Starting out with near-gutted 2003 savana

Good morning!
I’m Blanche, about 6 years into jewelry making, 4 years into silversmithing.
I live out west, and partner bought me this nifty van for mobile work, travelling to shows, and so on. It’s basic white, a little visibly dinged, cargo van, nice and anonymous. Salvage title but that’s due to an unlucky 6 month period of the previous owner, a contractor business, with repeat cosmetic damage and the insurance company finally just threw up their hands and said “junk it.” Everything mechanical was dealer-maintained, and in superb shape. No leaks, transmission in great shape, mechanic who went over it was impressed at its condition.

(Thinking about a magnet sign for a housekeeping service to reduce theft desireability.)

I’ve got some serious repair work on the rear doors - the latches are not just broken but look like someone went at the guts with a hammer from the inside, rods replaced with cables wired to the latch, the exterior latch replaced with a rope pull of all the crazy things. I can hack a lot of the parts (jewelry work is basically metal work and there’s a lot I can fabricate if I can figure it out.)
Driver’s side lock cylinder is non-functional, but I can unlock the passenger side then use the power lock rocker switch to unlock the driver’s side. That’s a relatively low priority since when running errands most stuff gets put on the passenger seat first anyway. Side door’s latch system works fine but the auto-lock doesn’t work on that (which is probably not a bad thing at least until I get duplicate keys. :slight_smile: )

First order of business - INSULATE THE ROOF.
We’ve got this heat wave, the AC needs recharging (Savana people, is that something I can do myself? I have some home auto maintenance experience but never did anything with AC) and would be easier getting little stuff done if the roof wasn’t hotboxing the van.
I have a roll of about 1/2" thick high impact floor foam, no idea where partner got it, it might work but if I have to buy a roll of fiberglass - how thick? well, that stuff isn’t insane as it’s basically recycled glass these days.
Which forum is best for looking up past comments on insulation?

Also eventually I’ll need a roof rack.
Will also need to do something about the very typical peeling finish (a common problem on that make/model/decade I’ve been reading.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to having a mobile jewelry bench/travel setup, and this seems like the place for it. :slight_smile:

Greetings & Welcome!

We’ll be looking forward to following your build & adventures.

Lot’s of great people here!

Shade will be your best friend in the summer, and sun in the winter. Both will do you much more good than insulation. When shade isn’t available, a full length roof rack covered with thin plywood will keep your roof shaded, and once again better than any amount of insulation.

Some of those doors came with cables instead of rods… GM door handles are notorious for being easily broken. The drivers door lock may just need to be reconnected.


"The only place where health, wealth, money, success,
or happiness comes before work is in the dictionary."
~ Rubber Tramp

Yeah, it’s been a month since I last got on. :slight_smile:
Friendly junkyard got me the three-bar roof rack assembly; I saw a couple older junked vans with the rack/plywood setup, and honestly I didn’t like how it ended up looking over time. I have the mirrored bubble wrap insulation roll, will probably do double layer - and Patriot Board over that, primer side out so I can paint it before I install it. (I used that stuff, wood side up and 3 coat varnished for the floor of my cottage, and it held up for 3 years before showing wear.)

It has new tires now, just got the AC fixed today.

So far I haven’t done a lot here on the interior as it’s ridiculously hot - I’ve only got a couple hours of effective shade under the giant cottonwood, and the heat’s going to continue for a while so it’s all going to be early morning work for a while. I got the power locks working everywhere but the side door, so that’s good. Off to Lowes in a bit for more hardware and lumber (NOT 2x4s. Holy cats, $7.77 for a single 2x4x8!)

If you don’t like plywood covering your van, there is the instagram favorite: roof deck :smiley:
Synthetic patio boards are rated to last 20-30 years with minimal maintenance (like wash them once a year). They cannot be painted, so choose color once and admire it always.

In addition to shade, there is another benefit: It muffles the sound of raindrops if you want to sleep during heavy rain.

You do not ever need to spend time on that roof. Just that it is easier on the eyes than plywood. But you can put there some tie down points available for future use.

random picture from the internet:

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