Self build conversions - any decent books out there or tips in general? (1 Viewer)

barnsley7

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Nov 11, 2022
3
9
Barnsley, UK
Funster No
92,398
MH
looking for VW T5
Exp
newbie
I'm looking into a campervan conversion.
apart from YouTube, which is all very well. Has anyone come across any decent books/manuals for campervan conversions?

Or if anyone has any tips in general, please feel free to share.

I'm steering towards something like a T5 - about 10 year old so as to be within budget and hopefully hold some value for a few years afterwards.
 

IanFl

Free Member
Nov 18, 2021
55
78
Funster No
85,500
MH
Self converted boxer
Here is a useful guide:

Youtube is very good, but it can be hard to sift the good information from bad - a couple of very good channels to look for are Greg Virgoe and Coombe Valley Campers. However always remember there are lots of ways to do the job, and they are only showing you one way.

I finished my self conversion last year - it was a lot of fun and I learned loads. My advice is:
  • Everything will take much, much longer than you expect
  • The hidden costs of things you haven't budgeted for like screws, wire and sikaflex very quickly add up to surprisingly high amounts.
  • You will get stuck with a problem and not know what do next. When you get to this stage - don't despair - walk away, google it, sleep on it - and very often you'll think of an answer the next day.
 
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Jul 28, 2008
822
753
Wiltshire, UK
Funster No
3,483
MH
Ducato Sportivo
Exp
Since 2005! 2000+ nights so far...
My advice, is ignore most things you find on the internet. Some "famous" names are self professe.d experts and some of their advice is dangerous. Some advice is "okay" if you understand what and why, but nasty if followed blindly.
Be aware of people with different budgets - some with £100 budget will advise X, Y and Z - but if your conversion budget is £10k their advice will be wrong.
Every van is unique as is everyones requirement. Campsites, wild, weekends, months, winter, summer etc.
I was told by "experts" our design would not work and we *must* do x, y and z. lol. With 2000+ campervan nights, we sort of do have an idea what works for us,.

We've converted an NV200 and a Ducato, both of which are "public" - each shows how I did it for me, and NOT how it should be done.

Ask, listen, question - and then adjust for you.

Facebook forums are dangerous lol. No idea about VW pages. Other self build forums are around (paid) and thats where the best advice is IMO - I'd not have succeeded without them. Other forums are rather quiet and frequented by a few who you may not may not agree with lol.

Good luck - its fun but never again - last van (ducato) was 6mths full time and burnt me out. Had 170 nights since last Jan - so works well :)
 
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Hoovie

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May 16, 2021
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Autotrail
My advice would be to make sure everything will come apart as easily as it went together as with use you will change your design. Possibly several times. We started using ours five years ago and still find ways to do things better almost every trip.
Sound Advice.

#1 rule I reckon is when something is fitted, work out how you can remove it (maybe you want to change, maybe it goes wrong and needs replacing). Assuming everything will/might break may seem a negative outlook but it makes future repairs & upgrades much simplier.

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Hoovie

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May 16, 2021
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Autotrail
I'm looking into a campervan conversion.
apart from YouTube, which is all very well. Has anyone come across any decent books/manuals for campervan conversions?

Or if anyone has any tips in general, please feel free to share.

I'm steering towards something like a T5 - about 10 year old so as to be within budget and hopefully hold some value for a few years afterwards.
If you are looking at a T5 I would 100% join the VW T4 forum (https://www.vwt4forum.co.uk/). It is just as much for T5 and T6 owners, as well as a bit of LT and Crafters for that matter. Forums like this are good for general motorhome stuff, but on that VW forum you will get some very good vehicle specific info and 'gotchas' there.
I have been a member there for coming up for 10 years. Also built VW Campers based on a T4, a T5 and an LT and got some good advice from that forum in the process over the years.

