Monday, July 21, 2014

Building up a Van

As I have mentioned in previous post I have spent, collectively, hours upon hours day dreaming about different ways to build up different vans in different ways with the end goal for them to be suitable to live in. I have looked at and taken notes on Astro vans, dodges, previas, sprinters, westfalias and sychros, sports mobiles, school busses and many more. From all of these I've drawn different ideas, incorporated my own and used them to customize, in different ways my own vehicles. I've also had the great luck to be able to bounce ideas off of other friends that have spent many days in their own vans, and pick their brains about the pro's and con's of their setups.

The build I did on my new van (a 1993 Toyota Previa), I should admit was largely inspired by my friends Nathan, Kevin and Steve who all have a similar build in their Previa or Astro. The build was intended to create maximum storage space as well as a comfortable sleeping space while essentially completely disregarding any living/lounging area which my previous vehicles had plenty of. I went this way as I'm hoping to be in places or with folks that I can kick it with in spells of bad weather, I want to be able to sleep in cities in a set up/vehicle that doesn't scream "I LIVE IN MY VEHICLE PLEASE STARE AND/OR HASSLE ME!", I was also somewhat limited by the vehicle's interior which leads me to my first point.

You first have to choose what you want to live in, if you are working around a vehicle you already own then there's no sweat. Otherwise you have to choose two of the three main factors (it's rather unlikely you'll get all three), fuel efficiency, space and low cost. For instance with my recent Previa acquisition I was looking for fuel efficiency and low cost as bigger priorities (I also really wanted AWD or 4WD) which really limited what I had to choose from, which in some ways is a blessing as it's more manageable to choose between a dozen cars rather and hundreds.

Once you get a vehicle figure out roughly the square footage you're working with and what kind of features you really want in your new home. Do you want a full size bed to stretch out on, do you want an area to hang out in on rainy days, do you want a separate and designated cooking area, do you want shelving or bins for storage etc. This will all vary on whether you're spending 365 in the van, just road trips or somewhere in between, as well as on if you're going to be alone or with someone and about a billion different variables.

Once you have your design it's building material time. Are you going to go with some basic 2x4 and plywood, easy up steel framing with a bit of plywood for easy rearranging and customizing, orwill you try to go for reclaimed wood and dumpster diving at construction sites or maybe hire a professional do it up really nicely. I've found that reclaimed wood can be fickle and strenuous but really cheap, 2x4s and mid weight plywood to be the easiest to work with and a compromise in price and I have seen some really really nice builds done by professionals but for a lot more $$$. With the last few vans I have mixed the reclaimed and Home Depot approach with pretty good results. In the previous van the easy up steel framing was really convenient for quick modifications. Again this step is all about pros and cons and what will work best for you.

After all of this has been considered it's time to get after it and pound some nails (figuratively speaking that is, I usually stick with screws as they're easier to remove in case of changes or dismantling).

The build up begins with a simple frame.

Ready for the move in.

Not quite as roomy as the last couple vans but's a toyota.

The bed platform ready to get moved in, has a couple of support struts.
The dimensions are 78" X 48" X 18" to accommodate ~10 storage bins underneath
and a designated cook space in the back of the van. 

All of the rear seats have been removed and is ready for the bed platform.

Not related but they can be found inside the new van.

Ready for move in.

Final pictures of the fully moved in van are on the way in addition to pictures of the shelves, storage bins and the cook setup. Get psyched!