Building a VW camper van

May 28, 2014

Building a VW camper van

Everyone loves the idea of a camper van right!? The thought of the freedom of being able to go wherever you want with your house on your back, everything you need quite literally including the kitchen sink! This is a dream that myself and Becca have had for such a long time and now we have done it! 7 long days of working about 18 hours a day and our finished VW T4 camper van is sat out the back on our drive ready for its first adventure. And you know what, building the van has been a whole adventure in itself!

Time to do some backtracking, you can't build a camper van without a van! So we hit the Internet hard to track down the stallion that would later become our house on wheels. We were lucky enough that as we were literally just about to walk out the door to view a different dog of a van our van was added to eBay, so we took a detour and ended up the proud owners of beasty!

So we got the van, now to plan what to do with it:

Step 1 destruction

We were lucky enough that the van we bought already had a leisure battery fitted in the back, it unfortunately also had a smelly old bed and a custom made top opening side chest that was just down right impractical! Great to put your drinks on but then utter shit if you then wanted to get anything out of it! It was made from 2x4 and plywood so it was also super heavy. So the destruction tools, mostly featuring a hammer came out and we stripped the bad boy out!

Building a VW Camper Van

Building a VW Camper Van

Step 2 structural changes

The vans empty and ready for its new lease of life, one thing we knew we needed to do first was get a new window fitted for two major reasons:

  • ventilation for cooking
  • It's was fucking dark in the back

So being the clever little people that we are we found some talented guys over in St Neots that could fit a brand new sliding widow for us. That sounds easy right? Wrong fool! This meant stripping out the plywood lining and insulation ready for the window to be fitted and then having to cut a whole in the ply for refitting after the window was fitted. Which was the first in a list of jobs that sounded easy and turned into a bollock ache!

After a while my bollocks stopped aching, the window and edited lining was fitted and it was on with the show!

Step 3 electrics

As I mentioned before we were lucky enough to buy a van that already had a leisure battery so I didn't have to dick around with fitting the split charger etc. Big win as I wouldn't have known where to start! So instead I got to play with pretty lights, the van already had some jazzy blue lights fitted into the roof, but they lit up nothing! You could barely see your hand in front of your face and they were wired to the sliding door mech so only came on when you opened the door then went off on a timer, I know - useless! So I cracked on with fitting some nice white LEDs into the roof alongside the blue ones and then wired them both up to switches for some control. For some reason I chose to do this job in the middle of the night which made for some interesting problems!

So the lights are on, but nobody's home.

Step 4 furniture

This was awesome at the same time as being super terrifying, to explain we got the internet again and found a great guy in the midlands that makes van furniture from the amazing vohringer lightweight ply, with a rock and roll bed, all in the colours of your choice! Winner! I would love to say to you that I am talented enough with some tools to be able to make my own furniture but I'm just plain not, so off to the Midlands we go to pick up the furniture! And this is where the terrifying bit comes in, as awesome as the furniture is it definitely isn't cheap which is fine because the quality is so good! However when I had to take a jigsaw to it to make it fit in the van and fit the cooker on the worktop it felt like I might as well just have burnt a pile of money joker style!

But I am pleased to say that the product of my chop shop was a success and the furniture was in the van beautifully and the cooker / sink was in the work top, I'm not going to lie at this point I was super proud of myself!

Step 5 bed time

The finishing touch was the bad ass red and cream rock and roll bed but this was also a massive job! Now you have to fix the bed frame to the van, and when I say to the van I really mean it, bolting the thing through the floor! And that is most definitely not easy. We got the bed in the van, just me and Becca which is a triumph in itself when it felt like lifting a school bus full of children! Then the spare wheel issue arrived. If I go in all drills blazing and drill through the van there's a big old chance I'm going to pop the spare and that's no fun, so it's cool I just need to take the spare off, the spare that hasn't been taken off since the van was built in 1999! Yeah so the bolt was rusted on with all the might of Thor, after about 4 hours of dicking around on the floor, in the rain I admitted defeat and had to take her to a garage to get the bastard off! Then it was go time, get the van home and drill that bed in, drilling 4 holes through the van felt pretty bad ass. Bolts in and we were done - we had finally finished one of our dreams! Becca came in and tarted the place up with some beautiful home comforts and she was done!

Quite literally the next day we were in the van bags packed and on our way to the Lake District to give her a spin and it was amazing.

Building the van was construction wise one of the best things I have done so far incorporating woodwork, electrics and mechanics it was so damn fun and even though there were times I thought I wanted to saw my own arm off I would do it again one millions times over. The other thing that filled me with pride was that I had created something for my family, something that would stay with us for years to come, bringing us fun and adventures by the bucket load and that made me damn proud!


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