Vanagon – “step protector” project

Just over a week ago, Psyncro aka Syncronoid posted a clever mod on this Samba thread. I slapped my forehead, doh, why didn’t I think of that? So blithely I set about making my own version. I have an abundance of scrap aluminum left over from various projects/jobs so I figured I could knock one out in a trice.


I cut some 2″, (3/16″ thick) angle to size, angling the ends to match the rubber mat I have over the carpet in the walk through between the front seats. BenT suggested I do something to make the top surface more interesting, so I clamped up the angle in my lathe’s little milling head and cut some 3/8″ wide grooves. The milling head does not have enough travel to do the cuts in one go, so the angle has to be repositioned during the cut. That, and my rushing, produced a sloppy effect.


So I decided to paint it with satin black Krylon. What was I thinking? I forgot to prime (zinc chromate is common primer for aluminum, strontium chromate is the better primer but hard to get). No primer meant the paint scraped off easily, not a good thing for something that would be trodden upon.


Then I had the idea of filling the grooves with some 2 part polyurethane. Do you get the idea that I am spending too much time on this simple project?


I mixed up a batch and poured it on.


Then squeegee’d off most of the excess. BTW, it is sitting on a plug-in battery warmer blanket to help the polyU cure. I was getting sloppy, the stuff got everywhere.


And whaddya know? The polyU did not go off, no curing. Expiry date on package is for later this year, bugger it, so I wiped the mess off. On the Samba thread Doug suggested LED lights, seemed like a good idea. I had bought some LED strip lighting (warm white, 30 LEDs/meter) from Lee Valley and at the time was a little disappointed that the strip did not have a clean silicone-like cover like the strips I bought for the interior lighting and glove box lighting job. But the strips with their exposed and projecting LEDs would work great on the step. I drilled a bunch O’holes, same spacing as the LEDs on the strip along the bottom edge of the vertical face of the angle. I also drilled 3 holes for mounting screws then painted the angle with some Dupli-Color bed liner. Then I painted it again to get rid of the thumb prints when I grabbed as it fell off the painting block I had it balanced on.

After the bed liner dried,  stuck on the LED strip using some of that foam type double sided tape (with holes in it too, of course). You can see the 3M name on the backing tape of the LED strip, I left this on.


I used some big-ass 1/4″ stainless sheet metal screws. Pan head, as I did not counter-sink into the angle. Why you ask? Well when you countersink you have to get things lined up pretty exactly and as I was match drilling through the angle to make holes in the van, and as the angle is sitting on a rubber mat over carpet over insulation, I did not think I could push down on the angle firmly enough as I was drilling to get a good tight fit. Using pan head screws and oversized holes on the angle allows me to push down on angle after holes drilled to get a tight fit of angle to floor. Man, that was a wordy and awkward description.


I have to blacken those screw heads.

And the LED feature? I don’t have it wired into the door switch yet (I’m thinking about adding an additional switch so I can turn it on independently), but I hooked the leads up to the battery and…


All the trials and tribulations of this job vanished at the speed of light when I saw this. It is better than I thought it would be.

  1. #1 by David on March 12, 2013 - 10:18 am

    Allistair, you just don’t have enough to do. Looks good, factory-like, though.

    • #2 by albell on March 12, 2013 - 10:27 am


      I have too much to do! I have to grab time when I can to rush through these jobs. Honestly, they are all done in a slapdash fashion, 30 min here and there when I can.


  2. #3 by Alan Wagner on March 12, 2013 - 10:30 am

    That looks great…now I want one. And the mat! Where did you get that?

    • #4 by albell on March 12, 2013 - 5:11 pm

      Thanks Alan. You know I can’t recall if the mat (between the front seats) came from underneath the between seat air duct on my ’82 (diesel) or I picked it up at the wreckers when I got the full front rubber mat. My memory sucks.



  3. #5 by edbee on March 12, 2013 - 2:42 pm

    looks like something out of the Starship Enterprise to me. Nice work.

    • #6 by albell on March 13, 2013 - 9:18 pm

      Oh Ed, not quite Enterprise-worthy 🙂

      btw, congrats on the engine success.



  4. #7 by famillysyncro on March 12, 2013 - 8:00 pm

    Looks so nice, good job as usual.
    It is not I don’t want it but I really need something like that.
    I guess I’ll add that in the list.


    • #8 by albell on March 13, 2013 - 7:47 am

      I got another one coming up Jerome, but it is westy cabinet specific.



      • #9 by famillysyncro on March 13, 2013 - 3:40 pm

        I hope it is the kitchen cabinet. If you remember, I am not done yet on it, looks pretty bad at the front-bottom so I need to make something like what you just did but I was thinking wood first, I might change it for alu instead.


      • #10 by albell on March 13, 2013 - 5:25 pm


        no, not to do with the kitchen cabinets. I think I’m coming down with the flu so I may not be able to post the mod soon.

        BTW, if I was to make cabinets, I mean really do a “re-do” I’d consider something like Dibond ( I saw some samples and it is pretty neat stuff. There is a cheaper copy, as the original is expensive, but boy, would be a really cool material to make the cabinets from.


      • #11 by albell on March 13, 2013 - 5:28 pm

        Oops, replied to the wrong comment – Dibond reply should go here.


  5. #12 by osvaldo on April 15, 2013 - 12:10 am

    muy buena idea le da una elegancia al pasillo

  6. #13 by oldfussbudget on July 8, 2013 - 5:06 pm


    • #14 by albell on July 8, 2013 - 5:08 pm

      and gaudy 🙂


      • #15 by oldfussbudget on July 8, 2013 - 5:26 pm

        Yes, well I’m waiting for the point when I can see the thing from here. We seem to have passed discreet a long time ago. 😉

      • #16 by albell on July 8, 2013 - 5:29 pm

        Now hold on a sec, as *we* get older I find that I need more light to read by. But, and this is an important but, even if I can light up the night I don’t have to have all strips on full brightness.

        It is better to have the light and not need it then to need the light….

        when owning LEDs becomes criminal then only criminals will…



      • #17 by oldfussbudget on July 8, 2013 - 5:33 pm

        Heheheheeee…here’s your, er, Michael back.

        ……turn up that light will ya sonny? I can’t seeeeeeeeeeee…

      • #18 by albell on July 8, 2013 - 5:34 pm

        sadly true


      • #19 by oldfussbudget on July 8, 2013 - 5:36 pm

        Hey! I said left-angle-bracket c r a s h right-angle-bracket up there and the machine ate it! Discrimination!

      • #20 by albell on July 8, 2013 - 5:38 pm

        using the Australian dictionary?


      • #21 by oldfussbudget on July 8, 2013 - 5:39 pm

        I also said left-angle-bracket creeps away cackling wickedly right-angle-bracket before the crash part. Sheesh. Talk about doing violence to a nicely crafted barb!

  7. #22 by oldfussbudget on July 8, 2013 - 5:43 pm

    Why did not the rubber cure? Seems to me Devcon have got some ‘splaining to do?

    • #23 by albell on July 8, 2013 - 5:44 pm

      I dunno, wasn’t past best before date. I should try again now that it is warmer out.


  1. Van steps | famillysyncro

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