Hodakaguy's 4x4 Sprinter Conversion - Pic heavy!


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More progress...

Welding up more roof L-track braces. The first brace now has the proper angle set, I just used that brace and flipped it upside down to replicate the angle on the other braces.

Counter sinking the bolt holes in the forward piece of L-track.

Bolts will now sit flush in the L-track

Next up I decided to install the OEM roof rails. These rails will ultimately be used to attach a roof rack to the van and support solar, an awning etc. The van comes from the factory with holes already punched into the body to accommodate the roof rails, there are plastic plugs in the holes with adhesive sealing them from the weather.

Plug viewed from the roof...

And the plug from inside the van..

Removing the plugs is pretty easy. Use a heat gun from inside the van and heat the plastic plug to the point where it just starts to deform. At that point just use a screw driver to push up on the plug and it will pop right out. While the adhesive is still hot use a plastic scraper to remove as much as the adhesive as possible.

Piece of plastic lexan cut to use as a scraper.

Up top after cleaning it up with the scraper.

Working my way down the channel

Using a little acetone to clean up the remaining adhesive around the holes.

Before cleaning with acetone...

And after....

I chose to go with the OEM roof rails...if you shop around you can find these for not a lot more than the aftermarket units and you know they will fit perfectly.

Here's one of the studs on the roof rail. The rail has a rubber washer at the base of the mounting studs to seal the rail against the roof.

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Continued from above...

I added some Butyl rubber around the base of the stud to ensure a water proof connection to the van.

I placed a small amount of Butyl around the base of the stud on the inside of the van as well.

Loctite 243 applied to the threads then started slowly tightening the nuts down. I slowly went back and forth allowing the Butyl to ease out between tightening steps. Eventually they were all tight and the rails are now in place.

More to come.....



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Bit more work today on the upper supports.

Here I have the holes pre-drilled in the L-Track and the support clamped in place to the track.

I'm using the drill to just lightly make a center mark on the support and using the pre drilled L-track as a guide.

Next up is to center punch the plus nut locations using the marks left by the drill bit then drill the holes for the plus nuts.

Installing the plus nuts and seating them in place.

Before and after seating the plus nuts.

And mounted up in the van. Now that the brace is mounted to the L-Track I can mark and drill the holes for the Plus Nuts that will support the braces to the cross members.

Then Just more of the same....

More to come...



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More progress.....

With the upper braces completed it's time to remove them and get them painted before final install. I'll mark them so that I know what area and direction that they came out of to make re-installation easy.

Here I'm using an Air Scribe to mark the braces starting from the rear and moving forward.

Braces painted and drying.

With the braces out it's time to finish counter sinking the holes in the L-track.

I used plus nuts to install the front two braces into the vans roof ribs, on the remaining units I switched it up and decided to go with heavy duty steel 1/4" pop rivets. Here the passenger side rear brace has been riveted into place. Solid!

On the middle two braces I had to mix it up a bit. Since this van was a passenger model with the roof AC unit there are factory braces welded onto the under side of the roof that the AC unit used to mount to. These factory braces interfere with my brace design so I had to come up with something a little different for the middle two braces. Ultimately I decided to just use the factory bracing to support one end of my brace.

Here my support brace is in place and slid into the factory brace on one end.

This is the piece that will join the two braces.

Joining piece slid into place

Adding the side plates to join everything together.

And finishing it all up.

At this point I ran out of rivets so I'll switch over to something else for now.

Here I've removed the horizontal L-Track so I can counter sink the mounting holes. At this time I'm going to install a piece of wood to form a wire chase for the factory wire loom.

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Continued From Above....

Rear piece in place.

When the panels are added this piece of wood will kick the panels out just enough to allow the wires to run through the channel behind the panels.

Front section going in.

Time to remove the rear passenger side horizontal L-track and finish counter sinking all the holes.

More to come...



