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Old 06-07-2020, 06:40 PM #1
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2013 Chevy Express 3500 Cutaway Expo Build

After a couple years without much to do except fix a constantly broken Land Rover, I decided it was time for a new project. I've been looking for a certain van for well over a year now, and every time I find one it never works out. Either they want way to much money for it, it doesn't have the doors that I want, or there's some underlying issue that I don't want to deal with. Then I came across a van located a couple hours from me, and made the purchase. This is a 2013 Chevy Express 3500 cutaway van with a Spartan truck body on it. It has 113,xxx miles on it, double rear doors, and a fiber panel box rather than metal. This is also a 10' box that's a swr with the 6.0 Vortex engine.

This should be a slow build since we have a lot to do. I usually jump into builds without a lot a planning, and really wish I'd taken a step back to fully understand how I want the finished to product to look. On this build I'm going to remove the bulk head to allow for us to access the box from the cab, and that's the first thing to happen. We also plan on adding a couple windows to the driver side, a window & door on the passenger side, and possibly a small window to each of the back doors. The roof is going to have 2 MaxxFan Deluxe fans with a couple solar panels for the minimal electrical that we'll have. The interior will have a raise platform bed with storage underneath, small cooking/kitchen area, and possibly a toilet that can be relocated to outside when we're stationary. Still trying to decide on carrying a water tank, 12 volt pump, and lighting. This will also be converted to 4x4 at some point, but that'll most likely be the last thing we do.

Now we'll see how accurate the above statement is when I'm done building it.

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Old 06-07-2020, 06:40 PM #2
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Old 06-07-2020, 06:41 PM #3
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A little forward progress was made today. I was able to remove the bulk head from the van, and got everything cleaned up a little. I have replacement encapsulated t-nuts coming from Supreme Truck Bodies to replace the huck bolts that I had to drill out in order to remove the bulk head. Those will be in on Wednesday, and that'll close up all the holes left behind. They'll also make perfect anchor points for the build out.

I'm hoping to have parts starting to show up next week, and then the fun will begin. I'm going to be installing 12"W x 22"H windows in each of the back doors. I also have a couple 10"H x 33"W bunk windows to install around head height on the driver side at the foot end of the sleeping area and also the kitchen area. Up front near the passenger seat will be a 24"W x 68"H radius entry door with screen door. In the first picture below you can see some of the existing ceiling fan, and it leaks in a few spots when it rains. I'm going to remove that, and install a clear skylight in it's place to help give a little more light inside.



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Old 06-08-2020, 09:05 AM #4
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Is it 4wd? Low range?
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Old 06-08-2020, 10:38 AM #5
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Is it 4wd? Low range?
At the moment it's 2wd, but that'll change. I plan on converting this to 4wd, but that's going to be the last thing that I do. I need to have this completely built so I can get a accurate vehicle weight so I can order rear leaf springs.

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Old 07-17-2020, 08:34 PM #6
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I was able to get a few things finished on the van today. I trimmed the panel above the cab, and that'll allow for additional storage once the van is ready. Next up was installing the sky light where the old fan was, and installing the 2 MaxxFan's that were purchased. Once the flanges were installed Dicor Lap Sealant was used to cover the screw heads, and to coat the flange to prevent any water from leaking inside. It's very common that this sealant looks like crap, and there's no getting around that. But, it's not something that I plan on looking at very much.



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Old 07-18-2020, 10:16 PM #7
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Today was the day that I've been dreading for a long time. I have a long history of messing up cut, and most if the time it doesn't matter. However, today was the today that I could make a mistake. So, I measured everything about 10 times before cutting, and had my wife verify everything.

After that I started cutting, and everything worked out how it should have.




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Old 07-20-2020, 08:34 PM #8
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Fun build... if you need some help with any DC power systems stuff just let me know.
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Old 07-21-2020, 09:44 AM #9
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Fun build... if you need some help with any DC power systems stuff just let me know.
I may reach out on that topic since I'm not very familiar. I do have a 200 watt solar kit on order with Monocrystalline panels, and an MPPT controller. I still need look into an inverter, and batteries.

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Old 07-21-2020, 11:31 AM #10
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I may reach out on that topic since I'm not very familiar. I do have a 200 watt solar kit on order with Monocrystalline panels, and an MPPT controller. I still need look into an inverter, and batteries.

