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Greetings,

Two weeks ago I took delivery on a new Metris cargo van that I will upfit to use to support my handyman business. I hope to share my experience because I have learned so much from the contributors to this site and might, possibly, have some insight or solution that could be beneficial to someone else.

A little backstory: I live and work in Minneapolis, Minnesota where it can get cold in the winter...and hot in the summer at times. My background includes engineering so everything I have done has been carefully researched and designed. This will be the ninth year I have been doing handyman work as a profession. I have been using a 2004 Grand Caravan but numerous issues have pushed me to replace it. I hope to get a couple more weeks of service from it but the transmission is going fast.

As it turns out, the Metris was the smallest van I could get that had all of the features I needed: able to carry a sheet of plywood on edge or load a couple sticks of conduit at ten feet or a couple pieces of trim up to twelve feet all with the back door closed, driver-side sliding door to get at my stuff, hitch receiver to mount a vice, roof rack for the big ladder, able to make a U-turn in the street in front of the hardware store. There were contenders but the plywood requirement or the driver-side door eliminated every one.

And it wasn't that much more expensive. A Dodge (without the sliding door) was 12% less and a Ford (without the plywood) was 18% less.

Once I decided to go with the Metris, I checked in with the local dealer but they didn't have a unit with all the options: sliding door, winter package, hitch, roof rack, cruise control, backup cam. And I didn't want white. Every other trade-guy drove a white van. I wanted something different.

The sales guy was very patient with me. He did a search and found one but it was RED, screaming RED...ALL OVER. I just couldn't drive a RED MERCEDES. That would simply send the wrong message. He found a black one but it was black on the inside as well. That would be like driving a tomb on wheels. Nothing in gray or silver. Jeez, back to white.

Nothing in white either. The sales guy told me for the twelfth time I should just order one. But that would take three months probably, five realistically, and the transmission on the old van had just started to grind. Told him I'd take the red one but it had been sold.

Jumped on Google. Put in all the features and 0.72 seconds later I had links to five vans that had most of what I wanted. And, wouldn't you know, the one with nearly everything was RED, but this time with gray bumpers, so at least it wasn't red all over. It was in southern Texas. With a cold weather package. What on earth were they thinking?

The sales guy probably sighed when I sent him a note but he checked it out and I could have it! Two weeks later it was here.

The story will continue in fits and starts as I get the work done.
 

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Part 2

The first thing I did was remove the partition. I was looking for a van without the partition because the plywood ends up a little past the seat backs and runs into the partition. However, the partition is secured at the bottom with a crossbar spanning the width of the van at the top of the seat platform. This will be perfect for securing the shelving and it provides a barrier for the plywood.

The second thing I did was built a carrier for my 'book'. I use a filing system in a binder to keep track of the calendar and projects. I have been simply slinging it onto the passenger seat but it is clumsy to look up information, such as an address, when I am rolling. The arm assembly is made of 1" black iron fittings. I experimented until it worked to move around a little and out of the way. The platform is a wire shelf of a good size I found at the builder's store. The top part of the arm is joined to the bottom with a coupling that acts as a pivot and the means to remove it if I need the passenger seat.

Since I need floorspace and not a fancy place to step up in back, I made wood inserts to fill in the footwells with little rubber feet to hold them in place. I am going to put down a chunk of carpet after I do some noise control and insulation on the floor which will cover over the whole thing.

Wanted to put on the roof rack but discovered that they don't have the proper fittings. This unvanit came without the roof rails so I checked and was able to find crossbars that were supposed to fit to the mounting points on the roof for the factory rails but nada. Sent a note to the vendor.
 

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Part 3

Only a few simple things done this weekend. Not as much time as I had hoped.

Actually got a call from the roof rack people! Turns out I didn't understand how to install them (instruction for the Metris were not included in the package.) I expected two mounting bolts per leg and there is only one needed. The crossbars are from Rhino Rack, their Vortex Aero series, via eTrailer.com. Installation was straightforward once it got underway. There are four mounting points on each side. I chose the second and fourth. There is a crown to the roof so those points worked best to get a level carry. Rhino has spacers to get things level if needed. Since I will load the big ladder from the back, I need to figure out some kind of roller bar to protect the top of the doors and center tail light.

