Layout Refined

I decided the layout needed a little tweaking. While I was happy with the overall layout I wanted to put a bit more thought into some of the details.

This is the original design.

Motorhome_Design_Bits

And here is the refined layout of the drivers side.

Motorhome_Design_Isometric

I decided the fridge under the wardrobe on the left should be integrated behind a door. After a little thought I decided the best way to do this would be to use sliders on the fridge door attached to the cupboard door in front  as it would be in a house kitchen.

Int_Fridge1 int_Fridge2

So that the locking mechanism and control panel of the fridge are easily accessible the control panel will be covered by extending the wardrobe door.

Beside the fridge/wardrobe the bathroom door will finish in-line. The bathroom door needs to be the right width so it can open 90 degrees and fill the gap between the bathroom and the kitchen opposite. This way when we return to the van from the beach the front section of the van becomes a dressing room by just opening the bathroom door.

Next is the bed/sofa area. Originally I was going to make the frame out of aluminium. This section will now be wood the same as the rest of the van. The door at the bottom of the bed gives access to the gas taps, has the Carbon Monoxide detector beside it and both will sit back flush with the pull out frame for the bed around them.

Above the bed is a wall unit. The left of the wall unit will have a car radio fitted in the bottom part with a shelf above to hold my VanPC. I did think about housing the PC in a cupboard but was a little worried about restricting the air flow to it. Besides the PC/Radio will be two cupboards.

Motorhome_Design_Isometric_Side2_Colour

The other side of the van has the shorter sofa/bed section (170cm) with a cupboard below for bedding and two cupboards above to match the other side.

The kitchen will have a Smev 9222 combined Sink/Hob in the top with a Spinflo Duplex oven under the hob. All of the fascias on the kitchen unit are pull out drawers for easy access.

SMEV_9222RH

The Smev Sink/Hob will fill most of the worksurface space so a “flip up” worksurface will be added on the left and right that can be locked into place when needed.

Above the kitchen will be more cupboards that will sit a little higher than the bedroom units to give more space between the hob flame and the bottom of the unit. I also like the way the wall units step up as you look across the van.

Finally, above the sliding door, is another small cupboard. We put a cupboard here in our last van and it was so useful for holding the dogs lead/poo bags and things like torches.

The final bit that needed more thought was cupboard access. I’ve never liked using the normal push locks as a handle to lift a door up as I’ve had them fall apart in the past. At the same time a normal handle doesn’t lock the door in place when travelling and I don’t want the cupboards emptying all over the van 🙂

I decided the ideal solution was to use a push lock and a handle. When we park up we walk around the van and open all the push locks. Then we can use the handle to open and close cupboards the same as at home. When we want to drive away we can lock all the push locks. I’ve also decided to use “soft closers” on all the doors combined with gas struts on the lift up doors. I have this system at home and really like it.

 

 

Planning The Underside

My next job was planning the underside of the van so it can fit a water tank, waste water tank and underslung gas tank.

The first thing I did was get some pictures of the underside.

Then to get a better idea of how the “pro’s” do it I videoed the underside of a professionally converted van.

Then I needed to decide on what tanks to buy.

For the water tanks the main supplier seems to be CAK Tanks but I found a lot of people on the SMBCC website had good things to say about a guy called Shaun Barrett who’s website is www.tank.me .

After talking with Shaun on the phone I was confident that this was the guy to go with. He talked me through the layout of my van so the holes would all be in the right place and supplies the fitting kit with the tanks. He also supplies the tanks for several pro builders including IH Motorhomes and Vantage.

Next was the gas tank

This was kind of a no brainer. A company called Gas-It supply a wide range of tanks and accessories but the tank that stood out to me was their 38Ltr model with the fixing lugs attached.

38_ltr_gas_it

This tank fits perfectly in the bay behind the hand brake cables and looks to be a good choice.

The only other things I need to consider with the underside (beside routing the pipe work) is if while I’m under the van fitting the tanks its worth adding a layer of Waxoyl or similar? I’ll come back to this in a later post.

 

Bought The Vehicle

Well we bought the vehicle – a Peugeot Boxer H2L3

(height 2 length 3, long wheel base high top van)

The van is a January 2010 model with 40k on the clock. The van was described as in great condition blah, blah, blah….. which on the outside is kind of was (after a good clean). But then there was the inside…..

On top of the atrocious state of the inside the van had electrical faults and needed a new alternator, battery and few other bits.

I’m not going to name and shame the dealer just yet as I’m in the process of taking legal action against them.

All I will say is learn by my stupid mistake and don’t buy a van online

UPDATE – The dealer did compensate me for the state of the interior and paid the bill for everything that needed fixing. Obviously the van should not have been delivered in the state it was but as the dealer did sort everything out it would be unfair to name and shame them.

The Layout

The next thing we needed to decide on was the layout of our van.

We wanted it to have easy access around the van, a rear lounge that converts into a large bed, a usable bathroom and a good kitchen. We also wanted to be able to shut the cab area of the van off from the back so my dog cant shag the steering wheel when I’m not watching (its very embarrassing, on the last van he would do this while flashing the lights on and off much to passers by amusement) .

