VW T3 Syncro – Interior strip out and refit.

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Our van was purchased in a reasonable state, with poor bodywork, but relatively sound mechanics and a decent interior. After stripping the interior out for the respray, we quickly decided, however, to rebuild our own interior, based on our own designs, and personalised to our taste. This was to be our home, after all.

What follows is a full breakdown of the interior fit-out and modernisation.

Before: 

Insulation: 

The first stage of the new fit-out was to insulate. We chose to use silver foil/bubble wrap style cheap and cheerful insulation from the local DIY store. At around £12 per 3m roll, we were able to put 2 layers throughout the whole van for £36. I cannot vouch for the high-end/van specific products, but we have found this cheap stuff to be very effective. It was easy to install in a few hours with just a Stanley knife and a bottle of spray adhesive.

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Carpet Lining

By far the most difficult and annoying job of the whole project was the carpet lining. The door cards and panels were easy enough, but cutting strips around each window and finishing/joining them neatly was a nightmare. I am happy with the results now, but after 2 days and several Stanley knife cuts, it had me questioning my commitment to the project.

Pop Top Skirt Replacement

At a certain point during a restoration, you make a call as to just how far you are going to go. On one hand, you could start with a rolling chassis and rebuild everything from the ground up, on the other, you could service the engine and touch up the body work. Budget and time constraints meant that we had to try to find a compromise. Make something that was comfortable and reliable, but still leave enough money in the bank for travel when the van was up and running. It was with reluctance, therefore, that I decided to spring the £200 for a new pop-top skirt. The old one was serviceable, if a bit mouldy and torn in places, but more than anything else, had broken zips and only opened on one side. One of the greatest feelings when travelling is waking up in a tent/roof-tent/camper/pop-top, listening to the sounds of waves gently lapping the shore, and opening your blinds/curtains/fly-screen to look over the coastline.

So, with trepidation we set about taking off the pop-top, removing the old skirt, and painstakingly stretching, pinning and screwing the new one into place. I must say, despite the headache of a job that it was, it made a huge difference to the general feel and aesthetic of the vehicle and has also proven much more waterproof than its aged counterpart.

Vehicle Electrics

One (of many) benefits of the T25’s design is its ability to easily carry multiple batteries with ease. With space under each front seat and a battery tray in the engine bay, we decided we may as well carry 3 batteries for maximum power. We use one as a starter battery only, one powers the vehicle electrics, auxiliary lights, night heater and sound system, while the leisure battery is left for the fridge, water pump, interior lights and 12v sockets. We also added a 100w solar panel to the roof rack, feeding mostly to the fridge and leisure battery. This allows for much longer stays without the need to run the engine to charge the batteries, as economical as compressor fridges are this has proven necessary, as without it, the leisure battery can only run the fridge for about 14 hours.

Building Cabinets

We designed the cabinets based on the original Westy/Reimo layouts and had them cut with a CNC machine from high quality Marine Ply. Once assembled, we sent them off to a local joinery firm to be veneered in real Oak. This was not cheap, but the difference it made to the aesthetic of the van has been well worth it, so homely and cosy to have real wood rather than coated MDF or chipboard!

Appliances

With the cabinets fully installed and the flooring in, the end of the project was in sight. The appliances that we had chosen were a Smev 9222 sink-hob combination and a Waeco CR50 fridge-freezer.

The water tank I originally bought was the T25 specific offering from Reimo, which is approx 55L and sits in the recess on the underside of the van. I put it in place, but was immediately dissatisfied with a number of things about it. Firstly, it hangs too far down and in too vulnerable a position. I would have constantly found myself worried that a misplaced rock would puncture it. Secondly, due to the placement of my Eberspacher night heater, the tank was forced to go on the same side as the cabinets. The weight of the van sits mostly here anyway, with the furniture, contents, fridge etc, and I did not relish the idea of adding a further 55 kg of water to this.

Because of this, I sold the Reimo tank on eBay, and went to a plastic fabricator with some measurements, I had a tank made that sits perfectly under the recess on the non-laden side of the vehicle, smaller, and well within the protection of the chassis. It holds around 35L which is plenty, and has an outdoor outlet, to fill dog bowls and rinse dishes.

Once this was installed, the sink, cooker and fridge were easy jobs, requiring little more than a few lengths of wire and a couple of circlips.

Finishing Touches

With the furniture and appliances all installed, the last job was to add the finishing touches such as curtains, cushions, table rails and final trim.

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Our favourite touch at this stage was the addition of cheap 12v LED strip lights. one set around the pop top opening, pointing down, another around the inside of the pop top skirt, facing up. these are so effective at providing efficient bright and well distributed lighting, that we rarely use anything else.

With all of this done, the finished product looks like this:

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To read about the restoration and equipping of the vans exterior, Click HERE.