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The Sherpa That Enabled Me To Keep Plodding - Ldv Pilot <3


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#1 Mini-Mad-Craig

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 04:38 PM

Hi guys, I hope you're all well.

 

I thought I would share the story of how I lived in my LDV Pilot for two years with three cats and two lizards. It's of course an ongoing project. I had to build the van in 10 weeks, from a minibus into a home, including custom vivariums above the cab to keep the lizards in. 520amp hours of batteries, 3 solar panels & a split charger. It was a very hectic time but I got through it and I would say that this van saved my life. The cats soon adapted to their new way of living. It was the end of a 7 year relationship, I was being made redundant, had no savings, just a lot of debt, severe OCD & and a broken heart. After years of watching channels like Kombilife on Youtube I knew this was what I had to do. Somewhere that was mine. Nobody could take it away from me or tell me I couldn't keep animals there.

 

Vanlife saved my life <3

 

Bearded Dragons have such specific requirements and they need a lot of UV & a basking spot. Having rescued two with metabolic bone disease I had seen the awful effects of this condition and had I rehomed them, I knew I could've been sealing their fate in a similar way since proper care wasn't guaranteed. That led to me living a totally crazy life for a couple of years. I used a T5 light bulb which is VERY strong and generally needs at least 30cm (12") distance or it can blind the lizard. I used filter screens over the bulb as the distance I could get was only 8". I used an Arcadia deep heat projector which used a steady 8 amps of power to get a steady 35' basking spot. The vivariums were designed in a way that I only needed one basking bulb. This one product made it possible to keep my Bearded Dragons.. a regular basking bulb would've used way too much power. THANK YOU ARCADIA!

 

When I did finally get back into work I'd finish 14 hour shifts, spend 2 hours driving at night with no aim other than to charge the batteries up to last the following day when I'd be working again. In the British winter my 450w of solar would only make around 8 amp hours of charge all day... and I needed 168! with the engine running whilst cooking I could run things like the extraction fan and charge my laptop for a couple of hours evening use if needed.

 

The next challenge was SUMMER! This was the opposite... I now had reptiles in an OVEN above my cab. I fitted a little dome extractor fan on a thermostat to mantain the basking spot at 35', it cut in every time the temperature raised above this. With a flexible solar panel on the roof above the cab this absorbed so much heat from the metal roof skin that it actually kept the vivariums cool whilst generating me lots of power. On hot sunny days I was seeing up to 17 amps of power!

I'm back living in a house again now, with my three cats and my bearded dragons (Who are now back in their giant vivariums!). Life is still difficult but it's getting better. I now have my dream van which is a weekend warrior for true adventures. I owe it all to that little thing!

 

Peace & love guys. Keep on smiling

 
You can find my Youtube Vlog here. I'm training to become a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teacher with one of the most renowned programs in the world and plan to offer free lessons and guidance right here on my Youtube channel so hit subscribe if this is something you'd be interested in, in the future!

 

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Edited by Mini-Mad-Craig, 10 September 2020 - 04:42 PM.


#2 sonscar

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 07:11 PM

Well done and good luck for your future.Steve..

#3 pusb

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 07:39 PM

Very interesting story! Thank you for sharing.

 

One question, when your home is your van, what address do you register it to?



#4 the.stroker

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 09:06 PM

Good to see you getting your life back in order Craig. You have been part of this forum for many years , good to see you posting again .

#5 Mini-Mad-Craig

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 09:51 PM

Well done and good luck for your future.Steve..

 

Thank you Steve! and you too :)

 

Very interesting story! Thank you for sharing.

 

One question, when your home is your van, what address do you register it to?

 

Thank you! That's kinda a tricky one since theres actually no insurance companies that cover people who permantently live in their vehicle. Actually, most motorhome insurance specifcally ask 'do you live in the vehicle?' and I've known van friends who've had insurance companies checking the registered address to check if the van was there overnight or not. My family wouldn't let me say I lived with them but I did have a friend who was happy to say I lived with him, so I registered the van there and said I lived there. It was okay. :)

 

Good to see you getting your life back in order Craig. You have been part of this forum for many years , good to see you posting again .

