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beanco Reader
6/17/19 12:24 p.m.

Over Memorial Day weekend I attended my very first Gambler 500. I took my old Suzuki Sidekick project that had been sitting for four years in storage. Everything went well, I was hooked! That's it in the background.

The concept is to drive,camp more driving more camping wherever the event takes place. We cheated and took my camper van and trailer.blush

see build below if interested, it's still a work in progress.


Anyways we heard about an upcoming event in October. Around here October could be 80 degrees or 8 degrees, sometime both days apart. So I decided to ditch the windowless convertible for something more useful. 

My search found several cheap running vans nearby. I love vans and wanted to build a pop top one someday. Well today is that day! Enter this sweet cargo van.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
6/17/19 12:34 p.m.

This should be interesting.  I've been following the self-built camper van idea for a number of years now.  I've seen any number of different vans from the very basic and cheap to the quite luxurious and far from cheap. And everywhere in between.  I keep hoping it won't be too long until I can start on my own camper van conversion (which will likely be anything but cheap).

beanco Reader
6/17/19 12:44 p.m.

In reply to Ian F :

My first build (which we love for trips) I have right at 10 grand invested, that includes van purchase. I found out quick that we didn't need a lot of fancy stuff,just the basics for camping.

This build will be around $1500 all in. More on that later.

I better get back to my real jobsmiley

beanco Reader
6/17/19 1:59 p.m.

So after a long search that lasted an entire week, I found this van on The Facebook. The seller had already dropped price twice in 2 weeks so that meant he wanted it gone. Asking $1500,dead battery and no brakes.

A standard reply "is this still available" and my phone number.  Ten minutes later my phone rang and we set a time to meet that night. It's crazy how someone selling something never bothers to reply or has the time to show said item. Once again all I heard was "i need this gone".

Van is a 2002 Ford E250 cargo with 5.4 auto and ice cold air. 176,000 on the clock and very rusty. After a jump it started right up and all looked and sounded good. He was the second owner, before him it was a fleet van for a cable company up north of us. The battery and oil filter were Motorcraft brand, a quick look at oil change sticker confirmed it was dealer serviced, only 2000 miles over recent oil change.

After A BREIF NEGOTIATION  and a leering look from his wife I offered $1100 cash and we shook hands.smiley

Once home I cleaned out all the garbage and removed shelves. Later on I removed engine cover and discovered a remand transmission tag on a shinny bell housing!!!SCORE

Time for more pictures.

beanco Reader
6/17/19 2:09 p.m.

Here's a list of money spent and free stuff or stuff I already had.

Van $1100

brake repair parts and oil change $50

wiper blades clearance price $3.99 pair

CB radio and antenna- free from guy at work

fiberglass cloth and resin- leftovers from first van

swivel seat base-free after selling vintage bucket seat that was attached to base

all plywood and lumber free from work

2nd row seat from my donor suburban

center console from donor burb

2 Hello Kitty floor mats + $13 profit- see story further down

2 pieces of paneling - $32.00

Amazon electrical stuff/radio install kit $50.00

More junk yard bits $7.00

2 fiberglass bed covers, less rusty side door with working handle and some random trailer hitch from junkyard-$80 YES THAT'S A WING!


beanco Reader
6/17/19 2:15 p.m.

why 2 bed covers you ask? I'm half way there to the pop up roof.

2002maniac Dork
6/17/19 2:47 p.m.

I'm excited to see how the popup turns out. Should be fun!

captainawesome Reader
6/17/19 3:28 p.m.

In for the popup gold as well.

beanco Reader
6/17/19 4:07 p.m.

So first we make a wooden buck of the roof profile, nothing fancy, basic trace and cut. I beveled everything on a 15 degree angle for a tight fit.

I cut the front and rear on bandsaw, sides were cut on table saw, Don't worry I'm a professional...

Once satisfied I added another 1 1/2" on top for more height. Then cut the toppers to size. The gray on has wooden rails glassed in on both sides, so it worked out great. The white one has a honeycomb center, not so great. I'll make it work.

First order, suit up, I hate fiberglass dust!

everything was screwed together with random leftover deck screws which will be Bondoed over then covered in fiberglass cloth. This will not be the best looking pop top, but it will serve it's purpose.

I will add some foam board to the transition point from gray to white and sculpt it to aid in the aerodynamics.

