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Discussion Starter #1
Meet Sid, our 2018 136" low top.

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I have been hunting vans for a few years now. Passively watching prices and reading about builds and planning out a future build with my wife. Eventually the time came and we bought a van of our own. We were considering all options, but we stumbled upon this 2018 still on local RAM lot. After a little brainstorming and some numbers gaming with the salesmen we came home with this guy.

Why SID?
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Our Build Plan
  • Keep it simple and practical. First and foremost.
  • We will be using the van to tote a few friends to the mountains/ski resort/bike park
  • We want the van to be set up so that we can have a couple people seated inside for beers and laughs should the weather be crap.
  • My wife and I will use it for a few multi day road trips or just a over night stay in the mountains/ski lot
  • I ride MTB after work in the summer, so having the ability to keep the bike inside the van during the day or at dinner afterwards has it perks.
I plan on using this thread as a way to document this process and to ask some specific questions, etc.

Thanks in advance!
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Fixing the Drivers Suspension Seat
First thing I am trying to tackle is the seats. We would love to have the driver and passenger seat swivel so it opens up the "living area" However, this van came with the suspension seat which is making the swivel thing a bit challenging. I hate the bounce in the seat, so I maxed it out to only find that I sit way too high. So tonight I put the seat on the minimum setting and found myself at the bottom of the travel. Roughly 2 inches lower. This felt so much better... but then I'm bouncing all over the place.

I realize that the swivels wont work on the suspension seats. But is the suspension portion of the seat just a add on? Is the seat base (framework under the sit pad) still the same as the non-suspension models? (For the record my seat is the basic one with the reclining and tilt only. No power) I am wondering if I can tear down the suspension seat by removing the suspension mechanism from the bottom of the seat, remove the sliders from under the suspension mech, then re-install the sliders to the bottom of the seat and attach that to the new "lowered base". Has anyone tried this?

The Ebrake attaches to the bottom seat frame. Do the "lowered base" have the attachment for that ebrake? I havent seen any details photos to indicate that.

Sort term it looks like in the back right corner of the suspension mech there is a top out strap that is secured via two bolts. I could easily make a bracket to replace that strap which will keep the seat in the lowered position. This should do until I have time to get that base thing figured out. (Or I could just run a strap around the whole mech and tie it down to the based plate. Ha.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Fixing the Drivers Suspension Seat
(Or I could just run a strap around the whole mech and tie it down to the based plate. Ha.)
Actually this worked quite well. I reduced the preload in the shock (or whatever that knob does) had my wife sit in the seat and then ran a couple straps around the mech. Cinched them down and we are good to go, for now.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Sound Deadening 10/19/19

Started the build project out this weekend by adding some Noico 80mil sound deadener to the cargo area.
I was told that we only had to put in on roughly 50% of the space we were looking to fill, but we went ahead and covered the entire wheel wells anyway. Based on how much rain water and debris gets thrown into that area.. I figured why not? The rest of the cab, we just did 50% coverage.
One box of 36 sqft was enough to do what you see here. We still have some left over that I will later put in the door panels.
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First photo of the back.
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After!
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Left side
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Right side

Next project:
Removing the tie down anchors in the floor, sealing them up. Then on to the floor build up.
Detailed post on thoughts for this, later.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Update 11/8:

Its been slow-ish going on the van due to work travel and life.. but we are making some headway. My wife and I decided that we wanted to get the van ready for ski season prior to leaving for Christmas holiday back east. Ready for ski season means that it needs a floor, roof rack system, and snow tires.
From there we can work as weather and time allows in the winter/spring.

We started the floor project by cutting 11/32 thick plywood to fit within the channels of the floor. These are well undersized of the channel width to still allow airflow under it. However the height sits proud of the rubs, so to fill that gap I applied Noico to the top of the ribs so that when the plywood is attached the wood and the rib heights will be even.

We are currently in the process of painting the wooden slats with a mold resistant primer/paint. We have one coat done but I think we will need to put a second on to ensure good coverage. (this paint will be applied to the underside of the flooring panels, and the backside of the wall and ceiling panels.

Below is a picture of the slats in place. The pieces in the middle of the van are staged so that we still get good support but it doesnt completely eliminate air flow from one side to the other.

We plan on gluing the strips to the floor using some silicone based adhesive that I have found to work very well. More on that later. Once the strips are in, we will attach 5mm thick plywood to the floor. After it is in place we will decide if we want to put some vinyl flooring on top of it/something similar, or leave it as is.

