The backstory: We'd had an SWB high-top T4 for six or seven years. It was ace, we had a lot of fun trips in it, but it was starting to feel a bit small. The kids are 8 and 4, one of each and increasingly not terribly good at sharing a small roof bed. The bikes had to go on a rack, which meant we usually took vaguely sacrificial (ie crap) ones that we didn't mind leaving on show if we went for a wander around town or something. We also wanted a decent sitting area inside that was unhindered by childrens' beds so they could go to sleep at one end and we could sit up at the other. Munging all these requirements together gave us the basic layout. There isn't anything quite like it available from proper motorhome companies, and if there was we wouldn't be able to afford it, so we decided to build our own.
Spent a lot of time looking for a suitable van. Having looked at all sorts, we settled on the current generation of Ducato/Boxer/Relay because they're wide enough to fit beds crossways, still fairly new and, well, dozens of pro converters can't be wrong. The next challenge was tracking one down that was within budget, not impossibly leggy, a private VAT-free sale and not too wantonly abused. Missed out on a couple and finally took a bit of a gamble by hitting the Buy It Now button on an '07 XLWB Fiat Ducato. Which came with this spendidly Clarksonesque bonnet badge:
It's a 3.0 turbodiesel, which didn't half get a shift on when empty. It's also the "Heavy" version, with uprated suspension and bigger wheels -- GVW is still only 3,500kg, but replating it to 4,000kg is just paperwork. No intention of doing that for insurance/ferry/other reasons, but it means I'm comfortable with it banging up against 3.5t in regular use. The empty van is a bit over 2t, so that's roughly 1,500kg to play with, which has to include us and all our kit.
As bought, the van was like this inside:
Eeeuw. Previous owner was a heating engineer, so the interior was clad with a curious plywood/heating oil composite material. First job was to rip all that out and also remove this:
which did not feature in our plans
An awful lot of this kind of thing came out:
but we eventually got to the point where it was a bit more convivial and ready for the first of many trips to the timber merchant: