Getting ready - Van conversion

The sunroofed Previa lends itself very nicely to an extended road trip. We are definitely thinking this trip to the Mexico City, Frida exhibition in the Palace of Fine Arts is a dry run for an extended trip to Europe. I noticed that Previas are widely available for sale in Europe and that they usually had lower milage then their North American brethren. As we purchased a 92 LE model with 330,000 kilometers on it I had the leaks sealed up, valves adjusted and engine tranny serviced by the local dealer. Nanaimo Toyota it turns out provides superb service compared to what I later will find in San Diego.

The van modifications are all temporary, that is we will be able to return this Previa back into a seven seat passenger mover upon our returning from this holiday. First I removed all the rear seats, simple really, but the second row captain seats are quit heavy, this might be why the headlights needed adjusting as they were shining too low. I didn't weigh the van before the conversion but we are now 4450 pounds fully loaded and inhabited.

A quick clean then on to the business of conversion.


Window Blinds and Cab Curtains Update 2010:
From Previa interior

New Blinds made from 1/4 inch UV polyethylene foam closed cell, cut from the existing blinds (old blinds used as a pattern) but this time made big enough to tuck into the trim of the van windows. No suction cups.

The windows slope outward from the top so hanging curtains won't work, we rejected the marine style of two spring rods (top and bottom) going with vinyl blinds cut to fit inside the window opening attached to the window with suction cups. Donna uses tin foil to determine the shape of the window then pencils the exact opening size on some vinyl blind material we picked up from the local thrift store. We made sure we used the commercial quality blinds from a non smoking location as the thinner residential quality blinds had fibre glass strands sticking out and were smokey. We cut a 3 inch diameter circle from the vinyl material and taped it to the cut out blinds with 2 sided carpet tape to reinforce the hole for the suction cups used to "curtain up" the van for sleeping and desert driving. I had a perfect hole punch that fit the suction cups and the dollar store ones seem to be working just fine so far, even in the California heat. After using them for a while I think cutting the blinds about 1/2 inch longer and wider would have made for a better fit, that way they would tuck into the window opening, but an exact fit seems to work just fine and they remove and install very quickly. I found using the small water sprayer makes the suction cups stay on even in the desert heat.

I cut a standard Ibeam Curtain rod to fit across the rear area behind the front seats. Using the bolt holes (with a 1 x 1 angle bracket) for the removed grab handles above the now removed second row seats the rod went up inside of 30 minutes. Donna sewed a nice curtain sideways to fit the approx ~54" x 48" opening between the front cab and rear cargo area. The curtain hangs just to the floor and we usually place it over the front seats for sleeping. With over 8 feet of rear space the back is a very nice place to stretch out for what is slowly becoming my habitual siesta. For city driving a quick tie bundles up the whole affair into a nice small package that doesn't interfere with the panoramic Previa view.

The placing of a cushion (10 " x 24" x at least 3" thick) in between the front seats to keep down engine noise and heat finishes off the interior decorating. Later on, when we drove the desert, I used the sleeping bag (which we had stored under the mattress) behind the front seats to provide extras insulation for the floor, very cool. With the outside temperature in the 110's we were able to use the air conditioning on the second lowest fan setting.

The Bed
Our 3/4 size bed has a foot and head board made of 2 x 6 cedar, finished with tung oil and uses a standard metal bed frame with 1 x 6 cedar supports. The box frame 1 x 6's are spaced the usual 5 -6 inches apart with a supporting 1 x 6 in the centre of the frame. I wished I had given the 2 coats of tung oil more then a week to cure as it can be a little smelly, however by the time we hit Seattle the odor went down to nothing at all. With the bed the tough decision was headroom clearance versus storage under it. I settled on legs cut to fit 14" hi tubs. This ends gives us around 27 inch headroom (so far Donna-2; me-0 on head knocks). We could go down to 8 inch legs for weekend trips giving us a whopping 34 inch clearance which should allow for actual sitting up. Even with the higher legs we can sit up with the rear sunroof open, which we do for sleeping. The middle of the bed has a 2 x 14 cedar board on edge scribed to fit between wheel wells. This provides a strong support and separates the front storage area from the rear area, which is nice for keeping the tubs from sliding too far.

