Modifications to my Camper Van, Francis

Francis is a 1991 Vanagon syncro Westfalia Camper. This page contains information on improvements I've made to Beethoven. Other folks might like to do these things to their own vans, or not.

Note that the following design goals drive all of my modifications:

  1. I want my van to be comfortable.

  2. I want the van to be as clean as possible. No dangling wires or messy installations.

  3. I want to minimize permanent modifications to the van. (This is the hardest principle to follow. Often it's impossible.)

Here's a quick index to the modifications:

Electrical system

Paulchen Rack system

CB radio

Westfalia tent



The Electrical System

I've finally got my ideal electrical system installed in the van. Under both front seats, I have a Optima Deep-Cycle 12-volt batteries. These wonderful batteries have 52 amp-hours of power, don't vent, and are nearly leakproof. The Optima is wired into my Propex propane heater, the amplifier for my stereo, and an inverter sufficient to power (and charge) a laptop computer.

I've also installed a 1.5 amp trickle charger. This charger plugs into the extra electrical socket under the sink, and quietly charges the battery whenever the van is plugged into the electrical grid. This effectively allows me to run my propane heater off of the grid whenever I'm connected.

Paulchen Rack System

The Paulchen rack system was designed specifically for the Vanagon and other hatchback automobiles. It grips the rear hatch both at the top and the bottom, and doesn't interfere with opening the hatch. Being rear-mounted, it also allows you to carry bikes and other things without lots of wind noise or drag.

It is a little heavy, but the replacement hatch struts from the Bus DepotThis link leaves will hold the hatch open with the rack mounted.

CB Radio

After my first group camping trip, I realized that a CB was a good thing to have. It's fun to chat with others while you drive, and makes the trip to the campsite seem much quicker. It's also handy for negotiating fueling and snack stops. On the Inuvik trip, the CB units were very useful in finding one another, handling emergencies, etc.

I wanted to install the CB into my van, so that I didn't have a lot of wires running through windows and across the floor. I ended up getting an antenna mount put onto the outside of the van, and a Cobra handheld CB unit installed into Beethoven's dash. The end result looks pretty good.

Westfalia tent

I've been coveting a Westfalia tent for some time. With the Deutchmark hovering around two to the dollar, I finally decided to buy one. Tents for older busses pop up occasionally for sale, but you rarely see Vanagon / Eurovan tents for sale in the states. I ordered the tent directly from Westfalia and walked it through customs myself.

Other Accessories

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