 

Thanks mate! For sure, I've made many good friends here and made many special memories. I'm sure theres more to come. Once these little cars are in, they're not going anywhere are they?! beep beep



#6 Mini-Mad-Craig

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 10:10 PM

It might take a while to create a diary of this one.. it's been a long journey. So far there has been two renditions of the van. The 'ten week' edition which was done on a super budget (using credit cards and the money I got from selling my purple Metro cabriolet), and the more recent version which had more time and more monies. 

 

Disclaimer before we get going. I'm not good at this. I have no background in doing good things I am just me and I did my best. Thanks, friends. Also, this is all shot on a very broken iPhone 6 which was a better torch than anything else. I'm sorry for the terrible photo quality. 

 

Start at the start I think...

 

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I dont know who thought it was a good idea to mount a gas bottle to the back of a vehicle? Basically a bomb waiting to go off in an accident!

 

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Interior strips and working with ideas for layouts

 

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I bought the van with no MOT or tax.. It had been off the road for a few years. The MOT actually went really well other than the clutch slave failing during the test. I was hoping I could just change it and go for a retest but it turned out that the fork had failed. Apparently it's very common on these gearboxes.. it's an R380 from a landrover. Just to add to the chaos of having to move in 10 weeks, I had to change the fork as well as the clutch slave.

 

that doesn't look right...

 

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I had to drive the van from the MOT station 45 minutes away from home with no clutch, that was fun! I didn't even have a proper jack so I had to change the gearbox using two scissor jacks...

 

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The plastic locating slots were also very worn so the bearing was new too. The guy I bought the van from actually said the bearing was new a few months before, so he'd clearly had problems!

 

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A start on window tints. Yeah, I'll be leaving that for the pros next time...

 

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Anybody recognise this little red thing? :)

 

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Edited by Mini-Mad-Craig, 10 September 2020 - 11:20 PM.


#7 Mini-Mad-Craig

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 10:21 PM

I was lucky to have the help of a very talented Engineer.. you may recognise him ('Dog.') I will refer to him here on in as 'the hearbreaker'.  :D

 

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So the layers went like this. Window tint, foil insulation, fiberglass, polystyrene, wooden claddding and 84 coats of varnish. I only found at after that the foil insulation is supposed to be used with an air gap, despite years of research. The van still stays cool/warm as hoped.

 

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Somebody had spent some time on this van in the past. It has a pop top! I've barely used it. I never stayed on sites or at campgrounds so I always needed to be prepared for a quick getaway if necessary. Luckily, I never experienced any bother in my time on the road.

 

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The most important part of any build on a classic vehicle is the underside protection, for the future. Doing this when I got my Metro 10 years ago has kept her totally solid, whilst others are starting to show their age by now. That thick black 'underseal' from Halfords at £6 a tin was certainly a good investment back in 2010. Removing it all with a wire wheel on a drill to rust proof with a superior product was less fun, however.

 

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Edited by Mini-Mad-Craig, 10 September 2020 - 10:21 PM.


#8 Mini-Mad-Craig

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 10:34 PM

The van was my daily during this time. I genuinely didn't know the tester. Not bad for a 21 year old van!

 

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I don't think many people have a photo like this? The most famous zebra crossing in the world. It was worth the risk of 3 points on my license for parking on a zigzag... I'm sorry guys, im a dreamer

 

Abbey Road studios (at 4am! total vibe)

 

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Rear door cladding. Neat :)

 

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One side, clad.

 

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She scrubbed up okay!

 

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I had access to lots of pallets at the time so they were essential for the build.

 

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Sold that rear step/gas bottel atrocity. I put it on eBay and somebody won it for 99p! I told him the story when we were emailing to arrange collection and he wished me luck and posted £10 through the door when he collected. Karma working for me!

 

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To fund the build my little purple Metro had to go. I did a lot to this car and it was my dream car for a long time! we shared many miles. I fitted a 16v and travelled to my friends in Holland to fit a custom mohair roof. She went to a good home and he paid top money and was happy to. It makes it a little easier when they're off to a good home! Part of the deal was that he could have my hydrolastic pump and I had to deliver her. No problem. 

 

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Edited by Mini-Mad-Craig, 10 September 2020 - 10:35 PM.


