We have been crazy busy working to put this van together. One of the biggest realizations has been to not try and plan for the perfect block of time to complete an entire project. It’s better to just take every hour possible, and put it against the miles long work list. It’s all just hours. This build out will probably be several hundred hours of work, if not a thousand+ hours of work!
When we were breaking the build into sub projects it didn’t seem that bad; interior cabinets and bed install, paint, body, electrical and external bumpers and carriers. How bad could it be? Now that we are knee deep into it, it really adds up. But I have to say it’s fun as heck to come home and dive into removing a heater core, clamping cables, making your own headlight brackets, etc. As we dive into each project, I can’t help but feel incredibly inefficient at the end of that project. Some of these jobs would take me a quarter of the time to do again. It almost makes you want to do it again, so you can revel in your expertise and speed. But just almost…
Ok back to the build, so the electrical system started to arrive in boxes upon boxes over the course of weeks. It was amazing to see it all show up live and in the flesh (I guess copper and plastic). Two things struck me; one, the diagram is less daunting when everything is laid out on the floor and two, this stuff is BIG, and takes up space. We are going to have to be very smart to fit all of this in.
Here is a beauty shot of the custom panel in the flesh. This thing is awesome! It’s bigger than I expected (details details). But its going to be awesome once in the van.
In addition, the interior arrived for the van. This is the big foundational element. We can’t wire the van, nor install the electronics, without first having the new interior cabinets in. While I was jazzed to start on the cabinets, that would have to wait for the prior domino of the carpet to be tackled.
The van currently has carpet throughout and its seen better days. It would probably clean up pretty well, but I cant imagine being able to vacuum and keep the carpet from looking like a matted mess from mud and dirt during the rainy season in the Congo. So we decided to pull up the carpet and replace it with hardwood floors. This job was easy enough, like peeling back a sticker, we started in the corner and in about 5 minutes, the carpet was up and out.
But now the question is which type of floor and how exactly to install it. What you are looking at above is semi rigid foam that was beneath the carpet. It was pretty heavy and in great condition for its age. We had to decide if we take this pad up, and put down plywood and then put the new hardwood floor on top of that plywood. While a lot of people do that, we test fit it that way, and the floor was super hard and not resilient at all. So we decided to leave this foam down, placed sheeting over it to protect against spills and moisture, and then laid ”click” bamboo flooring. Having done hardwood floor installs before, this was nothing like putting down old school hardwood floors with the big nail gun, heavy hammer, tapping block, etc. This literally just clicked together and the floor went it easily.
But before we could finish the floor, we needed to take the rear heater out of the van. Underneath the rear seat is a heater that circulates engine coolant through a mini radiator, with a fan to blow hot air through that core and out into the van. We decided we need that space under the seat for batteries and storage.
This was one of those things that would take us less than an hour to do again, but the first time was a bit rough. The cover and casing basically detaches by removing a few screws, and lifting up. Easy. Next comes those hoses which have engine coolant running through them, we have to disconnect those, pinch them, and then plug them somehow to ensure anti-freeze does not pour out and spray across the entire floor. This is where it became a test of patience. The specifications we found for the hoses’ size was incorrect and meant 2 trips to home depot. There goes an hour and half. Then its back to work, and the first hose comes off without too much skin off the knuckles, and is capped with no problem. But the next hose would not come off, so we had to cut it off. Then we couldn’t get the plug to fit into the end. Since we cut the hose, the end was no longer stretched at all, so our plug didn’t want to fit. Here comes more Internet time, and reading at thesamba.com. Seems there is a trick when dealing with these hoses to get the fitting to insert. Boil water, and then soak the hose in the boiling water for 10 minutes and then try again. After, realizing it’s easier to push the hose down onto the plug, than try to hold the slippery plug and push it into the hose, we were finally done with that.
Back to the floor. We can now put down the vapor barrier and lay our floors. This is where I should pause and describe my “workshop”. I am working in an underground basement garage with low ceilings in a large residential building. Its humid, a bit dank, but it works. We had all of our supplies laid out and ready to start cutting for the floor, but alas the outlet in the basement doesn’t work. Up until this point, we had been working with my Dewalt cordless tools and a fair bit of elbow grease. But I can’t karate chop all of the floor boards to size, so back to Home Depot we have to go. But since we had momentum we decided to shift and put together the new interior cabinets and then we would figure out the saw situation.
The cabinets actually went together fairly easily. The instructions left a bit to be desired, but it was easy enough, and these look great and are lightweight. We’ll do another write-up on our kitchen unit, but we couldn’t finish those either because we were missing a part to secure the new sink and stove (its awesome) to the cabinet. UGH.
Finally went to home depot the next day, and expanded our Dewalt tool family with a 6.6 inch circular saw that uses the same batteries as the drills, and saws we already had. Now it was time to rock.
With a few mis-cut boards here or there, and a light tap with the fists to put the planks in place, the floor was pretty easy. We then put the cabinet in place for the first time to test fit, and it looked awesome
It was the first time we could see it all starting to come together. But of course it’s not that easy. The cabinet hits the box that surrounds the car’s engine computer. So I will either have to remove that cover (makes me nervous) or I will have to cut the cabinet to fit the contour of the cover (time consuming and nervous sweat inducing). That will have to wait to the next time.
We are behind on the build, which would be ok, except that we have to get the van to Seattle over the weekend… yes Seattle… 2100 miles away. We have a bunch of help lined up with our west coast friends to cut the roof off, put a pop-top on, redo the suspension, mount tire and bike carriers and the list goes on. More on that later.
For now before we depart on Friday night, we have to
- Finish the floor install (install moldings and trim)
- Fit cabinet with basic wiring
- Modify cabinet to fit the ECU cover
- Bolt cabinets down
- Figure out how to mount the sink and stove securely to the counter top
- Insulate the “walls” and doors behind the cabinets
- Remove and reinstall the exhaust and heat shield due to first set of hardware being defective (yep)
- Change the timing belt, water pump, idler gears, etc. as part of a timing job on the van
Doesn’t sound bad for an entire week of nights from 7pm – 1AM, but the problem is that I am out of town until Thursday 8PM and have to work Friday from 9 – 6PM. So basically we have from 9PM – 9AM to knock out the above…. It’s going to be interesting…
My new friend