So at this point I’m not sure if I’m going through a mid-life crisis, or whether I’ve finally come to my senses and realised exactly what it is that I should be doing with my life. Either way, about 18 months ago I bought an elderly Mercedes 814 horsebox in order to convert it into a housebox.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had one of those moments where you suddenly get the feeling that if you don’t do “the thing” now, you’re probably never going to do it. Could be anything: skydiving; yoga teacher training; getting a tattoo; buying a plane ticket and travelling across the world… That’s kind of where I was at back in September 2016. Y’know how it is – a bunch of stuff happens that makes you re-evaluate what you want from life, and all of a sudden you’re on eBay searching for trucks and vans that look handy for conversion!
Having worked with horses for a bunch of years, I did have a bit of clue with regard to what to look for in a decent horsebox but it was more luck than judgement that made me choose Monty. I originally wanted a wooden Bedford TK but they are few and far between, and are either pristine or a bit of a shed. Didn’t really have the time or knowledge to rebuild one from scratch so that put paid to that idea. So then I had to find the next best thing, which turned out to be an aluminium bodied truck with struts at intervals down the sides (I’m not sure what the technical term for this is!) – similar aesthetic to a wooden horsebox but a lot less hassle (or at least I hope so!).
Going to pick Monty up from his owner was a bit of a mission. Turned out that he lived on the Isle of Wight, so a family road trip was organised and we zoomed across on the ferry – who doesn’t love a jolly on a ferry?! I’m not going to lie, bringing Monty back through the country lanes across the Isle of Wight to the ferry port, getting him onto the ferry and parked properly, and then off the ferry and to the nearest petrol station was really quite daunting. I think it had been maybe 12 or 15 years since I last drove a horsebox, so I’ll admit I was pretty terrified! It didn’t take long to get the hang of it again through, and then I remembered how much I enjoy driving big vehicles – the bigger the better really.
Once we got him home, we then had to figure out what to do with him. I had absolutely no plan of action, this being possibly the biggest spur of the moment purchase I’d ever made in my life! Pinterest and Facebook came to my rescue at that point, and they’ve been massively useful resources ever since. I will never cease to be amazed by the topics people feel the need to make videos and posts of, but I am sooooo glad that they do! The first thing to do, obviously, was to rip all of the horse related paraphernalia out.
This was actually a lot of fun. We had to ditch a lot of the panelling and boards because the roof had leaked in the past which had caused damp and rot to set in. The previous owners had replaced the roof (very much a bonus) so it didn’t leak any more, but the water damage was quite extensive. Most of the boards didn’t take a lot of persuasion to come off the walls and ceiling, and those that put up a fight quickly succumbed to a well-placed crowbar! As you can imagine, the floor was pretty grim having carried horses for 20 years so we took great pleasure in taking it all up and replacing it.
Now that we had no floor, we sort of needed to make a decision on what to put down instead – a floor is fairly fundamental, after all! Again, Facebook and Pinterest produced the goods and we went with two layers of marine ply – 12mm first (screwed to the chassis), then a layer of the silver space foil bubble insulation stuff, and then a layer of 9mm. It’s finished up being the same thickness as the original floor (i.e. thick and strong enough to hold the weight of three horses) but now it doesn’t smell of horse wee – bonus!!
I guess it took the best part of a year to strip all of the old, rotten or just unnecessary stuff out of the horsebox – we put the new floor down in August 2017 having bought Monty in September 2016. I wasn’t really working to a schedule then and, due to work commitments, could only really spend time playing with the truck at the weekends. That hasn’t really changed, but I have now booked tickets for a festival in June this year so I need Monty to be ready for that – I’ll definitely be booking some strategic holiday so that I can spend as much time as possible on the build!
So that’s pretty much the first year condensed into a few paragraphs, I’ll put together a few more posts in the future going into a bit more detail about the reconstruction and remodelling of the inside – if anyone’s interested! Monty also has his own Facebook page – www.facebook.com/montymerc/ – with a bunch of photos and vids of progress should you wish to have a look. Thanks for reading!
Submitted and written by: Nicky Gardner
Life is full of endless choices, and society has created an image of what lifestyle is acceptable and what we should strive to attain, down to the clothes we should wear, the jobs we should have, the way we should look, and even the way we should feel. College, family, leisure, friends, vacations, vehicles, diets. The list goes on and on.
