Ford Transit - White Turtle III

#1
I have had a build thread going on the Transit forum but thought that I would bring some of the things here more for ideas in the expedition area than the actual van. I like the feedback from different people and have found cool ideas on many forums so the more information the better.

Some background...

The name:

The name white turtle came from my first camper a 2002 GMC 2500 HD that I put a Northern Lite camper on the back of. My kids started calling it a turtle as it hauled its home on its back so the white turtle was born. I bought the camper after being diagnosed with a life changing disease as I wanted to get out more and not have to suffer in the wet and cold of a tent or having to lay on the ground. I have always been one to camp 12 months of the year but I camp to take pictures not to camp for enjoyment and sit around a campsite. We modified the camper to be more comfortable than our home and we loved it. The big problem was not being able to go from front to back without going outside, partly it was because of my illness and partly it was while shooting that it caused issues. Stopping for lunch required dropping steps and climbing up in the camper, if I was shooting from the cab and wanted a drink or to use the washroom I had to leave the truck and go into the back scaring away my subjects or just getting plain cold and at night and in the morning I had to move all my gear from the front to the back. So after a number of years I sold Turtle I and bought Turtle II.



Turtle II is a 2011 Majestic 19G motor home with more luxuries and cooler features than Turtle I. I LOVE Turtle II but after a couple days driving found a huge drawback in that I am wider than a semi with the mirrors on it, in fact a few months ago my brother pulls in front of the RV with his huge diesel one ton and we were shocked to see how much wider the RV is than his truck. On the narrow roads that I like to travel to shoot I am the road, seeing drivers coming towards me with looks of horror on their faces when they see how large I am is funny but nerve wracking as well for me. On one trip we were driving down a road and I heard a strange noise from the RV, I thought I blew a tire it was so strange of a noise. Then my 14 year old goes "This is so cool we have hit just about every tree on the side of the road with our mirrors" and I was still way over into the oncoming lane. For most people vacationing they would never have this problem but for me on the narrow back roads it is a huge problem. The other issue is that I do a lot of driving to shoot, from storm chasing to shooting Northern lights to landscape and wildlife. I love the larger RV for when I get there but for the drive it is to much to take when you are rushing to a shoot location. Another issue for me is the wind resistance, Turtle I was bad in the wind, Turtle II was better but still not the best and around here you can be driving with head winds of 220 kph (110 from driving and 110 from the wind). The final thing for a photographer that caused me issues is the overhang above the cab. Many times I will sleep in the front seat falling asleep watching the stars while my camera is doing a time exposure and I wake to check on the sky/clouds, with the overhang on Turtle II I cannot see the stars.



Turtle III is my new (future) addition. It is a 2017 Ford Transit MR 148". At this time it is a cargo van and in so many ways I am as happy with that as I am with what a future build holds. I have not had a truck to haul things for a loong time and I am looking forward to having a covered hauler. In the wind and snow it is so nice to go to a store and be able to hop inside and be able to put things down or check your purchase or even just to have the space to put bigger items. I was going to buy a truck but I hate the open box and even with a cover my gear or cargo gets REALLY cold!!! The plans are to first sound proof then insulate, carpet, build a bed, add a ARB fridge, cassette toilet, small counter for a stove to be placed on, sink and really that is it at this time. I do not want the weight of a camper and I think I will stay away from upper cupboards to keep the center of gravity low and to eliminate a lot of "junk" that I haul in the RV., maybe put some cargo nets up higher for clothes and towels but that is all.

After bringing it home 1500kms and a good wash to get BC salt off it!



The Use

This van is mainly for driving, not camping. One night in one spot would be the most. Any longer and I will use Turtle II. So this van will have few extras added, just enough to make it comfortable and enjoyable when I need to stay in it. This van will be used to travel to shoot locations and for those days that getting home is not feasible after a shoot.



November 27, 2017


First impressions is that it is REALLY nice to drive, Around town it was nicer than my Dodge Journey and I love that vehicle. Once I hit the highway it was noisy but not as bad as I thought. handled great in the wind and was impressed with the Ecoboost engine. Leveled the two big hills that I had to drive up on the way home. Also LOVE the cruise control as you set the speed and it really does hold that speed up or down!

