instagram: @johnandmandifacebook: johnandmandiRss FeedContact Us

John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
1,424 days a wanderin'

HD Off

It's Starting to Look Like Something

Mar 13, 2015
by John

The last two months before we leave are going to be a bit hectic, seems like our first month on the road will be as well. Our madness of scheduling, flights, driving routes, commitments and additional wants is borderline on becoming overwhelming, never mind the list of outstanding administrative bits. We have fifty days and a thousand things to do. Who would have thought the van build would become a welcomed distraction.

Over the last few weeks we've been putting off installing the vinyl flooring, probably because we didn't want to mess it up while completing the van.  We both are obviously a bit particular, just a little bit of psycho please... but on the side. Installing it has conveniently been moved over three times, finally becoming a requirement to progress. It's funny how apprehension precedes some of the largest gains.

We had driven around with almost everything in the van for a week, not bolted down. Agreeing that we still love the layout, we needed to make it permanent before installing the flooring. We started by placing the major components in their exact locations, Mandi volunteered to crawl around under the van while I rattled off relative coordinates to bracket placement from existing floor mounts. A not so sophisticated system, quite effective in getting us proper mounting hardware placement.

A half a day later we had 20 more holes in the van floor. We unloaded everything from the van then out came our old friend Por-15 to coat the newly exposed metal. While the first coat was drying we turned our attention to a minor, yet nagging, roof leak we finally tracked down. Long story short, we properly sealed the space in front of the penthouse that was allowing the water intrusion. It's official, we've almost entirely reworked and corrected everything performed by the van's previous owner, better sleep to come.

Back to the floor, we lugged our oversized roll of flooring outside to cut off a manageable piece, we scored a remnant over a month ago and it has been residing behind a couch in the living room. Mandi took the lead and began to slowly trim the vinyl to an exact fit. I supported her as necessary, not much more than sitting to ensure it didn't shift during the process, while she whittled away. We stared at it awhile just ogling over how different the van looks with it loosely laid.

A well put together old lady in South Florida is missing her flooring

A well put together old lady in South Florida is missing her flooring

Flooring installer extraordinaire, now back to work slacker (notice no shoes)

Flooring installer extraordinaire, now back to work slacker (notice no shoes)

The day would end before we would be able to bolt everything in so we added a second coat of Por-15 and began cutting the trim pieces to secure the vinyl floor. We deliberated for quite a while then cut the two long runs for the front and back sections of the van. Moving to the barn doors, our primary entrance, created a bit of confusion and a failed first piece. Mandi's sister was called into action as an adviser, her idea for implementation was superb. A few minutes later we had all of our pieces ready to install. That's when we realized we had forgotten to purchase the proper screws for the trim so we loaded everything back into the van, scarfed some dinner, then ran to Lowe's.

Stiff and tired, freaking daylight savings time had us starting Sunday fairly late. We removed everything from the van, again, then drilled some pilot holes to attach the floor trim. A half hour later we had it all installed, a nice slow start. Everything was then individually placed in the van and bolted down. This took a bit longer than we expected as some bolts were precariously located due to the critical mechanical workings of the van. Our favorite was the one Mandi had to thread while facing forward with her right arm fully extended behind her and slightly to the right. Hopefully we won't ever have to remove that one. Another highlight was Mandi's legs sticking out from inside of the storage platform while I was wedged between the rear axle and the rear skid plate that holds our house battery. No pictures, obviously.

Oh my, that sparkly trim is invigorating

Oh my, that sparkly trim is invigorating

The sink part of the kitchenette and the couch will be secured with eye bolts, the ones for the couch are on order. Those will provide attachment points for securing bulky items like our Jerry cans and a Pelican suitcase. They can also double duty as additional security, we could lock things to them if needed.

That should keep our shit in place

That should keep our shit in place

The next project was supposed to be installing the under truckbed boxes and building the storage space behind it. We were only able to muster drilling the attachment holes in the respective platform and the corresponding ones in the bottom of one of the boxes. I suggested we change our plan and switch to installing the electrical components, a lower impact process that would be a bit easier on our bones.

We started small by stripping all of the pre-wiring I did before we built the walls. Fortunately, only one label disappeared in all of the time that had passed so it was easy to identify the rogue pair of wires through elimination. Several inline connector plugs were added just in case we ever need to remove the kitchenette or platforms. I was expecting to have to do all of this myself so doubling down made short work of most of it. We concentrated on getting the Blue Sea Systems fuse block installed and testing all the main circuits. That meant all of the switches had to be wired up too, fun stuff.

Switches bitches

Switches bitches

There was one minor hiccup of me crossing up the dimmer switch wires resulting in the overhead interior lights having constant power, the switch wouldn't work. Snip, snip, strip, connect, heat shrink, then all fixed. We used my iPhone cable to test all of the usb outlets, then a dual 12v usb plug to test all of the 12v outlets. Everything worked, we shared a moment of relief since the walls and everything else were already bolted in. We finished up the day by installing the CO/propane detector.

