The Mission

Okay, the mission: Niccole and I decided that we’re going to drive to the southern end of South America from our home in Denver, Colorado. We determined the best way to do this would be to buy a cheap van, convert it into a camper/RV, drive it down there, sell it to another traveler, and fly home. I figured this would be quite the learning experience and thought it would be cool and useful to others if I blogged about the entire process from buying the van and converting it to preparing for a year-long, international, overland-travel trip. So, with that in mind it’s time to find the right van!

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Step 1: Acquire a Van

I began by searching the internet, specifically craigslist, for several months to get a feel for what is out there. Because we’re driving it one way and selling it, it doesn’t need to be particularly nice or last a lifetime. Our main concern is that it gets us there comfortably and doesn’t cost a fortune. It needs to be large enough that two people can live in relative comfort within it for a lengthy time – we’re estimating a year. (more…)

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Skeletal Analysis and Repair Phase

First the inside. I used a wire brush attachment on the grinder to knock all of the surface rust of the roof frame and floor. I then used Rustoleum Rust Reformer and sprayed all the effected areas with it. I had a friend with a welder put a plate over the rusted hole by the brake pedal. Next the wife and I patched every single rust hole, bolt hole, etc in the floor with a fiberglass/resin kit. Once it set I used a liquid rubber spray also from Rustoleum to coat and leak proof all the fiberglass patches.

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Swiveling Captain’s Chairs

Well, to begin with the van only came with one seat, and not even a comfy or safe one at that. I figured it would be nice to be able to rotate them around when parked to sort of expand the living area a bit. A quick search on the web showed many sites selling various combinations of swiveling bases and chairs, but they were all very expensive – hundreds of dollars per piece it seemed. I set about trying to find used ones and located an RV junkyard in a small city outside Denver. They weren’t a matching set, but as we’ll likely be making or buying newer seat covers for them, I don’t really see that it matters all that much. especially with each swivel base chair combo only running $75! (more…)

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The Paint Job

Oh hindsight, with your annoyingly perfect vision. When I began fixing the leaks I assumed that I would have to repaint/seal it somehow. Because of this assumption I tore the metal trim of the side, I ground off the pin stripes, and did a few other things that turned it from a van that looked old to a van that looked atrocious and old. I now know, having repaired the leaks and fixed the rails, that I could have gotten away with not repainting. But this is all a moot point now. Being able to camp and not draw attention is important in this vehicle, so it needs to look somewhat normal, and at this point that means painting. (more…)

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