BUILDING A CAMPERVAN

We've started the conversion

We've started the conversion

EVERYTHING AND THE KITCHEN SINK

 

At LAST! After months of deliberation, after searching high and low for a firm to carry out the conversion, after looking incessantly at videos on YouTube, the work on our Mercedes 507D ex-ambulance has started.

MULTI-TASKING

I’ve now decided that planning a camper uses up far more brain cells than renovating a house – and I’ve renovated several. It’s rather like doing a painting. You have a blank canvas, but where the hell do you start? Space limitation in a van is the biggest factor. You’re pretty much squeezing your home into a shoebox. Also, what style do you want… rustic, homely, retro, ultra-modern? We intend living full-time in our van, so we wanted all mod cons: a shower and toilet, cooker with oven, the proverbial kitchen sink, fridge, a garage big enough to store two bikes, a fixed double bed, table and seating, cupboard space (don’t forget the wardrobe) not to mention various electrical appliances… and this we have to shoe-horn into a living space of 4.5 metres by 1.9 metres. We also have to keep the total weight down to 3.5 tonnes.

THE SHORTLIST

Naturally, if you’re a couple, all this will include a little bickering. Our bone of contention revolved around the shower. She didn’t want one. He did. Absolutely. He got his way. You’ll be faced with the same dilemmas. Do you want solar panels? Do you really need them? What sort of cooker do you opt for? The normal three-ring gas hob, or a cooker with an oven (costs extra)? Should you have a small or a deep sink? What style lighting? Wood burner, perchance?

 Decide on a budget. What can you realistically afford? Are you going to do all the work yourself, do you need some help (like with the electrics) or can you find a firm to do the job at the right price? Your budget will determine what you can do, but it should also be linked to what you intend doing with your camper… full-time living, odd weekends, long vacations… and to what standard you require.

BEING FLEXIBLE

So if you too are starting with a blank canvas, first make a list of everything you want, down to the last detail, such as lights and USB ports. There are numerous conversions on YouTube, while a Google search will show you other layouts. Poke around some ready-made campers to glean other ideas. Then, when you’ve made a decision, start drawing up to-scale floor plans of the basic layout, electrical installation, plumbing, drinks cabinet for the evening sun downer… and then, when you’ve finally completed this… you’ll find the video you missed the first time and have to start all over again! We must have gone through three full layouts and, now work has started, we are keeping to the original layout but changing details.

 

Check out at these videos on YouTube:

Mercedes Sprinter Build:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLwaqbn_f6s&t=9s
 
Camper Conversion nice layout:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5h-B_t5xZSY&t=923s
 

WHERE WE SEARCHED

I have fitted out two Citroen H-type vans, but I’m lost when it comes to complicated electrics and plumbing. Which meant that expert hands were needed. Finding a firm to carry out all or part of the work was harder than either of us expected. As we were based in Poland, we started off looking there, where we found four firms that kit out vans.  Three of them said No because our van was not the modern standard van. A fourth firm said Yes… and then No. The UK has a different market and there are firms that would take on our job, but we faced long waiting lists. In desperation I even considered shipping the van to South Africa (the land of my origins) only to receive ridiculously high quotes. Eventually a visit to the local village garage in Poland led us to the wonders of Arek and Paweł, and their magical garage in Starogard-Gdański (some 40 kilometres south of Gdańsk) where Arek works his wonders.

THE COST

Paweł, whose metabolic rate will one day surely blow his gaskets, runs the business side (including a small transport company), while Arek single-handedly – with great talent and precision – does everything from camper conversions to changing your car’s oil. Between them they have seven happy camper van customers and their prices are reasonable. We’ve received quotes ranging from 30,000 euros to 20,000 euros. Paweł and Arek quoted 11,000 euros all-in, although I suspect we will end up paying a little more. So far we’ve spent 6000 euros on the main fittings.

 

At last, after almost a year, there’s light at the end of the tunnel;

 

  • Coming shortly: the nitty-gritty of converting our Mercedes 507D.

  • Just in case you’re interested in building a camper in Poland, contact us here

 

Olly Duke (March 2019)

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