The Little Big Red Van

Updated: Dec 6, 2020


It's been exactly 6 months since I posted that the little big red van was getting a refit....I hope it's been worth the wait!



It's a bit of an oddball van. It's 5m long, which is ludicrous for a vehicle with a 7500kg gross weight. It has a winch, it has a diff lock, it has a single rear wheel conversion, front and rear tow hitches, and a 180hp engine remap.

It's a boy's toy if ever there was one, but it also needs to function as a family escape pod and so all that is irrelevant if it doesn't house 4 comfortably for weeks on end....


I bought this last August already fitted out and very usable, but the layout wasn't perfect for us, and to he honest I'm not one to leave things alone- I just have to mess about with stuff.

I did a quick count up and soon realised that 3 belted seats isn't enough for 4 people so I modified a coach seat base and a set of unwin rails to take a flip up seat which can be stashed in the boot space when we're not driving. This was a massive bonus as there really wasn't enough space for another fixed traveling seat in the back without compromising the design. One of the sofa cushions simply lifts out of the way and the folding seat drops into it's place.


The wiring, insulation, solar, split charge and all the tedious electrical stuff was already done. This was to be a case of making the kitchen smaller to make space for a toilet room, building 2 bed pods for the kids, a large sofa to lounge on and convert to a double bed, redo the floor, paint the ply walls to freshen them up, add storage for clothes, upgrade light fittings, fiddle, fettle and twiddle a few bits and generally Imperfect the place.


Heating is provided by a Propex heater and refillable GasIt system which also fuels the Smev oven and Hob. The compressor cooler was relocated to the boot to save space in the kitchen. I added 2 more small solar panels to the existing setup, I think this should be enough for our needs but only time will tell. There's room for more up top if required. There's an underslung water tank which feeds the sink via a Shurflo pump.


All the existing oak trim on the walls and ceiling was removed, sanded back and treated with beeswax. At the same time the ply walls came out and were painted. More insulation was added

before refitting the refreshed panels and trim.


The kitchen was bigger than we needed but far too good to scrap, so the stainless steel surface was cut down by 60cm to make room for a necessary evil, the loo (more on that later). The bright green perspex splashback got the chop as I had a copper cylinder that had been hanging around needing a job. Note to self: copper scales take ages to cut by hand. However, I think they were worth the effort. We found plenty of other coppery kitchen accessories to continue the theme and I found myself getting into the mixed metals aesthetic, copper wall, stainless steel screws and brass caps. I added a small window supplied by Caldwell's Windows, I highly recommend them for customer service and value.

I made trim pieces by cutting slices from an old oak floorboard and chamfered cuts into the edges with a palm router. This pattern continued into the shelves which were all made up from offcuts of pine with copper rail and details made from old copper pipe.


The floor was originally a hard-wearing light blue material, but in another stroke of time consuming madness I decided that a randomised pallet wood pattern would be interesting, and so after a fair bit of head scratching, sanding, trimming and being grateful I played so much Tetris as a kid, we had a new floor.


The boys need their own space and honestly, I need them to have their own space too! We made the decision to give them the fixed beds and have the double make up from the sofa. It's a good compromise because we have an enormous comfortable seating area and making the bed up every day although not ideal, isn't a disaster. The boys are quite happy to retreat to their pods which join together with a crawl through when they've had enough of the adults. We took a set or 2 of old caravan cushions and cut them to size and made removable covers for them. The passenger seat also got new covers as it swivels to become part of the habitation area when parked up.


The toilet area has a 'Compoost Toilet Deluxe Separator' which is a really decent quality and sturdy unit. We clad the wall in t&g with a distressed paint finish and sealed with beeswax. Considering what a tight space it is the light colours stop it feeling too claustrophobic, which is good as we didn't want to loose any more living space to it. There is a large cupboard which extends over the cab area.


The dining table and leg stow away behind the drivers seat. The leg fixes to an aluminium receiver which is hidden behind a round hatch on the floor. Being such a small detail I really felt it needed an elaborate tool mounted on a copper plate purely for the purpose of lifting the hatch. Why? I don't know. But I like the way the looks.


Another twiddly detail I'm pleased with are the curtain tiebacks which were made from hemp rope, copper pipe, brass compression olives, stainless steel eye plates and neodymium magnets.

So enough waffle. Fair play if you read all that. Pictures speak a thousand words.....


Caldwell's Windows


Compost Toilets can be found here

Like and follow my page to see future projects


By The Imperfectionist




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