1968-2013 Full Size VansEconolines. E150, E250, E350, E450 and E550
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I plan on running conduit tubing in my van where it'll be in the wall, just pull the wiring through, my 99 has the coolant lines under it, running up and into the rear drivers side, toward the corner. I need to replace the lines due to them being made from unprotected, thin steel, rusted at every frame clamp where it's held up to the body, poor design, worst at the wheel well.
My wheelchair has yet to stop me from wrenching on my vans.
Next floor layer, 1/2 inch plywood.
11/32 Plywood Pine Exterior (3) ea. $14.45
Use the already cut foam as a template. I'm cutting the plywood so that it's seam and the foam's is offset from each other.
I'm laying the plywood crosswise as opposed to lengthwise so there won't be a seam running the length of the van.
The downside to running the plywood this way is the metal edges that stick out. To get the plywood past them you have to trim off part of the end. Then just lay the trimmed piece in place.
One tip. The drivers side rear corner has a irregular shape. I found this method for creating a template handy. Cardboard strips. Place them one at a time against the wall and tape it down to the foam template (who's edge didn't match the wall to well when I first cut it).
With that template you'll be able to make a accurate cut.
Next up. Flex Tiles with a blue diamond pattern for the floor of the cockpit.
I saw these at Lowe's and really liked the look of them. They are an interlocking tile made for garage floors. Upside is they are tough. Downside - expensive. About $11 a 20"x20" square. Lowes had a 8 square minimum order. I ended up needing six.
First step was to figure out where to place the seams. Put three tiles together and test fit. A rubber mallet is handy for joining tiles.
Decided to start with a full square under the drivers seat and expand from there.
Hold that first square down with the seat and it will keep the others in line.
Then start fitting and cutting.
Best way to work with the tiles are to mark and score them. Then bend back along the score line and cut again. This is looking at the underside.
It will look different once all the plastic molding pieces are reinstalled.
Working in the Winter
If I'm planning on having this conversion done in the spring a way to work over the winter is needed. The van is too big to fit into my garage but it will fit in front of it.
Winter is here:
The view from inside the garage.
Use some furring strips, staples, a old tarp and some clamps. Block off the opening with the garage door up.
Using another old tarp and duct tape to create a tunnel around the side doors. A piece of scrap plywood is placed on top of the open van doors.
Do a little cutting, put the two together and mark off where they meet.
Do some more taping.
Then install. It only takes a couple of minutes to get it fully installed.
I don't know what to call it. Either the Human Habitrail or the Blue ET Tunnel. Someone else made the suggestion "The Airlock". I think I'll use that name. Since I've named the van after Hal from "2001" it makes perfect sense.
The tunnel part has some extra length so it will reach the van if I move it and not return it to the exact same spot.
The tarp doesn't provide much in the way of insulation but it does keep the wind out and with the two kerosene heaters running the garage and the van stay reasonably warm.
I'm well aware of the dangers of CO poisoning but this arrangement is far from airtight so as long as I exercise due care I should be OK.
Installation of the first layer of insulation in the van's cargo section.
Van encrusted with snow and ice?
Inside temperature 24 degrees?
Check. (58 is the humidity)
Lets get to work.
Reflectix foil bubble insulation 2' x 25' - $28.93 - Lowe's
EZ Cool Insulation - 4' x 10' - $40 including shipping - 2 rolls - online
ShurTape dual sided carpet tape 1-1/2 x 75' - $4.98 - Lowe's
Duct tape and some pink fiberglass insulation - on hand
The upside down Tidy Cat bucket makes a nice stool.
The EZ Cool and Reflectix are similar products. The EZ Cool was easier to work with but at nearly twice the cost I'm not sure it was worth it.
Add a kerosene heater to make it habitable
Don't worry, I'm not crazy. I've got the doors open with the "Airlock".
Along the inside roof line is a trim strip from the Penthouse Top install. The strip is held on by a series of screws. I used the strip to attach the top edge of the foil bubble insulation to the van wall.
