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I was down in Salem last fall, conducting some business with the State, and on my way out of town passed the Dodge dealer. Three hours later and this was in my hot little hands. I should not be allowed to make decisions. Who let me make decisions?



I bought it to replace my little xbox that was approaching the 200k mark, and while perfect in every respect, it still seemed like a good time to replace the little box with a slightly larger box.



Now I do live in Portland, and work in the city, often with tools in tow. Parallel parking, low hanging branches and tight parking lots are all part of my daily routine. These are just some of the reasons that I got the smallest version of the ProMaster that I could get. 118" wheel base and low roof. Plus I load canoes and kayaks on top, and the tall one requires just too much effort for top loading.

But there it sat, just waiting.

For me to start building it out with no plans, no parts, and no clue as to what I wanted. But I do have Amazon Prime...
 

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The first order of business was to see what would fit in it, so my friend Tank called and said she needed help moving her Ducati.



It fits! Duh. But it really fits. I could have jumped it off a ramp and landed it in the back.

So there it was, and it needed exactly 3 cardboard door panes to get ripped off in order to start with a true empty shell and begin with the build.



So I started with dynamat or some off brand whose name I cannot remember, but same thing, foil fronted rubber and asphalt sound dampening. I then glued a layer of 1.5" closed cell foam over the dynamat I am a little worried about rust via condensation, so my plan was to allow all the walls to breathe, and use no backing materials what would absorb moisture. The closed cell will not take on any water, it sound deadened pretty well, and has incredibly marginal insulation value. Like an R.0001. But hey, it is going to be a dry camper, and I have -30 degree sleeping bags, so who really need insulation? Not this guy!



I also cut out some wood panels for the doors. Finished them with linseed oil. They ended up pretty nice.
 

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I bought some roof racks that bolted right to the factor roof studs, have a #600 lb rating and were silver anodized to match the car. because if you can't match then why bother. Fashion always comes before function. Actually just happy coincidence. I was also looking for an awning. A crank out one with a manual crank. and they all seemed to be $1000 and up. So browsing Craigslist I found a RV shop just south of PDX that had the rare, all aluminum, over built Thule awnings. They had picked them up in a supply auction and were asking $300 each. I ran down, and offered them $250 and had a brand new in the box Thule awning.

And it mounts directly to the rack via t bolts, as it was designed to do, so no drilling the van skin.



At the same time I started to figure out some cabinets. I was at Ikea (hang head in shame), and they were getting rid of the old line of cabinets at 40% off, so I bought some, brought them home, assembled them, then hacked them apart to change their height, depth, corner fit and shelving. I did some serious cutting through "wood" of what Ikea passes off for wood with is some king of high glue content sawdust and cardboard, umm... stuff.

I set down some 5mm underlayment, then cut out some 5/8 plywood outlining the footprint of the cabinets, and then glued the whole thing to the floor.





In case you were wondering, during this whole build, excepting the grounding screw, the vent fan and the power in, not a single screw went into metal. I am a little paranoid of the moisture of the Northwest just rusting every screw hole made in Italian steel.
 

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So Amazon has now made many wonderful cardboard boxes appear on my doorstep, and they are starting to pile up in my garage. Solar panel, charge controller, LED lights, smoke alarms, screws and well nuts, and a Maxx Air fan.

The van has about 1200 miles on it now, so might as well cut a 14 inch hole in the roof. So I marked it all out in tape.



And cried a little inside. And had a beer... and thought about all the dumb ideas I have ever had. And then though about the semi-literate guy that would saw it out at the dealership, and four holes and four cut lines later.



(About the semi-literate remark earlier. As I look back upon my grammar in the post, I occurs to me that I might just be the semi-literate one.)sp
 

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And the fan was in.



I used a plywood cutout on the bottom, drilled all the holes for the bolts, and ran stainless machine screws through to mount the fan in the super mega plus strong way that I tend to use on everything I build.



Maxx Air fan review. I love this fan, it will suck the doors closed, or just create a gentle breeze. It hums along with little to no noise. But it rattles going down the road to beat the band. It is a rattle trap. if you crank it up just a little bit the rattling dims, but does not disappear, and on washboard, you are pretty sure the four horsemen of the apocalypse are coming for you. But it is rain proof, carwash proof, and does its job with hurricane strength winds.
 

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As you can see in the post above, I have now fully de-badged the van. Ram ProMaster sound like the name of a porn star. Probably starring in BSDM action, funded by someone named Kaiser Wheilhelm. Not saying that Germans are pervs, but they have birthed more than one "Ram ProMaster"

All back door badges are also gone.



The solar panel is also in, a 100 watt panel running to a charge controller and one Duracell agm battery. I am only running the fan, lights, usb sockets and a fridge cooler, so huge power is not my concern. My full amp draw with everything running is 4.2 amps, so the battery with no sun should run around 3 days. But the sun keep coming out every day, and even with overcast and rain, it charges faster than it drains. So my plan to see how long it will last will have to wait for the day the sun does not rise.

 

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So I got the single large floor mat for the front seats from Eurocampers.com, and it is just dotty.



And I bought the van sans the U-Connect system so that I could install my own choice of stereo. It turns out it also prevents hacking of the entire drive system, accessories and electrical! Bonus!

So with the fact that it had an AM/FM radio, upgrades were necessary, new head unit, door speakers and tweeters.



