I’m going to start this post with an expletive – for FUCK’S SAKE.
The reason for this is that, even though I originally planned a ‘standard’, left-side entry campervan, in the end I built my van as a mirror image of the original plan, because I thought it was safer in terms of weight distribution (as in, rather than having three heavy items all ride along one side: the water, the kitchen bench, and the driver, my layout distributes weight much more equally equally front to back and side to side).
At the time, I looked at the legislation, or what I thought was the right piece of legislation, and it told me that, as long as I wasn’t trying to convert a bus to a motorhome (i.e. nothing over 4.5 tonnes), all I needed was to have entry on the left side of the vehicle. Well, this exists: I have a left side passenger door.
But it seems this is not the whole story.
And even though the guy at the poptop place was a total asshat, he did cause me to go and look up the correct legislation this time.
Seemingly, and for reasons ONLY KNOWN TO AUSTRALIAN, RED-TAPE-HAPPY LEGISLATORS, FFS, it is also necessary to have side-door access to the main cabin from the kerb side as well.
This, it seems applies even though there are no belted seats in there (so the space cannot legally be used for passengers while on the road, so there is no need for passengers to be able to get out of the vehicle at the roadside). As it is, I only access the cabin when the van is parked e.g. at a campsite, in which case, who cares which side opens?
Now, I find this rather confusing and confronting TO SAY THE LEAST, as I have successfully had the vehicle valued and insured based on photos and plans of the current fit out.
And, indeed, the van is still just a van. I mean: everything that is in there is theoretically removable, just as it would be if it were, for example, a plumbers van full of cupboards and cabinets covering both side doors — and you see plenty of these around.
There’s also the total lack of logic to it all. The DRIVER’S door opens to the roadside. PASSENGER CARS have back doors that open to the roadside. And these are swinging doors that, potentially, cause a lot more danger to e.g. cyclists that my sliding door does, and they also have HUMAN BEINGS potentially exiting from them onto the road side. And yet, it seems, that my cabin needs to be accessed from the kerb side.
Now, the easy answer to this is simply to put my head in the sand: it is a van. It is only a van.
But the reality is that, with the gas not, now, being installed until after Christmas (because the Brisbane campervan place cancelled on me at the last moment), I wonder now if this is maybe worth doing, for peace of mind.
Besides, the gas fitting people will no doubt lecture me on it the way the asshole in Ballina did, and I am NOT having a repeat of that scene. And also, once the gas is installed, it becomes a whole lot harder to do any of this.
And so I come to writing a blog post about the ‘great switcheroo’ and what it would involve. And although it is MASSIVELY FUCKING ANNOYING to have to do it, and would be a giant fucking hassle, I’m wondering if it isn’t maybe better to have a (relatively) small hassle now than a shit ton of hassle later on when e.g. it turns out I can’t register the van or my insurance isn’t valid or something. Ugh.
(Or, plan B, of course, is to quit my job, leave Sydney, ship the van to e.g. Singapore, and do the central-Asia-to-Europe trip that I’ve wanted to do forEVER. Because you can be certain sure that not one of those countries gives the smallest mouse’s shit what side of a campervan is used for what. But maybe this plan is not the most practical?)
The switcheroo would involve…
- Disconnect all plumbing fittings. Undo the wiring around the kitchen bench. Unscrew kitchen benchtop from kitchen bench unit. Remove kitchen bench and its wooden plinth.
- Disconnect battery and remove. Remove both bulkheads. Remove fridge and fridge slider. Remove two water tanks and undo plinth they sit on. Remove bed base and central boxy unit thing that supports the bed. (As in, undo everything that sits on the floor directly, but no need to touch any of the wall panelling, the electrics within the walls, or the floor itself.)
- Replace the floor vinyl (as what will then be the floor area is full of screw holes) – cut this from the existing piece of vinyl as of course I threw out the template I made. Replace the kitchen bench (as the cutouts are now in all the wrong places) but I can salvage the doors, hinges, benchtop and divider). Replace the water tanks (as the sender arm holes are now in the wrong side, and there’s now no space for them; they currently sit in the space between the side door and the wheel arch). Total cost to replace these components: about $500? More if I get the higher spec water tanks. Plus however long I take in the workshop, i.e. the rental.
- Reattach kitchen bench plinth on the right side of the van. Build new kitchen bench (Ikea, easy). Cut holes in it for cables, sink, cooktop, water tanks etc (as in current setup). Reattach water tank plinth and add/restrain new water tanks; drill new holes for sender arms. Reattach all plumbing connections. (This is rather more complicated as the sink is now further away, still on the left side of the kitchen bench —I am NOT faffing about with the benchtop, it took so damn long— so new, longer water hoses would be needed and the setup would be much less elegant, taking up more space; so add another $80 or so for plumbing bits and pieces). Reattach original benchtop and doors, but with handles moved (actually, this might need new doors too… fuck). Reattach all wiring connections around kitchen bench.
- Move the central base/battery unit to the right a bit (as the fridge is wider than the water tanks). Replace the battery back into its box. Cables coming up thru the floor shouldn’t be too affected – cut new holes in the cabinet base for them as needed (but they’re now all connected and I REALLY don’t want to have to disconnect and reconnect them all).
- Reattach the fridge slider and fridge on LHS. Move the slider table and chair sling to the other side, under the bed base (everything as mirror image to what’s there now). (Perhaps take advantage of the bed base being removed to add a slider table above the fridge too?)
- Reattach the bed base and put back the mattress.Rebuild both bulkheads (can simply turn them back to front, and move the shelf on the RHS one to the other side?)
- Move the fan (LHS to RHS) and 12V socket (LHS to RHS); they have the same spec cable to this is relatively easy.
- Cut a new hole for the gas vent in the floor of the van on the RHS (there’s one in the LHS already but it goes thru the metal under the step, and I can simply replace the step and it will never be seen). And get the gas fitted at last.
- What am I forgetting??
Or I can simply keep everything as it is, because it is JUST A VAN FOR FUCK’S SAKE. And rather than getting gas fitted I can just do what I’m doing now, which is a portable stove on a table outside because honestly, I AM OVER ALL THIS SHIT AND I JUST WANT TO GO CAMPING.
But mmm. I know what I will probably do, and it involves power tools. I feel decidedly mixed.