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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi folks,

I'm somewhat new to the forum but I have been reading and developing a plan for a van conversion for the past 6 months or so and I now have the van and much of the gear needed to begin my build...

Meet Sandy (a.k.a., a 2020 136WB HT Promaster in Sandstone Pearlcoat). Apparently, the color is pretty rare, as we've never seen one in the wild and the dealer told me that it was the first one they had ever received from FCA. We bought it new and just picked it up from the dealership... in Wisconsin... (we live in California), so we made a road trip over the weekend to go get it. 2000+ miles on the trip and I've learned a few things about how it handles, etc.

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It's a clean slate, and I will be making a bunch of modifications to it over the next few weeks in preparation for the actual conversion work to begin. The mods will probably go in this order:

100% DONE WITH PRELIMINARY STEPS
  1. Swivel seats and lowered bases (so I can then make final measurements on available space for the galley, etc). COMPLETED 10/21/20
  2. Vent fan COMPLETED 10/29/20
  3. Install CRL windows in the front L and R panels COMPLETED 11/7/20
  4. Install CRL windows in the rear L and R panels COMPLETED 11/2/20
  5. Remove black ABS paneling on inside COMPLETED 10/30/20
  6. Insulation for walls and roof (Remove all the ABS panels - Noico - Thinsulate) COMPLETED 1/21
Along the way, there are a few other things that will happen, but they can be fit in whenever I have time:
  • Sumo springs for front and rear REAR COMPLETED 10/22/20 FRONT COMPLETED 10/23/20
  • Solar panels on roof (Went with an 8020 frame and DIYVan mounts. Waiting for final parts to put on roof.) COMPLETED 12/7/20
  • Install Dragonfly tarp rail COMPLETED 11/29/20
  • Upgraded stereo and/or speakers (Kenwood Head unit, and Hertz speakers) SPEAKERS INSTALLED 12/6/20 HEAD UNIT INSTALLED 12/13/20
  • AT tires FALKEN AT3W INSTALLED 1/26/21
  • External step (Thule) COMPLETED 1/24/21
  • Espar B4 heater (Need to determine location first)
  • Install NOCO 15-amp plug COMPLETED 10/23/20
  • Install rearview camera wiring and camera REAR CAMERA INSTALLED 11/29/20 WIRING INSTALLED AND BEHIND HEADLINER 12/22/20
  • Install Class III trailer hitch COMPLETED 12/21/20
After that initial round of work is done, the real work of adding the upfit will commence. I'm expecting it to go in this order:
  1. Floor install 100% COMPLETE
    1. Cut foam, subfloor, floorFOAM AND SUBFLOOR CUT AND TEMPORARILY INSTALLED 11/20/2
    2. Figure out reinforcement locations (under galley, at doors, at L-track points)COMPLETED 12/14/20
    3. Fabricate floor sills at side and read door. COMPLETED 1/9/21
    4. Fabricate final subfloor COMPLETED 1/17/21
    5. Determine whether biscuit joints or a lapped joint on the main floor will work best. Fabricate main floor joints. DECIDED ON LAPPED JOINTS. COMPLETED 1/23/21
    6. Do final insert of flooring and finish floor before furniture install COMPLETED 1/24/21
    7. Insert floor L-track points and secure floor in final position COMPLETED 226/21
  2. Preliminary electrical
    1. Rough electrical design and sizing COMPLETED 1/10/21
    2. Layout electrical on breadboard with components
    3. Figure out the 3D layout for install in van available space
    4. Do final wiring in actual van space
      1. Install solar wiring COMPLETED 12/7/20
      2. Install alt. battery wire
      3. Install controller for Thule Powerstep
      4. Install hookup for AC power to inverter/charger
      5. Install DCC50S
      6. Install Xantrex 2000 XC
      7. Install batteries (2 Lion Energy UC1300)
        1. Install battery straps
      8. Install fuses and bus bars
      9. Install disconnects
      10. Install load centers
      11. Install ltg. control boxes
      12. Install wiring between devices
        1. Install lighting control wiring
        2. Install power wiring
        3. install monitoring wiring
        4. Install 120v wiring
      13. Install trailer hitch wiring COMPLETED 2/8/21
    5. Do final safety tests and confirm wiring and connection integrity
    6. Finish cabinetry around electrical
  3. Bed and garage upfit
    1. Make rough layout and test connection methods COMPLETED 1/21
    2. Fabricate bed area
    3. Fabricate sliding cabinets
    4. Assemble and test
  4. Galley
    1. Galley carcass construction COMPLETED 11/30/20
    2. Galley drawers construction and installation COMPLETED 1/25/21
    3. Galley countertop fabrication
    4. Sink install
    5. Plumbing for sink and drain
    6. Electrical for pump
    7. Door/drawer front fabrication and install
  5. Upper cabinets construction
    1. Place 8020 connection points on van
    2. Place remaining 8020 and get door and reinforcing positioned
    3. Fabricate sides and door fronts for cabinets
    4. Final install of doors and sides/bases
  6. Wall and ceiling finish
    1. Fabricate door panels
    2. Make wall panel forms for the fabric sections
    3. Make patterns for metal ceiling sections
    4. Make window surround forms for all windows
    5. Wrap wall panels with foam and fabric
    6. Install fabric segments
    7. Install metal segments
    8. Install L-track on ceiling and pieces on rear pillars and doors
  7. Final electrical
    1. Install switches
    2. Install outlets 120v
    3. Install outlets 12v
    4. Install monitoring panels
    5. Install lights
    6. Connect pump
    7. Connect refrigerator
    8. Connect smoke and CO detector
  8. Final Elements
    1. Order cushions COMPLETED 2/21
    2. Install Lagon table
    3. Install fire extinguisher
    4. Purchase champagne
A lot of these steps will overlap and some will certainly be dependent on previous steps, so things will be done piecemeal at times to ensure things are working together well.

