would be great. We know that many years from now after we are all cross countried out, we will have the equivalent of such a versatile van.

We started our design with a clean sheet, had to resist designing a typical small motorhome in a mere 90 square feet. It was tough not penciling in a jacuzzi and home gym ; > ) We kept reminding ourselves was that this is a van and to design around 90 square feet. We have no requirements for sports toys, leaving that to the younger guys and gals. We would have loved having a bed we could both roll out of on each side, do-abe but that eats a lot of the 90 square feet. Same for the full time bathroom.

So we compromised on a van that had a few luxuries like hot indoor shower, toilet, dining table ala RD, good size full time bed, good size 12vdc refrigerator and storage garage under bed.

Regarding the NovaKool fridge, I came close to puncturing the cold plate being in a hurry "assisting" the defrosting process. Be careful. It's very thin aluminum and seems fragile. I had the two door 6800 and it had just one thermostat just like your one door. For the van I spec'd in a Vitrifrigo 5.3cf two door and hope we like it.

We are striving to incorporate flexibility in our design to accommodate varying travel scenarios. An example is capturing grey water. While there will be an under van grey tank, the optional under sink Jerry can style grey capture will still be available. When using the standard under van tank, the Jerry can is stored in the under bed garage. When showering is not going to happen, have freezing temps or limited disposal situation, we use the Jerry can method for sink only. Potable water will always be inside. Like you, I never want to see another black water holding tank nor dirty, hard to find dump station with a long line of RVs waiting for the privilege of dumping.

Due to the constant on the go travel we anticipate, no solar will be installed. If our initial requirements ever change, such as a strong desire to stay parked in one place for many days, there will be ample roof space available for solar.

You accomplished quite a lot in a 136" van! I see many $140k factory class-B units that also need to convert dinette to bed and they are 21+ feet in length.

Thanks again,

Santiago
 

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Discussion Starter #78
Another important question that you can help with.

Your use of 11 mm thick Home Slicker 10 stay dry mesh.
What exactly is it's role attached to the van wall. I can see it on a house wall as that is normally permeable to the outside and the mesh allows any condensation to run down to weep openings.

What would it do when next to a solid van wall ? How does it prevent/reduce condensation, by allowing air circulation at wall boundary lowering moisture concentration? Allow any condensation that took place to run down to weep hole, dry out ?

The top reflective layer, without a gap on either side, how would that help? Is that layer taped as to reduce moisture travel to inner wall assembly as you show in post #8 ?

Santiago
My idea with the Home Slicker was to keep wet, saturated insulation away from the body wall to prevent rust. It would also allow some air circulation next to the skin to eventually dry out any condensation. I probably didn't need it because the Thinsulate insulation I used is hydrophobic unlike fiberglass. I also wished I had used the 6mm Home Slicker as it was difficult to get all three layers to fit in some places.

The Reflectix outer layer was used as a radiant barrier and to limit the transfer of moisture from the interior of the van to the skin.

My insulation design was not based on any testing or analysis. I just wanted to avoid the rusted out panels that I read about when fiberglass insulation is used right next to the skin. Time will tell if it was worth it.
 

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Santiago, I added solar late in the game. Please learn from my mistake. At least run your wires now. It's a royal PITA to undo what you've installed to run the wires later.
Hi MsNomer, sound advice from someone that was there and did that ! Thank you.

For pennies and little effort it's worth doing while prepping for things that will likely happen, solar in this case. Air conditioner as another example.
Yes will add these common and worthy components if only in a "virtual" way, meaning have just about everything ready for when it happens.

We plan on keeping our van for as long as we can handle long distance road travel and your experience tells me prepare for it now. Will do Ms Nomer.

Thank you.

Santiago
 

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My insulation design was not based on any testing or analysis. I just wanted to avoid the rusted out panels that I read about when fiberglass insulation is used right next to the skin. Time will tell if it was worth it.
Hi Eric,

Why am I hearing more and more about fiberglass holding on to moisture. I know in an attic near vent openings it takes quite a hit with any water intrusion and certainly R value drops like a rock when moist. Never mind it turning to dust after many miles of bouncing in a camper and that occasionally finding its way into the cabin for us to inhale. Fiberglass = bad news.

Yes Thinsulate is far superior. Knowing how well Thinsulate performs, would you still apply 6 mm mesh ?

Question: Using Reflective as radiant barrier, how if it is sandwiched between Thinsulate and outer wall panel ?

Thanks Eric
 
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