GCU Grey Area: Dayvan Build

Mad Ax

Active Member
Sunday's Progress :)

The wife gave me an exit pass to go do whatever I want, so I went up the workshop and started chopping things.

I figured I'd have to cut the door apertures before I fitted the worktop, otherwise I'd have no way of measuring up what holes to cut. I decided to go with the maximum possible aperture size without affecting rigidity, there's not going to be a whole lot of storage in this build (thanks to my crazy table idea and lack of rear quarter wardrobe cupboard) but there's enough for basic cooking and eating stuff and a sleeping bag and pillows.

Here's one aperture all marked and ready to go

And here it is all gone. I'm not usually very steady with a jigsaw but I really took my time with this one

Second one all marked and cut. Apertures look uneven without the cupboard doors, but I will be adding oversize doors to even everything up and add some balance (and colour)

Apperture edges slotted to accept edging trim, screwed into place

Putting a liftable shelf under the smaller aperture for storage of sleeping materiel

shelves fitted, water storage test-fitted

worktop in

And finally... ...almost exactly where I started in the morning!

Having some clearance issues with the sink recess and the hinges for the lids, I grabbed the Dremel and started making hasty moves to trim out some more space before I realised I was rushing just for the sake of having the sink fitted before bedtime. I was exhausted, sweaty and hungry, I'd had two solid days on it, and I was well aware that I could be about to make a costly mistake. So I packed up and called it a day, did an hour on my MAN TGX build in the studio before sitting down with a couple of beers and a pizza.

There's a street party taking place next Sunday in the very street where the van is parked, so next Sat I need to get out early and clean up all the dead leaves and junk and generally make the place look tidy. That might preclude any more serious van work next weekend, but I might get a couple more hours one evening this week.

Ordering my custom doors and the sliders for the table in the next couple of hours, hopefully.

Stay tuned :)

Mad Ax

Active Member
Just a little updette today, and no piccies as a) there wasn't much to photograph and 2) my phone battery was flat.

The weekend was fairly manic, what with me being outside in the pouring rain chopping back the overgrown ivy on the wall beside the van. Haven't been able to get to it for a year after the half-Mini trailer was parked there, but it went two weeks ago and there was a planned street party at the weekend so I had to tidy my shit. Took way longer than I thought and also involved two runs to the dump and back with all the choppy choppy as well as all the surplus plastic trim from the Elgrand.

I didn't start until well into the afternoon, and then found it real hard to get motivated. Took half a lifetime to get the sink unit to sit properly, I was sure I'd test-fitted it when the worktop was out of the van and I could still get at it with the jigsaw, but obviously I didn't test-fit it well enough. An hour with a sanding drum on a Dremel, making hideous amounts of dust and smoke, and finally I could screw the unit down. Yay!

So technically the Grey Area can now be driven again, at least without the risk of being decapitated by a flying sink if I have to stop quick. The fact that it is still full of tools, offcuts and enough sawdust to remake half a rainforest is neither here nor there.

I spent a little while pressing on some grey edging trim, but didn't get photos of this. Suffice to say, it looks better than unfinished plywood with a line cut down the middle. And that's pretty much all I had time for on Saturday.

Sunday was party day, and again it was gone 3pm before I got into the workshop. I had enough time to cut out my sliding tabletop - 720mm x 420mm - not as big as I'd originally envisaged but as big as it can get without moving the hob/sink combo and having a stupid half-cupboard effort - and also cut some support planks for the runners. I was hoping to at least test-fit the runners before close, but this took me up to 6pm when I realised that the screws which fit the countersink in the runners are too long for the 15mm ply and the screws that fit the 15mm ply are too small for the countersinks in the runners.

So this week's plan is to get to the hardware store and get some short fat countersunk screws.

Mad Ax

Active Member
Weekend Updates!

Despite a late start to Saturday AM, I still managed to get up in the workshop before lunchtime and cracked on with another long day. My main goal was to get the sliding table fitted, as there's always potential for such a solution to be an epic fail, and if it wasn't going to work, I wanted to know right away.

