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Old 09-15-2019, 06:45 PM   #1
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Ford E-350 Box Van conversion

The saw has spoken! There is no turning back. I have officially started my E-350 Box Van conversion. It's about time after one year and 6000 miles have gone by since I bought the box van.

After removing the plywood wall and ceiling panels together with the fiberglass insulation, I took out the divider with the sliding door to the cab. This wall will be reinstalled after the new floor is finished since it provides effective sound and heat insulation between the cab and the box.

The floor was made from 1-3/8" shiplap pine boards and had several rotten areas that were covered with 1/4" aluminum plates by the previous owner.

I decided to cut the floorboards close to the steel cross beams since the screws holding the floor down were hidden by fiberglass panels glued to the floor. The fiberglass was impossible to remove in large sections.


Peeling the covering off the remaining strips was easy and I could then buzz out the screws with an impact driver.


Very little surface rust on the frame of the vehicle and the box. The vehicle was used as a mobile water testing lab by the town of Hampton Roads, VA for 19 years before I bought it.


Cab is temporarily sealed off with foam board to keep the dust out. The rearmost wall panels are under the tracks for the rollup door and will be addressed later after building and installing a toy hauler gate.
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Old 09-15-2019, 08:46 PM   #2
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Old 09-15-2019, 10:07 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by alpine44 View Post
The saw has spoken! There is no turning back. I have officially started my E-350 Box Van conversion. It's about time
"It's about time" is right......have been waiting patiently to see you get started on your build.


Quote:

This wall will be reinstalled after the new floor is finished since it provides effective sound and heat insulation between the cab and the box.
You're going to reinstall the wall AND the sliding door, right? Can't remember if you were going to title as RV, but seem to recall reading something about how the driver had to be able to transit 'in an upright position' from the driver's seat to the living quarters.

The interior looks great.....that's not even enough rust to mention.

Good luck, and good building.
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Old 09-15-2019, 10:31 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by plfking View Post
"It's about time" is right......have been waiting patiently to see you get started on your build.




You're going to reinstall the wall AND the sliding door, right? Can't remember if you were going to title as RV, but seem to recall reading something about how the driver had to be able to transit 'in an upright position' from the driver's seat to the living quarters.

The interior looks great.....that's not even enough rust to mention.

Good luck, and good building.
Donít know if itís true about being able to walk, but there certainly must be something about an emergency exit.

I donít know why youíre doing a box. Is it to be stealth in the city? If it is maybe you want to keep the roll up door

Check out this guys step van. His front porch is pretty cool

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Old 09-16-2019, 07:44 AM   #5
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That looks great, Are you having ideas of taking the box frame rails out and so lowering the box on the frame as is done with most skoolies. Your height would getting less and the walkway from cab to box would become more comfortable..Then of course you would loose the flat floor and have wheel wells... But one less step to get in from the ground..Will all this floor work done you could insulate 4" between the floor profiles and 1" on top and then plywood and put more insulation in the ceiling ?
Wonderful to have all these possibilites, it slows you down thinking about it.


Later Johan
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Old 09-16-2019, 07:45 AM   #6
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Oh, I forgot, since you want to go 4x4, are you adding a three point swivel to compensate for frame flex?


Later Johan
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Old 09-16-2019, 06:35 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plfking View Post
"It's about time" is right......have been waiting patiently to see you get started on your build.




You're going to reinstall the wall AND the sliding door, right? Can't remember if you were going to title as RV, but seem to recall reading something about how the driver had to be able to transit 'in an upright position' from the driver's seat to the living quarters.

The interior looks great.....that's not even enough rust to mention.

Good luck, and good building.
Thanks.

I also remember reading about the upright access to the lving quarters but do not remember which state requires this.

North Carolina requires 4 of these items in what they call a 'house car':
  • cooking
  • heating or air conditioning
  • separate 110-125 volt electrical supply
  • portable water system including faucet and sink
  • refrigeration or ice box
  • self-contained toilet
  • LP gas supply

I am going to install a fiberglass wind deflector cap over the cab and use that for storage with access from inside of the box. The roof of the cab stays original.
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Old 09-16-2019, 06:39 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danjo View Post
Don’t know if it’s true about being able to walk, but there certainly must be something about an emergency exit.

I don’t know why you’re doing a box. Is it to be stealth in the city? If it is maybe you want to keep the roll up door

Check out this guys step van. His front porch is pretty cool

Thanks for the cool video.

My roll up door needs to go. It does not close weather tight and takes up space under the ceiling where the lift bed will go during the day. The toy hauler gate will have a dutch door for views and ventilation.
I am trying to maintain somewhat of a stealthy look but do not want to go overboard with this as I do not have to live in the city.
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Old 09-16-2019, 07:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post
That looks great, Are you having ideas of taking the box frame rails out and so lowering the box on the frame as is done with most skoolies. Your height would getting less and the walkway from cab to box would become more comfortable..Then of course you would loose the flat floor and have wheel wells... But one less step to get in from the ground..Will all this floor work done you could insulate 4" between the floor profiles and 1" on top and then plywood and put more insulation in the ceiling ?
Wonderful to have all these possibilites, it slows you down thinking about it.


