For the camper build, I wanted a seat with some specific characteristics.
I wanted it to be steel and have seatbelts, so I could feel good about having people sit in it while driving, and I wanted it to fold into a bed in case we wanted to camp without putting the top up.
Seats like this are very expensive and it was difficult finding anything that would it heightwise and widthwise for what we wanted in the van.
Like, really difficult.
I spend a LONG time searching and emailing places.
I stumbled upon this company called Fabworx in the UK that does folding van seats, and also this one called "Demon Workz" which seemed to be in the US. I think Demon Workz in a scam actually, from what I read, so my only real option was Fabworx (well, unless I wanted to spend like $5k and have less functionality - looking at you travois usa). Widerness vans had some options, but they weren't as good either.
So Fabworx is expanding to the US, so it actually worked out that they were shipping stuff over here anyways, so I bought a seat and had them put it in the container they had coming over here. I bought a bare frame figuring we could find someone around here to do the upholstery for less. I'd have bought the upholstery from them if I was doing it again since they have it so dialed and have it perfectly suited to their product. It wasn't worth the $800 difference to mess around so much with it and then end up paying someone almost that much in the end.
So, I got the M020 frame from them, which is shorter in height. It still ended up being too tall, but it's fine. https://fabworxuk.com/duplex/
The real trick was waiting. I ordered the frame at the beginning of March, thinking it would be here by April. Well, turns out those coronavirus shipping delays were working their magic back then, so it didn't end up arriving here until late May. Then it took a long while to get offloaded and brouht to a partner facility fabworx was working with. All of June it's sitting in North Carolina while I need to to design my camper build around, and I couldn't get them to send it to me. Eventually I got through to them at the beginning of July asking if I could just pick it up - since my wife and I were trying to build the van for a trip mid-July thruoght August I was desperate to get it. They said ok, and I ended up flying to Charlotte, renting a car, driving to Winston Salem, and then driving all the way home to MA in the same day. It was A DAY. And cost money, but I needed the seat.. So, it was just a crummy situation all around. Yeah, I could go on, but this is a novel already.
So, here is the seat in the Nissan Pathfinder I rented on its way north.
Soon after getting it home, I made the seat panels using some 1/2" ply that I stained.
So that's what it looked like in the van not bolted in or anything.
There is an overhang on the passenger side so it can fit over the wheel well
The headroom isn't amazing with it.... when it is positioned over the passenger side (where it lives now) the person sitting on the passenger side of the seat has to be like 5'7" or shorter to not hit their head. In the middle, without the bed slat in place above, someone 6'0" or taller can fit because of the poptop, but if the bed slat is in, it has to be a shorter person. This isn't a huge deal, because if we have company on a roadtrip in this, we'll just sit the short people in the back and be done with it, unless we plan a trip with lots of tall friends - that may be an issue.
For securing the seat, I used flanged L track (should have just used regular instead of flanged probably). This was bolted through the floor and then the seat was bolted onto it for (somewhat) easy removal if needed.
Here is a picture of the seat bolted in during a test fit.
I used this 12x12ish hatch from Hd - which required some finagling as it interfered with the body crossmembers under the floor. An 11x11" hatch would have made this easier, but it did work out just fine.
Here is an example -
I deburred and painted the edges of the floor, and painted the hatch a bright yellow since I had that color laying around. The fuel pump replacement was pretty straightforward, with the only tricky bit being that I really had to work to get the retaining ring back on afterward.
Thankfully the tank was nice and clean when I looked inside!
Right after the 4th of July I went to NC to get that seat, and then right after that we had a wedding locally to go to.
I had been smelling something weird and noticing a bit more shaking while driving, but I had no idea what it was. The day of the wedding the van was pulling really hard left. Well, I found out what it was. On the way to drop my wife off at the venue in the morning for a brunch, and something was making the van shake badly, and there was that smell. Pulled over on a side street and looked around - realized the driver's front wheel was crooked. Huh.
I didn't get a picture with the wheel on, but it was obviously crooked - like bad. Turns out, the wheel bearing had separated and was coming apart. Only the axle nut (which was almost unscrewed) was holidng things together. So that was a new one for me. What I ended up doing, since I had my tools with me, was jack up the van, identify the problem, order parts, and get rides for my wife and me to where we needed to go.
I needed a new hub, and also new rotor and pads because those had gotten trashed too.
