Balands National Park

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Our Inspiration

In June 2015 we purchased a used 2000 Volkswagen Eurovan Winnebago Camper.   It was in great shape and we enjoyed it for two seasons before selling it in December 2016.

We had some fantastic trips with this vehicle throughout New England, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Gettysburg National Military Park, Nova Scotia, & Newfoundland.

These two years provided us with a great perspective from which we could build a new van.  We wanted a new vehicle with:
  • more power, 
  • more ground clearance,
  • more storage space
  • wider, more comfortable bed,
  • easier to find parts and repair
...and still fit in our garage!

Fairyland Harbour, Newfoundland

Meat Cove, Nova Scotia

The Van We Ordered from Ford:

Transit 250 Low Roof Van, MSRP=$39,700
130” wheel base
3.5L EcoBoost V6 w/twin turbos
3.73 limited slip 
fixed passenger slide glass
heavy duty alternator
dual heavy duty batteries
high capacity upfit switches
power inverter
running board passenger door
rear window defogger
short power/heat side mirrors
interior upgrade package includes:  

·      Complete rear trim including LH/RH full-height polypropylene panels
·      AM/FM stereo, audio input jack, 4" multi-function display, Message Center (level 1 instrument cluster), SYNC®, leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls for audio and multi-function display.
·      Cruise Control
·      Vinyl Flooring, Front and Rear

Delivery Time:  Approximately 10 weeks.  We ordered the van on December 3, and it was delivered to us on February 22.

What we should have included in our order?
·       remote keyless entry keypad:  We added this at our local Ford dealer.  This eliminates the worry of ever locking yourself out of your van while camping in the middle of nowhere.  It provides great peace of mind!
·       remote start:  This would allow you on cold mornings to start your engine with the heater running at full blast without getting out of your sleeping bag!

Sportsmobile Modifications

We took our van to Sportsmobile North in Huntington, Indiana, where we had the following items added to our van.  They are not cheap, but the quality of their products and their workmanship is outstanding.

Penthouse Top
Sliding Window with Screen on Driver Side
Full length Thule Tracks on Roof
Fiamma 45S awning-10 ft.
Swivel Seat for Passenger

When we arrived at Sportsmobile's shop, every part was laid out, ready for installation.

We left their shop at 8AM, and they invited us to return at noon to inspect their progress.

Amazingly the Penthouse was already attached, the hole for the window was cut, and...

the swivel on the passenger seat was installed.

The following morning, everything was finished and we were on our way!

We couldn't be more satisfied!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Our Bed

After sleeping on the 42" wide rock-n-roll bed in our Eurovan, one of the highest priorities for our new van was to have a comfortable bed.  Even after we purchased a 2" memory foam topper for our VW, we weren't satisfied.  Although we have three children, they're now full grown adults, so when we go camping there are only two of us, so we don't need a rock-n-roll bed so that we could transport any additional passengers.

Which way to position our bed?
Knowing that we wanted a full size bed the next decision was which was to mount the bed, parallel to the length of the van or perpendicular?  Since the inside dimension of the Transit is only 69" wide and I'm 72" tall, and window flares were not available for the regular wheel base/low roof transit, we decided to stick with the typical Westfalia floor plan.

In order to locate the bed as close to the rear doors as possible we had to cut off a corner of the bed, and then for aesthetic reasons, we cut off the corner on the other side to make the bed symmetrical.

All of the materials for the platform bed were purchased at Home Depot and the total cost was $96 including the 2 sheets of plywood, 2'x4" x 8', carpeting, and adhesive.

For a mattress we selected  a 6" memory foam (Bob-O-Pedic).  $300

The cover on this mattress has a zipper, so it's easy to remove, and after making a simple fixture, I used an electric carving knife that I bought at Walmart to cut the two corners.

We modified the cover with some hand-stitching,

 and then used a quilt to cover the mattress, and at night we use sleeping bags on top of the quilt.

The height of the platform (11.5 inches) was designed so that we could store four 14 gallon  Rubbermaid totes underneath,

plus 2 beach chairs, a foldable table, and a 2.5 gallon water jug.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Our Fridge

One of the poorly functioning features in our VW Eurovan was the fridge.  The Winnebago models were equipped with Norcold 3 way, AC/DC/Propane, fridges which were notoriously problematic.  While camping on Cape Cod during the summer of 2015, I spoke to a fellow Eurovan owner who described the factory installed fridge as a "piece of shit."  I agreed.

Ours was no different so we started exploring alternatives.  GoWesty, the Calfiornia gurus for VW restorations recommended AC/DC fridges as did many others.  So we purchased an ARB 50 quart model through Amazon.
We loved it.  So when we bought the Transit and needed to select a fridge, we didn't hesitate to buy another ARB.  It draws very little current, so it was very kind to our dual battery system. We have run the fridge for 3 days without starting the engine once and still had plenty voltage in our battery system.  It is designed with an automatic shut off system so that it can't drain your battery beyond the level needed to start your engine.  It's easy to clean, it's big enough for extended camping trips and it is very easy to program and maintain specific temperatures.    It's really foolproof, WORTH EVERY PENNY!