Later Johan
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post
Oh, I forgot, since you want to go 4x4, are you adding a three point swivel to compensate for frame flex?


Later Johan
I could drop the box 4"by removing the longitudinal C channels but this is not worth the trouble, IMO. Also, the fiberglass cap I got for the front would not fit then.

The walk-through form the cab will never be very comfortable due to the limited height. But I have found a kitchen layout where I can reach the fridge from the driver's seat.

After reading you comment about frame flex I drove one side of the rear axle onto ramps. There is no ill effect on the box and the longitudinal C channel of the box lifts less than 1/4"off the frame hump on the low side.

420190916_103747.jpg

320190916_103435.jpg

120190916_103400.jpg

There is no gap on the high side, as it is the case on both sides when the vehicle is on flat ground.

220190916_103823.jpg

I could easily close the gap with a C clamp and I may put a Grade 8 bolt there to tie frame and box rail together and get rid of the banging on rough roads. At least I know now where that mysterious noise came from on some trails.

I am still on the fence about the 4WD conversion and this is not going to happen this year anyway. My front springs have sagged so badly that they need to be replaced right now and I ordered custom springs with 2'' lift. If that's enough for the 235/85R16 BFG KO2 tires, I may just install a locker in the rear and call it done.

This vehicle is intended for exploring this continent and here in North America we do not have the extremely gnarly thoroughfares like those found in South America or Africa. Yes, we have offroad parks with very challenging trails but they are not a potential obstacle between point A and B and are typically not a good destination to find peace and serenity. There are also some dirt roads that become very muddy during the spring thaw and after heavy rain but they are from my experience a bad choice for anything but a tracked vehicle. If there is a sign "Impassable when wet" it is probably a good idea to believe that.

If I am done with my list of destinations here in the USA and contemplate taking this vehicle south of the border, I am going to install the 4WD and another locker up front. Then, I may cut out the longitudinal channels of the box around the frame hump, weld a profile on the outside for reinforcement and put a pivoting bracket in the rear. That would allow the frame to flex 4" at the rear axle hump with respect to the box.
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Old 09-17-2019, 12:34 AM   #10
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Wow, that "non flex" is impressive, Nice pics, ..
Both our 4x4 e350 quigley's van bodies are flexing more then that with one rear wheel lifted of ground. Did you have the rear box door closed and or did a diagonal squareness measurement in the door opening?

The flexing is a function of the weight / load / inertia.

I was surprised with frame flex of the 4x4 heavy trucks but then their living boxes are designed to not flex at all.


I agree, 4x4 is very rarely needed and will get you easily in trouble. Nut it looks cool and is pretty good in snow.


Later Johan
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Old 09-17-2019, 10:36 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post
Wow, that "non flex" is impressive, Nice pics, ..
Both our 4x4 e350 quigley's van bodies are flexing more then that with one rear wheel lifted of ground. Did you have the rear box door closed and or did a diagonal squareness measurement in the door opening?

The flexing is a function of the weight / load / inertia.

I was surprised with frame flex of the 4x4 heavy trucks but then their living boxes are designed to not flex at all.


I agree, 4x4 is very rarely needed and will get you easily in trouble. Nut it looks cool and is pretty good in snow.


Later Johan
I once owned a 91 Ford F150, 4x4. In 100k miles, maybe 100 of it was actually in 4wd. Just a bunch of extra weight to carry around to burn fuel.
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Old 09-17-2019, 07:16 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post
Wow, that "non flex" is impressive, Nice pics, ..
Both our 4x4 e350 quigley's van bodies are flexing more then that with one rear wheel lifted of ground. Did you have the rear box door closed and or did a diagonal squareness measurement in the door opening?

The flexing is a function of the weight / load / inertia.

I was surprised with frame flex of the 4x4 heavy trucks but then their living boxes are designed to not flex at all.

...
The roll up door would not carry any load; it's too loosely fitted. There was no change in the door frame dimensions, which is not a surprise since the door frame is a rather sturdy, welded steel profile.
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Old 09-17-2019, 07:19 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post

...I agree, 4x4 is very rarely needed and will get you easily in trouble. Nut it looks cool and is pretty good in snow.


Later Johan
Quote:
Originally Posted by o1marc View Post
I once owned a 91 Ford F150, 4x4. In 100k miles, maybe 100 of it was actually in 4wd. Just a bunch of extra weight to carry around to burn fuel.
4WD is useful in states with 4+ months of winter, but I am trying to stay away from the white stuff (snow and salt) as much as I can.
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Old 09-17-2019, 07:37 PM   #14
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Installed an auxiliary diesel tank today to take advantage of low prices.

20190916_112103.jpg

The right side bolted right to the frame rail and the left side needed some spacers that I turned on the lathe from 1" round stock.

20190916_133837.jpg

I was at first leery about drilling into the frame but went ahead after I saw the huge holes that Ford had stamped into the flange.

