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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
1,722 days a wanderin'

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She's Got the Look

Sep 24, 2014
by Mandi

Hmm... how to begin? When we purchased the van it was, in our opinion, a fairly standard cargo van with a few upgrades. Besides the 4x4 system, the Sportsmobile Penthouse top, and some beefy bumpers it wasn't where we envisioned it could be. The exterior was painted silver and the interior was grey, floor to (almost) ceiling. It was many a man's dream color palate, but John and I are not 'many a man' and have little enthusiasm for living the upcoming years in a monochromatic grey haze. We LOVE color! And we immediately began crafting ideas on how to turn the van into our own obnoxious paradise.

Before we glammed the JaMvan

Before we glammed the JaMvan

It goes without saying that whenever two opinionated, assertive, emotionally-invested persons attempt collaboration sparks will fly, and that is the story of our van build. But that's an old story for us, we are accustomed to arguing over seemingly irrelevant details before arriving simultaneously at the perfect-for-us solution and happily moving along to mostly cooperative implementation. It is no different with each element of our van home build, each project gets hashed and rehashed until we settle on a mutually amicable solution. And so it was with the van plan. But there are two things we have always agreed upon, we want the van to have lots of color on the inside and we know what color we want the outside to be. Aside from that, it's a free-for-all (which will likely be self-evident when it is finished).

We had read that it was muy importante to add insulation to the cargo doors of the van and we decided that if we were going to expend effort to put something on the doors, we might as well make them bright and fun at the same time. We removed the dark grey carpet from the doors, gave them a good cleaning inside and out, and began brainstorming how to insulate, how to pretty them up (i.e., cover the insulation), and whether we could manage to squeeze in any additional functionality (like storage or a fold down table).

John did a ton of research and we decided to use a combination of FatMat and EZ Cool for insulating the entire van, so we used that for the doors also. After much debate, we settled on a slightly complicated but sure-to-pay-off-in-the-future plan using plywood covered with marine vinyl (durable and cleanable) for the majority of interior surfaces. The doors would be our guinea pigs on feasibility of the whole scheme. The plan goes something like this:

  1. Apply FatMat to at least 30% of the surface area to reduce vibration and noise.
  2. Cut EZ Cool to size and apply (using headliner adhesive) to as much of the interior surface as possible in at least two layers to help with noise and hot/cold transfer.
  3. Use a post-and-acorn-nut method to install rigid panels so that they will be easily removed if needed (for troubleshooting leaks, outages, etc.).

 

I'm sure there is a technically correct name for our post-and-acorn-nut method, but I have no idea what it would be, so I will attempt to describe it. Basically, we will insert bolts from the backside of the wall panel (in between the interior and exterior layers of sheet metal) through existing holes and secure them with tiny flat nuts. We will then drill holes in the wood panels that match up with the placement of the bolts, slide the panels over the bolts, and add acorn nuts to hold the panels in place but still allow them to be removed and replaced without damaging anything.

Post installed, awaiting panel then acorn nut

Post installed, awaiting panel then acorn nut

The FatMat and EZ Cool went off without a hitch and then we spent 2 days measuring, cutting, constructing, and installing the panels. We made 1 panel each for both the tops and bottoms of the barn doors (side doors for non van folk) and 1 panel each for the bottoms of the rear doors since they have upper windows we already upgraded, so 6 panels total.

Here's how it goes:

  1. Cut a template to the size you think will fit the door panel (hint: use a crayon to make a tracing)
  2. Install the posts for the post-and-acorn-nut method
  3. Place the template on the posts and poke them through so that you will know where to drill mounting holes
  4. Transfer all marks to 1/4" plywood
  5. Cut out plywood panels with a jigsaw and drill out mounting holes
  6. Dry fit the panels and realize that the mounting holes have somehow migrated and the panel will not slide on (curse the ground you walk on and your obviously wonky hand-eye coordination).
  7. Try to re-mark the holes directly on the plywood panel and re-drill half on and half off of the already existing drilled holes (engage in significantly more cursing).
  8. Rinse and repeat...

 

When the panel finally slides onto the posts successfully, it's time to cover the plywood. We used 1/2"  batting (anti-moisture, mildew resistant) and marine vinyl. I cut the batting (with a tiny amount of overhang to protect the vinyl from any rough edges and corners on the plywood), cut the vinyl with about 1" overhang, sandwiched them all together with a spot of headliner adhesive (just enough to hold it all in place while constructing), and used my trusty staple gun with 1/4" staples to secure the vinyl to the plywood. !Voila! Upholstered panels completed!

All layers cut and ready to be stapled

All layers cut and ready to be stapled

Upholstering the door panels (the veins, the veins!)

Upholstering the door panels (the veins, the veins!)

We used a leather punch to cut holes in the vinyl for the posts to protrude through then installed the panels with a flat washer and acorn nut. For the two upper door panels, we didn't have any existing holes and we couldn't think of any reason why we would need to remove them, so we just pre-drilled holes in the sheet metal and attached the panels with screws (only slightly simpler than the post method because the screws like to bite into the batting and create a twisted wad that spins the vinyl in a nasty way, requiring that the screw be removed and the excess wad cut away before trying again).

EZ Cool appield to back of top panel and door

EZ Cool appield to back of top panel and door

Countless expletives and a few days later, the cargo door panels were installed and we couldn't be happier with the final product. We are definitely digging the new look! Now on to planning and completing the front driver and passenger doors because, of course, they need insulating too - and while we're at it we might as well make them bright and fun, right?!?

Completed barn door!

Completed barn door!

 

 


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