Project Pablo

After our 6 months in Scotland we returned home with the plan to buy a campervan or van and do a 1 year road trip around Europe. It took us one week to find our Nissan Vanette Cargo, a 1999 diesel and cost us £750 after bartering it down from £900. Compared to everything else we looked at this was cheap, but it all seemed OK and legit, and we decided we’d much rather pay a smaller amount and have some leftover cash for problems than spend up to £2500 and have to pay for any problems on top of that. The tax cost us an extra £230 for the year, add on insurance and breakdown cover, we spent a bloody fortune!

The van needed a name and we were originally thinking of one beginning with V which is in the number plate, so Vera was an option, but then I read the name Pablo somewhere and couldn’t resist! Now we have major mixed sex issues as we refer to the van as ‘her’ but call her Pablo. But it’s a rather European name and goes with the whole theme.

Pablo was a complete shell to start with, the biggest project we’ve had so far. Beatrice in Canada was also an empty canvas but she had red carpet interior everywhere, a dvd player and hidden blue and red lights…we saw no use for these except when our company with one another drove us into looney’s and we’d turn them on pretending we were driving a police car. But she was well insulated with all the carpet and she was really long so we had heaps of space, put in two wooden pallets for the bed base and still had room to swing a cat, well, a kitten probably. Shakey in New Zealand was completely camperized already and we barely needed to buy a thing. Then there was the mighty falcon which was again, set up to camp. This time we needed to somehow insulate the van, and stop it from getting condensation on the metal when the weather gets cool.

Our first task was the floor; it went rather smoothly as we managed to pull up the old plywood flooring and used it as a template for our vinyl wood floor. It cost £30 and if Pablo was a house, I’d say it would of put at least £50,000 onto its value!! The next task was what to do with the wooden panels on the side walls, either cover them in oil cloth fabric, or paint them. We decided to paint them with exterior paint, that way they could cope with damp, and mozzie splatters pretty well. After over an hour in B&Q we settled on a lovely yellow colour, I hate how they name the colour cards – it made me want to buy a particular colour purely for its name – we were going to have ‘Happy Place’ walls but at the last minute settled for the paler and more sensible ‘See the light’ what a shit name! It ended up costing quite a lot as we needed primer too, but we were pretty happy with the outcome. Before putting them back on the walls, we had to think about how to insulate the van. I got a headache from reading everyone else’s attempts at this on forums – so we just settled for some Eko insulation wool stuff, I’m not even sure what it’s made out of or if it will make any difference, but we stuffed all the sides and sealed it off with the wooden panels, then I itched like mad, what the hell do they put in insulation?

In the meantime Craig was making our sofa bed from scratch, based on a cool design I found online, it pulls out to make a double bed, and pushes back in to make the sofa all thanks to using slats which slot in side by side. When it’s in the sofa position we can lift up the whole top half of the bed to go into storage and we’ve also got access from the side doors that Craig put on. Because we don’t have side windows and want to prevent moisture as much as possible we decided to buy a vent/fan for the ceiling, it has a small solar panel attached to the top which charges up a battery so you can use it at night. Craig and his dad had the horrible task (in my opinion, boy you do not want to fuck this up) of cutting a hole in the ceiling for of the van. Thankfully it all went to plan and now I have a device that will remove the stench of Craig’s farts from the van, hooray!

Once the fan was fitted we could work on covering the ceiling, we didn’t insulate it, instead we bought a fairly light table protector fabric, its wipe clean, and a bit spongy. We tried using a glue gun to stick it on but it dried instantly so we didn’t have a chance with that, instead we bought Sticks Like Shit a strong glue that supposedly sticks almost anything to anything. Well if that’s the case then it took its sweet time to do it; it was a complete shambles, the glue didn’t get tacky for about 10 – 15mins, so there’s us trying to hold up this material and as we pressed one section down the other would flop down over our heads, it was so frustrating and our arms were dead from holding them up constantly. We started to think that this stuff really was shit and got its name from people in the trade laughing at how useless it was. Once we stuck up the first half of the van it looked crap, it had bubbles underneath it and just looked a mess so we made a quick decision to cut the strips in half before the glue really dried. It was so much easier to work with smaller panels and the rest of the ceiling looked rather good.

Now all that was left was the mattress, which arrived from Amazon vacuum packed – amazing! And inside the mattress as we peeled it open were 2 vacuum packed pillows that looked like giant prawn crackers, undoing them was like putting one of those tiny novelty flannels in water and it expanding, the pillows just kept growing and growing! We had to cut the mattress down to size a bit and in half to make it a sofa in the daytime, so we used a breadknife for this. Then we sent them to the best seamstress in the Northern hemisphere – my mum. Who made two perfect fitted covers for them and added her trademark ‘keep safe’ label which she pops on anything she makes us.

I made some not so great looking curtains but they are very practical as I used blackout fabric so we don’t have any of the midnight sun keeping us awake at night. And now it’s just the finishing touches, and trying to fit everything inside the van, now that’ll be a challenge in itself. The whole project has taken much longer than we anticipated, but even if we did it quicker, we’ve only just received our registration documents for the van so couldn’t have left for Europe any sooner. We spent a grand total of £213 on the entire conversion, but that’s not including everything we bought for living in the van like a gas cooker, electric shower (swanky!) etc.

Today we got Pablo serviced and were told she needs £400 spent on her, and it won’t be done for a few days so not only has it dented our budget it’s also delaying our journey even more. Fingers crossed that’ll be the only problem she has, that and the flat battery, broken radio and leaking diesel injector that we’ve already had to fix. Starting to wonder now if the chap we bought this from was honest about everything or weather we’ve just had bad luck, I suppose its best that Pablo gets it all out her system now before we leave the country.

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