Installed mud flaps, window deflector and floor trays from the MB guy on eBay via the links in this forum. In retrospect I should have checked with the local dealer. Might have even gotten them as a comp, but frankly, it is easier to simply order them and have them delivered than to go out to get them.

Front flaps went on easy-peasy with two screws. Rear flaps took a bit more work. The instructions don't mention that there are two sizes of clips to hold the flaps. The smaller one goes on the underside. I had to clip off part of the tabs to get the other clips to go on. Again, instructions weren't too good and there is a screw attachment point but no screw so I am going to get one to tighten things down.

I like to drive with the window open, or partly so, pretty much all year 'round. The deflectors seemed like a good idea. Just slip them in carefully and use the little tool to position them properly in the slot. They disappear.

The floor trays drop in and fit well. Don't forget to snap the caps into place on the driver's side.

Started the sound-dampening/insulation work with removal of the cargo panels. The shelving is here and nearly everything else so I am no longer resource limited. Need a couple of 36 hour days over the next week.
 

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Part 4

Have accomplished a lot in the last couple of days, only I had to take it all out.

The old van is getting so bad I won't drive on the freeway any more so figured that I had better get the new van in a state where I could use it if I had to on short notice. The sound dampening work was nearly complete but I decided to get the shelves fitted so have accomplished that, then took them out to return to the last of the sound dampening.

In my research I discovered that many people use the Metris as a starting point for a home-made RV. They want things warm and quiet just like I do. (BTW my plan is to sell the van when I can't do handyman work and having it ready for an RV upfit should increase the resale value.)

In general, I covered most of the exposed inner surface of outer panels with sound deadening material from Noico, their 80 mil butyl mat. The objective is to add elastic mass to dampen both the sound generated by the panels vibrating and noise passing through from outside. One does not need to get 100% coverage. I tried for 80% or so and didn't obsess over nice straight lines. It was all going to get covered up. In the lower portion of the side panels I will use foam and mineral wool insulation so that would go right over the sound damping assembly. At the ceiling and upper portion of the side panels, however, I plan to use isocyanate sheets which are light and rigid. These would broadcast any vibrations that impinge upon them so I added an isolation layer of Noico's 157mil sound and heat insulating foam over the sound deadening material in those areas.

One thing about the dampening and foam sheets is the adhesive is incredibly aggressive. You won't get a second chance which is one reason I didn't strive for perfection, but it is important to not have ripples that would increase the thickness of the assembly.

At this point I have not decided whether I will do sound control on the floor. My plan is to get the rest done then take it out for a drive to determine the need. I laid a piece of carpet over the factory cargo floor so I think sound control might be taken care of. Heat loss is another issue, however, and I have to take up the floor to see what might be done in a thin mat over the metal deck.

With the sound dampening completed it was tempting to simply foam the whole thing full and call it done, but there are two huge problems that no one mentioned: wiring and door mechanism. Too many times I have had to cut into walls to fix problems to foam the wiring in place and the door mechanisms have moving parts.

I decided to use mineral wool around the wiring and mechanism and then use foam in the 'free' areas. The first step was to move the wiring to simplify the route. I moved hold-down clips and separated connectors to reroute wiring to a single run where possible. I started on the driver-side rear door as a learning site. You can see the wires hanging in the interior of the door in the picture of the sound dampening material. With a little ingenuity I moved it all into areas with the mineral wool, running them close to the inner surface with a thin layer of wool over them to prevent rattles. This leaves substantially more space for foam.

One thing: there was a plastic shield over all of this once the cargo panel came off. I suspect that is to protect the wiring and mechanism, so be really, really careful about fiddling with that stuff.

And then the foam. This is Great Stuff Pro applied with a gun. First a layer at the outer skin, then another, then filling in gaps as it started to expand, then finishing touches. Don't even try to use the cans with the straws. In my opinion, if you don't want to use the pro gun then use mineral wool all over.

It is getting chilly here now, so for the rest of the work I will get the heater going to warm things up and use a mist of water over the first layer to help with expansion. I have also brought the cans of foam inside to warm them up.