Starting the electrical put us in the position of being able to knock the rest of it out during the week, gaining a weekend day for larger projects. The time change gives us the ability to work on the van in the evenings. Three items were left so we spread them out, tackling the charge controller first. Our solar panel has been installed for almost three months, finally getting some of that free power.

Purple powered platform pre completion

Purple powered platform pre completion

Uppity rats have nests too

Uppity rats have nests too

I work half days on Wednesdays so installing the battery meter and Blue Sea Systems automatic charging relay became my afternoon affair. There was a bunch of crawling around under the van to access the shunt we installed after Expo East, connecting the wires to those tiny screws was a real pain in the ass, nothing extreme just a slow process since it's imperative to properly install the twisted pairs of wires. I referred to the manual and a simplified explanation I made several times to ensure I didn't cross anything up.

Our van came with a really basic charging relay that worked fine. It charged our house battery when the engine was running. The new relay will charge both ways, meaning any extra solar power we have can be used to top off our van batteries. It also gives us the ability to "join" the two battery banks, theoretically providing our own jump start if necessary. I picked up an Antigravity Batteries Micro-Start PPS XP-10 when it was on sale for jump starting duty but the redundancy of the new charging relay is nice to have. I'm planning on doing a separate electrical write-up, how boring is that going to be?

The last ten days have been really productive. We're getting close to completing the van we've dreamed of, then starting a trip that almost seems like a fairy tale. 50 days from now we'll be heading off on a once in a lifetime adventure, right now we are one proud mama and papa.


Navigating by 'Van Build' tag - Navigate by Date
Say what? (4)
John
Mar 13, 2015 at 01:08 PM
I've been following your progress, your a bit further ahead of us but our cabinets are close. I've got a question, maybe two. It looks like you have the same sofa as we do, does it end on top of the wheel or span it. It seems I'm going to have to fabricate a new leg for that end and wonder if you crossed that bridge? Second, we don't have a pop top, yet, and I'm wondering about sink placement. If I put it above the wheel will I be able to stand up straight with the top up? Thanks. If you're still heading to alaska, drop a line when you get close. jb
Mar 13, 2015 at 02:05 PM
Hey John!

Alaska is a highlight for us, it will be our first time there, and right now we are planning on following the circuit outlined in the Churches' guidebook. I'll make a note to hit you up when we are close.

We ended up butting the jack-knife against the wheel well. We loose about two inches but in the end it was easier than altering the base. If we decide we want to gain those back later we could change it and re-use the existing mounting holes we drilled in the van floor. We debated over this for quite a while, placing the couch in the van and folding it out helped us decide that the juice wasn't worth the squeeze for us at this time.

The Sportsmobile pop top pops straight up adding headroom for almost the entire cargo area. We ditched the make shift bed platform that came with our van so we don't have to contend with the upstairs bed. That being said, the bed attaches to the top and will raise with it allowing headroom from front to back. The frame that supports the top and the bed does extend into the van but it hasn't become a nuisance yet, we haven't camped in it either though. Depending on counter height and your height you could end up crouching (stooping) to cook or do dishes. We plan on cooking and cleaning outside and only in the van when absolutely necessary. IIRC, the penthouse frame is between 49 and 50 inches from our floor, 3/4" plywood with ~1/4" vinyl. Without a top it's had to imagine, let me know if you need measurements or some pictures to help visualize it.

Do you have a website, thread or gallery? I'd love to see your build.
John
Mar 13, 2015 at 05:03 PM
Hey John, thanks for the quick reply, I'd like to finish this cab today, that was the info I was looking for. We plan to drive the van out this fall to Colorado and have CCV install a penthouse. From there we,re probably Baja bound, time for a new winter sport.
We may have a different bed, I can't get this one between the wheel and drivers seat w/o crowding. I picked this one up used from John at Quad Van in PDX, it came out of a sportsmobile.
It's snowing like a bastard outside, no snow all winter, now it'll probably snow until June. Drop a line if you get to southcentral, we don't live on the road system but visit it occasionally, we maybe out there somewhere. jb
Mar 13, 2015 at 08:29 PM
Ahh, I wasn't clear... sorry about that. Our couch doesn't fit between the wheel well and the driver's seat either. We have it pushed against the aisle side of the wheel well. Due to the angle of the walls and how much additional space is used when it's folded out we decided to bolt it as close as we could, only losing 2 inches out of the aisle. That space does give a little extra bed width so it's a wash.

We should be in Baja late fall or early winter. We'll definitely keep in touch.
Leave a comment:










Notify me of follow-up comments and new posts by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.

© 2001 - 2019 johnandmandi.com