144 4x4 for Family of 4 (and a dog)

asimba2

ourkaravan.com
I know you don't want to hear this but the Espar is my favorite thing in the van. There's nothing like knowing you have true 4-season capabilities and can keep the fam warm and happy regardless of what's going on outside.

I typically set it for about 52 deg overnight and when I wake up I crank it to 70-deg. (The thermostat can be reached from bed.)

One of my favorite times in the van was in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone when the skies went from sunny to sleeting in 15 minutes. We ran for the van, cranked on the heat and had lunch while the tourists scrambled like Trump's impeachment defense team. It was that moment that I realized the van was worth every penny I spent on it.
 

ken@yvr

New member
Stumbled across your write up. Cool, I am almost following your build plan as it happens without previously seeing this write up. Bought the new van November 30, 2020; only its a Ford Transit AWD. Had previously purchased a used Sprinter 4x4 crew in October from a guy that subsequently sold the van to someone else between taking my deposit and delivery to me. He asked to drive it for another month until his new van came. Thought would have been ok as it gave me time to sell my 2wd Pleasureway Sprinter camper. Did not think he would be unscrupulous A**##e and he sold it for more money to someone else. I threatened a lawsuit but decided I did not need the stress or bad Karma and let it go after I got my deposit back forthwith. Hunted around for another unicorn used Sprinter 4x4 and looked a couple of new ones, but ultimately found a new Ford Transit AWD for $25K less than a new MB. Since all vehicles depreciate, decided that the savings were better invested in my up-fit. I’m frugal. Mercedes does have better fit and finish but Ford isn’t that bad.

Swivel seats were first, now the windows are in. My first cut was the hardest as I did the sliding door with CRL, then the drivers side. There is huge fear in taking a brand new $50K vehicle and cutting big holes in it while your wife asks - ‘are you sure you know what you’re doing....’ of course I do. I did cut a sunroof in a $500 car when I was under 20; but that was 45 years ago! Insulation is partially in now, as we went camping first weekend and froze when it snowed in blank panel van. We are using 3M Thinsulate also. Installing 8020 track system for cabinets etc. Currently running wiring and roof vent is next as soon as rains lets up, I also bought diyvan adapter which finally arrived today in the mail. Ceiling is insulated except for panel Maxair is going. Having to work around multiple delays in product availability really as stuff arrives. Adhesives are hard to find in Canada and stuff takes longer if Amazon has to ship from US. Lots of things arrive and 1 or 2 parts are backordered for weeks so you have to work on what you can when you can. Thank god I’m retired with no firm deadline to live by.

My van is moving along and will be partially completed enough for the next short camping winter camping trip in a couple of weeks. It will still be camping but we will have both the Webasto heater and the plug in electric heater (with CG hookup) and insulation, so we should be a little more comfy for weekend 2. My electrical system should be mostly done by then but I do have the shore power component already in. We are under partial lockdown due to Covid so it is my Covid project. Covid is real (unfortunately, I have lost 2 friends to it), stay safe and be kind. Our camping trip is at a campground 30 miles away (local change of scenery).
 
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So, what's the verdict...a heater in your future? I'm personally on the fence.
Still no verdict...gonna have to test more. One of the biggest "plusses" is the idea that it will help control condensation. At this point I would consider it a luxury item. Would it be nice? absolutely. Is it an absolute necessity? At this point I would say no...but I will take it out in the cold a few more times and maybe I will change my mind.
 
Stumbled across your write up. Cool, I am almost following your build plan as it happens without previously seeing this write up. Bought the new van November 30, 2020; only its a Ford Transit AWD. Had previously purchased a used Sprinter 4x4 crew in October from a guy that subsequently sold the van to someone else between taking my deposit and delivery to me. He asked to drive it for another month until his new van came. Thought would have been ok as it gave me time to sell my 2wd Pleasureway Sprinter camper. Did not think he would be unscrupulous A**##e and he sold it for more money to someone else. I threatened a lawsuit but decided I did not need the stress or bad Karma and let it go after I got my deposit back forthwith. Hunted around for another unicorn used Sprinter 4x4 and looked a couple of new ones, but ultimately found a new Ford Transit AWD for $25K less than a new MB. Since all vehicles depreciate, decided that the savings were better invested in my up-fit. I’m frugal. Mercedes does have better fit and finish but Ford isn’t that bad.

Swivel seats were first, now the windows are in. My first cut was the hardest as I did the sliding door with CRL, then the drivers side. There is huge fear in taking a brand new $50K vehicle and cutting big holes in it while your wife asks - ‘are you sure you know what you’re doing....’ of course I do. I did cut a sunroof in a $500 car when I was under 20; but that was 45 years ago! Insulation is partially in now, as we went camping first weekend and froze when it snowed in blank panel van. We are using 3M Thinsulate also. Installing 8020 track system for cabinets etc. Currently running wiring and roof vent is next as soon as rains lets up, I also bought diyvan adapter which finally arrived today in the mail. Ceiling is insulated except for panel Maxair is going. Having to work around multiple delays in product availability really as stuff arrives. Adhesives are hard to find in Canada and stuff takes longer if Amazon has to ship from US. Lots of things arrive and 1 or 2 parts are backordered for weeks so you have to work on what you can when you can. Thank god I’m retired with no firm deadline to live by.