Dry fit the insulation to get it to mold to the van contours. Once it's a good fit move it away from the wall and start applying pieces of the two sided tape. The tape has blue backing you peel off.
Push the foil against the tape. Work down the wall.
Add the next panel.
Use duct tape for seams and around the wheel well.
Above the wheel wells are some large gaps between the inner and outer wall.
These gaps I filled with pink fiberglass insulation. Don't pack it in too tight. It's the air spaces that provide the insulation.
Continue until finished.
The foil on the back doors is temporary. The doors will have rigid foam when done.
One advantage to doing this job in this weather is you really feel the difference the foil makes. The bare metal walls seem to just radiate cold. You can find any places you missed by just moving your hand around.
Continued work on the insulation.
Since the rigid foam didn't work on the cockpit floor I used the Reflectix/EZ Cool.
Not sure which of them is the best for being on the floor. You can see the main difference between Reflectix and EZ Cool here. They both consist of what looks like bubble wrap with aluminium foil on both sides. The EZ Cool (top in photo) has smaller air bubbles than Reflectix which why it molds better.
No sure which will with stand up to foot traffic better but I went with the EZ Cool. Maybe pull it up in a year and see what kind of shape it's in.
Having to work without the engine cowling (AKA doghouse) made for a very nippy work environment even with the kerosene heater running.
I hadn't originally planned on insulating the step wells but all the cold air emanating from them couldn't be ignored.
Same with the cargo step.
Had to buy another roll of Reflectix (2' x 25' - $28.93 - Lowe's) to finish the job.
Back in October I had Sportsmobile of Huntington Indiana install a Penthouse Top on the van.
Here's the shop.
The front door reminded me of something you might see in a movie about the St Valentines Day Massacre. Really old style.
Sportsmobile does full conversions. There were a couple other vans there being worked on.
Outside there are new vans (and tops) ready for conversion.
Here is my top upside down pre install:
The cost is $5195.
If you pay in cash there is no sales tax in Indiana.
At least that's what they told me and I wasn't going to argue with them. Sportsmobile also provided a hotel room and a rental car at no charge.
I'd never make it as a gangster. Carrying that much cash around made me REAL nervous.
I dropped the van off at 7:00am and they were done by noon. My install went faster than normal since the van is mostly empty.
What I saved in sales tax paid for a new window on the driver's side.
If you're killing time in Huntington be sure to stop by the Dan Quayle Center.
I just missed the Tea Party.
I had to stop on the way home and admire my new top at a rest stop in Ohio. My but it's awfully flat out there (wrote the West Virginia native).
I've since gone camping with with the new top a couple of times just to try it out. Expensive but worth every penny.
Next up. Some more insulation.
I'd considered using something like furring strips and pink fiberglass but the Ford van's walls are too irregular and that method won't work everywhere. Next up is extruded foam insulation. I couldn't attach the foam directly to the walls so instead I'll attach it to what will be the interior panels.
Hardboard 3/16x4'x8' - $11.21 each
Extruded Insulation 1/2 x 4' x 8' $10.48
Woodweld Contact cement - quart - $13.98
The wall panels are a type of pressed fiberboard. They are not as strong as plywood but since I'm not using them in a structural capacity I'll save on weight. They will be covered in fabric when done.
I decide to start on the passenger side, aft of the cargo doors. One reason I'm working from here is because I'm not sure how I'll frame the window behind the driver. As I work my way around the van hopefully it will come to me.
First Mistake. Instead of a template I thought I could use a marker and reach behind the panel and draw out the where it needed cut. It worked but just barely.
Double sided tape isn't strong enough to hold the foam to the panel once you start to flex it.
Don't use 3/4" extruded foam with the panels. The two of them combined makes the panels so springy you'll have to use your feet to bend them into place.
(Picture taken while lying on my back trying to get the panel to curve against the wall.)
I'll attach the foam to the panels using contact cement.
Before attaching the foam remove the plastic film that covers the side you will be gluing.
