THANK YOU TO ALL OUR PARTNERS MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE.
We have covered Mama Bear in previous posts, however there are new comers to our community and we thought it would be good to summarise how we found our Spy Van, converted it from a panel to a window van and why we chose a van that required so much work.
Before we get into today’s topic, we hope that you’re all doing well. Malaysia has been under a never ending Lockdown since January 2021 and it is now already August! It’s been difficult to ignite inspiration and create content at the usual pace we use to. Stuck indoors day in day out and under the restrictions of a 10 km radius for destinations is really draining. Although we are stuck, we are grateful that we have received our second vaccination today and can look forward to crossing state borders soon. (we hope!)
HOW DID WE FIND MAMA BEAR? WHO IS MAMA BEAR?
We bought an ex military spy van in Dec 2018 – Rene had been secretly looking to upgrade our tiny campervan to one with more space for us and our dogs Roxy and Bo. I say secret because he didn’t really tell me he was looking.
Above is the exact advert in Facebook Marketplace. A Toyota Hiace SBV Diesel 2.5 RM18,000 (USD4500)
In Malaysia, panel vans are for commercial use only and passenger vans require windows. We have heard from the experience of others about the conversion from a panel van to a window van being near impossible to do through JPJ. Thankfully, ours was done by the seller after our purchase, before we changed names. He also had windows installed for us.
If you’re thinking about buying a panel van and converting it we suggest speaking to the people who have successfully done so. Join the Facebook Group – My Campervan Malaysia https://www.facebook.com/groups/592087724245555 and post a question to the folks within that community. People are really helpful and will happily share everything they know with you. This will also help you make some new friends with the same interests.
REASONS WHY WE BOUGHT THIS SPY VAN
- BRAND – We wanted a Japanese Van and preferably Toyota again seeing how happy we were with the performance of Vanhalen our Toyota Liteace.
- ENGINE – The mileage was 9000 Miles on the clock and her engine was hardly used. Great condition.
- DIESEL – For the journey we intended to do (Malaysia to UK by road) we wanted to run on diesel fuel.
- SPACE – We needed a long wheel base Van this time around to accommodate for life on the road.
- PRICE – We didn’t want to break our bank importing a campervan nor did we want to buy one brand new locally. RM18,000 was a bargain for this model Toyota Hiace
- MANUAL – We’re very much into simple. Automatics are a harder fix.
- DIY – We were prepared to do the DIY work involved in converting this spy van into our overlanding rig.
THE WORK WE DID IN BLUEPRINT GARAGE
The first thing on the list was for Rene and Joe to tackle the engine. For a project of this size, you really need to have access to a garage and a very skilled mechanic. The amount of time and work involved to get it to a stage where you can start the fun interior design requires months of storage. In our case, we partnered with BLUEPRINT GARAGE in Subang Jaya.
BLUEPRINT GARAGE https://www.facebook.com/blueprintgarage Contact Joe.
We would never have been able to do the work we did without our partnership with Joe. He coached Rene every step of the way when servicing Mama Bear’s engine. Once the engine was able to start Rene began gutting the van.
Above is a video showing you Mama Bear after months of gutting her interior.
Once we settled the engine work and gutted all of Mama Bear’s interior, she was finally ready for us to start on her body work. We took a break from working on the van and just drove it around in this raw condition in order to test run in her engine. We wanted to make sure we weren’t going to have to work on her engine any further. We also wanted to drive without air-conditioning, noise and heat insulation, interior cabinetry etc in order to get a good sense of what driving Mama Bear is like when empty. Well, it was extremely hot and noisy that’s for sure!
By the way if you need to service your diesel fuel pump we highly recommend this shop in Selayang.
YH DIESEL FUEL PUMP AND SERVICES SELAYANG https://www.facebook.com/yhdieselfuelpumpservices/
Below is a video summary of what happened from Vanhalen to Mama Bear.
BODY WORK AT RMS IN KAJANG
Before we could begin work on the carpentry we needed to sort out all the bad welding and dents Mama Bear had collected over her lifetime. We did this in a Body Shop in Kajang called RMS
RMS KAJANG https://www.facebook.com/RMS-Multi-Trading-Services-1560452414170473 Contact King.
We dropped Mama Bear off and let them do all the work. They patched, sanded, knocked, welded, painted and also made us a roof rack, kangaroo bars, a ladder to access the roof rack and a holder for extra fuel.
Watch the video of the beginning stages of work we did for MAMA BEAR up to Body Work with RMS
CAMPERVAN CARPENTRY TIME-LAPSE VIDEO
A good friend Richie made this stage possible for us. You get to see Richie a lot in our travel by campervan videos from Season 3 and 4. He has a VW Kombi that he converted into a cool campervan, that van tour video is on our channel too.
RICHIE’S VW KOMBI VAN TOUR VIDEO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_upe4vW8pw&list=PLUeSYeUUnqYHrDb_mzp5FsDdNJpFaUB83&index=4
Richie has a home garage converted into a carpentry workshop and woodwork is his hobby / passion. We were really lucky that he offered to help us with Mama Bear. We had a really basic design drawn up and measured to suit Rene and my size.
Watch a time-lapse video below we made of the carpentry we did from start to finish.
KEEPING THINGS LIGHT AND SIMPLE – from our previous van build experience, our goal was to keep things light weight and simple. We used marine ply and pine. Below is the initial sketch we made of the interior we wanted. Our criteria was a place to sleep, a sink, a water system and a solar battery system.
SOLAR SYSTEM FOR ELECTRICITY
The local distributor for Goal Zero sponsored us our battery system for Mama Bear – however, we did buy our first system for Vanhalen back in 2017. For Vanhalen our Toyota Liteace camoervan we use a Goal Zero 400watts AGM Battery System and for Mama Bear we use the Goal Zero 1500X.
We charge our batteries with a 90Watt Goal Zero Boulder Solar Panel on our roof. We also have a portable Goal Zero Nomad 100 Watts Solar Panel for when we are parked in the shade and need to charge up our battery. Parking under the sun is not an option here in the tropics, especially because we travel with dogs.
If you’re interested in Goal Zero Products, here is the link to the local distributor in Malaysia – https://www.facebook.com/goalzeromalaysia Contact Luis or Thomas.
TRAVEL AROUND MALAYSIA IN MAMA BEAR
Thankfully, in between lockdowns in 2020, we were able to travel around Malaysia testing out our DIY Camper. Here are the videos of Mama Bear in action! We did a full shakedown to see just how comfortable our overlanding rig was for long road trips and off grid camping.
Let’s see if all our hard-work paid off. Let us know what you think?
That’s our summary from beginning to end for our Campervan Conversion DIY / Overlanding Rig and we hope that Malaysia will soon open interstate borders for us to continue our road trips.
Please share this article to those who have the same crazy interests as us.