simple/solo boondocking: Promaster 159 high roof

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frater secessus

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This will be a slow and unexciting build by a No Skillz owner.  You are invited to pull up lawn chairs, pop open a beer, and watch me stumble along.  Advice, observations, and side bets about the likelihood of injuries are welcome.   As I have told girlfriends in the past, you can point but please don't laugh.   :p

The platform is a 159" (long wheelbase but not extended body) high roof fleet Ram Promaster gasser, which is a FIAT Ducato with Chrysler running gear.  It is barnlike in dimensions and in ornitho orthno orthognogarauphica squareness.  This particular model is a 2017 although  specs for the models 2014-2017 are identical.

Goals as currently understood
  • made for me and my 2 dogs.  No human traveling partners.  Built to please me.
  • mostly boondocking, with some traveling to eventually hit some bucket list locations.  I am a quiet person who prefers infrequent and limited periods of contact with other people.  Silence pleases me.
  • minimal build, function and personal ergonomics most important
  • work area for laptop
  • transverse bed deck at rear
  • composting toilet, so no black tank.  Ample fresh water tank, smaller gray water.
  • compressor fridge
  • standing galley for cooking with vented hood for easier indoor cooking in inclement weather
  • swivel front seats
  • roof area maxxed with solar like this but with fan at rear.  Overpaneled for marginal conditions and opportunity loads.  And because solar stuff has made me giggly for decades.  <-- dork
  • 12v system based on 6v golf carts for learning, then LiFePO4 once I get over the seemingly unavoidable battery murdering stage.  Outlets based on robust and compact connectors like Powerpoles or similar.  
  • redundant wiring for opportunity loads
  • DIY converter, 15A port for shore power
Since these posts are not editable afterwards I will post progress and setbacks in this thread while keeping an evolving overview of the scope/plan online on my site.  As of this moment the two lists are identical.  I expect that will change soon :)

I will post the first update later today after I take some first steps.
 

John61CT

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Solid plan[qouote='frater secessus' pid='298453' dateline='1496409930']12v system based on 6v golf carts for learning, then LiFePO4 once I get over the seemingly unavoidable battery murdering stage.[/quote]Actually your foreknowledge will help you avoid problems, key is monitoring, soon as you establish your usage patterns and adjust accordingly it will be second nature.

Get adjustable-voltage charging gear and design your wiring layout for LFP from the start so everything else's ready when you pull the trigger.
 

mayble

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Congrats!
I'll be following along; you and I have very similar goals :)  I've considered removing the passenger seat completely since my dog doesn't like to ride shotgun.
 

caretaker

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mayble, I'm surprised your dog doesn't like to ride SG maybe make it a platform or something? pooches make great "road dogs".
 

mayble

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lol my dog would rather not ride at all, but he indulges me in order to go to the park or to mcdonalds
he rides in the back
 

Rlmarsh1108

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Bet he likes the ride to McDonald's the best LOL !!!

Sent from my XT1635-01 using Tapatalk
 

frater secessus

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Ok, first day of the conversion.

Rolled the bike out the back on a board.  It's a bit of a pig although it carries the 500# low in the frame.  So now we have an empty, stock van:



I was pleased to find FIAT  put a beer-holding shelf so close to the bulkhead.


Got the bulkhead out:


Woot woot!  A simple and surprisingly transformative change.  

Tools used:

  • 5mm hex head for the bolts around the periphery
  • 40mm torx for the D-ring bolts.  Reinstall this after bulkhead is removed.
  • 13mm socket for one bolt in the bottom center
  • vice grips to remove two security bolt thingies.  They unscrew like the other bolts but there is no place to use a normal tool on them.  I recommend removing these first;  if you do them after the bolts are removed the bulkhead will be pushing away, putting more tension on the security fasteners.

Note that the interior trim on PMs with and without bulkhead is different.  Removing bulkhead leaves some unfinished/open spaces on the sides. I don't care, plus the sides will be covered by the blackout drapery when retracted (and even when not).  

Some debris was stuck in the rear door latch so it wasn't grabbing right;  cleaned it out and all is well:





Next I got the ladder so I could reinstall the antenna.  I assume it had been removed for shipment since it sticks up past the roof.  The little nub over the windshield is where the antenna screws in:



I needed a ladder to get to the nub, and even then it was a long reach over to it.  But I got it in:



This got me thinking how ludicrously tall it is.  Who needs a ladder to reach an antenna?  I am 6' and cannot reach the roofline:




While I was up there I took a pic of the fan pad FIAT thoughtfully put there so you have a flat surface with no ribs to seal.  This is very likely due to the overwhelming use of Ducatos as RV platforms in Europe:




Here is a pic of a roof vent positioned there on that pad in front of the solar, from RD's build over on the Promaster forums:

[img=200x122] https://flic.kr/p/Rkt5vY
That's basically how I want to set mine up.  The width of the PM lets you use some really long PV.  That's 810w on RD's 159.  His vent is a FF and I'll put in one of the Maxxfan's with the built-in shroud.  Since the bed deck will be at the back and fan at the front I'll get one with remote control and install a narrow vent on the back door, like the white-on-white one in this thread.

Speaking of Maxxfan, I ordered a few basics off Amazon:

  • WeatherTech window vents (80749) - I love these things and put them on every vehicle I get.  80749 says it's only for 2014 PM but the windows haven't changed.
  • Maxxair MaxxFan (7000K) - $200+ for a fan seems like a lot but I get enormous pleasure from fans.  There's a fan blowing directly on me at this exact moment.... My favorite time in Texas is the two weeks in spring and two weeks in fall when you can open the house and let the attic fan rip fresh air through all the spaces.... bliss.  EDIT:  I just remembered I didn't actually buy this from Amazon;  I got it from etrailer.  The price was identical but there was no sales tax from etrailer, saving about $14.
  • BedRug Vantred cargo deck liner (VTDP14L) - Notched underneath to match floor ribs.  Closed cell polypropylene foam and plastic (pretty good pics here).  They have a version that is thicker and covered with speaker carpet but I am too messy for that.  And want to preserve headroom.  The poly foam is mildly insulative but I wasn't going to insulate the floor anyhow.  

