Nissan Primastar camper build


Ola! this will be my third thread started on ExPo, I hope it doesnt go the way of my first two.

One was about a boot box for a Mitsubishi Outlander I sold without finishing and the second was about a roof rack I was making for a Hyundai Santa Fe that I've decided to retire in preference to this project.....

Given Covid rumbles on and here in Ireland we are in lockdown no 2, and even when it ends international travel won't really be encouraged for most of this year we've taken a notion to build a van because accomodation in Ireland is going to be impossible to get this year without exchanging a kidney.

Ireland has some awkward motor tax and insurance rules, we don't have the freedom you guys have in the states so I'm working within a specific set of paramters, many of which are regulatory.

We are a family of four, kids are 9 and 13, we like to go camping and touring. not really much proper off roading to be had in ireland, but lots of crappy roads and beach access trails and the like.

Looking for a van that will transport and sleep the four of us, but fit under a 2M barrier, these are not uncommon at car parks, particularly beach ones, to discourage wild camping, particularly by gypsies to be honest.

2m mean medium sized vans, the one size from europe that hasnt invaded the states yet, although I believe MB are looking at bringing over the Vito.

Main choices are the ubiquitous VW Transporter, the Ford Transit Custom, the MB Vito or the Renault/Nissan/Opel Trafic/Primastar/Vivaro all these vans are

After looking at Transporters for ages nothing much was coming in the spec I wanted. 1.9 or 2.0, LWB, passenger. I started to look at the alternatives and the Renault/Nissan/Opel seemed the next best option, it's actually a tiny bit wider inside but the floor is slightly longer.

It's not as nice to look at but who cares, it's a van. they're generally a lot cheaper than the VWs which attract a heavy scene tax.

awd is a very rare option on any of these vans and not even available from the manufacturer on the Primastar, but given the terrain it'll be facing that's no big deal.

I picked up a rough looking 2007 minibus that's had the back seats replaced with ones from a Renault Espace people carrier, these are great seats as they come on separate rails and have integrated seat belts.
We've wasted no time in ripping out the seat conversion and putting two of them back in, with a folding bed frame behind it.

plan is to have a small kitchen pod where the third seat might go. this will (if I can get it approved by the camper club who will be providing the insurance for this) be a sliding unit that hides under a cooler box and has a sink and hob built in

we will sleep on the bed platform and then with the kitchen pushed back in the kids can sleep on the floor.


The mattress will be in three sections as is the bed platform
We will still retain a decent sized boot under the bed platform, and I will built a cabinet on the right of it floor to ceiling for storage

That's where we're up to so far. short term plans are to get the kitchen design approved before I build it, finish the storage and bed, insulate the sides and make some window insulators.

After that it needs tyres so I'll go up a little in size and fit an all terrain, then see if I've any headroom for a tiny lift while staying under the 2M target.

Doing this as cheaply as possible to see if we make use of it more than we would the tents and if we do then next winter I'll spend more on a better base vehicle (maybe an awd transporter) and apply the lessons learned on this one.

Only ten days since we got it, hoping to keep the pace up, not much else to be doing in evenings and weekends because of lockdown, but delivery companies are still working so parts are arriving to keep us occupied.
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Doing some insulating tonight. Previous owner had kindly put some dynamat type product on the inside of the panels already which should help with noise. I put a layer of 8mm closed cell foam over that and then a layer of foil bubble wrap across the openings. I put some flashband on the wheelarches but the factory arch covers have a really nice foam layer in them so didnt bother with anything else there.




Few more jobs progressed. The battery went flat last week, down to 4.8v eek.

I'd been playing with the radio which it seems is live all the time. The rear speakers were attached to the headlining with 8 drywall screws each and hanging below it without grilles.
Rewired it, fixed the antenna, removed a phone kit antenna and put a bolt in the hole.

Been working on the bed platform too. the middle section is fixed to the frame, this is the view from the front of the bed. the front edge will be supported by the seats underneath, the front hinge will be supported by a panel across the front of the bed frame. the rear hinge is spaced with a gap to allow a strip of 20mm angle to support the ply. I dont want it sagging, but I don't want to have any support beams underneath if possible so I'm hoping the angle adds enough strength. then across the back edge will be another strip of angle.

the angle will be screwed through the ply, but also into the edge of the ply.

Rough cut the 4 way stretch carpet and then to finish up I varnished the edges of the ply. it's marine ply, but still better safe than sorry. I also threw a coat of the first spray paint I found over the angle strips. Shortly after I realised that one strip will be visible if the rear panel is folded all the way up so I'll give that a coat of aerosol bedliner instead. the bed frame will be done in bedliner, I think it's a great finish for things like that.