Most of these steps have LOTS of smaller steps along the way, but on the whole, this represents a reasonable high level project breakdown.

My plan is to use 8020 for the galley and baltic birch or similar plywood USA-sourced Maple plywood for the bed and garage portions. This is pre-finished on both sides, so that simplifies some aspects of the fabrication.

I will try to document the progress some and make updates to this thread. I'm not sure if I should ask questions in here or start another thread for any specific questions that I still have or will come across as I build.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Glad they bought the color back. It was available 2014-15, I think, then disappeared.
It's a great color; I'm happy they had it, but if it didn't exist, I'd probably go with the silver. The really nice granite color is too dark to not have heat gain problems, even though I like that particular color a lot as well.
 

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2019 136HT 2500 "Van Diego"
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Nice van! Ours is a 2019 136HT in white. Regarding the stereo, I assume you have the U5 head unit. The radios actually not too bad. The factory speakers, the cheapest trash you ever seen. I installed some Jensen GT-6C's in the front. Difference was night n day. Maybe try some better speakers before a new radio.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Nice van! Ours is a 2019 136HT in white. Regarding the stereo, I assume you have the U5 head unit. The radios actually not too bad. The factory speakers, the cheapest trash you ever seen. I installed some Jensen GT-6C's in the front. Difference was night n day. Maybe try some better speakers before a new radio.
Sounds good... It has the basic stereo (non-Sirius, UC3) with the 5" screen. I'm spoiled by the much larger screen in the RAV4 we have so it's going to take some getting used to.

A speaker upgrade was my first thought as long as I felt that the radio meet my other needs.
 

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We have a 136 and it requires some clever use of steps and space management. We have installed our bed on a vertical L track system so it can be raised and lowered AND REMOVED within minutes, keeping our van very useful as a cargo van. Feel free to ask if that interests you.

I do think I have come up with an ideal suspension setup we are currently using on a 3k mile trip through Utah. It is soooo much better than stock.

Fox rear shocks
Koni or bilstein front struts.
LIGHT sumo springs on the rear with only the 1 spacer
Remove rear leaf spring
Rear anti sway bar on the middle hole

We have tried lots of different sumos and stuff. This is likely the sweet spot. So smooth now.

For weight reference we have 4 batteries underneath the passenger middle side and 24 gal of water right behind front seats. We have a light garage area right now. Just a cooler and clothing.

We also have removed rear spare tire and added 3.5 gallon propane out back. If there was more weight in the back I would likely just go to medium duty sumo springs and very unlikely to add the rear leaf back in.

Hope this helps.


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We have a 136 and it requires some clever use of steps and space management. We have installed our bed on a vertical L track system so it can be raised and lowered AND REMOVED within minutes, keeping our van very useful as a cargo van. Feel free to ask if that interests you.
Hi @Drq

I like the sounds of your L Track bed system. Could you post some photos?
 

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At some point I will do a van build thread once we fee everything is dialed in. I do think the bed is as good as it gets. We are currently using IKEA bed slats that have flex. They are very comfortable but probably overkill and have too much vertical space. It it is somewhat handy to use the space under the slats but it’s not easy to get in and out of them when traveling. If we were to change it it would likely just be a basic aluminum square beam frame with plywood on top and holes cut in plywood to vent and save weight.

Given the simplicity and flexibility, I am amazed I have not seen this in use before








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I would also add that we did this to allow a bunk bed system as we have a bench rear seat that folds flat. When we have the seats in we raise the bed up to allow for sleeping space and then stack the beds and slats on top of each other to allow for driving room for the bench seat


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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Already making progress... I've been doing about 45 minutes an evening on things getting all the details lines up, etc.