I got the parts around 2:00 and was able to get everything replaced and drove the van to the venue to take a shower and make the ceremony by 4:00 - whew! I was playing speed mechanic there - fortunately I had replaced these parts before and knew what to expect. I also prepped everything so it would go as quickly as possible once I got the parts.
One snag I hit was that I had only the factory jack - nothing else. I needed to lift the front end up all the way so I could spin the hub to bolt it on (since the access hole has to be spun to reach the 3 bolts). But I couldn't use the jack because it was holding up the control arm which had no hub or rotor on it - i couldn't put that on the ground. So I ended up looking around and finding part of an old telephone pole in the woods 100 ft away, dragging it over, and setting the control arm down on that (I had the wheel next to it too just in case), then removing the jack to lift up the whole front of the van so I could bolt on the hub.
I felt like MacGyver.
This was a wild day though - the day before I had flown to NC to get the seat and driven back, and then this repair took most of this day, then a wedding, I was beat.
It's pretty easy to drill out the rivets and remove the windows. While they were out I cleaned them pretty well to get overspray paint off them. When I reinstalled, I used some fat screws instead of rivets - I don't have rivet stuff, and screws are removable - win in my book. I did have to drill out the holes a bit bigger on the metal brackets attached to the windows though.
At this time some of the windows also got paint around the edges for a more finished look, since the edges are the only part that will be showing when things are finished.... someday.
There was also a trailer hitch install. I found one at a yard, but it was too rusted to be worth it. I got rid of my original hitch because it was too rusted and I had no use for it for years, but I got a hitch-mounted bike rack, so I needed a hitch again.
So, I got the reese towpower 37042 at the zone and put it together and fit it on the van. It requires drilling throught the bumper brackets in a normal install, but since this is just for bikes right now, I didn't bother and just used the existing bolt holes.
Here is a pdf of the instructions - which is very important actually. Because, although it says it fits astrosafaris on the box, there is no instruction for how to install it on one in the paper copy of the instructions that comes with it. Oddly enough, the online pdf does have that info though (thankfully).
I also needed to make a wind fairing and mount our awning.
The wind fairing I made out of 1/4" lexan (I think it was lexan), bolted to some aluminum I hand bent and drilled holes in. The aluminum is bolted to the strut rails I have on the roof. I painted it white and put some leftover weatherstripping along the bottom edge where it sits on the roof too. The fairing doesn't interfere with the fan opening and hopefully helps air flow over everything going on up top a little better.
It took a while and was not simple, but it came out alright.
The awning I installed with three stainless pieces bent into an "L" and bolted to the roof. The awning sat a little low and was touched by the slider door when it closed, so I extended it a couple inches higher with some bar aluminum (last couple pictures).
The brackets allow the awning to not be connected to the roof or to interfere with it opening. So the roof can be raised while the awning is out with no side effects.
I also made a diy solar suitcase out of two 100w panels. There was no way of putting permanent solar on the roof that wouldn't look weird, get in the way of things like surfboards and canoes, or be partially shaded and lose much of its wattage. So, my idea was to use a solar suitcase and have an extension cord and plug. Then we can park in the shade and set the panel in the sun as well.
So I took hinges and some clasps and attached the panels together with them.
Finally, the interior buildout began.
It's a westy-ish and sportsmobile rb50-sih layout.
Big fridge-freezer on a slide with a countertop on a hinge and a drawer under.
700w renogy inverter on the side of the fridge behind the driver's seat.
Low hatch on driver's side of folding seat - has battery and all electrical. Battery is 100ah battleborn heated version (ouch on price with that one).
Folding doors above hatch are the "closet" with hanging storage and separating hatches at wheel well height. Under there is the charge controller/battery isolator from Renogy and some wiring for the poptop lifts.
The front-facing wall of the cabinet has cubbies for cooking stuff.
There is a door to get into the closet from the trunk as well.
There is a 12v plug, inverter switch, battery monitor (which broke already and am replacing), and on/off switch for battery heat.
There is random storage under the sliding seat and a bit of room for solar panels and traction boards behind the seat/cabinets. The floor is rubber mat from tractor supply.
And that's how it came out. We are pretty happy with it. This picture was taken at the startf of what was supposed to be a trip to Montana. Unfortunately engine problems stopped those plans.
I'm surprised I have so few pictures of the process of the interior build - it was quite a time I suppose. If you have any questions about it, lmk. I spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to include the most amenities in the least space.
