Sprinter Westfalia #248 Refitting

I've had my Sprinter Westfalia for five years, during which time I have taken trips ranging in length from one to six weeks. The original interior of the Sprinter Westfalia is a huge design success, having full accommodations for two adults and two children, but I am not a family of four. As a soloist, my needs are very different from the intended target market, so from the start the Westfalia's interior did not meet several of my needs or wants.

The Westfalia version of the Sprinter has an extra tall hardtop that creates space for a foldout upper berth. With a large operable skylight right above your head and an awning window to each side, the upper berth is quality space for sleeping that can't in my opinion be called camping. The proportions and quality of the interior space, contained within such a small vehicle is what appealed to me about the Westfalia. The ten years prior to purchasing the Westfalia, I traveled by dual sport motorcycle, which had me sleeping on the ground. The most spartan trip was a four week coast to coast along an extended version of the TAT riding a Husky TE450. TransAmerica Trail I'm now completely spoiled by the Westfalia's luxurious accommodations and there's probably no going back to weeks of sleeping on the ground. The Westfalia has permanently replaced the camping gear stuffed in my motorcycle panniers and a mountain bike and folding kayak have replaced the motorcycle as my conveyances of choice for wandering around.

As I enter semi retirement, with increasingly longer and farther trips on the horizon, the differences between my unique needs and the Westfalia's intended target market are only increasing, making this a good time to reevaluate my vehicle choice. One of the biggest shortcomings of the Westfalia's design for me is the absence of storage, most notably dedicated mountain bike and kayak storage. A few years ago I removed the bench seat/second berth from the central living area and have been stowing my mountain bike and folding kayak right in the middle of the van. This works, but is increasingly less than desirable the longer my trips have become and/or the more inclement the weather is. For me, hanging high end mountain bikes off of the rear of the van isn't desirable long term, especially considering some of my bucket list dream destinations. A rear storage area within the vehicle is a big want for me.

Over the last couple of years, I'd been considered other vehicle options and sketching out what I wanted spatially-nothing that I could find was readily available at a reasonable price point in North America. I like small spaces and small vehicles, and kept coming back to a vehicle the size of a class B van. The Sprinter Westfalia, which is on a 140 inch wheel base, has enough square footage for me, but the space in the Westfalia is not configured well for my purposes. While considering other van options, it was difficult to spatially overcome giving up the luxurious upper berth because the extra space in the tall hardtop opened up the entire first floor for day time living and MTB storage. The other mental obstacle that I had difficulty getting by was that the appealing space I already had was paid for, and was sitting on the well regarded, sorted out and extensively DIY supported T1N chassis and engine. It repeatedly made the most sense to adapt what I already had. In fact, I had already been simplifying and adapting the Westfalia since the day I purchased it, so continuing down that path with a total refitting of my own Sprinter Westfalia seemed the logical decision, which is what I've begun and why I am starting this thread.

I've just about finished the demo. It's tall in there at just shy of 7'-10". The box I am standing on represents what will be my new finished floor height, giving me a "basement" with a height of about 14" clear for storage and housing/running utilities.

My former accommodations were quite a bit smaller than the Westfalia...it's difficult to fit a refrigerator and bathroom on the back of a 450 dual sport. :thinking:

More to come...
Last edited:


Robert, I like where this is going. The super high roof has always been the Westy's secret sauce, which in turn, makes possible the best bed in the van world, in my opinion. The fact that it folds up is also huge!

You have so much cubic space to play with, and in my opinion, is even more useful than a longer wheelbase in some ways.

I've always been impressed how boat designers can stuff maximum utility in minimum space. Am looking forward to see how your vision unfolds. It's a luxury to design only for one's self!

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.



What did you rig up for a work platform to work on the roof? That's always been a pain in the nuts to do any work up there.

Now that I'm thinking about it, the bathroom bulkhead probably supports the lion's share of the AC unit. When I replaced my bathroom fan with the FanTastic unit, I put as much insulation as I could in the roof shell cavities. Figured it couldn't hurt.

What kayak is that?
What did you rig up for a work platform to work on the roof? That's always been a pain in the nuts to do any work up there.

Now that I'm thinking about it, the bathroom bulkhead probably supports the lion's share of the AC unit. When I replaced my bathroom fan with the FanTastic unit, I put as much insulation as I could in the roof shell cavities. Figured it couldn't hurt.