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While we were at the hardware store looking at flooring stuff, I found some 1/2" thick expanded polystyrene sheets with foil backing for 8 bucks. In my research, I found that extruded polystyrene seems to hold less moisture.. but the expanded still holds very little and is OK in this application. I haven't been keen on doing any insulation in the van for various reasons, but given the price.. I figured I would give it a shot.

One of my latest work projects has me using some silicone based adhesive. In testing we found that this 400 series silcone based adhesive by Novagard works really well. It is very flexible, bonds well to smooth surfaces, and sets up quick. Seeing as I had a few tubes of it.. I decided to give it go with the foam board.

I cut the boards so that the fit within the ribs and would lay as flat as possible. Once cut to size, I peeled the clear backing tape off the foam as I was afraid that film glue would let go before the silicone adhesive would. I ran a bit of this novagard on the back and stuck it in place. The foam board stuck to the walls fine with no support. I would apply pressure all over for a few moments making sure it was contacting ok, then I walked away. It did the exact same thing on the ceiling panels too! (Note the 400-195 works much better than the 400-185. Clear vs grey. Grey does not set up as quick as the clear)

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I put it on all the wall panels aside from the window areas and where the ladder will be mounting on the side. I only got one small piece on the ceiling. Then I drove it to work the next day. The noise reduction was amazing. So on my lunch break I went to the store and got another piece so I could do the rest of the van.

With a road trip looming, I went ahead and put the stuff on the sliding door window panels and I secured the foam board using velcro on the panels where the ladder will be mounted next week.

For the ceiling I cut the panels so that each section between the ribs was in two pieces. I found that the curve of the roof was too much for the glue and the foam board. By cutting it in two, I was able to get the foam to lay flat against the roof line and it stuck much easier.
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I still need to apply some to the front side of the fender wells, but I will do that in a bit. I didnt apply any to the last roof panel as the fan will be coming in before too long.
Yes there are alot of gaps, but as I said I am not too worried about insulation. This is more of a practice in road noise reduction than anything.. but having some insulation I am sure will be nice, in the end. For the 16 bucks I have invested.. So far I think it is money well spent.

As I mentioned, there is a ladder coming. We ordered the Vantech H2 rack with ladder, in black. This should be arriving next week? I have the order confirmation/completion, but I havent received the shipping info yet. Odd?

We are leaving for Bend Oregon this weekend. So I put the plywood down on the floor just to have something down. With a air mattress, an old cooler, and a cook stove, we plan on having a grand time figuring this thing out.

More to come later.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Rack and Ladder Update
We ordered the Vantech H2 rack and ladder in black. It took about a week the rack to reach us. Never received a tracking number on it.. but alas it made it.

Building the rack was pretty straight forward. I was missing some hardware. Wasnt a huge a deal as it is standard stuff. Quick trip to the store and a couple bucks later.. eh.

The rack was straight forward to build. A few buddies and few beers later we had it ready to mount on the roof. Luckily, the van just fits within the walls of our driveway which made installing this beast alot easier.

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Overall the rack is well made. Tolerances all work out.. but man it sits way too high off the roof. I get needing room under it for securing loads but this is a bit much. It just looks like such an after thought hanging out up there.
Driving wise, there is some increase in wind noise, but not bad. The biggest issue is there is a whistle that develops at over 65mph. I think it is coming from the holes in the uprights, or via the holes in the side rails. I will have to trouble shoot that more later.

Installing the ladder:
First holes in the van! Ugh this killed me a bit.

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I decided to mount it at the seems of the two halfs of the van cargo area. That way I was splitting a frame rail in the van. Figured this would be the strongest mounting point on the side. (I didnt want to rear mount as I will have a bike rack on the back this spring)
With the help of a coworker, we knocked this out in a couple hours last Friday afternoon.
3 of the 4 mounts are easily accessible from the inside. The 4th mount is sitting in the pocket within the frame rail. Luckily its not too bad to access thanks to that pop out panel in the frame.
I used some silicone adhesive/sealant around the bolt holes in the ladder mount, gasket, and around the bolts inside the van. Plus some around the backing plate on the inside. In theory no moisture should be able to get around the bolts.
Strength wise, its pretty good. Only slight flex in the body panels down low. I am 190lbs and I feel fine climbing up and down on it. Now, I do not plan to jump up and down on it... or tie a heavy load to it.. but for basic access to the roof rack. Fine.