And a subwoofer to bring all the boys to the yard, cause I'm like, it's better than yours! It fit perfectly in a custom box under the front seat.

 

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I built some cabinets for the other side, to support the trip fold bed to bench that I made. It is 5/8 maple finished plywood, and I thought that it would be strong enough not to sag, but I am a large gentleman, who enjoys camping with strong women, and it flexed too much, this will get fixed later, but for now...



I also put in my first attempt at a headliner for the back. This will also come on out. And get replaced. I was quick to learn what works for cloth to wood spray adhesives, how padding works, staples, and other interior finishing. But that is for tomorrows post.

 

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I am going to use this van for fishing remote little streams on dirt roads to nowhere. To camp out freezing, in order to make the dawn patrol and skin in for glorious backcountry ski days. For drunken days at the swimming hole, when there is no way to get behind the wheel, and the evening looks to be even better. To go to hippie festivals and sleep more comfortable than a tent. And for beachfront property on the Washington coast. Perhaps another trip down Baja.

So with that in mind, and the fact that I document poorly everything that I do, here is the van in its 80% done version. There are a lot of small details to get around to, but it is pretty functional, and has had quite a few nights out... ok dozens of nights out, and my employer is beginning to wonder why I only have three day work weeks.

For the bench and bed I bought a full size 5" memory foam mattress, cut 3" off the end and then chopped it into three parts. Found some durable, flower embroidered upholstery and got the old Bernina sewing machine out and cranked out some cushions.



Remember the strong women part from earlier. I decided that the squeaking of the bed in addition to the rear suspension bushings was just too much. So to remove the sag in the bed I added in six, 1" square aluminum tubes for reinforcement. Applied felt on the bottom of the tubes to glide along the cabinets during the bench to bed transformation.

 

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I built some additional shelves (I still am debating doors or slides or Virgin Mother beaded curtains to close them in.) screwed them down and attached them to the side wall of the ProMaster. As you can see they also still need some trim to hide the ply.



And on top, while there need to be a panel put along the back to keep stuff from rolling behind the shelves to be lost forever, I found a perfect place to store beer coozies.



And a view of the whole *** end. Bed deployed.

 

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Zombies, like the Tooth Fairy do not exist. But I still think that an axe cannot hurt. So rubber mounts and the axe and awning stick have a place to live.



You may have also noticed that the floor is an engineered "hardwood". I do not know much about it. It was leftover from a tiny house build, also known as free. It is a grey finished wood, very costal and tres chic. The hatchet is for the Tooth Fairy. Never did trust that one.

 

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Electricity. Finally the one thing that I understand. So I am not a carpenter, and not a designer. I purchased for this build a jigsaw, circular saw, nail gun and compressor, sandpaper, and just started building stuff.

I am an electrician, by trade, by education, and by god I should be able to wire up a solar system and some lights and switches.

So I made a box (carpentry skills) for the battery and the charge controller. The controller has a nifty readout, and the ability to change and customize every parameter. So I set it for charge rate, float cycles, and max discharge rate. All the rest I left alone. All the wires are bundled in plastic armor in the walls and wiring for all lights and fans are laid out and tied back with zip ties and sticky backs.



And it then goes to the distribution panel, and switches. The glowing red switches are bright at night and require covering to sleep at night.

 

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I really wanted a smoke detector, but not a huge, beige, flying saucer of a detector. So I found this number. It is a particulate detector, so less false positives in a little space, plus it is tiny, and has a five year battery life. Finger for size reference. I should have been a hand model.



All of the wall and roof panels are attached by inserting brass and rubber well nuts into the existing holes in the van framework. Then a 1/4" nylon spacer and a stainless bolt and lock washer to hold it in. This keeps all the wood and fibers that contain moisture off the van. The only thing touching the van is the rubber of the well nuts. There is space at the top and bottom of each panel, allowing air to circulate in side the wall cavity with the theory that it will allow any condensation in the walls to dry out quickly and completely.

 

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I keep building, trying to finish off the last 10% of the project. And getting distracted, and building some more. I hope to have it mostly completed by the end of the year-ish.
 

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Hey, hey! I remember ya from SprinterFest a few months ago. Looked a bit familiar on the first few posts, then once I saw the cabinets (and the head through the roof), I knew it.

I'm having fun with our extra large PM, but darnit... the lil' 118 shorty is so darn cute. I really should not go find one. Ever.
 

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I really wanted a smoke detector, but not a huge, beige, flying saucer of a detector. So I found this number. It is a particulate detector, so less false positives in a little space, plus it is tiny, and has a five year battery life. Finger for size reference. I should have been a hand model.



All of the wall and roof panels are attached by inserting brass and rubber well nuts into the existing holes in the van framework. Then a 1/4" nylon spacer and a stainless bolt and lock washer to hold it in. This keeps all the wood and fibers that contain moisture off the van. The only thing touching the van is the rubber of the well nuts. There is space at the top and bottom of each panel, allowing air to circulate in side the wall cavity with the theory that it will allow any condensation in the walls to dry out quickly and completely.

MouSe,

Thank you for sharing your build.

I agree with Proeddie your write was super fun to read! I like the look of your head liner, running the grain length wise gives a great look.

OK here come the questions:

1) Can you share with us the source for the tiny smoke alarm

2) What is the veneer plywood/species you used for head liner

3) Can you please give us a review of the Thule awning (I'm considering the Thule for my build)

Thank you,

Dave
 
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