WE DID IT! Trev is ready for his first trip as a camper van. 2months from his journey from Scotland as an ambulance, and 5 days of hard labour in Wales. Chuffed to bits doesn’t even cover it. Check. Him. Out.
Ride free Big Trev….
The plan was to be heading for the Cornish coast on Thursday 24 August. It has been raining in Wales for 3 days and Trev has a leak. Grim faces all round. While I stare glumly out the window wondering if it’s too late to book a flight to Greece, Slim and Geoff are off to the builder’s yard (again) to find something to solve the problem. With a brief respite from the rain Slim is up on the roof smothering it with all manner of drip-stopping stuff (it does exactly what it says on the tin). Fingers crossed!
Turns out crossing your fingers doesn’t work. It’s 6am on Friday morning and we are planning to be on the road in 3 hours. Nope. The leak is back. Because Slim is a trooper he is out of bed and outside rumaging in the garage for something to fix it. I hate early mornings and rain but I am there too with my pac-a-mac over my jimjams holding a ladder. We are pretty sure we have earnt a holiday now and a drippy roof is not going to stop it. There’s nothing for it but another trip to the builders yard and this time returning with some sylglas. Trev’s skylight hat is covered with this stuff- it don’t look pretty but if it keeps us dry for 2 weeks we don’t care.
The only thing left to do is to pack up our stuff, plus what seems to be Pat & Geoff’s entire collection of camping gear and hit the road.
When we took our selection of Dulux Ruby Fountain 1 to the counter in BBQ to be mixed the guy said ‘our reds look a bit pink but don’t worry they do dry red’.
A BIT pink! Slim has been looking quite the macho man weilding his power tools on the streets of Brixton but this colour did nothing for his street cred.
4 coats later we finally have the colour we were hoping for and we are not disappointed.
We now hold our breath as the first coat of Teal Tension goes on. There is only time for 2 coats…
Once I got the hang of which was a sewing line and which was my cutting line I was well away.
Ann & Merry came to stay at the Sharratt B&B and within 10mins of walking through the door they too had fallen in love with the Big Trev project and couldn’t wait to help. (There was no bribary what-so-ever!)
With the 3 of us sewing, nattering and drinking tea the job was complete in no time and we had a satisfactory pile of black outs.
The next stage was to attach silver material to one side to keep the heat out when hot and to turn round to keep the heat in when cold. We had bought some rescue blankets from the 99p store and 1 roll of gaffa tape thinking that this would totally do the trick. We were half right. The silver rescue blankets were very crinkley and weren’t going to stand up to much so I made it flexible and durable by covering one side of the silver with gaffa tape. 110meters of gaffa tape later the job was done and looked smashing.
The last bit of sewing to be done was making a modesty curtain for the side door. We chose a nice red muslin and with my cocky new skills figured it would be a matter of seconds to knock it up. Nope this material was not having any of the sewing machine business so this was 100% hand sewn (not all by me- you will be able to spot the stitches I did compared to the beautiful ones Pat made). Which also would have been fine had I not decided to sew 34 pennies into individual pockets along the bottom to add some weight.
On the rainy days I knew I had drawn the long straw while I watched poor Slim & Geoff trapse back and forth. And on sunny days the curtain looks beautiful as you lie in bed waiting for the kettle to boil.
With the floor done, we were now able to start fitting the furniture, starting with the storage units. With the cooker/ sink going on the drivers side wall at the back of the van, it was decided to have a full height storage unit on the opposite wall.
With this in mind, we had already blacked out the rear windows with vinyl, with the idea of covering them with 9mm ply. A good amount of loft insulation was packed in and taped into position, before the pre-painted boards were screwed into place.
Self tappers directly into the moulding made for a solid fit, and the 9mm ply was flexible enough to follow the curve of the van walls. The same idea was repeated on the other rear window, with a matching board.
Once the rear windows had been covered, the storage area could be fitted together. We’d found some IKEA baskets that would suit for storage of soft stuff such as clothes, we would then just have to build a frame to house these in, meaning we could do away with complicated/ bulky doors. All we’d need would be a shelf structure, and some way of strapping them in during transit.
We had measured up the space available, and it worked out that we could get two rows of three baskets in, with room underneath for more shelves for heavier items. The frame was made up of softwood timber, around 1 1/2″ x 1″. Making it self supporting meant that it wouldn’t exert too much force on the side panels of the van, and would only need to be tied in to the cupboard above to stop it tipping over.
By carfeul measurement of the baskets and the space available, we were able to fine-tune the design of the storage to maximise the available room. It all came together well, and once screwed into the ply floor, and the timber cupboard above, became a very solid structure.
