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Custom Camper Van: 2022 Mercedes

Updated: Jun 20

Van Conversion: Athena, The Mercedes


Camper vans may be more popular now than they were in the 60s and 70s and we’re here to show you why with rain2shine ventures’ most recent custom-built camper van, “Athena”.

2022 Mercedes Custom Camper Van

VAN TOUR VIDEO: YouTube



Athena’s (van) Story

Athena came to us through a couple close to retirement in Maryland.  As avid campers that have previously owned a teardrop camper, this couple was looking for something slightly bigger and more convenient to travel in. 


They bought their 2022 Mercedes Sprinter 4x4 with a 170” wheelbase from a seller in NY that previously started modifying the vehicle with a little exterior work.  The seller also provided approximately $30K worth of materials he had already purchased, with the price of the van.  


While searching for a company to build their van, our clients found that most van conversion companies weren’t willing to work with them because of the excessive amount of products that were coming with the van.


Typically, we also purchase and/or build all the materials for our camper renovations and van conversions because we know what will and will not work/fit in each RV.  Some purchased items might need to be retrofitted for a build and we know what will be less costly in terms of price + labor required to make it work.  It ultimately saves our clients and our company from wasted time returning unusable items and/or added labor which helps the budget stretch further.  


However, in this case, the owners of the van acquired high-end equipment from the seller (mostly operational), so we agreed to use as many of the items as possible to save time and money.


SIDE NOTE

As a fully client-based company offering customized builds and renovations specific to each customer’s wants and needs, we welcome our clients' ideas and guide them through the process with our expertise in small spaces, function and interior design.  Some clients give us free reign and creativity while others are more particular or want options to choose from when it comes to the layout and decor.  We strive to get to know each client before starting on their project to ensure a smooth process.  We ask questions such as:

  1. Are there any must haves or needs to keep in consideration? For example, spaces for children and/or pets, work/office materials, special equipment, etc?

  2. What is your design style or vision? Do you have examples (links or photos) of design styles you like?

  3. Are you Full Time or Recreational?

  4. What kind of lifestyle do you lead? Very active, relaxed, work-oriented, etc.

  5. Where do you intend to travel in your RV?


BACK TO ATHENA

The owners of Athena did extensive research and had a list of “must-haves” including a self-cleaning shower door, interior switches for holding tanks, and an area by the bed with a plug for a small cPap machine.  Their list of “wants” included a table that would accommodate the driver side swivel chair, shoe storage by the sliding door, a step to assist getting in/out of their raised bed, and a place to later install a TV and a sound system.


So, we got to work with creating a floor plan and design in VanSpace 3D to share with them and they approved! 3D Van Design 


While this was our third van build, it was by far the most complex in that it had many more features than the previous two.  Some of these additional features include a full shower (with a slide in and out toilet), an elaborate electrical system, solar, and a fully diesel heating system including a heated floor.  


We began working on Athena at the end of May 2023 and our clients came for their BIG REVEAL and took her home to Maryland in December 2023. This Mercedes van has many features throughout and I’ve broken them into categories: aesthetic features, functional features and operational features. Please feel free to skip ahead to whatever you find the most interesting. 


Aesthetic Features: 

Our goal with Athena was to create a cheerful vibe with a transitional (mix of traditional and contemporary) aesthetic. The Mercedes is a classic but fun space with pops of color, sleek neutrals and tasteful accents.  While we like everything about this van, the textures really make a statement. From the wood grained marble backsplash in the kitchen and the teal geometric shower tile to the sleek white onyx corian countertop and the rattan cabinet inserts, we were able to blend a variety of products seamlessly. 


Personally, one of my favorite aspects of the van turned out to be the upper cabinet doors with the rattan inserts and the gold hammered handles. Why, you may ask? Typically those handles are supposed to be flipped the other way around, but as a nod to the rain2shine ventures logo, we turned them to look like a sunrise. 


Custom Rattan Cabinet Doors

The shower tile was a true work of art and a tireless project, but it was worth it. The challenge in a van is that the shell of the vehicle is curved. Trying to vertically lay tile on a slant and match up the design on 3 separate walls was very difficult and time consuming. However, if you’re willing to put in the work, you won’t be disappointed with the outcome. 


Custom Van Shower

We chose the wood grained marble backsplash for the kitchen because we loved the geometric shape that coincided with the diamond-esqu shape of the shower tile, but mainly because the wood grain complimented the natural rattan inserts in the upper cabinetry. Having those two elements reflect a natural vibe helped to seamlessly bring all the other aesthetics together. 


