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Old 08-15-2011, 12:00 AM   #1
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Default Building my Adventure Van (2011 NCV3)

Rather than keep polluting the "What did you do to your Sprinter Today?" thread.. I figured I should probably stick all of this information in one area so here goes...

I'm going to re-compile some of my posts into this thread and get things caught up until today...




Van 1 week old: 10,000 feet on Weston Pass in Colorado. Our first Sprinter camping trip July 30, 2011.

The building of our Adventure Van

The Objective
An Adventure Van.
A van that is comfortable for two people when we pursue our outdoor pasttimes which include:
dirtbikes, mountain biking, snowboarding, fly fishing, hiking, camping, etc etc.

This means it needs to be comfortable, versatile, and "convertible".

The Foundation
2011 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500.
144" wheel base, high ceiling.

I bought the vehicle from Mercedes Benz of Henderson Nevada a couple of weeks ago.
800 miles away. I hopped on my 950 and rode out to the dealership in 111 degree heat.. loaded the bike in the back (with the help of 4 strong guys at the dealership ) and drove it home. 1640 miles in less than 2 days.



Photos from the drive home:







Pretty much a clean slate for us to build from

...let the games begin!

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Old 08-15-2011, 12:02 AM   #2
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Default Re: Building my Adventure Van (2011 NCV3)

First Camping Trip

About a month before we bought the van, Cheryl & I were out jeeping and we were heading up Weston Pass (a 12,000 foot pass in Colorado between Fairplay & Leadville). We were tooling up the dirt road and it was just starting to get a bit gnarly as it turns more "jeep road'ish" near the top.

We were debating what size of Sprinter we wanted still at that point...

"You know.. if we get a 170 there is no way we'd be able to get it up here" I said.
"Do you think even a smaller one could get up here? This is pretty rough!" Chery replied.

No sooner had the words come out of her mouth.. than we rounded a bend in the road and saw this:





We caught up with the owner (who was riding a unicycle over the pass )



We talked with him about his Sprinter for about 10 minutes.
He said him and his wife loved the thing. They travel everywhere in it with their child/baby ... have a queen size bed in the back.. wouldn't trade it for anything except maybe a newer one. I believe at one point he stated "it is absolutely the best thing I have ever bought".

After thanking him for his time we continued on.. more excited about buying a Sprinter than ever.

"When we buy our sprinter, I think we should come up here and camp in the exact same spot he's camped in for our first trip.. just for fun"

I bought the Sprinter and the following weekend we found ourselves here:





Mission accomplished


We actually camped about a mile further up the road (it is cooler temperature wise the higher you go).





We used a queen sized air mattress between the wheel wells in the back; which kinda sucked because it was about 6 inches wider than the wheels wells so the sides were all jammed in (that said, the van is 6 inches wider than the mattress so once we have our frame above the wells, it'll be perfect!).
We brought a couple lounge chairs, a mountain bike, a kelty noah tarp, a camp table & a cooler.

We could barely sleep that night laying in the back of the Sprinter... we were like kids the night before Christmas looking at the space around us and imaging just how excellent everything was going to be when we were done. We talked for hours about what we wanted to put where.

Eventually.. we did fall asleep.

About 3am Cheryl woke me up..
"I think I hear a bear!"
I sat up, reached over and slid the sliding door shut. Laid back down and went back to sleep.
Best Bear Encounter Ever.



For this trip we thought about mosquitos at the last minute... on the way out of town we stopped at a hardware store and bought a bunch of rolls of screen - they were about 4 feet wide... you can see them hanging in the door in this photo:


They did not work well. Too many gaps between the screens, etc. (although the ones I made for the front windows using duct tape and magnets worked great

When I got home I ordered two heavy duty mosquito nets 12'x12' each. Got them from http://www.mosquitocurtains.com (they shipped the same day I ordered them and we got them 2 days later!). Cheryl's going to make new door covers for the side and rear doors with those


20 minutes, some door screen, some duct tape & some rare-earth magnets =

Yeah.. they look a bit ghetto
Cheryl's since made a "pattern" for the window screens for the door and is going to sew up a more attractive solution.

Last edited by Geek; 08-15-2011 at 12:34 AM.
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Old 08-15-2011, 12:04 AM   #3
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Default Re: Building my Adventure Van (2011 NCV3)

YESTERDAY MORNING:

We stripped the interior and most of the dashboard and I went and got the van weighed:



Passenger Swivel Seat Install


Step 1: Removed 4 bolts. Cheryl cleaned the inside of the seat housing with paint thinner for me.





Step 2: applied a layer of Damplifier to the bottom of the seatwell. Damplifier now comes with black foil




Step 3: applied a layer of Luxury Liner Pro to the bottom of the seatwell.



