I Bought a Van

I Bought a Van

April 6, 2015 Categories Camper Van

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Yep, I bought a van. After searching online periodically for the past four months, I finally came across a van that fulfilled my basic desires for features: a high top roof, extended cargo area, not rusted up, and windowless paneled sides. It doesn’t have a sliding side door, which I would have preferred, but for $2,800 I don’t think I could have found anything better any time soon. I took a chance and went for it. The only catch was the van was in California… and I was over 2,000 miles away in Wisconsin. After seeing many pictures and talking to the previous owner, I felt assured that the van was mechanically well enough and merely had some cosmetic things wrong that don’t really bother me.

I shelled out some cash for a (one way) plane ticket and headed to the airport last Thursday, arriving in Los Angeles just before 3pm. After a 40 minute cab ride and $100 less in my wallet, I was finally there. The van pretty much looked as I expected, since I had already seen several pictures. After a quick test drive, I bought the van and headed to the nearest Walmart.

The cab area was pretty dirty and had a bunch of garbage in it so I wanted to get it cleaned up a little. Also, being a very long, windowless van, it was quite difficult (impossible) to see anyone in the blind spots. Being that I had to drive 2,000 miles to get the van home, I felt this was something I needed to address immediately. I bought some cheap, stick-on blind spot mirrors and they are just fantastic. They really made the drive home a lot easier. I also bought some cleaner and paper towels to give the cab area a quick once-over because it was fairly grimy and the trash was driving me insane.

Once everything was all cleaned up, I hit the road. Oh, did I forget to mention that the registration wasn’t even valid on it? Yeah, it had expired last year and I guess the guy just never renewed it. So, I was in a hurry to at least get out of California where I felt it was more likely law enforcement would notice the incorrect, color-coded year sticker on the license plate and possibly pull me over. I drove a couple hundred miles that night until I hit Nevada. I followed that with three more days of driving 600 miles each day, all the while listening to random country or oldies stations, or sometimes just static, because the van only has an AM/FM radio (for now). It was a very long drive, especially without cruise control.

By the way, North-Eastern Colorado sucks more than driving across West Texas. It was the most barren, boring, windy disaster of a place that I have ever been (and I’ve driven in 47 states). At least West Texas has tumble weeds! I was so glad to get to Nebraska and see the occasional tree. You heard me right, Nebraska was “exciting” compared to North-Eastern Colorado. That should say a lot.

Anywho, I got back last night and started ordering most of the major things I’m gonna need to turn this van she-beast into a manly-man cabin on wheels. The cargo area of the van was previously retro-fitted with plywood walls and some cabinets, along with a sweet zebra pattern carpet, and a divider wall to separate the cargo area from the cab area. Since I wanted to start with a blank slate, I spent today gutting all the old junk out and returning the van to a fresh, workable area that I can build upon.

Here are some pictures for your enjoyment, Internet. We’ll start with the exterior appearance. You can see some of the dents, specifically on the passenger side. I may or may not get it fixed. All the doors function, so I don’t really care too much.

Now let’s take a closer look at some of those beauty marks. Looks rough, doesn’t it? Maybe I can buff it out…

Ok, beauty is on the inside, right? Let’s take a look at the cargo area, a.k.a. my future living quarters. I didn’t take pics before I gutted it, but I wish I did so you can see how different (better) it looks already. In some of the pics, you can see the massive pile of wood and other junk which is everything I ripped out earlier today. The cargo area is about 11 ft long, 6 ft wide, and because of the high top roof, roughly 6’5″ tall. In other words, it’s massive for a van and will provide for plenty of space to do what I want.

The cab area has been used and abused about as much as you’d expect from a stripper who is only allowed to perform the early afternoon shows. The door panels are cracked and beat up, the headliner is falling down, the seats are tore up, the floor isn’t too bad, and the dash is fine. Ignore the bird poop. This morning, a bird decided to trap itself in there and made a mess everywhere.

And last, but not least, the engine bay. I won’t comment too much, but someone has done some redneck mechanic work here. Luckily, the engine runs fine, no weird noises, and the belt and hoses look fine. Other than the duct tape, the missing washer fluid cap, the washer fluid pump line being broken, and a slightly dented radiator, everything seems to be functioning as expected. I have a little bit of concern over some buildup on the oil dipstick, but we’ll see if that turns out to be an issue later. I’m for sure taking it to a shop to have all the fluids changed out since I don’t know how long everything has been in there.

There are a few other odds and ends I’ve noticed that bother me, but only because I’m bat-shit-crazy about small details. Like, the screw in one of the parking light covers is the wrong type of screw. The license plate screws are mismatched on both license plate mounts. There are some tiny clips and things that are missing. The dome light doesn’t work. The turn signals both work, but only one emergency flasher flashes. Stuff like that. Easy to fix, but annoying all the same.

So there it is, my new project: The She-Beast. I’m gonna post updates as I progress with the construction. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be installing the flooring, assuming Home Depot has what I want (I have a specific design aspect in mind). I’d like to have this project done within a couple months so I can take advantage of the summer weather and hit the road for some adventures.

4 thoughts on “I Bought a Van”

Alex · April 19, 2017

what modle of express is it?

or the 3500?

Luke · April 20, 2017

It was a 2500

Rebecca · March 8, 2018

Do you recommend certain sites to find a van? I’m amazed you got one so cheap :)

Luke · March 13, 2018


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