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-   -   Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build (https://sprinter-source.com/forum/showthread.php?t=64746)

Wirelessness 04-12-2018 06:07 AM

Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build
 
Iíve been lurking for months reading everything I can about the conversion process. I havenít even bought a van yet but I REALLY want to get one soon and start a build. Itís just very intimidating and I canít bring myself to pull the trigger. Looking for encouragement or discouragement if Iím fooling myself in thinking I can even accomplish a halfway decent build.

My goals.

- Starting with a 170 Crew. I need to seat 5 and sleep 5. 2 adults and 3 kids age 9, 7 and 7. Kids are pretty small so I am thinking one modified foam bed on the bench seat and two bunks somewhere. I hammock camp and make my own hammocks so Iím visualizing a kids sleeping solution that might be like a fixed bridge hammock(s). Or maybe it just inflatables on the floor.

- Like to use as mobile office as much as possible when not traveling. This requires quality AC unit, large battery bank, ample solar, and more. In Northern California it can get pretty hot. I donít have to use it every day if itís too hot so I donít need a Ďholy graií Level system.

- Storage for bikes under the main bed. I havenít decided on using Flarespace or not to get more room but either way I need to park two adult bikes and 3 small bikes INSIDE the van.

- Galley, probably use a portable stove so I can cook outside whenever possible. Need a good size fridge to for 5 people.

- Latrine/shower, Iíd love to have a wet shower and toilet set up but that seems very optimistic. Although plumbing is one of the skills Iím most good at. Iíd settle for a Porta-Potty and or an outdoor shower.

Been following the 80/20 thread and would probably go that route for cabinets, etc.

Found a few local people who can help me with the electrical set up as that part seems to be the most intimidating. Especially if I go with LiFePO4 batteries.

I donít really mind if it takes a long time to get dialed in as long as I can use the van in whatever degree possible most of the time. Other than my motorcycle it will likely be my daily driver too.

Thanks,
Bruce
SF Bay Area

markxengineering 04-12-2018 07:46 AM

Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build
 
A few notes:
- your impression is correct, it's a huge project to DIY a conversion (I'm about halfway through with mine) and you have an ambitious plan. There are so many things that would go 10x quicker the second time, but you'll only do them once..
- it will be difficult to find places to hang hammocks from, at least to support adult's weight. I'm 200 pounds and had to add folding legs to my murphy bed because I was deflecting the steel beams and roof supports I welded them to when bed was hanging only from the ceiling. I found that only the larger of the roof supports is very rigid in my 140", the other smaller ones (and whole roof) flex very easily.
-AC is pretty unrealistic without at least intermittently running an engine of some kind. At least, I've never seen a good solution. This means extremely inefficient use of diesel van engine (not recommended, it's stupid and bad for it), or a generator.

I can't imagine 5 people living out of one van : ), but others have done it, so go for it but plan on it taking much, much longer than you think !!
-

HarryN 04-12-2018 09:02 AM

Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build
 
It is a big project - no doubt about it.

Another possible option is to split some of the features between the van and a trailer rather than it all having to be one unit.

As an example, take a look at open floor plan toy hauler trailers - doesn't have to be a huge one, just large enough to hold the basics. Those can be had for fairly reasonable prices and include the plumbing, beds, etc sufficient to start using it right away for vacations.

If the van is setup for 5 or 6 passenger seats (kids like to bring along friends) and the items for your mobile office, it can be a much simpler build plan.

As you use the van, some things will become more obvious, such as if there really is room (or a need) to sleep 5 inside vs some in a tent.

