Whilst browsing the net, I came across a picture of a stunning coastal road. After further research, It turned out to be a section of the Northcoast 500- a series of roads that wind their way around the coastline of Northern Scotland. Given Scotland's liberal approach to camping, this seemed like the perfect destination for a multi day roadtrip.
However, looking at vans that would be suitable for a camper conversion and a practical daily driver was disheartening- they were all vastly expensive, with insurance to match. Thus, I decided I would look for a practical car to use to commute to my new job, that I could also modify to sleep in.
At a used car showroom I stumbled across a 1999 Seat Ibiza with remarkably low mileage, full documentation, and that was surprisingly spacious once the front seats were folded forward. After handing 500 pounds over, I drove off in my first car.
After a full service and a good clean, Hamish (a name recommended to us by a friendly Scotsman) was ready to be made fit for a week long roadtrip with 2 people. I started by procuring some materials for the build- I was living next to a construction site at the time and the contractors were more than happy for me to take some pallets and random bits of timber off their hands.
I started by removing the rear seats, and then bolted a box like frame directly to the chassis using the seat fixings. This would form the latter half of the bed platform, and also offer the largest storage space beneath it.
Stripping down the slats on a number of pallets, I then joined them together with some struts. Once finished, these sat on top of the box structure which the mattress would be laid on. I made the whole panel fairly easy to remove, so that we could easily get at the storage space underneath.
Next, I made the front platform for the bed- this would have to self supported at one end so that all the weight wasn't placed on the back of the front seats. This consisted of a number of slats with 2 struts underneath that had pivoting legs that rested on the floor of the car, supporting the front section. The rear had a crude lap joint with the box structure in the rear, and slotted into place with 2 pins ensuring that it didn't move.
After checking it all fit together snugly, I removed everything, and sanded down the grubby faces of the pallet wood.
It was necessary to create some sort of mattress. Initially I found some very thick, comfortable foam that I was able to cut to size. However, this took up allot of room in the car, and so I opted for a thin 'self inflating' camping mattress- although I could stretch out fully, it didn't leave much head room in the car for manoeuvring around. This meant there was way more head room in the car, and also that when the bed was 'put away', it took up significantly less space.
As we would be sleeping in the car, it was essential to create some way of blacking out the windows- stopping people from peeking in and providing us with a dark sleeping environment. I purchased some black fabric and cut it slightly oversized for all of the windows. I then stapled on some cardboard tabs that allowed it to be snugly pushed into the gap between window and liner, affixing them in place. Where this wasn't possible I used some small button cell magnets to 'clamp' the fabric to the bodywork of the car.
As mentioned earlier, the negative space underneath the bed platform acted as storage for all of our essentials- this was divided up into a number of boxes for toiletries, kitchen and cooking implements, bedding and the like.
And just like that, it was time to go!
Thoughts for next time:
- By adding a second set of pivoting legs to the front bed section, it could become a free standing table once removed from the car at any 'camp site'.
- Although side curtains worked well, we would often wake up to find that the material had fallen away from the sides of the windscreen. Perhaps having an internal wire frame or using suction cups on the windscreen could be better.
- Modifying the boot of the car so it could be opened from the inside would be useful for those morning vistas
- Could a net be strung internally, acting as like a large hammock and negating the need for a bed platform entirely? this would fold down to be a very compact size, and leave much more room in the car for other camping essentials (aka mountain bikes). Equally if the bed platform was split down the middle, I could leave one side permanently in place for any solo mountain biking adventures, and stow my bike in the other side.
- You definitely don't need a T5 camper to have an amazing time!