Stone Grey - Into the Fray


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We have been using (building) an AWD Chevy Express for the past 5 years to do local weekend and some longer (week or two) forays into the wilds.
We mostly like off road random camping so the AWD was a must.
The Express had a nice bed platform with front access to our clothes and stuff and rear pullout drawers that contained our kitchen. I also build several overhead cabinets for stuff. You can never have too much storage space. It had a 100 watts on the roof to charge phones etc. and power our portable 12V fridge. It worked well.

This past winter we spent two months in it on the Baja and decided we needed a couple of extra feet to be comfortable for that length of time.

I decided on a Sprinter because of the low range. I am hoping rear lockers become available eventually.
After not finding a reasonably priced used 144, we started looking at new, eventually settling on a 2019 170 that came with lots of fancy features.
Its a lot of moola, but hey, I'm investing in the next 5-10 years of our lives.

I'll do a professional quality build on it complete with hot and cold running water and an indoor kitchen. I have the skills.
I'll have lots of questions and hopefully ideas to share with others.
And please, no one take offence if I steal your ideas to use on our van. Its a compliment.

Here it is with 46KM on it when we picked it up.
We got a good deal as it had suffered some hail damage in a recent storm.


Here is what it is replacing. Soon to be up for sale.



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First up, while we contemplate the floor plan, is a roof rack.
I don't like stuff cluttering up my roof and affecting mileage and maneuverability, but solar. There is really no other place for it.

I'll do 300-400 watts and since I need a rack I will make it big enough for some stuff or for use as a deck.
Here's the plan. I'll either get someone to weld it, or use bolts, or a little of each.

I'm sourcing the aluminium now and it should cost $400-450 and weigh in at about 55lbs.

The van came with factory mounting rails. What are people using for nuts in the rail. Hex head, t-nuts? Is there an OEM nut?



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Welcome aboard! You’re about to embark on a van experience like no other. Every time you get up in the morning and put on your pants, you’ll bless the day, that hailstorm and Mother Merc. :rad:

I cant advise you, since my van pre-dates yours by nearly 20 years, but others will.


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Hi and welcome!

Take a look at @hein 's solar mounting brackets and 8020 frames.


I would say look at the Flatlinevanco Low profile roof rack it is extremely nice. Unfortunately they are currently out of stock but is well worth the wait. I realize the price is alot more but it has a really clean look and is very sturdy. Here is mine with 3 panels, vent, and deck.

Congrats on the new van! You are going to have a blast building and figuring everything out.



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We will be removing the 3 seat second row and the lower wall panels the crew van came with.

Is there much of a market for those items?
I've seen a few listed on here but shipping is a killer I expect.
The rear seats out of our Express van sold in a flash.
I sold both my 2nd row bench seat and rear headliner section in under a week. I priced both to sell as I really just wanted them out of my garage.


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First mod.
Since 80-90% of our driving is at speed on highways I always put a bug screen in front of the radiators.
Cheap bug screen from the hardware store roughly cut to size with a few tie wires to keep it in place.
I hate bugs in my rad.
It works for mud and probably offers some protection from flying stones as well.



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Took a look under the seats today to see what that swivel seat recall is all about.

The wiring to the seat is lame to say the least. The passenger side is a bundle of about 6 wires that has a narrow tape holding it together. It is mostly exposed wires and when the seat is in the most forward position it is stretched tightly over the hole in the swivel base. It is easy to see it wearing through after the seat has been swiveled a number of times.

I had some split loom wire protection laying around so I wrapped the wires. When I eventually get back to the dealer with it we'll see what they can add to make it better.
The ultimate solution is a longer wire bundle with some protection over it.

Driver's side had a thin sheath over it with a clip that seemed to do nothing.



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And the big news, bunk window.
I purchased a couple of the CR Laurance 33x10" sliders.
They look like a solid product, as is usually the case with CRL products.
We use a lot of their architectural glass fixtures in my construction projects.

A fellow needs a pretty large pair of cahoonies to cut a hole in the side of a brand new $80K vehicle without some anxiety.
Well, I was pretty anxious.

But it actually went quite well.
Yesterday I added some additional adhesion between the framing and the wall sheet metal. I'm glade I did as the once the hole is cut the wall becomes very floppy.

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I cut the hole after measuring three times, and consulting with the wife about placement.
Then I cut down the frames a further 1/4" to allow for the trim ring that goes on the inside.


