My Dad loves a DIY project and since I was very young I remember him spending all of his spare time doing projects on our house and renovating old cars! He also has a passion for upcycling too it seems; upcycling on a much larger scale to what I have ever done. For his latest project he is converting a Mercedes Sprinter van into a Camper Van to tour around Europe with my Mum - combining his love of DIY and motors.
When it's completed I will make sure I borrow it to do some travelling myself... although I will leave the driving to Rob as I'm not sure I'd have much luck seen as I can't seem to perfect parking my little Fiat 500 without scraping it on a concrete post!
I decided to ask my Dad for a breakdown on his project and the decisions he made for the design. Read on to see a brief overview to how he did it!
Overview of camper van design by my Dad
- Decided to have a holiday in Europe touring using a camper van.
- Searched on internet sites for a suitable camper van but found them too expensive or too old for the budget that I had decided on.
- Decided to buy a base van and convert it myself.
- Chose a Mercedes Sprinter medium wheelbase, which would give me reliability and the required space I needed for the conversion.
- Found that most of these vans for sale on the internet were from companies which meant the price had 20% VAT added to the advertised price.
- Finally came across a Sprinter being privately sold from a person who had purchased it to do his own conversion but changed his mind. This had a commercial conversion already carried out with side windows, a Webasto diesel space heater and steel cabinets.
- I stripped out all of the interior fittings in the rear of the van except the diesel heater.
- Carried out a lot of research on the internet for furniture design, material specs, gas and electric specs and construction methods (Youtube to the rescue)
- There are a few companies out there who make flat pack furniture for Volkswagen T2 to T5 range of vans but none for the sprinter
- Needed to learn woodwork routing skills also courtesy of Youtube to be able to build my own furniture. A lot of time and care needed to get a professional finish.
- Did a few practice runs on surplus material before attempting the final run.
- I didn’t want the van to look like a caravan inside with brown wood and cloth seats so I decided on a contemporary design using black Carbon fibre effect lightweight furniture board, complemented by brushed aluminium fittings/appliances and sliding tambour doors.
- I used a premade (expensive) crash tested Rock & roll bed that converts from a two seater seat with seat belts, to a double bed with just the pull of a single lever.
- Found that good appliances manufactured for van conversions are expensive in relation to domestic appliances. This is all dependent on budget and the type of appliances that you decide to install. Good company called Wellhouse camper vans in Huddersfield is almost a one stop shop for the self build geek.
- I purchased two nice leather front seats with arm rests from a car salvage dealer out of an Alfa Romeo to replace the worn original vinyl seats and had the rear seats reupholstered to match.
- The route I have taken with this conversion has not been cheap but still a great deal cheaper than a company converted van.
- An alternative to my chosen design decision is to source an older van, some equipment can be sourced from caravan salvage dealers. You can use MDF instead of the expensive laminated furniture board. Use an alternative design for the bed using a fold out frame and bed slats. Spend time to get a professional finish.
My Dad is fitting a rack within the back of the van to store two folding bikes; he bought them second hand on Gumtree for a bargain! He is also currently getting a pull out awning fitted to the roof of the van for extra space to sit outside under shelter. I can't wait till it's completely finished so I can borrow it!
Now that's a project combining both travel and interior design for sure... hope you like it!
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