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So, it's finally time for me to upload some photos and give you guys a little more info.

We purchased our 2017 159" high top on the 19th of Dec. I had the pleasure of driving it home in the snow. It handled great even with not having winter tires. I was all smiles. It's been snowing so much here and staying on the ground such that we've broken all the records that have been kept back to 1840. Needless to say, the snow, single digit temperatures, ice, etc. have sure affected our ability to start outfitting the van. The road in front of our house was in such bad shape for over a week that only 4wd's were traversing it.

I almost bought a Sprinter over a year ago. I had reservations about owning a diesel Sprinter but drove over 8 hours to Portland anyway. I had put a deposit on it. The description was great. It was a POS with major structural problems.

So, I was shopping for a Transit. Had my sights set on a Transit. None to be had locally. Dealer didn't seem interested in a sale. Price was really high. Local Dodge dealer was interested in selling a van. There were a few on the lot. Sure drove nice! Price was fantastic. Had cruise, outside temp, comfy seats. Done!

This is our 3rd van (hence the title). Our first 2 were Ford Econolines: a 1989 cargo van and a 2001 window van which I just sold. Back in 1990, I outfitted the van with fiberglass insulation, some paneling on the sides, a bed that converted to a couch with a table in between the benches and a deep cycle marine battery. We were heavily into windsurfing then so it was a windsurfing van. All the wet gear and board went underneath. We slept above.

The second E150 had no insulation, no extra battery, tons of windows and the plastic panels that come with a window van. I used it as a people mover when necessary as it seated 8 but most of the time the extra bench seats were removed and it was our camping van. It had many iterations: platform bed when we were heavily into white water kayaking (kayaks slid underneath along with the wet gear) and winter trips to backcountry ski, bench seat with an aisle in the middle when we were mainly into biking and used the van a lot during the shoulder season and had to actually live in the van. I even had a small galley in front of the bed.

But, we always knew we wanted a van that you could stand up in. And cook in. We really like to cook. We would come back from Moab, Canyonlands and Arches during an October trip and say, "It sure would be nice to stand up and cook inside!" "And get out of the wind". "And get out of the rain".

Retirement finally happened and one of the first things we did was buy the right van for our lifestyle. Our build is similar to some of yours but nowhere near as nice. It will be functional but not pretty. If there is one thing I know, I will change it around as time passes. Old screw holes will go unfilled and just give it character.

I opted to buy a van with no windows. My first van had rear windows and one in the slider. Great! But they didn't open. Second van had windows everywhere! 2 even opened! Great! But, at times a little too much glass. And no screens. I wanted to be able to put in what I wanted (if I wanted them) and for them to operate and have screens.

To add further complications (other than the weather), our first trip is scheduled for the end of Feb (we plan to meet RD during the trip). Our goal is to have a bed, insulation and a place to store the bikes. Our second trip to Alaska is set for the beginning of June. Hopefully it will be more fully outfitted by then.

So, let's get started on the build:

Let's start with the floor: 1/2" polyiso floating on the floor without adhesive covered by 3/4" plywood from HD. I opted for 3/4" as I have to anchor some rather heavy drawers to it. You'll see! I always hated not having floor anchor points in my old vans.

The resin paper template. I think it was around 10°F or 12°F when I was making this but at least it was sunny.

The 1/2" polyiso is under the template just waiting to be cut.

My wife is becoming an expert with a jig saw. This is the 3/4" plywood.

Using all of my flat surfaces to prime the plywood, both sides of course.

Finished with a nice shade of green (attn Msnomer - we both liked your color scheme) to match our outdoor nature (latex porch paint).

Plywood lying in place atop the polyiso. I had to wait a few weeks for the weather to let me remove the floor (polyiso and plywood) so that I could remove the tie downs, add transfer screws to pinpoint the location of the tiedown bolt holes, transfer the location and drill the plywood and attach with bolts. I don't have a photo of the final floor yet.

