Everybody dreams of a mobile palace that’s beautiful on the inside, functional on the outside, and rugged enough to go just about anywhere on a budget. Right? I mean, I can’t be alone on this, can I? Anyway, not content to just dream it- reddit’s Zach Both recently decided to make his fantasy travel van a reality. We imagined how Zach would tell his story.
Some of the early photos are going to look pretty rough, so just to show that this is a serious project, here are a couple teaser “after” photos.
Alright, I don’t want to give everything away right from the start, so here’s one last glimpse of the final product.
Pretty grim right? I picked up this rough and not quite ready 2003 Chevy Express with 200K miles and a serious need for TLC.
Here’s a bit of preliminary photoshop work just to get an idea of what was possible.
Some initial cleanup. There was some seriously ancient dirt hiding in hard to reach places.
The fun starts here with some buff work with an electric buffer. That rust has got to go.
A fresh coat of paint will provide hope and seal out future oxidation.
What a difference only one coat of paint makes!
Putting in some insulation. This baby is gonna be cozy!
Looking kind of space aged here. It’s cool, but we can do better.
More spaciness, just to commemorate the van’s NASA phase.
No, it’s not a toothpaste accident. It’s insulation foam to seal in the goodness.
Can’t forget to insulate the floor.
A little extra hard foam insulation for the pop out windows for good measure.
More hard foam on the ceiling held up by good old Tyvek tape.
Tired of insulation yet? So was I.
Honestly, this is not just a mess of scrap cuttings. It’s the flooring template.
Like birch? Me too. So I screwed some to the metal floor.
Nothing like a bit of putty to block in those stubborn gaps.
What could be more satisfying than cutting plywood with a skillsaw?
A little stain on the plywood before securing it into place makes it look luxurious.
I had to bring in a pro to do the roof cutting. Thanks, dad!
Looking down through his work like a ray of sunshine. Hey, pops!
I went in for some plaster lath to bring out the details. Check out this beautiful haul from a local church.
I told you it was a beautiful haul. This lath is ready for installation.
A template helped to ensure these had the right spacing. These are fixed in place with a pin nailer.
This electric fan fit in beautifully. The wires are tucked discretely under the plywood. Now were starting to see some progress.
Here I installed some 1.5 x 1.5 struts to shore up the plywood walls.
Another template cut and secured to the braces in all the right places.
A few specially made bits and pieces to fill in the gaps. Not a small job.
More fiddly bits to fill in the gaps. This was not my favorite part of the project thats for sure!
I had to soak some pieces to make them fit. I hate waiting.
What’s to be done with these funny little angles?
Bondo, baby! That’s what!
It’s coming together! Just imagine a strip of beach beyond that back door.
More templates. This time for my pop out windows. Lovely sparky sheet metal.
Well, it’s not an armored van – but I feel I could be so inspired in the future.
One final template for the floor… wait for it…
There it is! Nice shiny vinyl flooring. It took a few YouTube tutorials to learn this.
I wasn’t thrilled I had to cover up my new floor, but these wheel wells won’t cover themselves.
Don’t let your dreams be schemes.
Getting everything squared up to install the bed was a challenge with the slight curve to the walls.
With a few hinges in the right places, this cabinet will double as a futon.
A few locks were installed to batten down the hatches.
Some early sketches of the kitchen area. Nothing like a good concept sketch to get the creative energy flowing.
It may not look like much now, but my vision for the kitchen was rock solid in my mind.
Getting there. Man, I can’t wait to use this!
This used Ikea futon didn’t quite fit in as well as I’d hoped.
I’m afraid we’re going to have to trim you down a bit, my Swedish friend. Thanks for making the terrific cover for this old bed, Mom.
Like I said, all business on the outside. This rack will carry some of my favorite toys.
Had to call in the big guns again to install the solar panels to the roof track.
Nice and sturdy, plugged up with sealant, and ready for some paint.
It’s hard to have romance without a dimmer dial. This one goes to 11.
Everything is wired up to the solar collector. I’m not doing all this to buy batteries for the rest of my life!
A few strips of tape before painting the hatches.
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as painting in some details on a clear sunny day. This is some special Glidden paint that smooths out brush strokes while drying. No fuss about it.
It really is amazing how much better a cabinet looks after staining. No wonder the stain industry does $19 million in business every year.
Yeah, I know chalkboard paint is kitschy. But what better for drawing up road trip plans on the fly?
Man, I can’t get enough of this lath. Just look at the detail.
Who wants to play count the moving parts? I love these little pieces of hardware.
I decided to lay in a little low energy LED strip behind the edge lath. I hope it’s not too ‘Tron’ for my mostly wood interior. Nah!
Whipped out a few more templates for my magnetic blackout curtains. Magnets. Who doesn’t love ‘em?
No hassle magnetic blackout curtains, because little creeping pinpoints of light are no good when you’re resting up from a long day of adventure.
Plastic door covering? Not sexy. Wooden door coverings? Sexier.
I’m not doing all this work just to let my amazing adventure van go to the bugs. Here’s my tidy little cleaning station – just to the left of an item that will likely cause a great deal of mess.
Last minute realization, I’m going to need a curtain. Installation was easy peasy.
“It’s a stool!” “It’s a trashcan!” “It’s a stool, I tell you!” “No! It’s a trashcan!”
“Hold on you two. It’s a stool AND a trashcan!”
Anyone fancy a custom removable table? Well, I do. So I made one.
And here she is all finished in white. Now, that’s handy.
Well, it has to go someplace when I’m on the road. If you know a Navy veteran, ask them what a missile hazard is.
Finally, all finished. Here’re me and Pops showing off. Not going to lie, feeling pretty proud!
Just look at that sunshine pouring in. What coast am I on? You don’t know. Could be either.
I bet you didn’t know I was packing this kind of heat. That’s a serious piece of culinary hardware in there, my friend.
That’s a mountain. That’s the ocean. That’s my bed. Any questions?
And that’s my workstation. Don’t bother with the snail mail. It’ll never catch me.
Sunset on the outside, freedom on the inside.
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