One of the big problems with mineral wool is that moisture vapor migrates through it so I will have to put some kind of vapor barrier over these areas. My first thought was to use 3M Window Insulator Kit. Simply place the double faced tape around the perimeter of the opening, stick on a piece of plastic, heat it to smooth it out and call it done, but the tape is designed to dry out and release over time so I need to find something with the same concept only permanent.

I now have the parts for a vise that I will fit into the hitch receiver and most of the pieces for a trolley system to carry the Little Giant ladder.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you, river, for the note. If the tires had said Hankook I would have slashed them myself. I was looking at a set of Pirellis or some other sticky tread but will see how these Continentals work over the winter. Speaking of tires...I am planning to paint the rims with Plasti-Dip so they don't look quite so odd. We'll see how that turns out.
 

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I would think that the Hankook Optimo 4S tires would be a good choice for all season conditions. Otherwise, just go with a set of winter wheels for best winter grip.
 

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Actually, I have the Hankook Nobles and I too had preferred the Continental brand (and more so Michelin) but have been so far impressed. One pair was messed up by a suspension misalignment (I blame NJ and PAs awful potholes) but the other pair is original and I suspect will last at least 45k miles. The road holding is so far perfection (never loses grip when I don't want it to, can be coaxed into drifts and slides with ESP off predictably and as intended) and the ride is not bad for a commercial van with barrel rear springs. They are a bit noisy, but they are a perfectly fine tire.
 

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I eagerly await the winter to hear Metris owner's experiences in winter and snowy conditions. Once it drops to around 0°C, all seasons start to harden and lose some gripping.
 

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Part 5

I have been working so hard over the last four days to get the van ready that I haven't had enough left to post a record of my progress. Today is Tuesday. I had hoped to use the van yesterday but that didn't happen so today was the first day out in the field. All I can say is...WOW! That is one nice set of wheels.

But I wanted to catch up with what I had done. After the sound deadening material was stuck onto the outer panels in the upper areas and roof I covered it with isolating foam. Those areas were relatively thin and I didn't want direct contact between the outer skin and the insulating panels on the inside.

I used five kinds of insulation:

1) The Noico has a small thermal capability.

2) The mineral wool.

3) Great Stuff Pro foam.

4) 1/2" polystyrene panels.

5) Thinsulate that I haven't used yet to go into places where nothing else will work.

Below is another pic of what things looked like before the foam. I used a heater to get things warm and sprayed water around to get the humidity up. The foam cans were also inside overnight to get them warmed up.

One key to success with foam is to build it up in layers. In big cavities I would lay in a base, then put a layer at the outer skin, working from bottom to top and then several more layers after each had a chance to expand a bit. One thing to avoid it to just fill a cavity too quickly since the expansion could bulge the sheet metal.

Another thing about foam...if it drops where you don't want it, it is often best to just let it set up and then knock it off and scrape it clean. Trying to simply wipe it up is futile without serious chemicals.

In total I used twelve cans of foam. Most of them started out with a nice fluffy bead that would diminish as the can emptied. I worked in large cavities at the start of the can and then moved to small gaps and strips. A couple of cans did nothing more than silly-string-sized beads from the beginning and I tossed them. I began in one area and then circled around so the foam had a chance to set up before placing the next layer.

A fresh can would do a great job of filling voids that couldn't be seen. I simply stuck the nose in a hole and pulled the trigger. Sometimes I could see the foam in the next hole. Sometimes I had to judge if a void was full based on the change in tone. I didn't want to fill these areas too aggressively but I didn't want thermal bridges either. I filled the gaps between the ribs and the outer panels as one can see in the second pic.

The next couple of pics are of the work at the rear quarter panel. Fill it. Trim it. Put the finish panel back on. An oscillating tool and a stick to use as a level make it relatively straightforward work.

I'll talk about the foam sheet in the next post.
 

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Coming along nicely. Have you done some internal noise measurement before starting? Be great to see what the before/after noise level reduction are gained. I'm going to panel my MC soon so I'll probably do this.
 

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Part 6

Insulation on the ceiling is two layers of 1/2 inch polystyrene foam. I originally wanted to use isocyanate with a foil surface but there was printing all over it so I moved to the polystyrene. There probably isn't too much advantage gained with the reflective surface anyway but I also picked up some Reflectix in case I need more thermal insulation.

