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Old 11-24-2015, 10:46 PM   #1
Zyzzyx
 
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Default The Building of BoB the Van

The Sprinter forums have been a wonderful resource, with the many years of experiences folks have doing Sprinter conversions. I've learned much and have been using ideas from folks here, and sometimes outright copying things.

Here's where I've ended up, building out my ProMaster:


Finally... nine months after ordering, five months after delivery, and four months after the first mod, I have started my build thread. I hope to be reposting here what I write up over here: http://bobthevan.blogspot.com/

For larger pictures: http://bobthevan.blogspot.com/2015/0...gs-of-bob.html


Before the Beginnings of BoB

One of my 'hobbies' is to provide rider support in multiday ultracycling races. Its been my summer activity for several years now. For proper rider support in the follow vehicle the standard is to take a minivan, strip all but one seat out, and set up the rest of the space with shelves, storage, and maybe a bed. I've worked in some well-done support vehicles, and some that were a bit wanting.


One of the more organized support vehicles

I had rambling thoughts about buying a new minivan and setting it up for such a use. I could take it out for race support, and for my general use of hauling bikes and car-camping other times. Rather figured it would never happen, but I kept thinking about it. Top of the list was the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna.

A few years ago one of my friends showed up at a 'short' ultra race with a Sprinter van, self built on the interior. I loved it. Problem was, he had a great setup for 'regular' bikes, storing them under the bed in the back; I ride recumbents, the darn things are much longer, and harder to store. I like the idea of such a van, but ruled it out for space, size, and cost considerations.


Custom Sprinter build, bike garage under the bed


Added crew seat

Around this time my girlfriend was travelling more frequently. We have two Italian Greyhounds that excel at agility competitions and conformation showing. Often she would travel and stay in a hotel, occasionally go with a friend in her older 30' Class A RV.


Teaghan


Tari

I had since revisited my friend's Sprinter build. He had picked up a used first gen T1N Sprinter and put together a clean and simple interior. This got me to the Sprinter Source forums. I started reading everything I could over there. Started getting grand ideas too. We tossed about the idea of buying a Sprinter.

Looked at some of the Class B vans out there; they were nice, nice and pricey. They also didn't fit for our uses. I wanted to be able to carry the bikes inside, she wanted to be putting the dog crates inside. And do either of them while maintaining the usability of the interior. Also, the darn things were a bit too expensive for us; $80k seemed to be the low end starting point, going well over $110k if you wanted to.

By now its around the end of 2014, we both shelved the idea of a van. I had my car to carry stuff OK, and had car-camped in it well enough. She was going to be travelling in our friend's RV more often. Not sure what exactly changed, but we made a rather quick swing in thinking yet again.

Sometime in January we started talking seriously about getting a van and doing the build. I had done some work with 80/20 aluminum framing in building a couple custom dog crates. Had fun with it, and could see the potential. I had also seen many of the 80/20 builds from the Sprinter forums, figured that was something I could manage.


Custom 80/20 framed dog crate

So it was back to 'research' for a van. The default was the Sprinter. But then I wasn't comfortable with all the complaints on the forums regarding the newer NCV3 models. Especially with the diesel emissions issues. So the research changed over to looking at the ProMaster and the upcoming Ford Transit, both available with gasoline engines. It was still early times for the ProMaster, there were plenty of issues with the first year stuff. A browse of the PM forums was a bit scary. Over at the Transit forums, it was all about when they would finally be available. Maybe. Sometime.

With the Sprinter off the list, and the Transit not out yet, we went out to look at the PM. Stopped by the local dealer and (not surprisingly) was immediately offered a test drive. So I took it. First thing I noticed was the touchy throttle, but figured I could get used to it. Also made a quick note that I didn't like the suspension seat. But overall, it was a nice van. Especially liked the width and the walls that are closer to vertical than the Sprinter. I was back a few times to look at the PM again, was liking what I was seeing.

Then for whatever reason I got some interest in the PM diesel. No, I know the reason. It was Adrian at the PM forums, posting about his long distance drives and how well the PM diesel managed the miles. Our forecast usage would be lots of weekend road trip miles, so it sounded good. But I wanted to drive the diesel first. Managed to find a diesel in stock about 30 miles away, headed down for a test drive for the both of us. I liked it, she was okay with it.

