Introducing ‘The Van’ a DIY Van Build Series Part 1

van build series - heating systems

The Van

Where should I start, when it was just a faint dream to jump into the van life arena, or Covid had us locked down, and I was applying for an auto loan? How about a little bit of both?

We’d been going down the various YouTube rabbit holes on van builds for a couple of years, talking about how cool it would be to travel the country at our leisure in a van, albeit many years down the road.

Then Covid hit, in Oregon, specifically the NW part of Oregon, and the lockdowns were pretty severe. Unless you were considered an ‘essential worker, your place of business was told to close. We all know the stories or heard of them around the nation, but at this point, we were stuck at home.

Fast forward to June 2020, we were casually looking around for a van and not having much luck. We had a handful of non-negotiables on our list; blue/gray, 170″ extended, four-wheel drive, large dash display, and high-roof. These made the search a bit more difficult.

None were to be had in the PNW, none West of Colorado. Really, it was depressing. We even had local folks searching nationwide for a van in other dealerships, but no luck.

At some point, my lovely wife decided to search nationwide, and wouldn’t you know. She found one in Knoxville, Tennessee. The next day I was applying for an auto loan with my local credit union. A few days later, I was driving a rental car one-way to Knoxville.

Side note, when renting a rental car for a one-way trip, look at the upgraded or luxury cars instead. The typical rental car is not sought after by another rental office but an upgraded or luxury car they gladly take.

A standard rental car was well over $1,000 dollars for a three-day one-way trip. A luxury BMW was a little over $300. Crazy! So I found myself on the US highway system heading from Oregon to Tennessee in a comfy BMW.

Three days later, after being pulled over for expired tags in Idaho and a front tire blowout in Kentucky, I arrived at the dealership in Knoxville. Yes, you read that correctly, expired tags in a rental car. I did not know it was on the list of checking out a rental car to check valid tags.

The State Trooper let me go since I had the rental contract in hand, and we had a good laugh! The salesperson with the dealership was kind enough to stay after hours for me to pick up the van and show me all the bells and whistles of our new ride.

After a good night’s rest, it was back on the road, headed West. Now, this van is big and empty van at this point. I had packed a cooler, a sleeping bag, and a pillow for the drive back home. No hotels for me anymore.

It was a lovely drive back home. I took my time on this trip and took a different route to spice it up—no mishaps, odd meetings, or stressful moments, just a leisurely trip back home.

Introducing 'The Van' a DIY Van Build Series
July 2020 Goodland KS
Introducing 'The Van' a DIY Van Build Series

Now that I was back home, it was time to start tearing the van apart. Yep, I paid a reasonable amount for this brand-new vehicle off the lot, and I’m cutting large holes in it.

This was built as a cargo van, so the only windows were the front three. There are now six additional ones. The first couple was a bit of nail-biting is a considerable understatement. More to come in the story of this van build.

In this van series, I’ll be going into detailed sections of the build. Listing out products I used, tried, cursed, replaced, cursed again, and replaced again. Truth be told, there are many options when building your van.

Sometimes you do not pick the right product, like cheaping-out to save a few bucks does not always pan out. You can watch hundreds of videos of people building vans, but until you do it yourself and use the items yourself, you do not know what will work for you and your spouse, partner, or significant other, or in our case, our dogs as well.

Well, I’ve chewed your ear off long enough, and I have to create a little suspense to keep you coming back, so I’ll end things here for today. Be mindful and purposeful, and I hope to see you back here soon.

A few companies I’d like to give thanks to for their guidance:

Backwoods Adventure Mods

Owl Vans

Van Life Tech

Tiny Watts Solar

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