Lots more work with very little to show for it. there's nearly 3 man hours in the two brackets on this side of the bed frame. They pick up on some factory tie down points.
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Bed platform has been in and out a few times, tweaking the fit around the body at various points. I have one more cut to make and test then it will actually be ready for carpeting. (I think)

I'm a huge fan of child labour, he fits under there more easily than me.

with the rear of the bed folded forward you can see the reinforcing angle, really hope it's enough, and also see how big a boot we still have and how accessible it is. Another evening should see the bed frame 100% finished and in finishing that I'm actually starting the cabinet beside the bed.


Bed platform is finally almost finished. A few bolts into the ply panel and its done.

I've decided to ignore all finishes until I get the conversion signed off.

I'll do a full dry build and get it certified then take it all apart and paint/carpet everything at once rather than piece by piece.

Got a sheet of 12mm birch ply, it's such a gorgeous material its almost a sin to cut it up.

The structure is ridiculously overkill, you can see my rural upbringing by the copious use of angle iron!!!





I'm a tyre racist so the originals had to go, got some Cooper Discoverer ATTs for some swamper stylee.

Did a lot of kitchen planning during the week and ordered most of the bits I need and this weekend got the bed fabrication 100% complete and started building the kitchen unit.

As it's going to be a drawer basically the unit itself is just a cover to hold the cooler. I want to be sure the drawer is solidly attached to the floor and I'm using some 20x20 aluminium extrusion for the corners.

The panels are 12mm birch, I used the router to machine the ply down to fit into the extrusion and to fit 60x40 aluminium angle into the ply.

Drawer slides will bolt to the angle which will be bolted through the floor.



Keeping the couriers busy the last few weeks, have now got all the big pieces of the kitchen unit in and am building.

I've hit a snaggle though. I've never used this style of drawer slide before. Am I being thick or missing something here?


The red circled holes are for screws into the drawer. How do I get screws into them?

I've looked it over multiple times, it doesnt seem to come apart, it doesnt have any extra through holes on the outer slide.

Best I can figure is that I have to enlarge one of the screw holes in the outer rail enough to allow the screw head for the inner to be fed through.

Would that make sense?


Yeah, the bigger/outer section with the bearings should separate from the smaller/inner section that mounts to the drawer. SOME heavy duty slides do not separate, which makes it a pain to install the slide to the box then extend and install the drawer to the slide.


😊 woops, looked them over two or three times and missed that little black tab.


There's a hump in the floor (previous owner did the floor, honest) so it took a few attempts to get these parallel and true:

Had to remove carpet on one side and still needed washers on the other to build it up to be just right.



Been a while. had a lot of garden/yard work to do over the last month so really only properly back at this since yesterday.

Lots of parts shopping been going on, at this stage I have nearly everything bought, just need time to get it all built.

The only person really working on this for the last few weeks has been my 13yo daughter. she has stripped the two front and rear doors, replaced a check strap and insulated with flashband, foam and reflectix.

While the doors were apart I replaced the factory speakers which were completely shot. of course like all modern vehicles it seems they were non standard. a bit of care with the grinder, some foam tape and some cable ties had the replacements sitting pretty.

Once I figured out how the drawer runners worked I got down to mocking up the kitchen unit with a latch that locks into the floor when closed.

Along the way I decided I needed to up my plywood game, accuracy and cleanliness of cut needed to improve if I'm going to make a proper job of this. I'm no craftsman so need all the help I can get so I've invested in a tracksaw and a festool MFT table top. the difference it has made is massive. I spent a good few hours yesterday at it and have the kitchen unit dry fit done. The outside table prop is made from two pieces of aluminium box one inside the other, clamped with a hand tightened hose clip.

I need to get the outer cabinet actually assembled now that the inner is built, then rip it all asunder again for primer.


The main other thing I'd been doing was planning the electrics and plumbing. I've had the big ticket items like tanks, sink and pump for a few weeks but all the small bits should be on order now so the last few days I've been planning the electrics.

Inspired by the $50 dual battery thread over in the power systems forum: I've come up with this: it's costing a bit more than $50 but not too bad at the same time.


Initially it's going to be wired direct to the starter battery with the LVD set relatively high to ensure starting power but once I'm up and running I'll fit a dual battery box in the factory location and fit a second battery. the house battery is still only going to be a conventional starter battery I have spare here but it could be a better one in time.


This is supposed to be a budget build, but I've been trying to have it as fully featured as possible all the same.

One thing I loved in a video I'd seen was a dual purpose sink tap that's also an outside hose.

Did a lot of looking and couldn't find a low profile pull out tap that was just cold water, then eventually discovered shattaf's or bidet showers.

Cheap as chips online for a hose, nozzle with trigger and holder.

The sink is a deli counter tray and I have a waste fitting en route.

I'll have a stainless sink with waste and pull out shower head for about €50 all in.


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