Oct 2012 - March 2013

Trip Start Mar 27, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Friday, January 25, 2013

First and foremost, meet Rambo the Ambo, our trusty steed :) 

As per our brief introduction on our profile page Rambo was purchased for a bang tidy 1700! 
A bargain and no doubt you would say to yourself "what's wrong with it?" 
The simple answer... nothing.  Good luck and good faith brought us to this camper van after seeing an add on gumtree pleading the public for a quick sale (dodgy I still hear you cry?)  We made the call to the number on the add and were greeted with a NZ accent and an explaination that he and his girlfriend were due to fly back to NZ within a matter of days.  Matt explained they been let down on several occasions with buyers they had literally halved there asking price to try and get some money back before leaving to go home...  They had done 3 months round EU in Rambo and it was first come first served for the quick sale.  We didnt waste anytime and arranged a viewing that weekend, made our way down to london and inspected her in the pitch black of night!  The Kiwi couple seemed genuine and they were keen to explain the querks of her various buttons and were honest enough to advise of what problems they had encountered on their travels (such as the water heater not working).  After a brief chat, Smatt decided to we would take a massive risk and part with our cash!  The snap decision was knowing full well if we didn't, there and then, someone else would!  We collected her a few days later, completed the paperwork and took a slow and casual cruise at 50 mph home with big grins on our faces, like children that had won a toy at a fairground! She was such a prize! 

The Mission

To get Rambo looking less traditional and tired on the interior and transform her into a modern, funky, young and current show home camper.... for next to nothing, by February 2013. 

I dont think we realised what we had taken on with labour, in the middle of winter, until we had started ripping wall paper off the walls and the light fittings out! 

We did have an advantage with Matt being a hoarder of materials over the yrs so he had accumulated all sorts of glues, flooring and cleaning products which was aided by the use of his best friends Garage and Storage ground for Rambo (a warm cuppa was not far away!) that being said we had no real clue what we were doing so were guided by common sense alone.

The Kitchen

For Matt and I the heart of our home is always the Kitchen! we both adore our food and Matt has a passion for cooking, we agreed the outcome of this would then set the trend for the rest of the campervan.  

The kitchen itself was taken from a caravan, it needed a good deep clean and it needed livening up!  Matt set to work in his spare time, first on the agenda; splash back, black and white tiles which he had hoarded and stored in the garage from previous jobs..  We took the whole unit out to clean and added our first spash of colour to the drab beige decor...The Red Vinyl work surface.. this is no easy job and took the 2 of us to frustratingly try and fit, bubble free!! neither of us had used this material before and it was very difficult to master. (Matt had swapped an unused washing machine for this bit of vinyl)   

 Matt had put in quite a few days man hours by this stage tiling the side wall and behind the cooker worktop.. we also decided to wallpaper behind the kitchen unit, in the dark. (The wall paper was a free sample we took from the Range)
Matt also made some small shelves from some old wood we sprayed white. 
All in all this took roughly 2 full weekends and a few full work days from matt.

The end result was brilliant, especially as at this stage we had spent 0.00 money!



This really was 110% Matts remit, with a wealth of experience in this trade the first thing he did was rip up the ratty tatty floor that wasnt even stuck down in places... a proper bodge job which had no doubt gotten trashed over the years previous travel...
A recent job taken on by Matt in the wealthy area of Caversham Heights in Reading was fortunate enough to see us left with some rather swanky (and bloody expensive!) Oak Karndean flooring... The photo doesnt do it justice, it isnt until you see this floor close up that you notice the amount of pride that has gone into it.  With a lovely border and 45 degree angle this floor is not going anywhere! 

Total cost 0.00


The ambulance ceiling was still in its original state when we purchased it.   Bright orange bars running along the sides, a drip holder :/ topped off with a powder green shiny plastic surface.  Suffice to say it wasnt the nicest thing to look at! 
The ceiling was entirely mine but it had to have a makeover at ZERO cost.  We set to BnQ and took several wallpaper samples.  The idea was to make a collage on the ceiling that would break up the block colours on the rest of the camper...  We must have gone to BnQ about 15 times and Im sure the staff started to click onto the fact we NEVER purchased anything! 
The end result has been a slow process, Ive put up and ripped down various ideas on several occasions.  The final collage contains pictures of Marilyn Monroe, numerous foreign notes from all over the world and is very psychedelic, it would send anyone on a trip into a frenzy. 

