Archive for category vanagon mods

Vanagon – the aluminum obsession continues – sliding door card 

It wasn’t my first choice of materials, but it was given to me by Thomas and I had to use it. 2024-T5 aluminum is hard to weld as I found out with another project. That project might get some air here. I just jumped into it and didn’t pay any heed to the letters printed on the stock, I thought I was just having a bad day at welding. It’s also not happy being bent, snappingly not happy.

So I had a couple of good sized bits of 0.063″ (1.6mm) 2024 that I really couldn’t readily use. Except… my sliding door card had been mangled by the previous owner and although liked the stock vinyl and cloth cover I hated that it was warped and tattered especially at the rear end.

I got that red mist in my eyes and made a replacement card from the aluminum. Yeah I know, it’s not the best stuff for this application. It’s cold, it’s thinner than the stock cards, it’s harder to fab, and I will have to cover with some sort of fabric. Oh speaking of the fabric cover I’m intruiged by this stuff from Seattle fabrics, the link here. I’d stick on a thin layer of open cell foam before the fabric. But we’ll see what I can find, don’t worry it will be covered and slightly insulated.

I just laid the old door card on the metal stock and traced the outline. I popped in holes the same size as stock thinking that maybe the stock clips would hold, but as it turned out they wouldn’t. The aluminum was just too springy to pop conform to the curve of the door without pulling the clips. That meant I had to slightly enlarge the clip holes in the door to accept some 1/4-20 riv-nuts. And then I used 1/4-20 flat head stainless screws and finish washers to attach the panel. And boy oh boy, screwing the door card on is so much more secure than those plastic clips.

The pics follow 🙂

Stock cut with protective plastic film still on.


Yeah, hand cut so the wobblies  show.

A bit of a “hall of mirrors” effect in the van. Maybe keeping it uncovered will make the inside of the van seem larger. 

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Vanagon – that westy table mod update

A couple of things to say. The somewhat clunky adapter that I made to allow the newer style table top to fit the older style table leg has raised the table enough to partially block the USB outlets I put in the vent grill on the side of the stove unit.


I think there is enough meat in the adapter to take away and lower the table. The next thing is the knob that tightens the table leg to the cupboards. I bet most of you find that it’s difficult to tighten that knob enough to prevent the table from moving a bit when driving. Many have made retainers of one form or another. Maybe magnets on the van wall, maybe Velcro. You know what I mean. I did something along those lines on my old 82 westy. But this time I thought about changing the knob to something I could tighten, and equally as importantly, loosen easily. So I quickly made a knob substitute from some 1 X 1/8″ stainless flat bar. I welded a M10 socket headed bolt to it and added some “speed holes” ( as Travis would call them ). Much easier to tighten and loosen and when tight it holds the table firmly. No need for any other fix.



It’s not very stock looking, but it’s not an irreversible modification.

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Vanagon – westy table, old type leg with new type top

I used the interior of my old 82 westy when I converted the syncro tin top to a westy. You might know that the old style table leg to table top connection is a spigot into a tube arrangement. The newer type has the end of the leg flattened and a bolt runs up thru that and into the table top. The later style is much better, in as much as the table doesn’t have the short spigot on it and stores a little easier. In addition, I never did have the front table or table leg until a few years ago when good friend Stephen gave me the pair, but the newer style. That was around the same time the kid left home so big table when camping wasn’t needed, we just used the front table. Actually, the front table was used much more often in the Swellegant™ conformation

But then the other day I was poking around in the first circle of hell, aka the home workshop, and found two late model large table tops. I had forgotten that same good friend Stephen had dropped them off after salvaging the edge trim. I grabbed one and cleaned it up, pulled the edge trim off my old style table, and whacked it on. So now I had a functioning late model table and I could use it with the Swellegant™ table stand and have a bigger outdoor cocktail table. And who doesn’t want that?

And then I got to thinking, why not make something so this larger table could be used with the old style table leg? I had a bit of aluminum round stock that I had machined to make shaft aligning tool which turned out not to be needed so I whittled it down to make a table adapter. Welded a bit of flat stock with holes in it to a suitable bolt and bob’s your uncle, a table adapter. It’s a bit clunky but note that’s the flat stock handle used to tighten the table top to leg is much easier to use than the stock round handle and I made it so that the handle ends up more or less above the table leg when tight. That’s just to reduce the chances of snagging something on the handle. 