6mm ply was then used to make the two long shelves, each supporting three basekets, and screwed into position on the cross bars. This added another element of rigidity – it should now be able to support a fair weight without too much trouble.
To finish off the storage area (and to stop anything falling from the sides of the shelves) a facia board went on both ends of the cupboard, which was profiled in the same way as the cab partition (out of 6mm ply this time; re-using the original hardboard profile as a template). A thin wooden trim was added to the ply faces to complete the frame, and hide the rough edges of the ply. All that was left was to add two sets of bungee cords and hooks, meaning the baskets would be easily strapped in for transit.
It had been our intention to paint the sides and shelves of the storage unit, but once it was all put together, the grain of the ply looked fine as it was, so we left the paint alone, and just left it as nature intended.
With the storage in place, this was the last bit of heavy work planned for the first stage, and only clean jobs lef to do before holidays…
We had always aimed to replace the perspex panel behind the driver’s seat, with a permanent partition between the cab and the main area of the van. This was for a few reasons: to improve on insulation for the living area, to make the living are more secure, and also to cut down on noise when driving. Because of the useful area of the bulkhead above the cab, it was decided to fix a section of 9mm ply flush with the shelf above. To mount this into place – and with the curving profile of the van sides – a support frame would be needed. Once again, salvaged timber came to the rescue – this time : 30 year old teak bunk bed frames.
A cross bar was screwed into the floor to stop any movement towards the cab, then three uprights were bolted into position through the solid steel of the bulkhead. To aid the structure, a second cross-piece was screwed in half up the verticals. On the cab side, just for extra support, the horizontal beam was supported by internal teak support bars, to provide a really strong structure for the ply skin.
Once the structure was in place, the fiddly job of forming the profiles of the curved van sides was started. A two-piece solution was needed, as standard 8’x4′ boards wouldn’t have done the whole area in one. This also meant that it wass easier to get both of the difficult curved profiles cut before the easier central joining line wass done. A template of hardboard was shaped using a rasp and jigsaw, (much easier to work with, and less expensive should anything go wrong, than the final 9mm ply). With the two profiles cut on two sheets of ply, they were offered up to show the exact position of the join.
The two sides joined up even better than expected, and were tacked onto the teak frame with panel pins. The boards sat nicely over the newly fitted vinyl, and meant that any untidy knife cuts were hidden behind the partition on the cab side. This could then be caulked, if necessary, to stop any dirt or water getting underneath (it turned out that it was such a tight fit that this wasnt really needed).
A single coat of primer was painted on, and it was ready for its ‘feature wall’ (!) top-coat…
The teak frame really worked out well, meaning that even with relatively thin 9mm ply, the wall is strong enough to lean on without ending up in the cab…
So, with only 5 days to go until Trev was due for his first proper holiday as a real camper, we decamped to Wales for some intensive work to get the van into shape for sleeping in…First priorities were was the floor and the step – the two issues that had really caused most grief and added time onto the conversion so far.
With the structure of the step now solid – with Unistrut bolted onto the underside to stop any movement – the step could then be built up with layers of ply bonded in to fill to the level of the main floor. With Trev’s list of helpers growing all the time, Geoff used his endless supplies of scrap timber – salvaged from sometime in the last century – to pack this out, and to get a perfectly level surface.
It was obvious that to create an even surface on which to secure the vinyl, a leveling compound would be needed to fill the gaps and dips where the batons had been fixed. After much debate, and a couple of trips to the buiders yard, a tile adhesive was decided upon. This would be pliable enough to scrape on using a trowel, yet course enough to be able to sand off with a belt sander to get the requred smooth finish. Having forked out for a the best bit of vinyl covering Brixton had to offer, it’d be a shame to spoil it with any lumps and bumps.
Once the tile adhesive had been left over night to dry, it was sanded down thoroughly, and proved to be as good a finish as hoped for.
The big moment was finally here – the floor was now level enough to walk on in bare feet, the step was now level and secure, and it was time to fit the vinyl.
Having never laid vinyl in a nice rectangular kitchen, let alone a van with wheel arches and upwardly curving sides, we all felt a little aprehensive about laying this down. But by taking it slowly with a very sharp knife, and a helpul dad, the vinyl went down without too many hiccups. The rivits holding the interior mouldings in place were drilled out, meaning that the vinyl could be pushed under the plastic to make a really neat finish. By folding the vinyl in two and working on one side at a time, carpet adhesive (and a fair amount of it too…) was used to fix it into place. The rivits were then replaced by self tappers to hold everything together.
Once the floor was all stuck into place, the van really seemed to pull together as a camper, and suddenly it seemed possible that in a couple of days this could be our bedroom…