Not long after that, back to our local dealership to place an order. Yep, we ordered it. By this time I had been looking at the inventory in all of the Pacific Northwest, and beyond. I could not find a PM that had (or didn't have) the options we wanted. Slider door window, yes. Partition, no. Interior convenience group, yes. Extended mirrors, no. The search went on for awhile, and then we finally placed the order on February 21st, 2015.
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-- Zyzzyx --

-- BoB, a ProMaster 3500 Diesel 159" HR Ext, metallic silver
-- Ordered 2/21/15, VIN 3/22/15, Built 5/21/15, Received 6/11/15
-- BoB's Blog - The Build and Adventures --
-- Please PM me if any pictures in my posts are showing up as bad links --
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hein (11-26-2015)
Old 11-25-2015, 12:23 AM   #2
Zyzzyx
 
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Default Re: The Building of BoB the Van

http://bobthevan.blogspot.com/2015/1...ns-of-bob.html



Ok, I'm jumping ahead a bit in the timeline with this post. I feel an explanation is due regarding the name of BoB.

It has been at least a couple months since we took delivery of the van. I had the fan in the roof, most of the insulation in, and the plywood floor down. It had seen a few weekend trips as an iron tent on wheels; just throw in a cot, cooler, and bike for me or dog crates for her.

It was just "the van". Who is taking "the van" this weekend? What's next on the work list for "the van"?

I think it was a night out for burgers where we were talking about names for "the van". I don't remember any of the ideas tossed around, but there were some oddballs, along with some plain names. At one point I tossed out "Bob". Since we had a few names that were acronyms I worked on coming up with something for "Bob".

Not too long later I said "bikes or bitches".

Yes, "bitches". Its not a 'bad word' when you're in the dog world. Simply a female dog. And since all three of our dogs are female, its all bitches. (its also entertaining to listen to a bunch of ladies at a dog event talking about "their bitches")

We laughed about it for awhile, but then realized... it works! But it needed capitalization.

Bikes or Bitches. Just depended on who was using it for the weekend. Bike trips for me, dog agility weekends for her. This was also a driving force in the floorplan and overall layout.

Since then, we have quite casually referred to the van as "BoB".
__________________
-- Zyzzyx --

-- BoB, a ProMaster 3500 Diesel 159" HR Ext, metallic silver
-- Ordered 2/21/15, VIN 3/22/15, Built 5/21/15, Received 6/11/15
-- BoB's Blog - The Build and Adventures --
-- Please PM me if any pictures in my posts are showing up as bad links --
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Old 11-25-2015, 06:04 PM   #3
Zyzzyx
 
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Default Re: The Building of BoB the Van

For full size pics: http://bobthevan.blogspot.com/2015/1...-delivery.html



I'm ordering a new vehicle. A new vehicle. And I'm ordering it.

This took me awhile to fully process.



I knew we would be doing it, we'd talked about it for awhile after the test drives. I had been all over the RAM Trucks website and NADA guides looking at options that we would want, and then spending just as much time looking at the available inventory, mostly in the PNW, but beyond. But still, we were ordering something!



It was an interesting progression from my previous vehicles. I started off years ago with a 1971 Datson 510. Had to rebuild the engine, but it was a fun little car; until I put it in the back end of a Volvo. No more Datsun. Then I acquired a 1971 Dodge Coronet station wagon from my great grandfather. He was original owner. Drove that thing all over, including from California to school in Missouri, three times. I still have it, though it needs some TLC. I hope to have some time and money for it once BoB is 'done'. There was also a 1989 Mitsubishi Mirage Turbo for a daily driver. Fun car, and much better mileage than the old Dodge. Sold that and picked up an 1998 Audi A4 Avant. Another wagon. Fun car, great for the open road, and still respectable in the twisties. Its been my daily driver for about 8 years now.

There was a theme though. Two, actually. This would be my third silver vehicle, and its really just an oversized wagon.



Yep, BoB is silver. That was one of the main reasons we ordered instead of buying off the lot. I did NOT want a white van. Anything but a white van. It was hard to figure color details online, and the dealer didn't have any paint samples. We thought for awhile about the granite color, but decided the extra heat load from a dark color was something to avoid for our hot summers. Then it came down to the sandstone and the silver. It was nearly a coin toss, but after looking at Google images forever, it seemed that the sandstone color had a bit more of an 'RV' feel to it, something I wanted to avoid. So... silver it was.



So, one order placed. ProMaster 3500. Diesel. 159" wheelbase. Extended length. And almost completely optioned out.

