Family’s £18k pimp my ride transforms old van into luxury camper!
Parents who failed to find a camper-van for their family’s needs put their engineering heads together resulting in a dream van conversion.
Broadcast systems engineer, Jack Richens, 37, transformed a 2012 Mercedes Sprinter with partner and the brains behind the project, Lucy Hedges, a 38-year-old sound engineer.
The happy camper in Oxford is now full with all the fittings worthy of a ‘Pimp My Ride’ van only that it is as family friendly as it is incredible to look at.
Jack said: “There really weren’t any van conversions available that suited our requirements. We saw countless vans that looked amazing but were simply not practical.
“The whole thing about building your own van is that you can tailor it precisely to your requirements and taste.
“We built a van for a family of four to have adventures in and the main remit was that, if necessary, we could spend days on end inside the van with two hyper kids and still enjoy ourselves.
“We’ve not killed each other yet and it also looks rather nice.”
The Oxford based family now prefer the vehicle to their own house which Jack slept in his old Post Office van to help afford.
Jack claims the expense of the van conversion was money well spent for a house on wheels tailored to their every need and want for life on the road- and in the driveway.
Jack said: “The base vehicle was a 2012 Mercedes Sprinter with 78,000 miles on the clock, which I picked up for £8000- an absolute bargain.
“We spent months searching high and low and eventually it paid off. The main expense on the interior was the seats, which came to about £2500 all fitted.
“The electrical and heating system another £2000 and the rest on timber, fittings, insulation. the list is very long
“It sounds crazy but I kept every single receipt and it soon adds up.
“By the time it was completed I’d spent £18,000 which was more or less our budget for a decent camper van.
“It’s hard to say whether we’d saved money as there is no camper van available that we’d like to buy so, in that respect, we spent precisely the right amount.
“The outlay in labour and hours, however, was far greater than I had budgeted for and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
“The van is better than home. Sometimes, when it’s parked up outside our house, we’ll take the kids and spend the afternoon inside the van, that’s how good it is.
“In an effort to buy a house I spent several years living in a post office van on an industrial estate in London.
“As a result had plenty of time to stare at a van interior and do some daydreaming.
“Along the way I’d learned a great deal about van maintenance and generally figuring out what does and doesn’t work in a vehicle.”
The project turned out to be a full on family affair with Jack’s parents also pitching in to bring to life Lucy’s vision.
Jack said: “The layout was entirely the work of Lucy. She cracked the idea of using stacked bunks inside the van and then together we bickered and argued about how to make it happen.
“Everyone was very supportive of the endeavour but nobody really understood what we were going for until we neared completion.
“My dad, David, came out of retirement and brought a wealth of old school skills and very sharp tools to the party.
“I really enjoyed working alongside him on the project and gained a great deal of invaluable experience from his methods however ancient they are.
“We’d go to hardware stores and my dad would frequently request building materials that were banned 30 years ago. It was brilliant.
“Even my mum Amanda helped with the stitching and upholstery.”
Despite the family coming together and offering their varying skill-sets, operation van conversion was hardly set on cruise control.
“Most of my wood-working experience came from doing odd projects around the house and also building skateboard ramps so playing around with plywood felt like familiar territory.
“The interior design and tricky woodworking bits were undertaken by my partner, Lucy.
“She’s really handy and has very good ideas on how to make the space work.
“The conversion was in its entirety, a series of mild disasters.
“Absolutely every part of the project presented obstacles, headaches and failures that needed to be fixed or needed several attempts but that’s engineering I guess.
“If you solve enough problems eventually you end up with a nice camper van.
“The whole project consumed about six months of my life and involved working on the van around my full time job, which nearly killed me.
“The van feels spacious, light and is a relaxing space to enjoy. It’s more like a yacht but it goes a lot quicker.
“We’ve been bowled over by the feedback. Compliments and commissions have been flooding in from all around the world.”