My van is moving along and will be partially completed enough for the next short camping winter camping trip in a couple of weeks. It will still be camping but we will have both the Webasto heater and the plug in electric heater (with CG hookup) and insulation, so we should be a little more comfy for weekend 2. My electrical system should be mostly done by then but I do have the shore power component already in. We are under partial lockdown due to Covid so it is my Covid project. Covid is real (unfortunately, I have lost 2 friends to it), stay safe and be kind. Our camping trip is at a campground 30 miles away (local change of scenery).
ken@yvr, good luck with the build! Hope you can learn from some of my mistakes! Oh...and I almost bought the Ford too. I agree...so much more inexpensive. But I took one for a test drive and it broke down on me during the test drive. I know that isn't representative of all the Transits...but I just couldn't get over that. Felt so bad for the sales guy.
 
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I know you don't want to hear this but the Espar is my favorite thing in the van. There's nothing like knowing you have true 4-season capabilities and can keep the fam warm and happy regardless of what's going on outside.

I typically set it for about 52 deg overnight and when I wake up I crank it to 70-deg. (The thermostat can be reached from bed.)

One of my favorite times in the van was in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone when the skies went from sunny to sleeting in 15 minutes. We ran for the van, cranked on the heat and had lunch while the tourists scrambled like Trump's impeachment defense team. It was that moment that I realized the van was worth every penny I spent on it.
I definitely agree it would be nice to have. We have tent camped in Yosemite in the snow...the van is a definite upgrade from that. :) Just don't know if it is a priority at the moment....
 
Made a quick decision to head to Brianhead to ski/board for a couple days. How shall I carry those skis. No roof rack or any way to mount them to the outside of the van. Quick mod to my bike rack...nah. Gotta be inside. But I don't want all that melting snow in my van.

This is what I came up with. All from scraps from the rest of my build.

A scrap piece of 1/2 inch baltic birch as the base. A couple little scrap bits of 3/4 inch baltic birch to hold the skis. Some scrap bits of 1/4 inch foam to protect the skis and hold them tight. My wife owns skis. My kids rent...so I had to guess a bit (Spoiler alert...I guessed wrong.)

I took the lower bed out of the van. The scrap piece of 1/2 inch fit perfectly without any cuts. I placed it where I wanted it and marked out holes that would match with the L-track (that doubles as the bed rail). With the bed fastened in place I put my wife's ski on it and marked the ply out. Took it out.

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Cut 4x6 chunks of 3/4 ply to hold the skis in a vertical position. Screwed the 6 blocks in place and used double sided tape to stick the foam to the sides and back of the opening. Lovely.

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I put the rack back in place, put the skis on it, and held them tight to the new rack with a strap.

Being only 1/2 inch ply it was a bit wobbly for my liking. It needed some kind of support. Had a spare hinge lying around. Another little scrap piece of 3/4 (about 6 inches wide too), and a scrap piece of 1 by 4 aluminum angle. I used this to make a bracket/support piece that would go from the back of the "ski rack" to the horizontal L-track on the wall.
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Hmmmm still a bit wobbly since the bracket only held the center tight but not the sides. I just added a strap to the top to hold it tight from all directions. Worked like a charm.
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Also placed the whole thing in a long/low plastic container so all the snow melt would end up in there. Boots would go there too.

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Friday morning...pick up the rental skis. One pair fit. The other...needed some quick mods to the rack. No worries. Move one set of blocks. Add a couple extra layers of foam...good to go. I snowboard...so I just put my board in my board bag...the snow can melt in there.

It all worked out well...If I was actually buying materials for it an not using scrap I would probably use 3/4. That would eliminate the need for the support piece/strap. I will also probably add a second row of blocks at the bottom to hold the skis at both the top and bottom just because. I might even add a way to close the ski holders and eliminate the strap completely. Or, I might eliminate the whole thing and buy a roof rack. :)

Oh...and the temps. It got down to about 23F overnight...we slept in a hotel so our warm bodies weren't in the van to help keep it warm but the inside temp the next morning was 31F. Not sure what that says about my insulation....
 
PROJECT 28: Re-modify the re-re-remodified third panel of my bed

So after a bit of time off the projects, to occupy my time I decided to finally re-re-re-re-remodify that third panel of my bed. I feel like I finally nailed it. For real. I feel like this is the one. (Watch this space….there is a possibility you will read about another re-modification but I genuinely feel like I finally got this right).