Lowering the Roof Rack

Ok, I just couldnt take the rack being so high up. It looked like crap. After some studying I figured out how I could lower the rack with out purchasing any more parts and simply modifying the current upright.
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There a couple holes in the up right that made things a bit more complicated, but overall it seemed fairly straight forward. I just needed to cut it down, and cut the double bolt tab thing in half (the mount that sits in the track) so I could put the bolts where I needed them. It appears that most of the downward loading is supported by the upright edge, not the bolts, as you can see in the photo. There is a lip in the channel that rests on the upright.

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Set the saw guide so they would all be roughly the same height.


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Hole locations marked and punched. Ready for some pilot holes.

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All 6 cut down and cleaned up. I drilled the mounting holes at ~.31 so I would have some room for tolerance stack up. In hindsight, next time I will make them at .4ish to make install a bit easier.

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You can see the old holes up top and where the large holes are below it that i split in half. This is what made me add a step of cutting the double bolt channel thing in half. That set the bolt spacing to one side. By sawing that it half, I turned the tabs around and I was able to run the bolts closer together.
The mounts are aluminum. So no need to paint them.


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Installing the rack in rain and sleet was fun. But I got it.

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SOOOO MUCH BETTER! The rack was sitting 5.5" off the roof before. Now it is sitting around 2.5" off.

Next steps:
Winter tires getting mounted tomorrow.
New saw is arriving soon, so we should be finishing the flooring project next week.
I am hoping to paint the wheels black this weekend and ordering/picking up a rocketbox for the top.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Love it! I was so excited, I installed the rack in rain/sleet. Ha

Thanks! Cant take all the credit, it was my wife's idea. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
12/2/2019 Update - Progress Over the Weekend

Tires:
245/75-16 Cooper Discoverer Mud and Snow
Do they fit - YES. Do they rub - Yes.. but only on the mudflaps on the rear.
The axle path of the rear wheels appears to be up and back. So all I had to do was remove the mudflaps to avoid any rubbing. While I was in there though, I took the dead blow and knocked the tabs in there back a bit and rolled the edges so there wouldnt be any sharp edge contact, should that occur.

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I took the van to the ski hill on Saturday. Afterwards, I attempted to hoon around a bit in a unplowed gravel parking lot. There was 4"-6" of snow sitting on top of the gravel. I was impressed. I had to be very stupid to get the tires to break loose. Braking power was great, steering was sharp.. I'm sold.
Road noise has increased over the stock tires which was to be expected. Its not alot, but it is noticeable.

Rocket Box
Ended up finding someone in town selling a skybox 18 for a decent price. So I picked that up on Friday.
I have it centered on the racks, side to side with the lock mechanism in line with the side ladder. This put the box far enough forward that the back of it will clear the fan that will eventually go in the back.
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Bonus Seat
Friday night I got a wild hair and decided to start looking into mounting the 3rd seat in the van. I picked up a spare seat off a guy in Olympia last month, and it has been sitting in the corner of the garage waiting to be installed. So I put the chair in the relative location I wanted it and started tinkering.
Using grade 8 hardware, some stainless steel spacers, and some aluminum angle stock... I was able to mount the seat in a pretty good spot.
The rear mounts sit behind the frame rail that runs across the van just ahead of the fender with forward seat mounts set just behind the next frame rail. Side to side, the chair is 2 inches to the inside of the right frame rail. I connected the front two and the rear two mounts via the aluminum angle stock underneath the van.
With the seat in the forward most position, conversation between 3rd wheel and the front two seats will be easy and with the seat all the way back, loading and unloading the van from the side will be fine.
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I'm not 100% on the SS risers to level the seat out, especially up front. I will replace this with a piece of steel box extrusion when the time comes to put the floor in. This was more of a trial run than anything and so far, I think I am pleased with it.

Next Steps:
Wind noise... I have a whistle in the back of the rack that is really getting on my nerves. I am taping over holes and covering slots in the rack to no avail. This is a key priority to solve soon.

Flooring. Saw should be here any day now.. so when that's in we will get cracking on the final flooring bit.

Door insulation. I need to get some sound mat and foam insulation inside the door panels, sooner than later.

Last night I ordered a Maxxair fan. Once I have the saw and the floor is done.. we will get to work on the roof vent.

Seat improvements. I need a seat belt installed, and I want to clean up the mounting system a touch.
 

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I am just going to do a lap belt secured to the seat frame base.