December 1, 2017

So today was busy so far:

- Registered the van
- Got sound proofing material
- Got insulation
- Got stove, water jugs and porta potti

After a lot of thought and research I decided on the following for insulation. Against the van walls and wheel well some sound proof panels to drop the sound frequency and hopefully reduce some noise, then went with Reflectix insulation taped on all 4 sides to create a good seal, then added Polyester insulation on the large cavities and stuffed into the channels.

I am still considering adding another sheet of insulation and Reflectix up against the cargo panels, I will see when I am done how things are. I have the depth to add the insulation between the panels and it weighs nothing, only thing I am not sure on is if I can get the Reflectix between the panel and the van and still have the clips hold, so will see once the rest is done. I have most of the clips back in the large panels and the lower rear panel but need to take the front lower panel off to secure the counter once it is made.








December 11, 2017


Well overall a good weekend - got the roof panels cut and attached and got the 12V plug relocated at the back so I can build the bed frame and still use the plug for my air pump for the kayak.

Was going to do a lot more with the ceiling but it was so nice I decided to just get it cut and in place now when I could leave the van open and the garage open and when it turns colder I can work inside the van to insulate and cover the panels one at a time.

A couple things slowed me down, still not sure of the size of bed that I want and not sure if I am going with a enclosed bathroom. Did some tape layouts and measured them to see what would work.

So far figured on a 60" long by 53" wide bed (60 long side to side, 53 from back door to past wheel wells)

Bathroom looking at an enclosed space 24x24 with doors that open to give more space ~ 24" wide by 40"deep with doors open to create more space

Original Location


New Location



December 14, 2017


Got home from work and it was so warm I decided to put a push on to frame the bed. I decided to use a 2x2 on each wall (secured in the provided nuts and a couple Rivnuts. I also used the tie down nuts to bolt to for more strength) then run some 2x2's across. In the middle I am putting in supports as I am building a sliding drawer on one side so I can put the inflatable kayak in there. Decided last night that I would line that side with some of the leftover 1/8 birch to stop the kayak from catching when going back and forth and will also add some strength to the structure. I need to see if the kayak & paddles will take up the entire space, if not then on the other end I am putting the bathroom and will add a cupboard or a set of drawers for toilet supplies.

On the other side I will split it in two (front and back) so I can access some things from the back door like bike gear, tools & misc and then inside the van I will use a cupboard or some drawers for things up front (leaning to a cupboard as drawers are either to deep or not deep enough).

As I was cleaning up I realized that I have a couple 2x3 and think I will use 3 of them (on each end and in the middle) for strength along with a couple 2x2's. Will add some 1/4" plywood on top and either stain it or carpet it so when I pull out the mattress I can still haul stuff.





December 25, 2017

Well I would love to say that the build is moving ahead but it is not, in fact you could say the build has frozen in place. Temperature REALLY took a drop the past few days and will continue to dive and stay down till after the New Year. Suppose to get to -28C or -18.4F as the worst overnight low but even during the days it is suppose to be around -16C or 3.2F. Not all bad as I have ran into waiting for a few supplies - mattress, fridge, heater but it stops me from doing some smaller jobs like adding the house battery and the shore power set-up. I would love to have the items I am waiting for as much to know the size as anything but will do my best to work around that.

While I was researching a couple things I came across a person recommending a pocket screw jig so I went out and picked one up to at least try over the holidays, well forget just trying it I love it!!!! A lot stronger screw holes then just screwing in from the end, better fit and less splintering. Once I have it all laid out and I am happy with the set-up I may disassemble the fixtures and use liquid nails as well. One thing from other off road trailer projects and the work on the truck camper is it cannot hurt to make it more secure.

One good thing about being a pack rat is that I tend to have extra lumber on hand and yesterday that worked out perfectly. I had a bundle of 2x2's in the garage so I cranked the heat up and did the layout of the kitchen island. I knew that I wanted a 2x2 frame that I would attach a thin plywood to as this can all be pulled out in one piece and still stay strong as well most of the RV's that I have looked into do the work this way. You can use the cavity between the two pieces of plywood for running cables & pipes, the 2x2 frame tends to be stronger and overall a little less expensive then thicker cabinet grade plywood. So with the heat at 23C, Christmas carols on the radio and a dish of Jelly Belly candy and a howling wind blowing the icy snow around outside I worked away for a couple hours.