There is an interesting book called "VW T5 Camper Conversion Manual" by Lindsay Porter which is a fairly comprehensivce conversion of a VW T5. It is 15 years old now so could be out of date in some ways of course but if you like a physical book to look through rather than on-line it might be of interest. Rather pricey on Amazon right now I noticed but you might find it second-hand somewhere? (I still have my copy which could be excess to my needs ;) )
 
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IanFl

Free Member
Nov 18, 2021
55
78
Funster No
85,500
MH
Self converted boxer
Also - my recommendations for useful companies:

Clearcut Conversions
Magnum Motorhomes
Evo Motion designs
Jacksons Leisure
12volt Planet
 
Upvote 0
Jul 28, 2008
822
753
Wiltshire, UK
Funster No
3,483
MH
Ducato Sportivo
Exp
Since 2005! 2000+ nights so far...
Also - my recommendations for useful companies:

Clearcut Conversions
Magnum Motorhomes
Evo Motion designs
Jacksons Leisure
12volt Planet
+o'leary
Megavanmats
Kiravans
Cak tanks/leisure lines

Magnum also good to visit - huge "supermarket" warehouse.

Most good for ideas/availability - sometimes cheaper elsewhere.

And keep an eye on ebay - quite a few sellers (magnum & some others - Kenmore caravans??) are on there and sometimes the ebay deals work on them - so when everyone else was selling the Truma Ultrastore 10GE for £410/415 I paid £325.
Took a year collecting parts lol - and our house looked more like a van accessory shop than most shops, but worth doing - saved a fortune.
 
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Jan 27, 2018
2,713
2,182
Northampton
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52,151
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Rapido & Bongone
Some very good advice so far. Almost a reiteration of whats been said use the VW forums I was building on a Bongo, the specialist advice can be vital as is the specialist selfbuild motor home forum, also good advice here. Build to be altered a very good mantra, I changed my build 3 times in as many years then basically constant apart from refinements for another 3 years. I then capitulated and bought a coachbuilt. But i still wander around Magnums (grismsby). I would suggest not going to Magnums as it can be injurous to the pocket and too easy to buy stuff you dont need, I still have drawer sliders/basket and a tambour door that will never be used (dont even know where they are, my sons will find them when i'm for my casket).
 
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Hoovie

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May 16, 2021
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Autotrail
A little comment also about Youtube channels.....
There are some good and some bad ones of course, but even on the good ones the builders make mistakes and backtrack.
I am not going to name the channel (it is named on this thread already) but it is regarded as a bit of a benchmark of "how to", but even on that mistakes were made on the electrics (and no, not gadget johns channel). I didn't like what he did myself, although it was workable, but the point I am about to make is that people were following what he did, replicating the design and when he suddenly decided it needed changing, those folks were kind of left high and dry. I remember a few years ago at a VW Show being asked to go and look at someones setup as they didn't know how to recover from the sudden design change on this channel that they had been following :(
(FWIW, I still don't like his electrics design and think it is flawed, but yes it will work. There are 1001 ways to do something that will work, but a hell of a lot less ways to do something that will work WELL - a different matter).

So if deciding a particular build looks good, wait until they have finished before going down the self same path in case it was a dead end.


A couple of channels that I think show very good design and build skills and attention to detail (something I think is important) are:
Humble Road - American builder who loves using "80:20" extruded aluminium on vans he builds to sell. Very methodical design approach.
Margaret and Ladi - Couple building a van for themselves. very inventive. loads of great workshop toys to help build, but knows how to use them brilliantly.

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Aug 18, 2011
12,181
18,059
derbys
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AUTOSLEEPER SYMBOL
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since 2007.Tugger before since 1970
Cannot believe how many on You Tube convert a van and don't fit a loo..BUSBY.
 
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Jul 13, 2019
20
17
Aston juxta mondrum
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62,371
MH
Swift 184 fiat ducat
Exp
PVC. 30YRS ALL OVER THE WORLD
Hi don't know about any books I always design my own layout but if it helps I have a complete double bed assy never used from a swift 184. Slide in to make a rear lounge. Fred 07555098052
 
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Jul 3, 2019
149
205
West Yorkshire
Funster No
62,133
MH
Ducato MWB, DIY :-)
Exp
10 years campervanning, 60+ camping
As said, every users needs are different, and T5 folk omit a lot of expensive items motorhomers deem essential;
To me key questions include:
whether you will be on campsites only, campsite with ehu only, or happy to wildcamp?
how much you will use the van, what seasons, weather conditions etc?
what sort of cooking you anticipate?
whether you insist on cold lager, or prefer warm ale... (viz fridge size!)?
how many people?
Where you are on scales of simplicity vs luxury, quick to pack vs fully set-up basecamp, practical vs poseur.
Any hobbies/pets that require storage of equipment? T5s are remarkably tight for room.

