Vlog 1: Getting Started

Welcome to my attempt at a DIY campervan conversion, taking a Toyota Proace panel van as the base. This series of videos will document my no doubt chaotic attempt to self-build it into a luxury mobile RV albeit on a tiny scale.

The van was built in 2013 and has just 30,000 miles on the clock. Normally I’d worry abouut this because diesel engines don’t like short journeys but the van has been serviced every year, not just at the 20k intervals that Toyota specify so I’m hopeful it should be OK. Whether the clutch will have coped with short journeys remains to be seen; most people seem to hammer their clutches whether in a van or a car, sitting with them slipping at every traffic light instead of using the handbrake. Sigh. Let’s not count any bad chickens though, eh?

I selected a Toyota Proace for several reasons. I wanted a compact camper not a huge Transit / Boxer / Ducato type of thing. I wanted to be able to use it almost as a car so in terms both of length and height it needed to be relatively small. At 1.94 metres high and 5.135m long, the “L2H1” (long, low roof) version of the Proace seemed to fit the bill.

The L2 version also has an internal loadspace length of 2,584mm which is plenty for the 2m-long bed that the DVLA require in order to reclassify a van as a camper. In fact, that even leaves me a little bit for a cupboard at the foot of the bed.

Admittedly, I’d like to add a pop-top roof to give me the flexibility of height when parked but unfortunately they seem to retail at around the £2.5-£3k mark – excluding fitting! I simply haven’t got the cash so it’s going to have to remain a micro-camper in which I sleep and cook but will have to get out and stretch my legs if I want to stand up. I’m hoping this will be fine; plenty of other people use micro campers without a problem, even on smaller vehicles such as Citroen Berlingos (aka Peugeot Partner)

Speaking of those vendors, note that the Proace is simply Toyota’s version of the Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert van. The Fiat Scudo was another which is now discontinued, I think. They are all the same van with the same engines (either a 1.6 or 2.0 diesel – I chose the latter as it’s more powerful yet more economical and has a six-speed gearbox). Only the badging and some of the options are different.

I chose a Proace because it comes, as standard, with both a passenger airbag and air conditioning. Whilst I could find some Peugeot and Citroen versions for sale with air-con (it was only an optional extra on those), I couldn’t see a single one that had had the passenger airbag fitted. Since this is going to be a camper for me and not a delivery van, that extra airbag was important so the Proace it had to be.

That said, I’d have loved to have the ATV (terrain adaptation) option from some of the Peugeots. It’s not a 4×4 but it does adapt the traction to deal with different ground such as snow, gravel, grass and so on. Annoyingly, Toyota do actually have this system but it’s not offered in UK-spec vans.

Equally, the Citroens come with SatNav as standard (I think – or this may only be in “Enterprise” spec but there were plenty of those for sale) but I have a Garmin portable unit which I can put in the van so that’s not a huge omission.

The van’s quite high-tech actually, more so than my little Aygo car that I normally run around in. It’s got Bluetooth connectivity, USB and Aux In sockets for music, electric windows, electric heated side mirrors, two trip computers, CD player and automatic door locking as you drive off. It drives in a rather car-like fashion too, albeit that you’re sitting higher up than normal and with a lot of van-metal squeaking from behind as you go along. This should be rectified with the camper conversion, as you will hopefully see.

The 2.0HDi engine has a lot of pull too; put your foot down and after a fraction of a second, presumably while the turbo spools up, it really gets going. The gearbox is nice and easy to use and the steering wheel has reach and rake adjustments.

So far then, I’m pleased with my van; let’s hope I stay that way as I try to fit out the interior!

If you enjoyed this video and fancy buying me a cuppa, you're very welcome to do so via www.ko-fi.com/davidjohns with many thanks indeed. Or chip in monthly at www.patreon.com/cruisingthecut

Products and tools used in my van build (as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Ecotree Lithium battery: www.ecotreelithium.co.uk
New heater unit (diesel): https://geni.us/Van_Autoterm
New inverter (Renogy): https://geni.us/Van_RenogyInverter
Sink: https://geni.us/Van_NewSink
Induction hob: https://geni.us/Van_InductionHob
Fridge: https://geni.us/Van_CoolFreezeCDF26
Portable toilet: https://geni.us/Van_Toilet
Mains charger: https://geni.us/Van_MainsCharger
Solar charger: https://geni.us/Van_SolarMPPT
Old heater unit: https://geni.us/Van_PropexHS2000
Old sink / hob: https://geni.us/Van_SinkHob
Old inverter: https://geni.us/Van_Inverter
DeWalt jigsaw: https://geni.us/Van_DeWaltJigsaw
DeWalt drill: https://geni.us/Van_DeWaltDrill
DeWalt mitre saw: https://geni.us/Van_DeWaltMitreSaw
DeWalt circular saw: https://geni.us/Van_DeWaltCircSaw

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