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Time to upgrade my pneumatic rivet gun. My old JET unit is only made for 3/16" rivets but I installed a 1/4" tip and it kinda got the job done so far. To pop a 1/4" steel rivet it took many pulls of the trigger and its hammering the poor thing. Time for a upgrade.

I read a lot of good reviews on the Harbor freight 1/4" rivet gun so I snagged their"Proffessional" Chief unit today and came home to give it a try. Pops aluminum or steel 1/4" rivets with ease every time! Quality looks and feels great as well. Time will tell how it holds up but it's not a high use tool in my shop so it should be fine.



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Final installation of the roof braces and L-Track.

One of the forward pieces.

And everything in place and installed....sorry not many pictures today as a cold front is coming in and it's freezing outside.



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More L-Track Work. I'm going to add a couple small sections of L-track on the rear doors, they will be good for numerous things like hanging a cloths line between them when the doors are open, handing small bags for your pocket items when on the bed, etc etc.

Time to break into the angled L-track and cut a couple pieces down to size.

Rear door pieces cut to size. I'm applying tape along the edges to keep them from getting scratched up while in the vise.

Drilling holes....

Here I'm using a Forstner bit to recess the back side of the L-track. The heads on the Plus nuts stick up about a 1/16" or so above the vans sheet metal causing the L-track to tighten up against the head of the Plus nut only. This causes the loads on the L-track to be distributed directly to the plus nuts instead of spreading the load out over the entire rear surface of the L-track and the vans sheet metal. With the rear recess holes in place the L-track can now sit down completely flush against the van.

Recessed holes complete for one side.

Here you can see how the head of the plus nut will recess down into the L-track to allow the L-track to sit flush.

Front side counter sinks completed.

Here are the plastic end caps that will finish these pieces off.

Installing the plus nuts into the door.

And installed. These should be great for any number of uses.

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Continued from above...

Next up the passenger side horizontal L-track.

Thinsulate installed in the recesses behind the L-track.

And installed

Next up is to use the Forstner bit to recess the back sides of the upper L-track. This will allow the braces to sit down completely flush on my support braces and add a lot of strength/rigidity in the process.

And re-installing the piece back on the ceiling braces

In this shot you can see the huge difference that the recess makes in allowing the L-track to fit up tight against the Braces, will be a LOT more solid.

And after both sides have been recessed.

More of the same on the drivers side.

More to come....



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Sun is out...time for some more progress.

Yesterday I snagged a RoamBuilt aluminum rear ladder, now to get it installed.

I like the Roambuilt rear ladder since it has the double hoops and wide steps, it makes the ladder super secure to climb....even in sandals :). I also like how the ladder is out away from the van a bit, keeps toes from scratching up the paint when going up and down the ladder and gives a better footprint.

First up...remove the door panels. I needed to remove these anyways to finish installing insulation in the doors.

I applied some painters tape to the door to keep if from getting scratched up while fitting the ladder. I held the door in place and drilled the upper center hole first then pinned it with a bolt, then aligned and did the same thing on the bottom. Then marked and drilled the remaining holes.

Test fitting to make sure the bolts all fit correctly....Check :)

Deburring the holes.

I didn't get any pictures but I did apply primer and paint on the holes. After the paint was dry it's time to mount up the ladder.

I used some Sikaflex 221 to ensure a waterproof seal at the door. The ladder came with some gaskets pre-cut and I used the Sikaflex as well for extra measure.

Here's a shot of the aluminum backing plates installed in the doors. I used Sikaflex on these as well.

And installed. Love the looks of this setup.....now to get my roof rack so I have something to climb up to lol.

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Continued from above...


I'll be installing these switches in the ceiling to control the LED lighting, they will allow me to turn the lights off, work with the door switches on the starting battery or use them while camping off the house battery. Now to make some adapter plates so I can attach them to the ceiling.

A sheer made quick work out of knocking out some aluminum squares.

Also used the CNC plasma table to cut out a plate for my fridge power port and cig plug outlet.