The plumbing of the main tank will stay unmodified and the fuel from the aux tank will be pumped over with an electric pump. I will have to add either a vented loop or a anti-siphon valve since I installed the aux tank higher to maintain a good departure angle.
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Old 09-25-2019, 04:58 AM   #15
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4WD is useful in states with 4+ months of winter, but I am trying to stay away from the white stuff (snow and salt) as much as I can.

A good winch with plenty of ropes, straps, and snatch blocks is indispensable in off road situations.
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Old 05-05-2020, 06:06 PM   #16
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After fixing up two boats for sale and helping a guy restore a seaplane I sold to him last fall, it's back to the box van project.

New floor panels have been installed, made from plywood painted with elastomeric roof coating on the underside after edges were impregnated with epoxy resin. The panels will be sealed with Sikaflex on the side walls upon final installation.

Floor_FrontLayout.jpg

On the left side is the tape outline for the shower/toilet stall and on the right for the kitchenette. The rear shower wall is double and will house plumbing for the shower head, the filters for the grey water re-circulation, the plate heat exchangers for warm water, and the Espar D5WZ hydronic diesel heater with pump and zone valves for warm water and floor heat.

CeilingInsul.jpg

1" PU foam insulation has been added between the roof cross beams by gluing the panels to the roof sheathing and beams with Sikaflex. I put an old inflatable mattress filled with water on the roof to hold the aluminum panel flat to the beams for bonding.

Underneath that will go 1/2" PU panels held with 1/2" furring strips along the support beams. The spaces between the furring strips going cross-wise will be filled with 1/2" PU panels for a total of 2" PU foam in the ceiling. The curved front section will be spray foamed.

Is 2" roof insulation enough with solar panels and a central catwalk shading the entire roof?

The ceiling will be finished with T&G pine boards running longitudinally and fastened to the furring strips.
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Old 05-05-2020, 06:21 PM   #17
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Here is the current solar/electric layout for your critique:

6x 200W panels (Panasonic VBHB200AA20) with max power voltage of 55.8V and open circuit voltage of 68.7V wired in parallel for a max output of 1200W.

1x 5.9kWh LG 10s Lithium pack with max voltage of 42V, nominal 36V, and minimum of 30V. This pack is factory assembled, new, and costs ~$100/kWh.

I read somewhere that the open circuit voltage of the panels should be 1.5-2x of the battery voltage for a Mppt controller. Do the values above look OK or should I look for panels with max power voltage closer to 42V?

Why so much capacity for a relatively small vehicle? The price is right for the battery and I plan to run a ~500W custom A/C unit to keep the well insulated box comfortable.
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Old 05-05-2020, 06:58 PM   #18
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Here are some notes on the A/C unit mentioned above:

I verified during a heat wave last year (95F, heat index 123F) that a 5000 BTU/hr window airconditioner will keep the living/sleeping area of the box van very comfortable. Since a unit of that size consumes about 500W, it should be possible to run the A/C from solar panels and a sufficiently large battery bank. That would allow comfort during hot days/nights without the need to be hooked up on a campground or having to run a noisy generator.

Unfortunately, an inexpensive window airconditioner has several drawbacks in an RV application.

A) The form factor is sub-optimal for installation in an RV. To avoid the 'ghetto' look it would have to be mounted flush with the outside wall surface which would make air routing to the condenser a challenge.

B) The start-up current requires a robust inverter, preferably a dedicated one just for the A/C. There are compressors and entire A/C units available with integrated inverters that run on 12 or 24 Volt DC but the prices for these are astronomical.

C) The ON-OFF cycling of conventional airconditioning compressors is inefficient and - in my opinion - annoying.

To circumvent these drawbacks I decided to build my own comfort system from the following components:

1) A wall-mounted evaporator unit with 12 Volt fan ($55 new)

2) An underfloor condenser assembly with receiver/drier for a refrigerated van or shuttle bus that also has a 12 Volt fan ($125 new)

3) A Sanden PXE16 variable displacement compressor ($47 used)

4) An 800 Watt brushless DC motor with controller ($130 new)

5) A microcontroller to adjust the displacement of the compressor according to the cooling needs. Once the desired interior temperature is reached, the compressor displacement will be reduced to the point where the cooling capacity matches the heat transferred through walls/windows into the interior space. That will keep the interior temperature constant without ON-OFF cycling. ($0 from my electronics bin)

6) Plenty of lines, hoses, fittings, time, and patience.
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Old 05-05-2020, 07:54 PM   #19
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Solid insulation design on the ceiling. Maximizes the insulation and minimizes the wood and doesn't allow the uninsulated ribs to penetrate to the living space. I have no idea if 2" is enough to be sitting in the sun but it seems like more than most people have in skoolies. I'm going to have 2.25" or 2.5" of XPS (1.5" between the ribs and 0.75" or 1" over the ribs) but I'm planning to be parked in the shade.
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Old 05-05-2020, 08:29 PM   #20
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The airco will be a very interesting project. I just found a nice 12 vdc 1hp permanent magnet motor in the scrapyard that I would like to hook up to the Ac compressor in our small bus. Please keep pushing that project since nobody has done that before..some real pioneering going on.

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