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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hey everyone, I've finally come to the end of my build for this year. I bought the van (2017 1500 136") used in January with 15k miles on it from a local dealer.
I really had no experience building anything in this realm, and I took some time to see what others were doing and saying before I jumped into my build.
I knew that I wanted it to be my cheap RV to take me to National Parks and other destinations on the weekends to kayak, mountain bike, and hike. I also knew that I didn't want to spend a ton of money on this project, and also make it fully reversible if I ever needed to get rid of it as another work van.
Right away I wasn't going to include power or water, just aren't needed items in my life. I began with supplied styrofoam from my dad's company as insulation, but shortly found it to be too noisy. I changed that up to 1" poly iso on the ceiling, and doubled up on the walls with heavy strength 3M spray glue securing the panels together. I used a 3M product to secure it to the walls that's similar to velcro, but is strong interlocking plastic with a sticky pad to mount to the metal. Each panel has an R value of 6.5. I didn't add anything else in the ribs or sprayfoam around the panels. There isn't any noise at all with this setup.
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I used 1" waterproof subflooring with duct tape on the seams.
I built my interior based on storing my kayak inside the van rather than on the roof. I first built my bed frame out of lumber (I know most say not to), and then I started to build my kayak cabinet around that. I have a full size mattress as well.
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It's a tight fit, but the 9' 7" kayak fits with a little less than 8" to spare from where my seat is to the back doors.
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I built a supplies box surrounding the right wheel well that has a shelf and a folding lid secured by a bungee cord I had to cut down the length that is holding onto d rings so it would stop rattling.
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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
I finished up the kayak cabinet by making 2 drawers and covering the rest with 1/8" plywood that's attatched by brads.
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I splurged on the butcher block countertop, and finished it with 3 coats of poly.(That was the most expensive part of the interior build, even more than the mattress.)
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I started to build the walls out of luan, and secured it with stainless self tapping screws through the thicker ribs. This was a tedious task because you have a lot of trial and error for the correct fitment. I butt fit the 2 boards together, but I should've left a 1/8" gap to compensate for the fabric.
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You can also see my 2 ceiling lights. They have magnets on them holding them to the roof. I ran 20' long USB cables to the front of the van to connect to a 300w power inverter that charges them while I'm driving. I wrapped those wires in plastic loom so they didn't get cut or pierced from the metal they were routed through or from the tips of the screws holding the panels on.
I was also in the process of making another cabinet for my kitchen supplies. I used the same countertop for that as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
I didn't really think of taking any other pictures during the next processes, but here's a couple of the finished product for now.
I finished the kitchen cabinet and made a flip up table that works on a 12" piano hinge. It's secured with an eyehook so there isn't any movement while driving. I cut a recessed hole in the underside of the countertop, and the 1/2" pipe holds it up enough to either eat or write on. I also sit on my cooler as a seat.
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I went with marine carpet because it's pretty tough, holds up to moisture very well, it's very easy to shop vac after each trip, and it's very cost effective. Around $50 to do the entire van. I held it down with a heavy duty spray adhesive, and it has worked great. I finished off the edges on the side and rear doors with hammered step edges.
I also have a strong tension rod in the upper cubby to hold up my curtain that I sewed together. It fits perfectly in the holes cut out of the foam. It's just black fleece and it holds back the light very well. A company before me had owned the van and had a partition behind the seats. When I removed that there was some mounting hardware leftover that I reused. I put grommets in the fleece and used the hooks from suction cups to hold onto it.
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Discussion Starter #5
I wrapped the wall panels with a thin fabric as a base layer on the luan and adhered it with a lighter strength spray adhesive. I let that dry and then repeated the process with duck cloth. On the headboard I did a padding for the first layer, and then with the same duck cloth.
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I hung the Mexican blanket up with zip ties to brighten the back space up a bit, and also to act as a barrier from the cold.(I know cotton holds moisture.) So far it does a decent job of blocking the cold air from the back doors, better than nothing being there.
I then watched a tv show on Motortrend and the guy was doing a '70s Dodge van. He used reed fencing, and that's what inspired me to go this route. I put up a sheet of luan with stainless screws again, and then started to staple the fencing up. I ended up doing 2 layers of this to fill in the gaps from the first layer. I was glad I bought an electric staple gun because I ended up putting about 1500 staples into the ceiling. It was pretty easy to work with, and a good pair of scissors cut through the reeds like butter. It was very inexpensive, and I'm pleased with the results.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
So here's my under storage area, or garage as some people say. It's overly simple and effective. I bought a couple of hooks for my hats, helmet, and buffs. Everything is easy to get to, and I know what is in each color coded bag.
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I went with a Curt hitch that was pretty simple to install. I then bought a Küat bike rack, and the swingarm to access the kayak and other items I might need.
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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
So that's that. A purpose built van for my current needs. It's already taken me on some wonderful trips that I might not have been able to make otherwise, and that was the point.
I did keep the reciepts for everything so far, from screws to bike racks, and I wasn't sure what to see at the end of me adding it all up. It ended up being just under $2100 for everything I needed to do this job. I was fortunate that a friend had some vital saws that i was able to use, but some tools I had to include in that cost as well. I even accounted for the $55 for the Crown Royal that I gave my friend as a thank you.
I just wanted to make note of the cost, because you can do a van on a budget for people out there that might think it's too expensive.
So all in for my cheap RV to take me to fantastic places that I've never been to, I've spent just under $24,000.
Regardless of the price spent on each of our vans, it really is the destinations that we're after.
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So that's that. A purpose built van for my current needs. It's already taken me on some wonderful trips that I might not have been able to make otherwise, and that was the point.
I did keep the reciepts for everything so far, from screws to bike racks, and I wasn't sure what to see at the end of me adding it all up. It ended up being just under $2100 for everything I needed to do this job. I was fortunate that a friend had some vital saws that i was able to use, but some tools I had to include in that cost as well. I even accounted for the $55 for the Crown Royal that I gave my friend as a thank you.
I just wanted to make note of the cost, because you can do a van on a budget for people out there that might think it's too expensive.
So all in for my cheap RV to take me to fantastic places that I've never been to, I've spent just under $24,000.
Regardless of the price spent on each of our vans, it really is the destinations that we're after.
View attachment 59724

