We hit the road
We are quite happy with the state of the van right now. On one side, we're done with most of the stylish details: remaining painting jobs, hiding more cables and membrane, cylinders holding shelf doors open... But we have also built new stuff which makes a real difference for living full-time in it.
We have significantly increased storage space by building a compartment above the driver and passenger seats. It is made of a 1cm plywood plate, cut to shape and holding mainly with two threaded rods. The plate also rests in the front on two small brackets.
We have used the bottom strip to hold a curtain rod, which makes a very efficient thermal separation between the van's cabin and loading space. The thermal curtains is made of two layers of textile - a heavy layer for the isolation and a light layer for the reflection. The two layers are attached to each other using velcro. In summer, the reflecting side of the light layer is facing to the cabine to keep the heat outside of the living area. Until now, we've had the reflecting side turned around to keep the heat inside the living area. We rely on the same technique for the side window - the curtain is directly attached to the sliding door with velcro. Camille dedicated the last weeks of van work to sewing all of this. She also hided most of the membrane with a grey fabric. We wanted to avoid using neoprene glue on the metal, because it can get really hot and we wanted to avoid volatile particles.
We have fitted a floating parquet on the floor, for a very cozy feeling. The finishing touch is the aluminium angles we've installed in many places, for protection and hiding imperfections.
Originally we planned to lift the back of the bed with a rope to transform it into a sofa, like the original design we've copied. In the end we went for a more classical approach using notched sliders. On the front of the bed, we've installed cylinders to help us lift it up to reach the storage space.
I've hacked up two additional smart van features: an extraction computer fan with variable speed, and a roof-window alarm. The roof-window alarm rings a buzzer when the roof-window is opened and the contact is on. It shouldn't be open when driving but it's easy to forget. Both electrical circuits only consist of a handful of components and a single MOSFET transistor, without microcontrollers. This made them simpler to fit into standard boxes, such as leftovers screw packages. The dimmable fan circuit is replicated from this youtube video - only a potentiometer and a N-channel MOSFET, it's a weird one but it works.
When we reached our friend Pauline and John's home, only about 20km away on the first night, the van had a breakdown and it was impossible to start again. It was late and rainy so we decided to enjoy the evening and leave it for the next day. Unable to reach their garage driveway, we slept on the small road in front of their house. It was a steep slope. I woke up very early, and to my surprise, the van recovered and could start again. The same breakdown happened once again the day after when visiting my cousin André and his friend Lena in Barr. This time I pulled out the multimeter, to find out that the source of the problem was a slipping bolt at the van battery terminal.
After spending some relaxing days at Camille's mother, we took off for Jura, interleaving remote working on mobile data and travelling. The weather was particularly rainy and cold, especially in the mountains, but we only used the heater once. Most days, we slept on free spots with nearby public toilets. Every three days or so, we booked a camping for showering and filling the water tanks. It was too cold to try the solar shower. Despite the cloudy weather, the battery never went down below 80% or charge. Overall, phone reception was sufficient to support remote video conferences, especially when placing the phone close to the roof-window. We've now bought a dedicated 4G router to spare our phones.
The final van check in order to get it registered as an official camper van got scheduled for next week, which is the reason why we are already driving back. A few weeks ago, we had the official check of our gas system which was successful. Fingers crossed for that one too!