This post is long overdue, not only have I built the van and lived in it, but I’ve also sold it and moved on yet never made a final walk through of the van showing and explaining the features of the final product. I’m calling it a product because I always rethink what I’m calling it, is it a van or a motor home? From now on I’ll be calling it a van, so come and check it out.I dealt with the whole building process in a fair amount of detail in a series of 4 posts you can find here. I also covered some of my experiences living in it and traveling but I’ve never made a post in detail about the final fit out for anyone who may be interested in seeing what it looks like and what the features are.
Firstly, I made segments of video when I was looking at selling the van, I’ve now put these all together, so if you want to waste 15 minutes of your life listening to me explain the details watch the following video, it’s perhaps the best way to see everything. If you want to waste even more of your life, you can read though the rest of this post and look at the photos.
Where to begin, the basics I guess. It’s a 2014 Mercedes sprinter van, mid wheel base with high roof, a 315 model I believe which means that it was tuned up to have a surprising amount of power from the little 2.2L engine.
I must admit that I really like the drive of these vans, powerful, easy to drive with a comfortable upright driving position, and fuel consumption was brilliant usually under 9L/100km loaded up.
Keeping at the front of the van, above the seats is a large storage area I use mainly for spare bedding, window covers and a few other odds and ends. I added a nice Jarrah edge to it, and yes I bumped my head on it a few times going in and out of the cab area but you soon got used to it.
Of course you’ll notice that the seats are swiveled around in the photo above, this was an essential install, swivel bases under the seats to make the whole space more functional. Straight into the kitchen now, directly behind the drivers seat is an 85L fridge freezer with freezer. It was big enough for my needs.
Oh yes and that’s strip lighting under the kitchen cabinet, there was strip lighting there, and also on the steps into the van, they could be either different colours, solid or changing, flashing or plain white.
Above the fridge is a two burner induction cook top, this runs from the 240V inverter and works really well except you can only run one hotplate at a time due to inverter limitations.
Then there’s the sink a standard small round deep sink with a flick mixer tap that has a built in filter drinking water supply. I found a nice round cane basket which was a good fit in the sink to use as a fruit basket, there was only ever fruit or very light items in it because this is directly behind the drivers seat, once you stop somewhere the basket comes out of the sink onto the counter top, or perhaps on the shelf above the seats.
There are 3 drawers, the first is a shallow cutlery drawer, the second is deeper with utensils, plates, bowls etc, while the third is even deeper still, I used this as mostly a pantry drawer for heavy items like cans. All the drawers have marine grade stainless steel fittings, solid jarrah fronts and jarrah edging.
Next to the drawers,under the sink is a cupboard with solid jarrah door and push to open catch. To go with the stainless steel fixtures on the drawers the cupboard has solid stainless steel rods to stop items pushing against the door while driving.
So that’s the kitchen, compact with clean lines, white, black, jarrah and stainless steel.
And I guess that leads to the top cupboards as well. They extend the whole length of the van, 5 cupboards in all, with matching jarrah grain. Ok the following photo is the back couple of cupboards which were for towels, sheets, etc, while the front three in the kitchen were used to store lighter pantry items, everything except cans. Also one long continuous stainless steel rod, mainly for holding back pantry items.
Notice too how the white wall paneling extends the whole length of the van, there’s is a join at the side window, but it’s barely visible. I’d planned on adding a feature to the kitchen wall, I would have liked to take a thin slice of a forked branch fitted from kitchen bench to the base of the top cupboards, but I never found the right piece of wood.
Above you get a little better idea of the matching grain in the top cupboards. And below is the rubbish bin.
Yes I stole the above image from the walk through video which you really should watch. The rubbish bin under the lid was actually a ladies sanitary bin, the tallest thinnest bin I could find, though damn it wasn’t cheap. Notice the grain flows here to the other two bedside cupboards, one long continuous piece cut into three, the back two were for general storage.
Not huge storage, but every little bit counts, these back two storage cupboards have recessed stainless steel fittings. You may also notice on the back pillar of the van, there are some small plastic access panels, I’ve installed a USB and 12V socket for charging phone etc while laying in bed.
Back to the bed and whats underneath it in the main living area. Three large drawers which were enough for most of my clothing.
Notice that the drawers and the whole end of the bed have been cut from a single piece of wood so the grain all matches. Nice deep drawers with the same stainless steel fittings as in the kitchen.
Now perhaps the last thing in this main living area is the box and the table. This hinged wooden box was originally going to be the toilet, I was going to make a small composting toilet but in the end it became a storage box. On the drivers side of the box are a switch for the 12V water heater and for the strip lighting, some 12V outlets and a 240V outlet, while on the front the table was mounted in such a way as to allow a lot of options.
Most common option for me in use was either stashed out of the way like in the picture above or swiveled around for the laptop like in the picture below. The table and it’s leg could also be removed and stashed behind the driver seat. There’s also also a shoe stashing area under the box beside the step.
Just a couple more things before we leave this area. Firstly the window in the sliding door was added by me. It has a sliding window section with a security grill on the outside so you can leave it open on warm days or nights. The tv isn’t a tv, it’s a computer monitor and has a media player attached to the back of it so you can stream netflix iview etc. Under the bed, within the bed frame there are 4 handy storage area, 2 accessible from the front and two from the rear of the van, here’s one
On the passenger side under the bed is also the dirty clothes hamper, along with the vacuum cleaner, stashed under there. On the passenger side up high we also have the control panel, control for the diesel heater which is mounted under the passenger seat. The heater is plumbed straight into the vehicle fuel line and it’s a luxury on those cold nights. There’s also the 240V inverter controls here, the battery monitor, lights switch, and tv power switch.
