It’s almost a year since this journey started.
It’s that long since we bought Archie Van after seeing him on Auto Trader as a straightforward VW Crafter.
We had big dreams.
We talked regularly about “When we’ve got our van……..”
And then one day he arrived.
“Blimey” we said, “he’s big!”
He soon had to become my day to day transport as we’d sold Perky, the little Ford Ka, to our friend Mark for his daughter Grace’s first car.
I quickly realised that the couriers bombing around the countryside deserve some respect.
Through the winter we often took Archie on drives to get used to him, and to enjoy the elevated view. It’s about as high as you can get without needing a different license.
Cornwall Van Conversions
Archie had to be converted into a fabulous camper. Something quirky, but not homespun like Constance the Sprinter that we hired last year. It had to be robust, classy, and above all practical for the big trips we hope to make in the future.
We talked to Mylo at Cornwall Van Conversions, and Mirko at Premium Campers.
We ended up working with Mylo. We first saw one of his jobs written up in a VW magazine before we’d even bought the beast. We enjoyed his company when we visited.
Cornwall Van Conversions (CVC) are based up in Callington, just the right side of the border!
I’ll not dwell on the conversion. It hasn’t been the easiest process. But the end product will be good. On delivery there is still work to do.
We wanted a two berth van.
We spoke to many people who suggested that if there are only two of us then why compromise for the odd occasion when others may show up.
We debated sacrificing a bathroom for space. But decided that wild camping without would be too hard. I now know that to be the case – at the moment the bathroom is just a store – it has to go back to be completed.
We wanted something a little unusual for the furniture construction.
Mylo introduced us to Andy Sweeny.
Andy is a bespoke joiner who also makes flight cases for big bands on tour.
We were hooked.
The material is super strong, and much lighter than the plywood usually used. It comes in grey, or grey, but that’s OK. We like grey.
Before any of the exciting work could start, there was loads of insulating to do – sound and thermal. It has to be right, it has to be warm, and as quiet as possible. Before it’s finished the cab will get extra insulation to help calm the noise under the bonnet.
I’ll need to get the team to look at the gaps too. The Crafter is built for work rather than luxury and the wind whistles through some of the door seals.
After many months of reducing our possessions we don’t have a lot, and certainly not much that we’d need to take on a trip. I expect that we’ll have plenty of storage.
There’ll be a deep shelf above the cab where hopefully all the bedding will go during the day.
Andy has built the overhead stashes that you see here for readily accessible items. Then there’s a whole lot of harder to access space under the seats. And finally there’s a big stash at the back big enough for bikes if my knee recovers and I can start riding again, I can’t bring myself to call it a ‘garage’ yet.
In short – I reckon we could take to the road on a long trip and happily fit all we need into Archie Van, provided we can top up with water on a regular basis.
A big debate was whether to go all diesel, or to include LPG.
I liked the idea of a single fuel, readily available wherever we happen to be. Eventually though the slow heat up times of the diesel stove coupled with the massively more expensive diesel heating system convinced me to go with LPG.
The heating, hot water, oven and hob will all be LPG.
The fridge will be electric only – that was a surprise last week. I expected a three way mains, battery and LPG version. The small solar panel better be up to its job!
A couple of leisure batteries are charged by the alternator when we’re en route, and the little 140w solar panel when the sun does its thing.
Archie Van himself is a 2 litre 163 bhp bi-turbo 2015 Crafter. Bi-turbo sounds like it should fly. It doesn’t, but it does OK.
Seating, sleeping, living
The driver’s seat will remain fixed, but the twin passenger seats will swivel, eventually, but not yet. The Crafter has a good sized twin seat that doubles as a table for two. Xe at CVC has done a great job upholstering the cab and rear seats in wild Marylebone Line Orange London Underground fabric from Kirkby Designs.
In the rear the U shaped seating will double up as a superking sized bed with a bit of manoeuvring. We can’t wait to try it this weekend when we give up the house to the Marment clan.
After all the expense and hard work that goes into the inside it’s almost a shame that what most people will see is just the outside.
But with that in mind the outside had to be good.
We entrusted Archie Van to the capable hands of expert vehicle wrapper Corey at Wrap Capital, Exeter.
Corey’s more used to taking already bling Beemers and the like and making them even more spanky, but he didn’t flinch at the prospect of taking on the big Crafter. He brought his timescale down to help give Mylo a valuable couple of days and kept us up to date with progress shots.
The matte metallic finish is called Midnight Sand and it’s an Avery product.
As I’m writing this I haven’t even seen it yet and I’m busting with excitement dropping these pics.
There’s work on the wrap still to do, but it’s looking good as a work in progress.
I’ll pause here as I hope to collect him tomorrow – I’ll hopefully finish the post when it’s all real.