Although there are vast differences and choices within the images of life that are catered to us, there are many more options beyond the boundaries that we’re constantly shown each day through television, ads, and the internet. Alternative living is something that’s being explored more and more. You create the life you want, despite the endless stream of “stuff” that is presented to us, telling us the kind of lives we should have down to the most minuscule of details.
Listen to yourself, not the world and what it wants from you. What do you want from you? People are constantly finding new ways to achieve a lifestyle that gives them what they desire most; the freedom of choice itself. The one aspect of freedom that comes to mind the most is travel. People want to see the world, to explore, to experience new cultures and landscapes… But often, so much stands in the way of that kind of freedom. Jobs, debt, payments. It all builds up and manifests a barrier that seems to grow larger the harder you try to overcome it.
Alternative living is the way so many families, couples, and individuals have been able to create the life they want. It’s not impossible to live out the dreams we have, more often than in just a vacation or a fleeting few days away from our normal schedule. But what is normal? It’s an image we’ve been groomed since birth to believe. It’s just a word. Our lives are anything we make them to be, and they can be anything we can imagine. But these lives start at the end of any comfort zones and come with many trials and errors.
Wes and I have chosen to push our limits and take the chance of making mistakes in order to learn from them and recreate our lives from the ground up, so we can truly have what matter the most to us, not what we have been made to believe matters. It comes with choices that feel scary because they’re not the ones we’ve been told since we were children. It’s not the life that society has given us a step by step path to create, but figuring it out for ourselves is worth the risk. I believe that any amount of risk is worth it, if it’s on the way to finding my true self.
Making a huge life change is not some well kept secret. There are so many ways to connect with people who have successfully changed their own lives… to paying off debt, to seeing the world, to experiencing whatever it is that we always dreamed of, to simply waking up with a smile on our faces because we know we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be. There is so much information at our fingertips to help us get on the right path to what is ultimately our own definition of happiness. Escaping the ordinary has become our motto for life. We aren’t interested in living life on anyone else’s terms, and we continuously strive to break way from the norms of society. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s far from impossible. So take that first step, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, it’s a step in the right direction.
A step towards unapologetically being yourself.
We’re so excited to say that we finally have the solar panels up and running! We now have the ability to work from anywhere with a constant source of energy (as long as we have a bit of sunshine). We can now be more sustainable and reduce our carbon footprint as well. This will give us new amazing opportunities, that we can’t wait to share with you!
Shoot us an email if you have any ideas about upcoming events we should plan. We’d love to hear from you.
Thank you to our donors who have contributed to this awesome cause: Jeff Taylor, David Hood, Shelby Bessette, Bruce Helfrich, Tara Cavazos, and all else who helped us through the process. We appreciate you!
If you want to be a part of helping us growing, you can donate to our GoFundMe.
Thank you everyone for all of your support! We hope that we can continue to make a positive impact on the conservation of our Earth through local community education and events.
by Mercedes Siegle-Gaither
Visit the website – www.ConserVANtion.org
Pete Busbys Ford Transit Self Build Conversion
After building lots of different vans as day vans and campers, including the normal a VW T4. I wanted to do something a little different to everyone one else. Something that would stand out, but be cheap and affordable to buy and maintain. But the main thing I wanted, was to be able to stand up in it.
So £500 later, I was the owner of a builders Hi Top SWB mk6 Transit.
Work started straight away on the conversion in to a camper. As per usual things got a little bit carried away! I decided that like all my other camper van builds, I wanted it low with some really nice wheels! Thats not that easy on a Ford Transit though unfortunately, theres nothing available to lower them and the choice of wheels is nonexistent, so what was I to do.
I had to use my imagination and get creative with it! Now it’s massively lowered on fully height adjustable suspension and custom one off wheels all fabricated and made by myself!
The interior was built on a very tight budget, using scrap wood from work, along with anything else I could find that would be of use.
Windows fitted were second hand, and even the Recaro front seats were taken in payment for a day’s welding on a mates van!
Myself and the family have used the van for camping over the last 2 years as it’s evolved, and loved it.
Over the winter I finally found the time to repaint it. So found a unit big enough to get it in. Prepped, and painted myself over a weekend. Hard going on your own! It looks a hundred times better for it and is a real head turner where ever we go.
Looking forward to getting out in it again this year, and try and get some shows in to.
Hopefully people find my rather unique Transit van interesting and maybe give them the inspiration to build something similar themselves.
Thought I would write a post on how we acquired our VW Crossover Bay, had it restored and got badly ripped off in the process.
