2006 T1N overlander van build

jwmark

New member
My partner and I recently purchased a 2006 158WB Sprinter that had been used as a mobile trade show rig for a local tooling company. Although the company was based in Minneapolis, the van spent most of its ~200k miles traveling across southern states, so it's condition is remarkable. A full [American flag] wrap kept the body in decent shape. We plan to live in the van full time for at least a year, and then possibly sell it or hold onto it for summer adventures. But who are we kidding, we'll probably never sell it.

We debated van models for months, and in fact we were decided on a LWB HR Transit before we bought this van. But something didn't feel right. There are plenty of cool Transit, Promaster, and late model Sprinter builds out there, and I'm quite envious of some of the conversions I see, but we wanted a different challenge. Ultimately we settled on the T1N because of it's nostalgia, reliability, and proportions.

The design in still in progress, but a handful of the usual upgrades are in store, in addition to some (hopefully) unique mods. Two Motion Window sliders had already been installed in the rear and, as an extra bonus, the previous owner threw in a CR Lawrence side t-vent window and fixed slider door window. I plan to pull design inspiration from my concurrent 1963 Airstream renovation as well. Here it goes...
 

Attachments

Last edited:

jwmark

New member
Getting caught up on progress. Paint prep and primer before and after. Thankfully minimal rust and body work to remedy. The hood had a fair amount of rock chips, which I sanded and filled. It's nice to have a clean and consistent looking van again. It's my first time painting anything that moves, and I quickly learned that a 30 gallon compressor is massively underpowered for a van paint job. A new 60 gallon 2-stage compressor was procured post primer.
 

Attachments

jwmark

New member
Excited to reveal the fresh paint job. I have much respect for everyone on this forum who's undertaken a full van paint job. The immense amount of surface area allows little room for flaws in process. While there's a handful of mistakes, we are very happy with the results.

We took inspiration from an old UK troop transport Sprinter from the late 90s. The color is a deep olive green, with a hint of brown in the sunlight. Wheels were blasted and painted a gloss black at a local fab shop (for only $45 per wheel it was worth the time and cost savings), and after seeing them next to the old rusted bits, I painted the calipers and hubs black to match. The roof is painted white (will post on that later) to reduce heat gain.

Grill was swapped out to set things straight. I wanted the OEM grill badge but didn't like the chrome lettering for this aesthetic, so I painted the 316 a gloss black instead. Additional treats include the red tow hook, which pairs well with new Konis up front.

Future mods will include a few additional windows, skylight, and possibly flares. I'm toying with the idea of upper windows above the gutter line. Would provide a nice line of sight while standing in the van.
 

Attachments

jwmark

New member
Finished insulating the interior a few months back. Floor is 1/4" minicel in the grooves, secured with 3M 90 spray adhesive, and 3/8" floating on top of that. The white strips are expanded PVC trim available at any home store cut down to the total thickness of the foam. They will provide support for the plywood subfloor in high traffic areas (idea from @hein, as well as where the floor will be through-bolted for a passenger seat and rear tie-down tracks.

IMG_8607.JPGIMG_8609.JPG

We used 3M Thinulate SM600L in the walls and ceiling. I used fish tape to pull insulation into the frame members, and dropped the headliner to put a sheet up there as well. Having the van completely insulated creates a huge difference in the ride noise - it's extremely quiet now. Very happy with the results so far.

62784634132__CCA37A42-B50F-4011-9B39-94556D04C96F.JPG

The subfloor is 1/2" baltic birch. I routed 1-1/4" lap joints at the seams of each sheet and glued them together using two bowed 2x4s clamped at the seams. I was concerned about getting sufficient clamp force across the seam, but this method worked well, and was cheap. I then reinforced the bottoms of the seams with a 6oz 4" fiberglass tape set with an epoxy resin (another idea from @hein). Should be nice and strong. The flooring will be a woven vinyl.

IMG_8681.JPG

I hope to get it installed soon. I'm waiting for a fold up seat to arrive and a few pieces of l-track for rear cargo tie-downs.
 

jwmark

New member
I noticed a new engine noise on my last 100 mile trip. Injector #1 and #2 started leaking, so I plan to pull and reseal those next week. I inspected the injectors first thing when we purchased the van <500 miles ago and they were completely clean. I hope this means an easier fix due to catching it early.

Close-up of injector #1 and #2 on the left. Little residue so far.

IMG_8683.JPGIMG_8682.JPG
 

jwmark

New member
We're starting to plan for the more complex aspects of the interior build. Open space is the primary objective, which will require a complex design to also give us enough storage. I've come up with a modified 'S' shape. The bed in the rear will fold up in to the side, creating an open sightline through to the back of the van. The rear will double as work and mobile painting studio space.

Screen Shot 2020-12-11 at 12.57.43 PM.png

I built the model in sketchup to help with the planning process. It's not perfect, but it helps to approximate the design and to get a feel for its function.

Screen Shot 2020-12-11 at 12.44.57 PM.pngScreen Shot 2020-12-11 at 12.51.09 PM.png

The rear passenger seat is a foldaway model from Suburban seats, which will give us ~10" of additional space when tucked away. It's a luxury item for such a small amount of space gain, but its impact on living quality inside the van is, we think, worth it.

Screen Shot 2020-12-11 at 12.50.53 PM.png

Cabinet construction will be the biggest challenge. I plan to custom fabricate theses cabinets out of sheet aluminum or steel. It will be difficult to get the multiple compound curves to come out right, which I'm spending plenty of time stressing over, and watching multiple automotive sheet metal work YouTube videos to prep. The walls will be skinned in aluminum as well.
 
Nice work JW! Great looking paint job!
I'm not sure about your plan to build metal cabinets though. Sounds really difficult and potentially not as functional. Wood is so much more DIY friendly!
 

meta2

'05 2.7 140" Freightliner
Nice!
Like that color choice, and layout.
Its been a month since you posted about the injector leak, and maybe you've already tackled it.
But. If you haven't.
Get in there and clean the residue between the injectors. Scrap it while the engine is hot, and take care to not pry against the motor, too much.
Make sure both are indeed leaking. "Black death" residue travels and sometimes what looks like a multiple injector leak, is in fact just one.
Safety glass should be worn while inspecting, as the fuel pressures are pretty high.
Have a great build
-Peter
 

jwmark

New member
Nice!
Like that color choice, and layout.
Its been a month since you posted about the injector leak, and maybe you've already tackled it.
But. If you haven't.
Get in there and clean the residue between the injectors. Scrap it while the engine is hot, and take care to not pry against the motor, too much.
Make sure both are indeed leaking. "Black death" residue travels and sometimes what looks like a multiple injector leak, is in fact just one.
Safety glass should be worn while inspecting, as the fuel pressures are pretty high.
Have a great build
-Peter
Thanks Peter. I was able to get them replaced. Had to replace Injector #2 completely. Will likely pull the rest and get them tested and rebuilt if necessary this coming summer.
 

Aicam

New member
Thanks Peter. I was able to get them replaced. Had to replace Injector #2 completely. Will likely pull the rest and get them tested and rebuilt if necessary this coming summer.
Great work updating the van: the color and floor look great. I am also looking/test driving a similar car in Minneapolis this week: a 2006 T1N and I would like to know what you think about your experience driving yours this winter in Minnesota (if you did)... I never owned a diesel car and I heard that old models can be hard to maintain in cold weather (I only plan to use mine occasionally on weekends).
 

Top Bottom