I stuck strips of Noico isolating foam to the embossed areas in the roof where the insulating panels would make contact using 3M 90 so that the foam's adhesive was facing down. This was relatively simple with the adhesive release sheet in place. The first layer of insulating sheet was cut to fit between the crossribs. 48" width worked just right. I peeled off the release sheets, took a deep breath and lifted the panel into place. One needs to center the panel and press it into place from the middle so it fits the curve of the roof. I fabricated some sticks to hold the panels in place while I applied a border of foam.

After all of that set up I cut back the foam in a few places and then got ready to apply the next layer of polystyrene. The width needed was a few inches wider than 48 so I cut two 24 inch panels and applied them to the sides with a gap between at the center from another sheet.

Again I used the isolating foam upside down at the roof ribs and patches of 9 inches square or so at the first panels. I also applied strips along where the center strip would fit to make sure the panels were even at the joint. Same process but this time starting at the outer edge and tight to the front crossbrace. Sticks again held it in place until I foamed the perimeter. I used the isolating foam to secure the insulating panels because being rigid and light they would amplify any vibrations that hit them.

With the lower section of the doors and sides filled with foam it was time to move to the upper panels. The upper panels had a layer of sound dampening, then a layer of isolating foam and them a panel of 1/2 inch polystyrene sheet. I used the protection panels as templates and cut the polystyrene with a jigsaw sized blade in a small reciprocating saw. I fitted the panels cutting a hole for the mounting clips to allow the panel to rest against the isolating foam. A bit of 3M 90 affixed the panel to the foam then a bead of spray foam sealed it in place. I haven't replaced the protection panels because I need longer fasteners and have to do a little research to find something that works.

The perimeter of spray foam holds the panels in place and seals things up but it is a bit messy to cut it back. Again I used a wide blade in the oscillating tool and zipped it flat in no time.
 

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Sorry, MOWO, no sound measurements. Thermal insulation was the big thing for me but I tried to do it in a way that would also provide good noise control. Subjectively there is a big difference, not Bentley quiet but there is more noise coming from the front area than the back.
 

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Part 7

After the insulation the shelving that I had assembled earlier got installed again. This is Ranger Design's Fold-up shelving system for package delivery. I got the package with two 36" shelf units from Inlad. The trick is that they weren't going to go against the wall but rather in the middle. I couldn't use much of the installation hardware in the package but I did use some clips and will be using the L-track fittings.

The shelves are secured in place with a struts made form 1/2 inch aluminum tube with a 3/8 inch threaded rod down the middle. One extends from the back leg to the front and secures to the partition crossmember. A 2 inch strip of aluminum spans across the cargo area to hold the rear legs in place and two 2 inch struts hold the tops of the rear legs. These are secured to threaded fittings in the roof ribs. The tops of the shelves are secured together with three struts between angles that bridge between the legs. I want to add one more strut from the front leg backward to an attachment point over the door. I may do this in cable since it is intended to hold the legs in place during hard stop when the tool bags load up against the front-facing edge of the shelves.

I had to relocate the shelves to work better with the tool bags. I'll get some more pics into the next post.

There are an infinity of ways to outfit these things to serve specific purposes. Mine is to access tools through the side door. That worked incredibly well for me with the old van so I used it here. There are guys doing what I do with pickups, old Ford box vans and new Sprinters so I'm certainly not recommending this setup it just works well for me.

Yesterday I loaded three sheets of plywood between the shelves that I used to make a drawer system for bins. I'll show how that went together in the next post.
 

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Part 8

Been using the van for three weeks now. Wrote a note to the dealer and expressed how every now and then I take a minute to simply appreciate what an incredible vehicle this is for what I do. It is nimble and responsive on the road and I am getting better at parking and backing up. Still working on the mirror problem. I ordered a new right side unit from GenuineMercedesParts.com but it was all busted so another is on its way. The stick-on mirrors I have now aren't giving me the larger view that I need to do things like back out onto a street with confidence.

Last weekend I completed most of the interior build-out so everything has a place to go. Spent the week making refinements in placement and organization. Took me three tries to get the correct size of trash basket. Sheesh.