CHALLENGE: My wife is a teacher. I have two school aged kids. There is a global pandemic. I live in California where two drops of rain constitutes “Storm Watch 2021!!!” For those of you who don’t live here you can imagine how Covid is being treated. For those of you who do….

The challenge is trying to work on anything that involves cutting or sanding while your wife is trying to teach students via zoom and not disturb them. Not happening. I literally do quiet preparation work. 9 to 9:15 is break time...cut. 10:45-11:50 is lunch. Cut AND Sand. Oy vey. Can’t wait till they get back in the classroom.

Alright… a recap...I have two side cubbies above the wheel wells. I have two bed panels that fit between them and each tilt up creating a “couch” that can face either front of van, or out the rear of the van. I love these. The third panel is a work in progress. I suppose the ideal solution would have been the telescoping option like AdWag or like Hodakaguy has built. But I didn’t do that. I don't know if I have the skill or wherewithal to do such a thing, nor did I know where to source telecoping aluminum. I thought my attempts at a non telescoping version were decent at the time...but turned out to be a bit tough to install and remove.

For my newest solution I decided I was going to make a prototype first. For about $20 in glue I took all my scraps and leftover baltic birch plywood (I save all my scraps), and laminated them to make 1.5 inch thick sheets. I ripped them down to 1.5 inch strips. This, of course, would mimmick 15 series 80/20 should I eventually want to build it for reals out of that (overpriced) product.

Long story short, I built a box with this. This box stretches from the driver’s side wall, about halfway across the van. Said box completes my half of the bed to give me over 6’3 of sleeping room (I am 6’2). The box is divided into two sections for storage. I fastened it to the floor and wall on the L-track. Rock solid. I now cut covers for said storage compartments. Inset magnets into the lids and box frame, upholstered the lids and voila. Done. Lids are easy to remove. No dealing with latches. They are held on super tight.

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Screw in some hooks inside the smaller storage compartment and hang a laundry bag...we have a hamper.

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The larger section perfectly fits two milk crate style boxes I already had on hand. Full disclosure...I had to redesign my initial build of this to make sure they fit after I realized they could fit perfectly with a tweak to the design. Bonus because I didn’t have to buy new storage boxes.

Alright...my sleeping spot is taken care of. That makes me happy. What also makes me happy is when my wife gets to sleep. So….I guess I better figure out her side of the bed. She is shorter than me. She doesn’t need 6’3. Her side of the bed happens to sit over the toilet. Ya...I know. So, to access the toilet conveniently without making the girls fold themselves in half while peeing, I thought I would make the second half of the bed a bit shorter.

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...continued below....
 
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....continued from above...

Also...I had the lagun table mount. I used ¾ inch ply to make the table. I could never figure out a place to store the table conveniently when not in use. It ended up heavy and somewhat inconvenient. (Probably not the best time to mention this...but I have a lagun table mount for sale if you are interested...for real). So...why not dual purpose...table and rest of the bed.

I made the table to fit the spot between the passenger wall and the newly created 1.5 ply box. ½ baltic birch. Reinforced in strategic places. I had an old Coleman camp kitchen in my shed that hasn’t been used in years. Took a leg from that. Used the aluminum angle (¼ inch by 1 inch) that was originally the trim piece to the rear floor of the van as a hook at the end. Magnets to hold it all down. What? I know. That made no sense. Hopefully this pic helps describe that better...but if not... Let me try again...

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When in bed position...The table sits on a bracket which is fastened into the L-track on the passenger side and sits on top of the box in the middle of the van. It is all held down with magnets. The table leg is held firm to the table with a velcro strap.

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When in table position….Fold leg down and I hook the little hook device, I so eloquently described above, onto the L-track on the driver’s side wall. Soooo much easier and lighter than the Lagun...and it is dual purpose which I love. (Did I mention I have a Lagun for sale?).

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In the pic on the right you can see yet another of my errors. Rushing to get it done I glued down the cross piece without first routing out a slot for the aluminum "hook.". So....I first thought about routing a slot into the end of table and sliding it in...then decided to just route out the entire thing, then cut a piece of 1/4 inch ply to fit in. Dumb. But typical of me if I'm being honest.

While I was at it I also modified the side cubbies. I un-second guessed myself and went back to my original design creating top access, rather than the side access. I left the side access because...why not? The tops now get secured with, you guessed it...magnets. Love those magnets. (This is the part where someone will make a comment like “let’s see how much you love those magnets when you crash and those lids are missiles in your van...to which I say...fair point. Let’s hope I don’t crash).

I didn't take great pics of this, but in the post above this one you can see the little holes I put in the lids as handles...

All in all I am very pleased with this modification. Much more pleased with the modification than you are with my write-up about said modification. But I am fine with that.

Oh...and my homemade 1.5 inch thick ply...I kind of dig it. I don’t think I will switch to 80/20….at least for a while…
 

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