However, the ARB would not fit into the space vacated by our Norcold, so we installed Go Westy's "Fridge-B-Gone" shelving system, which provided much needed storage.

We like the "Fridge-B-Gone" system so much that we duplicated it in our Transit.

In our Transit I wired the fridge directly to the dual batteries, an easy connection since those batteries are located under the driver's seat.

I purchased the ARB Fridge Wiring Kit from Amazon which makes it easy to either connect to your 12 volt battery or 110 volt power, and I mounted the 12V receptacle on the B pillar behind the drivers seat.

I mounted the 110V receptacle on wall behind the driver's seat and below.  

Thursday, June 21, 2018


Our cabinet footprint clearly followed the Westfalia design with just a few variations that were based on our personal preferences and habits.  We decided that we didn't need a built in stove or sink, we prefer to do cooking and eating outside, but we wanted plenty of counter space.

Our two years of camping with our Eurovan led us to replicate the GoWesty "Fridge-B-Gone" shelving unit which provides us with open shelves on which we could store bins of various sizes.

For our cabinets material we chose 3/4" baltic plywood and faced it with  1"wide poplar.  I used a Kreg pocket jig to join the surfaces and I finished the wood with Minwax polyurethane.  The Kreg pocket screws create an incredibly strong and tight joint...very sturdy.  

In order to attach the cabinets to the walls of the Transit I used 1/4" PlusNuts,which are easily mounted in the predrilled holes of the vans, and stainless steel button head screws to screwed into the PlusNuts.

Cleats were screwed across the backs of the cabinets at the proper height to line up with the PlusNuts.

Hanger bolts that have threaded woods screws on one end and bolt threads on the other were used to line up the PlusNut locations with the cleats on the backs of the cabinets.

We refer to this cabinet as "the hamper".  It opens on front and it is as deep as the floor of the van.  we use it to store sleeping bags, pillows, & our bottle jack.  Eventually we added a door which hinges at the bottom of the opening and is held closed with a magnet

Our 3rd cabinet, which we refer to as "the coffin", functions a lot like a blanket chest and is used to store a variety of items.  It opens from the top using a full length piano hinge to hold the lid in place.

"The coffin" is 15 inches deep. so the space below it is open and accessible from the rear of the van.

The lid on "the coffin" closely slowly with a single stay purchased through Amazon.

For a counter top, I used a single piece of 3/4" birch plywood and trimmed it with poplar just as I did with the cabinets.

After a few camping trips we decided we could add some additional storage by placing a small cabinet underneath the fridge.  The height of the fridge does restrict how far back the drivers seat can be tilted, so I had to experiment with the dimensions of this last cabinet.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Insulation and Wall Covering

One of the main reasons we ordered the interior upgrade package from Ford was because it includes floor to ceiling  polypropylene panels.  There are four of these panels one the driver's side of the vehicle and two on the passenger side. They are held in place with plastic fasteners.  The fasteners can be removed with a small flat head screw driver, but I recommend purchasing a special tool from Amazon.  If you use this tool you won't damage the fasteners and you'll have no need to buy additional ones.

The fasteners can be removed with a small flat head screw driver, but I recommend purchasing a special tool from Amazon.  If you use this tool you won't damage the fasteners and have no need to buy additional ones.

After removing all the panels the next step is insulation.  There's a library of information online about campervan insulation.  We don't camp in winter so we were more interested in audio than thermal qualities. For insulation I used FatMat self adhesive Rattletrap and Noico self adhesive sound deadening mat.  FatMat gets better reviews, but I had some Noico material left over from a previous job so I used that too.  For both materials you need a roller, but you don't need a special cutting tool; utility knives or scissors work fine.

This material is very sticky, and once it is place you can't remove it, so it's best to cut small sizes that are easier to manipulate.  This material will not absorb any condensation that passes through your walls from inside the van, so you don't have to worry about it turning into a sponge like some insulation material does.  Also, the polypropylene panels will act as a vapor barrier as well.  Cover every spot that's easy to reach, but you don't need to cover 100% of the surfaces.  

Covering the wheel wells is especially important for noise since there are no liners to them on Transits.  

In selecting a fabric to cover the panels we purchased 7 yards of upholstery material. We applied spray adhesive to the back side of the fabric and the front side of the panel, and we used hot glue on the back side of the panel.  Once the glue dried we had to use an awl to put holes in the fabric where all holes for the fasteners are located. Once that is done, the panels can be remounted.  

Applying the fabric is not a difficult process, but it needs to be done slowly and carefully.

We did not need to insulate or cover the ceiling of our van since we had the Penthouse installed by Sportsmobile and they took care of both of those tasks.