I'd already cut the wood risers that would mount the runners to the underside of the table, and mounted them to the runners, (I thought I'd photo'd and documented this bit, but evidently not) so the next thing was to cut the risers that would mount the runners to the top of the fridge housing. I won't even try to describe this, but here's some pictures:

Everything cut and mounted and I discovered that a measurement - or more likely a cut based on a measurement - was a bit out.

Ten minutes swearing and re-drilling and it was all fitted up nicely.


Mad Ax

Active Member
Now, originally I'd planned to mount the table risers on the outside, thinking this would look better when finished, but I realised I'd have clearance issues with the fridge door and the support leg so I swapped the runners around. I didn't realise until after I'd started drilling the worktop that this meant I'd have an ugly metal slider on display.

Fully-extended, the heavy duty drawer runners have very little flex and the table feels reassuringly solid. The forward leg on the riser is essential here, even though it takes up a bit of cabin space and affects the fridge door. I'll relocate the rear slider a little further forwards once my keyboard tray is done, build a new rear riser to hide the slider in the closed position, and put an end cap on the table to hide all the underneath. This is falling into "non-essential work" - I have much more important things to panic about right now.

Extended, it looks like this:

From the rear-facing seat:


Mad Ax

Active Member
Sunday was a short day - had to leave at 1 for a family get-together and needed to do some chopping in what's left of my garden before I went, so I opted not to get bogged down in cutting and routing. Instead I had a quick bash at the gas hob.

I thought the kit came with some P-clips, but I couldn't find any, so for now the pipework is held in place by the joiner and by the push-tight hole in the bulkhead. I'll need to space it with P-clips before it is commissioned, otherwise the rubber tail will rub on the cabinet and might eventually rub through.

The whole system was tested for leaks first with some detergent mix in a squirty bottle, before I finally opened the taps and sparked the rings to life.

I also fitted up the water supply and waste pipes, although the photos are too dark to see owt. Wiring isn't finished yet so the water system can't be tested.

And finally, I also heard back from a hydro dipping place about dipping my ugly stock trim in something more in keeping with the theme of the van. Right now I'm only having the fake wood bits covered, but if it comes out good I'll consider having more of the dash bits done. Sample photos of the final scheme look absolutely epic...


Mad Ax

Active Member
Oh ye, of little faith

I'm pretty sure a lot of people failed to understand what I was trying to achieve here; those I explained it to in person gave me either the blank look of incomprehension, or the lop-sided grin of "that's not going to work but I know you won't be told so I won't tell you"

I must confess, I was reluctant to get too cocky about it myself right up until I'd actually seen it working.

Here's how we got there:

Drop-sides for keyboard drawer slides:

Fitted - table still slides away neatly:

View from beneath the table - slides fitted at a jaunty angle to allow the keyboard tray to drop lower when extended and rise upwards when stowed. (These needed to be adjusted a bit later - there was a lot of guess-work here):

Slides extended:

Mad Ax

Active Member
(Large) keyboard tray and risers, pre-assembly:

Risers trimmed and slides fitted. Camera angle conveniently hides the jaunty angle here:

This was a fecking pain. Lining up the tray from underneath, drilling, checking again, putting screws through, marking underside of risers, removing risers, screwing them in place on the keyboard tray...

...then discovering they had been mounted a good 5mm too short for the sliders :oops: cue much cursing, swearing, throwing teddies out the pram, then removing the sliders and putting some washers behind them. It'll never be visible anyway.

Here's the fitted solution, in the stowed position - clearance here is really tight, but it all fits perfectly:

View from the rear-facing passenger seat:

It's all a bit too big to get a proper shot with the phone from the passenger seat, but I'll try to get the wife to get a shot through the side door while I'm sitting at the desk.

The result is that I can be sitting in the passenger seat, writing and drinking beer, I can slide away the keyboard tray (with the keyboard still on it), slide away the table, exit via the side door, take a slash in the on-site bogs, jump back in and carry on working.

Basically - it rocks!