Now to finish up the switch plates. I still have to paint them before they are ready to install.

Powerlet and Blue Sea Cig Plugs.

More to come...



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Up early this morning and back at it.

Time to fabricate the remaining two dome light switch panels. It's pretty easy to change the square piece of aluminum into a finished panel. First up mark out the location you need to cut out for the switch and put the piece in the vice.

Using a drill I made 4 holes in each corner of the inside of the cutout area.

Now I used a jig saw to cut out the center area and follow the lines until I have a square.

Now use a washer to mark out the curve for the corners.

Then use the disk sander to make quick work of rounding the corners down to the marked line.

Now just drill the mounting holes, sand the piece and paint.

This is the power panel I'll use to power the fridge plus whatever else we need to plug in. I'll use a Powerlet port for the fridge instead of a US cig plug. The Powerlet is awesome as it snaps in when you plug something into the port and you don't have to worry about the fridge coming unplugged like a US cig plug when bouncing down a gravel road for miles on end.

For the 3 way dome light switch I'm using a double pole double throw switch. I was asked how I will wire the dome lights from two separate power sources so here's a quick sketch using these switches. The switches will allow each section of ceiling lights to be either: OFF, operated via the door from the starting battery or manually operated from the house battery. I like options :).

Back to insulation work. Cutting more 3M Thinsulate. A good pair of sharp serrated scissors is a must here to get a clean cut on the insulation, forget trying to use an razor knife etc.

Hodakawife doing an awesome job insulating the rear doors.

Can't tell it here but she worked insulation up inside all of the nooks and crannys.

Last year at the Adventure Van expo is Oregon (not overland expo as it says in the pic) my son came back to the van from visiting a vendor and had this piece of Thinsulate with him that the vendor had given him, he said it was to help with the buil . I saved it and it's time to give it a home in the drivers rear door :). He was pretty happy today to see it getting installed. :)

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Continued from above...

I'm going to re-use the lower plastic factory panels so they went right back on. I'll have matching custom panels for the upper parts of the doors.

When removing the door go very slow and use a propper panel removing tool so you don't break any clips or the panel itself. Here's a shot of the back side of the panel so you can see where all the clips are located.

And back on the van.

Fishing the insulation In behind the L-track.

Cleaning up the factory wiring and making sure it will sit behind the wood strip when the panels go up. Adding a bit of loom here and there to ensure no chaffing points.

More to come....



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Stickers baby!...In case anyone wants a shot of my ugly mug on their vehicle Etc. Lol. My buddy wants me to start a "I spotted Hodakaguy" setup where people tag me with a pic when a sticker is spotted in the wild. I've had several requests for these so figured it was time to get the ball rolling and have some made :)

Now when I travel I can leave my mark :)



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Collecting parts.....

Received the Sprinters LED lighting, 6 Baja Designs LP9 Lights.......Going to be like having my own sun with me! I'll be running 4 of the Pro Spot's and 2 of the Racer editions. Gonna have to run some good wire, these babies will pull 55 amps!

I have this mystery box on it's way to me now.....maybe the lights will be mounted here? We shall see :)

Next up...go snag my van back :). My buddy Mike at VanLab cut my interior panels on his CNC machine and covered them for me in automotive tweed, the van has been living at Mikes for the past few days. while Mike performed his magic. For the fabric I chose a dark grey automotive tweed that matches the factory plastic and a lighter tan color that matches the body paint for the ceiling, makes a great two tone look. Since our van is a passenger model we are able to re-use the oem plastic window trim for a nice factory look. Mike does great work, if your needing any van interior work done I would highly recommend VanLab.

Van loaded with panels.

Panels loaded up and another 20' of Thinsulate ready to go into the ceiling soon.

A few pics of the interior as Mike was fitting it up...these shots are with the panels just loose and not set in place yet.

Mikes CNC router where the magic happens -)

Starting to re-install some of the plastic bits. Here I'm getting ready to re-install the passenger side step assy. Couple pieces of sound damper installed.

