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Discussion Starter #1
Greetings, fellow builders!

I am a newbie poster and starting a thread where I want to share my experience of converting my Promaster into a multi-function motorhome. I called it ultimate because I want to have there everything that a typical professional class B has (maybe more?), and plan to fit everything inside the compact 159WB van.

I spent many hours reading the forum where I found tons of useful information and I am very grateful to all people that took the effort to describe their work. I also hope that some ideas and solutions that I plan to post will be equally useful to readers.

I started the build earlier and currently I am at about midpoint, so initially, the posts would be lagging actual progress. I also started recently a building blog, which is structured by topics and has more details of the work. The blog address:

https://wtvanconversion.blogspot.com/



My wife and I decided to build a motor-home in early 2017. Almost a year we spent on researching the subject and shopping for a van, which we finally bought the end of December 2017.

The Winter and Spring went in planning and buying all major equipment (mostly Ebay, Amazon, Craigslist). After semester ended (I am teaching Electrical Engineering at a university) and we returned from the trip to China, I started the actual build on June 3, 2018.


The Goal


The conversion requirements:

Should be a fully self-contained comfortable motor home for two or four (occasionally) with:

  • comfortable seating for four with dinette
  • permanent bed for two with make-up temp bed for other two people;
  • toilet-shower room
  • kitchen with sink and stove
  • reasonable size fridge with freezer
  • ample storage for clothes, travel stuff and activity items(skis, bicycles, ...)
  • air conditioner
  • air and water heater
  • capable for winter travel
Should be able to serve as a passenger van with seats for seven if needed.

Should be able to serve as occasional medium load hauler (building stuff, kayak, etc.)

Should be aesthetically pleasing outside/inside, compact, and able to park in typical parking space.

Should be easy on the wallet as we have a limited budget of about $30000.


 

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Significant engineering going on in your build! Was wondering about your floorplan in that it appears conversion space of the 159wb extended while i am thinking you have a 159 'standard' length... suppose i am missing something... Thanks for sharing the build.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for all comments. Here are replies.

  • How fast. In summer, I teach only one course in July, so I work on the van 10-12 hours every day in June and August, and 3 days a week in July. Actually, I was planning to finish all main components by September, but it goes much slower and will not happen.
  • Floor plan. As requested I posted it in the floorplans thread.
  • Van length. It is 159 " WB regular, not extended.

My posts go slower than the build, so I continue with concise description of the build.


Van and Floorplan.


We bought used 2017 gas Promaster 159" WB at the very end of 2017. It was 7 month old with 6000 miles fleet vehicle. Although being quite new, it has some dents, and we managed to get it for 21200.






For the floor plan design we chose the traditional European design: front lounge with rotating front seats, dinette and second row two seats; middle kitchen with good size fridge on passenger side and narrow storage and shower on the driver side; rear bedroom.

The specifics of our design is the convertible movable up and down bed with low position (a seat for three); middle position (bed for two across the van); top position (no load, just giving room for cargo space).

The closest commercially available in North America design is probably the Safary Condo XL21' Flex, which also has the moving bed, but their is on extended van base. Plan and cardboard mock up are below.











 

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Love the CAD mockup! (cardboard aided design)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for the comments. Next is



Solar Panels.


To run AC, fridge, microwave and induction cooktop I needed quite a lot of energy. I got two large 60 cell 320W (LG305NiK-G4 - high efficiency monocrystalline) panels locally from wholesale distributor selling some leftovers at 50% discount.


Many builders use VHB tape to mount panels. As my modules are large and cover full width of the roof, the wind force could be quite larger than for typical 100W panels mounted along, so I decided to hard mount mines. I made two long steel rails and welded them to the custom made mounting plates that fit the sticking pins of PM roof. The panels are attached to the rails with a simple steel angles and SS bolts. This allows panels to be easily raised on one side to do connection, roof cleaning, and if supported with a bar to have a tilt if needed for highest efficiency.


The cables go into the van through two holes drilled in the left roof light clear plastic cover.










 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Second Row Seats


We wanted to have a second row permanent seating with belts for two people, so I bought the Ford Transit two-seater from craigslist for $200. I planned to mount the seats on a raised platform so that they are on the same level as front seats. This design with rotating front seats would allow to have a nice dinette for four.


These seats are good, but have two issues for my purpose: they are quite narrow and one leg is in the middle, which makes it impossible to have a large space under the seat for batteries. The solution was to build a special platform and modify the seat mounting.






