Updated: 5 hours ago
Here we go again with another Demo Van build that will take a little different change in direction from our typical build. How do you fit 5, sleep 4 full size adults WITH GEAR in a van with out a pop top? We see vans with bunk beds...they don't work, no room for gear, super cramped sleeping arrangements, and you can't get to you stuff under the lower bed. We are staring out with a nearly new 2021 Sprinter Crew Van as this saves build costs and gives us some features you cant get in a cargo van with no windows. (rear heat vent, defrost rear windows, wall panels, headliner... Our goal is to try to keep the entire build including van under 150k with plenty of eye candy and functionality fully modular. This is how we would ideally build the van not restricted by a budget but also not getting to crazy to end up with a 200k van. This stuff ads up quickly, this van we are going to focus on items that will have the biggest impact for the investment.
The current interior we are taking out and redoing. The Flatline bed is really nice and nothing wrong with factory flooring and a modified bench seat, but we want to take this to another level so these items will be sold. This an is in MINT condition so we are starting with a near new van.
First things first...gut the interior! Lots of work to be done over the next few weeks and long wait for some custom parts to arrive. As usual everything on back order! Normally we can turn a build around in a few weeks, but this was a last minute project so we did not have our normal 2 month lead time to get some custom parts in for this build.
Added full windows. A lot of people ask why do you like windows? Easy, airflow, when its hot I like to control air flow with the van or sometimes just open a window and enjoy a breeze. I like a view and when I want privacy I use an insulated window cover, not to mention greatly improved visibility when driving or parking.
AMA windows that have vents and screens, they totally open up, have no cranks to break (CRL Windows) and if you have pets they can stick their head out and enjoy the breeze. You have to cut holes in the back and remove/replace the front stock ones. We finish out the interior with OEM rubber trim, so it looks totally like they came from the factory.
Van is gutted so first thing is to add a fan, solar gland (so wiring can be done) and add roof rails so that we can add the roof rack later. The rails are needed for any roof mods like roof rack, awning, solar bars, load bars, side ladders....must have. We used MB OEM rails, they are superior in quality to aftermarket ones.
600 square feet of air a minute, can be open when raining or driving, automated temperature control and easy to replace if broken. MaXX Air Fan Deluxe. 7500k
Solar roof gland and fan shroud mount and sealant done. If you are doing wiring and your van is gutted, do yourself a favor at least pre-wire your van for solar. You will want want solar to help charge those auxiliary batteries along with your alternator. A lot of van's built don't set up alternator charging. A huge mistake done mostly out of cutting corners and costs. We have to do this now so when we put the Aluminess Rack on later we can easily plug in the solar.
Another item we must do thinking ahead. If you have XM radio and putting on a rack or solar you need to relocate your antenna other wise you will have no SAT radio. If you don't do this now you are in for a TON of additional work taking your van apart again just to get to the plug in. We use a male to male fakra adapter then connect an after market magnetic antenna to that and THEN get a gland to run it to the outside so you can relocate it. The stock antenna is not designed to be outside. These are just some of the many examples of all the detail you don't see or know of in a typical build or builders don't talk to you about because they are not thinking of future mods that if no addressed now will cost way more money to do in the future. The black plastic cover you see had the old antenna mounted there.
Auxiliary Battery System
To run any electrical items in the van such as a heater, fan, fridge, charging phones you need an auxiliary battery so that you power is separated from your starter battery and you don't end up stuck if you run out of power. You don't need a $10,000 + system do run simple items like those mentioned, but you do need one if you plan on running a microwave, blender, hotplate, or a huge system if you plan on running AC. (really big on with AC) Our builds are generally simple and a DC AGM battery system in the hood with solar is more than enough to run the heater, fan, fridge, lights, and charge phones/lap tops. We put the batteries in the hood to save valuable space inside the van. You can do this with an AGM battery, lithium you cannot due to the heat generated in the engine compartment as well there are charging issues in the cold with lithium that you need to address as well. Not of these are issues with AGM. Its also a lot less expensive. (~$3.3k vs 6k+) We do lithium systems, however they need to be inside the van.
Here you see the batteries positioned with custom trays before wiring. You have to relocate wiring harnesses, relocated a control box, re-route the hood pull cable as well to get these squeezed into the engine bay. Its a very tight fit but we save valuable space in the van.
Very Tight Fit
30 hours into wiring the van up. This is one of the many aspects of a building a proper campervan is totally missed. So many builds bolt a bunch of eye candy but never really transform the van into a campervan that gains utility. Electrical, insulation, and sound deadening really transform a van to a campervan. Here you see preliminary interior wiring and positioning of amp and fuse panel around the heater that will be put in under the passenger seat as well. We fit everything here to keep the floor clear and maximum space for gear and people in back. Lots and lots of wiring.
Lots of wires
Keeping things very compact with the amplifier, fuse panel, and heater installed under the seat
Sound deadening and insulation. Dynamat Extreme and 2nd Skin insulation used as you have to keep things pretty compact on the floor. This will reduce road noise as well in the front. Every bit counts. We cannot insulate under the seats due to electronics.
Just about finished up. What you did not see is all the wiring to/from head unit as well.
We have now insulated 80% of the van and got the Brace Kit in for the L track for the MOAB bed in the rear. Can now start finishing some of the wiring and additional bracing for the L Track. We also had to remove a bunch of riv-nuts as well to put bracing in and clean up walls for some of the L -Track as well. Its a good example of how much work is involved in transforming a van that "looked" done, but to our standards has a huge amount of work to be done to get it all dialed like your typical builds. Its seems like little has been done, but in reality we have a fair amount of hours into this build, but soon will be able to turn the corner in at least get most of the interior back in so it resembles a van again. Moving forward the build will seem to move very quickly, but that mainly because of the prep work up to this point. It seems really deceiving how much work actually has been done at this point but its all this work that makes the back half of this build move forward smoothly. Lots of pre-planning needs to be done to make sure everything is done before we start putting the van back together.
