My Fourth Conversion
In June 2018 I bought a 2006 Iveco Daily 35C12 box van. The van has a 4.2 metre long box which is 2.5 metres high and 2.1 metres wide. It has a fibre glass Luton part over the cab.
I moved into this van as soon as I bought it empty and I had to build it around me! I had done this before with my Sprinter and had found it quite stressful so this time I made the van really comfortable to live in as it was. I got a new cooker and mattress straight away, got a bed frame off someone who was selling one cheap on Ebay and a small sofa free on Freecycle. Luckily that year we had a great summer and so there was no pressure to get it insulated immediately.
In July the first thing I did once I had the time was fix the solar panel to the roof and set up the batteries, charge controller and inverter. I had a 12v and 240v set up although the plugs, sockets and most lights were not installed until later once the insulation and plywood went up. At the end of the month I fitted the side door which came ready made from a vehicle door supplier and was a pretty easy job. It took a day but compared to the week it had taken to fabricate and fit the side door in my previous build I was happy I had just bought a ready made one!
The following month I fitted the skylight and two windows. Personally I think the Seitz quality has dropped, neither windows worked as well as my last ones, particularly the mechanism of putting the blind/fly screen up and down. On the skylight the blind/fly screen has broken after only 18 months of use. I also insulated the ceiling with 50mm insulation board (Kingspan) and then used 6mm plywood to cover it.
The next month I started insulating the walls, I used 25mm insulation board (Kingspan) and put 50 x 25mm battens where I wanted to attach the plywood panels and any furniture. I used 6mm plywood to cover the insulation. I got one side done and then in October didn't do anything on the van, I did drive it from Ireland to Portugal though! In November I finished the walls and then used 40mm insulation board (Kingspan) on the floor and covered it with 12mm plywood. I then varnished the walls and floor with a clear matt varnish.
At the end of the month I fitted the wood burner which was made by my friend Gaz Rye who also made my last wood burner. There is a link to his shop on my Creativity page. I was now ready for the winter and despite spending it on the Algarve I was glad to have the van insulated and the wood burner glowing on cold evenings!
After using a wonky step ladder for months a friend hurt herself on it after a few glasses of wine and so I made a proper set of solid steps that bolt to the van when stationary. In June 2019, after a year of using a table with the cooker to one side I built the kitchen units, a fold down table and the first part of the seat box that will eventually go across the width of the van. Another good few months were to go by before doing anything else!
In September 2019 I drove back to the UK to get my MOT and also do some work. On the way back I had a few technical issues, a water leak, a bulge in the tyre, a fuel leak and headlights flashing. It did not make for a relaxing journey back! After a few days in the garage and a few hundred pounds out of my bank account the van was back to normal with another years MOT on it.
In October 2019 I insulated the Luton part with 3mm closed cell insulation. This was not enough as I found out that winter while in Ireland for a month. This needs to be done again, either with two more layers at least of 3mm or a thicker version. I used some insulation board at the bottom and some 6mm plywood to cover it but needed something more flexible for the Luton itself. The Luton is just a large storage space, it can hold approx 50kg and so is a great space for spare bedding, towels, clothes and some other bits and bobs. Because it is not that easily accessible due to the kitchen units being in front of it I tend not to put things I use daily up there.
The same month I also painted the ceiling with a dark wood matt varnish and did a second coat of clear matt varnish on the walls. Both looked good and were a great success, what was not such a success was painting the floor. I used a mahogany gloss varnish for the floor that did not go on very well in the first place. Eventually after 4 coats it looked half decent but is actually awful. It shows up every speck of dust and dirt, it scratches easily and shows every small scratch and mark. Eventually I will sand it back to its original colour and use a clear matt varnish to protect it.
In February 2020 I tackled some rust spots on the bodywork before driving to Morocco. There I had the roller shutter door and tail lift taken off and replaced with new doors. The top door opens up to create an awning and the bottom door opens down to make a platform or can go all the way down so it is more out of the way. I had brought the last bit of insulation with me knowing that I was going to get this done and so afterwards was able to insulate the doors. There will be 6mm plywood on the top door with a porthole window in it and 12mm plywood on the bottom so it is nice and sturdy to stand on. At the time of writing I am still in Morocco on Corona virus lock-down so will update the page once this is done.
As well as fixing plywood to the back doors I need to insulate and cover the very back corners which had been left due to the roller shutter door and tail lift. Also above where the roller shutter was fixed needs insulating and covering with plywood. The other main job is making the rest of the seat box to go across the width of the van. Then I want to make a frame around the Luton and fix two panels at each end. I was going to then add doors but I think I will probably just leave it with a curtain. This is after more insulation up there. I want to put some tiles around the cooker area and I need to do some sealing where the walls meet the ceiling. Afterwards perhaps a shelf or two but I am deliberately keeping storage space to a minimum as I have enough storage already and do not want more space to fill. Also I am aware that I need to keep my weight to a minimum. I believe I can up-plate to 4000kg so once I am near a weigh bridge I do need to see what I am weighing in at.