The mattress is a 4 inch 2 lb density urethane foam with a quilted cover and quilted mattress pad. I was told the extra quilting would be appreciated in more humid climates as it allows air to move under you when sleeping. After last nights thundershower I would rate this bed as excellent and foam is recommended by my chiropractor. Another reason the Previa gets my vote for van conversion is the way the rear pairs of seat belts can be used to secure the bed down. With a couple of carabiners and "hey ya" the bed is secure for front impact and in case we roll over.

2013 Bed - Seats 4 or Sleeps 2

We needed to drive dad and his girlfriend back to Saskatchewan and camp on the way home to BC, so I just spent the weekend building a bed for the van. This one comes apart to accommodate the swivel second row seats. Sleeps two or rides four. We tried it out Thursday night, the bed takes 6 minutes to assemble and 26 minutes to convert in the morning (I couldn't find the wrench,lol). Works good.

I used cedar so its fairly light, bolts to the rear lifting seats front anchors. I made a bracket for the rear seat bolt mount, this bed is in there, solid.

I've attached a pic of the frame with the same 4" inch foam mattress, it folds in half, sandwiching the pillows and sheets, ties up with a 6 foot belt nicely fitting on top of the frame. I can actually see out the rear view mirror top half. What is amazing is the back seat belts work perfect to hold the mattress in place. 

What to bring, that is load into the van for the trip is a problem. The area under the bed gives an area 4 x 8 foot by 15 inches high, in a fore and aft section divided by the 2 x 14 cedar board attached to the wheel wells. Plenty of room for an extended trip.

I am writing the following after our 2009 trip to Saskatchewan for the Bray family reunion. We logged the stuff we brought and included the items we should have brought. One thing was an improvement this trip and that is only taking 4 big totes in the fore section. This leaves an area to store the back packs under the bed leaving the bed looking empty for security and accessible for afternoon naps.

ToDo list

Mods and Repairs for 2010 Oaxaca
Van Repairs

Heat shield on cata converter fell off and is lost. I had Toyota pressure wash the undercarriage and my 14 month old cata heat shield fell off. As we drive through the desert we need all the cooling we can get. The local auto supplier is recommending a tack weld of a meatier shield to improve performance.

Replace rear hatch - keylock swap. I bought a not rusty rear hatch, right colours in and out for a $100. Should I do the swap of the keylock and hatch or is this a tough job? The key latch is attached to the rear tail light, since my tail light was in better shape it was switched over.

Add grey screen to windshield. We have a crack that runs left to right the entire windshield. Luckily it never goes above 6 inches from the bottom or crosses the wipers in the rest position. I was thinking I could have a grey screen attached to the inside that would hide the crack and provide a bit of shade. New windshield was the answer here. Talking with my eye doctro it seems a blue coloured windshield is the worst for seeing shadows and at dusk. Clear or bronze is best. Seems Blue is the only windsheild ava from Toyota or Speedy Glass. Note Speedy Glass will sell you a bronze tinted windsheild but only ship a blue tinted windsheild, gotta love that capatilist spirit.

New Stereo plus add rear speakers, my stock CD player and cassette player don't work, AM-FM only. Toyota tells me it will cost at least $200 per unit if it is a easy fix. The stereo seems like a good idea but with a new stereo (and the usb connection) I lose the best part of our ferry rides home. No video from the iphone. The new laws don't allow video or iphone control of the stereo. I would really like a stock Toyota CD player and to fix my other cassette player with a bad bass button. So for $140 Toyota sells me a factory refurbished deck from a 2004 vehicle. Cheapest and best solution AND COMES WITH A TOYOTA CANADA WARRANTY.


Mudflaps - the owners manual does say if you drive on gravel roads you should add mudflaps, I do. I looked around and there are none available for the Previa. I will need to cut them from conveyor belting- does any one have a picture or template of mud flaps? The side boards available seem like cheap plastic. Still looking for belting.

Found a nice mat it is a Anti fatigue foam Floor mat from Venture Products (item #BS123TN-4), 4 X 8 FOOT so it just fits nicely in the back, no cutting

Did the Previa ever have a keyless entry? The Toyota shop foreman here thinks maybe with the RS3000 dealer kit. If not, what is a good one, bluetooth/iphone? Going to go with the local installer here with a good rep. They are switching over suppliers for keyless entry systems and will spend the $500 to get an alarm system.

Rear cabin 12v outlet to power the laptop. I was thinking of installing a 120 volt inverter under the hood, heat in the cab, in the desert not good. The cable would come into the van by the firewall under the carpet then into the side back panel. Maybe a 12 volt plug in the back would be easier? Had the shop foreman from Toyota do the work, nice job, 2 - 12 volt cig lighters installed and working no problems in rear area next to ashtrays. I just use a portable cig lighter invertor and unplug when not in use.

