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Discussion Starter #21 (Edited)
One thing about the windows... I would prefer a bit more Tv through the window glass, but I guess there really are no options for light transmission in these kinds of things. I knew that going in, bit it still is a bit of a shock how little actually comes through the dark tinted glass.

Also, I'm a little less than happy with the overall quality of the CRL windows. The metal detailing is a bit shoddy in places and in some of the glazing back painting looks bush league. Considering these cost $1800 or so, I expected a bit higher quality.

I also have to call the vendor about a loose slide pull on one of the bunk windows. The other is totally tight, but the passenger side is "wobbly" on the glass. I think I need to get a replacement pull or slider light with the pull installed, because I don't see how I could possibly install it properly.
 

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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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Looks great but you do realize you're using the wrong end caps for your L-Track- Right?
Here's a link to the caps that fit this size track:
 

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Discussion Starter #24 (Edited)
I installed a trailer hitch, the rearview mirror camera, and the tarp rail this weekend, but not without troubles!

It turns out the Curt hitch they sell for this van (the heavier Class III hitch) will fit, but it has two slight incompatibilities that make it much more than a 30-minute process that it should be (and would be without the mismatch).

The first is that there is a grounding stud on the frame on the driver's side that they must have moved since Curt developed this hitch. the hole for it is no longer in the correct location and you have to grind off the stud to get it to fit. No big deal, but it is a bit of a hassle.

However, the other problem is much, much larger... the spare tire winch mechanism on the passenger's side does not line up with the hole in the hitch frame, so it is impossible to lower the spare tire! I wonder how many people install this hitch and don't notice this problem until it's way, way, too late.

I will post abut this in a separate thread with some photos once I crawl under the van to get some better photos and make a plan to resolve this. I think I have a plan...
 

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Discussion Starter #25
I made some progress on several fronts over the weekend...

I installed the Hertz DSK 165.3 speakers in the doors and the A pillars. This was a bit of work because the wiring needed to be fished from one location to the other to bring in the speaker wire from the crossover for the two speakers, so no matter what location you pulled the source signal, you need to do some fishing of wires.

With a bit of guidance from comments on on the forum and a link to a Youtube video, I was able to accomplish a completely profession level of installation on my own and my initial impressions are that the speakers are a HUGE improvement over the stock setup. HUGE. No photos on this because it looks just like original.


These are claimed to not fit the Promaster, but they fit perfectly if you use an adapter like the DIY ones from Hein, or make your own.


I also put some Killmat on the door in the cavity and two layers of Thinsulate in there as well to help with road noise and resonance in the speaker cavity.

I didn't get time to do the head unit or the small subwoofwer that I also purchased, but that will start to happen in the next few days.

I did, however, manage to get the help of my neighbor to put the solar panel assembly on the roof of the van so I could do final fitting and drilling of the mount brackets. Everything went smoothly but I lost light before I finished, so I'll see about the final install in the next few days at lunch. I'll post a photo once I have the assembly in place for the final time.
 

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Discussion Starter #26
Solar is in final resting position, but it's dark now, so I'll get a few photos tomorrow to post. 420 watts in two panels, covers the back 1/2 of the cargo area more or less. It looks great, isn't too obvious, is fairly low profile on the roof and with the 8020 frame I put together, should be good and solid for the life of the van.

I need to decide exactly where the roof penetration will be and then I lift the back end, make the electrical connections and then pull it all down and tight. Overall, it went together better than I could have hoped.

All of this work on things like this makes me want to get a small milling machine... I jerry rig things just fine, but I prefer to do things "right" whenever I can.
 

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Discussion Starter #27 (Edited)
Here is the solar installation... I need to replace the endcaps on the 8020, as they all cracked. I guess the plastic caps are pretty brittle and screwing them down tightly made them crack over the past few days. I'm not happy about that. Maybe I'll make some out of aluminum.

The frame is 15 Series 8020 around the perimeter, with the front piece being a quarter-round. The corners are substantial 8020 style frame plates made by Tnutz:


There is an additional piece of flat aluminum 0.375" plate at the center in both the front and the back that helps reinforce the 8020 in that location and also provides a fastening point for the solar panels to the inside of the assembly. It is about 4" x 12". I fabricated that from scratch since there were no plates from 8020 or Tnutz that would have worked suitably.

