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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When it came time to retire my 1999 Econoline E250 I was looking forward to getting the high roof van I'd always wanted. The Econoline was a great vehicle for the last ten years but it drove like a buckboard, got terrible mileage and as I've gotten older hunching over all the time was getting old. My requirements were the following:

  • Stand Up Headroom
  • Bed
  • Fridge
  • Stove and sink
  • 4 season capability
  • Basic bathroom and shower for occasional use
  • Carry the following gear:
  • - Windsurfing equipment
  • - 6 pairs of skis
  • - 2 Bikes inside


I test drove the Transit and the Promaster and felt they drove fairly similar (although the ridiculously over powered EcoBoost Transit was kind of fun). The front wheel drive, lower height and extra wide boxy shape of the Promaster had me leaning that way. Then fate intervened on a road trip last summer when I saw a used 2014 Promaster 2500 Gas 159" standard length optioned pretty close to how I wanted (and not white!) for sale at a dealer in Bend with only 5000 miles on the clock. During the road trip as if telling me it wanted to be retired my Econoline blew out a tire on a rock on a back road and was generally cantankerous. I went to the dealer the next day and bought the Promaster.

The van was bare inside, no windows in the rear and had a cargo partition. From what I can tell it had been owed by and electrician as I found a few wire nuts and electrical fittings in the crevices. Otherwise the van was perfect. I immediately removed the partition and installed two CRL windows in the sliding doors. My van has the rare drivers side slider and I took a bit of a risk that the a CRL passenger side window flipped around would fit in the drivers side slider but it works perfectly. I built a temporary bed frame out of the bed from my Ford and installed a floor made of some scrap OSB sheets and $30 worth of indoor/outdoor carpet. That got me a usable van while I started researching and planning the "real" build.

This summer I've started the dream build and taking the next month to get as far as I can on it. Not sure it's the best way to spend my vacation? Heck sure it is!

:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
So far ...

To catch things up here's what I've done so far.
  • CRL windows on both drivers and passenger side sliding doors
  • Fiamma roof rack. Will be mounting solar panels and use as a rack.
  • Sportcraft seat swivels from Eurocampers.com (almost ordered from the UK since the prices+shipping even from the UK is quite a bit cheaper but decided not to risk it in the end).
  • Debadged the RAM badges and put on Fiat Ducatto badges (these get a lot of attention and curiosity)
  • MaxxFan roof fan using the adapter from Hein (makes it super easy)
  • Stripped out the headliner and door panels for the build
  • Installed 20# under mount propane tank with reinforced mounting brackets made by a local welding shop
  • Remote fill kit for the propane tank from Nash Fuels eBay store

I've decided on and purchased the following:

  • TruckFridge TF130. Always wanted a big fridge
  • Propex HS2800 from Westy Ventures
  • Whale Expanse Water Heater (also from Westy Ventures). In theory this can be mounted under the van, but I can't find a good place for it (stupid parking brake rod!) so it will probably go inside.
  • 4 - 90 Amp Hour AGM batteries
  • 4- Grape Solar 100w solar panels
  • Victron 30 amp solar charge controller (has a smart phone app to monitor charging, what fun!)
  • Victron BMV-702 battery monitor and shunt (also has a smart phone app)
  • AIMS Power 2000 watt true sine inverted/charger with auto transfer switch
  • Trident Marine LPG detector and control solenoid valve
  • Roll of Thinsulate insulation from Hein (luckily he lives close by)

Still to figure out:

Cabinets: I'm tempted to build using 80/20 aluminum or similar to save weight and add strength. However I have the skills and tools to build plywood cabinets so it's hard to justify the extra cost. Also the 80/20 is only straight and many of the surfaces are curved so I'm struggling to understand how the mounting on the walls and ceiling will work for the upper cabinets?

Fresh and grey water tanks: I'm using either a cassette or porta-potty (no way on the black water! ) so just need to figure out fresh and grey water tanks. The space underneath for the grey water is limited by the parking brake, exhaust and clearance. Any suggestions on where to locate it? All the plumbing is on the drivers side. Putting fresh inside for winter use. I had an idea to mount it in a welded frame above the wheel well since this is basically wasted space. The frame would need to be pretty stout though so you don't have 180lbs of flying water tank in an accident.

Finalizing the layout: Will be building some cabinet mockups inside as soon as I get the floor down. Tip from a friend who used to work in the marine refitting business: use thin plywood strips and hot glue to quickly made mockups and templates. Sturdier and quicker than cardboard.