The platform pieces were cut from steel angles and screwed together and to the vans floor. Then assembled platform was removed from floor and welded. Despite it was welded in fully assembled state, some thermal deformation happened, which posed some problems when screwing it back to original floor holes. The frame is attached by 16 stainless steel bolts: 10 to the floor with large washers, 4 long to the frame across the van and 2 to the vertical wall in front. The rear compartment is for batteries and electrical, the front - for storage box. The dimensions are 45"x31"x6" and are determined by needed seat position and seat mounting system.

Each of the seat legs was originally attached to the seat by 3 large bolts. Legs were removed, put on the rails that come with the seat and screwed to the sides of the platform. Then I drilled the original bolt holes to larger diameter and put through them three steel 9/16" rods (one side was threaded and screwed to the leg while another was hold on place by a pin).












After that the whole legs assembly was taken off the platform, one leg removed and the seat, where I drilled wholes to 9/16", was slid on the rods and the second leg put back in place. Now the seat with legs can be easily clicked into the original rails.







This construction resolved all issues I had originally with the seat:1) I got a large tall usable volume under the seat; 2) the seat could be moved on the rods left and right: when at left provided more room for passage, when at right - more room for seating as there was about 6 more inches between the seat and the left wall; 3) the OEM rails provided an easy way to release the rear hold and rotate the seat forward to allow the space for working under the seat, which was absolutely necessary for future electrical compartment installation.

 

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Discussion Starter #12
Floor and Step


Construction of the floor is quite typical. It consists of four layers:
  • Black foam underlayment (Black Jack, 2.5mm, from Home Depot, $20, 100sq.ft)
  • Rigid foam insulation (3/4", green, 2 sheets for $14.48 each from Lowe's)
  • Plywood (3/4", 2 sheets for $30 each from Home Depot)
  • Vinyl plank floor (did not buy yet)
  • Misc items (SS screws, wood planks - about $45)
Since my design has the seat frame attached directly to the van floor, and I did not need the plywood under the water and propane tank, I managed to use only two sheets of plywood by cutting them into pieces and covering all that I needed.

In my conversion, the plywood is the load bearing element, so it is attached to the van by multiple SS machine screws and nuts (about two dozen). The space between van floor ribs is filled with 1/4" wood planks on top of foam under the rigid insulation. No glue was used in floor construction.





On the left, you see the cut for the Propane tank, on the right - the cut for the water tank, and by the side door - the cut for the furnace.


The step. Initially, I planned to install permanent long steel step on the passenger side. However, as I was shopping for it I found very attractive price on Lippert Components Treadlite Power Step. Amazon was selling the long 30" version for only $340. This was the last one, so I quickly bought it. 30" is quite efficient size: allows to use it both for the sliding door and a little bit for the front passenger door.


Installation was not easy. The bottom frame structure, to which I attached the step, is not horizontal, but slanted up. So each of 6 bolts that hold the step has to have individually sized spacer. Also, marking and drilling on a slanted surface is quite difficult - it never comes exact and requires tweaking the holes in the frame to match the holes in the step.


The step actually is very nice: opens and closes automatically with the door, has lights, retracts when you start the car, and has a switch to hold it permanently open if needed.








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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Windows

The original van had only rear windows. We wanted streamlined look with windows all around, so the only choice was CRL windows. I was lucky to find a very good price.

I bought two sliding door replacement windows (glass only, FW385RFG) at DK Harware with free pickup at NJ warehouse. One window I used for the door as intended, and another for the driver side middle - it fits perfectly there also.

Then I bought rear passenger side (FW383R) and rear driver side with opening (FW393L) at Campervan HQ, similarly with free pickup at CRL warehouse in NJ.

The middle windows are without frame and have to be glued, so additionally I had to get the U-channel and CRL glass cleaner, adhesive and primer as per their instructions. As I found out later, cleaner was not actually needed. The rear windows are with frame, so no glue. Altogether, the total cost for all four windows and materials came out as $1534.

Installation went smoothly. I did not use a full template - just drew a rectangle and small template for the corners. Then I cut the metal with a jigsaw, primed the edge, put a U channel, glue and attached windows. The bonding was very strong immediately, so there was no need to hold it more than about a minute.









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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
Movable Bed

This post contains many images, so most of them I made small size and only few have a real size. Those who are intersted in details can see all large images in my blog (address in the signature).


The original goal was to make the bed movable vertically and to operate in three positions:

  • lower - to serve as a seat
  • middle - to serve as a permanent bed
  • upper - to stow away in order to have the large load compartment
The design consist of four corner posts with rollers moving inside the posts and attached to the bad frame.

For the posts I chose the 100PD Series Pocket Door Track and Hardware Set from Home Depot for $29.74 each. The track is aluminum and the rollers are plastic on a steel frame. The aluminum track is not sturdy enough to reliably hold the heavy bed/seat with people , so I made four reinforcement pieces from the steel C-channel positioned at the low and middle attachment points.



