A home built campervan conversion on an old 307D mercedes van.
We converted our old shop van after rebulding and repairing the bodywork and chassis.
We bought an old second hand Mercedes 307D. Originally used to carry the stock for our market stall as well and the stall itself it soon had clocked up over 300,000 miles. Later it was used as a delivery vehicle for our ship chandlery shop in Lowestoft but after we stopped doing markets and the shop became more internet based it was seldom used. We were reluctant to scrap it as it was incredibly relaible and decided to turn it into a home made motorhome. Things were tight financially so the budget was to be as close to zero as we could get it.
Originally a refrigerated van used for transporting fresh vegetables.We had to do a considerable amount of welding to the floor and bodywork.Some bodywork was simply filler over rust,a situation that I'm sure thousands of people who buy secondhand vehicles are only too familiar with. Once the van was no longer used we decided to turn it into a self build motorhome to gain some use out of it. The 307D has a very reliable diesel engine and running gear none of which gave any trouble
For a while the mercedes was used for deliveries of tools and fishing supplies from our store "Baconsdozen" to Lowestofts fishing boats.
Early days.The mercedes worked for its living attending markets,autojumbles,car boot sales and auctions.
Originally flat roofed we grafted on a higher fibreglass one.
One of the first things to do was cut out rust and rot,and oh boy there was plenty of it,the tyres and windscreen were about the only rust free parts left. The sills and rear wheel arches were replaced with panels from Hadrian and VW Parts auto panels who had a good stock of mercedes parts.Initially rivetted in place then welded the finished repairs were then treated with Fluid Film As I was working outside,I didn't want the gas shield that a gassed welder needs blown away so I used a Draper gasless mig welder,which coped easily with the whole job.
The most time consuming part was cutting and bending steel sheet to fill in where various panels and sections were missing altogether.
The inner wheel arches were mainly car body filler over newspapers and riveted aluminium sheet.Thankfully most of the chassis was sound and with the outer sills removed it was reasonably easy to make up and weld in new inners.
The welding wasn't to classic or collectors standards but was strong enough to pass subsequent MOTs
With the repairs still in primer I fitted a window in the sliding door,and another in the opposite side panel.I used a hand nibbler which left a neat edge,the metal removed was nearly all welded back in around the sills and wheel arches The windows came from a LDV in a rather unhelpful breakers who charged for each window about what they probably paid for the whole van they came from.With hindsight I would have been better going to someone like Leisure Windows or even buying a scrap transit or LDV minibus.
Windows in caravans and motorhomes must be laminated or toughened,ordinary household glass is both illegal and dang
The sill and wheel arch was mainiy card and newspaper.
The roof was changed for a fibreglass one from a scrap mercedes from a mercedes dealer in Norwich. .It wasn't untill I'd started to cut it off that I realised the donor vehicle was actually a short wheel base version and the roof was a foot too short.
As it was,I had to cut it and insert a section .Three steel hoops supported the new roof.
With hindsight I should have fixed the front section higher or re-shaped it to gain extra storage space further forward.
Part way through fixing the new roof.It was fitted with rivets and then bonded to the bodywork with fibreglass resin and matting
When the windscreen cracked,it was removed for replacement and it seemed that only force of habit had been keeping it in!.
Very little of this rot was visible with the screen in place.
Cardboard templates were made before removing the screen to help keep whatever shape this section was supposed to have.
Water had been getting round the windscreen and rubber seal and travelling down and into the bulkhead.This caused the rot under the screen and the rot in the floors shown below.The early Mercedes vans had a reputation for rusting,this one was no exception.
A strip of steel was cut and bent to shape and then tack welded in place.Another piece was let in below after more rot and filler was dug out.
It is important that before using a mig or arc welder the leads to the alternator and preferably the battery are disconnected.The surge currents generated when welding or even boost starting or charging can damage the diodes in an alterantor or affect delicate electronic equipment
With the welding done and ground down with an angle grinder,filler was used to smooth the joins.With vans as old as this there are bound to be all sorts of things hidden under paint and underseal.You have to be realistic, without stripping the thing completely,removing all paint and underseal it will be a fairly constant battle to keep rust from devouring the thing in the end
A big hole in the floor and wheel arch on the drivers side.Salt air and water running from the windscreen rubbers had combined to rot out the floor.
The idea of checking tyre condition from the comfort of the drivers seat might just catch on.
Hopefully the van will go a bit faster.You've heard of "Press the pedal to the metal" I'd run out of metal to press to.