There is more to building up a van than just the project - it is a family and perhaps even neighbourhood event. Your kids will remember helping Dad build the van forever - even if it takes years and all they ever do is hold the wrench while you do the actual work. People to tend to collect around big projects like this and it turns into a social situation, not just a chore.

quiverkiller 04-12-2018 03:01 PM

Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by HarryN (Post 643079)
It is a big project - no doubt about it.

x2

I am an extremely capable fabricator. I've had a hobby of building high-end custom furniture and have an electrical/mechanical/materials engineering background (Ph.D.) as well as access to a proper machine shop. My build is coming along but everything is taking 2-3x longer than I expected. I shudder to think all the problems/ compromises a novice DIYer would have on such an endeavor.

I also second the statement about the second time being 10x easier, but there is no second time. Before I started my build I was entertaining the idea of putting my van on the market the day I finished to see if I could sell it for $20-30k above my cost of the van and materials. I still think that is a reasonable price for the buyer, but after being only half way through my build and appreciating all the effort it is taking, I'd need someone to offer me $1M for me to part with it!

Graphite Dave 04-12-2018 03:01 PM

Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build
 
Depending on how complete the conversion is, the time required is substantial and will be four times longer than you think. Do you have the tools, time and skill set to do the job?

What you will gain is learning skills you did not have. None of the process is difficult and you will learn from the project. This forum is very useful for information and has willing people to help answer questions.

Does sound like a tent in addition to the van will be needed as the kids get older. It even gets crowded with two people in a van.

I built a Sprinter conversion and now am about to complete a Transit conversion. Some ideas about my opinions on a conversion that might be useful are posted in a web site:

http://www.ortontransit.info/

Everyone's needs are not the same so what I have done may not fit your requirements.

If interested I can spend time with you to answer some of your questions and show you a completed conversion using 80/20. PM if you want to visit. We live close to Santa Rosa.

Graphite Dave 04-12-2018 03:09 PM

Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by quiverkiller (Post 643118)
x2

I also second the statement about the second time being 10x easier, but there is no second time.

I also thought that the second build would be much easier and take half the time because I had the experience from the first build. That did not prove to be the case. Taking about the same amount of time and is actually more frustrating because you now know at each stage how much more work will be required to complete the build. There will not be a third build. The main advantage to a second build is to make changes to improve the conversion based on what you learned from the first build.

markxengineering 04-12-2018 07:59 PM

Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build
 
Quote:

That did not prove to be the case.
I can see how doing two builds in series would not save much time, but 2 in parallel or close to parallel would. The things that take extra for me are
- planning/internet research/ordering. 1-2 hours a day for several months
- oops, that should be 1 inch to the left. Now need to buy new material because I used the last piece
- oops, ran out of screws, broke a tool, etc. Now wait for Amazon to deliver
- oops, forgot to run wires for this switch that I want over here. Now remove half the interior to access
- this is functional, but it will bug me knowing it's not perfect because I'll see it everyday- start over

Many things that would be avoided in a shop with spares of everything, and experience having already successfully measured and cut once.

ThomD 04-12-2018 08:03 PM

Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build
 
Oh, NOW everyone admits that everything takes 4 times longer than expected.

(I'm glad it isn't just me.)

sprint2freedom 04-12-2018 08:56 PM

Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wirelessness (Post 643061)
- Starting with a 170 Crew. I need to seat 5 and sleep 5. 2 adults and 3 kids age 9, 7 and 7. Kids are pretty small so I am thinking one modified foam bed on the bench seat and two bunks somewhere. I hammock camp and make my own hammocks so I’m visualizing a kids sleeping solution that might be like a fixed bridge hammock(s). Or maybe it just inflatables on the floor.

Something to think about: kids get bigger quickly.
Part-time builds can very easily drag into two or more years.. by the time your build is "done" it may not accomodate your growing family for much longer.

Quote:

- Like to use as mobile office as much as possible when not traveling. This requires quality AC unit, large battery bank, ample solar, and more. In Northern California it can get pretty hot. I don’t have to use it every day if it’s too hot so I don’t need a ‘holy grai’ Level system.

- Storage for bikes under the main bed. I haven’t decided on using Flarespace or not to get more room but either way I need to park two adult bikes and 3 small bikes INSIDE the van.