I used 2" aluminum angle pieces paired up to make a "Z" channel to offset the panels above the roof. I could have gone a little lower, but this is about the lowest practical dimension and still get fingers underneath to make the screw connections. Lower, and you basically have to assemble it while lifted, make the electrical connection, etc. and then lower it down onto the bolts of the mounting stud assemblies. That wouldn't be the end of the world, but I thought this would be a little easier. Also, getting lower, and you have to pay attention to the center clearance. I didn't want any chance to have the hardware in the center bouncing on the roof deck with road vibration or wind, and so I could possibly have gone down about 1/2" before there would be a risk of that. I thought about trimming the angle pieces to lower it that amount but decided the additional 1/2" would be good for clearance so went with it.

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I may design a wind fairing to sit on the front. I can mock it up with some cardboard and then 1/4 plywood and then cut it out of some 1/8" aluminum. That should help with road noise and maybe a little on efficiency. The panels are pretty close to the deck at the center, but there is certainly some room for improvement on the drag that it will induce.
 

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Discussion Starter #28
Here is the galley carcass made out of 8020 and with high quality Blum drawer slides installed.

There will be four drawer fronts on the galley, with the top two including an inner drawer so the total number of drawers will be six. The refrigerator will be in the lower right spot. The left will be a cabinet door for the water jugs and the sink will be on the left. I may not center the sink on the cabinet door to give it a little more room to the left, but I have to decide on on that. There is some room to slide it to the right 4" or so.

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The carcass was put into the van so I could figure out where in the van I need to put in reinforcing in the floor for solid tiedown locations. I also am putting in four pieces of L-track flush mount tiedown points, which also need this reinforcement coordination. Some of the blue tape is for the locations of the cabinets, and some is taping down the seams in the panels I have in there to protect the final flooring finish.

Here's the L-track pieces I'm planning on putting in:


They are about 1.75"x6" and stick up about 1/4" if you do the basic install. If you recess the flange, you can get it down to about 1/8" high. I have to decide whether I want to attempt to do the more complicated install or not. More work, possibly risking a botched finish on the floor if things don't go as planned. What's there to lose? Hahaha...

We want these in there to provide points for the dog harnesses and for tiedowns for cargo if needed occasionally.
 

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Discussion Starter #29 (Edited)
Got the stereo head unit and subwoofer installed over the weekend. It was a bit of work getting all the items wired, but everything went in without a hitch and it all started up correctly on the first try.

This is the head unit I went with:


When installing a head unit, I highly recommend taking the two screws out and pulling the top clipboard panel. The screws are accessible from the front underneath in the hole where the stereo head unit is located. It makes it easy to access the wires and most importantly, when doing the final connections and getting all the harnesses, wires, and the Maestro in the space behind, you have easy access to get everything folded up nicely and in a good place. With the Metra adapter and plastic bezel, the screw locations are still accessible from the front even with the head unit installed fully, so you can get the head unit snapped in and then work to get the wiring settled and then close up the top, So easy that way. Plus, it makes for a very easy avenue to place a GPS unit (which my head unit has), since you can make a small notch in the cover and place it out of sight just past the clip at the front. It worked extremely well.

The whole stereo sounds so much better now and it has much more power and control in the head unit (not actual additional power, but the head unit diverts signal from the bass and sends that to the sub through the crossover, so the main speakers aren't putting power into frequencies that they can't produce well, leaving more power for those they can).

It is, I would say, better than tolerable now. Plus, we have CarPlay, so we have great integration of the phones for that function and also for maps.
 

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Great post! Thanks for sharing your progress.
I also purchased a 136 HT 2021 new. Just planning and starting the conversion is challenging.

Do you have layout diagram you can share?
Adding bathroom toilet/shower?
And, how to start on 8020 framing... is there a guide you used?

thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #31
Great post! Thanks for sharing your progress.
I also purchased a 136 HT 2021 new. Just planning and starting the conversion is challenging.

Do you have layout diagram you can share?
Adding bathroom toilet/shower?
And, how to start on 8020 framing... is there a guide you used?

thanks!
Spyderx, Thanks for the reply... I appreciate that people may be reading this drivel!

