Campervan Conversion: How to loose 500kg or 1100lb in a week

Campy van ambulance to campervan conversion

That is 500kg of NVW (net vehicle weight) on Campy Van. 🙂  NVW is what the vehicle weights, with no pax or luggage, but with fuel tank full.

The van at the last weigh-in was 2540kg…that’s 500kg lighter than when we bought her.

The week has been an exhausting one with lots of man hours, blood and sweat spent dismantling the ambulance. (And I do mean blood literally, as my hands are in tatters.)

We removed:

  • side panels
  • seats
  • seat & gurney tracks
  • wheelchair ramp

Removing cupboards and side panels

Like everything, it’s simple once you know how.  This was definitely true for removing the cupboards.  They seemed so secure and we just couldn’t figure out how to start removing them.  Then we prised out an internal panel and all became clear: the bolts were revealed.

Campy van ambulance to campervan conversion

Some of the progress was painfully slow as I fought against the holding strength of mastic glues securing panels in place.  I was trying to keep all the panels, so I could reuse them after insulating the van.  Alas in the fight, despite my best efforts, the glue often won and the internal panels only came off in bits, shattered.

It has been utterly disheartening to have some of the parts shattered.  I was close to tears for the first few:

I really wanted to keep these elements.  Afterall, these parts were partially the reason for choosing an ambulance as the base vehicle: they add to the sleek, easy to clean internal lines of the vehicle. With each breakage the cost of the build also goes up. We will need to replace.  And each breakage adds to the decision making and work: what to replace that panel with, then source it, travel to pick it up, measure, cut and finally fit it.

Removing seats

Some jobs which I was afraid of- removing the seats- turned into lesser jobs than thought. They were “merely” screwed through the floor to supporting brackets underneath.  With the right tools- spanners and the likes supplemented by brute force and WD40- it was just a couple of hours to remove the 3 rear seats still in the van.   Each of the folding seats weighed 37kg (81.1 lb) or thereabouts.

Removing unwin floor rails

On the other hand removing the 4 unwin tracks from the floor was a MAMMOTH task! Each track was secured every 10 cm/ 4 inches with a bolt through the floor to substantial strengthening elements underneath. Each of these securing points had a allen head (the ikea type of hexagonal slot), with a rusted on nut holding it on the bottom.  With the slightest pressure applied the head’s hexagonal pattern was sheered and the bolt didn’t budge. It was a question of drilling every single screw head off: first drill the hard stainless steel heads with a number 5 drill for a pilot hole and then use a heavy drill with a No. 10 drill head to remove the head.  This took about 12 man hours- over a day with 3 of us working on it with excellent tools, but needing to rest every 20 minutes or so.

Campy van ambulance to campervan conversion

The heavy, rusty U profiles securing the elements above.

Campy van ambulance to campervan conversion

Where the U profiles didn’t fit, we got rusty plates.

Campy van ambulance to campervan conversion

It was very satisfying to hear the clink, clink of the large supports fall to the ground underneath.  All in all we removed 27kg (nearly 60 lb) of metalwork.  The tracks were a mere 8kg (17.6 lb).

Campy Van 1 Mumonthebrink 9

Just the U profiles, bolts and other plates were over 26kgs.

Campy Van 1 Mumonthebrink 1
Campy Van 1 Mumonthebrink 5

Removing the built-in rear ramp 

Another task that has caused lots of head scratching was removing the second, original ramp.  A rear section of the body and chassis element has been cut away and modified to take this modification.  We ended up cutting the ramp out with a plasma cutter.  (An angle grinder would do the job too, but take a lot longer, though leaving a much neater finish.)

Campy van ambulance to campervan conversion

I’m left with a big gaping hole at the back, which gives lots of opportunities, but also lots of challenges.

This rear section has the rear doors’ latching point and underneath is the original location for the spare wheel.

The space also presents itself as an ideal place for two 70 litre water tanks- one fresh water, one grey water.

While I ponder what to do with the rear lower section of Campy Van I have removed the existing Rockwool insulation (which was haphardously applied) and prepared the walls and ceiling for rust treatment, where needed.

I have also spent about 3 hours(!) cutting off remaining bits of glue which will interfere with where I need to insulate the van.

Next tasks are therefore a thorough clean, rust treatment of areas and painting, insulation and electrics first fix.

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