That's all for now.    Monday when I go to town I'll picking up some of that flashing tape stuff folks use for sound deadening. And polyiso or similar.
 

caretaker

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maybe, this just occurred to me, i think i know why your dog don't like to ride, when i was a kid we had a dog that didn't like to ride, she was afraid she was going to the vet, every time we were in the car that dog knew,,,we could even spell V.E.T. and that dog knew. even if we were going past the place that dog would start whining until we were well past it and out of sight of it.
 

frater secessus

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The VanTred cargo mat came in but it's raining andso I'm not going to unroll it yet.  Threw the whole box in the barn for now:


Also picked up a 4' range/dryer cord at a thrift store for $1.  Looks heavy enough I might be able to dissassemble it and use a length for alternator charging.  The PM's battery is under that hatch between the seats and my battery box will go in the front left up against that deck rise:


This puts it up against a natural brace for increased stability but also makes for a very short run from the main batt to the house bank.  YESSSSSSSS, I know it would be optimal to go from the alt itself but since the batt is right there I will tap off that.   Fuse and manual switch will go between the two.

I also visited a dinky little RV/mobilehome park a couple miles from work.  That would shorten my daily commute by 96 miles. Hmmm.
 

John61CT

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Leave that switch closed and you may flatten your starter.

Alt (and all other charge sources) direct to House, then ACR or Echo Charger to Starter would be better.
 

MrNoodly

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I was following a ProMaster the other day and the rear axle looked really low. Fine for most paved roads, but I would wonder about clearance issues on many unpaved ones -- especially those with deep ruts and a hump or large rocks in the middle.
 

frater secessus

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John61CT said:
Leave that switch closed and you may flatten your starter.

Alt (and all other charge sources) direct to House, then ACR or Echo Charger to Starter would be better.

It'd be more of an emergency connection, given that I am stuffing the roof with panels.  This size PM can fit 3 big panels (at least 800w).
 

John61CT

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The type of charge source not the issue.

But if literally just for self-jumping, I agree less likely to forget to isolate after.

But in that case a momentary switch "push to combine" then re-isolates when you let go would be better.

Best of all a 1/2 switch (no Both option) allowing you to load-switch cranking starter between banks.

Prevent doubling your problem in the event of an unseen but catastrophic internal failure being the cause.
 

Queen

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I'm curious to hear about your VanTred. I have a BedRug in my truck that is really nice and have thought if I go with a van later I'd enjoy something similar as a floor.
 

frater secessus

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MrNoodly said:
I was following a ProMaster the other day and the rear axle looked really low. Fine for most paved roads, but I would wonder about clearance issues on many unpaved ones -- especially those with deep ruts and a hump or large rocks in the middle.

We make choices based on our intended uses.  Those choices might not be right for others and their intended uses.

For example, I was following a Chevy Express the other day and the roofline looked really low.  So I checked it;  52.90" of cargo height.  Fine for most short outings, but I would wonder about the practicality of living in there -- especially fulltime.  But folks do live in standard roof vans, and do it happily.  They plan ahead and make adjustments to fit the limitations of whatever platform they choose.  

Here are some numbers on the ground clearance of cargo vans.

Code:
E-250 7.4"
Express 2500 7.1"
Promaster 2500 6.9“
Sprinter 6.9”
Transit 6.0“

I don't plan on 'wheeling the PM;  I got that out of my system with a CJ-5.  Apropos your example, here are some chunks of concrete I threw in my driveway to fill a hole.  Haven't sledgehammered them into bits yet but the PM straddles them nicely.

 

frater secessus

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Ugghhh, hit Post instead of Preview.   Here's the rest...





This is the 1/2", noncarpeted version (VanTred).  The other option was 1 1/2" carpeted VanRug;  I think I made the right choice.  The polypropylene foam substrate feels industrial grade tough.  I can't feel any give when wearing shoes but barefoot or on my knees I can feel the padding effect.  I can't tell where the floor ribs are through the pad.  The textured top feels like a solid layer of the foam material but I don't know for sure.  The texture feels like touching sidewalk concrete.  The pad is scored for access to the floor D-rings.

The fit is accurate.  There was one less-than-clean edge which I will trim with scissors.  Like someone only cut 95% through the material.



Advice on the install:  the material is quite stiff and reviewers said to do it on a warm day.  

If I were unrolling it again I would have unrolled it a bit and let it rest for a minute before continuing.  It's light but hard to maneuver in an enclosed space while it flattens.  I got myself stuck in a corner and tried, unsuccessfully, to step over the giant roll.  I folded a section back onto itself (opposite the natural roll) and it creased the top material.  It's the section about 3' from the seats in this shot:



That section is laying down slower than the rest.  The crease might make OCD folks crazy but it doesn't bother me and doesn't affect function.  So take it slow and have a buddy to help wrangle the unwieldy beast if you can.
 

Stretch

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Holy carp, that's the best (read: easiest) flooring solution I've seen! Sometimes I get so spun up about the fancy woodworking builds that it all seems like an impossible dream. Thanks for giving me a figurative smack on the forehead.   :D
 

MrNoodly

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frater secessus said:
We make choices based on our intended uses.  Etc.

I'm a believer in doing what works for you rather than what works for others. So I'm glad the ProMaster fits your needs.
 

caretaker

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How do you plan to anchor shelves or whatnot one would anchor to the floor?
 
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