Baker Garage Denver van build thread!

Baker Garage

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Well this certainly changes things. Wife says ratchet strapping a child seat to the floor isn't acceptable so I had to come up with a better solution for a back seat.
Busted out the sawzall and cut the old fairly useless island/table thing out and walled up the sides with 1/4 ply wrapped in the same carpet.

Picked up the narrow transit 2 person. Integrated belts and child seat anchors. Recessed the tracks down into the 3/4 floor plate. On the front 2 mounting bolts I was able to pick up the factory ribbing in the body just like the original chateau seats were attached, But along the back 2, I made up a 1/8" thick steel plate that bridges the 2 back mounting bolts so the nuts wouldn't pull through the floor in case of accident

Obsoleted one of the drawers, still haven't figured out what to do with it. 5'3" wife for scale.

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I had been wanting to do something to utilize space on/in the doors for quite some time. I was gifted some CAD files from another member here that I will leave nameless so he isn't attacked for them of all 4 doors. I tweaked the files a bit and sent them off to my pals at adventure vehicle concepts to by CNC cut out of 1/4 birch

I then contacted overland gear guy about doing a custom kitchen organizer for the left rear door. All I had to do was send him some dimensions and a picture of everything I wanted to keep in it. About a month later I had this beautiful piece of kit

Decided to coat them in Raptor liner just like the exterior, mostly because I had a bottle left over.

There are lots of holes that are perfectly spaced in the metal behind the door. Used a riv-nut in all 6 of them and then a nice stainless screw with a finishing washer on it to secure the panel to the door. Cut holes in the interior metal on the left rear and left barn door as big as I could.

Very pleased with that.
Now on to all the other doors. I didn't take a bunch of pics in process unfortunately.
Made a little drop down table on the RR door for somewhere to set things when unloading the fridge. Held up in place with some magnetic cabinet catches.

Did the same thing on the Left barn door but made some shelves inside.

On the right door I used a off the shelf molle panel so I could attach some soft bags. Shovel handle is used as the interior handle.


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Nice job on the doors. What did you use to secure the panels. The panels in mine were put in place by a conversion company and just screwed into metal. Not sure if this is the way I want to go. I know some do rivnuts into the OEM locations.

Baker Garage

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Nice job on the doors. What did you use to secure the panels. The panels in mine were put in place by a conversion company and just screwed into metal. Not sure if this is the way I want to go. I know some do rivnuts into the OEM locations.
I did riv-nuts into factory holes. Wanted to be able to easily get in the doors if I ever needed to.

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Up until this point, I had just been running the fridge off the start battery without much issue. We don't ever really camp up in one spot for more than a night and usually drive between 4-5 hours a day on trips. This gave us plenty of charge for the night, but on this trip up to flaming gorge we had such a awesome spot we just stayed there for 5 days. Halfway through the second day the fridge hit the low voltage cutoff. Probably better do a second battery when we get back.

I kicked around getting a goal zero but I got a killer deal on a deep cycle AGM from one of my parts distributors, so I decided to just do an ultra budget amazon setup. Picked up one of the cheap isolator relay kits because it comes with cable and such. Ponied up for nice circuit breaker though. Picked up battery power from the bus bar on the drivers side because I HATE having a bunch of eyelets (or any eyelets) on my battery cables.

Next I picked up a battery tray with a stout hold down and bolted that through the floor. Wired up a 8 circuit fuse panel and a 2 position 12v socket for the fridge and future heater. This is under the passenger side flap under the matress.

Cold! Wiring in progress

I wanted to have a little "charge station" and also be able to keep an eye on the voltage of the house battery, so i found this cheap little thingy on amazon. Swapped in another double usb port instead of a 12v socket. The switch turns the voltage gauge on and off so it doesn't bother us at night. Built the little shelves below to hold things while they were charging

Found these little usb lights at ikea. They have a really nice sub 5000k yellow color. I can't stand Bright white/blueish leds that most camp lights are these days.

This gave me a idea for more lights. Found these really cool 4800k led cabinet lights on that fit perfectly in the area at the top of every door. Each door has its own circuit and switch. Used marine paired wire in a thick jacket for each run.

Puts out a really nice light. I might do little shields on them to make it more indirect like the one in the left barn door.

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I was never really happy with the 35" km3s. My first issue with them was that they are tragically undersized. Like almost a full inch under what they say they are. Just looked too small on the van. I had rolled some toyos under it as they are the most true to size out there and it still wasn't enough for me. But true 37s are too big for only having the 6" lift and I didn't want to hack my van up, so 37" BFGs were looking pretty good. I still really love the way the km3 looks, but they were wearing really bad and chunking majorly. After a hard summer of wheeling, there were like full tread blocks missing and the leading edge of every tread block was totally chipped out and they were starting to cup. Found some lightly used 37x12.5r17 KO2s on Craigslist and decided to just do it. Sold the km3s for the same price I bought the 37s for! True measurement on these is just a hair over 36". Perfect!

Looks perfect in my opinion, and the best part is that they are silent.
Flex check. All good, will need a little trim on the pinch weld under the headlights eventually.

