Starting demolition

After buying the van, I had to remove everything unneccesary.

Beeing an old service van from a company dealing in heating and cooling solutions, it was used for transporting tools, but also stuff like AC refrigerants, piping and so. So they had professionally installed storage, and a liquid proof floor.
The walls and floor were made of 18mm plywood, covered with approx 3mm of some kind of epoxy/fiberglass coating. On the floor, they have added some grain to make it less slippery.

Very nicely done, but this was a real PITA to get rid of. The coating was a little flexible but very strong. It just wouldn’t tear or break. So I ended up using an angle grinder to create small pieces of approx 40x15cm each, using a big screwdriver to remove it along with the top layer of the plywood. The floor was even worse, since it had some kind of grain. I had to use a diamond cutting blade, a regular saw lost its sharpness within 5min…
Once I finally had removed the coating, I still had to get rid of the plywood floor.

And unsurpringly, this has been installed rock solid also.. It has been glueed everywhere.. Ended up cutting this into small pieces also, but eventually I finished removing it.

I also removed the bulkhead, since I didn’t need it anyway and it was additional weight which I could get rid of.

In the meantime, a local mecanic also checked the van for major issues, and replaced the timing belt. Everything looked great!

Finding and buying the van

Since I now knew what I wanted, I started scouting various used car sites for a while.

I was happy to stuble across a nice van on Marktplaats (The Dutch kind of used-ads site like Gumtree, Craigslist and so on)

As most vans, it was an old service van. (In the Netherlands almost all are either service vans, or delivery vans. Generally they are phyisically pretty abused, multiple dents or worse is more the default than occasional.

The one I found however, was quite nice. It only had some small dents on the rear doors.
Off course, there was also other obvious wear, small scrathes and so on. And, like most white vans based on the Sevel chassis, the paint on the engine hood started to peel of. But other than that, it was in pretty good condition.

The seller (a car dealer) was selling the car on behalf of their client. They actually didn’t do much on it, even didn’t clean it, just post some pictures, label it with a price and post it online.
No problem for me, the worse it looks (a picture can look much worse than it actually might be), the more people might skip the van 😉 )

The van: A Fiat Ducato from 2007, L2H2, 2.3 JTD diesel engine.
The L2 was the smaller option, with 5.4m lenght and a 345cm wheelbase. (17’9″ / 136″ wheelbase). The L3 would have been an option too, but with the L2 I could fit a bikerack and still remain below the 6m lenght.
It had 248.000km on its counter ( 154720 miles). As stated before, for me that wasn’t a huge issue. Also, the timing belt needed replacement, but i did calculate this into my offer, which the seller agreeded.
It did have a (working) AC, but there was no cruise control. As stated before, I knew this was easy to add, so no problem.

And nice: It did have a Webasto Diesel heater installed. (but was missing its original controls, it had a manualy control with some switches in the dash, but it did work)

Anyway: The van looked it was a good option, and the price was really a bargain. So I had a look at it, and decided: This would be the correct van to do my build!

As a service van, the inside was pretty standard: A driver’s seat, a passenger bank, and in the back the usual storage stuff for the service guys.
The inside wasn’t too bad. It did have the usual wear, but the seats were protected well (The have used it with a seat cover, so the seats were still pretty nice)

The stickers on the sides were removed, but since it hasn’t been polished or cleaned it was still visible (And probably will remain slightly visible due to aging of the paint on the body)

Choosing the van

Ok, I wanted a van. Now the hunt could begin. Since I didn’t have a fixed schedule, I had plenty of time to look for a nice deal.

First, I needed to decide the type of van, and my search criteria.
Some were already pretty clear: Not too old, at least an EURO4 engine (Petrol vans are rare in the Netherlands).
Although EURO4 emissions aren’t the greatest and likely to be taxed soon, this was within my budget. Also, I’m not planning to drive into major cities anyway.

I didn’t want a old van, since I didn’t like the looks of most of them, and I want to have some level of comfort (AC, decent driving power, power steering, cruisecontrol and so on).

For the dimensions, it was pretty clear to me I wanted to have a bed sideways. Having it lengthwise would require a bigger (longer) van. Since I’m mainly plan on traveling in Europe I want it to stay within 6m length and 3m height. (including any accesoires like bike racks, solar, roof vents and so on).

– The van can fit in a regular parking space (well, not always, but it’s still possible to do groceries and so on and park on a lot of places).
– Having it above these dimensions means more expenses on eg toll roads, bridges and ferry crossings (which of course depends on the location)
– Easier to drive and still beeing able to acces smaller towns/roads.

Ok, so I know the required approx dimension. Now up to selecting a van.
Since I wanted to go for a sideways bed, and I’m pretty tall (1.94 / 6’4″ ) I needed a van with the ‘biggest width’ possible. I didn’t want a box van. So basicly, most vans aren’t an option (eg Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, VW Crafter, Renault Master). The only wider vans available are the Fiat Ducato. (Also sold as Citroen Jumper and the Peugeot Boxer in mainland Europe). It’s the same van as the Citroen Relay in the UK, or the Ram Promaster in the US. (Although they all have different engine configurations).

As for the length and height, I needed the L2H2 or L3H2, which are 5.40m and 6m in lenght (17’9″ / 19’8″). The H3 has more height, but with the stuff on the roof it was too high for my preferences (less mpg due to the height and some more restrictions).
The H2 is 252cm in height (8’3″), so in total with all accesoires it will be around 265cm.

I wanted to have the ‘newer’ model, which entered the market in about 2006. There are some more recent models but I was quite sure they weren’t within my budget.

As for mileage: I actually didn’t really care. They are all diesel engines, and reliability is more related to good maintenance than on actuale mileage.

For the engine, my preferences was the 2.3 JTD engine or the 3.0 engine. Those have 120/130 or 180HP and quite a nice amount of torque, and more important are generally know to be reliable.
I only had to take a timing belt replacement within my budget, since it was likely (or advised) to replace this when I opted for a van with a belt.

Having AC was mandatory, all others were ‘nice to have’. I knew cruisecontrol was very easy to retrofit (only required a cruise control stalk, which I was sure could be aquired for cheap on a dump yard).

Having windows would be nice, but if they were already installed, it had to match my planned layout…

So now I could start hunting!


In 2019, I decided to get a van to do my own conversion. It has been on my wishlist for a while, but I hadn’t done it yet.

So this was about to change!

First, I needed to source a decent and affordable van. Since it will be used primary for short trips, weekend breaks and holidays, it has to be rather compact van. I don’t want to drive a huge truck 😉

This meant I had to make some decisions, expecially when it comes to available space. More space = bigger van = heavier and harder to park (and drive in narrow streets).

Also, I needed to think about a layout, and based on that, make a selection of available vans to do the build.