Pictures can say more than a thousand words! For those that are interested what exactly we did to our car, take a look at these photos!
Its probably going to take a lifetime to bring our home on wheels to prefection, so if you are interested, keep checking this page for updates!
AND NOW FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO KNOW MORE:
Our vehicle is a VW T4 Bus with all-wheel drive and long wheel base. It was built 1995 and the mileage is aprox. 190.000 km.
Step 1: Getting rid of rust on the inside
Since there was a lack on the window behind the drivers seat when we bought the car, the whole foot mat of the load area has been flodded. To avoid permanent damage we first dismateled two rows of seats and got rid of the floor mat.
Step 3: Insulation of the inside
Since we got rid of the rust, we were now able to start insulating the car. We tried to cover every alcove in the car to avoid the cold metal to radiate into the inside. After long research we settled on a 1,8 cm thick insulation mat from Isotec and glued it with multicomponent glue. Obviously this was a very tedious procedure since we wanted to insulated the entire inside including the ceiling, floor, walls and two windows, but it was well worth it in the end. Compared to before the remodeling, the temperature in the car seems very pleasent even tho it is quite impossible to completely cover every area that might radiate coldness.
Step 5: Building the shelf
Before you start constructing a shelf you should always be aware of what exactly you want to use it for and which things you want to store. Since the two of us are very into food and we both love cooking it was very clear to us that it would be fine for us to give up on some storage room in favor of creating enough space to take a refrigerator and a nice little kitchen nook with us. After a decent research we compromised on a TropiCool TC 35FL refrigerator by DOMETIC. This is a pure electrical cooler, which runs either with 12 V direct current or 220 V alternate current. The total room of storage is 33 L which is perfectly fine for our purpose and the energy consumption is around 45 W. We also received a little stove as a present from a family’s friend. It is equipped with two gas flames which are running on propane gas. When we originally started constructing our shelf, we tried to screw the exterior walls as far apart as possible to the ground plate in order of creating maximum storage space in between for diverse boxes and other stuff. To have easy one-handed access to the cooler in general and even more important to access it from the inside of the car we decided to put the whole cooler on top of a drawer.
Our next step consisted of screwing a foldout table to the ground plate of our shelf. The table in its regular mode could be just as wide as we could still have access to the cooler from the left side and also to a clear-water tank from the right side. The length of the table was also limited due to the height of the car. As a primary leg for the table we used a height-adjustable aluminum version which was mounted to the end of the table. Another perk of constructing the table the way we did is that now the table also serves as a cover for all the food boxes stored behind it and that way they cannot get loose. Whenever the table is collapsed it is additionally fixed by two hooks.
Another challenge was the integration of our stove. Of course, or main goal was to safe as much space as possible, but we also had to make sure to have good access to it in order of using it for our cooking. Additionally, we wanted the stove not to be disturbing whenever we need to use our table for anything else than cooking. We solved the problem by mounting the stove on a small swing-up panel with the propane gas bottle right next to it. This installation was definitely on our highlights during the whole remodeling process!
After the integration of our cooler, stove and propane gas bottle we used some wooden panels to create some additional smaller shelves inside our big shelf to hold the rest of our boxes. Obviously, we tried to safe as much space as possible and adjusted the height of the small shelves exactly to our boxes. We also added 1cm wide aluminum pipes to every little shelf just to make sure that the boxes cannot fall out.
At the very end we equipped the outside of our big shelf with some hooks that can be used for holding our jackets and hoodies.
Step 7: Construction of a roof box
For various reason we thought it would be indispensable for our trip to have a roof box on top of our camper. One reason was obviously to gain some additional storage room. But other than that, the roof box also serves as heat insulation for our camper and as a nice installation plate for our solar collector which can be turned towards the sun even with the lid of the box opened.
The base frame of the 2m wide and 1.5m wide roof box is made out of 2cm thick aluminum square tubes which corners are linked through synthetic material. The ground of the box consists of 16 square tubes while the sidewalls are made out of 2mm thin aluminum sheets which are riveted to the base frame. The lid of the box is made out of a separate aluminum square frame and is with the help of hinges attached to box. For a comfortable opening and closing of the lid two gas compression lifter are incorporated. To make sure the lid will not open during driving, three fasteners are attached to it. We also included two locks just to be sure that no trespassers will have access to the box.
