I work in the film industry (in the not so glamorous Special Effects end of it!). We start early (7am) and finish late (7pm) and although the commute to work would only take an hour, the journey home was typically 3 to 5h - which didn't leave much time for sleeping in-between. I decided a camper van could be the answer!
I figured that if the 'stars' could stay in trailers in the car park - nobody would mind me! I bought a cheap & cheerful converted Vito Van - which was essentially just insulated with an Eberspacher heater and a Rock'n'Roll bed in the back. Very basic and the bed was uncomfortable - but often I was so tired, I could sleep standing up!
In the late summer it was fine - and I went un-noticed. When the weather got colder I used the Eberspacher Heater which in the dead of night sounded like Concorde taking off! Not only did this wake me up - but also attracted security! They promptly moved me on! I decided then I would build my own 'stealth' camper. Something much nicer on the inside - but looking like any other van on the outside. Well enough insulated that I could be comfortable at -20C and with a silent heater just to make sure.
I bought a 2010 Vauxhall Movano with very low mileage - and had it lined, insulated (100mm thick) and carpeted by SpeedyWindscreens in Portsmouth. They did a fantastic job! Prior to that I put in all the wiring I thought I'd need inside 1" flexible conduit such that if I needed to change the wiring at any stage, I could just pull a new wire through without disturbing any of the lining. They put in a single dark tinted window in the driver side and made me a thick insulated plug to block the window on the inside - so I could make it completely light tight.
i drew the interior using Solidworks CAD and got a local CNC Woodcutting company to make me the 'kitchen' units to my design.
I decided I wanted a comfortable bed! This was the single most important feature. Our bed at home is comfortable - so I decided that's what I'd like. How do you fit it in a SWB van and still have room to swing a cat. The answer was to make a drop down bed. I constructed a steel frame supporting Ikea bed slats with the mattress on top and suspended this from the ceiling on cables. The bed is moved up & down by a single electric actuator (the kind of thing you'd use to lift a TV). In the down position it sits on steel legs at one end and at the other, a step ladder and the kitchen work top. It works really well! Just as comfortable as sleeping at home.
For heating I bought a Propex Gas Heater. Although Gas is inconvenient, I needed it for the cooker anyway. It's not totally silent - but not far off (and doesn't wake me up).
Since I was going to be spending a lot of evenings sitting in it, I also wanted a comfortable seat. Like comfortable beds, these seem rare in campers! After a lot of searching and sitting, I had an idea. I have an old Range Rover Sport and the seats are very comfortable (and heated!) - why not use a RRS rear seat? eBay and £100 later, I had a black leather heated rear seat. I made steel pylons to mount it to the floor (actually to the vehicle chassis) and had the CNC company make me a box surround that would let me use the under-seat storage. There is just enough room behind for my folding bike and a couple of folding chairs - and the other rubbish you inevitably collect.
I fitted a 1kW Sine wave inverter, plenty of USB charge sockets. In the Vito, I always had 'power anxiety' If I left the lights etc on too much in the evening, would there be enough power to fire up the heater in the morning? To solve this, I have a 250Ah battery (the biggest leisure battery I could find) with a split charge, battery low voltage protector, 100W Solar panel on the roof and a 20A CTek charger - maybe OTT but I don't need to worry about power an more!
My favourite custom feature is Bluetooth Audio. I embedded two 5" Alpine speakers in the walls on either side of the rear seat so you don't have to have the audio turned up loud to hear it (stealth, remember!). They are wired to one of these modules:
I can connect my phone / PC or the TV to it - again it works really well! The Audio quality is good and my phone is a convenient way to control it.
So far, since I finished it in August, I've spent 28 nights in it - and absolutely love it!
The only problem I've had with it is that because outwardly it just looks like a van, save for the side window, a lot of sites are a bit sniffy about it! I've been refused entry to four so far. It seems odd to me when half the vans on their site have seen better days - but if those are their rules! One day, I'll get some magnetic camper van style graphics to stick on the outside to make it look the part. In the mean time, I can usually find a car park or industrial estate to stay.