Oh and the old stock knob that screwed into the tube on top of the old style leg, I replaced with a short bolt which hits the flat spot machined on the side of the adapter. Don’t need to touch that again, the table top is held on by the through bolt ( the through bolt which has the holy handle).


Ad the table in place. The short front table in this instance.


Oh and just to be clear on the table leg differences between old and new, here is a new style rear table leg which I had shortened to be used up front. Completing the circle as it’s going to good friend Stephen.

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Vanagon – awning guy line tensioners

Catching up on blog posts, some little things…

I have a Shady Boy awning on the van. Gosh, it must be well over ten years now and it’s worked well for us. But I never liked the plastic tensioners used on the guy lines. Came across some nice tensioners online, made by MSR and called “Camring Cord Tensioners”. Here’s a link to Mountain Equipment Coop listing. They looked pretty cool, thought I’d make some knock offs.

But whoa, you say, why bother making them when they are only about 11 bucks for four? Good question, I have no good answer. And to be honest, a little bit of me dies when I copy a good idea. 

Ok, enough of that. Here’s a pic from the MEC link of the originals.


Nice aren’t they? Nicely finished and anodized. I just guessed about the dimensions and used the stock I had on hand to come up with these.


Thicker wall tubing and not as nicely finished. I replaced the old Shady Boy guy lines with some paracord and the tensioners.


I suppose if you are going to shamelessly copy a design make sure you copy a good design. And this is a good design, tensioner slides up and down on the guy line easily with a twist of the ring, and holds firmly when set.

Shoot, forgot to give approx dimensions for my copies. OD is 1.25″, 1/8″ wall, 1/2″ long. 1/4″ holes, 3, drilled 90 degrees apart.

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Vanagon – update about minor mods

I’ve been kinda quiet in the last few weeks about minor vanagon hacks and mods, my weekend time has been taken up with other chores. But I have a few things percolating in the workshop; some propane fridge modifications, yet another led strip for interior lighting, and a “new to me” connector for the solar panels. 

I think the fridge mods will be the first finished. I have this extra fridge in the workshop that I gave a complete R&R. Having it on the bench let me try out some ideas around enhanced cooling of the fins. I just have to hook up power and propane and give it go.

Oh and I’ve been playing around with the already tried mod of a PWM motor controller for the ventilation/heating and rear heater fans. It works well and would be a reasonable fix if the resistors in the stock system fail. I’m dithering about whether it’s worth installing in a functioning system.

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Vanagon – kitchen unit lid strut support 

I have the older type kitchen lid ( because I used 82 westy kitchen unit in my Syncro tin top to westy conversion), I think it changed post ’88 but not sure. The change was to the leading edge of the kitchen unit, lowering it which allowed a little more reclining of the driver’s seat back.

Anyhoo, I think both versions use the annoying “broken leg” style support strut to keep the lid up. I really didn’t like the strut. Finally today I changed it. Used a gas charged strut bought from banggood, the listing is here. It’s a small strut with 100 N (around 10kg force).  I wish I could have used at least some of the screw holes from the stock strut but hat wasn’t possible.


And how does it work? I’m telling you Simon, ITS THE BEST MOD EVAH!!!

It is good, i was concerned that 100 N was too strong, but the placement of the strut in relationship with the hinge etc turned out to be perfect. And as a bonus, and this wasn’t planned explicitly, there is an “over centre” force from the strut when the lid is closed which gives a satisfying positive latching force. But I do I wish the old screw holes were gone.

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Addendum May 2017

As requested, some measurement pics. Enough there to give you a start.

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Vanagon – led rear side marker light prototype

i took the mock up circuit described in my post the other day and rewired, sealed, shrink wrapped, connectores added etc,etc, and installed the led lamp with an unpainted aluminum guard onto the van. Pics show the lamp lit as running light ( as normal).

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Looks fairly ok right? But I have to confess that I misled you in the last post about the led lamp size. Yes it’s not as tall, and just slightly less wide. But side by side comparison with the stock unit makes it look very much smaller overall.

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Bet you didn’t think it looked that much smaller in the first pics. The flasher function works well.

I’m fairly pleased with it, and if I paint the guard black I think it will look better.

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