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The Perfect DIY Van Build

The Search:

I have a limited budget and I need to test out the waters before investing in a Mercedes Sprinter. I had $5000 to spend which means looking at a lot of rust buckets and overworked and unmaintained tradie vehicles.

I started the long search using Perth Gumtree and ebay and after countless test drives of vans I was assured that where in good condition by their owners. So what is that milky residue in the radiator cap"? The mechanic selling the van acts surprised and says "never seen that before" - Yeah sure. "It's a good van mate." Hmmm no water in the radiator and noisy engine is normal I am assured by another private seller.

Be careful most people will not sell a perfectly good running van on Gumtree. If you have a gut feeling to not buy. Trust you gut. Take your time. Trust that as you wait - you will be rewarded - Breath. Do not stress about the one that got away. Test drive and test drive. Just enjoy free test drives. It will help you decide what sort of van you prefer. Bring a friend who is negative. They will find all the faults of the van for you. Do not tell them this :)

Found the Van now to Gut Her:

The Van Life

This van was on Gumtree and inside it was pretty rough. Dented walls and paint spillage plus surface rust. But to my surprise got up to speed (110km) relatively easy. The old lady who owned it was going back to Thailand and had finished a tour of Northern Australia sleeping in the back of it just like it is.

She was in her late 60s The cost was $4700 which was cheaper then its redbook valuation of around $6000. But it had huge mileage 225,000km on the clock and was petrol. Base on the fact that if I like this lifestyle I will upgrade to a Mercedes Sprinter I calculated that I should get a good two years out of it. Trying to identify this van (2005 Mitsibishi Walk Thru) on google for parts is difficult. I have seen they go under many names such as L400, Starwagon and SpaceGear. They also look similiar to the Delica 4x4

My first task would be to gut the van and add the floor which would be the foundation for my inside structure. I removed the cargo barrier as this would open her up. And got her clear of junk before I enlisted the help of a carpenter friend as I failed woodwork at high school. He did what I think is the hardest part of building the van. Cutting the floor out.

Laying a Good Foundation:

A solid floor will mean I can build the structure onto it without needing to use the walls.

I used 16mm Marine ply and PVC mats underneath to prevent any screws from my cupboard and bed structure piercing a electrical or fluid component under the floor. As I watched him I decided that I will embrace the challenge and complete the rest on my own. How am I going to gather the skills if I just watch. So I went to you-tube to gather my skills and took time to think it over. Amazing how many times different solutions arrive in your head during the day. I did try and help, but burnt out his saw on my first attempt of cutting the floor but this was not going to be my omen to stop. I offered him a free dinner for all his hard work. I also offered to replace his saw but he was fine about it.

Now lets connect-it all together!

Now that I have the floor installed it was time to start using a aluminium connect-it system to build the framework of the cupboards and beds. I found that the Bunnings Connect-it system to be very expensive so I used the Qubelok system. The Qubelok system in my eyes are just the same as the connect-it system and you can save a pretty penny. I bought them from Capral Aluminium in Perth.

I first found inspiration with this system of building when I run across a website called I then set out to create my own design. The garage became my new home as I used light weight aluminium modular boxes to create my interior framework. The strength of well placed boxes and the ease of cutting these aluminium tubes made the procedure a pleasure to complete. I knew if I build these boxes onto the strong floor they where not going anywhere fast.

Slowly it starts to take shape with a popup table near the window and no cargo cage at front to allow a quick get away while free camping just incase. The wood walls acts as an insulation so you dont get chilled by cold metal while sleeping close to it. I will most likely keep the van in bed mode to gain all that space in the corridor under the bed. But on the odd occasion we want to sit in the van the ability is still there.


A lot more modifications have taken place with that popup table being removed and it being designed around the van being in Bed Mode majority of time. So put in a sink, solar, freezer, cupboards on side, fan vents, Led lighting, 40 litre fresh water and 10 litre grey under van, flyscreens, curtins, white vinyl warp on windows. Here is the finished design with a few extra modifications to make in the future. But majority of work is done now 12/12/2018

This is a picture of the work completed on the left and then I went and done some major modifications as I keep coming up with wanting more creature comforts. The final picture on the right of this picture.

From this 3 months ago to This

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