@Juve

Thank You for that Destination Photo

When we use to travel we occasionally would stay in some pretty nice & expensve hotels.

Our PM camper is our 1st RV & we do not have a years travel on it yet. For us, it is all about the destinations & not the RV. Lake Havasu, Yosemite, Sequoia, La, Malibu, Ventura, California and Oregon coast, Lake Shasta, Neah Bay, Banff, Jasper, Vancouver Island, Eugene

So RVing being so new to us, we have no desire to get a hotel.

like you said, it is all about the destination for us & the view is the same no matter what we spend on our vans ?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Well I got back earlier this week from a 2+ week vacation trip to Key West. I ended up doing around 4,000 miles, and didn't have any issues other than a TPMS light coming off and on.
There were a few small items that I noticed that could be added or changed to make longer trips better. I'm glad that I had this van to help me get to 4 more National Parks, and see more of this country. (Congaree, Everglades, Biscayne, and Dry Tortugas)
Now it's time to plan the next trip.
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Well I got back earlier this week from a 2+ week vacation trip to Key West. I ended up doing around 4,000 miles, and didn't have any issues other than a TPMS light coming off and on.
There were a few small items that I noticed that could be added or changed to make longer trips better. I'm glad that I had this van to help me get to 4 more National Parks, and see more of this country. (Congaree, Everglades, Biscayne, and Dry Tortugas)
Now it's time to plan the next trip. View attachment 60266
Wow, how’d you get your van to the Tortugas!? ?
 

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It’s the new, secret amphibious model that FCA is testing, I guess. Front drive, probably in keeping with tradition.?
 

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Great write up, for Congaree check the water level before going to have a better experience, also just south of there is a part of the Palmetto Trail that you can take your MTB on and ride an old railroad bed and trestles through about 10 miles of swamp, pretty cool.
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Discussion Starter #17
I finished up my screen door for the slider today. It was a slow going project since I really don't have much use for it in this weather.
I decided that I would do full coverage using no seeum screen material from HD, and I'd just enter/exit the van through the front doors. I used about 40 small neodymium magnets, some cheap fabric, and a lot of strong liquid glue.
I had to use the exterior metal for the magnets, because there wasn't enough exposed metal on the inside. The hardest part was cutting around the bottom sliding arm and the striker plate. Gluing the fabric took some time and a lot of clothes pins to hold everything together.

Now that I have the hang of it, I'm going to make screens for the front windows in the same fashion.

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Arrived at a campground on Lake Kissimmee right at dusk in early Jan (on my way to the Keys) and got inundated with mosquitoes before I knew it. Dozens got in the van and I had to spend quite a bit of time swatting - still got bitten overnight. Also ran into skeeters and a few no-see-ums on Key Largo. Had picked up a roll of no-see-um mesh to make a front door window vent and have a LOT left over so will try my hand at something like this.

I like the idea of just leaving it in one piece like you did, then using the back (which I use most often anyway) but you could also just pull up the right corner, quickly hop in and let it fall back into place. It might be tricky to get it to drop back properly but a lightweight plastic frame of sorts (on just that corner) could get it to drop back where you want it. Will have to play around with this and see if I can get something to work well enough.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Arrived at a campground on Lake Kissimmee right at dusk in early Jan (on my way to the Keys) and got inundated with mosquitoes before I knew it. Dozens got in the van and I had to spend quite a bit of time swatting - still got bitten overnight. Also ran into skeeters and a few no-see-ums on Key Largo. Had picked up a roll of no-see-um mesh to make a front door window vent and have a LOT left over so will try my hand at something like this.

I like the idea of just leaving it in one piece like you did, then using the back (which I use most often anyway) but you could also just pull up the right corner, quickly hop in and let it fall back into place. It might be tricky to get it to drop back properly but a lightweight plastic frame of sorts (on just that corner) could get it to drop back where you want it. Will have to play around with this and see if I can get something to work well enough.
I had that issue this past summer at The Great Smoky Moutains NP. I kept the door open to get some air movement, and by the time I looked up there was about 100 bugs bouncing around my ceiling lights.

I saw some online, but I'm of the mindset that I could probably make it for a lot less. It might not look as nice, but it should function just the same.
 

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Yeah, since I've already got the mesh and have the time I'll give it a try, or at least hold it up there to see how it lines up and whether I think it's worth the effort. ;-)

If I do give it a shot and it sucks I can always buy one with the spiffy magnetic break in the middle. Recently put one of those up between the house and garage for my wife's friend so her dog could go in and out at will. I wouldn't call it great but it seemed to work reasonably well.
 
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