Logo 1 #topThe Poor Man's Fix-it shop.[not for the proficient craftsman] . . . .Logo 2


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    Van conversion is actually a misnomer. The van had already been converted before I got it. I did a little altering of it to suit my fancy and purpose and it's these I'm going to show you here.

    First of all the color of the van. I like blue, and I have been using blue on the inside for everything I did to it. I planned to have it painted some day, but the $1,000 plus they ask was out of the question. It looked like I never would get to have the van painted. But nature came along side and forced the issue. Where I live the air is very salty, and that salt had rusted the van to the point that I don't think it would have lasted another year. I planned on just painting the bad spots (after taking off as much rust as possible), using the same brown paint that was on it at the time, which I have an abundance of. I decided that if I'm going to go to all that trouble I might as well paint it a color I like, even though I knew it would be expensive to buy paint to cover the entire van. I couldn't afford spray paint for such a large project, so I decided, against my desire and better judgment, to use brush-on paint. I bought two gallons of paint I had mixed to the color I want, and a gallon of white for the top (at  $20 a gallon) and spent the next month and a half tearing everything off the van that would come off. The bolts holding the bumper were rusted and hard to remove, and part of the body where bolts attached (such as the fender shield underneath) was just a big rusted hole.

    Everything under the van had to be scrubbed of rust and painted. The oil pan for instance was almost rusted through in places. Luckily I caught it in time. 

    I hadn't intended this paint job to be more than a stop-gap measure, so I didn't apply myself to the job as I should have, or that I would have wanted to. But as it turns out, the van looks very nice and the brush strokes of the dollar store brushes I was using are only detectable upon close observation. When people say they can see the brush marks I tell them "This is a junk yard reject, and you talk about being able to see the brush marks?"

    On this note, there's a man in town who did just what I did to his '66 Valiant, using sponge brushes, a lot of elbow grease, and sanding between coats. You would swear it was professionally sprayed. I have the basics of doing this very thing, with some sanding and reapplication, but it sits almost all year under its canopy, so it would be pointless to spend the effort on such a project. It looks just fine to me the way it is.

    I bought two gallons of paint for this project, and it only took a half gallon, and that includes painting the door jams and every other area exposed to nature. But there are spots where the rust had fairly well taken over, and I didn't sand it sufficiently, so I'll be chasing rust for some time to come.




    It's hard for me to leave details undone, even when my time is limited as it was painting this van. I was still getting over the flu when I started this project, and winter was coming on very soon. So although I took a lot of time (working way in the night and starting as soon as there was light) I still took the time to detail such things as the grill as you see here. When the hood is lifted you can see that it too is painted. Everything else had already been painted, so all I had to do was a bit of touch-up there.




     Later I'll replace this picture with how the doors look now. As you can see, the blue of my improvements didn't match the brown of the van. Of course that's all been corrected. The inside, or at least most of it, was done about 13 years ago when I had the engine, the steering gear and almost everything else replaced but the transmission, the transmission mechanics telling me that the trans is doing fine.

    The speakers in the door are dummies, at least for now,since although I have a radio to install, it has yet to find a place in the van.

Van door open painted thm.jpg    And here it is, the painted door jam.
Van turn signal on thm.jpg     Here's an excellent idea offered by a friend. I replaced the flat side running light with this projected signal light. This light is hooked up to the signal light so cars along side the van can see that I'm planning to change lanes. Anyone who drives a large vehicle is aware that small cars close to the cab are not visible in the mirror.



    I was fortunate to locate a carpet shop that had a lot of pieces of the very color and style I wanted. I carpeted everything, including the overhead cabinet. I was using remnant pieces, so it was a matter of mix and match. I wanted more, but the store had run out, my having purchased everything they had.


Floor board


    The dash board was the tricky part, how to make everything fit together and not look tacky with a lot of screws holding the carpet to the metal. It turned out better than I had hoped. 

    The edges of carpet is lined with a vinyl beading to enhance the appearance.


    From the beginning I wanted to install a dash panel in this barren hole that I suppose at one time had been a glove compartment. In the previous pictures you can see (behind my hat) that it was not as appealing as it could be. I used a piece of veneer that matches the panels in the back of the van for this insert. All but the vacuum gauge are are not hooks up, however all the lights work with a flip of the toggle switch in the middle of the two other switches. Those two switches operate the fog lights, and the back-up light I installed. It's one of those high density lights tractors use when working at night. Since I have to back up the hill to my parking spot, and the passage is very narrow and far from straight, I need plenty of light should I return during the evening.

