This van was purchased in Mount Vernon, Washington with 64 miles on the odometer. Technically used, but very much a new vehicle. A cargo van without windows or seats – just a metal box. The first task was to put in the large CR Laurence windows on both the passenger and driver sides. Really not that hard, but daunting if you haven’t cut large holes in a new vehicle before!
I chose not to put windows in the rear of the van for privacy reasons. Things felt a little dark and confined so I researched skylights. Decided on the Dometic Heki 2 – the largest I could fit in the roof given the location of supports. This is an operable window which is big enough to crawl through. Which means it needed to be mounted on a flat surface both inside and outside. The solution for the inside came in the form of custom fit wood mounting frame.
The real challenge was creating a flat surface on the roof. Ideally it would provide a waterproof seal at the same time! The solution came from a product I had zero experience with. Liquid silicone rubber from Smooth-on turned out to be the perfect product. I had to build a form out of cardboard and wood that would hold the product while it was in it’s liquid form. Once dry I could mount the skylight – fingers crossed!
While I was in the mood to put holes in the van I decided to mount the solar panels next. I wanted the van to have ample power as an induction range and water heater were planned. This meant installing two rigid panels for a total of 640 watts! There was just barely enough room and mounting both panels was a challenge. I purchased a complete kit from Northern Arizona wind & Sun. The batteries are important components of the kit. I chose Battleborn LiFePO4 batteries which have some distinct advantages. Deciding where to place components in a van is very difficult because of the space constraints. I placed a 25 gallon water tank over the wheel well and behind the electrical cabinet.
Next come the custom cabinetry. Each cabinet is designed to maximize the use of space without feeling crowded. Once a cabinet is designed it needs to be fit exactly in the space provided. This process involves many steps grinding, cutting, shaping until the fit is perfect. Installation of each cabinet is important as you don’t want anything shifting, rubbing, or moving once it’s installed. I use rivet-nuts and bolts to securely attach each item. I rarely use glue or adhesives for installation as components need to be removed for a variety of reasons.
The garage is an important component of any van. This is where you store gear, bikes, skis, or possibly another sleeping space. I like to have these things accessible and have included a 5′ full extension tray for bikes. Keeping these thing inside the van keeps road grime and dust off expensive bikes and serves as a deterrent to theft.