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Specialist Conversion Case Study | Donagh Kelly Rally Service Area Van

The Brief

The customers’ requirements were that his Rally team needed a vehicle that would provide them with a private and comfortable area for the team to review footage of previous rally stages with the added facility of storing and preparing food. Included with the vehicle should be erectable awning to provide additional shelter should it be required. The finish of the vehicle should be to a very high quality and be able to run appliances and equipment independently whilst being capable of becoming mobile at a moment’s notice.


The Design

After looking at the customers’ requirements TBC’s engineering team outlined a couple of layout options to propose, and identified that the vehicle should be based 3.5t GVW model with a minimum load length of 4.2m and minimum load height of 1.9m. The principal concept was to have the vehicle split into three areas being, food preparation area, briefing area and partitioned general storage area. The vehicle model selected was a Volkswagen Crafter CR35 LWB High roof and from this being confirmed and agreement on the preferred layout, the detailed designs, conversion methodology and list of components were able to be brought together to create full specification for the conversion.

Volkswagen Crafter CR35 LWB Exterior

The Specification

This was to be one of the more complex specifications that TBC had converted as it brought together many different trades and skills including 12V and 240V electrics, plumbing, steel fabrication, joinery, body fitting, glazing and trimming. The kitchen area comprised of worktops and storage cupboards, a sink with hot and cold running water, and appliances including a refrigerator / freezer and a microwave. This would provide an area to store and prepare food along with storage for utensils and other items. It also provided a facility to wash food and dishes with the added bonus of not requiring an external fresh water supply or waste water disposal. This facility was made possible by incorporating 50 litre fresh water tank secured in the rear storage area and connected to a pressurised water system controlled by a 12V water pump.

The waste water system included a 70 litre onboard tank with a drainage tap located under the vehicle. This would allow the user to drain the waste water into a foul drain when required. The hot water supply was also fed from the fresh water tank through the pressurised system offering instant hot water when required. The water capacity of the system was calculated out to permit the customer to have enough onboard water to last throughout the rally weekend.

Volkswagen Crafter CR35 LWB with Fridge
Volkswagen Crafter CR35 LWB with Sink and Tap
Volkswagen Crafter CR35 LWB

Briefing Area

The briefing area comprised of four luxury seats with armrests surrounding two built in tables. The seats were installed with rotating seat bases to allow ease of access and comfort with the fixed tables set to a comfortable height for using laptops or other devices. This area also included a 40” HD Smart TV which primary function was to allow the customer to connect to various devices to review footage of previous rally stages, but also providing a means to watch movies and videos allowing the driver, co-driver and team members to relax and unwind during down-times of the weekend. Another feature of this area was that the tables had hidden surface mounted 240V power sockets with integrated USB charging points fitted, along with independent overhead LED lights to provide additional lighting if required.

Volkswagen Crafter CR35 LWB with sockets
Volkswagen Crafter CR35 LWB Interior
Volkswagen Crafter CR35 LWB with tables

Electrics

Principally there were two types of power within the vehicle, 12 volt and 240 volt. The 12V supply was to power items such as the interior and exterior lighting, heating, water pump for the pressurised water system, independent diesel heater, refrigerator and various other 12V components. The 240V supply was to power items such as the water heater, microwave, TV, and 240V power sockets. The biggest challenge was to have enough capacity to supply power to all the necessary appliances and equipment whilst keeping the vehicle mobile, i.e. not having an external power source that would need to be removed or packed away in the vehicle before you were able to drive off. After careful planning and calculation we overcame this challenge by utilising multiple power sources for the 240V system. This included an onboard 3000VA Pure sine wave generator, an Auto-eject mains hook-up point, and a 400ah AGM battery bank powering a 300VA inverter. These three power sources were integrated together by using multiple automatic transfer switches which identified the power source coming in and prioritised which one to output from to each 240V circuit.

The priority order was mains hook-up, onboard generator and the battery bank / inverter. All the circuits were installed with adequate safety measures and protection with RDBO’s and MCB’s which were all labelled and easily accessible. The 12V power source was more straight forward as the power capacity demand was much lower than the 240V electrics, so all 12V items were powered through the battery bank again with adequate fuse protection and switches. However keeping the charge in the battery bank if it was the only power source to run both 12V and 240V systems had to be overcome by installing a roof mounted 120W Smart Solar Panel, an intelligent split charging unit which charged the battery bank from the vehicle alternator, and an onboard 30A transfer charger which operated when either the mains hook-up or generator was running. The intelligent split charger unit also had a unique function called emergency start. If the vehicle’s standard battery became incapable of starting the engine, the unit would parallel it with the auxiliary battery bank (if they had enough voltage charge) allowing the vehicle to start. The solar panel was a necessity in order to let the refrigerator run at all times. The panel would supply a greater amount of voltage charge than the refrigeration was using. In regards to battery management we installed a battery monitor in the control panel which displayed the battery bank state, along with a battery protector which would isolate the auxiliary systems when the batteries reached the lower voltage limit. This was to provide protection of the batteries lifecycles, not allowing them to become damaged if they were over discharged. After the installation was completed the system was taken through rigorous testing to ensure the capacity was as planned and the all systems operated correctly resulting in a very positive outcome.

Volkswagen Crafter CR35 LWB Temperature regulator
Volkswagen Crafter CR35 LWB Lights Control System
Volkswagen Crafter CR35 LWB Generator

General

Other features of the conversion included a Fiamma vehicle awning installed on the nearside offering the customer a sheltered area outside the vehicle with high powered LED exterior scene lights to provide adequate light under the canopy if required, an independent 2KW diesel heater to provide heat in the rear, and high power LED interior strip lights with integrated night lights to provide adequate lighting in the rear along with subtle low level lighting if required. The vehicle styling was finished off which 20” Wolfrace Alloy wheels, chrome side runners, chrome grill highlights and a chrome rear bumper cover.


Conclusion

This conversion was a considerable technical challenge given all the requirements and elements included in the build, but the end quality of the product was a testament to the level and range of skill sets and workmanship of the TBC production team. The customer was delighted with the outcome of the conversion and has had the vehicle in operation for a few rally’s since taking delivery reporting that all the features have been a massive help to him and his team and overall performing beyond his expectations.


TBC team next to Volkswagen Crafter CR35 LWB
Volkswagen Crafter CR35 LWB Exterior