I have installed the CTA swivels and lowered Sportscraft bases in the van. It took about 45 minutes per seat to do them. (but not the prep, cleanup, or the wire management, which I still need to do). The driver's side takes a little longer because of the parking brake, but that is made up by it being the second seat.

One note, the swivel kit wants you to use washers on all the bolts, but they don't supply enough for everything, assuming that there were some on the existing seat securing bolts, but there aren't on mine, so after two seats, you will be 12 washers short. I found some washers that were comparable (but I couldn't find the exact same ones). The trick is to not have them be any larger than the ones supplied because they won't fit in the tracks if they are any larger.

With that, the work was very easy and for a first-task, it involved some tools but wasn't too complex and was completed fairly quickly...

DON'T FORGET TO PULL THE BATTERY NEG BEFORE DOING THIS WORK! Don't forget to reconnect the wiring before you reconnect the battery.

Also, don't put the swivels on upside down. That would be a bummer.

The Sportscraft bases went in perfectly. They were very tight on the rear pins, but a rubber mallet brought the passenger seat into alignment. The driver's side needed a little filing on the bottom to remove a bit of a burr on the metal base on the feet right where the base slides onto the rear securing pins. No bid deal, just a touch. The parking brake lever interferes with the swivel when engaged. I may look at adding a spacer to tilt it out a bit. Not sure it is worth it though.

Lastly, I haven't trimmed the plastic covers, but they will fit still with some minor adjustments it appears. I will do that after I have the wiring all loomed up and protected. Waiting for the split loom material to come on for that.

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Installed the rear Sumo Springs tonight... Took more time getting the jack screwed up to the van than it did to do the replacement... Very easy to accomplish. About 20 minutes for both rear jounce bumpers.

I got the middle Sumo's at the recommendation of the company and I was a bit worried about the yellow's being too strong, especially since I am intend this to be a "light" build (small water tanks, no shower, etc.)

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At some point I will do a van build thread once we fee everything is dialed in. I do think the bed is as good as it gets. We are currently using IKEA bed slats that have flex. They are very comfortable but probably overkill and have too much vertical space. It it is somewhat handy to use the space under the slats but it’s not easy to get in and out of them when traveling. If we were to change it it would likely just be a basic aluminum square beam frame with plywood on top and holes cut in plywood to vent and save weight.

Given the simplicity and flexibility, I am amazed I have not seen this in use before








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That is Awesome; thanks for the photos 👍
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Friday I installed the front Sump springs and installed a NOCO 15-amp outlet on the right rear bumper for shore power (that one wasn't on the list!)...

The front Sumo springs took about 30 minutes to do both sides; much less time than I anticipated. The first one took maybe 20 minutes to do because I needed to figure out how to manipulate the Sumo spring to get it to track into the coil spring. The second one went in really fast once I learned the best approach.

The NOCO is the one with the 6' cord so I can take it all the way to the location of my inverter charger. It took about 20 minutes to install and get the cord run into the van through one of the ports on the back corner (the lower one, not the upper vent port).

I'm about done with all the easy stuff. The first of the body cutting will occur today (vent fan).

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Update on progress... my cell phone camera died and I need to get a new phone...

I installed the MaxxAir fan this week and put the Dicor sealant on it on Wednesday once all the details were taken care of. It went smoothly overall, but too a little longer than it needed to because I only did work after 5 in the evening until dark.

Overall, I think it took about 4-5 hours, but there was a lot of start and stop along the way.

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On to the solar panels, but I have hit a roadblock on this... I'll make a new post to ask for information from the group.
 

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Nice work!

As I mentioned in the recent color thread, You will have a good looking interior with the metal that shows being Sandstone!

Vent fan install time is just about right... takes a while to make that big hole in your brand new van!

Keep the pics coming...
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
A new update...

I installed the rear bunk windows last week, and the two large CRL side windows this weekend...

It took about 2 hours for the first bunk, the next night, about 1.75 for the second (and I also did some of the prep for the two large CRL windows). I would add about 30 minutes each for the template prep for the bunks.

Because of the concern about the CRL windows not matching the frame stampings precisely, I was careful to make a decent template for both and then measure, size up, check it twice, drill and align on the outside with the template, check dimensions very carefully, and then finally mark and prep for the cut. I would say that it took about 4 hours for each CRL window, but really only because I was going so carefully to ensure that I didn't have problems as some people have reported.

And sure enough, if I had cut on the stampings, there would probably have been problems in the corners because they are much sharper on the stamping than they are on the window, and also the positioning would not have been ideal/correct (I think they both would have been 1/4" low about).

Here's a few photos. You can see the difference in the stamping and the template in a few, but those aren't the final position of the template, which I did from the outside and didn't look at them again from the inside after making the pilot holes for alignment on the outside.

Overall, an uneventful process, but quite slow to ensure no surprises.

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