The Project Van

Nissan Primastar camper van conversion

Choosing and purchasing a van for conversion to a campervan

First, let it be said that it’s not as easy as you would think to find a good quality, low mileage panel van in good condition and with the right spec and configuration. Vans by their very nature are built as work vehicles and 99% of them do just that, suffering the consequences of harsh treatment and heavy use in the process. It took me months to find a suitable van and in the end I settled on a 2006 Nissan Primastar LWB panel van. The Primastar is actually a Renault Trafic, rebadged and sold by Nissan as the Primastar and by opel/Vauxhall as the Vivaro (to be very specific, it’s known as the X83 and is the exact same van sold by all three brands). I settled on a standard height roof as opposed to a high roof van since it was virtually impossible to find a good high roof. There is no internal height restriction for converting vans to camper vans so the choice of roof height is a matter of personal preference and each option has it’s pro’s and cons. I personally prefer the look of the standard height roof and I also wanted to carry kayaks etc on the roof so a low roof suited me better in this regard. Apart from this, 90% of the time you spend in the van is either sitting, sleeping or driving so roof height isn’t as big an issue as you might think. On the other hand, a high roof offers more storage space and also the opportunity to add one or two child bunks in the roof space.

The Primastar is an ideal van for converting to a campervan since conversion parts are readily available and the interior space is roomy and easy to work with, given it’s regular shape and relatively straight lines. As far as looks are concerned, it’s also one of the better looking vans around and there’s plenty of nice add on’s and accessories available from specialist van styling companies.

My van is a DCi 100 version with a 1.9 turbo diesel engine and front wheel drive. When I bought it, it had windows in the back doors and blind panels in both sides. It was in reasonably good condition body-wise, not perfect by any means but very presentable and good value for the money I paid. The long wheel base version is ideal for conversion as it has the extra length. The standard height roof has it’s pros and cons but it suits me better as I wanted to carry kayaks on the roof rails and I also prefer the look of the standard roof as opposed to the high roof version.

So, with a suitable vehicle to hand, I set about converting my van to a camper van…….

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