The front middle C-channel piece with the track in it is screwed by two bolts to the horizontal middle frame. The rear piece is similarly
attached to the intersection of the rear vertical frame and middle horizontal frame.

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The front bottom C-channel is bolted to the steel angle that is attached to the wheel box and the track additionally attached at the very bottom to the wheel box. The bottom rear is bolted to the rear vertical frame column.

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The top part of the track is inserted in the cut-in in the top horizontal frame and secured with the small plates. These attachment points do not carry any significant load, so I did not do any reinforcement.

......... ............


Each hardware set includes two rollers. Although roller look quite sturdy, I decided to combine the together to make one super sturdy roller with 6 wheels. The pictures below show details of this construction.



The biggest challenge making this construction was the fact that there are no straight and plumb lines and surfaces in the van. Thus, measuring, positioning and bolting poses huge problems. The main objective of measuring and positioning is that all four posts have to be exactly parallel and on the same exactly distance one from another to ensure that the bed frame could move up and down. Each attachment point has to be individually thought over, tried, drilled, retried, holes tweaked, etc. , until the needed tolerance is achieved. The fully assembled tracks with rollers are shown below.







The bed frame is was assembled from steel angle pieces, bolted together and then each intersection welded. This provided needed rigidity. The bed frame size is 46"x70", however the actual bed size is 52"x70 counting the space from the frame to rear door or even 52"x74" if the space between the bed frame and windows is included. In the middle, the frame is narrower than on the sides to accommodate sitting position.



Attaching the frame to the moving rollers is quite tricky, since the frame fits snag to the tracks. The roller assembly has to be disassembled, the roller plates bolted to the frame and then the rollers are pushed inside the tracks and bolted to the roller plate.









At the bottom position, the frame sits on the two wooden posts in the front and on two support plates bolted to the rear van frame posts. In the middle and upper position the frame will rest on the pins, whose position will be determined later when the actual seat/bed will be constructed or bought (trying to find a suitable reclining leather futon).


At this moment, the bed can be easily raised and lowered by two people (very difficult to move all four corners in parallel for one person). In the future, I plan to add a small electric hoist so it can be moved by pushing a button.

















 

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Awesome build. Thanks for posting. We love our Safari Condo XL Flex so I'm sure you'll love your version.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Great to hear from Safari Condo Flex owner.
Could you please share details of how the moving bed is constructed? From their website pictures I do not see details.


Does the bed have posts and rollers? On the pictures I see only belts, so the impression is like it is hanging on belts.
Can you sleep at any position of the bed or only at the lowest?
Does it rattle as you drive on uneven road? My makes some noise, which I am not sure yet how to eliminate.


Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
Electrical System

The electrical system consists of

  • Two 320 W solar panels (described in the Solar Panels post)
  • Five 100 Ah AGM batteries (FuelZero, $120 each on Ebay with free local pickup)
  • 2000W Inverter-charger (Cosuper, China, $295 on Amazon).
  • Solar charge controller (Victron SmartSolar MPPT 50A, $323 on Ebay)
  • Battery monitor (500A, no brand, China, $39 on Ebay)
  • Misc. items (cables, circuit breakers, battery isolator, distribution box, lights, etc)
Altogether, full electrical system cost was about $1800.


All electrical components, except distribution box, are in the electrical box under the seat. All items are very tightly packed. It would not be possible to do if I could not rotate the seat up.


.........

The circuit diagram is quite typical. The batteries can be charged from: 1) solar by Victron controller that connects to cell phone and shows all info; 2) shore power by inverter-charger; 3) by the van generator connected via the relay battery isolator and circuit breaker attached to the driver seat for convenience.

Distribution box is attached to the left wall panel in front of the seats and has 4 AC circuit breakers and DC fuse panel with 6 smallround DC switches. I used the 4-Circuit 2-Space Main Lug Load Center from Lowe's in which I put the AC breakers and DC fuse panel.

The switches and the battery monitor display I put inside the small plastic box from the digital caliper, which is attached on top of the distribution metal box and serves as main electric control center.

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The switches and the battery monitor display I put inside the small plastic box from the digital caliper, which is attached on top of the distribution metal box and serves as main electric control center.

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Inside the battery box, by the side of the inverter, I there is a small connection center, where I have the 500A DC breaker, AC breaker to the shore power, van battery disconnect relay, battery monitor control block with the Hall effect current censor.

....

There are additionally two inline DC breakers for the solar (30A between panels and Victron charger and 50A from charger to batteries) on the top of battery box under the seat.

Also I have inline 30A breaker between the van battery and house batteries , which I put on the side of the driver seat.



 
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