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Discussion Starter #1
Happy holidays everyone from the great city of Dallas located in the awesome state of Texas!

1. I have lived and worked in most of the major cities in America and hate to be rooted in one place. America is so beautiful and gorgeous that it's extremely difficult for me to just reside in one city and call it home.

2. My wife and I decided to get an RV van so we can spend more time along the American coastal cities. We chose a van so she could drive it easily.

3. The dealers wanted over $100,000 for an RV that has all the features and amenities we wanted. This would not be a big deal except for the fact that I grew up as a machinist, welder and art teacher and I found it very difficult to justify paying over $100,000 for such low quality craftsmanship.

4. I was amazingly shocked at how so many popular RV vans we looked at were so expensive but so poorly manufactured and assembled based on my background and experience in working at the machine shops, shipyards and building commercial fishing boats when I was young.

5. I did some research online and Promaster forum and realized that roughly $33,000 of the $100,000 cost for the new RV's went to the actual van chassis itself and the rest of the $67,000 cost went into customizing the factory van chassis into an actual RV. This got me thinking...

6. Based on my machine shop & shipyard experience and my art background I believe I can build a similar or better RV van for way less than $100,000.

7. I decided to borrow the collective wisdom of RV'ers and van life residents on YouTube and Promaster owners on this forum to build our family RV van. Since I'm gonna be using ideas and suggestions from everyone I decided to "open source" my RV van project and make it available to everyone so other RV'ers can benefit from it as well.

8. It will be a slow process for me since I have never built an RV from scratch before so it will require a ton of time to research the best materials to use in the RV. The actual construction and build itself should not be a huge problem since I'm already good with using tools.

9. I will be documenting the entire Open Source RV Van build on my art blog, www.ArtistHangout.com and my associated YouTube channel since I prefer to use video versus text.

10. Let me know if you have questions, suggestions or comments about my new Open Source RV Van art project for 2016! It's gonna be FUN and awesome!

Tai Zen
 

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Welcome and Merry Christmas!
Looking forward to seeing your build. On a side note: Some people do not have the time or resources to do what you are doing.
They would buy it and use it now, and not have to do all the waiting and time for construction plus the learning curve.
Convenience fee is how I would see it.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I don't have a lot of time to build an RV either.

However, I grew up in the manufacturing world and until I started shopping for RVs, I have never seems such poorly manufactured products before in my life. I am not talking about the van chassis either I am just talking about the RV component of the vehicle.

I have never seen such shoddy and sloppy work before in any manufacturing sector.

Trust me, I would rather not have to build it myself but the current RV market does not have what I am looking for in particular.

The very very high end luxury RVs are very nice however they have a huge price tag and they do not have all the features and amenities that I need to be able to travel with my two toddlers for very long distances and extended stays away from our home base.

At the other end of the spectrum the build quality is so poor that it drives me nuts.

I wish I had not grew up in a manufacturing background and maybe it would not bother me so much because I would be ignorant and oblivious to how metal, wood, & fiberglass should be constructed. LOL!

happy holidays!
Tai Zen
 

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Hello Tai
Which body time of the Ram Promaster you going with? 136 , 159 or the 159 ext. wheelbase.
Diesel or Gas? And what color?

Thanks for sharing your build with us! Again looking forward to the build.

Merry Christmas!
 

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Tai, by the time you are done, you will understand better why the commercial ones cost so much. ;)

As a woodworker, I have been challenged by fitting the wood into a metal box in which nothing is straight or square. However, it is the most rewarding project I've ever undertaken.
 

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Shoddy? Well I gotta say $4500 and 3 months part time and I have what I wanted. Real hardwood plywood, no OSB, no fake stuff but no under body tanks, no microwave, no propane, and no generator or AC. Perfect! You can spend whatever you want over that but the extra $60,000 gives you a lot of wiggle. Have fun.
 

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He's saying that the commercial ones that cost $100,000 are shoddy, not yours. Maybe there's an inverse relationship between cost and quality. That MDF is expensive stuff. After all, it's heavy! >:D ;) >:D
 

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Thanks, but I think you are assuming a lot when you say mine isn't shoddy! I have looked at several commercial ones and mostly they look to me to have tried to hide that they are a van! My suggestion is to let the Vanness show. VW Westies did it successfully for years and are revered for their functionality and style. Airstream did it in the 50's and 60's and are collector trinkets today.
BTW Tai, I'm prepping for a bright and peaceful future of abundance, and yes - Zen.
 

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Welcome to the wonderful and challenging world of DIY van building. The Sprinter vans have been a popular platform and there are a lot of great builds and discussions over at the Sprinter-Source:

http://sprinter-source.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=4

There are some outfitters who do high quality work but they normally build to order and can't keep up with demand (up to 1 year wait) so it is unlikely you'll see one at a dealer.

Be very aware of safety when building you own. You clearly have very precious cargo!

