Here I will share with U how to build a van DIY, we’ll start with what i selected for my van, what I was looking for, what I ended up with, and why I chose it and all the bumps along the way.
I chose a sprinter van platform and I ended up a 2011 Freightliner, three quarter ton delivery van, no windows with 73,000 miles on it. It was a fleet vehicle used for deliverys in its former life, all work/no play. It has a 170” wheelbase, which is the longest wheelbase you can get, with a diesel engine, it has a standard length body, an extended body is available - I didn’t need it, and it’s high roof -the highest, was standard for the 170 model.
I did my research and set my criteria with what I wanted to purchase, I looked at a lot of different options - motorhomes, different vans already converted or partially converted, cargo vans, school buses, shuttle buses, but decided on a sprinter for a couple of different reasons.
Sprinter Vans are the most popular van for this type of conversation, it’s easy to get conversion components and it’s also easiest to get information on for how-tos. It had good reports with those who do builds with them.
I decided I wanted a 170 wheelbase, I would’ve settled for a 144 but It’s really not what I wanted, I wanted a standard body, not extended, ¾ ton.
I researched Motorhomes but I knew it wouldn't work for my needs wanting the ability to be able to pull over and go to sleep anywhere. Sleeping in “public” and not a designated campground or parking area you are considered a vagrant. Sleeping in a van that appears as a contractors van from the exterior gives me the ability to fly under the radar most of the travels.
I wanted my van to be newer than 2009 with less than 100,000 miles.
After doing my detailed search with all my requirements i found four that met my criteria with in driving distance. One at a dealership in chicago and three in Detroit.
Chicago was to rough for the miles and the dealership had no history on it as they purchased it from an auction. Detroit #1 meet the criteria but the van was rough and dirty/not well kept. Detroit #2 and 3 were at the same location, #2 was older with more miles and #3 was the van i selected, low miles very clean and a complete service history from Ryder.
I’m going to have my van remapped before I leave for my 12 month road trip. Remapping changes your computer settings and if done correctly you will have more power, increased fuel mileage and higher top speeds. My van is governed at 72 MPH which is common, newer ones are governed a little high. I don’t need to go faster, obviously having the ability would be nice in case of an emergency like outrunning an avalanche or water buffalo.
That is what went into my van search, what should you look for in a van?
You should look for what you want, if you want to live long term in your van I’d go with a 170 wheelbase, for shorter trips a 144” will be adequate but I wouldn't go that route without a high roof model, for more than two people, like a family consider the 170 extended body.
The website will walk you through the different relative component installs with as much layman's term details as possible with going to techy.
There are two things along with the remapping I didn't not perform myself, the wheel installation and the ladder fabrication and powder coating. Everything else soup to nuts was completed by me DIY with only having assistance on the sliding door window installation because the window is so large.
For the wheels I purchased them and had them installed at a local tire store i’ve done business with before and trust. You should do the same for wheels and or tires unless you own a tire store.
The ladder I wanted I could not get in the time frame I needed it the model installs on the drivers side, most install on the back drivers door. There was only one company i found that makes this stylem and it would take 4 months to get which i did not have. I ended up laying out a full size pattern that followed the contour of the van and had a local fabricator build it to my pattern. I then to took it to a local powder coater to have it powder coated black. The cost was about the same just a little extra work on my end.
The build page will cover the following and more.
Ceiling and roof insulation
Interior framing and sheeting and bed platform
Interior wall and ceiling finishes and trim
Cabinets and countertops
I did a lot of research on build - I looked at 1000s of pictures and layouts on the web. I didn’t find very many helpful websites, and i didn’t locate one i could follow for a lot of my stuff.
But a big shout out to live like Pete for his detailed van build site. He doesn’t live in his full time like I will, so his is built and layed out a little differently than what i’m doing as his needs are a little different than my needs and what i’m doing. But for not living in his full time him and his family are spending a lot of good time in there traveling and adventuring. His site had a lot of really good information that was easy to follow with links to components and i recommend his site to other van builders looking for information.
Again big shout out to live like Pete
There you have it. That’s where we’re going, adding content a component at a time. By the time you read this the van will be completely built or close to it. I gave myself a month, it’s going to take closer to six weeks. After completing my first van and having experience my second van WILL only take a month.
When my trip is over my current van will be for sale and I’ll be starting Van Build Two.0.