2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

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2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

Postby YaYa [OP] » September 2nd 2020, 9:18pm

Let me just start off by saying that I am no carpenter by any means. I created this camper van from scratch and it had to be done within 2 weeks time, just enough time to finish the build and start traveling for work.

The build was done April of this year and I have put it to the test by living in it since it was finished.


Here it is before I bought it.
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So much potential, and seeing this Astro Cargo being used as... a work van!? God Forbid!
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After test driving it and making sure all was well mechanically, I ended up buying it and got it back to the homestead. One thing that needed to be addressed was the Power Steering Pump, which I had a shop replace it along with the hydroboost.

After getting things settled with the power steering, I wanted to give it a little bit of an upgrade as far as the front of the van goes. The grille was flaking paint and the headlight housing was cracked on both lights. I decided to throw in a relay and install LEDs, as well as replacing the housing for the lower lights, to give it a more clearer look rather than the infamous yellow oxidation look that you'll see a lot on these vans. I also upgraded the rims, as the ones on it were so worn that a hole formed on the rim, causing my tire to deflate daily.
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After painting and replacing, the biggest project was about to unfold. Turning this cargo van into my full timer. Definitely need solar power, so bought 100watts x 3 renogy solar panels, 40a MPPT Renogy solar controller, and a 3000w Pure Sine Renogy inverter for the electrical system. Also note that I am not picky at all when it comes to tilting my solar panels towards the sun. Yes, you do get a better charge, but I am running a 170ah Renogy Lithium Phosphate battery and never go under what I should be. I also like the piece of mind knowing my solar panels will never come off on the highway being bolted into 1/4" angle iron steel. Just my personal pref.
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After a day, (and some trial and error with measurements utilizing the ladder rack) the solar setup was complete on the van, and could now focus on the interior. Since I am in the northeast, I definitely wanted to insulate the best I could, so I not only put XPS board on the floor, but made sure to insulate the van with havelock wool as well. Most folks use hardwood flooring, as it is easier to clean and just looks nice overall, but I decided to put a rug in this build because if I was planing on staying in it full time, I wanted something more homey and to my comfort and taste, so I opted in for the rug and have no regrets (other than a leaky back door getting some of it damp which has since been fixed.) Reflectix used on the wheel wells. Used 3M 90 adhesive spray to keep xps board, rug, and reflectix in place.
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It was around this time that the leaf springs finally came in the mail, so I paused on the build to help my brother (He helped me. I'm no mechanic, lol)
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This surprisingly did not take too long to do, but the bolts weren't a struggle either. After this was situated, we both tackled the interior with a vengence. I prepped the electrical system with plugs all around the van and my brother layed out the tongue & groove pine after for the walls.
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At this point, it was time to layout and cut a 14x14" opening in the roof of the Astro. Once everything was lined up and a little trial and error, it fit nice and snug. Put the fan towards the back so when cracking a window, a nice breeze will go through the entire van.

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Once the maxxair fan was trimmed to size and the tongue & groove pine was fit around it, 12v lights were installed and an electrical box was created. I know some do not agree with adding all the components together in one area, but when you have limited space, you throw that morale right out the window.

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So the initial build is about complete at this stage, with the exception of a bed and such, but I have been full time in it since with a cfx3 Dometic 35l cooler that runs 24/7, and plan on adding an awning, pvc shower, better window coverings, spare tire rack on the rear door, and getting rid of the bumpers in replacement of possibly a stock Jeep Wrangler JK, as mentioned in these forums. I hope you all like this simple build. I know things could be better, but it is very comfy and I honestly have no complaints with it the way it is.
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Re: 2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

Postby SportsBoy » September 3rd 2020, 1:50am

Sweet man - thanks for sharing!
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Re: 2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

Postby tungtide » September 3rd 2020, 2:28am

Looks like your doing great. I like the wood. Keep the pictures coming.
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Re: 2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

Postby pmou » September 3rd 2020, 2:48am

Nice, no need to do more than is justified! love to see some more pics with the fridge and whatever the sleeping situation is just to get a sense of the space!
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Re: 2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

Postby Leeann_93 » September 3rd 2020, 3:59am

Looks great, especially for the short time you had to build. I’m surprised about the spring bolts being so easy to get out, especially for a New England van. My parents got their vehicles undercoated seemingly every year to prevent them from rusting and rotting out beneath us (I’m from the CT side of the MA line ;) )
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Re: 2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

Postby augidog » September 3rd 2020, 3:13pm

very nice work, well thought out and solidly simple...great presentation too.

if the SHTF, your solar system, and monster storage battery, will make you a popular man indeed! or a target. good idea, the stealth part.

welcome 8-)

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Re: 2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

Postby stent » September 3rd 2020, 6:48pm

good job & done quick too !!!
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Re: 2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

Postby sixsix » September 4th 2020, 11:43am

5 Months - moving right along , are we not!!

But... Why is it Always called "Stealth Camping" ?