The things that you don't see here are: I added some custom filler strips in various places on the floor. It appeared to me that there were some unsupported areas large enough that the polyiso could break. I milled these strips down from 2x material: 1/8", 3/16", 9/32" etc. and glued them in place. We had one day where the temp skyrocketed to the 30s. I turned on the van heater and put an electric heater in place. Then, when I thought it might be warm enough (50°F suggested), I used some of the Gorilla Glue construction adhesive to place these strips. At the same time, I glued in some 1/2" thick strips (same thickness as the polyiso) that go under the plywood joints. This way, I am able to screw the plywood floor to the van without drilling through the van floor.
 

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Ceiling Insulation

As most of us do, I had researched the insulation topic for a long time. In the end, I had to go with something that was quick and easy to install. Coming from a van with no insulation and using it in temps as low as -20°F and as high as 115°F, ANYTHING would help.

I finally decided on Thinsulate. Fast! Easy! Not the cheapest nor the most efficient thermally or acoustically but after buying a brand new PM, what's a few hundred bucks?

It took over a week for the Thinsulate to make the 6 hour drive from Hood River to Boise. No fault of Hein. Blame the weather again. The interstate was closed for days - snow and ice! And it was sitting in my living room until today. Forecast was 36°F - a darn heat wave but possibly too cold to apply the adhesive. When I saw the thermometer reach 40°F and the sun peaked out from behind the clouds, I raced to HD to buy 2 cans of 3M 90 spray adhesive. (Our final outdoor temp was 46°F!)

I started the van and cranked the heater and added some more heat via a small 1500W electric. I masked off appropriate spots and set up the house and the workshop for cutting the Thinsulate and spraying it with the adhesive.

I had to kill the heater when spraying in the van and wear a respirator of course. I then would take the can of spray to the garage to apply the adhesive to the Thinsulate. I had texted the cut sizes to my wife from the van. Wait a bit and then run the insulation outside to the van to apply it. For those that don't know, the application temp for the adhesive is supposed to be above 60°F. I used 2 cans on the ceiling.

The ceiling only took about an hour and a half. That was my kind of installation. Let's just hope it works out. We both felt that there was a noticeable difference in sound.

 

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Bike Drawers

Here is some info on the bike drawers that we built. They are very similar to others on this forum and the internet. We wanted the ability to keep 2 road bikes and 2 mtn/touring bikes inside under the bed.

They are 60" long. The bed will mimic this size and therefore be a short queen at 60"x 75". They are 16" wide. I could have made them smaller but decided not to.

I purchased 4 fork mounts from Amazon. The 48" slides are from Orr and Orr and cost $120 per pair. The drawers are made from some 3/4" ACX I had lying around. It took quite awhile to test fit the bikes in each box, determine the size and figure out what might need to be removed as I wanted to maximize the space between the drawers for storage. I also didn't want the bed to be too high so I will remove the saddles and the rack on my touring bike before storing them under the bed. This way, the tallest dimension is 31" from my plywood floor. My 5'2" wife will not need a ladder to get up onto the bed and I will have over 5" of headroom (more if I slump like usual).

The boxes now have been sanded a bit, primed and painted with some leftover waterbased deck paint that I had.

I'll post later as to how I will mount the outer part of the slides to the vertical sides and to the van floor.


A test fit.

The imported slides.
 

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Hex Rivet Nut

I have to say a big Thank You to Keeponvaning for posting abt the Astro Riv Nut tool over on the List of Specialized Tools in the How To forum. It's a great tool! Easy to use. Not expensive. Works fast. Note: the 1442 does NOT come with the 3/8-16UNC mandrel and nosepiece needed to install the hex nuts. You can order if from Amazon and find it here: [ame]https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01F9A4PHE/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1[/ame]

McMaster Carr info to order the riv nuts that fit in our hex holes. Top text is the ordering info. Bottom text is the actual package.
 

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Bed Rails & Slats

I took some photos yesterday of the bed rails & slats. I tweaked the design a bit today but it's basically the same as the photos.


Cleaning up the steel. 1.5 x 1 x .120 x 73" tubing.



Checking for deflection. My calcs showed only 4 slats were needed for the worst case scenario of my wife and I sitting on the front of the bed. I added a 5th slat just to make it easier to attach the plywood top.



