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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
1,679 days a wanderin'

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The Main Course Has Arrived, Meat and Potato Time

Feb 10, 2015
by John

We have finally made it to the point of turning the JaMvan into a camper. All of our hard work has culminated here, the start of the actual floorplan. Many hours have been spent, in and outside the van, dreaming and scheming what we believe will be the best layout for our trip. Our second iteration has withstood our endless rounds of doubting and scrutiny, so it is there that we begin.

In true John and Mandi fashion, it started with a slow grind. There were quite a bit of niggling details, neglected assorted outstanding items that proved to demand attention before we could proceed. Probably more of needing one more day to let our brains stew over starting the 'real' build, we ticked off things like insulating the step wells, adding leftover batting to the door cavities, tightening this, that, and everything else we assume will never see the light of day.

A recent trip to the local lumber yard resulted in some damage to one of the rear door covers, me so happy. I offered to assist in loading the 3/4" plywood, was politely refused, a nice inch long tear the result. I've been trying to be more laid back as of late, maybe not who I'm supposed to be, I guess we'll see how well I can manage insistent persistence with a smile going forward. Mandi was not enthused when I decided we needed to recover it. Duct tape while on the trip is OK, before we set off - not OK. I'm a freak-a-zoid, my brother so vehemently declared such while we were young so it must be so. All new and ready to be re-installed, another day over.

Having sorted the assorted, time to build some shit. Nothing fancy, platforms for the fridge and storage boxes. We started with the fridge platform that covers the passenger side wheelwell. That whole side will be made from 1/2" birch for the platform, and will consist of some shelving that will extend in front of the suicide barn door. We originally intended for the passenger side cabinetry, too fancy a word for what we are building, to extend 18" from the wall. Sorry chaps, the curve of the van requires 19.5" at the bottom to be 18" at the top. Arrrgggghhhh, effing walls!

Out came the painter's tape, our masking tape is so old it won't come off the roll evenly without tearing, to mark our lines on the floor. Fat kid on the left and skinny kid on the right, even skinnier kid left over in between them. We had hoped for a 20" walkway, 18"ish will be the reality. We measured this about 100 times, idiots we suppose, hoping there would be some way to work it out differently. Gaining weight will not be an option.

The only decision left on the fridge platform was the front plate setback. We moved the location for all of our electrical panels to this platform from the storage platform, hopefully a smarter use of space. Some of those electrical items are surface (not flush) mount, recessing the front plate should somewhat protect them and our toes. The platform ended up being a really wide double center barred H with a top on it. We'll pull the top off to bolt it to the van floor and to add all of the wiring and electronic components.

The opposing storage platform is taller and will also hold a decent bit of weight so we used 3/4" birch. It is very basic, a box within a box, with an open end to the rear for outside access only storage. It doesn't span the entire wheelwell, our jack knife sofa will butt against it, so there's a chink to allow it to clear the part of the wheelwell it doesn't cover.  We added a wonky arch to access the space behind the wheelwell for additional crap crammage.

Fatties to the left, skinnies to the right

Fatties to the left, skinnies to the right

We spent a few evenings during the work week tidying up some loose ends on the platforms and refining our kitchen shelving dimensions, this past weekend was all about getting the walls permanently installed. I've been agonizing over where and how we were going to carry our MaxTrax the last few months. I'm not a fan of strapping them to the spare, a selfish reason really, and buying a ladder just for mounting a set of MaxTrax is absurd albeit was strongly considered.

Ultimately, we decided to mount them on the driver's side just below the exterior light, leaving enough room for a rear ladder if we so choose. Many would argue against drilling more holes, not us. This will keep them outside, accessible, and it looks bad ass. Placement is what had us heated and distraught. We placed our exterior light low for ease of use well before we decided to mount our MaxTrax under it. We had less than an inch of wiggle room in between the light and the support framing for the van body. Any home builder would attest, the interior lines do not match up to those of the exterior, measuring is an exercise in insanity.

The front bottom corner couldn't have been any lower, we got lucky. It was the first hole we drilled and it was nerve wracking, kinda felt like driving blind. The rest of the holes ended up with plenty of space, the result of choosing to make the tracks appear to be level with the van and not follow the top or bottom line as the van body tapers. Buying the mounts instead of building our own is the only way we'd recommend doing this. They are engineered for roof racks so we used some 3' - 3/4" aluminum tubing to mimic cross bars. 2" washers on both sides of the van body, the exterior one with a layer of butyl tape, and Por-15 coating the holes to finish it all off. The astute might notice the one casualty during this process, replacement is on order. 

