1998 MERCEDES 308D LWB PANEL VAN CONVERSION

to a Registered Motor Caravan.

Paul Fenech (aka Frenchy)

 

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THE BEGINNING...

 

Internal view from back doors showing pedestal table in place.

 

THE END OF PHASE ONE...

 

Internal view from front showing pedestal table in place.

 

PHASE TWO - IN & OUT...

As can be seen in the three photos, the Van has been re-sprayed to a dark blue Mercedes colour (dunkel-blua) and I added some subtle gold coloured custom graphics. On the inside, I replaced all cabinet doors with some very nice ex-Caravan cabinet fronts.

I might yet add a few more photos to show the internal improvements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having the Drive-Away Awning was a great improvement for space and comfort.

Stage One Photos 1 to 14 are those I had to submit to DVLA as part of the process of requesting a change in vehicle classification from Panel Van to Motor Caravan. The Van is now classified as a Motor Caravan on the V5.

 

1

 

Front offside of Van showing number plate, opening side window, ventilation grills for fridge and gas, on-board water tank locking cap and TV Aerial cable inlet.

 

2

 

Rear nearside of Van showing number plate and, ladder and finished offside rear door.   

 

 

3

 

Nearside sliding door view showing opening side window and two step access to interior.

 

 

4

 

View to the interior from outside sliding door showing drawer cabinet and kitchen area.

 

 

5

 

Interior view showing seating arrangement (two single beds or one double bed) and wardrobe on right. Wardrobe unit is split into three separate sections each with its own access door. Top part houses the Microwave, centre part is for clothes etc. and bottom part houses the Porta-Potti.

 

6

 

Interior view showing Microwave installed in  its housing within the wardrobe unit. Beside the Microwave is  a fixed double 240v socket.

 

 

7

 

Interior view showing sink/two burner cooker and pedestal table base affixed to floor.

 

 

 

8

 

Interior view of kitchen area showing sink/cooker unit over the two way fridge (12v and 240v), Unit directly under sink/cooker unit holds Gas Bottle and Electric Distribution Unit. Nearside unit is for pots and pans etc.

 

 

9

 

Interior view from back doors showing two separate fixed seating arrangements with storage underneath. These can be made up into a double bed.

 

 

10

 

Offside internal view of seating base unit showing storage space, power socket and built in audio speakers.

 

 

 

11

 

Internal view from back doors showing pedestal table in place and right top cupboards now have doors in place.

 

 

12

 

Internal view from front showing pedestal table in place.

 

 

 

13

 

View from underneath van showing 70ltr fixed water tank and waste water outlet pipe.

 

14

 

Internal view of under-sink kitchen base unit showing secured Gas bottle and piping and electric consumer unit.

 

This is my first ever Campervan build project, which I built because I had long wished to own a Campervan - but never had adequate funds to own one outright. The build project also served to help me with my mental health issues, albeit that at times I stalled and even thought of abandoning the project.

 

Once started however, I soon realised that it was going to be a much bigger task than I first imagined. I persevered just as I did when I started with my knife making hobby. I knew what I wanted to achieve, but my plans were sketchy and  it was more a case trial and error and learning as I went along, rather to good design and planning! The main criteria was based on doing the best I can with little funds I had - so improvisation was a daily feature of the build.

 

Putting the main framework together didn't take me too long as I had a good idea to what was required with having done online research before I started. What seemed to take ages and at times frustrated me, was the fiddly semi-finishing work. Eventually I got to a stage where I had to install the 12v and 240v systems before I could continue to start of the finishing tasks. As I've always been scared of electrics -  as in if I got it wrong I imagined the van would go up in smoke - I decided to ask for help from a friend of a friend who was willing to do the work for me. But that fell through and unfortunately, due to a health issues, I had to put the build project on hold for a while. With no electrical related help materialising I decided to have a go at installing the electrics myself. OK, it took a lot of head scratching and few popped fuses, but otherwise nothing serious happened that put me off. Yet again, online research helped and thus made steady progress to get both 240V and 24v system working - much to my relief and satisfaction. I didn't rush anything and whenever I encountered a problem, I simply did some more research until I found a workable solution and got on with the job.   

