Updated: Jul 15
We are starting out with a well equipped super hard to find Crew Trim 144" van we ordered at the beginning of this year. Got almost everything we wanted on it, but due to supply shortage and part substitutes from manufacture to get this van this year we got the wrong hinges and no parking package, but we did get a nice rear camera, deluxe MBUX, Sirius, LED lights, lane assist, Heated seats, deluxe comfort interior, towing package, grab handles, power assist door, conv package, exterior lighting package, hi/low 4X4, premium package...follow our progress on this build. These are so difficult to get with no end in site for 2022 on availability. This is going to have a Colorado Campervan Pop top on it and be able to be configured to seat up to 8, sleep up to 6 in a 144" wheelbase. Very modular and a very high end flexible weekender build. Internet magic and an insane amount of hours will make it look like we did this build in a few days, rather than a few hundred hours and another 100+ for the top.
As we usually do...we start taking the van totally apart and begin with electrical. We put batteries in the hood to save valuable space inside and since we are only doing DC power...this works great.
To do this you got a few things in the way...control box, vent, and wires...all have to be relocated or removed temporarily to fit the batteries (one to the left and one to the right). Very tight fit especially with LED lighting package. Here we have removed the intake vent and need to relocate the ECU on the right.
ECU now removed and driver side tray is in
passenger side tray with battery
Here they are now in (no wiring yet) - you can see the tight fit. We use AGM batteries as they can handle the temperatures for under the hood. Lithium are not appropriate for under hood use due to high temperatures under the hood.
We also did our fender mod with the Van Compass Kit - this allows us to have a totally stock look and opens the front and rear by 1-1.5 inches for larger tires. Anything bigger than a 255 will not fit. 265's are perfect, and 275's can work...but might have just a slight amount of rubbing at full lock with suspension bottomed out in front. To learn about this more read our fender mod post in our blog. Like everything else wheels are back ordered so we will have to wait to put these on for now.
Hood battery connections finished. We like to keep our battery connections clean and uncluttered, especially since they are in the engine compartment. Nice and tidy...we have solar, aux battery to fuse panel, and alternator/isolator connections all straight forward and easy to service if needed.
Solar and fan on roof as well. We reduce the amount of holes in the roof by using custom solar roof bars to mount the panels. They as well are designed to clear awning mounts as well. Due to us deciding putting the Pop Top on, these will be relocated when the top goes on in few months.
Interior as well is taken apart. This is what we start with factory OEM Crew interior.
Interior is completely removed so that insulation, sound deadening, electrical work, fan, and structural work for L track can be put in. To properly run electrical work, interior needs to be pulled out. Interior after wall panels, headliner, and door panels removed including front floor. The main floor will be pulled later when we do the flooring.
Full windows put in. We like AMA vented/screened windows, they have better view, open up fully to the outside, and there are no cranks to break. Give a clean OEM look and I like to see outside when I am camping plus the extra visibility in a parking lot is very handy. 4 vented windows also give excellent ventilation on those warm days.
Looks like the pop top is back on...our other demo van is selling in few days, so back to plan b to add a pop top to this van. Have to go a little back wards (solar and fan have to eventually come off) but its back on to making this a really nice family van. Will also put in longer seat rails so you can seat up to 8 in this van with different seats in the future. It will look kinda like photo below, but of course we will build it out a bit differently and take it up a notch or two from this sample photo.
One of the most neglected parts of a build is planning ahead and pre-wiring that must be done when the van is empty and requires that think about what is to come later in the build as running wires when you have your van back together can be really difficult. You see here lots of wires for what seems when the van is built like there is nothing behind the walls. When the van is apart like this a lot of work has to be done, wiring, sound deadening, insulation, cabinet or L track support, cut out for lights, van, solar lines, roof glands...its really what makes a build. Its easy to bolt on eye candy...but the stuff that really makes the van a campervan is the foundation under all the fancy walls, ladders, wheel/tires, and roof racks.
Here we have finished part of the pre-wire for DC outlets, lights, pump, audio, and other low voltage connections. Even when its not covered you can see how everything is ran really clean even though you would see this when the van is back together. We use dedicated grounds for each wire and use loom to tidy things up and address any sharp edges when running wires...to eliminate the possibility of ground faults that be be difficult to troubleshoot.
