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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
First off, I would like to thank the members of this forum who have shared ideas, experiences, photos, opinions, resources and enthusiasm. Reading these posts gave me the confidence to get off the couch and actually do something.

In order to keep the overall costs down and maintain the maximum flexibility of use, I decided to buy a used passenger van for my conversion. I found a 2016 Metris with under 7000 miles a couple hours drive from where I live. So my initial investment was about $30k.

I wanted something that could be used as a second car and transport 4 or more people safely. So, to avoid the cost of putting in a new floor/track system and safe seating for passengers, I went with a passenger van. I also wanted something that could be converted to a useful camper, but could be reverted to its original setup if I needed to transport more people, or large items, or more importantly, I wanted to start over in case I didn't like what I did. The first thing I did was remove the back row bench seat and retained the middle bench (2-seater). That gives me two seating positions (middle row for more comfortable driving, and back row for camping), and leaves enough room on the passenger side for a gallery cabinet.

For sleeping, and the added headroom, I knew I wanted to go with a pop-top. I liked the SCA 152 as the overall height was a concern (non-standard garage). The tradeoff here is that you can't store much bedding up there when you are driving. I have a two-inch memory foam topper and mattress pad that I store in back and unfold up there after I open the top. The bed is very comfy with the added topper.

My first real project was to add front seat swivels. I really like them. Plus it is much easier to get into the sleeping area with the seats swiveled.

I knew I wanted a top-loading fridge for efficiency. It took a while to decide on the right interior volume and form factor to fit my needs, but eventually I decided on the Dometic CFX 40. And I liked the idea of putting in in front of the passenger sliding door, so I could access it from inside or outside the van. I decided to put it on a slider so I could tuck it partially under the sink cabinet when it was not open - so I can still use the door to get in and out of the van. This work out really well as I found a fridge slide that locks in three positions (fully extended, half way, fully closed).

For the galley cabinet, I decided to use extruded t-slot aluminum and polycarbonate. I like the idea of saving some weight over wood and having something that would be safer in an accident. Also, I'm not a skilled woodworker and I thought an aluminum building project would would be more fun. Plus, it gave me very strong cabinet frame that could be easily anchored to the exposed track with some u-bolts that grab onto the same anchors the bench seats use (since I'm just using the 2-seat bench, one entire track is exposed down the length of the passenger side of the van). The fridge slide also used these same anchor points. I have yet to drill any new holes in the van (well, not counting the pop-top).

The cabinet top is bamboo (Ikea), with a Dometic 8005 sink cut into it. I went with a 12-v submersible pump (Comet) and a simple tap with a electric switch (CAN Sri RB1487). The tap folds down so you can close the sink cover. Under the sink cabinet, back towards the rear of the van, are and a couple of 4-gallon water bottles (clean water/grey water) and a drinking water filter. With the fridge slid out, I have just have enough room to pull of the waters bottled to dump and fill. The remainder of the cabinet is used for storage (accessible from the rear)

The power system is a portable lithium battery with a built-in inverter and charge controller (Inergy Kodiak). It just fits under the bench seat and I has some handle strap connectors that I used to anchor it to the seat frame with nylon webbing. I have connected it in series with a deep cycle AGM battery in a battery box right behind the seat that is also anchored to the seat frame. Each battery is about 100AH. To recharge them, all I'm doing right now is using the 12-v receptacle in the back row. (150 watts / 12 V = 12.5 amp per hour). It works OK, but eventually I will use the alternator more efficiently or add solar. Currently (electricity pun) it should take about 8 hours of driving to recharge the battery fully from 50% capacity.

I added a rack behind the back seat (more extruded aluminum) to use the space more efficiently, but eventually i would like to build something that is more custom, with drawers for gear, etc. I also made some screens (mosquito netting, magnets, weather-stripping, glue gun). Bought shades for the cab from WeatherShield (worth the premium cost). And made pop-in shades for the rest of the windows (Reflectix, black nylon, contact cement, black duct tape). If you make them slightly big they pop into place and stay put.

Also on the wish list: Awning (might go with ShadyBoy). Safe/lock box (maybe under the driver seat where the 2nd battery goes?). More interior storage for food and clothing. To date, I have spent about $16K on the conversion including the pop-top, all the various nuts and bolts, a few tools I needed, and some lighting and materials I have not yet installed (I have a lot of aluminum and fasteners in the garage).
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
There is a more complete set of photos here.
If you click on "i" icon (info) you can see some comments about each photo in the album.
 

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Looks great!

Do you think the SCA 152 would work with the LWB Metris? Seems to me it would just end 9 " early?
 

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Great job!

If you could, can you share a close-up picture how you anchored the cabinet "to the exposed track with some u-bolts that grab onto the same anchors the bench seats use"? What U-bolt did you use? I may have to copy that in the near future.

Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Yes I do, but it might take some work convincing an installer to try it. It would be nice if you could mount is slightly back of the position over the front seats to take more advantage of the headroom you gain wit the bed in the "up" position.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
qnf: I used National Hardware Stainless Steel U-bolts I picked up from a local hardware store - website here: https://www.natman.com/type/u-bolts-bolts. They are 1/4-3/8 in thick and the width (spread) was about 1 1/4) the length (height) was too long so I cut them down with a dremmel cutting wheel after I installed them. In the photo you can see them sticking up through an aluminum plate that sits in the channel of the t-slot aluminum frame.
 

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Looks great Brow. Nice work! We took a similar, but simpler approach to our passenger van camp setup. An awning is on my wish list too, so keep me posted if you find a good solution that plays nicely with the pop top.
 

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How was working with the extruded aluminum? Where did you source it from? I was thinking wood, but you make a great point in weight saving , etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I have really enjoyed building with aluminum. You need is a chop saw and a good Au cutting blade. I used a 12-inch saw - you want really clean cuts. Depending on the joint fasteners you select, a drill press would be really handy - or a good set of drill bits and a couple jigs. Some fasteners need drilling for access to tighten bolt heads or to drop in connectors.

I purchased from Misumi USA (recommended!) for most all the big stuff and 80/20 (good, but expensive) for some fasteners they didn't have at Misumi. Also Amazon and eBay for alternatives to the really expensive fasteners, and odds and ends. I worked with the 30 series HFS and HFSL (30mm - standard and lighweight ), but I could have got away with using 1-inch for my cabinets. The 20mm HFS might have worked also, but I was worried about too much flex in 48-in spans. But the cabinet i built is so rigid that maybe 20 mm would have worked? You have to puzzle it all together, especially if you are going to fill the slot with wood or plastic (to make closed cabinets), since many of the fasteners use the slots. And you have to carefully plan the order you assemble things once you figure out the fasteners - to maintain access to all the bolts.

I know I spent more that I would have if I built from wood, but I was more about by abilities and making the project fun for me.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Baron: Loved you photo album and seeing your deigns come together! Sadly, I cannot offer you the same kind of documentation for my project. What I can share is that I did a lot of sketching with some details showing my plans for joining each corner. Order some various t-slow profiles and fastens in small quantities and play with them - that will get some ideas flowing. 80/20 has a free sample kit. I used the "end connector" wherever I could. I found it very strong and easy to work with, but the best connectors will probably depend on your design.
 

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Baron: Loved you photo album and seeing your deigns come together! Sadly, I cannot offer you the same kind of documentation for my project. What I can share is that I did a lot of sketching with some details showing my plans for joining each corner. Order some various t-slow profiles and fastens in small quantities and play with them - that will get some ideas flowing. 80/20 has a free sample kit. I used the "end connector" wherever I could. I found it very strong and easy to work with, but the best connectors will probably depend on your design.

brow you learn every day :) I was not aware that there is such a product as 80/20 (or 8020) now I see on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuMufzRVa-M what I can do as my next project :) thanks a bunch for sharing, I am sure that it will be interesting experience.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Baron: You should also check out what ModVans is doing. They are building on the Ford Transit, but they have some nice ideas and fabrications. The website shows the prototype van, but the production stuff is even nicer. Subscribe to their newsletter for updates on the production. Like this one.
 

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Baron: You should also check out what ModVans is doing. They are building on the Ford Transit, but they have some nice ideas and fabrications. The website shows the prototype van, but the production stuff is even nicer. Subscribe to their newsletter for updates on the production. Like this one.
looking trough it all brow that you have suggested, I was under the impression, that I have seen all the builders up-fitters, but this is all new to me :) thanks, now the next thing that I have to do for my insurance is to get my Metris camper appraised to be able to prove at time of need that it was not only a worker for 26K but a camper, so far don't have idea where to get it appraised
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Morrison Update:
To prepare for our longest trip to date (Monterey to Tetons/Yellowstone), I added some more storage to the van. I built a shelf across the rear width of the van, behind the back seat, that hangs from the fiberglass wall of the pop-up unit. I used black anodized t-slot aluminum for the frame and some corrugated lexan (polycarbonate) for the shelf. I added some elastic webbing to keep things int place during transit. Really works nice.

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I also added an Anything Keeper to the bottom of the bed unit. I don't love how it looks, or the construction, but I appreciate the storage.

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I bought a Fiamma T4 Carry-Bike Pro bike from the Bargain Basement at GoWesty. It was made for the VW T4, but I checked the measurements carefully and I was confident I could bend it to fit the Metris. Luckily the bike rack has nice thick-wall aluminum construction that bends without kinking). Dialing in the fit was pretty easy. I did have to flatten the upper brackets to really nail the fit.

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The rack worked out well for carrying our chairs and a chaise lounge that I used as a bed which added another inside sleeping spot (with the driver's seat rotated, the chaise would perfectly overhang the bench seat and the driver's seat).

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Some bonus pics from the trip:

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IMG_0299.jpeg
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Some more trip pics. BTW, the van performed flawlessly on some dirt roads, thought some epic thunderstorms, over some mountain passes, and 2500+ miles of highway driving.