After much deliberation this is what we came up with.

Motorhome_Design_Layout

We would have a sliding door between the cab and the living area, a fridge with a wardrobe above, then the bathroom with toilet and working shower, a U-shaped rear lounge and then the kitchen area.

We would have windows all around the back of the van but none at the front as we spend a lot of time at the beach and by opening the bathroom door the whole front of the van becomes an area to get in and out of wetsuits. Light at the front would come from roof-lights only.

Motorhome_Design_Roof

This picture shows the roof layout which will have a roof-light above the kitchen area, one in the bathroom and another over the lounge. Also on the roof will be 2 x 100w solar panels, but more on this at a later date.

Motorhome_Design_WallUnits

Wall units will run above the lounge and kitchen with a smaller unit above the sliding door.

Motorhome_Design_Table

A table will fit into the floor in the lounge area that can be stored in the wardrobe when not needed.

Motorhome_Design_Bed

The longer side of the rear lounge will pull out to create a huge rear bed. The two side beds measure 200cm and 170cm (I’m 6’0″, the missus isn’t :)) which by them selves are great for crashing out during the day. By staggering the length of the rear beds we get more “dressing room” area at the front.

Motorhome_Design_Bits

And finally a more detailed layout showing the position of some appliances etc. The shorter bed will house bedding below and the kitchen area has pull up extensions on each end for extra work surface area.

Gas and water tanks will be underneath the van and the leisure battery’s will be under the front seats. This leaves under the back of the lounge free to use as a boot to hold deck chairs and body boards etc.

Choosing A Base Vehicle

Once we knew how big a van to look at for our conversion the next job was to decide on a base vehicle.

As we want a van large enough to walk about in that can fit a bathroom and double bed inside we narrowed our choice to either the LWB Transit or the Fiat Ducato/Peugeot Boxer/Citreon Relay. There were other vans the right size but these were the two we liked the look of the most.

All of the pictures below can be opened larger in a lightbox by clicking on them.

 

Ducato_Front Transit_Front

Front View of Ducato and Transit

 

Ducato_Side1 Transit_Side1

Drivers Side Views

Ducato_Side_Door_Open Transit_Side_Door

Side Door View

Ducato_Cab Transit_Cab_2

The Cab

Ducato_Dash Transit_Cab

The Dash

Ducato_Inside_From_Back Transit_Inside_From_Back

The Back

We spent quite a bit of time looking at both vehicles and in the end decided of the Ducato/Boxer/Relay for a couple of reasons.

The first was the amount of  professional motorhome builders using this model – has to be a good reason right?

The second was the inside is much straighter on the Ducato so looks an easier build. If you look at the pictures below you can see how much more the struts protrude into the van (Ducato it the top image).

Ducato_Inside_Rails

Transit_Inside_Side_Bars

And the third reason was we just prefer the look of the Ducato.

Decision made, time to start looking for the right Ducato/Boxer/Relay.

The Plan

The plan is to build a Self Build Motorhome for getting away as often as possible and that can also be used as a mobile office so I can work from the beach instead of the office.

We have had motorhomes for years ranging from a big A-Class Pilote, to an Adria Twin, to our first attempt as building one ourselves from an old works van.

The first build was very simple and cheap to convert and served us well for a few years but it is now old, costing more and more for each MOT and needs replacing. The other problem with it was, as I work long hours online, getting away often was a bit of a problem.

We wanted a vehicle that was fairly easy to park in normal car parks and it has to be able to get a reliable internet connection as often as possible. It would have enough electrical power on hand to run an on-board PC without being on electric hook up (we like to wild camp).

We started looking around dealers for a professional van conversion. The thing is, all of the ones we looked at seem to be based on out of date technology. To give an example, many years ago we had a mid 80’s Pilote A-Class motorhome. It had a basic split charge system with a 110ah battery which was fine in the 1980’s. Nowadays we all rely on mobile phones and most of us have a laptop. A lot of new vans are now supplied with a compressor fridge that also runs of electricity. The electrical system fitted to these new vans? The same as in my old Pilote .

It was getting obvious that the only realistic way we were going to get what we want was to build our own.

We decided a LWB high top van would be the best choice of vehicle, set up to carry just the two of us (and the dog) to save on seating space. But what about the electrical power?

My knowledge of 12v electrics was not great so I needed to get a lot of advice on the subject.

Searching the net I came across the SBMCC, a forum based website with a wealth of information and very helpful camper builders.

SBMCC_Screenshot

Without this site I simply could not have built the van. If I can give one piece of advice on this website it is “Join SBMCC”

The site is free to join as a guest and you can make a few posts to get a feel for it. Full membership is £15 a year (from memory) and it will be the best £15 you spend if building a motorhome. There are loads of posts on every subject you can imagine and its very friendly. Have a look www.sbmcc.co.uk

So we were going to build a motorhome. Time to choose a base vehicle.