Of course mounted on this side is also the bookshelf, which extends to the back doors with the familiar jarrah trim and stainless steel rod. Books had to be stuck in there pretty well, jammed in tight otherwise there were a few times when I went around a corner fast and hit a bump and all the books ended up on the bed.
There’s a vent fan in the roof which is automatic and great for ventilation, then the rest of the roof is filled with solar panels, 3 x 150W panels for a total of 450W, I couldn’t fit any more up there but that is loads along with charging batteries every time I drove, I never even thought about my power. That rear window on the side I installed myself, that’s a scary thing, cutting into the side of the van, but these little windows either side are great.
The back was carefully designed to fit a particular large storage box, hey I was fitting everything I own into this van, storage was everything.
On the drivers side under the bedside storage boxes there’s a shelf allowing for more storage. The 12V water heater can be seen on the shelf on the drivers side. You can see deep inside the plywood that is the back of the clothes drawers.
Just to the passenger side of this is the upright water tank and water pump. Further to the passenger side is all the electrics while in the middle is the big drawer. The electrics are fairly simple, two upright 100AH lithium batteries, a Redarc charger/controller, lots of fuses and circuit breakers for safety. Originally I installed one small inverter, the blue box you can see, but I added a much larger one, a 2000W Projecta inverter you can see in the background, this was to power the induction cook top.
At the end of the bed on the passenger sided you’ll notice the water filler, the retractable shower and water level indicators. Showering works quite well, you could reverse up to bush land. open the back doors for privacy and shower easily, even in amongst suburbia you can always find a some bushland with dense shrubs and if there was no grass I had a rubber mat you could shower on to keep your feet clean. Notice the magnetic covers over the windows, I had these for all of the windows and once you put them up they provide 100% privacy and light protection, I tested it a few times leaving all the lights on inside, shutting the doors and from outside you would never know there’s a light on inside, pitch black. Ok and the drawer..
This drawer was the only thing in the whole van that was varnished, all other wood was oiled with danish oil, this was varnished because it doubled as a storage drawer and table a for cooking on. The drawer was heavy duty with a maximum capacity of 200kg or more from memory, the main reason for this was because it was storing my rock collection.
Here it is loaded up with all my rocks and shells as well as the metho stove with the table inserts removed. I had to do some serious downsizing of my rock collection to fit it all in here. I talked about how things were specifically designed to fit certain boxes, here we are, you can see two smaller black boxes stacked way forward beside the clothes drawers, then I could fit 4 of the large boxes, and another 2 small boxes right at the back, lots of storage.
One of the last things is the jarrah surrounds around the back windows, a nice touch tying things in together. When you open up both these side windows which have fly screens, then turn the roof vent fan up the front on to blow out, it sucks lovely fresh air through these windows and across the bed area. All windows behind the front seats are tinted very dark for privacy and to keep things cool
For privacy and insulation I made inserts for these rear windows. High density foam like I’d used in the under floor insulation , covered with automotive fabric and a small stainless handle, these were a tight push fit and in the evenings you could just slide one end out a little to keep the privacy yet allow ventilation.
Ahh, ok, I’d forgotten about the ceiling. Tongue and groove pine, oiled as with all the other wood in the van. There were 4 pairs of down lights all individually switched, more than enough lighting for this small area.
So what was it like living in the van? Quite comfy, I loved the fact that I had everything with me at all times, whether I was at the beach, in the city, in the burbs or out in the middle of the outback, everything was with me at all times.
Another great aspect is that being a mid wheel base, rather than long wheel base like many sprinter based motor homes, I could fit perfectly into normal parking bays.
It also performed pretty well out in the bush considering the size of it, perhaps the super large back wheels helped with this, though I didn’t take it too far off the beaten track, it was my home and I didn’t want to get stuck.
I spent quite a few months living around the Perth metro area and it was a breeze. I had million dollar views of an evening many nights.
And waking up to the ocean, like right on the ocean, is truly something else. Stepping out of your home with a nice hot coffee on a clear summer morning, sitting on a seat only 3 or 4 metres from the ocean. Finish the coffee, step back inside and put on your bathers, dive into the crystal clear water, then open the back of the van and rinse off the salt water with the shower.
Of course you can’t be at the beach front constantly, I made a rule that if there was already more than one camper at a beach side spot, I’d move on. I ended up with perhaps 8 or 9 regular spots I’d camp at, sometimes in industrial areas like the one below, on the edge of a small lake and bush land, and people were often arriving early in the morning for work, but it was discrete. I never once got in trouble for camping, never got told to move on, never had a knock on the door and never had any trouble.
Downsides? Well, I covered a lot of pros and cons of living in a van and the whole concept of vanlife on a post previously, well worth a look if you’re interested. Things personally I’d change about the van next time around, if I ever did it again? Probably not much. Honestly at the moment I can’t think of any aspect I’d change, anything that I think “if only that was different”. In the available space within such a small van it really was perfect, at least perfect for me. There were a few minor aspect, just things that didn’t get finished, carpeting over the metal pillars near the back of the bed, perhaps carpeting over the back doors as well. On a cold night touching the cold metal wasn’t pleasant.