Installing some Thinsulate in the wells

Next I needed to plug the holes where the roof top AC lines passed though the floor. There are foam plugs in the floor that has holes knocked out for the AC lines, I stuffed in a couple pieces of scrap foam bits a little below flush and sealed it off with some Sikaflex 221.

The foam floor piece with the AC line holes

Scrap foam bits inserted in the holes a little below flush...

And all sealed off with some Sikaflex 221

And plastic re-installed.

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Continued from above...

Next up time to install the custom 3 way switch assemblies into the ceiling.

And time to install the lighting as well. I'll be using thin touch activated marine LED lighting. You can touch each one to turn on/off and hold to dim.

Mounting the lights onto the ceiling panels. Wires go through the ceiling and two mounting screws hold the assembly in place.

And installed. Lots of light and options with the 3 way switches. Panels are just loosely sitting in the L-track here.

Lookin Good!

Lots more to come.....



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Not a lot of progress today as I was working on other stuff most of the day. I did install an adjustable LED map/spot light over my son's seating position so he can have light at night without disturbing us up front.

Here's a pic of the light. It has it's own on/off switch and you can point the light where its needed.

Let's see....yep I think right about here will do!

With the location marked on the panel it's time to pull the panel down and cut the hole for the light.

First up I used some calipers to figure out the side of hole needed for the round portion of the light.

Then used the calipers to find something the same size that could be used as a pattern.....hmmm, a set of seal drivers should do nicely :)

Next back to the calipers to measure overall length needed and mark the cutout location for the switch.

Now a razor blade is used to carefully cut the fabric and foam backing.

I used a solder gun to burn the edges of the fabric to keep it from fraying.

And a jig saw to cut out the wood area.

And installed. This should work great for the kiddo :)

And finally pulling down the panels in preparation for insulation and electrical work.

More to come...



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On to roof racks......

I knew from the beginning that we wanted a roof rack included in the build, they are great for hanging out on and enjoying the birds eye view. On our Unimog build my father and I built our own rack and we thought about doing the same for the van....but in the interest of time I decided to purchase a rack instead. I originally settled on the RoamBuilt rack as I love the look of their rack on the van and the round lights on the front vs a LED light bar. I spoke with Roambuilt several times at overland events over the summer and they were very friendly. I finally decided it was time to pull the trigger and get one on order....well, that was the plan anyways. I went to RoamBuilt's website to contact them about some questions on light mounting and lead time, they list no phone number so your forced to contact them through email. I sent off an email and got a reply that the lead time was 8 weeks and I responded that I'd like to get one on order. I asked for a phone number but they wouldn't provide one which was frustrating as I had several questions about mounting Baja Designs lights to their rack which is different than the units they usually use, solar mounting options etc and a quick call would cover a lot of ground. Their reply to emails is sporadic at best, at times it would take numerous days to get a reply back via email and even if I sent a reply back within minutes of receiving an email it would take days again to get the next reply. I did a quick google search and customer service and accurate lead times seemed like something they don't have a great reputation for. Soon 2 weeks had already passed while I was still trying to get my questions asked....time to start looking at other options as summer is approaching. (Side note if you want to go with RoamBuilt I would suggest going through one of their dealers that you can actually call instead of trying to deal with RoamBuilt directly).

As I was looking for other rack options I came across a company called Stoked Adventure Outfitters in Canada that make some great looking racks as well. They make several different style aluminum racks and they are within driving distance for me, bonus! I contacted Stoked via email and got an instant reply back, questions were answered in almost real time! Stoked also provides a phone number and was more than willing to answer any questions that I had. They will customize the rack to fit what ever lighting you choose to go with and provide solar panel mounting for the panels of your choice. I liked that Stoked uses thicker 3/16" aluminum punch plate on the deck which makes it rock solid, we will have chairs up there etc so stability is important. Stoked said the lead time is 5 weeks and that time frame is accurate. I pulled the trigger and the rack was on order! Stoked kept me updated and even sent me pics during the build process...nice!