It started after I got an insurance payout for having a run in with cancer. My wife and I decided to buy a VW and have it restored to how we wanted it. My wife’s sister already had a bus and would take it to a company called Paint Yor Wagon (Thankfully gone now) based in Norwich.
We visited the place and bought Tallulah, a 1972 VW Crossover Bay for £2000. This was in September 2009
Over the next six months progress was made and we handed over money in stages, until the day came we collected her an took her home. Total cost up to this point £23000.
Apart from a few teething troubles all seemed ok at first. However, after 3000 miles the engine let go big time, by seizing solid and snapping the crankshaft in half.
We took it back to the garage, no real explanation was given as to the cause, but we put it down to one of those things, and had him build a second engine. This is where the fun really started.
This engine used more oil than fuel, and after a lot a hassle and only 250 miles covered, I took it back to him with a warning, sort it out or else.
After a few weeks we hadn’t heard anything and he wasn’t replying to my calls.
After five weeks I paid a visit to his facilty only find that he a moved out three weeks earlier and emptied his garage too.
So where is our bus?
Fortunately it has a tracker on it so we managed to locate it at his home. No one was there, so I had to steal our bus back. It ran really badly, but I managed to drive the 45 miles home whilst being followed by a taxi who then took me back to Norwich to get my car.
The bus was in a real state, and full of this guys rubbish.
Anyway, via the Type 2 owners club we found a top chap in Swaffham who gave the engine a once over and managed to running quite well, but still still not right, also we noticed that the fuel was a rust colour too.
I was due in Belgium for six weeks around this time, so left the bus with Paul in Swaffham to sort it out.
It turned out that the tank was rusted out, so a new tank was installed. The engine wasn’t new at all, but made from several old engines including parts from the seized first one
So a third engine was built for new (except the crank) by Paul. This engine has been running beautifully for over six years covering over 30,000 miles so far.
Paul has had to so many other hidden issues too, such a bodged electrics, breaks amongst many things.
The story hasn’t ended here. The original restoration of the chassis and bodywork was bodged too. So we decided to have Paul to a two stage second restoration. Chassis and Floors first and bodywork later this year.
The first resto work on the chassis was so bad, that a new chassis has been installed and we are now waiting for the work to be finished so we can use the bus this summer.
The money that it has cost so far out weighs the monetary value of the bus, but we have had great times on road trips which has made up for it.
Just be careful when having restoration work done. We are lucky that we found Paul Johnson at Mid Norfolk Car Company, who is the only person we let near Tallulah.
Authored by Steve Gleeson
Before I get going this isn’t meant to come across as a sob story! I am open to hugs though! About 5 months ago the almost 9 year relationship I was in came to an end. It was a messy time but during the chaos I made, and stuck to, the decision to start living in a van.
It wasn’t a decision made in haste as it is something I’ve wanted to do for years. Eventually, and albeit, hastily, I bought a an 04 Transit mwb, semi high roof. It had some pretty severe rust (tranny) and some tasty advisories but worked and had a 11 month mot. So far I was kind of winning. I was prepared to do the work needed and had the van nearly fully converted. They say you shouldn’t drive when angry or emotional and I would say that’s wise advice. Having just returned from visiting my new girlfriend and her being very cold towards me I drove back to Bristol and decided to go for a therepuetic drive in the sticks. Long story short I pulled out too sinn from a side road and my van was t-boned. Luckily nobody was hurt and I barely felt a thing in my big strong box.
Sadly though the van was a write-off, distracted mind indeed. Over the next week I steadily stripped it out in preparation for the breakers to take it away. Well… That resulted in sleeping on the floor of an uninsulated, drafty and slightly damp van! Now there’s a challenge! Luckily it was so cold that any moisture from my breathing just froze before it could drip so that was good. Always been keen on wildcamping anyway so I’m no stranger to tough living conditions.
At the moment I’m back 10 years sofa surfing again but the comfort I found in wandering in my early 20’s was what made me feel van living was for me. So it’s all the same then I guess. Just for the time being I don’t have an engine. In 3 weeks time I get paid (I’ve held down the same job through all of this, luckily as the yard at work has been a safe haven for me!) and I will being getting van 2 and making it better than the last one.
I never expected living on the road to be all romantic and smooth sailing so although I’ve had a pretty rough time of it I’m not letting this one go. I will live in my van and I will make this work. If I’m going down I’m going down swinging!
by Barnaby Adams