vanagon – bumper build – starting the hitch

I’ll blame good friend Simon for the recent dearth of posts, you might understand why at the end of this post. The bumper is pretty well roughed out and before I can finish the aluminum I need to make a trailer hitch to fit behind. I do have one of those tow loop mounted hitches but I want something stronger.

So the idea is a receiver style hitch with a crossmember behind the bumper welded to the stock bumper mounts (which I will modify and extend further I the frame rails), and the receiver part of the hitch coming through the lower part of the bumper. I’m not being very clear, sorry, it all make sense as I post my progress.

And what progress have I made? I’m going to pad out the little work I have done.

Well, here is my existing hitch and the bits for the 2″ receiver.



I cut the bits off.



I want to have this bar sit as close to the inside rear face of the bumper as possible, To do that I need to make a couple of bends. Pretty sloppy work cutting “V” notches to make a 7 degree bend, I could have done better. Oh I did cut the tube in half before I did the notches.


Up it bends, leaving a big gap, grrr.


Get the idea of what I am aiming for?


It might come as a surprise that I can’t stick weld very well. The MIG welder is set up for aluminum and stainless and very likely will never see steel. So until my welding teacher comes by to give me some stick welding pointers I TIG tacked the bends and other parts onto the tube. I used some rod to help me jump the gap with my tacks.


All tacked up and ready to start trial fitting to van and new bumper. Oh, btw, I will add some reinforcing plates between the receiver and the main tube.


So why is Simon partly responsible for me not posting more often? He gave me an Ipad mini. Yup, what a guy. I’ve been playing with navigation/map apps and I think I might post some stuff on that. Also started mocking up a mount to install it in the van. It’s a start, by no mean the final thing, but gives me some ideas.

Thanks again M&S.




  1. #1 by famillysyncro on August 28, 2013 - 8:36 pm

    Nice work on the bumper.
    I am pretty sure if you use stick welding, you are going to be pretty good at it. I started with it a long time ago and I still prefer it over Mig but I don’t have a stick welder here, cannot have everything……
    I almost started my rear bumper modification (bicycle support) but we went for camping last weekend and ran out of battery twice (not the starting battery of course) so I am adding 2 group 41 (kinda deep cycle…) and I am busy with it.

    I almost complained about the Ipad support as I was looking at the plastic/rubber part you are using……but it looks it is a piece of alu wire/cable….. good thinking.
    I like it, it looks really well made as usual. And looks it is 100% reversible in case you are going another way. Good job.

    Strange navigation apps you have on the Ipad. Do you need to match the picture of the Ipad with the view outside so you know you are there? 😉


  2. #2 by Otmar on April 12, 2014 - 9:46 am

    I’m enjoying seeing your many modifications, great work!
    For those who want to simplify the trailer hitch that fits inside the bumper I’ve found that a Ford Expedition 97-02 factory hitch is an excellent starting point. The hitch is wide enough and the bend fits well inside the Vanagon bumper. My site is very old, but under accessories people can see how I did my hitch, first with a Nissan hitch and then later with the much better fitting Ford part.

    • #3 by albell on April 12, 2014 - 12:56 pm


      I’ve been following your adventures from way back when, when you first cut up the vans to make the stretch. Now you’re upping the ante to where everyone folds, tesla motor powers van. I nervous skills and the “get it done” attitude.

      I wish I knew about the expedition hitch a couple of months ago. As is I’m pretty close to finishing the hitch, I just have to weld on some gussets etc. the one thing I have a problem with is the amount of projection of the receiver. The aluminum bumper is , by design, not very deep so the receiver pretty well has to stick out. I had thought of orienting the receiver so that the retaining pin is vertical and so the hole does not need to be accessible out at the rear of the bumper. That way I can tuck it back in some. But I am not sure if I can get a hitch with the hole in that orientation. Maybe I have to drill some stock.

      Overall the bumper build was very much a “make it up as it goes along” project. Stealing time here and there, no drawings, making then cutting away etc. I’m getting rather tired and impatient with it, I just want to finish it and get on with other stuff. I need to move my spare to the rear so I can put in a battery up front. So I need to make a new tray, skid plate up there to hold the battery.



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