The two seater and floor we are taking out and selling...to make room for a really huge floor/seat upgrade next month. You see here more prep work, wiring, bracing, ...
Now we actually start connecting things to all the wiring. Outside Lights are added. Your van needs to be totally gutted to ad these so you want to do this when van is apart, or just use a LED Magnetic re-chargeable light that is a fraction of the cost but requires you to turn it on/off at the light itself. We of course put a light switch for these two outside lights inside the van. To do this after you van is built is certainly not nearly as simple to do if your van is built out.
Door light for when door is open so you have lighting in rear when door is open and loading cargo, we also added lights as well under the bed. You can see the added speaker as well in the rear. We used an amber light to make the rear light as this would be more ideal to have in the rear from a safety standpoint if someone driving up to you on the road if you had it on.
Under bed cargo light
When rear door is open and cargo outside door light is on the rear lights up nicely if its dark and you can clearly see your gear inside and outside the van
Part of the insulation and sound deadening package is to do the wheel wells
We cover the well when finished for a clean look. Since we purchased this van new and the rear panels where a bit damaged so we put new panels in the rear as well but kept the other stock panels as they are just fine.
Rear speakers added as well. To do this you have to tap into the wiring harness behind the radio with specific correct pins and run lines to rear. Then you have to take your van to dealer to activate fader control if you want to fade sound front/back.
Factory radio pulled and main harness needs to be access and pinned for rear speakers, not totally plug and play, you have to use the correct pin to fit the harness and add wires. In this case with amplifier lots of wires. Its its a bit of work to do for sure to add rear speakers correctly.
Compact Class D amplifier will drive a subwoofer and speakers greatly improving the sound while keeping the stock deck. Also everything remains hidden the way we like it.
L track added as well mid width as well as you can see various DC outlets added throughout the van for low voltage items like a fridge, laptop, pump, or even a phone
Owl Tire carrier added as well. Normally we would put a box here and keep a spare under the van, but in this case since we purchased the van with 5 aftermarket wheels we decided to put it out back and will put the water tank in this build in the spare tire carrier. Of course eye candy is always fun, but not always the most functional.
We sound deaden and insulate the doors as part of our insulation package. Here you see stock front door. The dark grey is sound deadening (factory)
Here we start the process with applying DynaMat Extreme, this is the same stuff they use in very high end hot rod builds. No tar based product in this stuff. Its 2-3 times more than the cheap stuff on the market, but its a superior product. We will as well insulate where we can and at the same time do a speaker upgrade. Its a big difference with the speaker upgrade, if you don't do this your speakers are going to sound still pretty bad.
Example of simple speaker upgrade vs Stock. With the amplifier, subwoofer, and complete sound deadening and insulation in van...its a very noticeable difference. Even looking at the speakers you can tell the very low quality stock speakers.
Larger tires- this is what the previous owners shop did remove the fenders; not the ideal way to make more room and you can see it did not help much. Not to mention it slings water and mud everywhere. We will do a fender mod and put the mudflaps back on like it should be. This is the type of shop short cuts that tell you a shop likely is not familiar with modifying a Sprinter the ideal way.
Cut out metal and using the Van Compass relocation mud flap kit we gain 1.5 inches. Front wheel AND back.
Now even with Mud Flap you see we gain a lot more space. For more details on this mod see our blog post on it.
Much better. Tire size is 265/70/17. We find this size works much better than 275 for real world use. (off pavement)
We installed a Adventure Wagon MOAB bed with a V2 Kit as well to give maximum flexibility in the layout. These are not cheap, but they are nice beds. Have a deluxe custom 4 layer memory foam RV specific mattress as well.
New 29 gallon water tank (old style 21 gallons). This is where the spare tire is. Easy install once you run power and switch. Getting all the fittings however right can be a bit confusing depending on inlet/outlet and in/out/vent tank fittings.
Quick disconnect for the outside shower. No hot water set up on this van but in our blog post we cover how this can be added fairly easily.
One of several storage solutions in this van to store all the gear above the floor. The L track we installed earlier is to support the Mule bags. These semi rigid bags are very large, removable, have tons of storage, and if you hit them with your head (it will happen) unlike a cabinet they will not cut your head or give you a concussion. We will be able to put 3 of these in the van. We have two pictured on the drivers side wall. Yes they are totally out of the way for the passengers similar to an overhead bin in an airplane.
XM Radio Antenna (the black puck on your roof) -When putting on a pop top or in this vans soon to be case a roof rack with a deck the radio antenna will be covered. Access isn't easy you have to have the headliner down. Once that is done you can disconnect the cable and with various adapters for a new antenna and extending it to another location. (we have done both in various vans) This requires cutting new holes in the van either way. I found routing the antenna w/o cutting holes and mounting it on the hood just isn't good enough for reception. In this case with a roof rack decided the best place is on the roof fan. It will always be uncovered and gives pretty good line of site to the sky.
Factory antenna- removed
you need adapter cables for the Farka connector
New antenna mounted using a scan strut gland (needs to be modified to get cables to fit) and an aftermarket XM ready antenna on top of the fan. This will make all more sense once the roof rack goes on in the next month.
Functional storage, the 3 Adventure Wagon Mule bags provide plenty of upper storage. Still have all of the space under the main rear bed. The front seats (to be installed) will convert into a full size bed as well on sliding tracks giving this van ultimate flexibility. The set up by Travois is super nice and has been on back order for a few months. Hoping to have it finally in later this month. (floor and seats)