- Saturday, 27 September 2014

All you need is a van & a plan

The very same weekend that I agreed the deal on the new car, I also found another Renault, also built in 2007 as it happens. Only this one won't be hurtling up les courses de côte, it will be carrying everything to and from meetings and providing me with  temporary accommodation. And a shower - yes!!

Buying something as straightforward as a van proved to be quite the opposite, as with the other Renault there was a list of must haves, but this proved to be far harder as luton vans vary so much in spec that finding one with everything I needed was proving to be impossible. And everything seemed to be either in Wigan or Portsmouth.
I narrowed it down to either a Merc Sprinter, Renault Master, Citroen Relay or Peugeot Boxer. The latter two are relatively new which put them out of the budget unless I bought a Cat C van off an auction, but nothing came up that while I was hunting. The other two are relatively light, and quite common so the chances of finding one (and fixing it in Europe if need be) should be fairly straight forward, I also drove a Renault early on and it was easy to drive and quite comfy so this was high up on the list. I'd initially considered a Low Loader as they are really neat and compact, thinking that I could build ramps over the arches and do away with the need for a tail lift. After looking round one though I realised that they are too small to fit everything in and abandoned the idea.

Looking for the knocking noise!

First of all it needed to fit inside a 6.5m by 3m high box, then it needed to be lightweight so an ally body - not fibreglass as this is heavy. This way I would have around 1250kg to play with, minus a tail lift and the car it leaves me just over 500kg... I have to thank Greg Guille here for giving me some good advice and putting me in touch with numerous people who've done similar conversions - at one point I was panicking about the tail lift after phoning various fitters who all sucked through their teeth and backed away after I explained what I was intending to lift with it. Knowing that it has been done and will work helped calm my rapidly fraying nerves and motivated me to just get on with finding something - fortune favours the brave!

In the end I found a perfect little van up in York that had everything on my list apart from a tail lift, but with time ticking on I reasoned that it was best to just buy it and get one fitted - it was too cheap to pass over. And I kind of like the fact it's a Renault too! It's done just over 170k miles which isn't much, plus it has just had new heavy duty leaf springs so it's well up to the job of carrying everything I need. It's only 3.1m high so there's a chance that once it's loaded up it will be around 3m but I may still try to loose 10cm to be on the safe side. It has the 2.5ltr CDi engine with 120Bhp which should be enough and felt quite happy thrashing along at 70 on the drive back down the A1, there is an option of chipping it to find another 30 horses if it feels too sluggish once I've filled it to the gunnels so will have to see. I took it straight to a friend for a new cam belt & service, and to try and find out what the clonking sound is - I thought it was the exhaust knocking on the body but so far it's outfoxed us and proved to be a mystery...

Some imagination required...

I collected it this afternoon and I'm so excited about driving it round France next year. I know the idea of a girl driving round in a big white van is a little bit random, but it's what it enables me to do that makes it so cool, just the idea of having a live in transporter with all my kit that I can get around in opens up a whole new world of possibilities - I can go and race almost anywhere!

Having said that I had a mild form of panic attack as I stood in the back last weekend - there is so much to do before next season. This may have had something to do with the fact that it is literally crawling with spiders (great, my favourite creature...) but it dawned on me that I've taken on what would amount to a serious project in its own right, with added arachnophobia. Once I'd written a list of jobs and thought a little I calmed down. I know I've been here before with other projects when I used to renovate houses - you just have to break everything down and work out a time frame for each of the stages. The first will be to buy & fit the tail lift, then get the ramps made so that I can get the car inside and start measuring around it for all the other things like a shower, tools and wheel racks. I also need to modify the cab to make more room for a double bed, the plan is to have the car inside and be measuring up before Xmas...
So really I need the A Team - if they're still surviving on the Los Angeles underground can someone please put me in touch with them? 

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