Self-Build Camper Vans

Since 2007, my main vehicles have been self-built camper vans. I originally looked into buying a pre-built model, but an important requirement for me was that the vehicle had to be very reliable. In my world, that essentially meant getting something no more than a few years old, and with low mileage.  Once I’d recovered from seeing the ludicrously high prices of 2-3 year old pre-built campers, I took the next best option and decided to build one myself. 

 A couple of months after deciding to build one, I was the very proud owner of my first self-built camper van.

A couple of months after deciding to build one, I was the very proud owner of my first self-built camper van.

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My first van, the Renault Master SWB had a couple of different interiors during its lifetime and I re-arranged things based on my experiences of what worked and what didn’t.

The first generation seating/bed with a bench seat type arrangement was very impractical and made it difficult to use a table, which was an insurance requirement. So in the second interior build, I built two seats opposing each other, with an island table leg in between them. The table also made a bridge between the seat boxes to form the bed. 

Rick Van Man

I had lots of great adventures in this van, becoming a huge van fan - hence the channel name ‘Rickvanman”  The van gave me years of trouble-free motoring, and many of my adventures were documented on my YouTube channel. 

Eventually I retired her around 2013 and began my search for a replacement. 

After a brief but unhappy ownership of a smaller van ( Nissan NV200), which I found was too small and awful to drive, I eventually settled on a 4 year old Renault Trafic Dci LWB with a high top. 

The best thing about it, apart from the air conditioning, airbags and peppy performance (compared to the canal boat speeds of the Renault Master), was the fact that I’d actually managed to find a van that wasn’t boring old white!


Below are a couple of videos, one is the van reveal video of the newer, metallic silver Renault Trafic, and the other is the re-fit of the van interior I did in 2017.

It took over a month of 8-10 hour days to make the initial conversion from a basic panel van to a camper, but it was worth every minute, and as my current vehicle, it is by far the best camper I’ve ever owned.  

 

Vans v Cars

I’ve always been a bit of a petrol-head (gear-head if you are American) and have loved nice cars. I’ve owned some very nice and very well equipped cars during my driving life, which I enjoyed driving very much.  However, the day I test drove my very first van, was the day I realized that it was unlikely I would  ever own a car again. It’s hard to explain, but the beaming grin I couldn’t shift from my face for about a week afterwards, sort-of said it all. 

It was the high-up driving position that ultimately did it.  I had suddenly been introduced to a whole new perspective, a completely new world I never knew existed. I was besotted and mesmerized by this new world, and I instantly fell in love with it.

Before, when driving in a car, all I saw was the road, and the back of the vehicle in front of me. In the van however, I saw above and beyond the cars in front of me. Not only that, I could also see above the hedgerows and into the previously hidden worlds that lay beyond them. It was the best seat in the house. 

During that one test drive, my whole perspective on driving changed. Suddenly, luxury and mod cons took a back seat, they no longer seemed that important. What mattered more than anything was this new world of views and open spaces that I had just accidentally stumbled across. 

Since owning and living with a van, and more importantly, a camper van, the appeal of owning a car from both a practical and an emotive perspective, has pretty much lost most of its appeal. I mean, you couldn’t really make a brew and fry up whilst relaxing and admiring a beautiful view, if you're in a Jag, could you?