 

It took me four months to get the van to a good enough standard that would allow me to apply for re-registering the panel van to a Motor caravan. The registration process went through without a hitch and I was now officially a Motor Caravan owner! I was well chuffed with the result so far and the Van was usable. Once having started to make trips with the the Van I spent quite a bit of time figuring out on how to refine and make further improvements, be it to make it more comfortable, practical and aesthetically pleasing. So after every trip I'd spend time making the noted alterations etc. In truth though, I know I'll be doing more alterations of one sort or another, so it's always going to be an open project...

 

The original criterion for the Campervan were:

 

a. It should comfortably sleep two people, in two single beds as well as a large double bed as necessary. Under the single beds will serve as 'clean' storage.

Outcome: Initially used Caravan cushions to make the single beds and the double bed. Looked nice but that comfortable, so I replaced all with made to measure Memory foam units plus a separate full wall to wall Memory foam mattress. Brilliantly practical and very cosy.

b. As much free space as is practically possible. The Portaloo, gas hob, sink, onboard water tank with running water, microwave, 3 way fridge, TV/DVD player and stereo system to all be fitted in where ever possible.

Outcome: The water tank, I fitted underneath the van. The TV I fixed, via an extending fixing bracket to the main Wardrobe. The Portaloo and Chemicals are stored in own cupboard under the Wardrobe. Microwave in own cupboard over the wardrobe. All other items have been  fitted and connected appropriately. Gas, water pump and electric junction Box under sink unit. 24v control panel to the rear of Driver's seat. Lighting is a mix of 24v and 240v. 4 heavy duty/capacity leisure batteries are under the passenger seat and I can live comfortable off grid for 4 to 5 days.   

c. It also had to have storage space for my fishing gear and small outboard and also for me to be able to fully slide in through the back doors an inflated heavy duty 3.3 meters inflatable dinghy on its side between the single beds.

Outcome: It all worked out just as planned. 

d. The addition of a 'Drive away Awning' to serve as extra living space with tables and chairs etc. 24v Cooler to supplement fridge as necessary.

Outcome: Drive away awning is very useful to have even if not always used on every trip. 24v Cooler is a must to keep certain food items in, during long journeys.

 

It so happens that with every journey there is less to sort out once we're back home. I've got it right in relation to my needs and expectations. So as as it stands, I'm more than happy with the van...

 

Major update: I had the Van re-sprayed in dark blue (Mercedes colour Dunkel Blua). It looks much nicer now. It's a 1998 built Van with 140,000 miles on the clock. Albeit that the Engine was fully overhauled at around 128,000, at a total cost of 2600!!!

 

It turned transpired that the fault diagnosis by my regular mechanic and the Greenflag man were both wrong! They said that a couple of engine core plugs have come away, hence the large quantity of water coming out from the back of the engine. However, much to my disgust, once the Van was returned to me on a load Loader from Manchester, I had a look at the paperwork and was stunned to discover that the real problem had nothing to do with the core plugs, they were all fine! The Driver who delivered it to me was also the man who overhauled the Engine and he said that there was nothing wrong with the Engine, it was just a burst water pipe at the back of the engine!!! All that money that I could hardly afford gone just like that! The Company in Manchester who 'Fixed' the engine could have told me of the real issue before they went ahead and thus save me a good bit of money! For a while I felt I've been well lied to and conned, but it is what it is and yet another life lesson learned. Anyway, I'm consoled by knowing that I've now got a better engine with low mileage...     

 

 

Following photos show some of the build stages.

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 4

Stage 5

Stage 6

Stage 7

Stage 8

Stage 9

Stage 10

Stage 11

Stage 12

Stage 13

Stage 14

Stage 15

Poor taste in Graphics, I know, but that's what I fancied at the time.

 

16

Decided to add a small window to one of the rear doors to allow more natural light in. Also added alu-plates at bottom of doors.