No ‘van is completely perfect, and with my tendency to want to ‘tweak’ a few things, it was only a matter of time before I started to make some alterations:
There are four pieces of silver trim along the dash, one above each vent, and the two centre ones create distracting reflections in the windscreen. Look at the two dashcam pictures below. On the bottom one only the reflection of the left hand outer trim is visible as I have now painted the triangular parts of the centre trims matt black. Before painting I tried out the effect by covering them with black insulating tape.
Odds and Ends storage
By removing the rear door trims and reinforcing with a block of wood, hooks and pockets can be located on the inside of the doors creating useful storage for the hook up cable, and water and electric adaptors usually needed on a daily basis. I have 7.5 meters of flat hose for filling the water tank and this has been cut into two lengths, 2.5m and 5m for ease of handling.
Accessible internal space
We have this large ‘refuse’ bin just inside the under bed storage area – I can’t really call it a garage! and I have fitted an additional led bulkhead light to see the items stored there. At the front, under the table, there is shallow but extensive void that is useful for storing shoes. I purchased a couple of cat litter trays and joined them with a length of cord so that they can be retrieved. A tall cupboard next to the fridge has a shelf to store trays and a drainer. At the bottom of this I have cut holes in a false floor to securely store wine bottles.
The differing floor levels between cab and living space means the person sitting in the rotated driver’s seat needs some support for their feet. I constructed this footrest from a couple of lengths of aluminium tubing cantilevered out from the horizontal bar at the rear of the seat. A piece of 10mm ply covered in carpet finishes it off, and very comfortable it is too!
Top Lockers and the potential for ‘Scalping’
At 6’2″ I find the top lockers on most ‘vans rarely open out to their maximum clearance. This usually results in nasty cuts and bruises when ones head comes into contact with an open locker. I removed the stays on the front lockers and used them to double up the number on the kitchen lockers. New stays for those front lockers were purchased and now I can happily say that the locker fronts are hard up against the ceiling when open. These new stays (by W4) are adjustable by stacking a couple of washers against the internal spring as necessary.
With two 95AH batteries I didn’t think that we would need a solar panel as we tend to stay at a different location each night, or occasionally, every other night. Moving on quickly replaced energy used during the previous stop. However, after a couple of seasons it did seem prudent to put a panel on just to keep things topped up.
A 150w flexible panel was stuck onto the roof with 50mm wide strips of 3M double sided tape and a stainless self tapping screw at each corner. To check up on the state of charge a Victron Battery Monitor had previously been installed. The information given by both the battery monitor and the Bluetooth enabled controler ensures a close watch is kept over the leisure battery.
Internet on the move
For some years we have used a 3G Mifi together with a Three sim card to keep in touch with friends and family. This was stuck to the inside of the roof vent with Velcro – every other day it would be removed and charged up. A 12 month 12 Gb card is quite sufficient for a couple of trips to France and a bit pottering in the UK. Recently Three announced they would be supporting 4G and so I purchased this unlocked Huawei E5577, direct from China via Aliexpress and I am using it with a really neat antenna from Badland positioned just in front of the reverse camera mounting. The Huawei is stuck to the interior roof trim directly under the antenna – again using Velcro, but now it’s left permanently plugged into a close by USB socket. Reception has been very good.
Making things comfortable
Here you can see the lovely large storage area at the rear, under the bed. The bed is in two parts, split width ways across the ‘van and you can see that the forward half of the bed is well supported by the gas locker on the left and the water tank on the right. Unfortunately the rear half of the bed (the half nearest the camera) has a very wide unsupported span and after a few months I noticed a significant difference in the height of the two halves.
To overcome this problem I fitted full width piano hinges and supported the rear half with two 25mm diameter aluminium tubes. To make holding the bed up during gas bottle change easier a prop was fitted to the left hand side.
The ‘van came supplied with connections for a Camping Gaz 907. The twin burner hob is the only gas consumer, the fridge is a compressor type and the central heating and hot water diesel powered. After a couple of seasons it was found that consumption was about 2 Gaz cylinders per season. As mentioned earlier, turning the gas off and on requires lifting the bed so, to improve matters here, a Truma CS regulator was fitted and now the Calor Propane 3.9Kg cylinder can be left on at all times.
Several 12v and 5v sockets have been re-located or installed to make life more convenient. The 12v socket above the foot of the bed has been moved down to the right hand rear door. This gives a point to plug in either the tyre pump or the water pump used to top up the tank when using a 10L plastic ‘jerry can’. It’s old location was used to create a ‘fused spur’ for the USB plug next door powering the MiFi and to supply power to the under bed storage area light. Extra USB sockets for mobile phone and camera charging – you can never have too many – have been added behind the dinette seats and a double, ignition controled, USB socket located on the dash supplies the GPS and Dash Cam. A single 12v socket at the dash is supplied directly from the vehicle battery so that the tyre pump can be used at the front.
The weakness of Ducato door locks is well documented and it’s pleasing to see that Fiat have introduced a plate on the inside of the door to resist forced screwdriver entry however, this internal modification does not tell the potential miscreant that the lock is now re-enforced and so I decided to fit ProPlates to make it obvious that the lock was now non-standard. As our ‘van had factory fitted deadlocks I only needed to fit two ProPlates – to the driver’s and rear doors.
Three extra handles. To make the bed easier to lift, one was fitted with a piece of alumium angle to spread the load. Opening the rear doors from inside is possible but closing the door after from inside is difficult. The sliding side door now has a handle, again with a plate fabricated from a piece of 5mm aluminium to spread the load and bring the handle further forward so you do not trap fingers when closing the door.
On the Level
The van is ‘tail high’ – presumably due to the fact it is built on a Maxi base. Usefully the shower base has two waste outlets so drying the shower after use is quite easy. When I removed the door trims to fit the Proplates I used that opportunity to mount the bubble level onto the armrest. It’s been quite handy when manouvering onto a pitch.