- Galley, probably use a portable stove so I can cook outside whenever possible. Need a good size fridge to for 5 people.

- Latrine/shower, I’d love to have a wet shower and toilet set up but that seems very optimistic. Although plumbing is one of the skills I’m most good at. I’d settle for a Porta-Potty and or an outdoor shower.
You've listed some wants/needs.

Sleeping five people plus bikes is a pretty tall order. Everybody needs a place to sit (with a seatbelt), and a place to sleep, and a place to park their bike. If you can pull that off, there's not much room for anything else so you'd have to be creative. I'm sure it can be done, but it might not be too comfortable..

A mobile office is a fairly different buildout than a family hauler/sleeper.

What is your use-case? Are you traveling to cities, campgrounds, primative areas? How often- 3-4 weeks a year, every weekend, full time? Will this be during winter, summer, year-round? The investment in time and money to complete a project like this may not make sense once you look at how much free time you'll burn completing it. Do you want this badly enough to make the (possibly irrational) choice to do it? :hmmm: Keeping in mind that you will have to forego the very opportunities for outdoor recreation you seek during the long buildout. Let's be honest, many of us here do- but it's not a good decision for everybody.

How picky are you about quality? Does it matter if your van looks like it cuts its own hair, or do you need it to look flashy and impressive?

Quote:

Other than my motorcycle it will likely be my daily driver too.
I'm working on a build for two adults in a 170EXT while using it as my daily driver. I'll caution that this can be frustrating as it limits how much you can get done unless your schedule allows for long contiguous chunks of time to devote to the build. You will haul out and set up tools and materials, work a little, then have to put everything away and carry it all back to the house. Repeat 1200 times until the build is completed.

OldWest 04-12-2018 09:36 PM

Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build
 
Strategy.

Get the Sprinter and set it up for weekend camping and light mobile office use.

Everything you buy for camping can possibly be incorporated in a build-out or as a supplement.

For light office use, buy stuff contractors would buy like front passenger seat office storage, extra auxillary battery, etc.

Phase 1: Car Camping

(Everything can be used in other situations.)

Sleeping: Front seats have small bed on top. Bench seat has sleeping. Inflatable mattress/pads elsewhere.

Big attached tent (various types). As kids get older, can do standalone tent.

Kitchen/Cooking: Portable grill. Portable cooler or for more bucks, fridge. If use campsite with hookups, portable microwave, induction stove, etc. Look for easy to remove/transport camping systems.

Note: There are several companies with clever ideas, including one company where you buy various interchangeable sized modules for cooking, sleeping, etc. Another company designed a full camper interior which slides into a van or the entire thing is stored outside the van (like a truck camper for inside a van). These ideas may allow you to build and install quickly.

Bathroom: Portable porta-potti. Better, portable composting toilet. Portable solar shower.

Water: Portable jugs.

Bike rack. Even if keep bicycles inside most of the time, a hitch bike rack may be handy as needed.

Phase 2: Add systems which provide more independence from hookup campgrounds, more comfort, etc.

Biggest factor is how long you'll need what features--weekend camping in a full-service hookup campground is very different than full-time living with 5 people (family of four or five have lived full-time and home-schooled in an Airstream Westfalia with a towed utility storage trailer, traveling around the U.S).

Electrical: Batteries. Generator. Solar. Etc. What eqpt do you need to run (fridge, cooking, etc.) and for how long. If driving everyday and able to plug-in every couple of days, then smaller, simpler system might work (e.g., solar may not be cost effective for weekend campers but may be a necessity for full-time boondockers).

Built-ins: Cabinets, galley, beds, etc.

When doing phase 2, try to avoid touching the front passenger part of van so you can continue to use it for family.

Links:

http://www.doityourselfrv.com/europe...x-conversions/

https://newatlas.com/qubic-modules-car-camping/40062

https://www.trendhunter.com/trends/bett-mobil


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