In other news, I got cracking on the wiring - running short of time now but got a bunch of stuff on order this week so hopefully have all the electrical stuff working by close of next weekend. Also still need to close off under the seat.


Mad Ax

Active Member
Another crazy weekend in the workshop!

Not a huge amount to show for it, nothing really exciting in terms of photos, more interesting in terms of stuff happening :)

The majority of the wiring now finalised, although the wires I was sent for the fridge loom don't seem to be as thick as I anticipated. Indeed, once the fridge was switched on, I was noticing some voltage drop between the fridge terminals and the battery, so I'll be ordering a bunch of fatter cablage this week. Hopefully that will cure the rather odd "coming on and off more or less at random" behaviour that it was exhibiting.

Wires (master switch hooked up just for testing):

Then I set about boxing in under the seat so I can fit my drawer.

That took me up to close of play on Saturday - came in early enough to have a shower and take the wife out of dinner :)

Sunday saw me up early in the workshop to cut a closing panel for the rear, so I can house in the wiring and safely mount the master switch. Will also be mounting the volt / ammeter there, as well as the RC charger and some banana terminals for chaining up additional chargers.

I didn't get any pics of this as I was in a real hurry to get done before lunch, but here's some pics from Thursday lunch, when I parked up near the White Horse to do some writing:


Mad Ax

Active Member
Managed to grab some spare minutes yesterday lunch and evening to crack a few more bits off the list. I really, really need my charging deck sorted by the end of the month so that was my priority.

Drilling holes for banana plugs and a 12v ciggy socket:

Discovered the banana plugs aren't long enough to go through the 15mm ply, so muppetface says "that's OK, I got a router now." Sadly I don't seem to have the right bit for the job (or I'm using it wrong) as all this did was chip up the back of the wood and burn it.

Also cut the hole for the volt/ammeter:

All installed - battery meter not yet wired up, will worry about that later, should be a 30 minute job (which is the actual time for a 10 minute job):

All looking good - charger will be attached later:

It was only after this that I realised I'd made a critical error: there's no switch for the charger. The charger itself has no on/off switch so I'd bought a toggle switch to install in the panel, but I totally forgot to wire it in. Not a major issue, plenty of spare wire to put a switch into the panel, but (like the banana plugs) I'll probably find it isn't deep enough for the ply and will end up gouging another hole out the back to get it in, which means the whole cabundle will have to come out. Which is a pain 'cos I didn't put any quick-release connectors on the charge lead because I figured I don't have to take it out for a couple of years. Faceplam.

In other news, a small fortune has been spent on other sundries that I'd almost forgot I needed, like hinge / table leg, wires that I didn't need, drawer runners for the underseat, another 16 metres of edging trim (with a ridiculous statutory £20 postage cost that the seller wouldn't budge on), 12v charger for the laptop, £150 on hydrodipped plastics, cheap saucepans, pillows and cushions from ikea, fancy cushion covers and pillowcases from the internet, a colour-coded picnic bag with a whole supply of cutlery and plates, and the deficit of a small country on a set of adjustable coilovers to stop the whole assembly from leaning like a famous Italian tower. (The fact that these will probably take an inch off the monster-truck ride height is a mere side-effect and nothing at all to do with looking cool).

Went in for MOT test on Tues, needed 1 tyre due to a rip in the rubber and one new bulb and came away with a clean sheet :)

Mad Ax

Active Member
Bit of 3M heavy-duty self-adhesive hook and loop fastener does the trick:

That 3M stuff is epic, I use it for securing RC electrics inside cars, I haven't found anything it won't stick yet. The problem is getting the stuff off - and I don't mean getting the adhesive off the surface, I mean getting the hook off the loop. It's entirely possible that I'll pull the veneer off the wood if I try to remove the charger.

I also fitted my hydro-dripped plastics but I think they'll be going back to the supplier, the finish isn't great and there's some marks around the edges where it doesn't look right. Fingers crossed the supplier will re-do it FOC or give me a refund 'cos that was top money spent, I was torn between that or painting them with rattle cans. If you want a job done properly, etc...

