Our step-by-step guide from start to end of how we painted the van, including all of the trials and errors in between. We’ve included the cost of all materials used to give an idea of what to expect when considering converting your own van.

 

Choosing the paint:

We decided we had been driving around in LDV’s “Rust White” with the word “Cumberland” daubed down the side along with flamboyant tie-dye for long enough! We bought some enamel coach paint from eBay for around £50 per tin. We bought two tins of semi-gloss including primer so it could be a one coat job, and it had the additional bonus of being anticorrosive. We chose this particular company because we were able to pick an exact shade of paint, RAL5024, or as we like to call it, Liquid Sky.

We thought ten litres would be enough and we were right. We actually only used about three litres to coat the entire van once over.

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Preparation:

Very early on in the build we began our battle with rust. Rust was everywhere in our van - it’s even in our name. We can’t say we’ve ever managed to beat it completely, but we have managed to keep it at bay. We went around with an angle grinder, a brush and a pot of Kurust many, many times.

We started the painting process by scratching the surface of the van with scouring pads to key the paint. This gives the new paint something to stick to. Be sure to thoroughly clean the van once you have done this to remove any dust or dirt. Anything that is left behind will show up underneath your new layer of paint.

Next, we masked off everywhere we didn’t want to get paint on. This stage is probably the most important part if you don’t want to spend ages faffing around trying to scrape paint off windows and generally having a miserable time. It takes a bloody long time but it’s worth getting into every corner and tucking the tape in behind all windows seals etc. A word of warning: remove the masking tape once you are done painting or you will end up lifting the paint when it’s dry, and don’t wait until it rains thinking that it will wash off by itself, because you’ll end up with one massive sticky mess and you’ll be peeling scraps of masking tape off for years to come. Or so we hear.

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Painting:

Don’t use cheap rollers from Poundland. Just don’t do it. The heads fall off and get stuck in the dirt and get paint all over your driveway and make a terrible mess. Buy some cheap foam ones from Screwfix instead, they’re much better. It actually didn’t take long at all to paint the van, but we spaced it out over a few days because of work commitments and the Great British weather so did a section at a time. All in all it probably took us around 8-10 hours to mask and paint. For the most part, the rollers worked a treat, but in some areas we needed to use brushes for finer details, particularly around the windows and doors.

A word of advice - the paint dries very fast so if you see a drip be sure to smooth it out quickly. We opted for rolling the paint on because we had no experience with airbrushing and, well, Ben painted his bedroom once so that had to count for something. We’d never attempted anything like this before and the outcome, although far from perfect, is something we were really happy with.

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Painting & sealing the roof:

When we were hit by something of a mini heatwave in Cornwall it gave us a good opportunity to fix our persistently leaking and easily breakable roof. We bought a 2.5L tin of Topcoat White fiberglass resin paint for around £25 from eBay - this stuff is used to fix holes in the sides of boats so we thought it should do our roof just fine. We sanded down the many mounds of Sika-flex from all our previous repair jobs so they wouldn’t show through too much once painted. The problem was, once the hardener was added to the paint we only had about half an hour to roller it onto the roof before it started to set, so we ended up with a few little bits of solidified rubber here and there. The 20ºC afternoon sun also didn’t help the paint set any slower, and it certainly didn’t help our sun burnt shoulders. All in all it took us around 3 hours to paint the whole roof, but it could’ve really done with another coat.

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Spraying the bumpers & wheels:

Our bumpers were looking shabby, scraped and sad, and needed a fresh coat of paint. While totally nonessential to the build we wanted to do our best to spruce up our rust bucket. We masked off one area at a time and sprayed in long, even strokes. Then we bought some generic silver wheel spray to cover up the rust and grime on those too, using a circular template to protect the tires.

We used black stone chip paint to even out the bits of black trim we’d stained blue, and it was kind of a balance between reapplying bits of blue and splodges of black until we had something vaguely neat. We used this on the rear of the van around the rusty number plate area too.

We painted the insides of the van using flexible vinyl spray.

 

Re-coat:

We put our van through a lot of shit on our first trip. Like, a lot. 

She wore her battle scars proudly; scrapes from near-misses, dents from reversing into things like brick walls and Land Rovers (FYI the Land Rover was fine). But it was time for a fresh coat of paint.

Her liquid sky colour was looking a little more like a rainy day, possibly because the typical English summer is 90% rainy days. But we took our chance when a rare bit of sunshine appeared to give the roof a fresh coat of white, and repaint the van blue in sections, starting with the back doors and finishing with the bonnet where Ben had tried to slide action movie-style across it and ended up scratching it with his belt.

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Total cost and materials used:

5L semi-gloss enamel coach paint with primer from eBay - £25 

2.5L Topcoat white fibreglass resin paint from eBay - £25

Black bumper spray from Euro Car Parts - £3.99

Kurust from a local hardware shop - £6

Sandpaper & scourers

Rollers & roller trays from Screwfix - £7.98

Stone chip & silver wheel spray from a carboot - £3 each

 

Total cost:

 

£70.97

 

Where would you like to go next?

Painting

Goodbye, tie-dye.