I had the measurements already in my head and only had to go to the van a couple times to confirm. I have to say that overall it was the most enjoyable time I have had at Christmas for a long time. At the end of the night I had the 2x2 frame together and I could try arranging the items, or things close to the size to represent the missing items, to see the layout. Still cannot decide on the ARB fridge or the Dometic fridge but at least I can see the effect that each will have on the kitchen. Every screw hole was done with the jig and it really does hold well!!





December 29, 2017

Well it got really warm today, all the way up to -19C or -2.2F so I got the kitchen cabinet installed. One of the reasons that I decided to tackle it was that my Dodge Journey is not handling the cold well so I took the van to work today and when I got back home it was nice and warm in the back so I took advantage of the warm van, tossed in a 110V heater to keep it warm and moved on.

This is not permanent as I will need to remove to fill the nail holes and varnish but at least with it in I can figure out the next steps which is the walls for the bathroom. I also need to figure out the fridge / heater / battery before I can add cupboards and possibly some drawers.

I have a few things that I am starting to get piled up waiting for warmer weather so I can finish them, I don't like running the heat in the garage all night when it is so cold so I will wait till the temps climb and then vanish, paint and glue like crazy so when I have to have the heat on overnight it is not so cold outside. Suppose to get up to plus 4C next Wednesday so will have the projects ready to go then, plus with it being warmer I can open doors to let some fresh air in. Even if it does not get that warm I will at least be able to heat the garage easier if only getting down to -10C at night as opposed to -32C like it is suppose to on Saturday!





Looking at the bed area, I managed to get my mattress ordered today, suppose to be in on January 3, 2018. I think I am going to cover the bed platform with the same carpet for when I am hauling things, will pick and such but at least it is softer to put things on, will cut the noise and make it warmer and softer to crawl on.

January 5, 2017

So the weather warmed up just when I needed to go back to work, ain't that always the way. Not a lot done this week, I did get a new set of tires BF Goodrich T/A KO. WOW what a difference. The originals were great tires on the highway but sucked off the pavement on gravel or snow, was scared to drive to the dealer on them after a big snow storm. Today took the van with the T/A's on a road covered with over a foot of snow and vehicle tracks and it handled very nice. Would not want to drive a long distance like that but was manageable.

Only issue is the low tire light is on, will call the dealer and get them to reprogram, they never even told me this could be an issue with these tires.

Hopefully more work this weekend!

 
#5
Looking good. Where did you source your polyester insulation from??
A local fabric shop (Marshal's Fabric), they deal with more of the larger sewers like the Hutterite's and have a couple thicknesses. Most of the fabric shops only had the really thin stuff, this is a good 2 inches thick. Compared to the other ways of insulating this is a lot less expensive, all polyester no fiberglass and easier to work with.
 
#6
Great find! I remember at one point you were kind of looking for a Roadtrek. Although a lot more work, the end result will probably be way more functional for you.

If that's okay with you, please post some picture you take using this van. It's always cool to associate the vehicle of choice with the activity it was built for.

Don't forget to check out the Dometic portable fridges. They have a lot more sizes available.
 
#7
Great find! I remember at one point you were kind of looking for a Roadtrek. Although a lot more work, the end result will probably be way more functional for you.

If that's okay with you, please post some picture you take using this van. It's always cool to associate the vehicle of choice with the activity it was built for.

Don't forget to check out the Dometic portable fridges. They have a lot more sizes available.
The biggest thing (other than price :Wow1: ) was how low the Roadtrek was to the ground - even the bigger vans had so much hanging from the bottom. I was so close on a prebuilt but the poor clearance was the BIG issue I could not get around. Then add to that I wanted less camping accessories and more of a basic set-up and I was buying to wreck and start over. With the Ford I have the warranty as well.

Leaning towards the Dometic CRX65 and a Espar B2 heater and other than a light or two that is it.
 
#8
The biggest thing (other than price :Wow1: ) was how low the Roadtrek was to the ground - even the bigger vans had so much hanging from the bottom. I was so close on a prebuilt but the poor clearance was the BIG issue I could not get around. Then add to that I wanted less camping accessories and more of a basic set-up and I was buying to wreck and start over. With the Ford I have the warranty as well.

