We “finished” our conversion about a year after we got the van. By that point we had all the systems in. Either to our original design or to the design that we made up as we went along that reflected our real-world usage better. We didn’t necessarily have everything tidied up (we still don’t!) but all the components worked.
Now though, after using the van for a while, we want to make some changes. We don’t know quite what we want to change, or how we’ll do it, but we feel there’s potentially a better layout, a better storage setup, a better way of stopping water tanks from freezing over the winter, and a better way of freeing up cargo/bike space in the rear of the van.
Part of the issue is the factory 3-person bench seat. It’s heavy. It’s hard to move in and out. But, it’s secure, crash tested, and has seat belts for three passengers. The thing is, in a year and a half of ownership we’ve driven with passengers a total of two times. We could replace that bench with a storage chest that has a foam cushion over it. We could move our battery, water tank, and inverter into that space and give ourselves a ton more room in the rear of the vehicle.
But then we might be giving up the potential to remove the seat and carry long/large items in the van. A thing which, again, we’ve done only twice in the year and a half we’ve owned the vehicle (and then only because we *could* rather than because we had to).
We love our cabinets, but they’re heavy too. Weight is always an issue in a conversion van and re-building the cabinets with 80/20 aluminum extrusions would give us a lot more headroom before we reach our Gross Vehicle Weight.
Our floor insulation is great for reducing noise, but not so good at keeping the heat in. It’s also heavy. We wonder what would happen if we replaced the rubber stall mat with extruded polystyrene or PolyIso foam board.
None of these things are easy fixes. Re-building the cabinets would be time-consuming and expensive. Changing out the floor would mean removing absolutely everything from the van – hardly an afternoon job. Replacing the seat with a built-in chest style one would take some serious design work to fit things in properly.
That leaves us living in a perpetual prototype state. We know we want to make changes. We’re just stalled by the size of the changes and uncertainty about exactly what we want them to be.
Maybe we should just sell this van and start again. But there’s so much we like about the van and want to keep. Also, replicating the hours we put into this van wouldn’t be much fun. We want to use the van, not keep working on it.
So we’ll probably be prototyping for a little while yet.