A while ago we shared this camper van that was converted by UK-based musician Joe Edwards. He recently reached out to give us a look at his all-new conversion, Ernie, an old Piaggio Porter van with a similar rustic style.
The van was originally used by the Ministry of Defense (MOD). It only had 17,868 miles on it when the lease ended and it was auctioned off. The construction company who bought the van never ended up using it, so they put it up for sale, which is how Joe found it. Since it had been an old MOD vehicle, it also had to go through the lengthy process of being registered for use on public roads.
“Having converted a long wheel based van previously with plenty of room, it was a real challenge trying to fit everything in, every inch really did count!” Joe says. “Trying to battle between head space and the height of storage space, as well as the depth the kitchen unit could be without taking too much width away from the bed left me with at least a day of umming and arghing and staring blankly at the inside of the van!
The bed, believe it or not, is over 6 feet long and managed to somehow squeeze in the hobs, gas canister, water storage, and sink to the side of it. All in all it was much more of a challenge but I love how fun the van looks without too many compromises!”
Since the van came ply-lined, he started by ripping out all of the old worn-out plywood. The interior was cleaned and insulated with expanding foam and insulation boards, then wrapped with an aluminum vapor barrier. He installed a couple of USB sockets and a 12V socket for the coolbox.
The kitchen was furnished with a Dometic two-burner gas stove, and a sink made from a repurposed fish pan with a hole cut out of the middle. It connects to a hand pump that can manually draw water from a couple of jerrycans in the cabinet underneath.
He installed oak flooring, along with pine ceilings and walls in a tongue and groove effect. The ceiling was left its natural pine color to contrast the white painted walls. Pine was used to build the furniture and solid oak for the worktop. The edges were beveled, and Danish oil was used for a glossy finish.
These beautiful Mexican wall tiles were added for a splash of color. The tiles were adhered with Sikaflex, as it is specifically designed to handle the strong vibrations from the van moving.
“The bed extends out from the bench seat, it has extendable timber slats to help pull the bed out to the kitchen unit,” Joe shares. “Half the slats are fixed in place whilst the other half are attached to a moveable leg. I then made up some storage boxes that resemble apple crates and used miniwax polyurethane to transfer the vintage signage over from printer paper to box.”
A wooden spice rack is also hidden under the kitchen’s flip-up counter. Just under the spice rack, one of the wooden crates stores a refurbished 1959 Vintage Defiant battery-operated radio. He also added in an Aztec table that flips down outside for extra counter space.
The table has an adjustable leg, as well as tea light holders that can be hung overhead with electric candles. He also added in a wooden roof rack along with several attachment points to mount gear.
The cushion upholstery was custom sewn and can be zipped open for easy washing. The bench seat pulls out to convert into a bed using the foam cushions as part of the mattress. The bed measures just over six feet long and about three feet wide.
“It was my first time sewing (under instruction of Nana Sue) but I found this really lovely material for the cushions that I really liked the colours of and ran it all through my mums sewing machine.”
The interior is well lit with dimmable LED touch sensitive lights and a Dometic Micro Heki Roof Light. The curtains hang from the windows with blackout thermal lining and twine tie-backs.
Joe also made his own custom sewn canopy with awning poles, guy ropes, and Edison bulb lights. He says the canopy was the most challenging thing to sew, as the material was heavy and needed folding to even fit through the machine.
You can watch Joe share the full tour in the following video. To see more of his videos, subscribe to his Youtube channel here.