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Old 12-01-2019, 10:59 PM   #3
Robert Foster
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Charlottesville, Va.
Posts: 365
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Default Re: Sprinter Westfalia #248 Refitting

One of the first things that I did to my rig shortly after purchase was to remove the air conditioner mounted on the roof, and the LP generator mounted where the spare tire typically resides. These two items, plus a pair of uniquely heavy inverters used to run the air conditioner while under way, represented about 400 lbs - 150 of which was in the worst possible place, up high and to the rear. The improved handling, especially while cornering, was immediately noticeable. Lightening the load became one of my design goals going forward.

The air conditioner left a big hole in the roof, so did the roof window that I removed from the bathroom. Now I had two big holes in my fiberglass. I have always wanted to learn how to work with fiberglass, but four years ago I didn't have the time or mental bandwidth to take on any new learning projects. So, I simply cut out an aluminum panel and stuck it down to the roof over the two large holes with VHB tape. The continuous strip of VHB tape kept that temporary repair water tight for four years-no caulking needed. At that time I also installed a Maxxair Fan in the aluminum panel.

This past Spring, I wanted to quickly set up an electrical system with a solar panel, B2B charger and inverter prior to heading out to Colorado. Electrical is one of the weak links in my skill set, so even knowing that I would be changing this system out as some point in the future, I wanted to get some experience under my belt. At that time, I didn't know that just six months later I would go all in and totally gut my rig. To install a panel I needed to make some space on the roof so I moved the Maxxair Fan forward. There were also three smaller holes in the roof, (plumbing vent, cook top vent fan hood, and fresh air vent) all of which I no longer needed. I decided these three holes would be a manageable testing ground for learning some fiberglassing skills.

Here are the three smaller holes in the process of being fiberlgassed, and the two big holes that I was planning to quickly VHB another aluminum sheet over to make room for a solar panel.

The fiberglassing on the three holes was simple work and unexpectedly gave me the confidence to jump all in and fiberglass the two big holes. I needed to get competent with fiberglassing, as the success of the new floor plan that I was increasingly honing in on was going to be dependent on my being able to pull off a unique galley floor/drain pan/grey water tank that seemed suited to a wood and fiberglass layup.

On the big holes I followed West Systems guidelines for repairing a boats hull. Bonding coat including five layers of biaxial cloth over the joints, several fairing coats to fair out the roof's surface, finishing with three barrier coats of unthickened epoxy for water resistance. The epoxy is subject to UV degradation and needs some protection, so knowing I would be revisiting the roof extensively in the future, I quickly rolled on a light coat of exterior latex house paint. I mounted my solar panel on two aluminum rails adhered down to the epoxy (not the cheap latex paint) with VHB tape.

Most important lesson learned from my first attempt at fiberglassing: Its just like carpentry where the quality of the framing determines the ease of the finish work. The unevenness in the Westfalia's roof, my lack of precision in my initial wood infill panels, and epoxy bonding coats/fiberglass cloth layups, caused my fairing coats to take more work than they should have. Slow down and do a more craftsmanly job from the start Robert.

Speaking of the roof, the Westfalia's roof is really flexible and known to sag. There are no Vanlife photos of bikini clad women on the roof of a Westfalia for a reason. To reinforce the roof, I cut out curved ribs and inserted them between the two layers of the roof through the openings I was creating. I used thickened epoxy to adhere them to the original fiberglass and my wooden infill panels.

I connected the solar panel and my engine alternator charging input to a Kisae DMT-1250 B2B two input charger. I also installed a small Samlex 600 watt inverter. Then I headed to Colorado for six weeks of MTBing and paddling.

2005 Sprinter Westfalia ... currently undergoing a complete refitting
Charlottesville Va Home Inspector
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