I found it on craigslist.
Check with your local law enforcement and insurance company. If you get into an accident and the person in that 'rigged' seat gets hurt (or worse) it might not be covered and no telling where that could lead.
 

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Yes, stuff like that can get hairy in a hurry.
Rules vary by state, but what will likely happen is, anyone injured would sue your ins for the max of your policy. And if you don't have good coverage, their ins would have to flip the bill for the rest or all of it and then they will come after your ins and even you to recover their loss. Then your ins will look for any and every reason to drop you. That's the very least of what will happen if someone gets hurt sitting in a seat like that. I cringe when I see people install their own rear seats. Especially when they say they will strap their kids in them. I usually mind my business. Just saying, don't take anything for granted.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Thanks for your input. I understand your concern but its something we wanted in our van. As I stated earlier, this is a mock up. There will be more adjustments made to it at a later date. I have 5/8" grade 8 hardware in all 4 corners of the seat frame. I am not worried about those failing in shear. The next failure point will come from shearing the sheet metal in the floor. I mocked up my design using 1/8" thick, 2" aluminum angle stock that I had lying around. (This will be replaced with steel and likely 3" vs 2") Ideally, I will get something around that frame. In addition, I want to get rid of those tall SS spacers up front. The allowable moment there is too much. I am going to replace those with a larger box beam that will connect the two front supports together. I simply used the spacers to determine the height needed to level the chair out.

In short, I am using my engineering experience/knowledge to secure the seat to a level that I am willing to strap myself and my loved ones into. If anyone has an engineering advise/experience with adding seat, I'd love to hear it as I realize I am not perfect and I could overlook something or there is a much easier way to do this.
 

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Have seen posts where folks installed Transit seats in the back of Promasters too so at least you have a stock seat. There are both seat and shoulder belt anchor points on both sides back there by the way, so somewhere along the line there have been seats installed in these bodies, maybe in Europe. There may not be much cause for concern but I can't help but get the nagging feeling that the seat is being installed in the back of a cargo van that was not 'designed' for it (at least maybe not to US standards or usage) and no matter how safe you are able to make it (even if technically safer than the front seats, i.e. - airbag in the slider, etc) insurance company lawyers will get onto that and right or wrong, build a case against you. If it were me I'd at least do more digging before going any further.
 

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It's not so much that you can't over engineer it and make it safe. I'm sure I could install a seat that is as good or better than a factory install.
Just pointing out to be mindful that insurance might act funny about something not installed from the factory, regardless of how well it is engineered. In the unfortunate event of an accident and a rear passenger injury with factory seats, there's nothing complicated. Insurance covers medical cost and then they all fight with each other over liability and recovery.
The second they find out you installed the seat yourself, now you're involved and it's a whole new song and dance. And it gets ugly.
(My wife has been working in ins for over 15 yrs, specializing in bodily injury).
Even if it's an immediate family member and there's no one suing your ins, it could give you some issues with coverage.
Not giving you a hard time. Just a few things to be mindful of. I happen to be exposed to the ins co side of these things and I know it gets ugly, quick when there's an accident. They will look for any reason they can find to not pay.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
It's not so much that you can't over engineer it and make it safe. I'm sure I could install a seat that is as good or better than a factory install.
Just pointing out to be mindful that insurance might act funny about something not installed from the factory, regardless of how well it is engineered. In the unfortunate event of an accident and a rear passenger injury with factory seats, there's nothing complicated. Insurance covers medical cost and then they all fight with each other over liability and recovery.
The second they find out you installed the seat yourself, now you're involved and it's a whole new song and dance. And it gets ugly.
(My wife has been working in ins for over 15 yrs, specializing in bodily injury).
Even if it's an immediate family member and there's no one suing your ins, it could give you some issues with coverage.
Not giving you a hard time. Just a few things to be mindful of. I happen to be exposed to the ins co side of these things and I know it gets ugly, quick when there's an accident. They will look for any reason they can find to not pay.
Fair enough. I appreciate you passing along the information based on your experience in the field. I will keep it in mind as I move forward.
 

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in the spirit of trying to be helpful...

there's also an issue with the interior of a cargo van. it is my understanding that a certified upfitter will add seats to a window van but not a cargo van. the factory window van has trim in places that make it safer in the event of an accident.

a few upfitters I researched said that they would only add seats to a factory produced window van.

changed my plans to not add seats.. but really didn't need 'em.

most states get very specific about the rules when kids are transported.
 
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