We are unique in our builds that we keep as much stuff hidden as possible but very accessible for service or maintenance and clean wiring work. Here is a good example of that as we put under the passenger seat the main DC fuse panel, amplifier (Kenwood X-802), and heater (Espar D2L/Pro Controller). You can get access from the side of this seat once a swivel is on unlike the drivers side and there is a lot more room here. In addition, the Colorado Campervan fuse panel/control for top will go here as well. This keeps all the wiring away from people and more importantly provides more room for gear instead of a box in back for electrical. Its a lot of wiring and work to make sure things are clean, tidy, and ran properly. Its not difficult to do, but many builds we see take a lot of shortcuts in this area really for the most part to cut labor costs or just plain lack of knowledge. Good work like with anything takes time. This small space represents a lot work to get to this point but its worth the effort to do it correctly and we don't want others to see our work and feel we took shortcuts either. There is a lot in this small area. Still will have more tidying up to do, but its almost there. We still have another day of wiring to go.
Here we have the factory radio out. To add an amplifier or just rear speakers you need to tap into the radio harness using factory connectors. The signal is already their for rear speakers but with no fader control. Since we are adding an amplifier we need to provide outputs into the amplifier and then run wires to individual speakers from amp. Fairly straight forward but it takes a lot of time and as you can see the dash comes apart a bit to get to the factory radio. We however do not at all tap into any of the input wires of the head unit...this keeps things clean and in no way compromises the factory wiring or computer.
Rear Speakers, unlike a lot of RV companies and other builders we start with sound deadening (Dynomat Extreme) THEN we put down insulation (3M Thinsulate). This ends up to be a superior result. We do very complete coverage and get most of the nooks and crannies. We don't use cheap asphalt based products. This isn't cheap, but it is a huge difference. When you have your van apart why take the shortcuts?
Then we put in insulation. Also notice the grommet...we never run wires w/o protection from sharp edges and use grommets or glands when going through sheet metal. We see a lot of builds or radio installs when this is not done...crazy. Of course you would never see this when you buy the van or pick it up. Good builders and audio shops take care with this all the time We also make it so you can remove this panel in future and disconnect everything. Small details but its what separates good from the bad builds.
Rear speaker panels in. We find in a high roof this by far is the best place to put rear speakers, but to get lines to them is a bit fussy as none exist running to the back nor do they exist behind the stock radio. You can also see we added a rear light on the door...again- you must plan out your build in advance and run you lines before you put the van back together or any walls...its super time consuming and in some cases nearly impossible to add an electrical line later depending on how you build out your van. We thought about this when roughing in the DC power lines. You as well a have to think about where the switch might be as well. Its a really good example of how all the real work happens before all the eye candy goes on the van. Its stuff like this that its the time suck...bolting on ladders, roof racks, tires and wheels are not what makes a real build. More complicated the van the more important this is. We are in this build a week and from the outside its seems like we did almost nothing. We will spend this week getting other things plumbed up and prepped then the wall can finally go back in.
Still doing electrical, :)...not much to show cleaning up interior wires, more connections and added this outside light as well for some outside lighting if needed for just enough to find the van late at night.
Water tank pre-fit as well. This will have to come out to put the Nerf steps and if we do an extended gas tank as well. (still deciding on this). This hangs down a bit, but not anymore than the steps later on. Putting the tank here is a bit more work than the spare tire area but since I won't need a rear ladder I am going to keep the door free I think so you can put a box on it or something else rather than a tire.
Much easier to do this when you have a proper jack, when you have a 2wd to make things easier you need to raise the van a bit.
How it looks with the tank...this will enable us to run the water lines and electrical work before this has to come out again later. Normally we do this after...but like everyone else we have back ordered parts long over due.
An overlooked issue...you need a vent tube higher than the tank, we run a vent tube loop into adn out of the van hidden in the wall and drains to outside
More electrical work wiring up and testing switches, lights, as well starting to lay down some sound dampening. We test everything prior to putting walls in to make sure there are no surprises, its not fun to take a wall or headliner back down. Unlike RV's when our builds go out they work and rarely ever come back for an issue unless its a defective part. There are not "break in" periods for our builds. Was able as well to put in the L track for the adjustable bed that will go in when done. This kit requires you to take all the walls and headliner down to install it. Even though when you look at a van in this stage looks like it far from being done when in fact this van is well past the half way point. All the electrical is tested, heater in, even the water tank is in and tested. (but will have to come out since our Aluminess stuff is running late)
insulation and sound deadening...work in progress...all surfaces covered with Dynamat Extreme then we layer it with 3M Thinsulate. If you want to learn more...see our blog on this.
Adding a double rail in this van so you can have two rows of seats or two positions. Only the crew van or passenger have reinforced mounting OEM holes. You have to cut floor out, drill through the floor in the correct location to carefully expose the OEM thread welded insert for seats. This van we specifically are making it as modular as possible so that it really can carry or sleep an entire family. This is one of those mods that will enable it to do so with maximum flexibility and be as safe as possible.
