Hey - let’s buy an old campervan and hit the road fulltime!
Yes, #vanlife is all the rage. And yes, it’s fun to think about living out of a classic VW Westie or other older rig that has a bit more style than the new “gray box on wheels” campervans.
But be ready for what you are getting yourself into. Unless you find a creampuff that’s been lovingly maintained and garage-kept when not used you’ll have some work to do before you can hit the road fulltime.
Even then, Class Bs (like most other RVs) are produced as campers. Not full-time homes. There will be some work required to provision it for fulltime living.
We had to buy a Class B for $10K or less (and here’s how we did it).
I’m an old car guy - so the idea of having to put some sweat equity into an older rig actually sounded like fun.
Our first 5 months of ownership were spent stationary while we launched our youngest off on her own. I took advantage of that time (and lenient RV park owners) to do the projects listed below.
I keep this list for me as much as you. I’ll get to wondering where my summer went, so need this to look back on and say “oh, yea.”
Here are all the projects I did to Sally - our 1995 Pleasure-Way in the first 6 months of ownership:
- Had oil / coolant / transmission fluid and rear differential gear oil replaced
- Installed 5 new tires
- Fixed frozen low-pitch horn
- Cleaned up rear hitch wiring - removed added wiring of unknown purpose
- Had a transmission leak fixed
- Replaced upper ball joints, front shocks, and front sway bar links
- Fixed rattle in passenger side door (?)
- Fixed non-operational left turn signal and right parking light by replacing both front turn signal bulb sockets
- Installed 2” rear wheel spacers (to minimize sway issues)
- Changed out most exterior lights to LED
- Installed new house battery
- Fixed house 12v system
- Straightened all the A/C fins
- Replaced smoke detector
- Replaced CO2 / Propane detectors
- Dressed up tank sensor wiring
- Replaced locks on exterior power and water access doors with thumb latches
- Replaced lost water heater door
- Replaced exterior stove vent
- Removed, sealed up and painted the (NEW) exterior stove vent to get rid of the (MAJORLY ANNOYING) rattle
- Corrected entry way light switch positions so they matched labels.
- Replaced exterior 120V plug & plug cover
- Installed new 30A plug end on main rig electric cord
- Generator maintenance - changed oil, air filter and fuel filter
- Repaired/rebuilt exterior propane door
- Cleaned out roof AC drains
- Cleaned wasp nests out of furnace vents
- Removed running boards
- Restored faded/yellow headlights
- Installed new baby moon hubcaps
- Polished trim rings / front bumper / grill
- Restored black bumpers/mirrors/door handles
- Powerwashed entire exterior
- Removed wide-angle mirror, replaced with new on both sides
- Buffed all exterior paint with 3M Marine Cleaner and Wax
- Removed rear window, stripped tint, repaired edging, painted, installed additional weatherstripping to fix leak
- Removed screens on doors, cleaned, tightened, reinstalled
- Painted stuff that hangs below body line (fresh tank, propane tank, etc) black to make it disappear
- Painted wheels white
- Debadged, sanded, primed and painted hood
- Painted bathroom vent cap
- Painted side door, rear, and eyebrow window frames gloss black
- Siliconed closed mounting holes from running boards
- Painted rear bumper cover with Rustoleum bumper and trim paint
- Painted front rubber bumper cover and cowl area with Rustoleum bumper and trim paint
- Removed some stickers from the exterior
- Painted hitch, underside of generator, battery box
- Painted wood behind left side entry door where it was sunfaded
- Put Ditching Suburbia logo and our name/hometown on the exterior bathroom wall behind door
- Repainted the generator access door
- Painted exhaust black
- Cut new front floor mats
- Installed compass
- Installed butterfly hook to hold passenger side seat belt out of the way when parked
- Repainted entry wall after stripping fabric from inside portion
- Painted the entry light switch white
- Converted a $3 Goodwill mantle clock into a small wall clock
- Replaced 2 sections of broken curtain track
- Hung a photo frame
- Hung a Command hook for fly swatter
- Installed new front seats (from a 2002 Chrysler Minivan)
- Painted front side of kitchen cabinets (behind driver’s seat)
- Painted bottom of rectangular table to match when stowed here
- Scraped tint off front door windows and vent wings
- Installed Command hooks for 2 pair of glasses
- Replaced the stock AM/FM radio with a custom GPS mount using a Single DIN Installation Kit and a GPS adapter plate
- Installed magnetic knife bar
- Installed magnetic spice rack
- Recaulked kitchen countertop
- Deep-cleaned and polished stove top
- Repainted stovetop pan support
- Installed new linoleum floor using peel and stick tiles
- Flipped 3 cupboard doors to open down rather than up
- Added magnets to pill box and attached to stove fan shroud
- Replaced the faucet with a high-rise bar sink version.
- Removed shower head/curtain
- Installed storage baskets
- Installed towel hooks
- Installed toiletry bag hooks
- Installed toothbrush holder
- Tightened toilet
- Added felt pads to prevent door from rattling while driving
Living / Bedroom
- Replaced foam in rear dinette/bed
- Added removeable legs to 2nd table for outdoor use
- Removed flat-screen TV
- Built a charging center / shelf unit for electronics
- Organized clothing with packing cubes
- Installed inside grab handle on rear door
- Hung hooks for mesh fruit bags
- Fixed sqeaky rear fan, then removed non-op rear fan
- Installed eyehook to secure bedrolls while in transit
- Re-screened rear/side windows
- Add magnetic iPhone/iPad mounts by rear couch
- Installed friction arms so rear upper cabinet doors stay open by themselves
- Added two hooks to exterior of wardrobe door for hanging up clothes at night
- Installed a junkyard cargo net in the upper rear shelf
- Added two cabinet door catches to keep wardrobe door shut while in transit
- Installed a “non-rv” clothes rod in wardrobe to increase clothes storage capacity
- Changed out all interior lights to LED
- 4.5 hours with upholstery cleaner on carpets and seating
- Cleaned all interior cabinets
- Repair lots of loose interior trim
- Moved key rack
- Cleaned and waxed interior painted surfaces - door jambs etc
- Removed seat belts to make more storage under couch/bed
Whew! Now I know where the summer went. Some of these were all-day affairs, and some took only minutes. Mainly I would just try to do something on the van every day. Even if it was a small thing.
Ditching Suburbia Manifesto Shirt
Suburbia-ditchers have different values than most people - tell the world what they are:
Simpler Living. Closer Family. Richer Education. Uncommon Adventures.
Styles available: t-Shirts, tank tops, and hoodies.
Colors available: black, navy, gray.
A lot of this work was me wanting Sally to look sharp and well-cared for. Yes, I have a pride issue. But we hope to be staying in more free campsites and boondocking spots, so I wanted to present an image that was more “fulltime RVer on a road trip” and less “homeless hippies living in a van”, if you catch my drift.
Do You Rock an Older Rig?
Do you full-time in an older rig? What have you done to make it livable?