I haven't got an exact breakdown of what I spent but the over all cost of the build materials to date is around £5000 with the van costing £3,500 initially. The breakdown here is approximate and does not include everything:
£500 - Plywood and Battening
£250 - Insulation
£600 - Windows and Skylight
£350 - Door
£600 - Solar System
£150 - Wood Burner and Flue
£250 - Cooker
£200 - Back Doors
See the photos below of the van conversion taking shape:
No insulation or windows but I had to make it comfortable enough to live in for 6 months. It was possible I might not get much done until the autumn so best to be cosy!
The first job was getting the 260w solar panel on the roof. Not only was it getting in the way and potentially going to get smashed in the van, but I wanted power!
I fixed the charge controller to the wall for the time being and wired up a couple of lights and the inverter.
Next job was the side door, ready made just needed fitting.
Despite it being quite scary cutting holes in vans I've never had a total disaster yet. Measure twice, cut once is the saying but I say measure twice then get someone else to measure as well!
The door is fitted in a day.
Next job is to fit the skylight, just got it in before it rained. The sealant didn't go off properly the first time and so it leaked. second time round was fine.
Cutting holes for windows, I just put a window each side on this van.
Where possible I think the best way with a vehicle conversion is to work from the top to the bottom. We insulated the ceiling with 50mm Kingspan.
Some of the work was done while living roadside. Luckily we were somewhere fairly quiet and out of the way.
I used 6mm plywood on the ceiling to cover the insulation boards.
I used 25mm Kingspan on the walls and did a section at a time.
Progress was slow at times but as I had a comfortable bed and decent cooker it was fine.
My build continued once I got to Ireland in September.
In Ireland I continued building while living roadside.
Soon I was lining the walls with 6mm plywood.
One side was complete by the time I left Ireland for Portugal.
Insulation and Plywood
For a lot of the time I had my mattress on top of the pile of insulation and plywood I had brought from the UK. Moving it all around to get to things was annoying at times but the more I did the more the pile started going down! Once in Portugal I had a geo dome to live in so things became easier.
One side of the van had far more electrics, the charge controller, 3 lights, 12v sockets and a 240v socket.
I drew on the walls where I thought sockets, lights and cables should be.
I had two 105amph batteries that would be fixed in place once the floor was in.
The final part of the side wall was insulated.
I measured the 240v back box and cut out that piece of insulation.
I fixed the lights, I can highly recommend these spot lights. There is a built in switch so no need to worry about a separate switch and they can be positioned however you want. I point mine at what I am doing if I need bright light and up towards the ceiling for more ambient light.
I just had the part under the Luton to finish now.
With that finished we were ready to start on the floor. We used 40mm Kingspan to insulate the floor.
I used 12mm plywood on the floor.
I varnished the floor with a clear varnish to protect it.
In Portugal I was building on private land and so was able to leave things outside.
The bed frame was a metal frame from the cheap bed I had bought when I first moved into the van. We used a piece of French Chestnut left over from the house build in Portugal to cover the metal and make it look nicer.
With the bed in place the mattress and bed covers could go back on.
We made a box for the wood burner to sit on as we only had 2m of flue and didn't really want to buy more especially as having the box meant some wood storage underneath!
The wood burner was made by my friend Gaz in the UK.
I bought a sheet of tin to line the walls, I left a gap between the tin and the plywood by using nuts.
I have never had any success with hats on chimneys on vans. They have either been knocked off early on or not fitted correctly in the first place. This one got knocked off early on!
The first fire in the wood burner to check for any leaks in the flue.
We had been using a very old set of steps that were a bit wobbly. A friend fell on them after a few drinks and so we made a sturdy wooded set that bolts to the van.
While in Ireland I had acquired these mats that fitted the steps perfectly! Believe it or not the steps were not made to fit the mats.
We built kitchen units with a gap for the full sized house cooker.
We added wood to stop things falling out of the cupboards. We made a piece of wood on the top attached to the wall at one end and a wooden box at the other to hold large jars and bottles.
We made a fold away table and a seat box.
Table and Seat Box
Under the seat box was the inverter and 12v fuse box and just behind were the batteries.
There were rust spots appearing on the bonnet which needed attention.
We took a couple of days to sand off the rust and get back to bare metal before priming.
We also tackled some rust on the cab above the windscreen.
While we had the primer out we started protecting the chassis.
While in Morocco we had the roller shutter door taken off.
It didn't take long to have the door off.
We also had the tail lift taken off which also did not take long but took a few people to lift it, 6 I think!
The back doors were made to our specifications.
It wasn't long before both doors were fitted.
All looking good from the inside.
All finished in one day!
A coat of undercoat on the doors before the spaying.
Spraying the white paint on the back doors.
Finishing off the first coat of white.
It's not the best paint job ever but believe me we got a bargain price compared to what we would have paid in Europe.
The doors are now ready to be insulated.
We had kept a couple of sheets of 25mm insulation board for the job.
The finished van in Morocco driving through the Anti-Atlas mountains on the way to Imsouane where we will spend lockdown. It's as finished as it can be until shops are open again and we can get back to Europe!
Despite the fact I say that I did all the work on these builds, it is not strictly true as you can see from some of the photos! With this build I was helped immensely by my partner and band mate Frank and our friend and band mate Kev. We have all built campers in the past so we all brought our own insights which was great.
If you have any questions about my conversions, materials or suppliers used please feel free to email me using the button below and I will do my best to help.