VW T5 Caravelle Rail Fitting

Now for us this was the make or break point of our project and took a few weeks to find the right information and people to make it all happen.

At first we looked at the popular Rock’n roll bed system which many people have fitted to their T5’s, but with 3 children we liked the added flexibility of the caravelle rail system plus 3 kids plus child seats on one bench seat was just going to cause lots of arguments and pushing and shoving, so Caravelle rails it was.

Now here is the first hurdle, sourcing the rails

eBay is the first point of call and there are a few too choose from along with varied states of cosmetic condition.

You can get single or double rails but this basically boils down to do you want the caravelle table, if you do then you need the double rails which will give you 6 tracks in total.

Expect to pay between £700 – £1,200 for a set of rails but don’t forget the bolts. The rails need a lot of bolts in fact there is over £100 in bolts alone, and then you need chassis brackets to help strengthen the fittings on the underside.

This might sound like too much hassle already and I think this is why the rock’n roll bed option is so popular but don’t let it put you off, the end result is worth the extra effort and there are some great guys out there to help you.

Oxford T5

On many VW forums there was lots of mentions to a chap called Colin over at Oxford T5’s and apparently if you were after Caravelle rail fitting then he was the guy to talk too.

Easier said than done i thought, it took a few emails and voice messages but it transpires that this was only down to the fact that these guys are super busy and now I know why.

Colin has to be one of the most genuine guys I have had the pleasure to meet in a long time and was so helpful in explaining what would be required for fitting of the Caravelle rail system and that if I couldn’t source all of the parts then he had a local supplier who could help me out.

Rail fitting booked, Oxford here we come

I had managed to source a brand new set of double rails along with a caravelle floor including bolts.
We set off to Oxford and got there for 8:30am. Straight away Colin greeted us with a quick run down of what he would be doing today along with showing us all of the brackets that would be fitted to the underside and the fitting certificate which would be provided at the end of the day and that we were more than welcome to stay and watch the rails been fitted.

We opted to leave them too it and go for a cooked breakfast and a spot of shopping in the local town which was only 10 mins walk away.

Fitting took around 7 hours and at the end of the day Colin took our details and then emailed us a fitting certificate stating that all genuine VW crash tested parts have been used during fitting.

One thing to note is that the caravelle rail system results in a slightly raised floor level so you will need a new side step and rear threshold cover to accommodate this and Colin had a few to hand and provided
them along with the fitting.

Time taken: 1 day

Cost
Depends on the rail quality, fittings and other bits and pieces but I would suggest that you budget around 2k for rails and fitting. (seats are extra, look on eBay and expect to pay around £500- £600 per seat).
You can find cheaper options but think safety, is it worth risking the lives of your passengers for the sake of a few hundred quid?

Oxford T5’s did an amazing job, all genuine parts plus a fitting certificate which is worth its weight in gold when it comes to insurance and DVLA reclassification, which is what we are looking at next.

oxford-t5-fitting

vw-t5-caravelle-rail-fitting

Fixed or detachable

Which VW tow bar to choose for our T5

With the windows in, our attention turned to a few of the bigger jobs where it would make perfect sense to have them done now while the interior was fully exposed and accessible.

We wanted the option of towing so it made sense to look at getting that out of the way as it seemed to be a bit of a dull purchase.

Fixed or Detachable

As with the windows there are lots of kits and options here but once again after a quick look on the internet we found a local tow bar fitter who could supply and fit with electrics for under £400, so it was on the phone for a quick chat.

I wanted a fixed bar but the chap advised us that due to the reversing sensors on a VW T5 there is a risk that a fixed bar might interfere with them with a false reading of distance, and once it was fitted there is not much you can do about it, so detachable it was to avoid any issues.

The rear bumper and cross member were removed to make way for the new Witter assembly and because the inner panels and pillar trim were already out the fitter said that it made the job so much easier to run all the electrics internally along the loom and down into the engine bay rather than along and under the outside of the vehicle.

I didn’t really get chance to take many photos during fitting but as you can see the end result is very discrete and the tow bar is very easy to attach and disengage and fits nicely under the front double seat.

(While looking for a tow bar we did enquire at our local VW dealer about them installing a tow bar, long story short the quote was £1,500 for excactly the same Witter bar as we just had fitted!)

Fitting Time: 4Hrs

Cost: Expect to pay around £400

VW T5 Window Fitting

Now that the bulk head had been removed it was time to turn our attention to having a few windows fitted to the sides and rear.

After browsing the photos on Google at all the options available we decided on the look that we wanted by having a single forward window on each side panel along with a tailgate window. At first I was against having a tailgate window fitted to the T5, but there looked to be a lot of chatter on the forums about DVLA reclassification and quotes from DVLA documents stating that from the rear the van must look like it could contain additional passengers in the rear, so not wanting to risk any technicalities when it comes to reclassification we decided that a rear window was needed.

Now there are lots of VW T5 window kits available, kiravans do some great ones and there are lots of people who have found it straight forward in fitting their own, but this was worrying me a little to say the least. The thought of cutting lumps out of our beloved T5 panels and risk getting something wrong was too much, so I looked at my options.

I could buy the windows and have a go at fitting them, or I could pay an extra £250 and have a chap supply and fit them on my driveway.

A total no brainer at this stage of the build for the extra hit it is worth letting a mobile fitter with the right specalist window fitting tools, cutters and most of all public liability insurance do the work.