Manifest - Items stored in the Van

brown leather notebook
blue plastic receipts folder
white trip binder

Travel guides:
  • Mexican Camping, Church
  • The People's Guide to Mexico, Franz & Havens
  • Frommer's Mexico 2006
  • Let's Go, Harvard Student Agencies
  • Mexico on the Loose, Berkley Guides

3/4 size Bed frame, foam mattress, pad with 6 pillows, fitted sheet set, quilt, blanket, cover sheet, winter sleeping bag.
2 bath towels
window covering with bug screens and magnets in green canvas bag
2 Canada flag folding lawn chairs with stow bags

2 - 10 liter water jugs (Reliance R975 fits hand pump), 4 liter water bottle, ice bag with twist tie, 1.5 litre thermos, small sprayer.
door mat (pepe's towels), pair of front (auto expressions Magic Sun Shade 38 x 31 inches) and side window (Axius 15 x 17 inches) shade screens, small brush, hand towel (golf towel)
Thermos Cooler (8 x 13 x 9 inches high) touch short for pineapple tetra pack
grey van console organizer cup holder with 4 go cups (2 for water, 2 for coffee/tea)
Haynes Auto Repair Manual - Previa

Blue Cargo Tote
Rubbermaid 4150 (57.9 x 41.5 x 32.7 cm) with lids and catches

12 inch O2 Cool cordless electric fan. Fits exactly between the front seats : )/
Fan accessories bag (6 x 7 x 2 inches) containing the following: 12 volt adapter, Previa cigarette lighter, 110 Volt adapter, white 110 volt extension cord, white strap, black strap.

several zip lock bags Glad medium freezer
orange reflective vest
pair leather gloves
white nylon cord
Reliance water pump # 7250-03 new in bag
van repair kit: muffler tape, exhaust pipe tape, hose repair tape (all new 2007)
used fan belt for Previa
1 inch metal clip
Crownware plastic container for 2 ice packs

White Plastic pharmacy bag
first aid kit overflow

145 ml bottle cough syrup
60 ml Tea Tree oil bottle
2 tablets Sucralate 1GM (Novo)
30 ml Zheng Gu Shui
box of ear plugs
cream for Donna

Main tubs - 21" x 15 1/2" x 13"hi

Black cold weather clothes tub
Storage Tub 21" x 15 1/2" x 13" hi out of area maps
vests, pants, shirts, jackets
cover alls or blue smock
rain jackets
heavy socks
warm hoodys

Ken's clothes tub
Storage Tub 21" x 15 1/2" x 13" hi swim suit
under wear sock tshirts

Donna's clothes tub
Storage Tub 21" x 15 1/2" x 13" hi brown fanny pack
warm weather clothes

Blue plastic food tub
Scepter Storage Tub 21" x 15 1/2" x 13" hi p/n 06647

Lagostina stainless steel pots with lids : 5 1/2", 7 1/2", steamer.
canned foods, instant soups, kraft dinner.

Big changes here - we are going with a single burner Coleman propane stove. and stainless camping pots.

Cooking Box - white topped long box
Sterilite 1860 white - 39 l - 88.3 cm x 41.9 cm x 15.2 cm

needs a better place to store the back up propane cylinder
in order to make coffee, three boxes had to be unpacked

cast iron griddle
camp stove - Coleman two burner
propane tank
tea towel, dish cloth and spares
black pot holders
dish soap, scubber for pots
flipper (spatula) for cooking
plastic table cloth, metal clip holders
matches, should be a lighter
spices in labeled plastic film containers
chip bag clips
plastic cutting board
2 green melmac platter
2 green melmac dinner plates
Shout Wipes

We are going to trim down the food prep stuff, no griddle

Breakfast Box - small blue tub
Blue Rubbermaid Roughneck #2213 - 40.6 x 27.3 x 17.8 cm
stores at back on left side away from muffler

Good chef's knife with sheath (Donna's fav knife is too long, take shorter one)
three green melmac 332 bowls
two green melmac 302 cups
one green melmac wide bowl
buck 110 C 8.5 inch knife w/ sheath
starfrit can opener
8 inch tongs
2 steak knives
2 forks
2 table knives
2 larger spoons
3 large paper clips
glad sandwich bag with garbage bags and clothes pins
glad zip bag with tea
one bag of one cup coffee filters with holder (Miniminit Products)
one zip bag with packets of condiments (sugar, ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, vinegar, maple syrop, honey)
one bag ground coffee
one zip bag plastic spoons, forks, knives
one small hand towel