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Almost too beautiful to reply . . .
 

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Discussion Starter #19
 

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First off, I would like to thank the members of this forum who have shared ideas, experiences, photos, opinions, resources and enthusiasm. Reading these posts gave me the confidence to get off the couch and actually do something.

In order to keep the overall costs down and maintain the maximum flexibility of use, I decided to buy a used passenger van for my conversion. I found a 2016 Metris with under 7000 miles a couple hours drive from where I live. So my initial investment was just over $30k.

I wanted something that could be used as a second car and transport 4 or more people safely. So, to avoid the cost of putting in a new floor/track system and safe seating for passengers, I went with a passenger van. I also wanted something that could be converted to a useful camper, but could be reverted to it's original setup if I needed to transport more people, or large items, or more importantly, I wanted to start over in case I didn't like what I did. The first thing I did was remove the back row bench seat and retained the middle bench (2-seater). That gives me two seating positions (middle row for more comfortable driving, and back row for camping), and leaves enough room on the passenger side for a gallery cabinet.

For sleeping, and the added headroom, I knew I wanted to go with a pop-top and I liked the SCA 152 as the overall height was a concern (non-standard garage). The tradeoff here is that you can't store much bedding up there when you are driving. I have a two-inch memory foam topper and mattress pad that I store in back and unfold up there after I open the top. The bed is very comfy with the added topper.

My first real project was to add seat swivels (from seats). I really like them. Plus I it is much easier to get into the sleeping area wit the seats swiveled. We set small plastic step stool in one to the seats to make it even easier.

I knew I wanted a top-loading fridge for efficiency. It took a while to decide on the right introit volume and form factor to fit my needs, but eventually I decided on the Dometic CFX 40. And I liked the idea of putting in in front of the passenger sliding door, so I could access it from inside or outside the van. I decided to put it on a slider so I could tuck it under the sink cabinet when it was not open - so I so still use the door to get in and out of the van. This work out really well as I found a fridge slide that lock in three positions (fully extended, half way, fully closed).

For the galley cabinet, I decided to use extruded t-slot aluminum and polycarbonate. I like the idea of saving some weight over wood and having something that would be safer in an accident. Also, I'm not a skilled woodworker and I thought an aluminum building project would would be more fun. Plus, it gave me very strong cabinet frame that could be easily anchored to the exposed track with some u-bolts that grab onto the same anchors the bench seats use (since I'm just using the narrow bench seat, so one entire track is exposed down the length of the passenger side of the van). The fridge slide also used these same anchor points. I have yet to drill any new holes in the van (well, not counting the pop-top).

The cabinet top is bamboo, with a Dometic 8005 sink cut into it. I went with a 12-v submersible pump (Comet) and a simple tap with a electric switch (CAN Sri RB1487). The tap folds down so you can closer the sink cover. Under the sink cabinet, back towards the rear of the van are and a couple of 4-gallon water bottles (clean water/grey water) and a drinking water filter. With the fridge slid out, I have just have enough room to pull of the waters bottled to dump and fill. The remainder of the cabinet is used for storage.

The power system is a portable lithium battery with a built-in inverter and charge controller (Inergy Kodiak). I just fits under the bench seat and I has some handle strap connectors that I used to anchor it to the seat frame with nylon webbing. I have connected it in series with a deep cycle AGM battery in a battery box right behind the seat that is also anchored to the seat frame. Each battery is about 100AH. To recharge them, all I'm doing right now is using the 12-v receptacle in the back row. (150 watts / 12 V = 12.5 amp per hour). It works OK, but eventually I will use the alternator more efficiently or add solar. Currently (electricity pun) it should take about 8 hours of driving to recharge the battery fully from 50% capacity.

I added a rack behind the back seat (more extruded aluminum) to use the space more efficiently, but eventually i would like to build something that is more custom, with drawers for gear, etc. I also made some screens (mosquito netting, magnets, weather-stripping, glue gun). Bought shades for the cab from WeatherShield (worth the premium cost). And made pop-in shades for the rest of the windows (Reflectix, black nylon, contact cement, black duct tape). If you make them slightly big they pop into place and stay put.

Also on the wish list: Awning (might go with ShadyBoy). Safe/lock box (maybe under the driver seat where the 2nd battery goes?). More interior storage for food and clothing. To date, I have spent about $16K on the conversion including the pop-top, all the various nuts and bolts, a few tools I needed, and some lighting and materials I have not yet installed (I have a lot of aluminum and fasteners in the garage).

I tried to add some photos to this post but my post count is not high enough to start a thread and add photos (forum rules). Also I'm not allowed to add a link to external photos (or any URL!). Maybe I can post some in the comments?
Thx for passing on your well thought our ideas. It’s great seeing many people create what is exactly right for their particular circumstances! Lots of good ideas out there for folks to incorporate into their own designs.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was some kind of a Metris meetup once a year so we all could really get a good look at what’s being created?
 
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