Progress Report - This Is No Faerie Tale
Work continues at a steady pace. The piercing, shrill, whining screech of a grinder fills the air, while the white light of the welding rod blinds, yet, fascinates. Sparks fly. Work is progressing. The air is infused with the smell of grease, lubricating oil and diesel. Men in overalls and helmets dominate.
There are no time-limits to contend with, we’re not going anywhere in the foreseeable future. Good news. Doing a conversion like this is not child’s play. Every nut, bolt or rivet has to be perfectly placed, turned and tuned. Don’t think keen eyes miss a shoddy welding spot. Nope.
You and I might look at the progress made with a sense of wonder, but, to the expert eye a glance may tell a different story. This is a vehicle with an engine, it will carry people on a journey and as such it has to be safe, sound and solid. Wind resistance, fuel consumption, road worthiness, efficiency, a work-horse and durable are words constantly bandied about.
B.U.D.G.E.T is another word I hear constantly. We’re on a budget. The budget is tight. Money doesn’t grow on a welders back. Hold it. Wait, let’s look around. Search on the internet and “let’s see whether we can’t do it ourselves”. My favourite is “we CAN do it ourselves” – The Earl.
When a new concept is thought about, when solutions have to be made, the prototype is more often than not the starting point. There’ve been many “firsts” here. Fitting tanks, pipes, batteries are like building puzzles. Efficient, accessible, economic has to be prioritised. Small changes make huge differences and the size and scale of a new design may take weeks to perfect. The Earl has brilliantly made it possible to access the engine for most purposes without having to tilt the cab.
The Precious Prince tosses and turns. I hear him feigning sleep, mulling things over. Clogs turning as ideas tick-tock and then, click, into place. He’s a noisy sleeper, so his silent restlessness clang-clangs like an ancient bell in the darkness. All his skills as a negotiator, pacifier and arbitrator will be put to good use as brilliant brains with years of expertise clash. This is an orchestra, he is the conductor.
Investigating is what we do most days. Bathrooms, kitchens, electrical layouts and gas piping. We do not want to re-invent the wheel. Motorhomes are a big industry. Some manufacturers are helpful, willing to share expertise and ideas. Our first recce is to Vista Homes in Somerset West. We inspect their bathrooms, custom made for their clients. I didn’t realise a shower room could be this small, yet functions perfectly with all the gadgets in place. We need to huddle on this one, I think ours will have to be even smaller. Their work is of the highest quality and I become quite nervous. Are we going to get it right. I'm assured we will.
As the structural body work concludes, it’s time to lay the gas and electrical cabling. Meetings with Andrie Everson and his assistant JP from Pro Fitment Centre have been held and plans have been drawn up diagramming where pipes must be laid. We’ve been advised that it would make practical sense to lay cables in ducts so that they can be accessed more easily if and when needs be.
Everything we own has a plug of some sort be it three prong, two prong, European, Asian, Canadian or US or USB. I’m insisting on having more rather than less plugs with the most popular on every pad. Lighting will be LED presumably. Our work station will double as a dining/sitting area, so much thought will go into the design. Comfort will be important, but, conscientious consideration must be given to the utilising of the limited space. I wish I had one of those Japanese architects “on board” to plan a small space to the max.
Windows were sourced and found. We all agree less is more. So we’ve opted for sliding windows with built-in insect gauzes and roll-up blinds. Being photographers makes it necessary for us to have quick/easy access to “shooting” space so we’d like large windows and one fold-up window with unencumbered, wide angle viewing, hopefully we’ll be able to set up Gimble heads too.
Being claustrophobic has its limitations so it’s heart-warming to know we’ll have plenty of light from the many windows and the sky lights. I’ll lie on my "island" bed and look at the gazillion stars and constellations on a sleepless night, while I listen to the wishy-washing of the washing machine (the one appliance I insist on). In our explorations we saw a stove/convection oven/microwave too. It's small, compact and stainless steel. I spot someone licking his pencil, a budget reminder.
We’re the outdoorsy type who like spending as much time out of doors, we enjoy cooking and having our meals sociably, bathing under the stars and relaxing under the trees. With all these requirements our outdoor set-up has been carefully planned so that we have an outdoor kitchen, shower and awning. Utilising the limited space for our camping gear will have to be done by the millimeter.
Although it’s still too early to really think about the decorative aspect of the vehicle I have started exploring decorating magazines, looking for latest innovative ideas. Sleek, Swedish, minimalism is what I’d like. I want to hear the smooth swoosh of drawers and cupboards clicking shut. Use of minimal space becomes economical maximum storage etc. But I’m putting the cart before the horse.
Today the big guns got together for a meeting. The Earl meets the Grand Dook, they go over every square inch of the engineering and it’s all nods of approval, some advice is ladled out, but it seems we’re on track. The Prince is beaming again.
The very photogenic back of the van is starting to take shape and looks very butch, no pun intended. My first task was to source the paint colour, I like my Safari Sand, will we blend and meld with our African sand I muse, and I think so.
I can hear gentle rumblings coming from the bedroom, someone is snoring peacefully. All is well in his Kingdom and there’s no poison apple or big bad wolf. Yet.
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Photographs are not in any particular order.