    The gauges I've had for maybe 30 years, having bought them for a car I restored (described in another place)




    This cabinet had been barren plywood from the time I got it, other than some pieces of paper that had yet to peel from the surface. For years I wanted to replace the cover, and had the material for doing so, but I didn't have the initiative to do the job until the van was painted. Once I painted the van, all stops were then removed from doing everything else I had in mind for it.  

Back cabinets


    Looking to the back of the van.
    When I was finished painting the outside of the van I mixed some of the paint into a large container of white paint (that I used for the fiberglass bubble top) and painted the inside of the bubble, covering the yellowish-white of the fiberglass. Oddly, the color came out grayer than I would have liked or expected. But it's still within the range of acceptability.
    The medicine cabinets and the rest of the back end I did many years ago.
    One other addition I didn't take pictures of is a leaf, a table extension that lays along side the sink cabinet that extends over the bed (with a hinged fold to extend the distance even farther) when I want to cook or do other extensive work in that area.



 There was a built in ice box when I got the van, which I took out and converted that area into storage. This refrigerator is more efficient and fits right in that space I rarely use. In the cabinet behind the refrigerator (the door of which I cut in half so the top part opens over the refrigerator) I installed a case for an RV battery, who's wires attach to a fuse box I installed near by. I drilled a hole in the side of the van and installed a vent for the box, this all having been done years ago, as already mentioned.

Cabinet top     I try to take advantage of every bit of space I can. Although the closet already had a top that might serve as a shelf, I cut this piece to be a little more attractive and fitting the decor. The rail was made from a 1x1 stick and suspended on some little decorative pegs designed for the purpose.
    Toward the front end of the shelf, nearest you, you might have noticed something running up the wall of the bubble top. That's a wire to the large fan I installed in the top vent after driving through a fast food drive in and not remembering to lower the vent cover. This big fan is very efficient, and it cost an arm and a leg to purchase. Fortunately it wasn't my arm and leg it cost, but it was a sort of gift from my father since I was his caregiver at the end of his life. That's how I came about possessing almost all I have, they being part of what I used to keep his place up.
    I had difficulty figuring out a way to hold the wire to the fiberglass. Even though I made sure there was slack in the duct tape I used, it still came loose and sagged. Before I painted the inside of the bubble I used some contact cement on the tape and glued it in place, causing it to be as smooth and unnoticeable as possible. This I painted as well. The paint is holding, which surprises me, and the tape only came loose in one very small area which I re-glued with some cement on a toothpick. This is after 2 years since application.
    This photo isn't very clear (nor will it line up with the top of its cell as it should), but I think you can get the idea of what I'm trying to show you. This cabinet, under the closet door, has a hinged top, and is offset about an inch and a half from the cabinet so it misses the closet door when open. It has locking braces inside to hold it open. This is where I store my small tools, electric connections and the like. It's also very handy for placing food, a CD player, and whatever else I happen to need a small table for.
    The mattress I'm using is just a little too wide for ease of passage between the cabinet and the bed, but it's too expensive a mattress to cut down. Prior to this mattress I was using foam pads, and they were to the size of the bed.
   Along side the cabinet (the closet), I installed a couple cigarette lighter type DC outlets, and an AC electric plug in (although the AC might have already been in that location). And I installed a couple more of these DC outlets in the front cab under the dash board. These connect to the RV battery in the rear of the van, and by using them I don't have to worry about draining my car battery.
   In the cabinet I carry two AC converter boxes so I can run my CD player and use my computer when on the road, running them off the battery. I hook up the refrigerator in this manner also while driving.
   Also along side the closet, above these hookups I have a 6 plug electric extension plugged into one of the outlets just described. Above the cabinet under the closet door, along side the door, I have hooks for hanging a telephone so it's at close reach. I have a thermometer hanging from these screws at the moment.
   To the front of the van, between the bed and the van, there's a curtain channel (that as far as I remember came with the van) where I have curtains made from cheap blankets, attractive and thick, but cheap.
   Behind the passenger seat I have a Pora-Potti, the luxuries of home. In addition I have a very small oil heater that keeps me toasty in this small, confined area.

   Why, you might ask, am I telling you all this? Am I showing off? I suspect I am. I'm rather proud of this 42 year old van, and what I've done to it. But more than this, I want to share ideas with whoever might need to work through problems I've been confronted with. My hope is that something I've presented here will light a fire under your (or someone's) imagination and enable them to do that thing they've wanted to do, but didn't know where to start.
Van electric hookup thm.jpg
    I took these pictures after writing this article, and because of the structure of the  HTML page it's difficult to impossible to insert these pictures were they belong. However I feel the pictures are needed to make my verbal descriptions understandable.
Van porta-poti thm.jpg
Van, under hood thm.jpg


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