All the best,
Hein
 

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Where have you been seeing $100k Promaster van RV's? Roadtrek? Pleasureway? The Winnebago Travato models are selling in the $68-75k range street price.
Granted they are not absolutely top notch quality wise, but neither are the other 2 brands I mentioned. The Travato 59G has seat belts mounted to metal framing in the coach area, and has been crash tested. But as you say, won't have "all" the features you'd like to install
 

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Given the quality, or lack thereof, in the Travatos I've observed, I can't imagine Tai being interested. Screws falling out of MDF/Masonite/whatever, water leak around window, broken handle, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Where have you been seeing $100k Promaster van RV's? Roadtrek? Pleasureway? The Winnebago Travato models are selling in the $68-75k range street price.
Granted they are not absolutely top notch quality wise, but neither are the other 2 brands I mentioned. The Travato 59G has seat belts mounted to metal framing in the coach area, and has been crash tested. But as you say, won't have "all" the features you'd like to install
I looked at the RV vans you mentioned and a bunch more and i found it difficult to pay attention to the rest of the vehicle when there were so many things on them that are so poorly built. Keep in mind I came from the machine shop world and being precise and accurate are important traits of good machinists so it may be unfair that I'm applying the same standards towards an RV because obviously they can afford to have higher tolerances for error, gaps, leaks, inaccurate fittings, etc.

Tai Zen
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Hello Tai
Which body time of the Ram Promaster you going with? 136 , 159 or the 159 ext. wheelbase.
Diesel or Gas? And what color?

Thanks for sharing your build with us! Again looking forward to the build.

Merry Christmas!
I anticipated these questions and making a video to answer them right now. I will be posting all update videos here:

http://artisthangout.com/category/open-source-rvbug-out-van/

Let me know if I'm missing anything...

Tai Zen
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Tai, by the time you are done, you will understand better why the commercial ones cost so much. ;)

As a woodworker, I have been challenged by fitting the wood into a metal box in which nothing is straight or square. However, it is the most rewarding project I've ever undertaken.
I agree... if it was up to me I would simply cut and weld everything! LOL.

My brother and I used to build custom lowrider cars and trucks and set up their stereo systems for competition for extra money when we we're not busy machining stuff for the fishing boats. So I fully understand what you mean when about trying to get wood to fit properly against irregular metal surfaces.

The drink "table" you made is very cool. Very nice craftsmanship even for a small project.

Tai Zen
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Welcome to the wonderful and challenging world of DIY van building. The Sprinter vans have been a popular platform and there are a lot of great builds and discussions over at the Sprinter-Source:

http://sprinter-source.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=4

There are some outfitters who do high quality work but they normally build to order and can't keep up with demand (up to 1 year wait) so it is unlikely you'll see one at a dealer.

Be very aware of safety when building you own. You clearly have very precious cargo!

All the best,
Hein
Safety is a huge concern for me because i plan to take my 2 kids with me everywhere on our road trips.

I did not like the idea that some of these $100,000 RV's did not even have their seats and seat belts anchored or welded to the chassis mainframe or something sturdy. I would not risk putting my kids in a seat where I could easily rip the entire bench out of the van with my bare hands.

I plan on setting up seats in my RV so they are fully anchored to the main frame chassis.

Thanks for the sprinter reference. I will check it out to get ideas.

Tai Zen
 

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2014, 138WB, High Roof, Gas, SW MT
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Hi,
A couple other links you might find useful for van conversions -- there are are a lot of them out there:

The Transit van forum: http://www.fordtransitusaforum.com/ (like the Sprinter site and this site, quite a few conversion builds)

Build a Green RV: http://www.buildagreenrv.com/ (my site -- devoted to van conversions)

Do It Yourself RV: http://www.doityourselfrv.com/ (lots and lots of usual and unusual conversions and RVs)

Sportsmobile: http://www.sportsmobile.com/ (a commercial converter, but lots of van canversion plans and some tools for developing your plan)

If you are looking to make this a business opportunity, something I think there would be a market for is kits to do conversions that would include a full plan plus some of the difficult to make or obtain parts. The time consuming part of doing a conversion (at least for me) was working out the plan and working out all the fussy cuts. A kit (or line of kits) for something like $5K to $15K would probably find a good market -- especially if the quality was high.

Gary
 

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2015 Promaster 3500 159 Ext gas silver
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Tai
I'm in the early stages of building a camper interior in a 159 EX PM. The key feature I found missing or inadequate in commercial conversions was effective thermal and sound insulation. My conclusion is that if it's not visible they are generally reluctant to include it. I even tried in vain to convince a Canadian upfitter (Safari Condo) to let me add one inch of Polyiso foam before delivering the vehicle to them. It was disappointing but I do understand it would be disruptive to their process. Their 'insulation' consists of reflectix in various places with no floor insulation at all.

Best of luck and I'll look forward to your posts. Mine will be on the site soon as I get to interior details.
Bill
 

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