The van almost died on me at the beginning of the summer, which is when I started to pay attention to the problem. At the very beginning of our trip, which we ended up postponing until August, it did it again and we didn't feel comfortable driving it all the way out to wherever without knowing it was in good shape. We tried sporadically for days to figure it out, while also trying to enjoy our vacation, but eventually gave up and brought it to a shop.
It's running better now, but I'm not sure if it's because of the shop or if it's just a fluke. I'm also not convinced the problem won't pop back up when it gets hot again next summer, since it seems to be related to heat.
Anyways, here are some pictures related to that. Pulling the 02 sensor ruined the threads, so the sensor and bung had to be replaced.
Working to fix the leak around the air intake to throttle body mating surface. Also got a new hose to replace the one going from the passenger side of the plastic air intake down to the intake manifold.
Not sure if I've already posted this, but here is the mostly tidied up efan -
I have been trying for months to figure out an issue with my efan where the different settings of my fan will work on and off. I thought the switch in my overhead console may be bad, or the temp switch I put in the upper rad hose may have gone bad, or maybe that my wiring had a break in it somewhere.
I was so confused because I was finding continuity everywhere and when I applied 12v things would work sometimes, and otherimes not.
Well HA - I figured it out finally. Some of the pins in the volvo relays I used were loose and weren't make a connection, or weren't making a connection sometimes. The high fan switch I have in the overhead console suddenly stopped working after having been working all along, and when I went to unplug a relay, the fan suddenly kicked on! I wiggled the relay wires and found the loose one that I could turn the fan off and on with by wiggling it.
I'm still new at electronics, so this was not something I was considering as being the issue, so I am so glad I found it and fixed it - everything works perfectly now - YES!
What I did is I superglued the wires in the place (in the correct place) and then covered the back of the connectors with weatherstripping gasket material. to lock it in and keep moisture out. Voila, worked a charm.
Another little fix this summer was the amber bulbs in the front of the van. I got a quick flashing light on the dash when I'd turn on the left turn signal, so I knew the light blew. When I went to autozone to get a new one, I was trying really hard to figure out what the other smaller bulbs in the amber housing were for. There are the big flashers, and small ones. I could not get them to turn on.
Well, turns out they were both burnt! So I had 3/4 amber lights burnt out in the front. So, once I figured that out, I replaced them and was on my way.
For aux lights on the van, I have grill lightbars, fog lights wired but not installed, roof lights installed but not wired, underbody lights, and footwell lights.
There will be some other lights in the camper build that are wired, but not installed yet too.
But, in early September I finally remembered to take pics of the footwell lights and underbody (rock) lights to show them off.
Labor day weekend my wife and I headed 6 hours north in Maine for some wilderness whitewater paddling on the Seboomook, this was the van's test to see how the build and newly not misfiring engine would handle a long drive.
Fortunately, things went great! I love getting up there and love that river. We treated our campsite friends to ben and jerry's ice cream 1.5 hours from the nearest convenience store and liked our camper setup.
And look at that purdy van.
Something I also did a month or so ago that I have since undone is installing awning tape track (keder tape) around the edge of the top. This was the plan for how the canvas is to be mounted. Unfortunately, it just didn't work out because the corners are awkward, and there is such a tight fit between the top and the pillow block bearings that the extra width of this track on the edge of the top interfered with the top closing. So, I took it all off and am going a more standard route of installing some 3/8" wood around the edges and stapling the canvas to it.
I used this wiring diagram to wire the 5 pin relays to the controller
And wired it up with male/female spade connectors at all the connections so it can easily be undone/things replaced (didn't do that before, d'oh).
In this configuration, the power is going through the relays and should hopefully let the controller last longer. I also have one beefy remote, and one small one now - the old remotes I have are useless. No biggie.
Right now it's just sitting unorganized in the bottom of the closet, but I'll get it cleaned up soon.
Tire shop wouldn't do alignment because they said bolts were seized. Sleeves on the tie rods were frozen for sure.
Also only one of two knockouts was done on each control arm bolt, so I did those and unstuck the tie rods and antiseized the bologna out of everything.
I used the gm control arm knockout tool, but it didn't work so great - had to work to get the metal bits out and the grind things smooth-ish (not easy in that space). Too bad, since things would have been so much easier if it had just popped them out with no fuss.
Passenger outer tie rod boot was blown, so I replaced it since I had one on hand. First time I had done anything with tie rods - replacing inner and outer at the same time would be waaaaay easier for sure.