No photos or name-dropping until they've had a chance to reply to my email ;)

Mad Ax

Active Member
Update from the hydro dipper - they say it's all the nature of the print they used, but he wants all his customers to be happy so he'll happily redo any print/colour of my choice :) Need to decide if I try to stick with the star field theme or just go for some blue pattern.

Skulls or pinup girls are all cool and everything but they don't really fit the spaceship theme, I might end up matching the cliche carbon-look camper cabinets with cliche blue-based carbon weave on the dash panels.

Here's some shots of the unhappy hydro dip:


Mad Ax

Active Member
So, I had one final day to get the van (mostly) ready for the road trip.

First-up, I wanted to get the interior lights fitted. The van's roof light is connected to the starter battery, door switches and dash switch, and it's a bit dim, plus I wanted directional spots over the counter. I figured out a genius way of fitting them...

Plastic trim removed from rear pillar. Note seatbelt mounting thread.

Small piece of MDF cut to shape. This was later replaced with plywood when the MDF wasn't up to the job.

Plastic trim refitted. Snapped a plastic lug doing this, some very choice words were uttered for about 15 minutes afterwards as I don't have any spare lugs.

Self-tapping screws pushed into the plywood, mounting boss neatly covers the holes in the stock plastic trim.

Homely yellow light over the cooking station.

Also had a near-disaster last weekend when driving back from Bath. I had a heavy box in the back, had to brake hard when a pigeon decided to land in front of me (an actual pigeon, not a Pokemon), I didn't fancy testing how hard my aircon radiator is (my last Nissan's aircon rad was destroyed by a tiny little bird). When I got to my destination I found the heavy box had slid forward and the leg supporting my table was bent way out of shape. I'm surprised how much flex the ply has, I thought it had snapped but it bent back into place with no obvious signs of damage.

Now secured with two brackets to stop it happening again:

I also had a go at fitting the curtain rails, but the headlining isn't strong enough to take a screw so I abandoned in favour of trying again when I have more time. I'll use my old hardboard window covers at the weekend, although they're a PITA to store and tend to fall off in the middle of the night.

Not much else was accomplished due to short time-limit - I put on some more edging trim and cut some non-slip mat to size for the cupboard shelves. That's about it.

Popping home at lunch today to give the inside a good vacuuming, then getting all packed up mid-week :D

Mad Ax

Active Member
Just a quick update from last weekend's camping trip - no work done on the van, been too busy, but it performed admirably throughout the weekend.

All loaded up and ready to go. 6 race cars, 2 spare cars, mountains of batteries and tools and various bits to sell, give away or donate to the charity tombola and raffle.

About to set off - satnav said 3:20, took more like 4:30 by the time I'd stopped for a KFC an hour from the destination.


Had time to crack open a beer and exchange pleasantries with some randoms before everyone had had enough. Off to bed, then :)

Just enough room to get 6 car boxes up out of the way

got a trophy on Saturday - 3rd place D final in 84-89 (IIRC), which is basically about as slow you can go and still get a trophy.

Pull-out table worked well as a workbench when I had to modify the bumper on my HotShot.


Mad Ax

Active Member
The hob unit worked really well, and my cheapo Ikea pan set was fine, although I could have used a lid when boiling rice. Plastic utensil set predictably melted.

Sink unit was fine but I need to modify my washing up strategy as I'd used all my water by 9am Saturday, washing up after breakfast (eggy bread, mushrooms and beans). With no water on site, that meant no more washing up for the weekend, and also, no washing hands, since the water in the portaloos ran out as well. I took a walk down to the local services on Sunday afternoon just to wash my hands; I would have driven down and filled up the water container but I had a good parking spot, and I got blocked in by a local celebrity just as I was about to leave.

Bed was way more comfortable than expected, although my Ikea pillow isn't big enough. I'd have taken the cushions as well but the cases didn't arrive until Monday. Everything was toasty warm. Spotlights were more than adequate. Fridge stayed chilly all weekend, although on Sunday mid-morning the LiPo charger started complaining about low input voltage so I ran the engine for 30 mins; after that I had cold drinks and charged LiPos for the rest of the day.