As I choose components and fittings I've been looking more at the marine industry as the typical RV products seem so "value engineered". Not sturdy or elegant compared to stuff like Blue Sea systems electrical components. I will be using marine plywood throughout the build. I looked at HDPE like Seaboard but wow was that stuff is expensive and not very good looking. We're not dealing with salt water and UV inside out vans (hopefully).

Will post more as things progress.

Drivers side slider window



Propane bracket reinforcement



It's a Fiat now. Price of an oil change just doubled:

 

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I have the Sandstone and mine is a Ducato too! Great start. Look at my thread for a way to do the overhead cabinets. I used 1/2 inch hardwood plywood and cut the doors out with face hinges and catches. Attachments are 2X2s fastened with bolts into rivnuts in the van’s ribs. This is VERY lightweight, strong, and very fast to do. Best to you.
 

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don't forget to get rid of the RAM insignias on the front sides! looks great.
 

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In my mind a cassette or ports-potty is a PITA to haul and empty. I use an alternative in my DIY camper and in a recent boat. See: cleanwaste.com. Their double bag toilet kits can be used in the folding frame they sell or better yet in any bucket -- especially the common 5-gallon type. I personally like a full size, elongated seat so use a modified Brute 10 gallon bucket (Hone Depot). I reinforced the weak bucket to hold my weight and attached a full size seat to the lid with the center cut out of the lid.

Walmart sells seats to fit the common 5-gallon bucket. They also sell double bag liners that are cheaper and, in my mind, better than the Clean Waste units. The tiny pack of TP and the tiny wipe in the Clean Waste kits are so small that they are useless.
 

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Re tankage:
I leave the underneath free of tanks. I have boxed in the wheel wells and use the tops to support my crosswise bunk as I am under 6 feet tall. I carry 35 gallons of water in a tank inside the van under part of the bunk next to a wheel well. I have a gray tank of 20 gallons inside also directly under the sink. My experience is that it is far easier to find a place to dump gray than to find a source of fresh water thus the different sizes. I almost never use campgrounds. In fact I have not been in a single one for the last 2 months.

I have a third inside tank. A four gallon Isotemp hot water heater having a 750 watt element. It heats water typically in 45 minutes using my 1000 watt inverter. This takes some 65 amp hours out of my 230 amp hour Deka AGM battery. The heater is almost directly under the sink so little water is wasted drawing the hot water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Seapro, interesting idea of using the battery for hot water. Unfortunately I'm pretty much at my winter time power budget with the 360 AH's that I have. Someday in the future when lithium's are cheap would love to be all electric except for heat. Also I already have the Whale propane water heater so going with that. Just have to figure out where to put it. I forgot to list in my other requirements that I need to be able to carry 4x8 plywood flat on the floor and tools etc when not using it as a camper that's the "do everything part" of my build and makes for some interesting space planning.

Off to finish putting in my floor today!
 

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...I need to be able to carry 4x8 plywood flat on the floor and tools etc when not using it as a camper that's the "do everything part" of my build and makes for some interesting space planning.

Off to finish putting in my floor today!
Nexus6,

Before you put anything on the new floor, you might consider what I did with mine. I put in a 4 1/2" basement below my finished floor. You said you were under 6' tall. I'm 5'5" and even with the basement, and a finished ceiling, I can stand and walk upright inside. More info here: http://www.promasterforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=52602

The basement has a space 50" x 97" in the basement, along with another one in front that's about 4' x 5'. I can easily carry about 5 sheets of 3/4" plywood ( I did that to carry the sheets to build the van once the floor was in. ) It also allows me to carry lots of 8' 2x4s if needed.

BY adding the basement, it makes the wheel wells less high, so my couches (with included 4" foam cushions) are about 18" high - the same height as a living room couch. Nice because your feet touch the floor when seated.

Ed
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Nexus6,

Before you put anything on the new floor, you might consider what I did with mine. I put in a 4 1/2" basement below my finished floor. You said you were under 6' tall. I'm 5'5" and even with the basement, and a finished ceiling, I can stand and walk upright inside. More info here: http://www.promasterforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=52602

The basement has a space 50" x 97" in the basement, along with another one in front that's about 4' x 5'. I can easily carry about 5 sheets of 3/4" plywood ( I did that to carry the sheets to build the van once the floor was in. ) It also allows me to carry lots of 8' 2x4s if needed.

BY adding the basement, it makes the wheel wells less high, so my couches (with included 4" foam cushions) are about 18" high - the same height as a living room couch. Nice because your feet touch the floor when seated.