What kayak is that?
I have several ladders and put three of them up, one on each side.

Agreed, the bulk of the air conditioners weight was transferred to the bathroom bulkhead.

I am brainstorming and trying to figure out what, if anything I can do to insulate the entire fiberglass roof assembly. The minimal fiberglass that's in there is useless and missing from large areas, including the entire rear 25% of the roof. The absence of any insulation in the Westfalia's roof/upper wall assembly was and is a big oversight in the original build in my opinion. Not that the lower walls had any insulation either...

It's an Oru Kayak. Great little boat, that is perfect for my needs.
Last edited:
The acrylic awning window located on the side wall behind the drivers seat on the Westfalia has a known weak spot and some have started to crack as the years have gone by - mine included about two years ago. A replacement awning window is not readily available in North America. I had mine taped up for about a year, then about a year ago, as I was honing in on my redesigned floor plan, I decided to go ahead and close that opening in with a piece of aluminum.

Last edited:
A year of bumpy roads and rain under my tires and the technique that I used to install the aluminum sheet appeared to be working, so it was time to pull the big window on the passenger side and replace it too with aluminum.

I cut the aluminum to size to leave a 3/16 inch gap between the shoulder of the window recess and the aluminum. The gap was to serve as a caulked joint after I adhered the aluminum to the window recess flange. I placed 3M VHB tape #5952 on the window recess flange. I had called 3Ms technical support a year earlier to get a recommendation for exactly which tape to use. I hot glued wood blocks to the body panel to precisely guide my placement of the aluminum. Then I gently slid the aluminum into place, followed with a roller working from both the exterior and interior surfaces, to firmly press the mating surfaces together. As an added layer of security, I cut out some small aluminum plates, buttered them up with polyurethane adhesive and adhered them to the back side of both the aluminum and window recess flange.

An aesthetically pleasing caulk joint starts with a consistent taping job. I had chamfered the outer edge of the aluminum prior to installing it, so it was easy to apply the inner tape to follow that chamfer. The outer tape was a little more difficult to get fair around the radiused corners and a consistent width along the straights. I used a scribe to give myself a line to work towards. In the radiused corners I ran the tape continuously, then sliced it and filled in the gaps.

I cut the nozzle on the Sikaflex 221 Polyurethane Sealant/Adhesive to match the gap. Then I slowly pushed the caulk into the joint. Slowly pushing the caulk ahead of the nozzle, instead of pulling the caulk behind the nozzle, has the advantage of ensuring the gap is completely filled with consolidated caulk. If you push just the right quantity of caulk to maintain a small "bow wave" ahead of the nozzle you end up with the surface of the joint being nicely convex with minimal excess to strike off. Once the gap was filled all the way around the window, I used a latex gloved finger sprayed with denatured alcohol for a final consolidation of the caulk. I then removed the tape and have what to my eye is an aesthetically pleasing caulk joint that will hopefully last a decade or more. Time will tell.

Last edited:


Nice job!! The caulk came out perfect!!

2 questions: How hard was it to get the black cladding off the rear panel? And did you put any curvature into the aluminum panels prior to adhering them to the opening? They seem to fit perfectly...


'05 Westy
And what was the reason to remove the passenger window? Something to do with the new layout I assume? Or was the window damaged?
1.The two black rear claddings themselves were easily ripped off of the rear doors with my bare hands. It was and still is (see below pic) the three different adhesives used for their original attachment and subsequent repairs that is a PITA to remove. I will have to finish removing the adhesive with a heavy sanding and priming. Conversely, the larger drivers side panel was very difficult to get off, yet the adhesive mostly came off with a scraper blade mounted in a flush cut tool. I literally had to take a dremel tool and cut the panel into small pieces in order to detach it from the van/adhesive to prevent deforming the underlying side panel.
2. No precurvature of the aluminum needed prior to installation. I simply selected a gauge of aluminum that I figured would bend relatively easily to the existing body side panel curvature.

You are correct, there was nothing wrong with the passenger side window. My new interior layout has it below counter top height so there was no reason to keep it given the weight and thermal penalties.

Last edited:
Hole repair. 001

There were a bunch of existing holes to repair from the original Westfalia build in order for me to get back to neutral. There were literally 24 holes in the van floor, 4 holes in the drivers side rear panel, 3 bolts holes in the rear doors and of course the 16"x16" hole in the passenger side panel, for the water heater access/exhaust door.