The only things that come to mind that we did not order was the GPS navigation (our portable Garmin is great, and we're used to it), the extended mirrors (which then disallowed heated mirrors, and I think remote adjustable, and we're not towing a wide trailer, so don't need them), and a partition (definitely not needed, nor wanted).



But the rest of the goodies are there. Interior package. Exterior package. Alloy wheels. Backup camera. Sirius radio. Cruise. Heated seats. Sliding door window. This all made for one pricey van, but its been worth it, having exactly what we wanted, and none of what we didn't.



The dealer's initial comments were it would be an 8-12 week wait. I smirked, and gave the salesman a soft bet that it would be 16 weeks. That's the wait that I had seen from the fleet order status websites.



Now it was time to wait. And wait. And forget about it for awhile. And wait some more.

Time was spent coming up with a floorplan that would work for us. Many revisions and wacky ideas were sketched out and abandoned. For awhile I was playing with Sketchup to do a 3D model of the layout. This helped with the initial ideas, but I got lazy and didn't want to learn the details of using Sketchup to create a fine-tuned model and layout. Instead, I made a few sketches, but it was mostly in my mind.



During the wait we did start buying things for BoB (who wasn't BoB yet, just 'the van'). The first big purchase that I remember was a full roll of Thinsulate from Hein in Hood River, OR. I live a few hours away and was headed his way one weekend, so I picked up the roll directly. This was mid-April. For the next couple months the roll of Thinsulate lived in the corner of the garage, often getting in the way. I think the initial roll was 50 linear feet, 5 feet wide. That was the recommended amount from Hein. Seemed fine, but that would change down the way.


Sometime mid-June I got a call from our salesman. The van had been built and was in transit. It showed up at the dealer on Monday, June 8, 2015. They wanted a day to process it. We wouldn't be able to have free time until later, so we picked it up evening of Thursday, June 11, 2015.

We now had a darn big van to fill up the driveway. And so it has ever since.
__________________
-- Zyzzyx --

-- BoB, a ProMaster 3500 Diesel 159" HR Ext, metallic silver
-- Ordered 2/21/15, VIN 3/22/15, Built 5/21/15, Received 6/11/15
-- BoB's Blog - The Build and Adventures --
-- Please PM me if any pictures in my posts are showing up as bad links --
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Old 11-26-2015, 12:51 AM   #4
Zyzzyx
 
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Default Re: The Building of BoB the Van

Fullsize photos here: http://bobthevan.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-layout.html


Time for the layout. How the heck is this thing going to get built out?

One of the big reasons we went with doing it ourselves was to have some cargo space. The 'factory' conversions just don't provide space inside to store dog crates or recumbent bicycles, and especially to do so while retaining some type of usability. We also have no interest in entertainment systems or TVs, so no need to allot space for such stuff.

The first idea we had was basically a copy of the Travato layout with the rear bed and bath, except no dinette in the front.



We liked it, but just didn't feel right. And not 'custom' enough. Loading the dogs and bikes in the rear wasn't the best, having to open both doors.

Awhile later we changed things around.



I was really pleased with this layout. Place the bed up high enough to put dog crates below it, and I could fold it up to roll in bikes. It would also leave a large space for general cargo usage. We did change the bench seat to side facing, mostly as it would provide a better 'living' space. I put this layout down with tape in the empty shell of BoB so we could see it for awhile.


The versatility of painter's tape.


I hope the finished floor isn't this lumpy


This could work quite well


Timeout for a dog photo. :)


Tari, our older iggie, letting us know that this van will do quite nicely

This layout stayed with us for quite awhile. I partially laid it out again once I got the layer of plywood down on the floor. At this point we had both taken a few solo weekend road trips in BoB. Toss in a cot and a cooler and we were good.

I spent plenty of time sitting in the van visualizing the layout and could see it working quite well. My girlfriend came back from a weekend of camping at a dog agility trial and she was bubbling with excitement on a new layout. It took awhile to settle on it, and then to understand it, but this is what we ended up with:



Not a big difference from the previous one. But we're able to get two beds into the same space. The beds will have the left third as a fixed shelf unit, the right two-thirds will be removable platforms about 4' long. The lower bed will be about 20" high, just enough room to get our dog crates underneath it. When she takes BoB out for an agility trial, she'l be able to sleep on a decent height bed. The upper bunk will be placed to provide equal space for both bunks, so probably around 48" high. This allows two things, 1) use of both bunks to sleep two people, 2) use of just the upper bunk and storage underneath and into the aisle for recumbent bikes. The upper platform will also be able to rest against the edge of the front bench seat (same width as the beds, 30") to provide a second low bed up front if desired. However it would need to be pulled up and stored for 'daytime' usage.