#9 Mini-Mad-Craig

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 10:50 PM

The vinyl flooring I chose. I was feeling a kinda quaint beach house style vibe. I later regretted this flooring because it wasn't very hard wearing at all. I was delicious dark oak now. It's heavy but beautiful. I'm never in a hurry anyway. This moment is enough. Traffic is enough. It's all just okay.

 

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My pretending like I am happy (and actually doing a pretty good job. I even convinced myself)

 

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Simon doing a thing

 

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Despite the urgency of this task I was still travelling the country every weekend to party. Trance and house music is my thing. I like all music really. 

 

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The cabinet in, giving a good idea of the space (or no space) that I would have to play with. I didn't care. It was beyond my wildest dreams.

 

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The bed!

 

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Edited by Mini-Mad-Craig, 10 September 2020 - 10:51 PM.


#10 Mini-Mad-Craig

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 10:59 PM

Cat test runs on the way to work. It was a fun few weeks initially, considering I lived in a bungalow and they didn't get along in there... three sassy girls. How was I gonna make it work in such a tiny space? one word... love.

 

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Wiring the lights. All of the wiring like this is in plastic conduit so it doesn't get hot against the fiberglass.

 

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Edging trim for the door step

 

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Solar panels and the roof vent

 

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Spinny captains chair for that living room feel (It kinda always felt like a van with a chair spun round)

 

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I bought a chinese diesel heater from eBay and I can say it's been the single best purchase of my life. It cost me about £150 delivered, it was the most comprehensive kit known to man for that money, with good instructions and the thing just WORKS! absolutely incredible. For the second winter I basically had it on 24/7 for 3 months on the lowest setting. The van never dropped below 20' even in snow. It used about 4.8l a day, so 33.6l a week. 7.5 gallons. £9 a week to keep warm. not bad :) I mean even if was snowing I'd get back into the van and it would be warm. Cups of tea.. cooking dinner would mean the gas hobs were on at which point the van got TOO hot! I was honestly never cold for even a second living in the van. Elecricity wise the heater used 6amps for a very short while on start up but then used 0.2amps for the rest of the time whilst running.

 

The heater fuel pump

 

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The kits come with a large plastic fuel tank but I didnt want to be filling that up with diesel. It felt like a faff. I tapped into the fuel sender on the vans fuel tank and just ran the feed directly from the main tank. 

 

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Edited by Mini-Mad-Craig, 10 September 2020 - 11:00 PM.


#11 Mini-Mad-Craig

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 11:10 PM

Kitchen tiles and lights working!

 

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Millie testing it out

 

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On my way to my parents on Christmas eve, from Northampton to Durham. It was the maiden journey for the cats in the van. They had literally no idea what was going on. Tiki and Millie were pretty chill but Lola was not impressed at all. That first night in the van I had no idea what it was all about. I was so lost in it all. I was kinda exciting too. I didn't realise that it was best to just leave the heater on ticking away all night, so I kept waking up with the van all frosted up, blasting it on full for a while then turning it off again. Lola was going absolutely nuts (she was still very feral at this point) and desperate to get out. I didn't want to let the thought creep into my mind... 'perhaps this isn't going to work.' it HAD to work.

 

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My first ever vanlife morning scene

 

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Lola

 

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Was followed this was scenes of absolute terror. I was parked on a cliff top and opened the door to get out to stretch my legs, at which point Lola darted so fast out of the door that I've never seen anything like it. She was petrified and darted along the cliff top. You've never seen a person run so fast. I ran and ran and ran until I reached her, grabbed her by the scruff and held real tight. This was going to be a challenge. It's funny, she's actually the one who loves vanlife the most now! (you can check the video in the first post. She's the only one who comes with me on trips these days). It took some getting used to for her.



#12 Mini-Mad-Craig

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 11:15 PM

It's Christmas

 

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Festive batteries

 

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A control board of sorts

 

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The vivarium face. Simon put a LOT of work into making sure this was perfect.

 

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Seems like a home!

 

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Me and Simon spent a night in Norfolk on New Years Eve. It was fun!

 

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#13 Mini-Mad-Craig

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 11:41 PM

Cool

 

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Cute

 

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I have talented friends who love me, and give me art

 

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Visiting my friends at Horsey beach in Norfolk. Horsey beach & Blakeney point are total bucket list places if you love animals and nature.