Your up to date were I'm at. All this has taken 2 weeks of planning and building. It's rained every other day which hasen't helped.

Forgot interior shots. 3/4" plywood floor, wall slats for cheap paneling(70's shag van style) more too follow.


lnlogauge Reader
6/17/19 6:50 p.m.

I work for the company that upfitted your van. The shelving, divider, and roof rack is all masterack. Kinda funny seeing the 17 year old versions of everything. 

beanco Reader
6/17/19 8:55 p.m.
lnlogauge said:

I work for the company that upfitted your van. The shelving, divider, and roof rack is all masterack. Kinda funny seeing the 17 year old versions of everything. 

So your the guy that bolted the heck out of those shelves. I kid of course

Billy_Bottle_Caps Dork
6/17/19 9:46 p.m.

Great build Beanco! Can't wait to saee the popup

AAZCD Reader
6/17/19 10:13 p.m.

Oh hell... Now I want a Van.

Good stuff, I'm really looking forward to how it comes out.

Run_Away Dork
6/17/19 10:56 p.m.

Sweet! I admire your willingness to cut stuff up. Makes me want to try messing with fiberglass

beanco Reader
6/21/19 9:48 a.m.

Rain has slowed process on pop top, so I turned my attention to the interior.

Installed cheap paneling

modified swivel seat base

and started center console rework

beanco Reader
6/21/19 9:59 a.m.

now onto that center console, this thing is heavy! and dirtysadthis came out of my donor suburban

first, I took it all apart and found a built in amp-subwoofer and rear seat radio controls. These will end up in the trash. See upper part of picture.

I popped out original van console and set new one in place. If it hugs the driver side seat. I can swivel passenger seat no problem. A couple of cuts with grinder and a plumbers saw and we have a starting point.

that's as far as I got last night. I spent another hour washing off 14 years of spilled coffee and other sticky grossness from all the pieces. Still amazed on how well constructed and sturdy this is. Now I'm looking for a replacement on my other van!


beanco Reader
6/21/19 10:03 a.m.

this morning Bottlecaps and I went to junkyard again. Today I found a pair of Hello Kitty floor mats, random cargo net, milk can and anvil. $7.00 for all, I will resale anvil and milk can for profit. SOLD BOTH FOR $13 PROFIT.

artur1808 Reader
6/21/19 10:16 a.m.

Curious to see the junkyard that sells such a wide variety of things...


Also, keep it up, this is awesome! I often daydream of doing a camper van/tow rig like this.

Professor_Brap Dork
6/21/19 10:19 a.m.

This is way cool. glad to see another person grabbing non car parts from the junkyard also 

Lof8 Dork
6/21/19 10:51 a.m.

I often contemplate a van project.  Both of yours are sweet!

artur1808 Reader
6/21/19 11:54 a.m.

Did you insulate the walls behind the paneling? If so, what did you use?

beanco Reader
6/21/19 12:21 p.m.

In reply to artur1808 :

i just put some foil faced bubble wrap behind it for noise reduction only.


beanco Reader
6/21/19 12:22 p.m.

Just sold anvil and milk can for $20yes

beanco Reader
6/24/19 11:40 a.m.

More rain happened, so I worked on console.

Made a wooden bracket to fit Ford's doghouse.

Then I screwed that to the front of console. To keep it simple to remove for engine access, I just screwed a wooden block to floor at the rear end. Everything is stable and lifts right off. I will end up closing of rear cup holder area after it is cut to fit the flooring. The rear radio control area will now become a charging station. Also pictured above is the CB radio possibly going in lower cubby. All power points will be hooked up to a fuse block hidden under removable cup holder. Plan is to have a quick disconnect plug feeding fuse block to help with console removal.

It didn't rain late Sunday afternoon. YEAH !!! so I went out and glued on some foam board to the top.

While I waited for glue to dry, I cleaned out my garage. Two trash cans later and giving away some patio furniture, I now have room for the top to be indoors. Plan is to build a large wheel barrow type rack at work tonight so that I can wheel it in and out depending on weather. Probably more inside. Stupid rain.

here are the tools I used to shape foam. Nothing fancy. 60 grit sandpaper works great for roughing out shape.

In less than an hour we have the final shape. Up next will be some light filler on some voids, then hopefully some fiberglass action.

Billy_Bottle_Caps Dork
6/26/19 5:08 p.m.

Great progress and write up 

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