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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Camper build #5
2016 Promaster 136" low roof Colorado Campervan Pop Top Weekender
Convertible Configuration to do everything
Build Time - 3+ months
Budget Cost $60-65,000 including the van.

Starting #4 weekender build. After building 4 of the convertible set ups and using all four of them I find this set up makes a lot of sense when you need multiple uses for one van. This one again will seat 5-8, sleep 4 FULL size adults, and easily strip down so you can use the entire cargo space for a hauler. I will explore a "drop in and removable" kitchenette for those who want more of a complete solution but still want the flexibility of a convertible. Even the old Westy's don't have this ability.

I had this set up in an E150, Promaster, Sprinter, and now another Promaster because I think for a daily driver this is the right size. Small enough to drive around and park, tight turning radius for those tight spots, and plenty of power when you need it. I easily drove and parked a Promaster in downtown SFO on a family camping trip. The 136" wheel base is just right for a family.

I will use the lessons learned on the previous builds and make this one better than all of the others. These are not cheap builds, they take a lot of time to do right, a fair amount of fabrication, and the stuff adds up like crazy if you are going to do it right. Top alone is about 100 hours of labor to do, and all the other stuff easy 100 hours+. If you never did a van yourself you don't realize how much is really involved in building a campervan, especially one from a cargo van. Build cost will be about $22-25k by the time I am done. (does not include van) From my experience building 3 of these you easily hit $15-20k, the top being about half of this cost and the seats if done right another easy 5k depending on what you start with.

Biggest challenge will be an improved and more flexible seating arrangement with much higher quality seats and a SOLID mounting system that will be very well tied into the unibody of van. Unfortunately this adds a HUGE cost on the build, floor mounting system alone will be $3k +. Sounds expensive huh? Well if you have the work done by a top notch fabricator its a lot of hours and at $90-100 an hour, it ads up very quick. With this particular challenge I am going to leave it up to an expert in fabrication to my friend whom has built some of the best off road racing trucks in So Cal. He knows how to do it better, stronger, and safer than the average installer due to his extensive experience with racing cars and trucks where safety is #1 . His work also is just...amazing and want to have it done by someone with a far better skill in welding than I have. The goal is to document in this forum a really good system for seat mounting, one that is done the right way even though it will require skilled fabrication that would likely be beyond the average DIYer.

This time lets do a color! No white van for once!



Phase 1
Interior - need to sound proof and insulate using RAAM Audio products, MLV over the wheel wells, and Thermozite insulation/sound dampener. I have used a lot of stuff in the past and last weekender I built in this forum I went WAY overboard using the MLV. (Mass Loaded Vinyl) Did way more than what was needed to have an excellent result. I have used every brand out there (including home improvement store options) on the 30+ cars I have owned/restored with this combo of products and they work together the best. Most bang for the buck with really professonal results. The Promaster has so much noise in the the cargo area. It isn't however cheap, still will have $600 in product alone in this van just for this area alone. For example the spray glue alone is $55. Do it once and do it right?

 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Wall Insulation and Sound Dampening

I find you don't need a lot of product to end up with a good result. Just the walls this project takes anywhere from 16-18 hours on a small van, more if you have a long wheel base or high roof.

I did not insulate where windows will be or where opening will be for Campervan Pop Top.

Materials List: typically $800-$1000 in material used for this project as applied. You will need more if you are doing upper walls or have a bigger van.

38 Square feet of RAAM BX II sound dampener
40 square feet of RAAM Ensolite foam (to be used on door panels)
13 running yards of Thermozite
2 cans of high temp adhesive
24 square feet of MLV for wheel wheels
msl other tools and duct tape

This what the doors look like. A very small sound dampener panels are on all doors...goes to show you the idea of reducing vibration is effective, just needs more and multiple products to address different frequencies.




With dampener and Thermozite insulation


Walls



Wheel well with MLV and Sound Dampener. I find MLV really makes a very large difference over teh wheels, this is the source of the most noise in the rear. This stuff is very heavy and difficult to use unless it lays flat on the floor. It isn't cheap either but I the small amount I use isn't to much money. I glue down the MLV then use duct tape on the seams and to additionally secure over the wheel wells.




Inside walls completed
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Next wiring and spare battery. Doing same set up for single battery under drivers seat as I did before, doing a slightly cleaner installation this time around using a bussmann 150 amp resettable circuit breaker, using new crimp tool for battery cables, and other assorted goodies. (Thread on battery in how to section, I am basically doing the same thing) Adding USB outlets, rear fuse box for Pop Top and electronics, rear speakers...

This stuff isn't that exciting as it's not the eye candy upgrades and it's expensive and time consuming but soon it will be out of the way and I made changes in the wiring so I can easily add additional electronics or solar in future. It will be all hidden soon, but what a relief to have it done...then to the fun stuff, seating, windows, interior, wheels, campertop, light bar...


 

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Getting a chance to do a second or third conversion would make a big difference. The first is steep on the learning curve and everything is being invented. The second would be refined, the modifications and streamlined process would move it along faster. I don't want to do another one but I could do it faster, cheaper, and better.
 

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Next wiring and spare battery. Doing same set up for single battery under drivers seat as I did before, doing a slightly cleaner installation this time around using a bussmann 150 amp resettable circuit breaker, using new crimp tool for battery cables, and other assorted goodies. (Thread on battery in how to section, I am basically doing the same thing) Adding USB outlets, rear fuse box for Pop Top and electronics, rear speakers...

This stuff isn't that exciting as it's not the eye candy upgrades and it's expensive and time consuming but soon it will be out of the way and I made changes in the wiring so I can easily add additional electronics or solar in future. It will be all hidden soon, but what a relief to have it done...then to the fun stuff, seating, windows, interior, wheels, campertop, light bar...