Camper Van Kitchen Backsplash

Lastly, the tabletop we chose for dining and/or working was a last minute decision. Originally, we planned on making our own, but it was missing that “wow” factor.  We ultimately decided to purchase an end table from Amazon that we deconstructed to work within the van and we couldn’t be happier with it. (You’ll see the tabletop from above deeper into this article.)



Functional Features: 

While the above features help the space look beautiful, it is also important to make the space as functional as possible. With such a compact space, creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness can be really helpful. At rain2shine, we pride ourselves on merging style and operations without sacrificing any functionality. 


Perhaps the most functional aspect of this van involves the bathroom and dining areas. We custom-built a shower and a shower pan that would allow the Separett toilet to slide in and out with drawer slides. Allowing the shower to be multi-functional saves space in an already compact van. When the toilet is not in use, it is stored outside of the shower, under a seating bench and enclosed with a tambour door. Creating multi-functional spaces is imperative in tiny homes.  Note: Our client chose a urine diverting toilet meaning there is no need for a black tank. 



That leads us to the dining/office area. Remember that tabletop we mentioned earlier? Well, we put that on an adjustable table leg. This provides mobility for the table and it gives you the ability to collapse it against the wall when it’s not in use–every spare inch matters!  Additionally, we installed swivels under the driver seat and passenger seat so our client can rotate to face the back of the van. 



It’s common for the systems in a van to be located in the rear.  For this project, we put them under the custom-built bed in the back of the van.  This makes the bed sit higher than a standard bed which can make getting in/out somewhat of a challenge for a petite person.  To solve this problem, we custom-built a pull-out step stool below the refrigerator; hidden when you don’t need it, easy to access when you do.  Additionally, we made it slip-resistant using life grip tape. Note: The drawer slides (with locking rails) that we used for the step and the toilet will hold up to 500lbs.



Van life typically lends to an active outdoor lifestyle and ultimately dirty shoes.  For our client, we installed a sliding shoe compartment in our cabinetry (facing the sliding door) to store all those shoes. The real benefit of this is that you can access it from outside the van to switch from dirty shoes to clean shoes before entering and vice versa. 


Custom Shoe Storage Compartment In Camper Van

Above the shoe compartment, we intentionally placed the sink and faucet.  For this faucet, we chose one with mobility. This means you can rotate it to the outside of the van to quickly clean things off…dirty shoes, perhaps!



To avoid touching on each functional feature, I will end on the self-cleaning shower door. This is beneficial in avoiding moisture build-up in a small space and ultimately mold.  These shower doors aren’t the best looking, but this benefit outweighs beauty!


Operational Features:

To some, this is the most interesting part, while to many it is boring and/or goes right over the head. Either way, the operations may be the most important part of a custom van conversion. In this regard, the features include: 


Using a very complex 600 AH Victron system with 3 batteries, the entire van has the power to operate. Additionally, it connects to the 200 watt roof solar panels and the 90 watt hood solar panels. 



Finding a 12V AC can be difficult but Nomadic Supply Co. has a few models to utilize when you’re not plugged into anything.  We chose the Nomadic Cooling X3 Camper Van Air Conditioner, a stand-alone AC that has the ability to operate without being connected to the engine or shore power.  This allows you to function while off-grid. Furthermore, this AC only uses 12V or 24V DC power to run directly from your batteries without an inverter.


Our clients were adamant on using diesel over propane to heat their van.  Since the van itself is diesel, this made perfect sense.  We chose the Bobil Air Hybrid heater. Bobil Vans describes it best, “it allows you to heat water from both your diesel air heater and via electric (12V, 230V or both). By pumping water through a heat exchanger - attached to a diesel heater - you can heat water from your diesel heater, giving your hot water to wash up, do dishes or have a hot shower. The 10L insulated, pressurized tank easily connects to your existing water supply and has integrated tank connectors, requiring very little power to maintain the temperature.  You can set the temperature you would like the water to be, and it will automatically switch off when it hits it.”


Bobil Air Hybrid Heater For Camper Van

We installed heated flooring by using the Bobil Underfloor Heating Kit.  This kit allows you to utilize the heat from the diesel air heater, and use it to heat propylene glycol which pumps around the floor of your camper van through a copper pipe, giving you a cozy floor!



WeBoost is one of the best-known cellular signal boosters around, primarily for its ability to create a strong cell signal from a very weak source, up to 50 dB maximum gain!  This was very important to our clients that continue to work remotely until their retirement..which is just around the corner. 


Although I’ve covered a few of the bigger features in this van, there are many more including a 40 gallon fresh water tank, 2 gray tanks, a UV water filtration system, pop-up countertop outlet, and more!  For a full list of features and materials, visit Athena’s page on our website:  Athena Van Conversion


 




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