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 pop along to www.paypal.me/CruisingTheCut with many thanks indeed (and of course, no pressure should you not wish to!)

Products and tools used in my van build (Amazon UK affiliate links)
Heater unit: https://amzn.to/2LuqQ0d
Fridge: https://amzn.to/2yOVlt9
Portable toilet: https://amzn.to/2s8oewO
Sink / hob: https://amzn.to/2INDF42
DeWalt jigsaw: http://amzn.to/2Ec7NaT
DeWalt drill: http://amzn.to/2E9Q6sD
DeWalt mitre saw: https://amzn.to/2s8tWiv

Keep up to date via
Twitter: www.twitter.com/VandemoniumUK
Instagram: www.instagram.com/VandemoniumUK

27 Comments

  1. Good luck with the project David. My son bought a Nissan Vanette and spend several months converting it to a camper van. He sold it a few weeks ago on ebay after getting it reclassified as a camper van with DVLA. I can show you some photos if you are interested.

  2. Check out Rickman man YT channel I think you’ll pick up some interesting stuff about van conversions……

    • Hi; thanks. Yes, I’ve already watched some of his stuff. In fact, I seem to have been doing little but watching van conversion videos for the past week! Cheers

  3. Hello David….. I wondered over here from Cruising The Cut with an idea that a French couple we met gave us. Live out doors and sleep in the van. This they did with an awning with 2 sides and no front. They did all their cooking and entertaining outside. They had a short wheelbase, semihigh roof Sprinter they fitted out themself. Every thing they used was second-hand or modified household stuff. The awning took about 10 minutes to setup and they made that too. It rolled in very neat roll round its poles and was part of a standard roofrack. A very very nice camper too, sorry no pics………

    • Interesting. The van will certainly be sleepable and I’m toying with ideas about mixing inside and outside use. I’ll have to see what I can come up with!

  4. I am on board vandemonium.co.uk. To see how it go’s.

  5. Good luck Dave.
    I am a fan of CTC and look forward to you new endeavors

  6. This looks like a fun project. As a campervan, do you plan on spending weeks touring or just short excursions around the U.K.? Your experience of living on your narrowboat should help you know how much room you need for your kitchen, etc. Looking forward to seeing your design ideas. Have fun!

  7. I am looking forward to see your setup in the campervan. I have a VW 1.9 TDI which I use to go touring in South Africa. I can store my camping gear under the bed. Even my Scuba gear. In front of the bed is enough space to fit in the original 3 seater bench in if needed. The bed can be removed in about 45 min all by yourself.

  8. Pressed send before I had finished
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQUpY4R-0N_pHmbCX2I4WPA
    http://www.britstops.com/
    That’s all for now and I look forward eagerly to you future blogs
    Mike T

  9. What a surprise. I wasn’t expecting you to start such a project. Living on a narrow boat gives you a unique perspective just perfect for designing a “narrow van”. You’ve obviously learned a great deal since you started.
    I’ll be looking forward to following the action!

    • It’s my first ever design project so I’m sure there’ll be a thousand things wrong with it but hey, I’m doing it for fun! Thanks for the good wishes.

  10. Hi. Thought I’d offer any advice you might need with your camper conversion. I’m a freelancer, specialising in all things motorcaravanning. I’ve been writing about them now for nearly 18 years – a career that was born out of my hobby; I had my first ‘van in 1975!
    Career highlight was a slot on the Chris Evans show, with me as the ‘campervan expert,’ so I must know my stuff. However, I think it was on because everyone else had turned it down! I’ve been following Cruising the Cut with interest as I have a similar project to you on the go, but in reverse: I’ve ordered a 40-foot sailaway, fit-out to be by yours truly. Anyway, enough blather, if I can help in any way let me know – maybe an opportunity to help as thanks for your truly superb narrowboat vlogs.
    Kind regards, Dave.

  11. Hi David
    I write a blog about caravanning – CaravanChronicles.com and not quite related… but a near cousin to your pandemonium project, I do have quite a few pages on there about the technical side of caravans and motorhomes related to electrical systems, leisure batteries, charging etc that might prove useful in your project in the coming months. If you have any electrikery questions or just want to run ideas past someone, please feel free to get in touch.

    Been watching your canal adventures for the past 12 months or so and really enjoy them.

    Good luck with the van project, really looking forward to it.

    Simon

  12. If you don’t know about this one, it’s excellent. Informative and clear. He does renovations on his house as well, but the van videos are the relevant ones (obviously)
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQQonXRE7eXIdKIH9fqFkCw

  13. excellent….

    another resource for your information:

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/sbcampervans/

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