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Old 09-19-2013, 12:17 PM   #1
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Default Building your own Class B Campervan

I'm going to quote Stan here (from the Cassette Toilets - Why Not? topic:

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Originally Posted by stanw909
........................ I have dreams of building my own class B someday .....................
Anyone else thinking about the DIY route? I do, sometimes. I know it is easier and probably better to buy a completed camper van even if you have to renovate or do some repairs but something about building my own Class B Campervan is appealing. The high roof vans available now make the DIY route seem easier.

Could you start with something like a Ram Promaster passenger model with full automotive windows? Get it with swivel seats from the factory. Could you insulate a passenger van or would you have to fore-go additional insulation?
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Old 09-19-2013, 02:51 PM   #2
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Default Re: Building your own Class B Campervan

I have thought of that, but I just don't have the time since I'm still decades away from any type of retirement. However, there are always things I'd love to do with a "B", such as spending the cash for some European/Aussie appliances so I could have the entire rig just run from diesel and stored electricity. Of course, the European extend-a-room tents would be nice as well. Over there, slide-outs tend to not be used. Instead, Europeans fold out a tent that is attached to their rig for extra space. This is nice because when touring, one can park and go about one's business only taking up a parking space. when boondocking and one wants to spread out, out comes the tent and one has almost as much space as a small apartment.
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:08 PM   #3
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Default Re: Building your own Class B Campervan

Do you have links or picks of the add on rooms?
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:40 PM   #4
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Default Re: Building your own Class B Campervan

Quote:
Originally Posted by mlts22
I have thought of that, but I just don't have the time since I'm still decades away from any type of retirement. However, there are always things I'd love to do with a "B", such as spending the cash for some European/Aussie appliances so I could have the entire rig just run from diesel and stored electricity. Of course, the European extend-a-room tents would be nice as well. Over there, slide-outs tend to not be used. Instead, Europeans fold out a tent that is attached to their rig for extra space. This is nice because when touring, one can park and go about one's business only taking up a parking space. when boondocking and one wants to spread out, out comes the tent and one has almost as much space as a small apartment.
The down side (or soft side) of tent-like add ons is that, they shred pretty easily when the wildlife gets a little too curious. That includes soft side pop ups. We like to stay in places where there are potentially more than a few squirrels or a raccoon or two as the indigenous night time neighbors. Larger animals, typically native to the western mountain states, could not be counted on to "respect" your campsite or camper space, and that includes tents or the like.
I would always prefer a hard shelled camper over a tent any day.
Just our preference, after some casual discussions about hypotheticals, and seeing real visual evidence of curious predators. Statistically it's unlikely, maybe one in ten thousand or more, but we don't want to be the "one in".
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Old 09-19-2013, 09:02 PM   #5
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Default Re: Building your own Class B Campervan

One big issue that I ran into when thinking DIY, or even semi-major mods, was getting the high ply count, lightweight, plywood that most of the units use. None of them will sell it to you, and the only place I could find it was in Europe. The only substitute I could find is actually better, but very, very spendy. It is an imported wood marine plywood, I forget the name right now, which is very strong and about 1/2 the weight of regular plywood, plus is rot resistant. Very good stuff, I hear. When I added up the extra weight using regular plywood, our Roadtrek C190P would have gained several hundred pounds if Roadtrek used standard plywood everywhere. edit: Okoume plywood is the stuff.

Another issue is tanks, as for one unit, you can't get custom shapes made, and still afford to eat. I was going to use light gauge stainless, welded seams, with band reinforcing to fit the custom areas. i can fab them pretty easily by buying sheared stainless pieces and welding them together at home, with welded in stainless fittings.

Most of the rest is pretty straightforward, if you use a tall van and don't have to add a fiberglass top.
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Old 09-20-2013, 12:06 AM   #6
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Default Re: Building your own Class B Campervan

Some other items I'd add to Booster's list (weight and tanks): the bathroom/shower, dropped floor if you want one like Roadtrek, and "sidepods" (side storage compartments). One thing you might try is buying an old "beater" camper that has these items, and fixing/modifying them as required and mounting them on a new(er) chassis, preferably of a similar lineage.

Good luck, Dick
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Old 09-20-2013, 01:13 PM   #7
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Default Re: Building your own Class B Campervan

Quote:
Originally Posted by booster
One big issue that I ran into when thinking DIY, or even semi-major mods, was getting the high ply count, lightweight, plywood that most of the units use. None of them will sell it to you, and the only place I could find it was in Europe. The only substitute I could find is actually better, but very, very spendy. It is an imported wood marine plywood, I forget the name right now, which is very strong and about 1/2 the weight of regular plywood, plus is rot resistant. Very good stuff, I hear. When I added up the extra weight using regular plywood, our Roadtrek C190P would have gained several hundred pounds if Roadtrek used standard plywood everywhere. edit: Okoume plywood is the stuff.

Another issue is tanks, as for one unit, you can't get custom shapes made, and still afford to eat. I was going to use light gauge stainless, welded seams, with band reinforcing to fit the custom areas. i can fab them pretty easily by buying sheared stainless pieces and welding them together at home, with welded in stainless fittings.

