Now that I’ve bought the van, I can start to get a bit technical. Yep. I’m still not going for the “this is how you do it” blog, but I will start acting like I am beginning to know what I’m doing. After all, fake it til you make it right?
Once I’d got the van home, the first step was to start preparing it for conversion. This means taking out all the “bits” I didn’t need, checking for rust and giving it a good old clean. Which all actually went pretty well for me… kinda!
My first task was to remove the ladder rack and the interior shelving unit. These were commercial items that I just did not need. I did a little research on the ladder rack and, after removing it and giving it a scrub, I managed to sell it on Facebook which added a nice little bit of cash to the conversion fund. Basically I bought windows. Winner. (Facebook note: Watch for those shifty humans trying to knock your price down). After the ladder, I was also able to get the shelves out cleanly and am yet to decide on their fate. I’ll probably sell them. More cash!
Prior to me owning it, the van had just one owner, and this guy had been an electrician. This is another bit of information that can come in useful when choosing your van. My van’s electrician days meant that there weren’t that many large, dirty or damp tools being thrown into it causing damage. I went ahead and took all the inner plywood off the panels, learning how to use a power screwdriver (point and go), and discovered that there were ZERO rust patches. I haven’t done much research into rust due to this, but I do know that it kills metal and needs to be must be treated. But you barely have to type rust into google to find the van answers to that problem.
Pulling the plywood out meant exposing a bunch of tiny screw holes that needed treating and sealing to stop moisture getting into the interior.
When you have a landscaper for a Dad, his connections can come in handy. I was given a spray paint primer (seals the metal from rusting) and a really sticky adhesive sealant from a local friend who a) works in a vehicle bodyshop and b) converted his own camper. No question that these items were not going to do the trick! So he briefly explained how to use the items and I went ahead the next day and got those holes filled.
But it’s me. So it wasn’t as simple as it sounds. We’ve had tears. It’s too cold for sweat yet. Time for some blood.
I managed to get the spray paint in the holes successfully. My phone screen took a minor hit but that’s ok. But when it came to the sealant. All hell broke loose.
I attempted to use my finger to squish this stuff in. It needed a good amount to create a water and air tight seal. It worked well but I decided to use literally every finger to get this stuff to do what I wanted. And every little finger was getting cold. This meant that I couldn’t feel the metal I was squishing glue onto, until a piece of rough metal went straight through the skin. Fortunately I was on the last hole, but my blood now resides permanently within the seal in my van, and the glue resides permanently in my finger. Cool. Time to get the glue off my hands to assess the damage.
It was everywhere. And it did NOT come off.
I had to dial my Dad’s number using my nose to ask what gets glue off skin. Apparently his best response was petrol. In his shed. Of course.
Here’s a fun fact: Petrol doesn’t wash away. I thought I was alright at science but I was unaware that petrol is like oil. So now I had a water resistant mess on the patio as well as on my hands. There was nothing for it but for an old t-shirt to take the hit. So after a bunch of scrubbing, some inhalation of petrol fumes and almost losing a hand to frost bite, I was finally rid of the glue and was able to patch up the hole in my finger.
The last step, a few days later, was to remove the bulkhead. Despite what the guy at the dealership said, this is not a five minute job. And I’d love to go into every nut and bolt, but honestly, if you’re at this stage and just need to know what tool to use, give me a shout. It’s a simple job if you know how to remove a rivet, and fortunately my Dad did. So we got that thing out in order to increase space and light. There is a draw back of losing heat and privacy (as well as safety if you’re sleeping in it alone) but it’s a decision that is entirely up to the individual.
After pulling the bulkhead out, I decided it was time to get on my hands and knees and take a toothbrush and some fairy liquid to every nook and cranny. I removed little bits of broken glass, lost screws and just general crap from every inch of the van, including behind seals. My little van cleans up well and I now have a sparkly new canvas to start converting.
During these few days I was prepping the van, I also put a fair amount of time into isolation research. This would be the next main step. I sifted through a BILLION blogs and found one I liked, with good reviews, to help me make a decision. I want to make sure my van is ready for any weather, including the odd night in the wintery Alps. I need some good ass insulation. So during my prep palaver, I took my glued-up, poorly finger to my laptop. To be honest, I have spent most days researching lately. There isn’t much to do, the weather is crap and it’s not so bad to find a vlog you trust so you can start learning everything from vapour barriers to leisure batteries.
Theres lots to learn. And lots to take into account.
But it’s ok, I love research.
(Not showing removed bulkhead)