Bought 1 brand new for the spare. Wash all the salt off for some glamour shots. Man do I love white letters out. Another beef with the KM3

Despite what most will tell you, a 37" BFG will just barely fit on the aluminess tire carrier. The right door wont open, but it does fit!
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Another thing I was never really happy with was the cross bar rack setup. It was all free, and that was great but I had really been wanting a platform rack. I liked the front runner platform, but it was kind of lacking on accessories, and their gutter clamps were kinda weird looking. My pal Mike runs a little shop here in town called Spirit of 1876 where he sells all kinds of tents, racks accessories etc, and he helped me piece together a setup I was super happy with. The rhino rack pioneer is a really nice shape, their slats are close together and they have tons of accessories, but their gutter clamps are dumb and too high. We found that we could use universal adjustable feets and hover the rack perfectly over the roof.

These damn things come un assembled. I could not believe how hard it was to assemble. Hundreds of bolts and nuts
Very stoked on the outcome though

Mike from Spirit of 1876 fell head over heels in love with my van and decided he needed his own. We talked about building one from scratch, but then Chris put one of his personal vans up for sale and he snatched it right up

Went out for the first camp of 2020! Who would have thought this would be the only camp trip for the next 6 months. There were talks of covid when we left town, and by the time we got back the entire world had changed

I filmed a rig walk around for my buddies youtube channel on that trip also. Enjoy our stupidity!
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Luckily through covid the shop was able to stay open, but I was stir crazy like all of us in my free time. I had completely detailed the van within the first 10 hours of lockdown. Now what the hell am I gonna do.

So remember back on the first page when I said that huge offset upper ball joint camber/caster shims were a huge mistake? Well what they do is shift the half shaft back in the tube, side loading the inner axle seal. I had been getting some fluid seepage out of the short side for some time, so on one particularly slow day I decided to deal with it. Learned a trick from the guys at torque king 4x4 when buying their awesome seal installer tool that you can use the 2 piece inner axle seals from the 05+ super 60 front axle and you'll never have to deal with an axle seal leak again. I put the zero degree shims back in, while simultaneously discovering I had over tightened the upper ball joints on the initial installation. This was the cause of my memory steer/wander issue all along!! Completely different driving experience now


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So after getting the new shims in, I had about 6 degrees of positive caster. Way more than enough, and it drove what I considered at the time 'good enough'. I was wrong, another thing we will circle back to. So now we start the interior build out. I should also note that I started tearing into the van in mid February and I needed to have it more or less completed by the end of march for a big off-road trip I go on every year with friends from all over the country. Luckily my old man is retired from a 40+ year career as a carpenter and loves vans, so he was more than happy to lend a hand.
First step was laying down a base plate. All the framing is 3/4 birch plywood. The height of the sleeping platform was determined by the dometic cfx30 fridge we were going to be using

We boxed in the area around the wheel wells and then trimmed the factory plastic window trim to meet up flush to the top of the sleeping platform.

I didn't want to waste the space around the wheel wells, so we decided to put in little trap doors that would flip open under the mattress to store things we wouldn't need that often.

We didn't want our primary kitchen to be inside the van as we are just weekend warriors, but we wanted a small area inside for basic cooking if we needed to. Also gave a opportunity for another little storage area

Now we started framing in the internal cabinetry. We were designing around a few pieces of kit that we knew we were using, the afore mentioned fridge, a 7 gallon water jug, and my trusty coleman stove

We trimmed the face plate of everything with poplar and face mounted screws just because it was easy and kinda looked cool.

Drawers built! There are some voids that we didn't quite know what to do with, but the actually would up being super useful later. I spent a ton of money on glides, and in hind sight i wish i had just done them without. Too much wasted space.

This is the exciting part, everything completed out the back. I got some fridge straps from Trek box. They are pretty slick units. Secured them down with a couple U bolts through the fridge drop down base we designed. I wasn’t willing to pay $800 for the alucab one, so we had to come up with something else for my 5' tall wife to be able to get in it

The drop down is basically its own stand alone unit that just pivots on a stop along the front edge and then just hit the top in the back to limit it. Simple and cheap. The kitchen is the long pull out. The flip open lid is where the stove is stored when not in use.

For the mattress we used two IKEA twin 4" thick memory foams. We wanted them separate in the center so we could flip them over easily to access the side cabinets. they needed some minor trimming of the foam to contour to the factory plastic trim, but that was super easy.

Went over everything with a wipe on poly to seal it all up. Good boy Charlie waiting to go on his first trip.

Last step was to carpet the front. I used the indoor/outdoor rug they sell at home depot and some spray adhesive to hold it down. Calling that done for now!

One last quick trip to shake everything down before our big yearly trip
Really nice build..especially all the woodwork!

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Some of you might recognize this rig (willywalderbeast). He had the dreaded spark plug blow out not to far from me, so we decided to fix it properly once and for all

We opted to just yank the engine as this rig has higher mileage, and we wanted to go through and fix all the common issues. Got all new timing chains and guides, new exhaust manifolds, new water pump and two rebuilt head from clearwater cylinder head. These guys are the best in the business. They put new steel inserts into the head and pin them in place so they dont ever come back out.

Going back together ! Their original plan was to try and run the pan ameican, but covid had other plans unfortunately

We also did 6 new tires on this rig before they hit the road!