Side rail attachment. 4 - 3/8 -16UNC x 2.5" HH bolts into the hex rivet nuts. I had to add a spacer both behind and underneath the 2x6 to keep it from twisting. Also verified that this attachment didn't affect the outer skin.


Slats installed. You can see the 1/4" spacer on the bottom and the 1.5" spacer at the top. You can also see the sheet of ice that is my road.


Another view.
 

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Post #5 Photos, Hex Rivet Nut

This is a repeat of post #5 above. I inadvertently modified the folder that the photos were in over in PostImage and the link changed of course. Here are the photos:


Astro 1442 rivet nut tool - I got mine from Amazon.


The hex rivet nut installed.


The McMaster Carr info - ordering info on the top, package info on the bottom. Abt $7 plus shipping. No one locally carried it. I tried Grainger but I couldn't find it on their website (no info on across the flats dimensions) and neither could the local phone rep.
 

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With apologies, I know these fit the 30 hexagonal bores above/below the rear quarter windows but I have yet to cinch one down yet.

Fifty for $10 delivered was too good to pass up. As far as metric vs. english, I'll mix them building without a problem, I plan on using at least half of the available spots for crash worthiness and then never touch them again once they get a 1000-mile retightening. If these were not to be used with wood it'd be blue loctite and forget them.

This eBay item claims 1mm minimum thickness grab (.0394") so on painted cargo area sheetmetal should work just fine, note the McMaster-Carr 90720a500 thickness spec is 0.104" to 0.239", no great problem just those inject a little slack from the beginning for things to move/rattle from rough roads or torsion chassis flexing to create creaks/rattle/clunks.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/321612193895

I planned on getting out the tool & dies & micrometer to set one to see if the grip-range is correct before I posted this, but at $1-$1.50 each AND with a recommended too-large grip range I'll go ahead and post...
 

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Sound Deadening, Insulation, Temporary Kitchen

The weather and temperatures finally turned a week or so ago which allowed us to get some work done. Just in time too. We're headed out this week for our final winter trip - 4 days of backcountry skiing in the mountains north of Sun Valley. Then, a couple of days at home followed by a drive to Big Bend National Park in Texas for an 11 day bike tour. Then, we'll follow Steve's Baja entry at Los Algodones (to get some dental work done) and maybe a couple of days of sun and surf at the Sea of Cortez.




The Noico installtion. I bought one pack from Amazon for about $63. I think it helps. I started just putting it on the panels that sounded bad when I rapped on them with my knuckles. It helped them so much that I decided to put it on all the panels. I had read that you only needed to cover around 25% of the panel. I used this rule mostly with a little more added on some panels. None on the roof as it was already covered with Thinsulate.



The Thinsulate. I had 2 afternoons in a row last week where the temps hit 52°F. The min temp for 3M90 application is 60. It was close enough for me. I kept the Thinsulate and adhesive at room temp till just before application. I had thought of using the adhesive in the closed and warm van until I read the MSDS. Nasty stuff. So I had all the van doors open AND used a respirator.

The van is much quieter now. We can hear the engine and transmission for the first time. The cab area will need some sound treatment but that will have to wait.


This is our temporary kitchen. I had a bunch of Rubbermaid containers in the shed. One sheet of plywood and some cleats and voila - drawers and a countertop. This photo also shows our ARB fridge. I didn't have time to install a house battery so I tied into the electrical system using the Upfit Interface power located at the bottom of the B pillar, passenger side. I couldn't find the mating connector or spades for the MTA connector that is there. I went to one of the local battery suppliers and their electrician found some male spades that would work and made up a short cable for me. I ran it under the floor to the fridge.
 

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A break for the Maiden Voyage


This was our car Monday afternoon after spending 4 days up at a yurt in the mountains north of Sun Valley Idaho. After driving the 3 hours home, we got sunny skies on Tuesday with a high near 60. It's time to go on our maiden voyage to Big Bend National Park in Tx.