Step 4: bolt the seat swivel unit onto the pan...



Step 6: re-bolt the seat on..




Voila!







I still have to do the driver's side but it is a bit more involved as you have to re-locate the park brake mounting...

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Old 08-15-2011, 12:06 AM   #4
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Default Re: Building my Adventure Van (2011 NCV3)

Backup Camera System

The van currently doesn't have back windows (I will be adding some in the future..) which makes it a bit of a challenge to back up... especially in traffic in the city.

The stereo I put in (report to come) has a backup camera input on it so I didn't need an additional screen.

I decided I wanted a wide angle camera up high so that I can see the back hitch to hookup a trailer easily, monitor the bikes when towing a trailer (or a hitch mount), and also have peace of mind that I'm not about to back over a Prius when I have to move the thing backwards in the city.

I ended up going with a http://rearviewsystems.com/ solution. It is a bit more expensive but I have no doubt it is the most robust system out there (which in the winter matters.. as well as when I bushwacking with the ceiling (which will be a real problem when we are out in the woods).

The price difference between their low end camera and their high end one isn't much so it makes sense just to get the best one they have.



It is 130 degree viewing angle, ultra low light, night vision, anti-bloom, etc.. but the two features I really like are:
1) double pane of glass guaranteed forever against water intrusion. If it ever fogs up they'll give you a new one.
2) heated outer pane of glass. In the winter it will defrost itself... and since I live in Colorado this thing will get lots of chances to use that feature

The second cool thing is the way the mount these guys makes is designed. It is designed to deflect tree branches, etc up and over the camera without damage. Solid steal, very robust and gives you a very flexible mounting location.

I had to go buy an 8 foot ladder to install the thing but here's how it looks mounted on my van








...and here are some screen shots of its image while I was playing with it in the parking lot of Home Depot






Note: The camera is a 4 pin RCA connector (because it has audio if you want.. and needs power to the camera for the IRs and the defroster). I bought a 33 foot 4pin extension cord and then the convertor cable to drop it from 4 pin to standard composite connection. I thought 33 feet was super long but I used pretty much every foot of it after routing. You definitely do not want a cord shorter than 33 feet! 33 was the perfect length (assuming you are going to route it like I did.. inside the B-pillar, under the floor, up inside the back of the dash, etc so that it is completely hidden).




Stripping the Interior:

Pulled the floor and half the dash... holy heck the dash is quite the jigsaw puzzle.

before:


after:


the floor's construction:




The battery quick disconnect is pretty cool beside the gas pedal


The insulation around the cockpit flooring is impressive.. almost an inch thick


This is actually more organized than it looks


I didn't know the stereo had a center channel...


The firewall has some significant insulation/sound barrier already installed


Everything is so nested.. the hardest part is figuring out what has to come off to release what...



Somebody at Mercedes gets it...
The fact that 98% of the screws in the interior are all the same size makes me happy.
I have some vehicles that require a dozen different tools to change the oil; very annoying.

I took a dremel to this torx screwdriver


...and 30 seconds later I had a power drill capable of pulling the 2358008x10e23 interior screws I needed to undo...





before:


after:


before:


after:



I also temporarily installed the ScanGuage II... not sure where I want to permanently mount it yet...



I also learned to be very careful when you take the seatbelts apart



...took me forever to get it back together correctly.

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Old 08-15-2011, 12:06 AM   #5
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Default Re: Building my Adventure Van (2011 NCV3)

Sound Damping

All luxury vehicles have something in common... extensive sound damping that make them quiet & comfortable at any speed. It is one of the biggest differences between a Toyota and a Lexus - the amount of damping material onboard. Why does a high end luxury automobile's door close with a solid thud? Sound damping and mass loading.



As I am getting older my hearing is definitely declining. All those miles on a motorcycle I guess. Because of this, I find I am becoming more and more susceptible to noise (and also more fussy when it comes to "quality of sound" i.e. listening to music/audio). The Sprinter has a lot of surface area to resonate & vibrate and it is a pretty loud vehicle compared to many of the other vehicles I've owned (although maybe not loud as far as vans go).

I'm going to try and minimize it.

I'm going with a 3 prong attack on noise (before the interior.. which in itself will add more sound damping).

Step 1:
First is a vibration damper or constraint layer damper (CLD). In my case "Damplifier" is the product I'm using though there are lots of others out there (Dynamat probably being the most well known).

I am starting with 160 square feet of it.