Since I had about three quarters of a tube of the Sikaflex 221 left over from sealing around my new aluminum window panel I decided to keep it simple and use that for sealing up the holes in the van floor.

I have been becoming increasingly impressed/educated/intrigued with modern adhesives over the last few years, so every adhesive that I have been using I do some tests with whatever is left over. A year ago when installing my first aluminum panel I had taken some of the Sikaflex 221 and stuck some sheet metal together to test the strength of the bonds. That experience showed me that the Sikalfex 221 was more than suitable for repairing the holes in the van floor.

I first cut plates out of 26 gauge steel to cover and overlap each of the holes in the van floor. I then took a wire brush in my 4 inch grinder and cleaned up around each of the holes, applying some Right Stuff rust neutralizer that I was given, to the edge of each hole even though there wasn't any visible rust. I then buttered up the entire underside of the steel plates and applied them over the holes. As I was using up leftover Sikaflex there was no need to be stingy, so I also smeared around the top edges and surfaces of each plate to hopefully aid in providing some corrosion protection.

I'm thinking of also applying a coat of 3M Professional Grade Rubberized Undercoating to the underside. For $12 dollars that seems like a prudent investment...or is that just being anal ? What do you think ?



Interesting blue square at the back; looks like a window or hatch going in? And I'm chuckling with you at your efforts to get the stickers off the top; what a bear those are. Your driver side doesn't look too faded, so that one might come off OK with some heat.

I wish I had taken mine off the day I got the vehicle, against my wife's wishes. Of course, she was nowhere to be found when they got so faded they had to come off.

I fully support overkill, and the use of the undercoating. Use sealant for sealing, and undercoating for protection.
Hole repair. 002

There were four medium size holes in the drivers side rear panel and three bolt holes in the rear doors. I've unfortunately never taken the time to learn how to weld, so I had to come up with a Plan B.

Here are three of those seven holes from where the municipal water, shore power and telephone/cable TV jacks :crazy: were located. I had pulled the fittings out and quickly sprayed some primer a few weeks prior, because at that time I didn't know how long it would be before I would return to patching them.

After some research I decided to use my newly acquired epoxy/fiberglassing skills to patch the seven medium size holes. The epoxy needs to adhere to bare metal, so I ground off the paint. There was some rust at one of the holes, which I treated with Right Stuff rust neutralizer.

For some reason, that I now think was totally unnecessary, I thought I should back up the epoxy with a piece of sheet metal to give it structure.:idunno: At the same time I wanted to put one piece of biaxial cloth in the assembly to prevent cracks from telescoping through the epoxy around the edges of the holes. The cloth needed to be below the surface of the body panel so it wouldn't show through the final sanding of the thickened epoxy. I created a concave dish by slightly grinding the edges and by slightly bending the metal around the hole with a pair of channel locks.

I cut out the aforementioned unnecessary sheet metal backing plates :bash: and attached them with VHB tape #5952. According to the West Systems Instructions, you start the process of epoxying to bare metal by applying unthickened epoxy and working it in with a wire brush. When the unthickened epoxy becomes tacky you finish out the repair just as you would with any other fiberglassing layup.

Fortunately for me, my Westfalia is one of 10, of the 250 brought into North America, that for some unknown reason were repainted battleship grey, which means an off the shelf automobile grade primer matches the color pretty damn well. Where there were natural edges I taped off to the edge, where there wasn't an edge, I just feathered out the spraying to prevent having a visible hard edge. That will do for now, a finished paint job of some sort is in the long term plan.

Hindsight: The next time I will forgo the sheet metal backing plates and instead, epoxy two or three layers of biaxial cloth on the interior surface of the body panel to augment the one layer of biaxial cloth on the exterior of the panel. I also might consider switching to a polyester filler like Bondo for the final layer or two of fairing material because it cures so much faster and is so much easier to sand than epoxy. Bondo is less expensive too.
Last edited:


You have done a really nice job! Having access to the back of that panel makes it a lot easier.

I am not a paint expert by any stretch, but my understanding is that primer is generally not weatherproof; i.e.., not a good long-term solution. You might consider a matching gray paint over the primer just to seal it up before a final paint job.