The best desision made to date, he turned up at 10am prompt and was all done by 14:00. I was worried that been there taking pics could have annoyed him but he was ok and said VW owners are his best customers and went on to mention that the previouse day he had to fit a full set of windows into a brand new T6 with only delivery milage on the clock and he had to ask the owners to leave as they were almost in tears when he started to make the first cut in the brand new van.

Once fitted our van was out of action for 48 hrs to make sure all of the adhisive was fully set, and that included no door opening and closing. After a couple of days it was time for a quick wash down with an hosepipe to get rid of any fine bits of metal which were around the window and on the body work then we were good to go.

Time taken: 4hrs + 24/48 hrs curing

Cost: Depending on your fitter expect to pay around £800 for 3 windows supplied and fitted

And was the rear window worth it? Yes it made a massive diffence to the look and feel of the van.

Here are a few photos from the day.

vw-t5-rear-window-cut-out

vw-t5-rear-window-fitted

vw-t5-side-window-cut-out-primed

vw-t5-side-window-cut-out

vw-t5-side-window-fitted

 

Bulkhead Removal

And the dreaded bulkhead frame

Our T5 panel van had the usual metal bulk head which separates the cab from the rear loading area.
The bulkhead is made up of two parts held in place by a few bolts which are attached to a brackets which in most parts are spot welded to the frame.

The first task is to simply pull away the headliner strip in the cab to reveal a few hidden bolts which secure the upper section of the bulkhead to the roof.

Once these bolt have been removed you can continue around the sides and floor in the rear loading area of the T5 removing the nuts & bolts and releasing the bulkhead.

Once removed you will notice that there are a few sections of rails attached to the chassis which held the bulkhead in place.

VW T5 Bulkhead frame
VW T5 Bulkhead frame

Door pillar upper sections. The bulkhead frame on here was just bolted in place so all that was needed here was to pop the door pillar trim off to get to the bolts. For this we just needed a few trim tools to prevent any damage to the plastics.

Remove Trim
Remove Trim

The first step was to un-bolt the upper seatbelt retaining bolt, then it was just a case of working around the pillar trim with a trim tool and popping out the trim clips to expose the pillar.

Bulkhead Frame
Bulkhead Frame

Once the upper rail was removed our attention turned to the lower section and bottom rail spanning the full width, both of which were spot welded.

There are a few options here but the one we found that worked for us was a combination of a small cutting disc and a cold chisel.

Angle grinders are too big and clumsy here so we used a Black & Decker Rotary Tool with a metal cutting disc. At first I thought they were going to be too small and flimsy but man was i wrong. It’s got to be one of the best things i purchased for working on the van.

Cut Spot Welds
Cut Spot Welds

Cutting spot welds was like cutting butter with such a fine blade. I cut as much as i could reach and then simply used a cold chisel and lump hammer to simply pop off the rest.

bulkhead-spot-weld-cut2

It sounds a bit brutal but it worked really well and it was a case of just grinding down the odd weld after the frame was removed.

pillar-bulkhead-frame-cut
(A quick tip here is to use an heat resistant soldering mat to block the sparks from burning your leg or front floor mat from the grinder)

Once done simply cover any exposed metal parts with aluminium tape or zinc primer and replace the pillar trim which just pushes back into place using the white trim clips and free up any trapped door seal down the pillar with a trim tool.

Total time from start to finish: 3 hrs

Tools used:

Black + Decker RT650KA Rotary Tool with accessories in a Kit Box
Dremel Speed Clic Mandrel
Dremel SpeedClic Grinding Wheel
Dremel SpeedClic Metal Cutting Wheel
Solder Mat
Zinc Priming Aerosol Spray Paint
48mm x 10m Aluminium Foil Tape
Door Panel, Car Trim Removal Tool Set

VW Build

What’s it all about?

Like many others out there we have always admired the VW camper as it passed us by and always said to ourselves “if only, maybe one day”.

Well the midlife crisis kicked in a little earlier than expected and it was time for me to purchase the totally unpractical two seater sports car for a family of five, then the voice of reason kindly pointed out, “what about a VW camper?”.

After many hours browsing and quickly realising that the camper to meet our needs was going to cost way more than we had anticipated, the conversation quickly turned to the topic of a self build.

The Plan

There are lots of forums out there and it looked like the dub community are a very helpful bunch when it came to self build questions.

So the plan was hatched, buy a secondhand T5 and have a go using the internet as our guide.

So why write this blog about our VW conversion?

After a couple of months we have finally managed to convert our VW T5 with no prior automotive knowledge using only the VW forums and videos to guide us along the way.

So it is only fair that we too share what we have found and pass on our T5 self build story which hopefully might help others along the way.

The Van

We decided on a T5 but knew that it needed to be an automatic with a tailgate.
It took a while to find the right van as there are not too many out there with automatic boxes and tailgates, but in the end we managed to find one on Ebay, a 2009 VW T5 DSG T30 Automatic with tailgate and it only had 40k on the clock!

It was the standard commercial panel van with a bulkhead but very clean considering it was a works van.

The End Goal

At the end of the day our goal was to have a family day van, something that we could use as our daily family car but also adapt to an occasional sleep over or weekend festival such as Camper Jam.
It needed to be able to tow a caravan and carry bikes. but most of all keep the kids entertained.

The following posts cover each topic as we approached them. they are by no means the only way of doing things but it’s how we decided to approach each task.

We also had to purchase quite a few new tools and quickly discovered the old “buy cheap, buy twice” rule here. So in each post we will also try and list all the tools & parts we ended up using as this will add to your overall build price.