The past two summers, Sofia and I have been spending a lot of time in campervans around the world, both the US, and in Australia. We have slowly come to realize that it really is the best way to see a place, to understand cultures, and to get as much out of a vacation as possible. Not to even mention the fact that sleeping in a car, alone at the ocean or by a lake, under a sky filled with stars is about as good as it gets! This fall, we finally decided this would be a dream worth pursuing, to spend way more time living in a mobile home, being able to go wherever we want on a whim. We were getting a campervan!
Just one problem…there were none. At least not in our price range. Scouring the web for possible secondhand purchases made us realize how expensive proper RVs are, and how few the DIY options out there really are. We ended up looking at delivery trucks and mini buses, and it seemed like our only option was to build from scratch. Another problem. My carpentry skills were limited to having carved some butter knives out of wood 20 years ago, and I am certainly not an electrician or a mechanic. At this point, we knew the possibilities were endless but all I could see were problems. My brief history with car ownership begun and ended with the same abused Audi A3, and I was afraid to buy something that would end up costing me too much in the long run.
Winter was closing in on us and we had to make a decision, but none of us wanted to wait another year. It was time to buy. After another week of looking up every make and model of sufficiently large delivery trucks, we finally found a fairly priced and well-kept Renault Master with 15 years and 200 000 km’s under her belt. She had previously been a motocross transporter and already had some of the things we were looking for, like the gas stove and fridge, although we quickly realized we had to start over from scratch if we wanted to make the end result look halfway decent. When we first set out building, we decided to document the whole process but somewhere around the 50% completion mark we got lazy and forgot the camera. Here’s the 6-week birth story of the ultimate stoke van, the score mobile and our new rolling home. Enjoy!
The day after buying the car and right before digging in with power tools to clean out the interior. Game time!
The first 3 days consisted of nothing but breaking things apart. The whole room was covered in metal, with a huge metal frame for a loft bed and motocross garage. I have never been this angry at pop rivets before, as a few hundred or so of the things kept everything in place.
Completely exhausted after getting the last few pieces of metal out. I don’t think I’ve ever been this sore before!
Sofia covering the floor in recycled plywood, since we needed a flat surface for the flooring. Making sense of the old 12V electrics proved to be a confusing task as well. Luckily, we were thinking ahead and made sure to put in fresh cables for all our appliances under the plywood. I can’t repeat this enough, know what cables go where before putting in the floor, you do not want to start over later!
Sofia measuring up the vinyl floor planks. Fun and easy part right here! To the right you can see some of the cables from the fridge and water pump, that need to go under the floor to the battery bank, that we kept on the right side of the van for correct balancing.
Fresh floor in place! On the walls you can see the styrofoam used for insulation, we added another inch or two of insulation wool on top of this to keep us toasty all year round.
Taking on this project in November means most of the day is dark, so we had to make the most of every day. Finishing up some cladding for the walls with the help of Sofia and a flashlight.
Putting in the wood on the walls was easy and pretty fun, and only took about two days in total. In this photo I’m stuffing the gap between the wood and the styrofoam with insulation wool. The plastic tube is for putting in lamp cables at a later stage instead of having to remove planks. The blue plastic sheeting is the moisture barrier, since we spend so much time in humid and cold regions we figured it’s better to stay on the safe side.
Sofia, giving the storage units a new coat of paint.
Almost done with all the wood!
Sofia and the paintbrush.
More paint in place
And then…we for some reason decided it was time to put the camera away. It’s funny, the last photo makes it look barely half-finished, but after it was taken it only took us about a week to build a huge bed, storage units and a fully functioning 12V electrics setup controlling 4 LED lamps, a fridge, 220V inverter, water pump and battery charger. Let’s fast forward to now:
The finished (actually not finished, I hope the day never comes) product! It was an amazing feeling to take her out to a secluded place in the Stockholm archipelago, spend a night under the stars, and wake up to the sunrise.
Sofia having a morning cup of coffee.
Last but not least, never again do I have to change into a wetsuit in the cold rain! The surf-mobile will change our lives in so many ways!
So by now you hopefully understand where my focus has been the last month and a half. It’s been such a fun adventure figuring out every detail on this beast, learning by trial and error, making up solutions, and I’m sure hundreds of new ideas will form over the next few years of traveling in it. In just 3 weeks it will be rolling towards the Mt Blanc, waiting to be filled with epic memories.