Of course they are purple fool

Of course they are purple fool

How'd you do that Willis?

How'd you do that Willis?

While the Por-15 was drying, two coats minimum, we moved on to installing the new Penthouse covers Mandi made. She worked out most of the details long long ago so they needed to be placed for any final adjustments. Finally, the last remnants of the hideous crappy gray carpet were removed and chucked into the trash. We probably should have had a smudging too, might put it on the list if time permits. Getting the proper wrap around the articulating poles took a bit of time to make sure they could function.

Mandi added a Velcro strip along the entire back of the panels so we could place attachment pieces anywhere we needed to get a good fit. We originally thought we'd need Velcro inside the Penthouse bed rail too; due to the way our under mounted panels work, it's not necessary. Once ready, and ironed, we stapled Velcro pieces to the 1/4" strips that hold the tenting down and placed the new covers. There are areas where it needs to be loose for the poles to fold down, it cannot be taut or it would tear, making it a wee bit tricky to keep aligned. All finished by wrapping around the bottom frame, poking holes for the under panel bolts and re-installing the panels.

Out with the gray and in with the purple

Out with the gray and in with the purple

Perfect Pouch for Proper Pole Pitch

Perfect Pouch for Proper Pole Pitch

With the walls permanently installed we were back to the platforms. Getting these two all finished up will allow us to work on both sides of the van simultaneously. We've been ordering parts as we go so sometimes we get delayed while waiting on a shipment. The storage platform only needed some holes for mounting 12v receptacles. Nothing challenging and the only fuss was popping the plugs out of the drill bit after each one. We also added several more screws to keep everything all tight.

Before bowling switched to a ball with three holes

Before bowling switched to a ball with three holes

Perfection, nice platform too

Perfection, nice platform too

Our original idea was to mount the fuse panel inside the fridge platform, requiring removing everything on top of it to gain access. Not sure what were were thinking, aesthetics probably, we've since relocated it back to the front. That will be the biggest challenge in keeping it all looking tidy.

The fridge will mount to the front of the platform creating a small dead space at the back of it. Until it's installed we don't know if that space can be utilized. It does need an outlet so we went ahead and drilled holes for two on top of the platform near the back right corner. The second will be used for our Fantastic fan, we're trying to prevent having cords all over the place when in camp.

Moving to the most complicated piece, the front plate of the fridge platform. We will be installing all of our electrical components under the fridge, can't put off laying it out any longer. We both have differing systems for this type of madness, effort is required to reach a concession. Math, eyeballing, and a bit of Mandi's genius had it all properly placed. A little jigsaw magic and it was ready to go. Everything may not line up perfectly, we decided to leave room for any last minute additions if necessary.

Holy unfinished wood Batman

Holy unfinished wood Batman

Not much was left in the day and we were feeling rather ragged. Coating the platforms seemed like the right thing to do. We set up a work area and Mandi got to colorwashing. I decided it was time to organize the mess we've been dealing with. Up to this point, the majority of our supplies have been stored in the van, removing it all the time is a real pain in the ass. Mandi's sister cleaned out some storage space on Saturday so I took the opportunity to empty the van to make working on it a little easier. Once we install the floor covering we won't be placing much inside anyway. We're passing the point of van and are entering the realm of camper.

Sneak peek, it's surprised too

Sneak peek, it's surprised too


Say what? (4)
Feb 10, 2015 at 03:24 PM
Great progress guys!
A small tip that may avoid some trouble opening the locker of the sand ladders: stick some duck tape over the key entry to avoid dirt and send to go in... ;-)
Good luck for the following steps of the build.
Cheers,
Claude-Alain
Feb 11, 2015 at 06:44 AM
Great tip Claude-Alain. That lock is temporary, we'll be looking for one that has the rubber cover on the bottom...maybe a combination one too. Have you used any combination locks and how are they?
Feb 11, 2015 at 12:34 PM
Yes, I used some but dust also got in, making it hard to open. So I changed it for a key lock that is easier to seal with some tape... :-)
Feb 12, 2015 at 07:38 AM
Thanks for the real life experience, we figured you already worked it out.
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