Overall, we are very satisfied how the incorporation of our roof turned out in the end even though we had to put in a lot of work and money.
Step 2: Painting the inside
The open floor of the car was very damaged by damp and full of rust. Therefore we polished it almost completey and covered it in anti-rust polish, to prevent future problems in that area..
Step 4: Building the base frame of the inner construction
Building the base for the inner construction turned out rather diffiuclt, since we had to improvise quite a bit. In the end we connected the wood construction at 5 points ( point 1 behind the drivers seat, point 2 and 3 each where the belt feed used to be and point 4 and 5 in the very back behind the trunk lid under the back end of the last windows) to the car and put it on a wodden base. Through each rung the construction got more and more stable and we are left with no doubt, that its robust enough to last! Additionally the rung ensures that the slatted frames dont fall through if you lift them up to access luggage. As a baseplate for the shelf in the back of the vehicle we used a 1,8 cm thick multiplex plate which we connected to the base to achieve maximum stability.
Step 6: Creating our sleeping room
Since we knew that we will have to sleep about half a year inside our camper we were very cautious about equipping our camper with a comfortable place to sleep. For this purpose, we bought two high-quality hard foam mattresses and placed them on two solid slatted frames. We elaborated our construction to the point where we could turn our two beds very easily into a seating couch. That way we made sure to have even on rainy days a nice little place to sit. Additionally, we mounted a small folding panel right next to the slide door of our camper to have a table inside the car which can be used for preparing meals. Beneath that table construction there is also some good accessible storage room. The last step of finishing our sleeping area was to hang up two curtains. This task required quite some skill and creativity.
Step 8: Construction und installation of a solar array
Finally, some of the knowledge and skills Dominik gathered during his energy-economy
and -engineering study paid a little bit off. First of all, we created a list of all electrical devices that we wanted to take with us on our journey and did a research on the energy consumption of each device. The goal was to set up the electricity grid in a way where it would not shut down even when multiple devices are getting charged. Furthermore, we decided to take two 100 AH car batteries with us which should serve as energy stores, so we won’t run out of energy even during a period of some rainy days. Since we didn’t want to install an inverter, we had to get rechargers for all our electronic devices that work with 12 V potential. To produce energy, we bought two 100 W solar panels from Bosswerk which are connected in series to add up the potential of both modules. That way the potential of the modules is higher than the potential of our car battery even when then sun is not shining. This allows us to charge our devices at almost any time. Of course, you have to be aware that in this case the potential is only half of the potential that two in series connected modules would normally have. Within good circumstances it takes two days to charge the two energy store car batteries fully. The car batteries are also connected in series to receive a higher capacity. To eventually skim the energy, we use an electronic jack with three 12 V standard cigarette lighters and four 5 V USB connections (two 1A und two 2A). And as easy as that we have energy for our camper!
Converting a car into a camper
In terms of saving taxes, a lot of people think about a re-registration of their vehicle. More precisely to change it from a regular car registration into a camper registration. But if you want to do so you have to be aware of a lot of things. First of all, it really depends on the inspector who is examining your registration. Basically, you have to have a sleeping space, a permanent cooking station, storage room, a table and overall it just needs to be livable inside your camper. It is really important to have your gas stove with its tubes and bottles tested by a certificated inspector checking them on their safety before you bring your car to the re-registration. The gas bottle has to be stored safely inside a lockable and sealed up box. Furthermore, there needs to be a 10 cm by 10 cm hole on the bottom of the box that leads in case of emergency the propane gas out of the car. Once you fulfill every guideline there shouldn’t be any problems with you re-registration. Unfortunately, we didn’t fulfill all the criteria for the correct incorporation of our gas bottle, so eventually we could not re-register our car as a camper.
For questions and ideas dont hesitate to leave a comment and we will try our best to respond as quickly as possible 🙂