Most of the rest is pretty straightforward, if you use a tall van and don't have to add a fiberglass top.
I googled the "Okoume plywood" you mentioned and found this businesss in MA http://www.boulterplywood.com/ . They even have two layers of Okoume sandwiching a foam core which would be extremely light weight. I had been wondering if you could use pre-finished aluminum sandwich type panels. They can have a foam or plastic honeycomb core.

Okoume


Okoume foam core


The weight and quality of different plywoods can really vary as noted by booster. I have a piece of 9 layer plywood that is very strong but very heavy compared to to rough grade plywood. The ready to use finish on some panels would be a real time-saver and worth spending more for.



I have a few invoices from the guy who built my van. Costs would have increased since then

1997 - fiberglass high roof $1,620
1997 - fiberglass running boards $550
1999 - 4' x 8' sheet of stainless steel $93.87 (All the tanks in my van are custom made-to-fit stainless steel)
Attached Images
File Type: jpg okoume edge.jpg (52.8 KB, 1358 views)
File Type: jpg okoume foam core.jpg (58.7 KB, 1358 views)
File Type: jpg 001.JPG (158.9 KB, 1358 views)
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Old 09-20-2013, 02:10 PM   #8
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Default Re: Building your own Class B Campervan

Marko said " I had been wondering if you could use pre-finished aluminum sandwich type panels. They can have a foam or plastic honeycomb core."

Safari Condo is using that type of construction, even for cabinets and roof panels. They must reinforce somehow, as the panels wouldn't hold screws, or be strong enough, by themselves. It all must be put together with adhesive and rivets. Safari Condos are much lighter than everyone else.

http://www.safaricondo.com/altoTech/index-en.php
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Old 09-20-2013, 02:45 PM   #9
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Default Re: Building your own Class B Campervan

If I went to upfit a van myself, I'd probably start with a cargo van as opposed to a passenger model so I can install my own windows (which would be the European standard double-pane models with the emergency exit handles.) Insulation, I'd go for Thermablok insulation (aerogel and is good at preventing metal to metal heat transfer.)

With various plastic factories, including industrial 3D printing shops, I could get the tanks built that way, or at least the molds for the tanks. The big difference is that I would see about a waterproof access panel so if I needed to clean out the black or grey tank, I can pop the panel and go at it with a mop and wet/dry vac. The FW tank could be easily cleaned/sanitized as well.

For me, the hard part would be figuring out where to put the tanks, generators, appliances, and routing the LP gas, fuel, and electrical pipes/wires. That is why I'd rather buy from an existing company, as I know enough to be dangerous (such as if I did PEX plumbing, I'd be using Uponor PEX-A pipes and expansion fittings because of their vibration resistance, and with wiring, I'd be going 2 gauges larger than normal, and using marine type crimps.) However, I'm neither an electrician nor a plumber, so I'd rather pick what I'd like and pay for it, let someone who actually has a license figure stuff out.
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Old 09-20-2013, 09:50 PM   #10
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Default Re: Building your own Class B Campervan

Quote:
Originally Posted by mlts22
If I went to upfit a van myself, I'd probably start with a cargo van as opposed to a passenger model so I can install my own windows (which would be the European standard double-pane models with the emergency exit handles.) Insulation, I'd go for Thermablok insulation (aerogel and is good at preventing metal to metal heat transfer.)

With various plastic factories, including industrial 3D printing shops, I could get the tanks built that way, or at least the molds for the tanks. The big difference is that I would see about a waterproof access panel so if I needed to clean out the black or grey tank, I can pop the panel and go at it with a mop and wet/dry vac. The FW tank could be easily cleaned/sanitized as well.

For me, the hard part would be figuring out where to put the tanks, generators, appliances, and routing the LP gas, fuel, and electrical pipes/wires. That is why I'd rather buy from an existing company, as I know enough to be dangerous (such as if I did PEX plumbing, I'd be using Uponor PEX-A pipes and expansion fittings because of their vibration resistance, and with wiring, I'd be going 2 gauges larger than normal, and using marine type crimps.) However, I'm neither an electrician nor a plumber, so I'd rather pick what I'd like and pay for it, let someone who actually has a license figure stuff out.
That would be a good sized 3D printer! We saw the machine at Roadtrek that they make tanks with, and it appeared to be a vacuum former. That would indicate a two piece and welded tank, but can't be sure as they wouldn't let us close to it. Don't underestimate the stainless tanks. They can be quite light, easy to weld on mounts, and can be almost any shape. You just make a sample out of cardboard taped together, and then have pieces sheared to size at a sheet metal shop. We have a local steel supplier that does that very inexpensively. The best way that I have seen to clean tanks is the same way that you do sewer lines, with a high pressure "jetter". They hook up to a pressure washer and spray out, and a bit back, to pull themselves along against you holding the hose. The good is that you would only need a 1" pipe plug in one end of the tank to use it, and it would get the tank very clean with little work or mess. We sold the pumps and jetters at one of my past jobs, and they really do work well. You can rent the setup very reasonably also.
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