This is a self adhesive product that is made of butyl rubber and has a 6.5 mil hard foil on it. It is about 1 mm total thickness and weighs about .35 lbs per square foot. It doesn't need contiguous coverage.. you basically put it on anything that might vibrate or buzz. Mercedes has already stuck some sound damping on various panels.. I'm augmenting that.

One note: some of the cheaper CLD products are asphault based instead of butyl based. Personally I'd shy away from them due to 1) fumes and 2) they have been known to "run" when they get hot.. making a mess.

In this photo you can see some of the adhesive damper MB applied. The mass of the damper stops the large square panel it is stuck on from vibrating.



Step 2:
A noise barrier. In my mind, this is the most important part. The CLD sound deadener stops panels from vibrating but this stuff stops noise. The product I chose to use is called "Luxury Liner Pro". It is a high quality Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) barrier. The "Pro" version comes with a closed cell foam (CCF) decoupler already bonded to the MLV (and it is fused together - not glued) which basically does two types of sound barrier at once: MLV & CCF.

This stuff is seriously heavy. It is 1lb per square foot and stops all airborne sound waves.
I have 30 sheets of it (270 square feet) and they weigh just under 300 lbs

This stuff is not adhesive and requires a contact spray glue to adhere. It is too heavy to stick on the ceiling.



Step 3:
Heat insulation.
The goal obviously is to stop the transfer of heat from the outside in or the inside out. Because the Luxury Liner Pro is too heavy to stick on the ceiling, I'm going to do a layer of CLD and then a product called "Heat Wave Pro" which is a light weight, foil faced heat and noise insulation mat. It is a thermal-acoustic barrier so it does a bit of both..

Then I'm going to insulate the walls with something like Reflectex .. depending on how much space I have available.


Do I have enough material? Do I have too much? I dunno. I picked the numbers outta ma'rse while I was driving and on the phone... so we'll see how it all turns out

Certain parts of the vehicle that are excessively noisy like the wheel wells I may double or triple some of the layers.

On top of these 3 steps will go the interior panels which will have carpet, various fabrics, etc on them.. adding further sound proofing.

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Old 08-15-2011, 12:07 AM   #6
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Default Re: Building my Adventure Van (2011 NCV3)

Sound Damping.. continued: Passenger footwell.

Yesterday: Saturday 8/14/2011

I spent about an hour tonight sound damping the passenger footwell.

The passenger footwell in the Sprinter is already fairly impressively insulated. The firewall has a very thick (3/4"?) rubber matt on it, the floor has CLD put on any big areas, and then the floormat itself is over an inch thick with a soft foam/rubber insulator on bottom.

So I went a bit overboard... :D

First I cut out some pieces of Damplifier and stuck them everywhere that went "tink tink tink" instead of "thud thud thud" when I tapped on it



When I got rid of all the "tink tink tinks" I started in with the Luxury Liner Pro
I pulled the wiring channel off and ran a contiguous piece under the wiring and out the other side.



I then started adding more pieces.. cutting and joining them with foil tape. I ran foam all the way up until I joined it with the firewall rubber.


Then I put the stock mat/insulator back in. As you can see, it ends before the tool kit/jack (there are body panels that cover all of that up) so actually insulated a large area that had no insulation at all - being right behind the engine I think it should help a bit



Woohoo... 2 square feet done. Only ... 398 or so square feet to go? :rofl
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Old 08-15-2011, 12:08 AM   #7
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Default Re: Building my Adventure Van (2011 NCV3)

Which brings us to today.

It has been a productive day. That said, I feel like less than 1% of the project is finished

So when I headed out to the van 7'ish this morning... I felt a bit overwhelmed with the mess....




I decided to start with the swivel seat for the driver. 4 bolts removed the seat...



revealing the wiring underneath. Hey! There are a couple of convenient ground wire locations

so I ran the subwoofer's ground wire through the hole and onto the terminal. The subwoofer is going to be behind the driver's seat so this is perfect.



two bolts removed the park brake (note the state of the dashboard & such at this point... ).

Turns out you don't have to remove the park brake. The park brake relocation bracket they included didn't fit at all... but when I looked again, the park brake didn't actually need to be lowered.. it clears ok in its stock location if you pump the seat up a little bit



..and I installed the driver's swivel. Pretty much the same as the passenger's except it spins the other way.



reconnect the seat wire... hmmm.. I suspect this is the "seatbelt detection circuit" - I need to figure out if I can just close this circuit and leave it disconnected. I'm a seatbelt wearer. Always have been. That said I don't need the damn seatbelt reminder donger donging at me if I'm moving the van around the campsite or across the driveway. I'll have to pursue this in the future



Testing it out:


Woot! The "living room" is going to be a lot more livable now



That took me until about 9am.