You have to locate the correct position and drill a small hole to make sure you hit the hidden insert under the sheet metal, it is not marked at all.
Carefully have to drill out the sheet metal to expose the threads without damaging them.
Paint metal edges
Ready for the longer seat track. We will now pull the floor to use it to cut a template for the flooring we will be putting in when the van finally starts to go back together in a few days. (interwoven vinyl)
Insulating and sound deadening the floor. As we do on all of our builds we take this to the next level while keeping costs to a minimum for maximum result. We can use the stock floor and get a very nice result. Here we have put down Dynamat (a lot of it!). What we use on the floor is more than most put in their entire van! We want this van to be quiet however and this is whats needed to take it to the highest level.
We even upholster the wheel wells next to keep everything clean looking.
Then we lay down closed cell foam.
Do this in the front as well as part of our "floor" package.
We are covering the floor as well with interwoven vinyl by Infinity. Top quality product, superior to the cheap stuff you find. Yes there is a difference...a big one on durability and the nylon weave. Special glue is used. (3M94) This isn't cheap...the material and glue can be $1000 just for the materials. Its super easy to work with, but easily a one or two day project. We feel this superior to coin flooring in every way unless you have something with extreme wear like a motocross bike.
Here we have it laid down
Now with all the seat rails cut in and cargo D rings. Takes a bit of time to cut out, but its pretty easy as only razor blade is used. This floor is WAY better than vinyl...not even in the category and its not slippery when wet, cleans easily, and is very abrasion resistant. This as well adds another insulating and sound deadening layer. You can as well just lay this down only and get a big difference, but this is a high end build so we are taking it to the best possibly result and having the entire floor out why wouldn't you do this? Its a lot of work but well worth it in the end on those long trips. You also see our insulation in walls over the Dynamat as well in this pick. We stuff this in all the nooks in crannies...lots of areas you don't see. Again the typical cheap builder doesn't do this. Short cuts = profit. That is not our build philosophy other wise we can do stuff quick and dirty...good enough for most, but not the way I would build my personal van, so its not an option. Huge difference when you do this combo. Most builders just add the insulation...its good, but not great, and we always want the best result possible.
Of course we do doors as part of our standard insulation package...this is an area a lot of builders/RV's skip...especially the front doors. You can see no shortcuts taken here. We need to leave room for the window to slide down, but we will add insulation on the door panel however where we can. The end result is huge doing all of this, but really time consuming. For a DIYer this can easily be 40-50 hours of work if you haven't done it before and its a lot of material, just in sound deadening alone we are well over 200 square feet in this van! Its how we do it.
Door all put back together just like stock.
Insulation of door panel- little details do make a difference
Door speaker upgrade- ok its not really boom...you need a sub woofer and power (which we have in this van), however a speaker upgrade will make a noticeable difference IF you insulate,sound deaden, and disconnect that horrible center speaker. See the the difference in comparing our typical standard speaker upgrade.
Compare magnets...its important however you size the speaker to the power...just because you purchased a high end speaker doesn't mean it will sound right. Its a huge mistake most do, size the speaker to the system...unless you have a huge amplifier you don't need $500 speakers and besides that you can complicate things greatly when going big...other things need to change. This system is matched perfectly with the amplifier...just enough for great sound. If we went bigger we would have to change the way we mount the speakers, there would be to much vibration to deal with and we need stiffer mounts. Details matter.
You need an adapter ring to upgrade speakers
Walls are going back in, noticed we use the stock lower panels that came with the van to show you don't need to make new panels unless you have the extra time or money. Functionally it doesn't do much. We make the DC outlets higher than normal to allow a lower bed platform or a Decked to be put in and still have access to the outlets. One of many of the forward thinking things you need to think about with your individual build. We are setting up this van to sleep up to six so making a few choices I might do with my personal long term van, but better choice as this van eventually will be for sale so we are setting it up in the most flexible way.
L track is positioned for the removable semi rigid fabric cabinets (Mule bags), lower storage (Campo bags), and to help secure light load items. L track just doesn't bolt in, you have to provide support so you can mount it. Lots of different ways to do this with stock headliner. It can be fairly time consuming and depending on how it is used expensive. (for heavy loads) In this case wth the bags this is a light duty use...under 100lbs. The van is finally turning a corner on the inside for the big phase 1 build. Still have the temp fan cut out...and a few more small details. Almost time to put the bed and some storage in, however the headliner comes down again for phase 2...the pop top in February but will run with it this way for a bit first. Its a bit backwards in the build process with a Pop Top 2nd, but since its our labor involved not as big of a deal. The way we will do the Pop Top we will be able to maintain all the storage...its unique to our builds the way we do this. ,
We also wired in some outside lights, this is something you need to do when the van is apart, not something ideally added later. These lights are low enough they will light below the awning if its deployed. This will be in phase 2.