Here is my setup of what I did based on your advice. I put it all the way to one side and put a samilex sine wave inverter next to it under the seat just to have a few extra outlets behind the seat.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00H8N97E2/ref=yo_ii_img?ie=UTF8&psc=1
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
More progress this weekend. Another 25+ hours of work in.

Installed the rear bed rail support that is under the panels I completed also. The panels will eventually covered in cloth as well most of the interior.


Rear side beam is inside the rear cavity and front I used simple 2 x 4 brackets...this isn't going anywhere. This is way more solid compared to last build with the brackets. The 2 x 4 is attached rear, center and front, the bed channel will be attached to this on other side of panels. This is a simple bed, that can be removed, no need to complicate things beyond what is needed. Thought I would show the support that I eventually bolt the bed rails to. No need to weld anything in for this and it keeps everything super simple. More than strong enough for a bed support and its cost effective in materials.



Panels also finally done, these will eventually be covered in cloth as well all the unfinished sections of the rear.




Also located the rear fuse panel behind rear vents and a cut off circuit breaker. I also have a auto reset breaker near the aux battery, this one I put in place so I can easily disconnect the aux fuse panel when working on electronics attached to this panel. This is also nice as it hides everything out of the way behind the rear plastic vent panels. Its also nice because all the electrical is run inside and easily accessed at this point. I made a simple board attached that then I can easily attach fuse panel, relay switches, and other electronics in this corner area. Just have to clean everything up and button it up. Much better solution compared to the last build.





 

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I'm envious of the opportunity to improve with subsequent builds. That would be a fun and satisfying thing to do. I'm feeling a bit of let down as I approach the finish. I can't think of much I would change design-wise, but the execution could be better in places.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Not changing much either in regards to layout because I feel the convertible set up is perfect for those whom need more than just a camper specific van and want a all -in-one van to do triple duty and justify the expense easier. This one like other vans will likely be sold to someone who wants a turn key solution and doesn't have the time/tools/skill to do a project. Even a simple build like this is really labor intensive and some of the full camper builds like yours MsNomer are way more work than most people can imagine, you did a great job! Like a home, way more work than what it looks like if you really add up all the effort. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
More progress and I figured out the direction of this van build and how to do it. My main goal was to make a flexible van, one that could be a full camper, cargo van and a passenger van. Found a seating system that will enable me to seat up to 8, seat 4 with sleeping for 4, sleep 3-4 with seating for 4 and a Kitchenette, as well as an open cargo van configuration. This will eventually be the model for the ultimate convertible camper conversion package that I will offer in the soon future. A van that can do everything or be configured easily. Still going to be at least two months out till it gets finished but making progress towards the end and finally working on some the cooler details.

Windows! CRL. 3 vented and a solid. Makes nice cross ventilation and screens keep the bugs out

Seats also! No more sprinter seats! These seats recline and have integrated seat belts made by ERA Seating. Going to put them on custom tracks to get the flexibility needed in this van. Not mounted yet, but having them enables me to think about how to do the mounting system to get maximum flexibility. Reinforcing the floor for the mounts is going to be a significant project and the seating one of the most expensive things in the van for sure to do right. The seating/floor is taking up a huge chunk of the budget as its going to require significant fabrication and modification to get it clean.


Not mounted but wanted to see how they fit. This combination is 2 +1 making seating row for 3. These seats could also be on swivels like captains chairs. Total width is similar to a newer sprinter 2nd row...almost exactly the same but better functionality with optional arm rest and recline as well as much nicer construction. Headrest, Katzkin Leatherette, integrated seat belt, pedestal, arm rest, and grab handle, all make a much nicer solution than a stock sprinter seat. On special tracks they will easily bolt in/out and slide front/back to 2nd or 3 row positions to make room for kitchenette or fridge if needed for a full camper set up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Started more work on finishing the walls. Using foam to shape around windows then cover it with gray felt and panels. Pretty simple materials, but a lot of work, easy 30+ hours. The simple bed panels are shown also in this picture. They will have to be covered and edges finished with t-molding.


Finishing around windows, by far the hardest part and very time consuming to shape the fabric and get it right


Here is a finished section with the wall panel covered.


Got some more goodies...2nd battery and solar kit. Renogy makes a really nice kit, turn key and straight forward installation. Decided to go to two panels to enable me to run a full size chest cooler without any worries about running out of power. Still contemplating a heater, I think I might wait till winter for that as its getting to become an expensive build quickly.


 

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Slammit, I haven't been able to see a single one of your photos--just a black "loading image" screen. You are getting now to the part I most want to see. Any hope of another photo host site?
 

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I see them all as well. Very nice!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Walls now finally completed. This is a solid 40-50 hour job for sure from start to finish with out patterns. Sure doesn't seem like it when you look at it. If I did not have the windows it would be very simple and half the time easy.

 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Decided to do some fun stuff, mono color tone the van a bit with some plast-dip and granite enhancer. I thought about painting everything but this way it can go back to stock and its a lot easier than painting with a gun. It also allows me to easily change the color to something different if I want. First time using this. I would prefer a 2 stage paint but this is a great system for messing around w/o the issue of messing up or picking the wrong color. It comes out pretty nice, especially on the wheels and is pretty fool proof to do. Easy and inexpensive way to do a little customization. For sure a DIY project on the easy scale. You don't have to remove wheels, but I did rather than masking the brakes.

Completed


Chrome plastic grill - gone :)


Now on to adding the 2nd battery, and running the solar wires. Its a lot easier doing this with the seats totally off, removing them only takes a few minutes and makes everything a lot easier.

 
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