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Since I spend my week days working for the man, well it's small local business, I tackle the larger projects on weekend.
During the week my aluminium order arrived, so it's roof rack time.

I ordered 2x2x1/4 angle and 2.25x1 channel.
I used some of the channel to make my mounting towers.
I also bought a short length of 1x1/8 flat bar to make the double t-nut that fits in the OEM mounting channel.
A few bags of nuts and bolts from Lowes rounded out the material list.


I decided on 4 towers on each side with three under the back half of the rack in case I ever have a party up there. The front half of the rack will just house the solar panels. The mounts were the most work. After they were built and installed it was just a matter of bolting on the two rails and then cutting the cross supports. Today I'll fasten down the cross bracing and then get on the side molding clip issue pointed out by many on this forum.
I'll be doing the repair the same way @Hodakaguy did in his build.



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While I was waiting for my drill battery to charge I took off a piece of the side molding.

Well surprise surprise.
It looks like the little clips that @Hodakaguy and his father put so much effort into cleaning and sealing with the Sikaflex have been changed to something that seals the water out.

See below the pile of Hodakaguys clips and a close ups of mine.


So I guess I dodged a bullet here.
Anyone else have these types of clips?
When did they start using them?


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Got the rest of the cross braces on.
Depending on the solar panels I get I may have to relocate the second one in from the front.
There is about 3/4" clearance for the Airmaxx fan that is going in front of the rack.


The cross braces deflect to touch the roof of the van with my weight on them.
If I end up using to sit on, I'll put down a plywood platform to prevent that.
Otherwise I'll only be up there to install the solar panels and the fan.
My aim was to keep as low a profile as possible.


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OK, I'm back at it.
The floor goes in first, but I need to remove the existing floor first.
I had originally planned on using the wood floor that came with the crew cab package, but after getting rid of the second row seat I was left with three gaping holes in the floor. Plus the factory floor is only 3/8 plywood and I wanted something a bit beefier to anchor tings to.

So I went with 5/8 sleepers with 1/2" styrofoam insulation between them. That gives me an R3. I will use PL400 to glue the sleepers and PL300 to glue the styrofoam.

The ribs on the floor are no where near imperial sizing so I just picked ribs that gave me a 6-9" spacing to carry the 1/2 sanded plywood I will use for sub-flooring. I'm running the 4x8 sheets length ways starting on the passenger side so all my joints end up under cabinets, except in the garage.
There was no rib at 48" so I offset one of the sleepers to get it. The ribs are 1/4 high so I added 1/4" ply to keep it flat. I also had to build up the sleepers on the outside edges of the floor as there are no ribs there.

I ran the sleepers over the old tie down bolt holes and drilled holes for future access to these stout support points.

This system will raise the floor level by about 5/8". Then another 1/8" for the sheet vinyl we will use. I can live with that.

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I'm getting good at removing trim pieces. I bought a set of tools for the job, it makes it so much easier.
because the floor will be higher than the factory floor, I had to remove the B pillar and rear corner trims. They look like a one piece fastener but a really a 2 piece, the outer piece expanding the inner piece as it gets pushed in.

I haven't decided if I will re-use these corner pieces with insulation behind them or build something.



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Spent the last couple of nights cutting the floor panels. I used the factory floor as a template, adding a 1/4" to the sides to get a tighter fit and letting the panel cover about 1/2 of the sliding door step well. I can trim it off later if the plan evolves that way.

So far I have a fairly concrete floor plan but the details are still being developed and will change as I mock up things for the wife to see.

I trimmed the B-pillar trim to get the floor panel under it. I used my flush cutter oscillating saw.


I drilled holes for all the factory tie down points in case I need to use them later and I also installed the t-nuts that will provide an anchor for the water tank hold down brackets and I used biscuits to bridge where the panels joined between the sleepers.


And all ready to glue and screw. I'll wait to do that for a night or two in case I think of some other things that need to done to the floor panels before they are permanently in place. A good foundation in imperative if you want a square and true superstructure.

I'll need to find some after market trims for the front and back edges of the floor.


There is a long weekend coming up. I'm hoping to get the van fully insulated and get started on the ceiling and wall panels. I'm thinking I'll use 1/4" baltic birch with an extra layer added where I'll be screwing cabinets to them. Any opinions?

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