Apply cement liberally.
Position foam on the board then place everything handy on top of the foam to weigh it down while the cement cures. I let it set overnight
By this time in the build I have a fair collection of foam bits left over.
Combing several of the smaller pieces to cover a larger panel is a good way to use them up.
We interrupt this thread for a quick message.
I post this just in case anyone thought the only pictures I ever take is of my work on the van.
Please excuse me while I crow a little.
While working on the van today the letter carrier brought me the following CD.
The CD cover photo is one of mine. My first paid work. I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl.
You can see the original photo here.
Here's a photo comparison I made that shows what the same spot looked like around a 100 years ago. Click to enlarge.
Biking, hiking and taking pictures are my main plans for when the van conversion is finished.
We now return to our camper van build, already in progress.
Whenever I need to cut anything to fit I make a template. Others may be able to just eyeball it and cut but I'm not one of them. If it's something simple for the floor I usually just tape together newspapers so they are the same size as whatever I'll be cutting.
Then just lay down the newspaper template and cut it to fit.
Then use the template to transfer your cuts or marks to the whatever you'll be installing. Then cut the part to fit.
While the newspaper template works for flat level surfaces it's not to good for vertical surfaces since it won't hold it's shape. I've tried using cardboard, never in short supply if you have a recycling center nearby, but it's hard to for me make a smooth cut.
I've think I've found the perfect template material.
Office Depot - $4.99 - 10 sheets
It hold it's shape on the vertical and if you're marking off a corner it will fit in it nicely.
Then mark off the edge with a good lumber pencil. It will both mark and score the posterboard.
Another advantage of the posterboard is that you can tape it directly to whatever you're cutting. Then instead of transferring any marks just cut through the posterboard.
I usually find ways to re-use the same piece of posterboard several times as it gets smaller and smaller.
This message has been brought to you by your friends at the Posterboard Council
Posterboard. It's plain, white and boring. Buy some today!
The first panel was to reach from the floor to the metal edge below the penthouse top. This measured out at 50 inches. Since the uncut fiberboard is 4' x 8' I cut the 50" lengthwise so the panel is 48" wide.
After this first panel I changed my mind about the length for the following panels. Instead of the floor I'll have the next panels stop at the metal lip that runs around the van about a inch from the floor.
Position the panel far enough to the left so it covers the "beam" that is to the right of the passenger side cargo door. Cut to fit.
The piece of panel that is removed from over the beam will be used later. I'll come back to it.
The insulated panel will be pushed up tight against the van wall. At this place in the van that's a inward bowing of 3 inches.
(The tape measure is upside down.)
I didn't insulate the top three inches of the panel to help reduce the bow by a 1/2 inch.
Along the van wall is a ridge the runs horizontally near the center line of the panel. I attached the panel to this. I predrilled then used #8 sheet metal screws. I'm using sheet metal screws in three lengths. 1", 1-1/4" and 1-1/2". I don't want to take a chance of putting a screw through the outer van wall so I'm using the shortest size that will hold. I'm probably being over-cautious.
At the moment I'm holding the panel in place with three screws. I'll probably add more later. Draw a line across the panel so You'll know where to position the screws.
With the first panel installed create a template for the next panel.
The template is 49" long but for economy's sake I'll use the 48" of the fiberboard and make up the final inch with just the foam. When I glued the foam to the fiberboard leave extra on the bottom then use the template to trim.
Install second panel.
Here is the bottom of the panel with the foam showing. Once it's covered with fabric it should look OK. You can see how it's resting on the ridge that runs around the van just off the floor.
One more thing. I forgot to not cover the top few inches of the second panel with insulation so it'll match the first panel. I found out what a good job the contact cement does while removing the already glued insulation.
All the supplies I used for this posting were already on hand.
After I mounted the first insulated fiberboard panel I noticed the empty space behind it.
From left to right in the picture below is the inside of the van, fiberboard, extruded foam glued to the fiberboard, empty space where the rear windows would have been mounted, Reflectix insulation on van wall.