This is the point most see a van done...but its what it takes and how you do it to get to this point is the difference between slapping in some L track or cabinets or properly building a van that functions properly. We write up these build blogs so customers can see there is a lot of work beyond what you see in a few interior photos. At this point we got around 150 build hours so far into it. We always say its what you don't see that counts.
Fully modular interior. Everything can be removed quickly or reconfigured. Notice all the storage. Semi rigid Mule bags up top and removable Campo bags in back. It frees up a lot of space. Unlike cabinets these can be removed, much larger, and if you hit them with your head you avoid getting hurt. With the Pop top in phase 2, you can sleep 5-6 with gear! (full size people)
Seat swivels added so that we can create a dinning area up front. You can see as well our down firing sub box...fits nicely under the bench seat...and you can't damage the sub since its protected.
STORAGE-Owl tire/ladder rack, B2 Carrier, large Expedition Box, med Expedition Box, Gear Tray. This build focusing on as much storage as possible so that more people can fit/sleep inside or even more gear can fit inside.
47 Gallon SB Tank. This is a really good example of a few things. Building sequence and why in this specific build we did things the way we did thinking in advance. To put this tank in (direct swap) you have to put in your water tank and tread steps ideally in advance so that you have clearance to do the swap. In this case we had to pull this stuff off, swap the tanks, then put it all back in. (tread step and water tank) Not that big of a deal because our labor is free (kinda) but this made the swap a bit of a pain for sure. The tank was not even available at that time and we had different plans so it was a little backwards. However this tank allowed us to free up the back of the van for more storage, allowed the water tank to be placed next to the gas tank instead of the spare tire area...and we gained valuable storage where the spare tire would have done on the back door. Super efficient set up...but certainly not cheap.
Agile Off Road RIP Kit. This raises the van a little, but more importantly greatly improves the ride on rough terrain or in wind. This isn't just shocks, its an entire suspension upgrade including front struts, springs, and external shock and in the rear new spring and rear shocks. Its a big investment but with the added height of the soon to be added high roof pop top we want to make the ride of this van as nice as possible. The same would apply with a roof rack.
Adding some exterior driving lights for off road. Mounting brackets are from Van Compass and used Rigid lights up top and Light Beam down below to keep costs down so I don't spend 2k just for the lights alone. These can be stupid expensive and even this set up isn't cheap but can be done by a DIYer as all if it is bolt on, especially if you use a wiring harness. In this case we had to use two, one for each set of lights. With the factory LED light package and these lights there will not be an issue to see whats ahead for sure.
Custom light switches by DIYVAN.COM.
Finally got some wheels...back orders for months, so we decided to go with a new wheel I haven't seen yet. Black Rhino Glacier 265/70/17. We went with this size, much more practical for off road as it give more clearance in fender well. We went 265/75/16 for the spare tire on a steel stock wheel that we kept in the stock position so that we have a "full size spare". You just have to use different lugs nuts if using the spare with steel wheel. We wanted the rear tire carrier to have more practical usage so we put a box there instead. Way better to use the space for storage rather than show off a fancy wheel for the kind of money a tire/ladder carrier costs.
Truly Modular interior. We went to this in about 15 minutes.
so you could carry large stuff like this if you need to
Finally off to Colorado Campervan for the Pop Top; final phase of this build begins. 3 month build process that started almost a year ago in planning stages getting this van ordered to start this project with huge lead times in getting parts for this build and keeping timing as tight as possible towards completion. Just shows even with our resources it takes a lot to get a build done like this one quickly. Super excited to get it back in 3-4 weeks to finish it off.
Its back with a new roof...more details to follow as we put it back together over the next week. Oh Yeh...build is finally getting finished! Due to the market conditions, this build has taken WAY to long to get done. A huge amount of patience and work but the end result is one of the nicest weekenders I have built for sure for the family. Super flexible and modular.
With storage system back in
Flatline storage shelf, the holes take L track cargo rings...nice touch and quality is good. Can never have enough storage and this van goes way over the top in that area with it all being modular!
Short Video. I have done a few more things on this van to really dial it in. The flexibility on this van is crazy for a 144" which allows you to park anywhere and use as a daily driver! I have been asked what else could you do with this build? My answer is maybe a Travois floor system if you really wanted complete flexibility with seating but at 15k...its not needed unless you really needed it but is an easy upgrade to do in the van if you wanted to add swivels seats in back, rock and roll bed, or seats that slide up/back or even fold away.