Cardboard Food Box
various sizes some with lids (7 x 7 x 10 inches long)

chew bars
3 daily vitamin containers (Ken, Donna AM, Donna PM)

Shoe Bag
Green Sports Plus barrel bag nylon 9 inch diameter x 18 inches long

Ken's: runners, flip flops, slippers
Donna's: runners, flip flops, burks, sandals

Van glove boxPackage All purpose wipes
paper napkins, plastic spoons, knife and fork
Donna's sun glasses
Ken's : driving glasses, sunglasses
hand lotions
chewing gum
small utility knife with sheath

Silver case with: Camera battery charger, 75 watt power inverter 12 volt DC to 110 volt AC
LED flashlight with black leather belt case
pens, highlighter, pencils
tire pressure gauge
paper clip
paint chips for the house

Night Stands
Bell model # 00030-8 waste basket (4 x 9 x 6 inches high)

Donna's - medicine and calendar, umbrellas, yellow LED flashlight
Ken's - Zinc Lozenges, Extra Strength Acetaminophen tablets, ear plugs, LED head lamp, face cloth

Red camera bag
North Face 2 pockets fanny pack

Apple ear buds in Targus case
Minette tripod and black 6 1/2 inch case with red trim
memory card CompactFlash 128 MB, 64MB
spare lithium ion AE1 battery

Nikon 995 3.1 Mpixel Camera
Nikon USB to camera cable

Camera Bag
Black Optex with strap (6 x 12 x 8 inches hi)

several lens cleaning tissues and alcohol packets
iPod cloth
lens ring adapter 37 mm x 28 mm
CrystalVue 8 x 32 Field 7.5 degree - zoom lens black with case and caps

Donna gets a new camera Lumix ZS7 - spare battery, case and 8 gig SDHC card. I'll bring the Nikon 995 but trim back on the accessories.

Computer Bag

PowerBook G4 - 12 inch 867 MHz, 1.12 Gb Ram, 40 Gb hard drive and power adapter.
iPhone 3G - 16 gig with case and USB cable, stereo out cable
IOGear powered USB 2.0 hub and card reader - won't read our new SDHC card, stays home
Griffin iTrip FM adapter.
Firewire cable
black ear buds with spare foams in black bag
Apple white ear buds in Targus case
USB memory stick 4 GB
12 volt auto extension cord with two outlets
San Disk card reader CompactFlash
white iPhone FM adapter for lighter
logitech note book mouse - M-UV94

Donna's peach art bag
Tume brand cloth with straps - (7 x 13 x 11 long)

mini colour wheel
3 in 1 color tool Joen Wolfrom C&T Publishing
flannelette cloth rags
Moleskin sketch pad 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches
Moleskin sketch pad 5 x 8 inches
Set (6) of Sakura Micron pens #30062 acid free archival
Winsor and Newton: Cotman Water Colors Sketchers' Pocket Box
Pelikan Opaque Paint Box K24
pair of vinyl gloves
roll of 1 inch blue masking tape
roll of 3/4 inch scoth tape
CIL grey paint card
3 Japanese water color brushes
zip bag of water color paper 6 x 8 inches (10 sheets)

Pencil case with the following:
glue stick
white eraser
G.P.C. Brush Cleaner
6 inch ruler
soap pad drain with suction cups (2 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches)
folding scissors
plastic spoon
pencils : 3 HB,6B, 3H, 4H, 5B, 8B, 3 x 2B,
Sharpie black, pen with wood, knife holder.

Donna's Art Supplies Box - small blue tub
Blue Rubbermaid Roughneck #2213 - 40.6 x 27.3 x 17.8 cm
stores at back on left side away from muffler

Tsukineko All purpose fabric inks (48 bottles)
full set of Fantastix, 2 for each colour in zip bag
wooden sticks eye dropper
small iron, Walnut Hollow 26032 110volt with cord and switch attached
aloe gel bottle
screen printers cloth (2 meters)
scrap cloth
wax backed paper in small pieces
Artist tissue paper

under the bed - coroplast sheets

Donna's Back Pack
black North Face day pack nylon shell

Sun hat
Small cream rinse and shampoo
Small deodorant
make up case
hair dryer
liquid soap
hair gel
small leave-in conditioner
lock and key
bath towel
money for shower
plastic flipflops