Leaning towards the Dometic CRX65 and a Espar B2 heater and other than a light or two that is it.
For sure! I will manage to lift mine up enough for my use... but it will be pricey. With the Transit, you can install a fairly easy DIY lift kit from Van Compass if/when there is the need.
 
#10
Well time for an update, the weather has been horrible and when I had a chance to do some work I took advantage of that to work and not take pictures. Add to that I somehow hurt myself and each time I was working with the van I came inside in pain from a pulled muscle or something and I was not in the mood to go back out and snap pictures.

So what did I get done:

- last two roof panels carpeted and insulation installed.
- Bathroom walls cut to fit - what a pain to get the right angles and curves !!!!
- Bathroom wall facing bed carpeted
- Walls stained, was not happy with the stain color at first but I like it now. THE BEST THING about the stain is that it is a bio / health friendly stain that smells good. https://www.saman.ca/en/our-inspirations
- The wall facing the kitchen needed 1/8 birch glues to the kitchen side (happy with how this looks)
- Bought plastic screw covers so that everything is installed with screws and is removable as needed.

I know there is more but that is all I can think of for now.

Figured out a few different ways I would do the build if I do another one, have someone mentioned they would like to buy this build sooooooooooo I need to say no, I need to say no, I need to.......

Today it got warmer and I wanted to get out shooting so did a few better quality images, still not the best as the cold and snow was not a lot of fun to shoot in but better than I have had.













Started tossing things in that I want with me, now I can start with planning for storage.

 

KYC

Adventurer
#11
How the F do you sleep sideways like that???

To be honest I always thought the newer vans looked goofy, but I'm coming around.

Yours looks good. Looking forward to seeing more.
 
#12
How the F do you sleep sideways like that???

To be honest I always thought the newer vans looked goofy, but I'm coming around.

Yours looks good. Looking forward to seeing more.
I am height challenged and would take offense to that comment if I could reach it :sombrero::sombrero::sombrero::sombrero:

I can sleep side to side but it is tight so I sleep on a little bit of an angle, that also allows room for the dog :luxhello:
 
#13
Nice build so far. How is the gas mileage around town and on the highway? I have an aging 02 Suburban and need to decide on a replacement. I don't need a 4WD Sportsmobile and simply want a big enough vehicle to take our 3 kids and dog on the road, a high top Transit looks like a good option. I would be interested in bigger tires though, what size did you go with?

I haven't really priced them out but I would need seating for 3 or 4 in the rear, so a passenger version may be the better option for us.
 
#14
Nice build so far. How is the gas mileage around town and on the highway? I have an aging 02 Suburban and need to decide on a replacement. I don't need a 4WD Sportsmobile and simply want a big enough vehicle to take our 3 kids and dog on the road, a high top Transit looks like a good option. I would be interested in bigger tires though, what size did you go with?

I haven't really priced them out but I would need seating for 3 or 4 in the rear, so a passenger version may be the better option for us.
I have not done a good calculation on MPG as it has been so cold that most of the run time is idling time, I actually have been trying to drive it just to keep things charged and exercised while building. The on board is saying 15L/100k but like I say it idles more than driving right now.

I went with T/A 235/70R16. I know you can go larger but that creates a number of other challenges (tighter clearance, incorrect speedo, etc) and honestly I do not need anything huge. One thing that I am VERY happy with is the stock ground clearance it has, not a 4x4 clearance but for my needs very nice.

I debated going with the passenger model as I cannot take my wife and son in it without adding a third seat but really did not want all the windows for security and warmth. Plus my son is 14 so more than likely in a couple years he won't want to be seen with dad anyways :(
 
#15
Well the weather was nicer but still not ideal. Was around -20 yesterday and was suppose to get to +4 by this morning but that did not happen as the winds blowing in the warmer air stopped 10 minutes to the west. Still got a number of things done - managed to get the underlay and carpet installed and built a platform for the porta potti. Was going to just set a board on the floor and put lino on it but then thought that setting it on 2x2 would be nice as it would raise it up a little higher and I could use the space under it to run any power lines if I wanted to. I left about 3 inches by 1.5 inches open for that.



Glued the lino on and clamped it so it wraps around the front, love having space to do stuff like this and leave it overnight!!!