I don't have a layout in electronic form, but I do have one sketched out on paper. I used the Sportsmobile template sheet for starters and then developed my thoughts based on that (while not trusting anything about that template for actual dimensions, because that's how you get into real trouble).


I then did a lot of research of various builders that use the Promaster vans, in particular the 136WB so I could see what people have figured out was feasible... a few of those are:

Wayfarer Vans (CO)
Paradigm (WA)
Dave & Matt Vans (CO)

...and a bunch of others over the course to get inspiration and sense what we could possibly achieve.

However, what really helped me figure it out what I wanted and what made sense was to go to one of the Adventure Van Expos that were held this fall in CA (and around, not sure of the full route they took).


By that time, I had a layout more or less figured out and when we went we saw a van that was really close to our original layout with a few changes. It was done in a way that we felt made a lot of sense for our needs and it confirmed what we were thinking would work. In fact, we had been on their website back in the spring and then forgotten about them over the course of doing all the thinking about it. When we saw them at the show, we immediately recognized that we had looked at their site and realized that their van had probably influenced what we were thinking a lot even though we didn't pattern ours off of theirs at all. Once we saw that, we figured we would use theirs for confirmation of a handful large scale details, but clearly, we aren't duplicating their design, because we have different needs. That van is this one:

www.Glampervan.us

I can get into the specifics of what we are doing, but that was the basic approach we had as we developed the general layout. I can try to detail a floorplan and post it.

There is no bathroom. It is too small of a van to commit that space for us. I'd want the 159 at the very least for a bathroom/shower. Probably a 159 EXT. But we didn't want a van that large, so we are treating this as a weekender primarily. We can bring a cassette toilet if we need to, but that wouldn't be too often. We have a hot water heater (propane) that we can use for a shower outside. I'll have to figure out how to get that all worked up for what we want. A lot of them hang them on the rear door, I guess assuming you will open the doors and put up a shroud on the back to use that area as a shower. I don't think I want it that close to the back door though, since it is the garage access.

For 8020, far and away the best resource I've seen is this site:


There is a lot of info on there and Ken also has Youtube videos that have been really great. The site shows an approach that will look very similar to mine when it is all finished. I'm still debating on some details, but overall mine will be close to that.

With a van as small as the 136WB, you have to make serious decisions about the bed size at the very beginning because it will be taking up so much space in the van. A lot of them use a queen size, but we decided for a narrower bed, essentially a Full in width and whatever length we can get when put in sideways.
 

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Thanks again. A lot of references to detailed info.

Today, I loaded up the van with few hundred pounds of house rubish to county dumpsite and noticed the weight and sag on the chassis. Then, I went over to Lowes to buy 3 sheets of 4x8 3/4" plywood but left those heavy boards there. Two things came to mind - need to keep the conversion as light as possible and upgrade or supplement the stock suspension.

I'll look into adding Sumo springs and maybe upgrading to firmer Bilstein shocks...
And, find an alternative to heavy plywood subfloor... maybe find some stock floor boards?
 

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Discussion Starter #33
Thanks again. A lot of references to detailed info.

Today, I loaded up the van with few hundred pounds of house rubish to county dumpsite and noticed the weight and sag on the chassis. Then, I went over to Lowes to buy 3 sheets of 4x8 3/4" plywood but left those heavy boards there. Two things came to mind - need to keep the conversion as light as possible and upgrade or supplement the stock suspension.

I'll look into adding Sumo springs and maybe upgrading to firmer Bilstein shocks...
And, find an alternative to heavy plywood subfloor... maybe find some stock floor boards?
You may not notice this until you get under the van, but the stock jounce bumpers don't touch the landing point when unloaded. Even the black Sumo Springs that I put in do not touch when unloaded, but they will engage much faster than the stock ones since they are a lot larger.

That is by design, as the vans are rated for a pretty large load. Once you load it up as an RV, it will be down on the Sumo Springs, but maybe not on the stock ones.

I drove across the country with an empty van on stock jounce bumpers and it had a tendency to rock a bit in crosswinds or when passing a truck. When I put the front Sumo Springs in, that helped a lot to keep that from happening, and I think the rear ones will also do that once you have a little weight in the van. After converting with the Sumo in both front and back, I am much happier with the feeling on the highway, even when empty.

I think that most people like the ride better once it is loaded as an RV. It will go down in the rear somewhat, but that isn't a concern as long as you aren't overloading the van (which I think would be real hard to do in a 136WB).
 

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you're referring to these spring helpers?

Coil SumoSprings Custom Helper Springs for Coil Spring Suspension - Front or Rear Axle - CSS-1168
SumoSprings Solo Custom Helper Springs - Rear Axle - SSR-313-47
 

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Discussion Starter #35
you're referring to these spring helpers?

Coil SumoSprings Custom Helper Springs for Coil Spring Suspension - Front or Rear Axle - CSS-1168
SumoSprings Solo Custom Helper Springs - Rear Axle - SSR-313-47
That looks right. Only one option for the front I think, but for the back there are three, depending on the loading. I called them and talked to them a bit because a lot of people use the yellow ones, however, they don't recommend that for this vehicle because the loads are not really consistent with needing that strong of a spring. I was worried about it (the yellows) being harsh on washboard and in general and so them telling me to get the middle ones (47) convinced me.
 

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2019 159 High Top - White, of course!
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I love that van color. Especially on the interior. Looks classy.

What solar panels did you use? I like your solar install. I need something that does not stick up any higher than my MaxFan.
 

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Discussion Starter #38 (Edited)
I love that van color. Especially on the interior. Looks classy.

What solar panels did you use? I like your solar install. I need something that does not stick up any higher than my MaxFan.

I love the color as well. It's light so it won't heat up too much, but NOT WHITE, and I think it looks better than the other light non-while color, which is silver. I would have happily purchased the silver if I couldn't get the Sand color. Maybe I would have gone for the darker Granite color. Probably not, though.

As for the solar, I purchased two of the Newpowa 210W panels:


I can give you a bit more info on this in a day or so. I was originally planning to use Z brackets to mount them to the roof, but they are too wide to fit without mounting to the outer part of the roof just past the location of the room mounting lugs. I can show you in a photo or two if you want. Basically, because of the width and the clearance needed between them to get them mounted, I wasn't happy with that approach.

So, I changed my plan and built an 8020 frame around the pair and mounted them to the roof rack lugs using the DIYVan mounts I mentioned a few posts above. I'll make a few photos of the homemade Z-bracket I made to make this work.

Size-wise, the assembly came out about as ideally as you could ask for... the panels plus the 8020 frame was about 3" narrower than the roof rack lugs, so it was really easy to do the Z-bracket approach for the connection. So simple...

Overall, I am really pleased with how it turned out. Other than wanting to put a fairing on the front, it's finished and SOLID. It isn't going anywhere and the 8020 completely surrounds the panels and there are enough attachment points that I have no concerns about them at all.

I made mine pretty close to the roof in the middle at the high point. I think there is about 1" clearance. It's pretty tight and with it that close, you really have no room to tighten screws or things, so you basically have to lift it up to do all the final connections. It was a hassle, but it worked OK. Now that it's up there and done, I won't have to do anything else with it for a while presumably (other than the fairing, but I may make that sit independent of the rack. I haven't figured that one out yet).

Let me know if you want me to make some photos for you. I should still have my engineering sketches as well.

I'm just about positive that it is below the top of the fan when the fan is fully retracted, so the fan is the highest thing on the roof. I need to measure, but I bet it is about an inch below the top of the fan.
 

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Discussion Starter #39
One think about the solar... you need to figure out what SCC you will be using to make sure that the panels you pick will work for the SCC. It will affect the total wattage you can feed to the SCC, plus the voltage and also the amperage. There are limits on all of them and you somewhat have to triangulate your way to a proper match for the output of the solar and the SCC.

In my case, I have them wired in parallel because the voltage is limited on the DCC50S that I chose. No big deal, but it does have an impact in that way. Because of this, I used #8 solar wires to reduce the voltage drop to the SCC. I doubt it was a real concern anyway, but I decided to take that approach. Only cost a few dollars more to go from #10 to #8.
 

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2019 159 High Top - White, of course!
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Here is why I need a low profile solar panel solution.

The carport on my house. About a half inch clearance between the trim board at the edge of the carport and the top of the MaxxFan, when closed, with a full tank of gas.

70520
 
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