Ed
Well considering I'm actually a little bit over 6' (don't think I said I was under?) keeping that stand up height is a priority. My plan is actually sort of similar but the opposite approach of yours. I'm going to put some rails in the cargo area that match the height of the shower tray. Then I can slide in a 4x8 cargo floor supported by the rails and shower tray when I want to carry plywood etc. Shower walls will be either heavy curtains or folding walls (if I can figure that out). Will use a portapotty that can be removed for the head for the small number of times I need to travel with "facilities". Regardless I've already started the floor ...

So here's the floor sandwich: Butyl vibration damper between the ribs. Then filled the valleys with strips of 1/4" 4 lb. closed cell cross link polythene foam (also known as extra firm camping mat foam). Then full coverage of more 1/4" foam, 1/2 lb mass loaded vinyl (not sure this is going to help much with noise since the foam is pretty stiff, but worth a try), another layer of 1/4" foam and then 12mm Hydrotech marine plywood and finally topped with Lonseal Moonwalk vinyl. Yes it's an expensive floor but its one thing that's really hard to replace if it doesn't work.

I purchased the foam from Cascade Tool and Foam an industrial foam supplier for $165 for 2 layers of 1/4". The polyethylene foam is completely moisture proof and an excellent insulator. I found I could cut the strips to fill in between the ribs with the table saw which made things go much faster. Hopefully finish the plywood tomorrow. Also I need to figure out what can be supported directly on the foam/plywood floor and which parts of the cabinets and equipment need to have some shims to support down to the sheet metal. I've already carved out a section for the Propex heater that will be mounted directly to the metal floor, mainly for clearance because it's being installed under a raised section of floor by the cab and I need all the vertical space I can get and also to avoid any heat issues with the foam.

Damper Strips:



Foam Strips



MLV:



Top layer of foam:



Propex cutout:

 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
don't forget to get rid of the RAM insignias on the front sides! looks great.
Already done. The Promaster badges are from an older photo. The Fiat badge and the RAM head on the front grille are just about the same size. The Fiat badge fit on the front with just a little trimming. I even have some Fiat center caps that I'll be putting on the hub caps when it comes time to swap the snow tires. All that's left is that steering wheel ram head but don't think it's a good idea to mess with the airbag. :eek: Although who thought it was a good idea to put a ram head on something that may hit you in the face ...
 

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Hi,
I did a homemade grey water tank that is custom sized to the largest available space I could find under the PM -- details here:
http://www.buildagreenrv.com/our-co...-plumbing-and-the-fresh-and-grey-water-tanks/

Its an "unusual" design, but it has held up fine so far.

It seems like I've seen a post here describing a way to use multiple tanks ganged together to get more capacity? And, some people eliminate the spare to make space for a tank -- not something I would ever do, but if you don't drive on rough roads a lot its something to consider.

I'd consider a composting toilet. There are some commercial ones, but we made one for just a few bucks and it has worked out well for us.
Details here: http://www.buildagreenrv.com/our-conversion/promaster-camper-van-conversion-composting-toilet/
I've never had to empty the composting chamber on a trip -- it lasts a long time. The only on trip chore is emptying the pee bottle. Never smells.

Interesting link on converting a large RV from black water tank to composting toilet:
http://www.gonewiththewynns.com/all-composting-toilet

Gary
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hi,
I did a homemade grey water tank that is custom sized to the largest available space I could find under the PM -- details here:
http://www.buildagreenrv.com/our-co...-plumbing-and-the-fresh-and-grey-water-tanks/

Its an "unusual" design, but it has held up fine so far.

It seems like I've seen a post here describing a way to use multiple tanks ganged together to get more capacity? And, some people eliminate the spare to make space for a tank -- not something I would ever do, but if you don't drive on rough roads a lot its something to consider.

I'd consider a composting toilet. There are some commercial ones, but we made one for just a few bucks and it has worked out well for us.
Details here: http://www.buildagreenrv.com/our-conversion/promaster-camper-van-conversion-composting-toilet/
I've never had to empty the composting chamber on a trip -- it lasts a long time. The only on trip chore is emptying the pee bottle. Never smells.

Interesting link on converting a large RV from black water tank to composting toilet:
http://www.gonewiththewynns.com/all-composting-toilet

Gary
Thinking about ganging tanks together for grey water. Basically run a pipe under the parking brake rod and locate a tank in the bay on either side. That **** parking brake rod in the way again!

With my 4x8 sheet of plywood requirement toilet has to be removable so the composer won't fit unfortunately.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Update on the progress.

The floor is done. I found out the hard way that the closed cell foam expands and contracts a lot with temperature and would buckle when hot (it was 103 degrees the other day). I ended up cutting some 1/4" expansion joints in the foam to give it some room which solved the problem. Although I think the plywood would keep it held down best not to risk it.