 

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Lola on Simons 240z

 

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Ctek charger! Amazin

 

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Painting the bumpers at last!

 

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Rear bumpers and light surrounds

 

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The CTEK and an MPPT solar charge controller. The MPPT is a must have! this one also supports an external screen which uses an RJ45 cable. The difference between solar charge in all weathers was day and night (lol, solar pun)

 

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Carver cascade 2 water heater

 

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Cutting a hole in the van! My friend got me that giant battery thing with a very good grinder. It cut through the van like it was cheese!

 

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Catflap. I didnt forsee fitting a water heater like this so it was a challenge cutting through the many layers to fit it! I did tidy this up though

 

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Edited by Mini-Mad-Craig, 10 September 2020 - 11:43 PM.


#14 Mini-Mad-Craig

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Posted 11 September 2020 - 12:03 AM

Beach life. Littlestone in Kent

 

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Me still pretending to be happy and still pulling it off

 

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I was travelling through the Peak District to collect some wheels for a Metro friend in Australia and I pulled onto the grass at night. The van got stuck in some super boggy mud and I got stuck. Despite my best efforts all I did is made it worse. I slept at 45' angle for the night and then woke up early in the morning to try and remedy the problem using floor mats for grip which didn't work. I wandered onto the farm and found the owner and asked for a tow out. He said he didn't have anything he could help with and said there was a farm a few miles up the road with some tractors. I couldn't leave my cats in that position so decided to take the situation into my own hands which made it much worse as I rolled into the farmers dry stone wall. About an hour later he drove past and pulled over absolutely livid. He said he had to run an errand and then he'd be back for insurance details as apparently his sheep could get out and cause mayhem... and dry stone walls are very expensive to repair. It started raining very heavily but I wasn't deterred and set about building the wall myself. It turns out I have a hidden talent. I AM A WALL BUILDER. He came back very impressed and asked who did it... when I said me, he was amazed, and made me sandwiches in his farm house. Moooooo.

 

Then I used Simons AA number and they came and pulled me out with a Transit. Luckily they didn't ask for the card of my driving license as I was actually registered with them.

 

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This is my bit. You can tell, but he didn't seem to mind. We had cheese and onion sandwiches. And orange juice. 

 

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Photos for the DVLA log book change. Luckily I met the criteria and they changed the V5 to 'motorhome' with no questions at all. This was at around the time they were changing the rules and lots of people were getting turned away, or changed to 'van with windows'. I was quite astonished to get the log book changed back changed! 

 

''The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the government body responsible for registering campervans and motorhomes, confirmed to MMM magazine that it has refused 9,488 applications to reregister a vehicle as a motor caravan during the first 11 months of 2019 (a motor caravan is the term used by the DVLA for both campervans and motorhomes). This compares to just 622 refusals for all of 2017 and 2,266 for all of 2018. This equates to an increase in refusals of 1,425% since 2017 and 318% compared to 2018.''

 

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'Kitchen' cabinets

 

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'Bedroom' cabinets

 

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Water storage

 

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I think that the log book change is worth its weight in gold as motorhome insurance is significantly cheaper.

 

I found these rare rear window guards and got to work fitting them for some extra security

 

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I also smashed 3 rear lights whilst driving the van! they stick out a bit and i'm not a very good driver. I was lucky to get a tip off on this LDV Pilot in a breakers which had good units both sides. Annoyingly, each time I smashed them I also took out the surround which is rarer than the actual light unit!

 

Sad about the poorly van which could make a nice house

 

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Edited by Mini-Mad-Craig, 11 September 2020 - 12:17 AM.


#15 Mini-Mad-Craig

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Posted 11 September 2020 - 12:36 AM

Plenty of reasons to get out of there, fast!

 

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Very rare diesel Metro

 

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On the front doors I fitted deadlocks from 'Locks4vans' but they were insanely expensive! This was the solution for the rear doors. They were only about £4 each from Wilkinsons but they seems to be plenty strong enough as an extra deterrent.

 

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That's a lotta solar!

 

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I needed slack in the PV cables and wiring for the fan so that the pop top could still raise

 

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Getting the deathtrap tyres changed for some new ones. Some of them were older than the van! how does that happen!? I went for General Eurovan 2's.

 

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The inside at this point

 

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