Donna' s Green Overnight Cosmetic Bag
Eagle Creek Travel Gear (Cordura plus 10 x 10 x 2 inches)

face cloth
toothpaste, toothbrush and pink cover
dental floss
Cleaning, disinfecting and storage solution
Contact cleaner
contact case
face moisturizer
vitamin D
Tri-est pills and little calender
progesterone dispenser
Calendula cream
lip stuff
Facial Cleansing Towelettes/make-up remover
body moisturizer
2 black hair picks
glasses case
suntan lotion
gum massager
nail file
hair clips retainer cleaner

Ken's Back Pack
Targus computer bag

Brimmed hat
zip lock bag with:
tooth brush toothpaste
band aids
Salbutamol inhaler
Loratadine allergies
pad lock with key on safety pin
lip rescue
Johnson & Johnson stimudent packs
Black Sharpie pen
Orange highlighter with sticky notes

Will use my old Eagle Creek bag - from 1993 nice one

Ken's shaving kit
Leather with zipper (10 x 4 x 3 inches wide)

face cloth
zip bag with: pure castile soap, hand lotion, aloe gel, shampoo, hair conditioner
toothbrush with holder and toothpaste
eye cup
Arnica pills and arnica cream
spare bar soap, packet shampoo
pumice bar for feet
crystal deoderant
couple of pepto-bismal
grooming scissors, nail clippers, toe nail clippers, cuticle pusher
Q-tips holder, with Qtips
wooden tooth picks
several pair ear plugs
SinuCleanse bottle with packets of salt

Map Bag
black Outer Limits ( 8 x 10 x 4 inches thick)

ferry schedule, maps and tour books
green sharpie pen
green high lighter with green sticky notes
red pen
blue pen
black pen
orange high lighter
yellow sticky notes
paper clips
glue stick (restickable)
spare cheque wallet
ID clip
U-Hual trailer wire harness and shower curtain clip
vehicle owners manual, service guide
tire warranty info
business cards for CAA, Toyota and Tire dealer

Orange Tool Box
Tool Aid 7 x 7 x 17 inches long with tray

metric socket set
metric wrenches
wire cutters, strippers, crimpers
screw drivers
spare Previa fuses, relays
petroleum jelly
WD40 spray

First Aid Bag
Field Rescue military # 6545-21-1 16-9815
(5 x 8 x 12 inches long)

Regarding first aid - the most commonly used items are band-aids, arnica pills, cold packs, aspirin pills, zinc lozenges and prescription medicines. These items are kept in easier to get locations like the night stand, glove box or our back packs.

TheraP - reusable cold / heat packs - neck size, back sized, 6 x 8 inches (not pictured)
Johnson & Johnson Compress sponges Nu Gauze 4 ply - 10x20 cm, 10x10 cm
Kendall Telfa pad - 3 x 8 inch, 3 x 4 inch, 3 x 1 1/2 inch
Mepore pad - 9 x 15 cm, 9 x 10 cm, 6 x 7 cm
Curad telfa pads 2 x 3 inch
Spenco 2nd skin dressing - 3 x 6 1/2 inch
First Aid Tape 1 inch
Tensor bandage 6 inch
Tensor bandage 4 inch
polysporin generic
finger splints
pack of chop sticks
Optimum hand soap
face masks
vinyl gloves - medium
Aveeno anti itch lotion
bottle rescue remedy
mentholatum ointment
medicated plaster for sore muscles
Po Chai pills for upset stomach in Mexico
Yin Chaiao tablets (Chein Tu Pien)
pepto bismol tablets
Loratadine allergy
famotidine acid stomach
GET - back pain pills
Deep woods Off deet

Spare stock in zip lock bag
chap stick, lip rescue
toothbrush cover
Johnson&Johnson stimudent packs
tooth brush
gum massager
pack of Qtips

Auto first aid kit plastic Al's Flooring
St. John Ambulance First Aid Guide booklet
business card from pharmacist
copy of prescriptions for medicines
alcohol wipes
first aid tape: 1/2 inch, 2 inch
callous pads
3 inch bandaids
tongue depressor
stretchy dressing
triangular bandage
safety pins
suture 3-0 silk nonabsorbable
muscle and back pain

1 comment:

Rake said...

Very cool! I just stumbled onto your blog from a link from another site. lol Im just up the road from you in Coombs!