Van Improvements

Van Improvements

Sorry for interrupting your scheduled reading about our adventures in COVID-19 locked down Tasmania but this morning up on the big island (mainland) Egg has been picked up by Delica Garage for it’s 3rd visit to Johno’s workshop. I figured it was therefore as good a time as any to publish our list of services/modifications that we’re doing to get Big Lap ready. I’ll put the costings in too when I have them but Matt keeps forgetting to send them to me.

First Service

After buying Egg which you can read about here we did what all good second hand car buyers should do and took it in for a service. It turned out the couple that sold it to us had done exactly the same thing after they bought it from the importer so the garage already knew our van. They gave it a once over and made us a list of possible problems and improvements we could make to the van in the future.

Second Service

Following the absolute smash fest that was Spicers Gap Road (whoops) Matt took Egg into the Delica Garage for a second going over. Because our first visit showed that there were no major issues this time we were more interested in upgrading and fixing a couple of niggles. To say it was lucky that we did is a huge understatement, the weight of the internal build combined with our enthusiastic 4WDing had resulted in the transmission mounting breaking at 3 of the 4 connection points. We were one mount away of having it drop out…eep.

Along with remounting and reinforcing the transmission we upgraded to a new thicker radiator, added and engine guard, and completely replaced the springs so that they were correct for the weight of the van. This inadvertently also lifted Egg no word of a lie probably close to 15cm which looks absolutely ridiculous and means I now need to do a silly hop to get into the passenger seat.

Matt’s Water System

One of the things that we first noticed the van was lacking on our camping trips was a water storage system. We have been using a supermarket bought container of water which we have been placing on various chairs and logs. It is awkward and has resulted in spills on more than one occasion.

We ended up spending quite a lot of time debating water with Matt trying to convince me 30L was enough and me trying to convince him that was unacceptable and we needed at least twice that amount. We looked at jerry cans on the roof or mounted on the back, we looked at installing a pipe around the top of the roof rack for showering but ultimately we ended up settling on a 55L tank that slotted down the side of the van beside the draws and under the bed, and if we get desperate for showers/emergency water we will have a couple of back up camp shower bags.

The water system is still a work in progress as Matt is putting together a pump system and various connections so we can get water out with the press of a button. Once it is done I will get him to write up about it because it is that complex it’s beyond me.

Cooking

The van came with two single burner stoves that we accidentally crushed on our third overnight trip. I replaced them with a Coleman Fyreknight Hyperflame Camping Stove which in turn meant that we needed gas bottles rather than small canisters. For ease of lifting and carrying Matt installed 2x4kg gas bottles on the roof in each rear corner. I’m stoked that I don’t have to go to bed worrying about gas in the van. Matt is currently looking at how he can run a gas line from the roof so he doesn’t have to keep climbing up to get the bottles down.

Third Service

That brings me up to where we are now. We’re still in Tassie but off to pick up Egg and drive her down the coast in just over a month. I’m so so excited to get her back. So before we bring her down we thought it would be a good idea to arrange one last visit to the Delica Garage Qld, which will be the last time Johno sees it before we go on the big lap. It is sneaking up on us so fast!

So the plan is that we will get the timing belt replaced and overhauled including all the little bits and bobs that go with that (spark plugs, seals etc) and have a bash plate installed to the front to protect the underside of the van. Johno is also going to look at our windscreen squirters and take off the stupid side steps that we smash on absolutely everything when we’re off road. We were also going to get a long range fuel tank installed but the shipping couldn’t get it to Brisbane in time so we’ll get that completed when we are on the road and going through Geelong.

Planned Upgrades

  • Re route the fan so it’s not running over the engine.
  • Snorkle (probably not though because Matt thinks it is silly)
  • Bigger tyres as with the lift our current ones make the van look like a toy car.
  • Bullbar (maybe ++ $$$)
  • Mosquito netting.
  • New awning (ours got broken at Freshwater Campground).
  • Long range fuel tank.

Finding Egg

Finding Egg

So you’ve decided to travel around Australia now comes the most important part. It’s not trip planning or budgeting, it is picking your vehicle. Matt and I are intending to travel for 12+ months so for us buying something was the easiest and most budget friendly option. For shorter trips there are many companies that will hire out vans and cars for travelling around Oz or you could try your luck with buses and trains (few and far between).

Most of the blogs I read about this process are very sensible. They say not to buy the cheapest thing that you find and not to get something just because it works for your #vanlife aesthetic. Instead it recommends looking at sites like Gumtree regularly and preparing yourself to drive a lot of duds before finding The One. That did not happen for us. One morning in May for some unknown reason we were both on Gumtree, both looking for campervans and Matt found it, our perfect van, a 2005 Mitsubishi Delica 4WD, the ultimate adventure machine, 141,000 on the odo annnnnd it was converted as a campervan. Unbelievable luck.

The Universe had dropped this van in our laps and we had to see it so we organised a meet up with the German couple that had bought and converted it that night. Matt took it for a quick spin, we looked over it, and decided to buy it. A glorious white van that the Germans had dubbed “The Egg” because it looks like an egg from the back.

There was one problem…finances. Matt immediately started applying for a loan and I ended up chatting about the situation with my friends, one offered to lend us the money while we sorted out the loan (and it is her alone that we can credit for enabling us to get our van, thank you). There was a rush on the purchasing because sadly the Germans had to go back home to care for a sick family member, their freshly converted van handed on to finance their home flights. 5 days after seeing The Egg for the first time we drove out to a random house near Ipswich and picked it up.

I can not reiterate this enough, follow the advice of the other blogs, take your time, think about what you want and try lots of different vans. Purchasing a $20,000 vehicle that The Universe has dropped into your lap is ill advised, I’m glad we did it every day but that is not the sensible way to go about things…then again we aren’t very sensible people.

How Adventures Happen

How Adventures Happen

I don’t remember when we first started talking about the Big Lap but it was definitely while we were living in Brisbane. It could have been over a coffee, while sipping a beer on the deck of The Regatta or out riding the River Loop. Clearly the formation of an idea, which turned into a dream, that will in time manifest as our reality brewed over time rather than striking us both at a specific moment. But, the important thing was that it did happen and we will do it.

My name is Annie and I’m probably going to be the main contributor to this website. My husband, Matt, has not shown much interest in documenting our adventures. He’d rather be pouring over 4WD maps or modifying our van (The Egg) which we will get to later, and living in the moment, which to his credit he is amazingly good at. We’ve been married for just over 3 years, met 6 years ago on Tinder (no really), and both work in health. Matt is a gun exercise physiologist and I am a care manager in an aged care facility. What is going to be particularly interesting on the road is that for the entirety of our married life the longest we’ve spent together under one roof is 6 weeks (Matt does FIFO)…she’ll be right.

Thank you for following our adventures!