Obligatory final shot. Parked in an epic (but secret) camp site in Big Sur, CA.
The view from the back with the windows closed.
What I had bought off of Craigslist. 2003 Chevy Express Van with over 200k miles. Previously owned by an electrician up in Vermont.
Before I started the conversion I mocked up in Photoshop my idea of what I wanted the final van to look and feel like. Suprisingly it ended up being quite close to what I had envisioned.
Initial prep. Remove the map. Vacuum and clean all the surfaces that haven't been touched in a decade.
It's an old van, so there was some surface rust, especially on the floor. An angle grinder made quick work of it.
Painting over the floor with standard gloss spray paint.
Looked brand-new afterwards.
After cutting Reflectix insulation to size with the use of some templates I had made, I glued them down with strong spray adhesive.
All the walls looking like a spaceship.
The ceiling was next.
Spray foam was used to insulate the cracks and crevices found throughout.
After making a template, Reflectix was cut to fit the floor.
Hard foam insulation fit into the pop-out windows.
Hard foam insulation on the ceiling and floor. Secured mostly with Tyvek tape.
Standard fiberglass insulation was sealed in heavy-duty garbage bags and tape to the bottom of the walls.
Template for the floor.
Birch 1/2" for floor. Countersinked and screwed to the metal van floor.
Holes patched up to allow flat surface for vinyl flooring in a later step.
Ceiling cut using 1/4" birch plywood. Nothing to challenging.
After staining, the plywood was secured to the braces in the van's roof.
Scary day! Cut a hole in the roof for the van. Didn't trust myself with the job so my dad stepped in.
Dad proud with his work.
I decided to use old plaster lath to decorate various parts of the van. Luckily I found this beautiful Cleveland church on Craigslist willing to give me bags of this stuff for free.
Lath sanded and later stained.
Made a template to ensure even spacing. Marked it on the plywood. Lath was then attached using a pin nailer.
Fan installed. Wires run to the wall in between plywood and insulation.
1.5" x 1.5" struts were used to brace the plywood walls.
Template. Cut. Secured to the braces and select places on the van.
Custom pieces made to cover various gaps. Pain in the ass to make right.
Same with the top.
And the side. Some pieces were soaked in the bath to allow extra flexibility before securing.
Additional places that would be too difficult to cover in wood. What's the solution?
Answer: Bondo! And lots of it. Make sure you wear a respirator while working with this stuff. It kind of f-ed me up for a while because I didn't wear one.
Final back arch with book shelf up top.
Templates for the pop-out windows were made and cut using sheet metal.
Secured to windows using rivets.
Final template made for floor.
Vinyl floor laid down. Learned how to do this with the help of some youtube videos. Not too hard.
Boxes built to cover wheel wells.
Initial layout plans.
Bed built. A bit challenging to make everything square and even with the slight curve to the van walls.
Top with hinges in the middle that would allow it to function as a futon. Two 100lb gas struts were attached on both sides to hold it up.
Locks were later installed to hold the doors down.
Initial sketches for "kitchen" area.
Structure built using plywood and braces.
Doors cut and attached.
Used ikea futon. It was a tad too long to use in the van.
Opened it up and starting chopping off one end of the springs. My mother graciously made a nice cover for everything to make it presentable.
Roof rack (initially made for a hummer) attached to the roof of the van. Great $200 find on Craigslist.
Two 90w Goal Zero solar panels attached to roof rack.
Hole drilled in side of van and power cable fed through. Everything was sealed up afterwards.
Dimmer for lights installed.
All the wiring to the solar generator. The lights, fridge and van are hard-wired to the generator.
Taping for paint and stain.
Painted using this awesome gloss paint that automatically smooths out brush strokes during drying. Can't remember the name of it. Maybe made by Glidden?
Pop-out windows painted with chalkboard paint (how hipster of me, I know)
Cabinet sheathed with more lath.
Inside painted and hinges attached.
Lath used to make a little "light shelf". Low energy LED lights installed that hooked up to dimmer.
Templates made for magnetic blackout curtains.
Super easy to put up or take down.
Plastic door coverings taken off and replaced with wood.
An addition that was built on the road. It's a cleaning station with various cleaning supplies and wipes. Plus hand sanitizer. Gotta have the hand sanitizer.
Hole made to hold up curtain pole. Curtain was made by my mother. Black out curtain on one side, white sheet on the other. I use a small pico projector to watch movies on the curtain.
Most functional object in the van. Stool/ottoman.
But also a trash can inside. So useful.
Custom, removable table was made.
Final table in action.
When not in use it's hidden behind the front seat.
All done! Celebrating with the pops.
More photos of the final van.
The great white beauty aka Rocket the Van.
If you want a whole lot more in-depth information on how this was made and what it's like to live a mobile lifestyle check out: thevanual.com
Finally, a fun little chart that I thought was necessary. Expectations vs reality.