Not many body repair panels were still available as pattern parts for the Mercedes 307D and none of them were cheap.With these older vehicles you often end up making your own repair panels from hammered out sheet steel..
Both the rear quarter bumpers were just hanging on to rusted out brackets.Behind this tatty panel are a couple of short box sections going to the main vehicle chassis.These had also rotted out,and were easier to gain access to with the old rotted section of the bodywork removed
With the remains of the old panel cut off it was possible to weld a new section to the body.The base of the new section was turned over to form a fixing for the outer covering panel.When the fit of this was satisfactory the V cuts were filled with small wedge shaped sections.Notice how I try and make it sound like I know what I'm doing.
The interior facing rearwards..We needed floor space as two large dogs would be keeping us company.A secondhand bed settee provided the basis of a bed,using a table top to infill.The hideous green was removed and replaced with brown draylon.( Actually long curtains from one of Lowestofts charity shops).Forward would be the kitchen area,with a door through to the cab.With the interior stripped,carpet was bonded to the original ply floor..
Interior looking forward before the front roof section was fixed in place.
The van was at one time refrigerated,the plywood interior panels were retained but the foam insulation was removed to reduce the fire hazard.The wooden bulkhead was originally cut with a jig saw to allow a door through to the cab,but it was soon removed to increase space,only the part behind the drivers seat was retained.Three sheets of hardboard fitted to wooden battens lined the inside of the roof
Interior looking forward before the front roof section was fixed in place.
The van was at one time refrigerated,the plywood interior panels were retained but the foam insulation was removed to reduce the fire hazard.The wooden bulkhead was originally cut with a jig saw to allow a door through to the cab,but it was soon removed to increase space,only the part behind the drivers seat was retained.Three sheets of hardboard fitted to wooden battens lined the inside of the roof.
The finished interior looking forward.
A 12 volt television fixed in the full length cupboard on the left replaced the portable 240 volt one,as the mains inverter from Northern Tools which supplied it lasted about as long as a cough sweet before expiring in a cloud of smoke.Under is a sealed steel gas locker and storage for a portaloo.The space over the cab provides storage,I bought a second hand seat swivel for the passenger seat and curtains behind the windscreen and side windows screen off the interior.The original sliding side door has been left to provide access.
A table clips to the rear doors,it's bigger than the gap between the seats and is stored over the cab at night.A board stored under one of the seats and the back rests to them are used to make up the bed.An electric cool box and small battery powered tv/radio complete the rear compartment.
The total cost,ignoring a lot of hours and the cost
of the van was only about £300,I'm not too proud to look in skips or buy clearance,second hand or damaged goods.
These mercedes or the similar sized ford transits and the bigger renaults etc either as vans ripe for home conversion or purpose built motorhomes can be picked up when tatty cheaply enough,a bit of graft a few quid and anyone can give motorised camping a go.
We used the van even while some work was being done.
This was Aldeburgh beach in Suffolk on a November day,handy for a bit of "wild camping" and enjoying the sea views.Unfortunately the second home owners of Aldeburgh have,like the residents of various other seaside towns decided they don't want riff raff in motorhomes and campervans enjoying their scenery so they are now banned. Gt Yarmouth on the east coast of the U.K used to have places to stay overnight by the sea for a bit of wild camping then it too decided people in coaches,HGV's and motorhomes were to be discouraged, now if you're in a campervan or motorhome you're made as welcome in some of these so called holiday resorts as a fart in a space suit.
Creweengines sell reconditioned Mercedes engines,I've heard good reports of these people.
Orwell trucks .Parts storemen friendly,plenty of spares for older mercedes commercials.
Truck Busters.Breaking for spares all mercedes and ford etc vans,quick mail order service.
UK campsiteLots of contacts on the forums for people who have converted and repaired older vans.
The old style breakers yards have all but vanished mainly due to EU regulations designed to ensure we all get to live forever surrounded by the smell of antiseptic.Some spares come up on ebay or other auction sites,keeping an old vehicle on the road must use less energy and cause less pollution than making a new one,but what do I know.
.If anyone has any info etc relevant to these page that they wish to share, or any parts or spares Mk 1,2 or 3 Transits or even LTI fairway taxis or Rover P5bs they want to sell,please e-mail me click here
.Baconsdozen specialise in the sale of whitworth/BSF,BA,af and metric tools,car and light commercial servicing and repair equipment etc..