Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Build blog on our demo Pop Top van. This build will highlight key upgrades and extras possible on a low roof Sprinter. Many of the things we will do in this build are as well ideal for a high roof Sprinter. This van will still be in the weekender style and ideal for a family of 4. This will be my personal van for at least year so going to build this one how I would build a weekender with no restrictions. It will still be very simple (but not cheap) as I don't live in the van, I camp in it with the family, take it to the beach and mountains, and use it to transport large items.
Here is what we are starting with a Crew 4WD Sprinter. We start with a crew van as they already have 80% of an interior, crash tested seating, heating duct for passengers, rear windows, flooring...saving thousands of dollars in the build...in a high roof as much as 8k in build costs if you use the stock interior.
We get it...its always nice to add some eye candy on you van. Its important to build your van in steps, in this case we need to modify the wheel wells to allow for larger tires. Here we use the Van Compass Kit to open up front and back wheel wells. We will be using 275's, but 265's are a great alternative as they are more practical for "real" off road use or heavy snow use as you gain more clearance. You can also use 265's on stock wheels and that tire fits in spare tire slot. Its super tight fit either way and fender modification is a must at least in the front wheel well.
example of what needs to be cut out.
Complete, gain 1.5" of clearance...ready for larger tires.
We also added some Owl Stuff. We are going to relocate the tire to make room for a water tank and the ladder will enable us to climb to the roof rack that will be put on this spring on the Pop Top. The B2 carrier on the right will have a box and bike carrier.
We had to remove the panels to install these items, when doing so we sound deadened and insulated the rear doors...when you have your van apart...do electrical, sound deadening, insulation. Its important to do things in proper order. We use top quality product only. Dynamat Extreme and 3M Thinsulate...yes there is a difference when you use quality materials. We also use a lot more than the average person, this makes our builds much quieter than most vans. We typically use 20-30% more material than the typical builder.
Example of Slider door...stock, sound deadening, and then insulation steps. Notice the difference from stock. (first pic). We as well stuff the areas you don't see with insulation as much as possible. We see a lot of customs whom insulation there vans but don't do the doors...its a HUGE difference if you do the doors...otherwise you only get about 50% of the benefit. It typically takes us about 20-25 hours do do a van. (not including the flooring). On a high roof about 150 square feet of sound deadener and insulation is typical on a high roof.
Its always fun to get eye candy on the van...and usually one of the first things owners do...I get it totally...here we have the new wheels on the van. Since I don't really do any hardcore off-roading I went with 275's...largest tire before you screw up the computer...265's are a better choice if you are in the snow and use cables/chains or doing any real off-roading...its wise to have that clearance. You do need however to modify your fenders to get them to fit.
and the spare of course
Like we tell everyone...electrical first when you take the van apart...this build no exception, we added auxillary AGM batteries in the hood to keep the inside clean and clutter free. AGM because they handle the cold much better than lithium. Not that we don't like lithium, but they are very expensive, cant be charged when cold (for the most part), and in this build these batteries are more than enough power with solar. You have to put one battery on each side of the engine to get them to fit as well as the ECU module needs to be relocated. This van has LED lights...so that make this a very tight fit. We run the fuse panel under passenger seat for easy of access as well as we put the heater under the passenger seat as well. Nice and tidy...and hidden. This is a bit of work...to make it clean. This is also set up for solar later as well as you can see the isolator as well is accessed easily.
Got the heater installed as well...a lot of stuff will be here soon...adding an amplifier as well as another circuit board an relays for the pop top will go here later. We are known to keep things hidden and looking "stock" this van will be no different. There are no large cabinets in the main cabin taking up space for batteries or electronics keeping the van clear for gear.
Since you have to take the front floor out to run wires properly...sound deadener and insulation was was put in this front area to make it just a bit quieter. Its not a "must" but since we had it open this was added on. Its a higher end build so it makes sense and the entire rear floor will be done as well. On the floor we use DynaMat Extreme and closed cell foam (1/8)...if you go to thick you have issues with everything fitting. In this van we don't have a manual e brake...makes everything a lot cleaner.