Gravel/touring bikes are packed and ready for the 11 day bike tour in the park. The road bikes are ready as we plan on taking 5 days to get there. A little bit of driving each day with a ride in the afternoon. Sure looking forward to warmer weather.


The temporary kitchen.
 

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After crossing Texas about 20 times we finally visited Big bend, fall of 2015 and loved it. Best place in Texas by far. We also hit the music festival in Terlingua. It would have better with bikes! Enjoy the weather!
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks RD. I first heard about Big Bend in 1980 and I'm finally going. Also, a friend, music buff and fellow bike tourer has advised us of the music scene. We hope to take advantage of it. And - we are really looking forward to the weather. Hope to see you soon.
 

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Battery Connection Questions & Maiden Voyage Comments

After a month, over 4800 miles, and all the weather you can imagine, we are home from our maiden voyage and starting work on the van. Idaho, Utah New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Mexico, Nevada. We have 60 days until the next trip. Still sorry we couldn't meet up with RD in Arizona. Our schedules just didn't align.

First, my comments: The FWD of this van is fantastic. We headed out of Idaho with ice and snow on the road, blowing snow, etc. They closed the freeway behind us we heard. Good thing. We whiteouted a couple of times. And all we had were the all season original tires. Worked fine! Our lows for camping were in the mid teens and we hit highs around 95. Lowest temp in the van that I saw was 22, high was 111. Thinsulate worked great. Van handled fine on back country roads. No power problems at 9600'.

Still not used to the auto deceleration/speed control on some down hills. It just wouldn't shift at times. Still trying to come to terms with up on the shifter being a lower gear. Must be a European thing. I kept wanting to go down.

We couldn't be happier with the van. Finally, the ability to stand up!! What a joy. Shoulder season camping means a bit of time in the van. Reading. Watching movies. Cooking. Etc. Can't wait to have a proper electrical system. We kept repeating, WE Love our van!



This is my positive connection. It appears to be a 5/16" or so thread?? Maybe you can enlighten me as to the nut size needed. So what is the easiest way to add the cable to the van battery? This is the cable that will go to the house battery. Maybe about 2' long. I will need to add a fuse to it. Maybe an ANL fuse?? It appears that can add a connection to the bolt that surrounds the battery terminal. Or, add a cable to the existing L shaped connection in the lower part of the photo or add a connection to the bolt in the middle of the photo.



This is the negative connection. Is it better to run a cable from the negative terminal of the van battery to the negative terminal of the house battery or can I just ground the negative terminal of the house battery to a convenient location?
 

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With apologies, I know these fit the 30 hexagonal bores above/below the rear quarter windows but I have yet to cinch one down yet.

Fifty for $10 delivered was too good to pass up. As far as metric vs. english, I'll mix them building without a problem, I plan on using at least half of the available spots for crash worthiness and then never touch them again once they get a 1000-mile retightening. If these were not to be used with wood it'd be blue loctite and forget them.

This eBay item claims 1mm minimum thickness grab (.0394") so on painted cargo area sheetmetal should work just fine, note the McMaster-Carr 90720a500 thickness spec is 0.104" to 0.239", no great problem just those inject a little slack from the beginning for things to move/rattle from rough roads or torsion chassis flexing to create creaks/rattle/clunks.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/321612193895

I planned on getting out the tool & dies & micrometer to set one to see if the grip-range is correct before I posted this, but at $1-$1.50 each AND with a recommended too-large grip range I'll go ahead and post...
Looking for these hexnuts....does anyone have a current link (ebay or amazon)?
 

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Discussion Starter #19

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This is the negative connection. Is it better to run a cable from the negative terminal of the van battery to the negative terminal of the house battery or can I just ground the negative terminal of the house battery to a convenient location?
Hi,
Nice job on the conversion!

For the negative, I'd run the wire from van battery terminal to house battery terminal -- use same gauge as you used for the positive wire. The negative side carries the same current as the positive side and could be fairly high for this wire. Making good ground connections to the chassis that will carry the current and won't corrode and add resistance over time is difficult.

I have the same problem getting used to the auto downshifting on the PM -- can't understand why they did it this way.

Gary
 
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