Camper Conversion Mk1
We spent a long time thinking, planning, researching, googling campers and conversions. We went to the Caravan & Camper show at the NEC and shamelessly nosed at how everyone else was doing things, we took a camera, a tape measure & notepad and did the full “technical spy” bit.
And after all that, we came up with a basic design that we thought was probably sort-of about right for what we wanted.
But we couldn't be 100% sure.
Experience (ours and other people's) tells us that you can never get something like this right first time, even the big manufacturers end up with some less than great bits in their products, so we decided we'd take the approach of building more or less what we thought we wanted and seeing how it went, not investing too much time & money in the first attempt so that we wouldn't feel like it was too painful to alter later.
We could easily have gone out and spent thousands on bits and bobs - sink, toilet, water system, heating, lighting, ventilation, solar panels, scatter cushions and plasma TV - it's all out there for your camper conversion if you want it. But if you spend thousands fitting out your camper and then decide the layout doesn't work, or that you should've fitted a pop-up roof, or cut that hole for the window in the other side of the van, you've just burnt a pile of money and potentially made alterations to the vehicle you can't undo.
So we looked around, went for ideas which were as simple, cheap, and fairly easily reversible, and Mk1 is what we ended up with.
As it turns out, we were right - it wasn't right 1st time. It worked, but not perfectly, some bits were fine and some bits sucked the spicy sausage. But that's OK because we can easily change it, Mk2 will be new, improved, better, faster, stronger, more chocolatey and leaving no sticky residue!
I split it up for easier reading:
Why are you doing it THAT way???
You may wonder as you read through (or skim through looking at the pretty pictures) why we have seemingly ignored so many simple and common solutions to camper conversions. The answer is to preserve the vehicle and to avoid making irreversible changes where possible.
The ambulance has a bit of character & history (compared with the average 3rd-hand white Ford Transit), and the bodywork would not be easy to repair/restore if we cut a hole in it and then changed our minds, so we're trying to avoid making too many changes that can't be easily reversed. Unfortunately this does limit a lot of the easy & obvious solutions to problems of camper conversion - to put it another way, we're trying to avoid making any more holes in anything!
There are many camper-things that require cutting big holes in the sides, roof, or floor of the vehicle, and for now we're really not keen to do that sort of thing. That does make fridges, toilets, heating, ventilation and plumbing more of a challenge and hopefully explains some of the slightly odd approaches we've taken. Much like getting a spider-web tattoo over your face, you've got to be sure you really want it because once it's done there's no easy way back!
We made a few layout decisions which sacrifice ease-of-construction for improved camping experience. A bit of extra hassle can pay off in the long run.