Can you convert a campervan on the cheap?
With buying a campervan becoming ever more popular and recent changes to DVLA regulations, you may be tempted to convert a caravan on the cheap. So here at Thistle Rose Leisure, we’ve put together a guide of everything you need to know about converting a campervan, and why you should trust us to handle your campervan conversion for you.
1 - Heaters and electrics
For many, knowing how to safely install heaters, kitchen appliances and electrics into a campervan can be difficult. Whilst many seek to profit from ‘how to’ videos on YouTube, these videos do not cover the more technical and compliance elements needed for your campervan to be safe. Did you know for example, that if you hold gas on board, you need to have an official marking to indicate this to emergency services in case of an accident? We use diesel heaters which are markedly safer than gas, however we also handle gas installations, whatever you as the customer specify. Installing a gas supply on the cheap may mean that you are not able to securely incorporate this in the build, meaning there is more potential for an explosion in event of an accident. With over 100 years of accumulated knowledge between us at Thistle Rose Leisure, you can be assured that we can cover all bases with safety.
2 - The manufacturing process
For a first-time campervan conversion, this is likely to take you a while to complete unless you have some experience in engineering. If you are doing this on your drive, without a dry cover to work from, this can lead to a host of issues that damages the integrity of the build. As part of our manufacturing process, we begin by stripping out the rear and cab of the van, followed by masking, and cutting off the roof and holes for windows to allow for easier installation. If you cut too far, or without precision, your campervan conversion could quickly be converted into scrapyard metal. We can accurately and precisely remove roofs and cut holes using templates and industry knowledge. This ensures a quick turnaround so we can crack on with the paintwork, insulation and lining. Again, in poor weather this can be difficult, and costly to your time, whereas we benefit from having a year round dry cover with our workshop.
3 - What else goes into the build?
After we install the lowering roof to keep the structure of the build tight and secure, the cnc files Arnie operates from cuts furniture to fit the profile of the van. This ensures that every possible millimetre is harnessed to provide you with as much possible space for your luxuries. You can’t just put a cupboard up against the side, and expect this to stay secure or fit to the curvature of the campervan, as we have heard from some unfortunate stories - where lots of time and 3x the amount of materials has gone to waste in failed campervan conversions.
4 - Seating and sleeping arrangements
Typically, we recommend rib seating because we trust the specifications of how they can be embedded into the structure of the vehicle. We also tend to add two extra seats based on most of our clientele’s requirements. RIB seating is easier to convert into a bed and provides a sturdy basis for off floor additional bed areas.
5 - Safety and regulations
Many online videos recommend bolting the front seating to the floor of the van, or installing seats by just drilling through the floor. To ensure that the seating arrangements are safe and roadworthy, we use seats that have been tested to typically 2-5 tonnes of force pulling against the seatbelt. Because of how we reinforce the mountings for the RIB seating into the meld of the campervan, we have full confidence in the road safety standards of our campervans to ensure the wellbeing of all our customers. Seats just bolted through the floor would likely rip out in the event of a crash. Similarly, once we have installed everything to your specifications, we then, very late into the build, install the raised roof. Roofs of campervans need to be sealed, then riveted down properly. We also add a strong steel reinforcing frame to return the structural integrity - are you familiar with the impact on vehicle dynamics?
6 - So what do people ask for?
As a campervan conversion business, we do not offer set products, but rather accommodate the specifications you want to see installed. We typically tend to have three main models that are requested. The Nissan NV200 is our smallest build. The installation is all electric, and no larger than a medium sized hatchback. Perfect for being able to sleep in, but without a toilet or showering facilities. Medium to larger requests typically include models such as the Volkswagen Transporter or Transit Customs. Both take roughly the size of a large estate car, great for day trips and longer holidays alike. Both of these give a living area of 8ft by 5ft squared, so what we install largely depends on what you desire to be able to do with the living space. With the larger vehicles, we install toilet and bathroom cubicles, as well as 2 by 2 sleeping arrangements. This includes one bed attached to the seating area, and another that can be folded up against the roof but drops to give a comfortable amount of headroom.
We hope that our guide helps you Spring into the world of campervans! If you have any questions or you’re looking to start your campervan conversion, get in contact with us today.