Mike
Let me know what you bought... sometimes those packages are not as good as a value as you might think.

I figure I throw out my 2 cents now before you go too far down the rabbit hole.

I would give some serious consideration to the Victron MPPT controllers... super efficient, does a better job over PWM in poor conditions like cloud cover, and it's got a programming / management interface via bluetooth so you can actually see what's going on. You don't need anything other than a phone to work with it.

Controller is about $100 depending on the model, but its well worth the coin for what you get. It's small and its quality. It's also got a load output which you can use to control a relay to shut off things to protect the battery better.



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Old 07-21-2020, 11:48 AM #11
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Let me know what you bought... sometimes those packages are not as good as a value as you might think.

I figure I throw out my 2 cents now before you go too far down the rabbit hole.

I would give some serious consideration to the Victron MPPT controllers... super efficient, does a better job over PWM in poor conditions like cloud cover, and it's got a programming / management interface via bluetooth so you can actually see what's going on. You don't need anything other than a phone to work with it.

Controller is about $100 depending on the model, but its well worth the coin for what you get. It's small and its quality. It's also got a load output which you can use to control a relay to shut off things to protect the battery better.
This is what I got. My order hasn't shipped yet, and I can cancel it is this isn't a good option.

I'm open to recommendations on this. I had been thinking about picking up the panels from Renogy, and buying a Blue Sky SB3000I controller, but decided to just get the kit.

Mike
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Old 07-21-2020, 12:07 PM #12
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This is what I got. My order hasn't shipped yet, and I can cancel it is this isn't a good option.

Mike
Renogy Monocrystalline panels are great, I like them too, but their PWM controller leaves a lot to be desired.

To be honest I have not used the MPPT units, but Victron has such a strong product and a lot of community support. Plus it's a brand known for quality. I use their gear often and have a high confidence level with it.

If you have the chance to cancel it, might be worth your while.

I would piece together you own, but doesn't seem like this might be too far off the mark either. Totally your call, controller + Bluetooth module look to be on par with price.

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Old 07-21-2020, 12:10 PM #13
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Renogy Monocrystalline panels are great, I like them too, but their PWM controller leaves a lot to be desired.

To be honest I have not used the MPPT units, but Victron has such a strong product and a lot of community support. Plus it's a brand known for quality. I use their gear often and have a high confidence level with it.

If you have the chance to cancel it, might be worth your while.

I would piece together you own, but doesn't seem like this might be too far off the mark either.
So you would stick with their panels, and go with a Victron controller? Any certain controller you would recommend?

Or I just keep the kit I ordered, and get a new controller for it. I just received tracking, and think it might be shipped today or had just shipped.

Mike
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Old 07-21-2020, 12:19 PM #14
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So you would stick with their panels, and go with a Victron controller? Any certain controller you would recommend?

Or I just keep the kit I ordered, and get a new controller for it. I just received tracking, and think it might be shipped today or had just shipped.

Mike
For 200 watts of panel I would consider the 75/15 SmartSolar (Smart units have bluetooth built in, does not require external dongle)

SmartSolar MPPT 75/10, 75/15, 100/15 & 100/20 - Victron Energy

Datasheet
https://www.victronenergy.com/upload...-20_48V-EN.pdf

Even if you leave your order alone... you should check out their inverters. They are probably one of the top brands for RV and coach builders.

Just as an example, here is a small sprinter van build with a Tesla model S battery module... which stores about 5kWh of power.
Hello from Los Angeles - DIY powerwall for my camper van

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Old 07-21-2020, 12:32 PM #15
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Originally Posted by Bumbo View Post
For 200 watts of panel I would consider the 75/15 SmartSolar (Smart units have bluetooth built in, does not require external dongle)

SmartSolar MPPT 75/10, 75/15, 100/15 & 100/20 - Victron Energy

Datasheet
https://www.victronenergy.com/upload...-20_48V-EN.pdf

Even if you leave your order alone... you should check out their inverters. They are probably one of the top brands for RV and coach builders.

Just as an example, here is a small sprinter van build with a Tesla model S battery module... which stores about 5kWh of power.
Hello from Los Angeles - DIY powerwall for my camper van
I think I'm going to pick up a control since they aren't that expensive, and look into the inverters some more.

Thanks for your help on this, and I'm sure I'll reach out again for more help.

Mike
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