Amazing how nicely the Westfalia factory did the two big holes and how poorly Airstream did the phone and cable, isn't it?!


I agree, the primer does not provide very good long term weather resistance. I was working against the clock as the weather was changing quickly. We are now in the 30's & 40's here with wet stuff regularly falling, so painting is probably out until Spring - the primer will have to do duty on it's own until then.

I didn't know that Airstream had installed the ridiculous phone/cable jack fitting, but that makes total sense. The water and power fittings were each attached with four rivuts while the phone/cable only with two screws at the sides onto what is a curved section of the body panel. Of course it was going to leak, as evidenced by the rust around mine. No rust at all around the other two. The more I got to know my Westfalia the more I came to understand how poorly conceived and implemented were the modifications done by Airstream.

RIP Airstream/Westfalia fittings...this pile of debris is what is left of them after I removed anything that might be of use to someone else.

Last edited:
Hole repair. 003

I saved the biggest hole for last. The old water heater hole presented the biggest challenge because of the contoured indentation running down the side panel.

Replicating the contoured indentation from scratch was going to be impossible. I had called all the salvage yards in Virginia, with no success, looking for a donor van to cut a piece from. On a long shot a posted a Wanted to Buy thread down in the Classifieds for a piece of the passenger side body panel. Fortunately, both PortlandSprinterConnection and Cwhite87 reached out to say they could cut one from parted out vans for me. So I sent PSC a picture with some dimensions and a few days later received an over sized donor patch. I was pretty psyched.

So I would have to align the contoured indentation in the donor patch to the body panel on only one side, I cut the hole in the body panel about an inch larger to the rear to remove the very end of the contoured indentation. Some scribing and cutting and the donor patch fitted up pretty nicely.

I then cut out a flat aluminum backing plate and using VHB tape #5952 adhered the backing plate to the inside of the body panel and then the donor patch to the backing plate.

I also made a backing plate for the contoured indentation out of the strip that I had cut off of the over sized donor patch. I VHB taped the contoured backing plate to the body panel and donor patch and epoxied it to my flat aluminum backing plate.

Prior to adhering the donor patch to the backing plate I had trimmed all four edges of the donor patch by 1/4". I was going to treat it like my aluminum window replacement panels and caulk the joint with Sikaflex...,

...but at the very last minute I changed my mind and decided to go all in and fill, fair and finish the joint. I used an angle grinder to concave the joint area to better receive the epoxy, which made a quick mess of what had looked almost finished.

Two applications of epoxy followed by sanding, then a tiny bit of Bondo at the contoured indentation to fill in some remaining imperfections and I was ready to spray some primer to check out how it looked.

I was over the top with how good it looked after spraying it with primer. :dance: I'd assumed there would be imperfections that I wasn't seeing that the primer would quickly highlight.

I shouldn't have wasted my obvious good luck that day on fixing my van...I should have gone and purchased a lottery ticket.
Incredible job! What kind of hot water system will you use in your conversion?
Thanks grozier & Riptide. Hopefully my hole repairs will stand the test of time and road vibrations.

I've cycled through several different scenarios for my hot water. I am committed to just diesel and electric fuel/power sources.

I thought I had decided on a Webasto Dual Top to provide both cabin heat and hot water. But...the absence of North American support, the absence of high altitude performance data and the high price tag caused me to reconsider/abandon the Webasto.

I've considered an Isotherm tied into the engine coolant loop with AC electric. Conceptually I like this alternative-utilizing the already hot engine coolant while driving to heat your domestic hot water, which then remains hot for close to another 12 hours-just makes sense. There are two short comings to this scenario. One, I have yet to research/teach myself how to tie into the coolant system, which on the surface is a little daunting. Two, the electric element in the Isotherm, at 750 watts, is half the wattage of the third alternative and would take twice as long to heat the water up on day two upon arriving at a camp site.

Currently I'm thinking of going with a simple 2.5 gallon AC tank type water heater. There have been two members on this forum who have reported real world amp hour and time to heat water with these units and the numbers have been impressive...hot water in under 20 minutes with under 30 amp hours consumed. I've had one of these under the sink in my woodworking shop for years with nary a problem.

Those are my thoughts currently, but are subject to change any day up until the day of installation...any and all thoughts appreciated.
Last edited:

Top Bottom