The composting toilet will be in the wet bath, just in front of the wheelwell. Its going to be a tight fit. The setup as a 'wet' bath may or may not happen in the future, its a long term item.

Fridge will be mounted ahead of the bath. Below the fridge will be the 12volt a/c unit and a reserved space for an Espar heater. Should be just enough space ahead of the fridge for some shelving or cabinetry of some kind. Then the bench seat ahead of that.

Galley on the passenger side. Fairly narrow to keep the walkspace clear. Sink roughly in the middle. Microwave underneath somewhere. It will also house the water pump as associated plumbing.

The countertop over the right wheelwell houses the batteries, electronics, and related wiring.

It had a few more weekend runs with the layout like this, and we liked it. We proceeded to do a rough cardboard mockup just to see how the space would work.










But some of this tale has jumped ahead in the build. We'll get back in sequence in the next bit.
__________________
-- Zyzzyx --

-- BoB, a ProMaster 3500 Diesel 159" HR Ext, metallic silver
-- Ordered 2/21/15, VIN 3/22/15, Built 5/21/15, Received 6/11/15
-- BoB's Blog - The Build and Adventures --
-- Please PM me if any pictures in my posts are showing up as bad links --
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Old 11-26-2015, 08:07 PM   #5
Italia64
 
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Default Re: The Building of BoB the Van

Zyzzyx -

Looks like it is going to be a great build.
But, man, that factory paint is disappointing! Did you inquire about it when it arrived?
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Old 11-27-2015, 09:22 PM   #6
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Default Re: The Building of BoB the Van

I was very reluctant to obstruct the sliding door with anything built in. Certainly felt the same about keeping both back doors fully useable.

I paddle a whitewater canoe and in my crowd we don't paddle dangerous (ok, most) moving water with less than 3 boaters.

So my design got constrained to keep a clear 30" center aisle. I can stack four canoes down the middle (as well as three more on the roof platform.) I don't count the kayaks and c-1s since they squeeze into odd spaces in the rugged interior.

That 30" clear aisle is terrific. We also ride road bicycles and nothing is easier than just rolling several bikes in through the slider or back doors and lashing them to the wall L-track. (I marvel at all the folks here who pull wheels off as if the Sprinter is a car-size vehicle.) Four bikes abreast typically fit since our minimalist layout has nothing installed at handle bar height.

So my compromise for the side door was to clamp our Engel chest there. It makes a fine jumpseat in camp for cold weather food prep. But we mostly cook outside on the campstove and BabyQ grill. So the fridge location allows one easy access inside or outside the van. My short wife can explain how old it gets climbing in and out of the van in camp. The chest is low enough that I can lift my road bike over a corner of it if needed. (I've pulled my 10' Detonator canoe out the side door. too.) And the fridge can come out if we need a second freezer in the stickhouse during cold weather. That extra room was useful when I had a big load of staging and building materials to carry. Not inclined to fancy finish levels---I need a truck

We live in the Northeast and do plenty of cold weather camping so no underside tanks. No installed propane since we have a d2 for heat. (Propane locker supplies a bbq tank to the outside kitchen. Plenty of bank allows for microwave, induction burner and ac/dc fridge for the inside kitchen. Portable shower does not care where the hot water came from.)

So a cheap, simple and flexible interior. I stared for many hours at various mockups in the van but it was the long trips that always yielded a couple of improvements. It's more about the adventures than the amount of installed furnishings for us. Too many kinds of things to carry to get a standard summer rv layout.

Are you adding drycamp capability or do you live a shore-power lifestyle? What is the 12v ac you mention?

Dan
Attached Images
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File Type: jpg vanbench.jpg (148.5 KB, 215 views)
File Type: jpg vansofa.jpg (134.5 KB, 207 views)
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File Type: jpg vantwinbeds.jpg (134.3 KB, 211 views)
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Old 11-30-2015, 02:12 AM   #7
Zyzzyx
 
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Default Re: The Building of BoB the Van

Quote:
Originally Posted by Italia64 View Post
Zyzzyx -

Looks like it is going to be a great build.
But, man, that factory paint is disappointing! Did you inquire about it when it arrived?
Didn't notice it til a couple days after we got it home. Just got back from a 12 day, 3000 mile road trip. Made it a point to look at the paint a few times, really had to get it in just the right (wrong) light to see it. Does seem like its settled out a bit.
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-- Zyzzyx --