This gap varies from 1-1/2 to 2 inches.
That's the top half of the wall. The lower half also has voids but not as large.
That's too much space to ignore so I'll use pink fiberglass to fill it. Since fiberglass doesn't do it's job if you compress it too much I'm going to make a custom fiberglass panel. This is a Proof of Concept since I haven't done this before.
Start by covering the area to insulate with a plastic sheet. You can use a magic marker to draw directly on the plastic where you need the insulation.
Remove the plastic sheet and spread out on the floor.
I'm working in the basement and it's cold this time of year so I've spread out foam to keep the plastic off the floor.
Use a paint brush and cover the area you previously marked out with contact cement.
The rolls of fiberglass I had on hand were 3-1/2" thick. So I wanted about half that thickness for the top half. If you're careful you can peel apart the insulation keeping the thickness roughly where you need it. When you need to trim a piece don't try and pull it apart. A really big pair of scissors comes in handy for this.
Put the fiberglass down on the prepared plastic sheet.
Continue with the lower half. Notice big scissors.
For the lower half of the panel I only wanted around a inch thick layer of insulation but had a problem keeping it consistent as I peeled. I ended up with a patch that was too thin. Just put some more contact cement on the fiberglass and pile a little more pink stuff on top.
Cover the glued insulation with scrap plywood to put pressure on the contact cement.
After I let it sit overnight I wanted to see if this idea really worked so I hung it from the clothsline.
While it was hanging there I pulled on the fiberlgass at several places to check if it was holding to the plastic. It was attached to the plastic as well as it had been to the paper back rolls I removed it from. Even the part where I glued fiberglass to fiberglass. I was quite pleased it worked as well as it did. Given time it also expanded to the the approximate thickness I was aiming for.
Used duct tape to hold the panel up for a test fit in the van. The plastic sheet faces into the van. I'm expecting that when the fiberboard panels are screwed into place they will hold the the plastic backed pink fiberglass panels in place. If not I can use duct tape.
These gaps I filled with pink fiberglass insulation. Don't pack it in too tight. It's the air spaces that provide the insulation.
Continue until finished.
I will have to disagree with the use of pink fiberglas between the sheet metal.
In my opinion, you are setting yourself up for that to become soaked with moisture as warm (moist) air seeps into the space,
Furthermore, in the summer, accumulated moisture from the rocker panel areas will go up, and be trapped there.
I studied the cost - benefit of the fiberglass, and decided to only use them "bagged" in water resistant bags (freezer bags).
They were used inside the vehicle (under dash), and also in side and rear doors where fiberglass worked well ---- also used up my scrap fiber mat (recycled from under the rubber mat in the factory installation).
They were dried, and reused as insulation in the doors after being individually wrapped in plastic bags (to prevent moisture build).
I did study using the bubble / foil insulation.
It was rejected for the following reasons:
I wanted an operating temperature range to -30F up to +90.
The foil bubble wrap have virtually zero insulation value in and of itself except as a radiant barrier.
Fiberglass, on the other hand, is a function of thickness, roughly R7 per inch.
Furthermore, fiberglass is an inherent noise deadener ---- which may not matter to you with a V8, but to me with the diesel, it is a major concern.
I considered using rigid foam on the floor, and rejected it in favor of fiberglass because it "packs" and I also put copious amounts of it on the tire well area --- raising it to R10 with about 1" in critical areas.
On the floor itself, it consumed slightly less than a 1/2" foam board, because it "compressed" into the ridges in the floor.
Now, in my walls, I added a 1/2" furrier strip to the van's ribs, resulting in a wall thickness of close to 1" on top and sides.
What I found in winter testing this year is that level of insulation is truly good to -30F.
Though the weak spot is the "cab" and back windows are cold... and condensation is now a major issue ---- icing on the front windows is awful.
I ended up with a furnace of close to 18,000 BTU, which on max power, will warm the van interior (even with the front window uninsulated) to a toasty 70F or higher at -30F outside.
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