Any changes needed? Not really. The non-slip mat on the shelves needs gluing as it moves around when I take the pans out. It's sticky enough to stop anything falling out despite having no doors. The rucksack with the picnic set is a bit of a squeeze into the cupboard but that stops it moving around.

I defo need to build the under-bed drawer to store things that should always stay in the van, like tea towels, bath towel, shower gel, etc.

The battery meter needs hooking up so I can see at a glance what my battery's up to.

The laptop charger was a real quick-fit job before I left, I need to do a better job, also incorporate a switch so I don't have to unplug it every time. The proposed solution is to replace the loose ciggy lighter socket with a flush-mounted one set into the back of the charger recess, with a switch on the top. Then I can switch on and off at leisure but also have the option of replacing the charger with one for the works laptop should I need to.

I also need some USB sockets for charging phones -it took all day to charge the phone off the laptop, which meant having the laptop running off the leisure battery all day. I'm going to mount a usb + ciggy socket on the spare section under the seat where it's easy to get to; also be useful for other 12v stuff in the living area. I'll mount a charge port here too, or modify my charge lead to fit the ciggy socket, as it's always good to top the battery off from the mains before setting out on a weekend.

No idea when I'll get any more work done on it as I'm fairly flat out for the next few weeks.


Mad Ax

Active Member
So we've got our first joint camping trip planned for next weekend. That meant £500 on a drive-away awning (one of those airbeam ones, which are epicly easy to put up) and a bank holiday weekend in the workshop finishing a few bits off.

First up was a dining table. The pull-out laptop table works fine for one but it's no good for the second diner.

A sliding table rail from Just Kampers fits neatly and doesn't look out of place.

And an offcut of furniture ply makes a good table/door combo. I had originally planned to use different colours for the doors but it's too expensive to get more furniture ply. I may consider vinyl cover later.

Sliding rail arrangement means it goes right back over the seat.

I bought a folding table leg to go under it, but when I unboxed it it was massive. I'm not sure what type of camper it's made for, clearly not a small one like mine. We'll have to work out a better solution later but for now I've cut down an offcut of timber to hold it up. Ugly but functional. Well, right until I accidentally kick it out while the wife is eating her bolognese...

A pain-in-the-arse door was cut to cover the last cupboard. Note that the locking latches I bought from the camper shop were awful and don't work, so there are regular cupboard clips holding the door shut...


Mad Ax

Active Member
After that it was all about the electrics. My last weekend away proved I definitely need a USB charging port, and I also need some take-offs for the RC chargers so I don't have to have the tailgate up. The closing panel from under the seat was the best place.

Black plastic square is styrene sheet, or Plasticard, available from all good model shops. I normally use it for building interiors and detail parts for RC cars but it's also useful for jobs like this. Saves the hassle I had with the last set of power take-offs whereby I had to route out the back of the ply to get a nut on the thread...

Workshop assistant just about visible in background

All mounted and working


Mad Ax

Active Member
Another thing I had issues with was my rushed powerpoint for the laptop charger. I was up against the wire (no pun intended) for my first solo excursion so I whacked in a 12v socket that I'd ripped out of something else. It was hanging loose and had a habit of disappearing behind the units. I needed something more permanent.

Fortunately a spare piece of trim came in handy for filling the gap. 20 minutes with a drill and a dremel and I had a switch mounted in the plastic and a 12v socket mounted in the ashtray.

That's all for now - still need to give it a good clean out and load up for camping in Lyme Regis next weekend. Also I haven't got around to fitting my aftermarket coilovers yet, and the silly interior plastics need to go back to the shop for a new design.

Long-term I still need to box in the fridge compressor and put some nice material over the headlining, and make my under-seat drawer :)


Here for life
E50 Owner
Premium Member
many thanks for spending so much time to give so much information, I will defo be using some of info,mainly swivel seat and new floor


Staff member
E50 Owner
Premium Member
E50 Expert
What an awesome job and write up!! Thanks for doing this...

Would love to have these skills and patience for doing mine.