Fast forward to the Covid-19 outbreak and Stoked was working hard to finish the rack ahead of schedule before the shop providing their powder coating shut down. They finished the rack early and send me a message that it was ready to be picked up. Originally we were going to make a family weekend trip up to Canada to pick up the rack but with the Covid lock down in place we decided that shipping might be the better option. Stoked did an awesome job crating the rack and arranging shipping to WA, 3 days later the rack was delivered and in hand!

The rack in the crate as it arrived...Nice job on the crating!

Great attention to detail to ensure the powder coating remained undamaged.

Lot's of bracing under the punch plate, will make for a nice solid deck.

And out of the crate. No shipping damage....Sweet!

The solar panel will mount into the provided aluminum bracing on on the upper portion of the front rack and cover the open section where the punch plate stops. (Red Arrows)

These are the aluminum backing plates that slide into the factory roof rails and tie the mounting feet down to the roof rails.

Got busy and didn't snap pics of the install...but it looks great! Can't wait to get the lights and solar panel installed, it will fill out the front portion of the rack nicely. The rack will sport 6 Baja Designs LP-9 lights facing forward and 6 flood lights (2 on each side and 2 on the rear). The rack will also sport a 10' Fiamma awning on the passenger side and a single Renogy Mono Solar Panel.

The upper deck. The deck is very solid and will make a great platform to hang out on, just be careful as its a LONG ways down from the top!

Very happy with the Stoked rack, quality is great and their customer service is top notch! If your in the market for a Sprinter or Transit rack I'd highly recommend Stoked Adventure Outfitters.



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Lights Baby!

Up this am to lay out the spacing for the front lights. A little measuring and marking...then check everything twice before drilling. :)

Trying to catch as many of the aluminum shavings as possible :)

Starting to bolt the lights in place to check for proper spacing. I'll pull them back off again to drill the other two holes on each light.

Here I'm using a scrap piece of metal to make a jig to mark center on the two smaller holes on either side of the main mounting bolt.

To use the jig you put the mounting bolt through the hole in the rack and use a pencil in the small hole to mark the center ark on the side holes.

Then a piece of 1" stock used to mark center

And mounted up. Lots of built in cooling

Test fitting the solar panel, just sitting loosely in this pic. I had this panel already when they made the rack, I may eventually modify the mounts to add a larger panel if the need arises. I will make some trim pieces to fill in the side gaps.

Lights mounted.....going to be bright!!



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Time to start running the wiring....lots of wiring!

First up I loosened up the rack and lifted it up on one side to get clearance for the cable gland install.

To pass the wires through the roof of the van I'll be using two SeaView Cable Glands with the metal powder coated caps, these are marine units and work really well to keep water out. I've used these cable glands on numerous builds and have yet to have one leak.

The cable gland broken down. The kit comes with pieces of brass tubing that you chuck up in a drill and basically melt a hold through the rubber compression fitting. The tubing leaves a nice clean hole, don't use a drill bit as it will NOT leave a clean hole in the rubber.

Pic the correct size of tubing for your wire diameter and drill the holes where you need them.

Holes drilled...ready to install on the van.

Test fitting for location...yep right about here will do.

Using a right angle drill to drill a pilot hole on each end of the cable gland base. Once the base is anchored in place with two screws use a drill bit to mark the holes for the wires by slightly drilling through each hole in the rubber bushing to create a mark on the roof, then remove the cable gland and drill pilot holes for the wires.

Using a Unibit to open up the holes for the wires to pass through.

Now to use the de-burring tool to take the sharp edges off the holes.

Holes drilled.

Didn't get a pic but I painted the bare edges on the holes. Next up time to assemble the cable gland. I have always added some Sikaflex 221 to the base to ensure a waterproof seal.

I also add 221 to the stainless screws that attach the base to the roof.

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