We’re Lloyd, Laura and Bean the puppy! We live way up at the top of the north island of New Zealand. Sometime in 2019, for some reason we can’t remember, we decided it would be fun to convert a van into a camper. We’d never even been in a camper van before, and in all honestly I have no idea what possessed us, as we had little building experience, at a push we could cobble together a piece of Ikea furniture, Laura likes painting walls and Lloyd is a dentist so can use a teeny drill, but that was about it.
It’s not easy to find second hand sprinter vans in NZ and they all seemed very expensive. Eventually a well timed advert on a local Facebook page put us together with the franchise owner of a national delivery company. He was selling one of his vans. So we bought that, a LWB, high roof, Sprinter and we bought tools. The rest, as they say, is history.
Lloyd planned a 6 month sabbatical from work, beginning in March 2020 ( little did we know what was about to happen) so we had 11 months from getting the van till then. Plenty of time. Ha!
For the first 8 and a bit months we played at the conversion. Faffing around doing bits and bobs. Eventually with 2 and a bit months to go we realised we’d really need to speed up, so every waking moment was spent planning and building. We enlisted the help of an amazing boat builder guy who made us our porthole frames, lots of fiddly, beautiful trim, and, when we got to a bit that we just couldn’t see how it could work, he got it to work. I’m not sure we'd have finished on time if it wasn’t for his help.
We worked with an electrician friend for all the wiring, got advice on a whole solar system from a company in Hamilton ( who were amazing), our plumber friend helped us with the plumbing and we got a gas fitter to do the gas.
We’d spent about 2 months, before getting the van, planning the layout that would work best for us. We went with a fixed, raised bed at the back, with a big garage area underneath. Our fresh water tank is here and all our electrical stuff. We also store our outdoor seats, and various water hoses etc. The grey water tank is installed under the van.
We have a large wet room with a Thetford portapotti and a shower, it doubles up as a dressing room and a drying room. Our diesel heater is vented into the wet room and the main living area.
Something to be aware of when building is weight - the vans will have a legal weight they’re allowed to be when fully laden. We weighed throughout the build to make sure we stayed below it.
We have a decent sized Solar system - 450W solar panels. 400 amp hours AGM battery, 1600W inverter, B2B controller for the alternator so we can charge the house batteries when we’re driving. We’ve also got a Camec instant water heater. We can be off grid for ever, even in winter, and we can even use our Nespresso machine - result.
We insulated the hell out of the van because it gets down to minus 15 in the SI and we wanted to be warm. Also where we live in the north gets incredibly hot in summer, so it stays cool.
Our biggest mistake was putting an AC unit on the roof. We never used it because we never really plug in to shore power, so we took it off and installed a second Maxx air fan. These fans are amazing.
The delivery company we bought the van from have bright turquoise blue as their colour scheme - we like the colour, but hated it on the van. A re-spray was out of the question as far too expensive, as was wrapping. After a lot of research we decided to paint it ourselves. We used a paint that’s usually used to paint steel bridges. Turns out it is bullet proof and we did it all for $400 and a huge amount of hard work. I think I am probably most proud of this.
We reached February and in all honesty, were losing the will to live. The build was exhausting. We had to learn to do everything on the job, so everything took for ever. We made mistakes and had to redo things - several times. But we did finish and we did leave. And for 2 weeks had a ball… Then we had to come home again because of covid and go into lockdown. And we were gutted.
All that work. During this time we also lost our dog to cancer. She was doing a bucket list trip with us and it was devastating to have her miss out. It was a really tough time.
Luckily for us New Zealand got rid of the damn virus, and after 10 weeks we could travel again, so we had the best three and a bit months ever of living full time, over winter, in the South Island, in our lovely van, Coddi.
It was worth every second of blood, sweat and tears.
Now we go away for weekends, or a week or whatever, really. We hope to take a month off again this winter and probably go back to the South Island. We also got a puppy, who’s joined us on several short trips already.
We’re coddiwomple_van on instagram
And wrote all about the build on https://coddiwomple-van.blogspot.com. It then became a travel blog.