Black Betty our Adventure Vehicle
For sometime we had talked about getting a van and putting a mattress in it, nothing to flash just something very simple, so we could just escape the hustle and bustle of our busy lives.
We looked around at car yards and started to follow websites that featured campervans, trying to find the ideal van for our needs, after looking for some months we decided on a Volkswagen Transporter, but to find one with low kilometres and was not priced beyond our budget was posing to be difficult, then one evening during the regular scan of the cars for sale websites, I found a van that looked like it would be ideal and not priced over the top. The next day we drove across town to check it and it was ideal so we bought it.
It was a 2010 Volkswagen Transporter Long wheelbase hightop van, it has a turbo diesel engine with automatic transmission and reasonably low kilometres, and Jet black (this is unusual for this type of van as most are white). The van had been used as a florists delivery and pick up van, it was a little bit grubby inside, but a little bit of elbow grease fixed that.
Now the plan was to keep it simple just a mattress and some basic camping gear! After researching camper van websites and seeing all the great ideas, from storage solutions, kitchen layouts, and power systems to power all our devices that are part of our lives now, our plans changed. Having a blank canvas (or empty shell of van) our mind were racing with ideas of all the things would need and all the things we would like in a van.
So the project of converting this once a florist delivery van in to a weekend adventure vehicle began.
After looking at other vans we planned on have in a side kitchen with a "U" shaped lounge with a drop down table that would form a bed for sleeping at night, and because the van was a hightop this allowed us to have overhead storage cupboards. The other thing we thought would be good was a windout awning of the side of the van, this would provide additional living space and protection from the sun and rain.
In the kitchen area we would need a refrigerator sink, cooktop, microwave oven and additional storage cupboards.
We had decided we would need a fairly large battery to run all the electrics in the van and to charge it we would need solar panels on the roof as well as being able to plug in to power in caravan parks, in addition to this it charges from the engine when we are driving.
The first thing we did was strip the plywood linings from the cargo bay, cleaning it all up. then installing the solar panels on the roof, cutting in a ventilation hatch in the roof and installing the awning on the side of the van.
As the van did not have any windows in the cargo bay we had three installed one above the kitchen bench and two along the kerb side of the van.
I had read on many camper van websites that insulation was very important as it reduces how hot the van would get in summer and how cold it would be in winter, but more importantly it would reduce the amount of condensation that would form on the metal body of the van and also deaden the road noise inside the van whilst driving. So we double insulated the walls, floor and roof of the van.
At this stage it was important to rough in all the wiring for the lighting, appliances, power points, solar power supply, and charging systems. This was completed over the course of a weekend, we were the ready to install the wall and roof linings.
The walls and roof were lined in MDF sheet and then covered with a special carpet designed for lining the inside of boats, what a job that was it took 4 day to cut and glue all the carpet in to place, very fiddly. The floor was lined with self adhesive vinyl flooring that looks like timber floor boards.
With a plan for the Lounge/bed set up, we went and purchased the foam for the cushions and had it cut to size. This now governed the size of the lounge base units that would also double as storage space. The next thing was to select a suitable fabric for the seats, cushions and curtains, and recruit the services of my mother in law to sew the covers for the cushions and the curtains for the windows, she did a great job and at the right price.
Whilst the cushions were being covered I got to work on fabricating the all the cupboards, seats and bulkheads, this was done using a laminated MDF sheet, another fiddly job this must of taken two weekends.
All the time I had been working on the van I had been shopping around for Deep Cycle battery, refrigerator, cooktop, tapware, microwave oven, hot water unit, Water tank, water pump, Dc to Dc charger, AC to DC charger, 12v to 240v inverter, light fittings and fan, Most of these items I found on eBay at very reasonable prices, most other materials were purchased from Bunnings and Jaycar.
Now the walls and roof were lined and the cupboards we installed it was time to install all the electrical fittings and lighting, and to my surprise it all worked as planned, all the research had paid off.
The next major task was to install the freshwater tank, pump, sink, shower and hot water unit. Installing the freshwater tank under the van was fairly straight forward except the space was quite limited, once it was installed it was just a matter of running the plumbing hoses to the pump, hot water unit, sink and shower, and again it all worked as planned.
The final touches of installing the curtains, cushions, and table was the next thing to do. At this stage the van conversion was complete, just some minor fine tuning some storage nets in the cupboard, a couple of towel rails, etc to make it work a little better for us.
The whole idea about buying the van and converting it to a camper was to provide us with the means to escape on weekends, to explore and photograph places we had never been to, to escape the hustle and bustle and stress of our day to day lives, to get out into the bush, mountains, and by the ocean and get closer to nature, and just relax and unwind.
We plan to get away a lot more this coming year, and our adventures will be shared here in blog, photographic, and video format for you enjoy, and maybe you may choose to join us on our adventures.