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Re: 2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

Postby augidog » September 4th 2020, 2:32pm

:whack:

YaYa wrote: it had to be done within 2 weeks time, just enough time to finish the build and start traveling for work.

The build was done April of this year and I have put it to the test by living in it since it was finished.

in my opinion, stealth camping refers to an innocuous exterior. altho...a lot of folks are "stealth camping" these days by way of homelessness brought on for varied reasons, and the romance has faded quite a bit.
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Re: 2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

Postby AstroWill » September 4th 2020, 11:14pm

Looks good man!

Don't forget to take care of that rust, once it starts it doesn't stop on it's own.

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Re: 2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

Postby YaYa [OP] » September 6th 2020, 3:26pm

AstroWill wrote:Looks good man!

Don't forget to take care of that rust, once it starts it doesn't stop on it's own.


The rust will definitely be fixed soon, along with a full undercoating. Don't need it spreading for sure!


augidog wrote:in my opinion, stealth camping refers to an innocuous exterior. altho...a lot of folks are "stealth camping" these days by way of homelessness brought on for varied reasons, and the romance has faded quite a bit.

sixsix wrote:Why is it Always called "Stealth Camping" ?

Welcome!!


Thank you for the warm welcome guys! I personally call it stealth camping because when I travel around for work, I often find myself parking in urban areas, somewhere I would otherwise be told I am not allowed to park. (hotel parking or something of that sort) But since they initially see a white van, they move along. I know this because a workmate went to nap in his truck beside me and someone told him to move, haha. The Astro has really given me piece of mind. Also, not a lot of people pay attention to what is on the roof of your van, unless they sit up high enough to notice the solar panels and such. I got my awning today, so that'll be a small project to do here shortly.
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pmou wrote:Nice, no need to do more than is justified! love to see some more pics with the fridge and whatever the sleeping situation is just to get a sense of the space!


Sure! I got what I felt was essential for my own personal needs. (guitar obviously)
I put the dometic fridge towards the back so that I could still have a small living space, all while making it accessible through the rear. The bed is a slideout I put together because I got tired of sleeping with my arms tucked in. The sink in the corner will be removed and I will focus on just having a storage. With the lithium battery and inverter, I am able to use the keurig and a waffle maker with no issues.
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Leeann_93 wrote:Looks great, especially for the short time you had to build. I’m surprised about the spring bolts being so easy to get out, especially for a New England van. My parents got their vehicles undercoated seemingly every year to prevent them from rusting and rotting out beneath us (I’m from the CT side of the MA line ;) )

This is what surprised me as well. The springs were original and shot, and replacing both took about an hour and a half. Never works out like that!
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Re: 2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

Postby Wiley » September 6th 2020, 3:32pm

YaYa wrote:Also, not a lot of people pay attention to what is on the roof of your van, unless they sit up high enough to notice the solar panels and such.


On my trip South of the border there were numerous border/military crossing where they would stop me to check out my vehicle, make comments that they liked it, and then I would mention how much the panels make a difference, and they would see them and get a little excited ohhing and ahhing, having not even noticed them up there in plain sight.


Prior to traveling out of the van, even though I was in Cali I usually didn't even notice vans that were being lived in, as soon as I got back from the trip I could spot them from a mile away, if people are not looking for you they will not see you with the basic steps you are taking. Part of me wants to swap to a cargo so bad.
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Re: 2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

Postby YaYa [OP] » September 7th 2020, 1:32am

Wiley wrote:
On my trip South of the border there were numerous border/military crossing where they would stop me to check out my vehicle, make comments that they liked it, and then I would mention how much the panels make a difference, and they would see them and get a little excited ohhing and ahhing, having not even noticed them up there in plain sight.


Prior to traveling out of the van, even though I was in Cali I usually didn't even notice vans that were being lived in, as soon as I got back from the trip I could spot them from a mile away, if people are not looking for you they will not see you with the basic steps you are taking. Part of me wants to swap to a cargo so bad.


I know exactly what you mean by spotting vans being lived in. It is funny because when the wife and I are traveling, we will spot the camper vans and I will think "Ohhh, that's our buddy!".

No one at my work noticed the solar panels were placed onto the roof racks, not until I started talking about my setup. I just added an awning today, as well as a 4g antenna for my Netgear Unite hotspot box. This of course cuts down on the stealth portion that I had originally aimed for, but I have started to enjoy building this van up little by little. Will remove rust off of the ladder rack "someday"
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Original Poster [OP]
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Extra Info: AWD Camper Conv.

Re: 2002 Chevy Astro Cargo AWD Stealth Camper Conversion

Postby Rambert4eva » March 3rd 2021, 2:43am

This is rad! How many bats of Havelock did you use to insulate?
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