After the demise of Forrest we needed a replacement. We had invested too much money on appliances etc in Forrest to just discard them so a self-build conversion seemed the obvious way forward.
Luckily, we happened upon a well priced long wheelbase, high top Citroen Relay van. I won’t go over the conversion here, it is covered elsewhere on this website starting here.
This page then is rather a quick rundown of BFG, the Big Friendly Giant, now that he is finished.
I’ve already mentioned that the base vehicle is a Citroen Relay L3H2. It’s the Enterprise model so comes with various extras like air conditioning, rear parking sensors, electric windows, and mirrors etc. The Turbo engine and power steering are standard. After driving a 30-year-old Renault Trafic with all the features, or not, of a 30-year-old vehicle, BFG is a positive pleasure to drive.
He’s not completely finished externally as there are some graphics to fit to the sides but as we aren’t going to be going anywhere any time soon we may as well wait for better weather to fit those. That said impatience led us to fit the rear decal –
As you can see below we have fitted a side window for the lounge area, a decal with mountains and trees (along the same lines as the rear decal) will go just in front of the side window.
So, let’s press on and have a peek inside, starting with the boring/interesting stuff, depending on your point of view – the boot.
So, the mundane stuff first, we have room in the boot for the folding chairs (top left), EHU cable under those and on top of the Gas Locker, leveling ramps and gas barbecue stored to the right.
On to the installed/technical stuff – at the bottom is a battery bank comprising three 110Ah batteries giving a total capacity of 330Ah. We went with the increased battery bank size as we have moved away from a gas heater and gas fridge to a diesel heater and a mains powered domestic fridge (more on that later).
Above the battery bank is all the electrical panel stuff. There is a voltage sensing relay to allow the vehicle system to charge the battery bank when driving but disconnect it when parked up to avoid the risk of flattening the vehicle battery.
Above and to the left of the VSR is the solar panel controller. This controls the 200W solar panel fitted on the roof and keeps the batteries topped up even if we aren’t driving.
To the left of the solar panel controller is a 1.5kW inverter. This provides 220VAC to various sockets in the van, powering the fridge, a microwave, and the TV, with a couple of spares for general use.
Having mentioned the fridge, inverter and solar panels, now is as good a time as any to mention the decision to go with a domestic fridge.
Marlene was never comfortable with the three-way fridge running on gas when parked up so we wanted to replace it with an electric compressor fridge (these work the same way as the fridge in your kitchen). There are 12V compressor fridges made specifically for motorhomes/caravans but these are ridiculously expensive compared to a domestic fridge i.e around £600-700 versus around £70 – £100. With this in mind, we decided to go down the route of using a small domestic fridge powered via an inverter.
I have been running it for the last few days with the fridge on 24 hours per day (as one might imagine) and during the night it is running entirely off the battery bank via the inverter. On checking the battery status first thing in the morning it is down to around 98% state of charge which I was happy with. Happier still to find that by around 10:00 the batteries were back up to 100% state of charge courtesy of the solar panel and here in Westray the sun still doesn’t get very high in the sky at this time of year (March).
The bottom right of the boot is the diesel heater.
The diesel heater is one of the cheap Chinese import jobbies off eBay but it works a treat.
Okay, that’s all the boot boring stuff done with.
On we go to the inside of the van.
We have opted for single beds as these are quicker and easier to make up of an evening.
To either side of the drawers, there are two USB charging points (I’ve just noticed now they aren’t the same height 😅). Above the left charger is the diesel heater controller, the position here is so that I can reach up in the morning and turn it in to warm the van up before we get out of bed (Marlene doesn’t trust it to be left on all night, but I’m working on that 😉).
Either side of the drawers we each have our own Apple Watch chargers –
These are nice because the watches have a bedside function making them work as a bedside clock when on charge.
Turning around from here we have a TV.
Above the TV is the controller for the inverter so that it can be turned on and off from inside the van, next to that is a battery status monitor, then a MiFi router delivering mobile broadband into the van, and finally a USB charging point to power the router and a Roku box for the TV.
In this photo, you can also see where I have positioned the fridge and the microwave. I have lifted the fridge up off the floor to make it easier for us to get to. Under the fridge, there is a couple of pan drawers.
On the opposite side of the van are the hob and kitchen unit –
Under the sink is the water and waste water storage.
As can be seen, these are accessible straight through the side loading door.
Coming back into the van, we have a fire extinguisher and you can see the roof-mounted MaxAir fan.
The roof fan is one area where we did decide to “push the boat out” as it is a very fancy temperature-controlled unit with a rain sensor to automatically shut it if it rains, plus it has a handheld remote control so it can be adjusted from the comfort of out seat/bed!
Lastly, what makes a campervan a motorhome, the provision of a toilet!
We decided not to bother with shower facilities as these are never much bottle on a motorhome anyway. If we want a shower we will stopover at a campsite and use a proper shower!
Phew, that’s it.
All we need now is for this blumming Corona Virus calamity to be over so that we can use it!