Made my templates and cut the floor from 12mm marine plywood. Put a coat of spar urethane on the backside and sealed the edges with wood penetrating epoxy. Tongue and grove joint between the pieces with 1/8" expansion room. Floor feels really solid. The plywood is so pretty it will be a shame to cover it up with the Loncoin.



While the urethane was drying on the floor I tackled the stereo wiring and cab roof insulation. Stripped door panels, headliner, A and B pillar covers and lower dashboard out. For some reason the screws holding in the lower dash on the drivers side are Phillips head and on the passenger side are torx. Why use one type of screw when you can use two!

Once I had everything apart I spliced in speaker wire to front and rear speaker output on the Uconnect harness to run back to the new stereo amp and ran new wires to the tweeters and doors. Hot glued in new tweeters in the A-pillar trim (hey if hot glue is good enough for FCA it's good enough for me). Running the wires to the doors turned out to be quite a pain. The A pillar between the door and the dash is hollow and it's really hard to fish wire between the doors and the grommet buried deep under the dash. On the drivers side it requires detaching the fuse panel to get access. There's enough slack you don't need to detach the wiring from the panel, but wow a lot of work just for some speaker wires.





Next I put in a layer of Thinsulate (from Mr. Hein) in the cab roof and then a layer of Reflectix. Remember folks Reflectix only blocks radiant heat transmission and doesn't go directly against the metal, it needs an air or loft insulation gap to work. Then I reassembled the cab interior which felt very satisfying after my trials with the speaker wiring.

With the floor in I spent an entire day trying to figure out a location for the water heater. There was only one spot on the underside where it would fit and that would end up with the outlet in the middle of my floor and on the opposite side from the water tank and shower. I had to find a spot inside, keeping in mind the 4x8 plywood hauling requirement. This was very challenging. I finally found a tight spot next the fridge. Not ideal but it will have to do.

With the water heater located I've started building mockup cabinets out of thin plywood strips and hot glue. One problem with building in the van is that nothing is level or plumb so you can't use a level or plumb bob like you would in construction. To solve that problem built basically a big square with an adjustable end that allows me to measure and locate any point in the van in relation to the floor which I will assume is our "horizontal" plane (I know this varies based on the load on the rear suspension but it's the best we've got).




Hope to have the cabinet mockups done in the next day or two and then on to wall and ceiling panels.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Ah! another Powerpole user.... ham radio guy perhaps?

Your work is progressing nicely... I like the Big Square idea, it either that or 4 screw jacks under the van to get it level to work on >:D

ed
Not ham radio, I used then in a car stereo install previously. One of those ingenious products that you can't believe you did without. Will use them throughout the van wherever I may need to disconnect something in the future.

The other product I found is Tesa Tape. It's that fabric tape that the factory uses to make wiring harnesses. Makes everything neat and tidy and protects the wire.

The big square is working great so far. Mock-up is almost done and now I need to decide if I'm going to use 80/20 or just regular plywood for the cabinets. I like the strength of the 80/20 but property joined and glued plywood is very strong as well.

Sent from my Nexus 5X using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
More progress. Family responsibilities delayed things a few days but I completed my mockup interior. I'd highly recommend everyone doing a build go through this step. You'll discover things that work and don't work before committing to your build. For example I had an upper cabinet partly across the passenger side sliding door in my mockup. I repeatedly bumped my head on in when getting in the van. 5 minutes later no more cabinet in the way. Also you get actual dimensions for cabinets and placement of appliances that are hard to get exact with approximate CAD models.

I managed to squeeze everything in and still pass my 4x8 sheet of plywood test. Was quite a puzzle but I'm happy with how everything worked out. Next step is the plywood wall panels. Should be pretty straightforward after making a template.

High quality cardboard, plywood scrap and hot melt glue cabinet construction =):



Passes the 4x8 plywood test even with a full camper build:

 

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Nex,

Nice work!... a bit harder to do the real thing, but that's a great way to "see it" ahead of time. I particularly like the notch in the driver side cabinet that accommodates your "sheets o'plywood" requirement!

ed
 

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Nice. It is not really so much harder if you use my face-cutting-the-doors technique on 1/2 in hardwood plywood. I was dubious about it before I tried it but after a year of use I am sold. clean lines, strong enough, fast construction, <1/8 inch reveal lines on drawers and doors, and did I say fast? In most cases I just took dimensions from the CAD (cardboard aided design) and fabbed up a side, drew the door/drawer lines, masking taped to reduce chip outs, and once the hinge side was cut I installed the hinges, finished the other cuts and the door was done! Well a bit-O-sanding and poly but we all have that!
 
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