There aren't many options for T5 layouts, and pro converters have tried about everything. For inspiration look at Jerba, Westfalia, Bilbos, Cambee. Also look at Evomotion interiors. IMO rear kitchen layouts waste too much volume with corridor.
Haynes also do / did a "build your own motorcaravan" manual, as a good start.
 
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Feb 14, 2022
177
422
Sheffield, UK
Funster No
86,876
MH
Nissan NV400 self bu
I'm currently converting our second panel van, this time it's much more involved due to having more, err, van!
My advice would be to think of your layout, plan it, then leave it, your ideas will change.
You must think of everything, to the smallest detail, then leave it and think about it more!

You must include a toilet, even just a portable potti with a curtain can make a huge difference, build one into a seat.

Water, you will need more than you think, again plan it into your build.

And electricity is your saviour, batteries and solar, lots of them.

But it's an enjoyable experience if you build your own, or even giving guidelines to your builder, it will be your home from home, it's never perfect, but it should be fun.
 
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Feb 19, 2018
5,097
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EAST ANGLIA
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52,484
MH
Murvi Morello
Exp
Since 1975
There are a few conversions that have been described on Fun and worth reading. The one by Ralph of Ralph-n-Bev springs to mind but there are others. good luck! :unsure:

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weefish

Free Member
Jan 7, 2019
31
23
Funster No
57,880
I'm looking into a campervan conversion.
apart from YouTube, which is all very well. Has anyone come across any decent books/manuals for campervan conversions?

Or if anyone has any tips in general, please feel free to share.

I'm steering towards something like a T5 - about 10 year old so as to be within budget and hopefully hold some value for a few years afterwards.
A panel van will offer more space and more layout options but might be less convenient for daily use.
Having said that my ducato is my only transport but I don’t live in a very busy area and have space to park it.
Volkswagen vans always struck me as being too expensive.

I used SBMCC a lot when building my van and the advice is still there although the forum seems to have gone a bit quiet now. On youtube Greg Virgoe is mostly fine and I have recently found Mispronounced Adventures interesting.


More parts sites :-

Kay’s fasteners
Simply split charge
 
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Greasy Chap Butty

LIFE MEMBER
Oct 16, 2022
139
2,461
Funster No
91,918
MH
Boxer
I'm looking into a campervan conversion.
apart from YouTube, which is all very well. Has anyone come across any decent books/manuals for campervan conversions?

Or if anyone has any tips in general, please feel free to share.

I'm steering towards something like a T5 - about 10 year old so as to be within budget and hopefully hold some value for a few years afterwards.
I would look at YouTube a lot, but use it for ideas.
What is right for one person isn't right for somebody else.
Don't get carried away doing stuff that you think you'll need or people say you will.

Personally I think VW is expensive for what you get. But if you like them, obviously that's a big part of it for you.

Do loads of sketches and get floor plans from the internet to see what will fit in different vans.

If you do plump for a particularly van and buy it, I'd try some nights away just with a camp bed in it and see what works, what is important etc.

Have fun!
 
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Feb 19, 2017
928
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Leighton Buzzard
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MH
A class
Exp
Ten years
I know very little about panel van conversions, but I watched a neighbour buy a high mileage van then convert it into a camper over a period of two years. It was his first attempt at this type of work but he was a hands on type of guy who serviced his own and others vehicles. I often used to chat to him on Saturday mornings, I watched with interest as the project progressed towards completion. Eventually it was ready, it looked great and the family excitedly went on their first holiday.
On their return the van was put up for sale, sadly it drove like you would expect a high mileage van would, with transmission whines, door seal draughts and other issues, his wife was also unhappy about the lack of a toilet and that was that.
If you can get the best base vehicle that you can afford.
 
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CamperJack

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Oct 11, 2019
926
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Converting a Van
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I'm a Total Newbie!
I read Nate Murphy's book cover to cover before doing mine. 📚📖

Not a pro, but informative and interesting.
 
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