As we always do...taking the van apart is the first thing...here we finally remove all the panels and headliner from the rear so we can run wiring, sound deaden, insulate, relocate the satellite antenna as it will be covered/cut out by the pop top going in. There is a lot of planning involved with specific steps to reduce the labor involved in a build. We don't want to go back and forth doubling the work. When the van is apart you do all the stuff that is needed. (solar, electrical, fan, lights, sound deadening, insulation, roof rails...every build is a bit different). Can tell you how many times we have had to take the van back apart to add a fan, solar, L track for storage bags, or a light...its a lot of labor to do this...like starting a build from scratch as often the entire van has to come apart again. We strongly recommend biting the bullet on the budget and do it right the first time or it could cost you 2x as much to do it later, not to mention your van is not available while it gets worked on again.
We already did the rear doors and slider...now we remove the headliner and rear panels so we can get to the real work in the van. The floor as well will be coming out very soon.
At this stage you do all your wiring for your outlets. These will all be DC outlets as well as we are running the solar line to the battery.
Now we have cleaned up the wiring...ran everything in loom to tidy it all up.
and appropriate electrical connections at the aux fuse panel that is connected to the aux house battery set up under the hood.
Sound deadening the van with Dynamat Extreme...this is the superior product in the market place for sound deadening. They use this stuff in million dollar car builds. No asphalt mix in this product. We use this now in all of our builds. You can see there is no lack of coverage. In this build we are doing the floor as well. Our standard package is all doors, walls, and roof. There is going to be half of the roof cut out of this van so we are not going to cover this area. In the front we still have to relocate the satellite antenna so this isn't covered yet, where it is currently is going to be cut out for the Pop Top. Full windows are going as well so these areas are not covered. This is a huge amount of material...especially the floor.
Insulating the floor now with a layer of closed cell foam from 2nd skin. We use 1/8 as anything thicker warps the stock floor with all the floor cups. We are also covering the floor with interwoven vinyl that is flocked...so plenty of insulation.
Floor is now put back in
Now the interwoven vinyl that had been pre-cut to fit goes in. This will be glued down but you can also just lay it down and the seat and cargo pucks almost are enough to keep in in place. We use 3M 94 glue to lay it down. This stuff is great for floors but really expensive.
Internet magic...the floor is now done. This is an "easy" but very time consuming job with really expensive materials...the flooring material and glue almost 1k...insulation and sound deadening for the floor another $800...and a lot of time. The stock floor was used. A good DIY project however if you want to tackle it on your own van. Give yourself a few days to tackle it if you have a van with stuff in it. Its ideal you don't have your walls in...you can make a real mess with all the glue...and it isn't easy to remove at all. This however makes the van VERY quiet, and gives it a very high end feel. We like interweave way over rubber coin flooring. Its a superior product unless you plan on loading motobikes and other heavy gear that can really cut into flooring.
next...we will be insulating the walls and installing the DC 12v outlets and USB ports to button up the bottom half of this van and windows going in all around. (vented and screened) T and we put in the adjustable bed wall mounting L track. lOTS more work to get this van about 40% to completion.
Beginning of some simple audio upgrades. We already have pre-wired for our audio upgrade when we will install an amplifier and rear speakers. Have as well upgraded the front speakers from oem ones. Notice the difference in the magnets in particular. You can't run a lot of power or a heavy high end speaker in this door mount, but we don't plan to. An adapter ring is used to put this larger speaker in place of the stock ones. Its also super important to sound deaden the front doors and insulate them...this make almost more of a difference than the speakers. Its a big difference if done properly in sound quality.
Sound deadening, notice how we do the entire door, not just a patch. Compare the stock door to what we do. Insulation as well will be added into the door and door panel.