Since I had used lidded bins in the old van, I knew I was going to use them here so I planned the shelf placement to allow for 48" depth of cabinetry to hold the bins and things. With a little figuring it all worked out. On the right bins go into pull-out drawers with space for long tools along side. This is for materials, parts and special tools that I need on a daily basis.

On the left are the baskets, one for trash, another for recycling and a third for metals for the scrappers, plus more bins below for miscellaneous materials. That is stuff I may never need but is too good to throw away and y'just never know. I've taken care of some interesting problems with scraps from those bins. There is a place for longer materials and chunks of wood down by the wheelwell. My two-step ladder goes on a shelf on that side with access from the side door.

The bigger ladder goes in the middle. If I need to carry sheets of something, I will leave the ladder behind.

One artifact of the insulation was that the cable harness clips had to go so I made a raceway high on each side to carry the wiring. It is a piece of aluminum channel with tabs to bolts that carry the door track in front and a convenient hole in the body at the back. The side light is hanging there because the tape keeps letting go. I plan to replace it with a light bar similar to the one MB uses at the rear with the cargo package above the doors on both sides. Need to do a little research...
 

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Part 9

Forgot pics of the setup from the side doors.

At every stop I open the side door and take out the first tool bag. That's a Veto with my Knipex pliers and Wera screwsticks and a Bosch driver for good measure. That hammer is a Wiha. Already had lots of German stuff so having a German van makes sense. Past the vac is a bag for chemicals and cleaning. The next is for my personal care products: Nitrile gloves, knee pads, breathing mask, goggles, things like that.

Bags on the second and third shelves are for special stuff: electrical, plumbing, carpentry, making holes in things and tightening things down.

On the other side is painting and patching tools, heavy stuff and power tools. Up on top is a battery powered chop saw from Bosch, sadly, no longer made. I'm all battery powered so my next thousand is going toward a power system: another battery that matches the starter battery (just in case), a 120V charging system, an inverter (2KW intermittent), distribution breakers and fusing. This van has the ECO thing with auxiliary battery but I want to be able to plug the van in at night to charge the battery and then recharge the tool batteries during the day. Plan to run a heater in the winter as well. I don't have the upfit power system or distribution block but that doesn't provide enough juice anyway. Probably put in a jumper cable system as well just for fun.

Finally, there's Grip, the Wonder Vise, all hitched up. He's a Yost #FSV-4 mounted to a 6" drop (lift) Curt hitch via a piece of 2" pipe with a bunch of fittings inside and a 5/8" threaded rod. Turns out the vise fits to a floor flange as if it were machined for the purpose. He naps most of the time in his own little cradle.
 

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Pretty fantastic setup - nice work. BUT - I'm concerned that I don't see a bulkhead in there - am I right? You hit the brakes hard and you'll be impaled by that stuff.

Also, how's it riding? Feel a little like a "bobble-head" and are you hitting the bump-stops at all? If so, check out www.supersprings.com Coil SumoSprings. Quick, easy and affordable way to deal with heavy payload. I have em and other than being a satisfied customer, I have no affiliation.
 

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You are right, FlacaProductions, no bulkhead.

My rationale: 1) I presume that I am protected from direct bodily injury by the headrest and seat. 2) Nearly everything is in a bag. 3) Heaviest stuff is down low. 4) There is nothing in the central corridor. 5) The post for the shelving will stop the bags in bad-case scenarios.

HOWEVER, in a worst-case scenario, there is a rotational dynamic that makes everything ballistic.

Now that I know how all of the pieces fit together my plan is to put a shield behind the headrest and neck area and a screen behind the shelves to contain everything. I realize it is playing the odds until I get that part figured out but I really DO want to survive some calamitous event. I just want to do it in a way that gives me 6" more legroom.

I was thinking of running over a scale but so far haven't hit bottom. All of this stuff, except for Grip and the plywood cabinetry, was in a Dodge Grand Caravan without hitting bottom.

BTW, thanks for the pics of your rig. Nice... 'Way upscale for me.
 

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hello i appreciate your work and experience in modifying your Metris. My question is if you removed your passenger seat to increase cargo volume? That would be one thing I would need to do increase volume from 186 to a minimum 200 if possible. Thank you for your reply:)
 
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