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Old 08-15-2011, 12:09 AM   #8
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Default Re: Building my Adventure Van (2011 NCV3)

Next up I decided to see if I could finish the cockpit's sound damping.

Lifting the wiring loom I found an open hole. That's the pavement below (no restriction). That's gotta be good for snow & ice in the winter coming straight in onto my wiring loom

Apparently there are 4 open holes from the factory in the floor of the sprinter. I've found two so far (and filled/plugged both).





I added a bunch of Damplifier to the driver's footwell to augment the stuff MB put




I threw a big swatch of Damplifier on the bottom of the battery cover just to deaden any chance of vibration




Then I loud out the Luxury Liner Pro. I laid it out in such a way that there is a "door" of it over the battery lid so it'll be easy to get to the battery in the future



I then test fitted the mats.. .I was a bit worried that they wouldn't fit with the extra inch of insulation they now have under them..


..but they fit ok


So I started reassembling the instrument panel/dashboard. You basically have to build it from the bottom as as everything is nested and you start at the A-pillars at the top to reveal screws as you work downward..



If you look at the photos above of the flooring, you see it gets cleaner as the day goes on.
Tweetie spent 6 hours scrubbing the floor mats with rubbing alcohol and then with pinesol. I don't know what the hell was on them.. it was sticky (almost like post-it notes... sticky but didn't come off) and she wasn't happy until it was all gone. Turned out to be a helluva job but she came through with perseverance



We are going to lay carpet over the cockpit floor.. but in the winter we'll pull the carpet and run these floor mats for snowboarding. They are designed in such a way to route/hold water.



As I got up to the driver's "tray".. I decided to stealth wire the ScanGuage and the Ipod interface by taking advantage of the overlip to hide the ugly holes..
Here is the scan guage's wiring ran up inside the dashboard (the ODB connector is down by the driver's left foot)

And then here you can see the ipod coming in from the otherside.

and then here is the cool "overlip" that makes it all look good:


You can see the GPS antenna loose in the middle needing the same treatment when I reassembled the center..

Piece by piece it went back together.

I re-installed the tweaters in the front corners and the center channel.
I re-installed all the vents.
I re-installed the a-pillars and eventually...

VOILA! good as new (better than new? )


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Old 08-15-2011, 12:09 AM   #9
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Default Re: Building my Adventure Van (2011 NCV3)

That took me to mid afternoon.

I needed to go for a test drive.. I needed to know there was SOME sort of transformation taking place..

I threw a bunch of luxury liner pro mats down in the back and we went for a spin.



The difference is substantial. You could actually hear the wind noise from the ceiling over the road & engine noise (usually road/engine noise is extremely dominant).

This was very encouraging so I found my second wind and started into the back...
I fear sound proofing the back (floor, walls and ceiling) is going to be the bane of my existence for the next several weeks.

Basically here is what I'm doing:

Cheryl wiped down the entire interior of the van with paint thinner to degrease it.

I'm rolling Damplifier into the troughs between the floor ribs.. being sure to cut out the mounting bolts for the floor


Then when I have a section done, I lay a sheet of Luxury Liner Pro over it.


repeat.. continue.



It is very time consuming. You cut the Damplifier to the size needed (it doesn't take many cuts to dull the box knife) and then roll/press each stripe of damplifier down. The rollers pictured below are essential... you basically squish the heck out of the Damplifer with the rollers to adhere it and get the air out. You have to press hard. I've only done half of the back and I'm already sporting an impressive collection of blisters (and I have "garage hands" to begin with).
I've basically worn the wooden roller out already.. it is starting to come apart:


I kept going until I had the front half of the back floor completed with Damplifier and LLP. By the time I had gotten this far I was completely soaked in sweat. It is a good workout.



I then laid the front half of the stock floor on top to see how it was all going to fit. Looking pretty good

It'll look even better carpeted...



...and that brings me to now (4pm'ish). It started thunder storming so I had to call it a day (way too hot in the van with the doors/windows closed and 100% humidity).



We have 4 days until our next camping trip. Unfortunately my work schedule is completely slammed for these next 4 days so I don't know that I'm going to get much more time to touch the van before we go so it looks like we'll be sleeping on an air mattress crammed between the wheel wells again.

That said, Cheryl is hard at work making the new & improved mosquito nettings for the windows... I'm excited to see what she comes up with.



...to be continued.

Last edited by Geek; 08-15-2011 at 12:55 AM.
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Old 08-15-2011, 12:40 AM   #10
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Default Re: Building my Adventure Van (2011 NCV3)

Great job on the conversion. It looked like a small A-bomb went off in the cab with all the dash and seat work going on. Ain't it great when it stops sounding like a tin can!

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