I'm going to start with a disclaimer: Although it may appear that I'm copying Desk to Glory in purchasing a JDM van...I am not. Granted it's an excellent idea (great minds think alike?), the van plan has been a long time coming.
Let's start from the beginning, shall we? As I believe I have recounted before, the decision for a mobile, hard-walled living space was made winter of 2015 when Alison and I had our roof top tent and the mattress soaked through our first two nights on the road during the El Nino. Apparently that memory has been burned into my mind. In response to that experience, we bought the Boler. In short, Casper the Boler was great...when parked. If you talk to Alison, she'll tell you that Casper was the greatest thing since sliced bread, I have a slightly less flattering opinion of the trailer. I found that my mobility was limited with the trailer, not to mention my fuel economy was drastically reduced, plus the trailer wasn't holding up well to off-road use and was looking like it would be a continuous repair project, thus the trailer was sold and I went, temporarily, back to a roof top tent setup.
Since my time down South last winter I have been trying to figure out the best option for living on the road. Obviously a van was an option right from the get go, but there are a lot of area's that I'd have to compromise if I went with a van. I boiled down the necessities for a van to two things, 4WD and Diesel. I wanted the ability to get way out and not really have to worry about getting stuck due to 2WD. A Swiss couple I met on the road traveling in a 4WD Sprinter put it perfectly when they said this, "you don't need 4WD for 98% of the time, but for that 2% that you DO need it, you REALLY need it." As you all know, I've been driving a Tacoma around for 2.5 years. Great truck, kind of crappy fuel mileage. I loved the reliability of my Tacoma and where I could go in it, but I felt like I was at the pump a lot. My friend and co-worker, Kaas, builds Cummins diesel motors and quickly had me on the Diesel Train when he told me the fuel mileage he was getting in his big truck.
SO, next challenge...name me a factory diesel van that has 4WD made in North America. I bet you only name two, a Sportmobile and 2014(15?) and up Sprinter van, both grossly over budget for me. I knew the reality pretty early on and searched through different options from converting a diesel short bus to 4WD, excepting crap fuel mileage and getting a Chevy Quigley van, building a Four Wheel Camper style camper on the back of a 2nd Gen Dodge 2500 blah blah blah. None of those idea worked out, obviously. I had pretty much accepted the fact that I was going to get crappy fuel mileage and had decided to build a camper on the back of my Tacoma, until I came face to face with a Toyota Hiace camper on the sunshine coast. Admittedly, I had heard of a Hiace before and had done a little research on them, found one in BC. I think I was initially frightened away by the right hand drive and the price and how rare they are; however, when I spoke with the owner of the Hiace on the coast it put a serious bug in my brain.
Not a month later I had my truck listed experimentally which turned quickly to me trying to sell it 100% when the exact van I wanted showed up on kijiji.ca. A month and huge hassle later I had a deposit on the truck and I was calling the owner of the van to set up a pick up time.
Now, on to my next disclaimer: I've done some stupid things in my life, among them would likely be what I did to get the van.
I was finishing up a day of combining and had been speaking with someone on kijiji about my truck. The conversation came initially as a blatant offer WAY below my asking price. I'd had a number of offers like this, and just for fun I fed into it a little. Long story short, by that evening I had a deposit in my bank account. I guess sometimes you have to accept what life throws at you. The day I received the deposit was Monday, the agreement was that I'd drive the truck to Red Deer on Thursday. The next day we started work knowing that we'd likely get shut down early due to weather. Sure enough, as night came the wind kicked up and a crazy storm ripped through our area. Realizing that I may not have a day of work the next day I began to formulate a plan. In under two hours I had made the calls and put my plan in motion. I loaded the Tacoma onto a trailer that night, stripped as much after market stuff off it as I could, prepared a quick go-bag and went to bed. The next morning at 4am I left the yard and drove to Calgary where I dropped off the truck with the buyer and received payment for the truck, from Calgary I drove all the way to Kelowna. The "stupid" part of this story comes when I realized as snow began to fall that I was pulling a heavy-ass trailer with no trailer brakes with a truck that had balding tires through the mountains. Oh ya, and this realization also came as I hit a snow covered bridge while passing a car and truck kicked out to the side and abruptly snapped my sleep-deprived mind out of its fog. Lets say, my trip from Banff to Revelstoke was VERY slow. But I made it.
I met the seller the next morning, looked over the van, agreed on a price, loaded the van and was back on my way by noon. Twelve hours later I arrived back at the farm.
I chose the Super GL version of the Hiace due to its large weight capacity and longer wheel base. You can find camperized options but I wanted the roof top storage space and prefer the aesthetic and center of gravity of a lower van. Apparently after the early 90's the drive-train changed from selectable 4WD to full-time 4WD which I didn't realize till it was too late, but I'm fine with that, the van still gets over 27mpg!!!! So without further adieu, the van.
This first weekend with the van has been quite productive. There were a number of area's that needed immediate attention. A number of rust spots were developing; I hate rust with a passion so the two holes on the tailgate and had to be dealt with quickly. I removed all the plastics on the van as well as the roof rack and a number of other things. The paint isn't in great shape so I began prep for a new (temporary) coat of paint. Today, with the help of my father in law, a large dent in the rear right corner was pulled out and made straight again. I'm going to leave it at that for now as this blog is getting a little long for my liking. I'll discuss the plans for the van and some other changes I'm going to make in the next blog.