-- BoB, a ProMaster 3500 Diesel 159" HR Ext, metallic silver
-- Ordered 2/21/15, VIN 3/22/15, Built 5/21/15, Received 6/11/15
-- BoB's Blog - The Build and Adventures --
-- Please PM me if any pictures in my posts are showing up as bad links --
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Old 11-30-2015, 03:03 AM   #8
Zyzzyx
 
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Default Re: The Building of BoB the Van

Quote:
Originally Posted by d_bertko View Post
I was very reluctant to obstruct the sliding door with anything built in. Certainly felt the same about keeping both back doors fully useable.

So a cheap, simple and flexible interior. I stared for many hours at various mockups in the van but it was the long trips that always yielded a couple of improvements. It's more about the adventures than the amount of installed furnishings for us. Too many kinds of things to carry to get a standard summer rv layout.

Are you adding drycamp capability or do you live a shore-power lifestyle? What is the 12v ac you mention?

Dan
If I was on my own, the interior might have ended up a bit more flexible, like yours. Compromises were made with the g/f for her dog weekend trips. She's not looking for Airstream or RoadTrek level interior, but something like the enclosed bathroom was non-negotiable. ;) She also wanted a larger fridge, and I think I'll enjoy that was well.

I'll still have enough of a center aisle to load long and narrow items (lumber, etc), and I can lean panels of plywood up as well. What I'm pleased with (as an idea anyway) is the bunkbed setup, with removable platforms for access in the back.

This will be a primarily dry-camp setup. There's 640w of 12V (18V) solar up top, feeding 200ah of lithium battery. It'll have a shore-power hookup for running some electric heat at some places in the winter (Pac. NW). Was just on a road trip to NM though Utah; on a sunny day I was maxing out at 20amp charge, not bad for late November. Waiting to see what I get up here in the north, but it'll be awhile before I see some sun.

I'll have fresh and grey tanks mounted underneath, but will have a way to feed from portable water inside during the winter when its freezing outside.

The 12V a/c unit is the U-Go by Autoclima, also sold under the IndelB label. Its not as powerful as a roof unit, but I'm not looking to cool the place down to 65F, just take the edge off. Also once the battery is full I'm hoping to use the 'excess' solar power to start running the a/c to work on keeping the van cool when parked for the day, instead of trying to cool it down from hot at the end of the day.


More build notes to come as I can write them up.
__________________
-- Zyzzyx --

-- BoB, a ProMaster 3500 Diesel 159" HR Ext, metallic silver
-- Ordered 2/21/15, VIN 3/22/15, Built 5/21/15, Received 6/11/15
-- BoB's Blog - The Build and Adventures --
-- Please PM me if any pictures in my posts are showing up as bad links --
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Old 12-02-2015, 02:22 PM   #9
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Default Re: The Building of BoB the Van

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zyzzyx View Post
The 12V a/c unit is the U-Go by Autoclima, also sold under the IndelB label. Its not as powerful as a roof unit, but I'm not looking to cool the place down to 65F, just take the edge off. Also once the battery is full I'm hoping to use the 'excess' solar power to start running the a/c to work on keeping the van cool when parked for the day, instead of trying to cool it down from hot at the end of the day.
someone, perhaps you, has talked about a/c specifically for their dogs. can the u-go be set up to primarily cool the crates, rather than the whole van, and therefore perhaps be able to run from solar? (i haven't even done a rough calculation to see if this might be possible.) i guess it might need a remote thermostat capability, to let it measure the temperature in the dog crate, as opposed to at the unit itself.

paul
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Old 12-03-2015, 12:25 AM   #10
Zyzzyx
 
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Default Re: The Building of BoB the Van

It is a 'portable' unit, designed to be set somewhere in the cab of an 18-wheeler. I plan to route the air-exchange hoses through holes in the floor. I guess you could pull it out and aim it towards the crates. Or put it in the section of the van that has the crates, and then segment that off from the rest of the van, greatly reducing the air volume. It does have a thermostat, but I don't think it has a remote sensing option.
__________________
-- Zyzzyx --

-- BoB, a ProMaster 3500 Diesel 159" HR Ext, metallic silver
-- Ordered 2/21/15, VIN 3/22/15, Built 5/21/15, Received 6/11/15
-- BoB's Blog - The Build and Adventures --
-- Please PM me if any pictures in my posts are showing up as bad links --
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