Having taken a break from converting the van on Vancouver island, and failing to surf it was time to finish our work on Betty. The challenge lied in the fact we wanted to effectively create a home on wheels in a 5ft by 11ft space. Unfortunately,
that doesn’t allow room for a living room, but we thought about the build in the same way as rooms in a house. Before all that though several elements (fridge, laptops, phones, heater) would need power so we needed a solution to power our new house!
Betty came with a 70Ah battery, charged by the alternator when the engine runs. We swiftly threw it out though given the state of everything else in the van and had a long and hard think about what to do about power. Without wanting to bore anyone with the technical details (it gets quite heavy quite quickly) we decided on 2x100Ah batteries which was around triple the original power.
Another thing to consider was while it was great the batteries would charge while we were driving, the thought of stopping in Cali for a week in the sun on the beach was too attractive to pass. So rather than being tied to driving we decided to install solar panels – definitely an easier than it sounds decision. We got 2x100W panels and spent a while figuring out how to fit them, but ended up fitting them to the existing roof rails to reduce the number of holes drilled in the roof. Unfortunately the rails point upward, so we fitted our own custom ‘spoiler’ – something Mikey has always wanted!
The stove was an easy one to build for, as we didn’t have time to fit a fan in we just bought the best stove we could find and would always be cooking outside. Next two things we needed were a sink and a fridge. The fridge part is more complicated and expensive than we first thought. Basically we needed a fridge with super lower power draw, and resistant to road bumps. We got a 50L Dometic fridge which sits nicely between the drivers and passengers seat, and gives us enough room for food and a few beers.
Second was the sink. To forewarn you, it’s a little bit of a cowboy operation as a close friend called it. News to us was that sinks are expensive. What’s not expensive? A $7 salad bowl from Ikea… can you see where we’re going?
First we bought a cabinet to house the sink. Second we ‘fitted’ the sink, by sawing a circle the right size and gluing it in. Then we drilled holes in the bowl to form a drain, and glued a plunger to the underside. Still with us?
We drilled a hole in the plunger and glued a pipe to a dirty reservoir. We needed a way to run a sink however, so fitted a valve hallway down the pipe which allowed us to run a sink for washing dishes. Finally, the easy part was a tap as we found a $30 tap online which is battery powered and fitted it to our clean reservoir! So far it has served us well and we’ve been really impressed!
We finished off the benches with a middle piece to fill the gap, and bought a down duvet to try to fend off the cold Canada was most likely going to bring us. Then we needed a mattress – we needed 4 pieces so that the bed could convert to a bench. So we headed to the foam store and picked some up, which was surprisingly expensive. We then needed to cover them – when we would heard that would cost in the region of $500 Annie got out the sewing machine and drew on her GCSE experience. She did a great job and our bed looks fantastic now. Paired with a few stick on LED lights courtesy of Ikea we were good to go!
Our finishing our bed / table conversion allowed us to have a pretty nice table set up. The legs screw in and the table on top, allowing for around 4 people to sit around it. That said, the two seats closest to the back doors are a little short… so it’ll be a bit of a squeeze for any guests.
It’s time for our first week on the road in Canada, where I’m sure a lot of the design might change! Until then x