Total cost 0.00


The first cost on the camper.  at 20.00 a roll and with alot of camper to do we brought 2 rolls and set about attempting to wall paper over the horrendous spongy flowery beige wallpaper it came with.  This has probably been the most interesting challenge... with so many rounded corners and a seam going through fake leather immitation wall paper we not only had to lay it flat but we had to match up the seams...  when this was finally complete we both breathed a sigh of relief.  
Total cost 40.00
  This took us about 6 weekends to do (in-between other jobs)


With 4 large cushions that dont detach from the foam the condition was reasonable apart from the fact one of them had gotten damp and you could see mould all around the edge which had dried and gone black. they werent reversible, they didnt detach to wash so they had to go... in attempt to continue on the DIY path I paid for a course which allowed me to learn how to reupholster them.. After shopping around it was evident that we would spend 20 a meter if we got the material from a fabric shop so, for a risk, I purchased the material off eBay at 5.00 a meter.  We needed 9 meters.  Sadly I only got 2 done on the course after a royal cock up from the eBay salesmen causing a massive delay so the other 2 smaller cushions required an industrial sewing machine to help me finish them.  An additional cost that we didnt need. 

Total cost 50.00 




What an ongoing saga this has been! I write to you on the 21st March with a matter of days to go.  Weve had nothing but trouble with our electrics primarily due to the poor wiring applied to the converter of our Rambo and the amount of fuses boxes and buttons we have from it being an ex ambulance.  We have also made the decision to re-wire some of the lights so that they ran off the mains as we are static for 6 months... Im not sure how many of the problems were caused by my darling man trying to do things without experience and how much is attributed to the poor installation from the offset of the conversion. 

Its safe to say Rambo needs to see an auto electrician and my other half needs to be a little more accepting he cant do everything himself! (lets hope he doesnt read this bit! lol)
However we currently have some spanking new spot lights now running off the mains thanks to Matt and Ryan as well as some addtitional plug sockets and light swtiches for the lights (just need to now figure out why the radio, central locking and heating has stopped working!) 
Total cost 3.00


In attempt to remove the last of the faded ambulance signage and make Rambo look less like that of a retired work horse, we decided to give her a small facelift and a lick of paint.  Nothing to drastic in mind but she needed sanding down and filling in places first... we took my dads advice and purchased a small roller and some black garden furniture gloss paint and tested the water on the bottom fibreglass skirts and paint them black... it immediately gave a new look and fresh image to her.
When I returned a couple of days later Matt had made an executive decision to paint the bonnet black.  Apparently this made her look more "edgy" and "cool" (Im yet to be convinced and think it looks like a bonnet from a different Renault master van!) and he had also painted the rest of the vehicle white to give her a young sprucey look.  I must say painting a vehicle with a roller and white garden furniture high gloss paint is not something I would recomend for your car it seems to have given the desired affect for the camper.  its far from perfect in places but in comparsion to the tired white and cracked paint in places it was definately the lesser of 2 evils. 

Total cost 50.00


There has been so many other things we have had to do on this camper, things that you dont think of until you start the project... to list a few here are some other minor things that needed doing:

Spray painting the interior rear doors to white
Making new blinds from recycled material on all windows (side and rear)
Carpeting under the seats and storage units to provide insulationFixing the broken water heater pressure release valve       
Putting up new shelves in the kitchen and bathroom
Fxing a sticky clutch peda
Trying to repair a punctured tyre and find a replacement tyre  

  • Repairing a leak in the roof 

  • Total costings

    Rambo             1700.00
    Wall paper        40.00
    Paint                50.00
    Reupholstery    50.00
    Electrics           3.00
    Roof box           20.00
    Other                20.00
    Water heater     9.00
    Replace Gas     16.00
    Gas adapter      9.00
    Sink waste pipe 5.00

    Total                 1922 +/-

    Summary of the last 5 months

    I can safely say that this project stands to be one of the hardest and most challenging things I have ever had to set my mind to.  I think we were both deluded in our quest and what we had taken on believing it to bring us as "closer together" as a couple, when in reality the hardship of trying to renovate and revive this camper, plan a trip, move out, change the way we live and spend, sacrafice our social lives, not slip into debt and somehow save has been the everest of strains on what was and still is a new relationship.  There have been points where I think we could have strangled each other! (quite literally), weve been let down by various people offering help on more than one occasion all topped off by being ridiculously skint, more so than I ever thought possible.  A project like this really should be planned over 12+ months and done at leisure rather than squeezed into a small window of 4/5 months.  I think if given the choice to do this again (and we would do this again) we would have both approach it rather differently but, hindsight is a great thing (or so they say!)

    We have, of course, had our moments of enjoying Rambo, such as valentines day when Matt attempted to cook a lovely lamb dinner for me on a small grill and 2 hob cooker which makes looking back on the last 5 months worth while and Im sure when we finally set sail and hit foreign soil we will reap the rewards of our hard work, look back and laugh at this period of time in our lives. 

    So, we are still hanging on in there with a few days left to go, we presently have no spare wheel, ongoing head scratching with the electrics and a evident lack of funds until I get paid from my final days of work....  I leave my job today (22/03/13) and suffice to say its still not quite sinking in what we are about to embark on.  I hope, in the next few days, we manage to sort out the last few remaining issues, but I guess, at worst, we may be able to pick up a spare wheel in France given Rambo is of French origin!  


    The next blog of new entry from me will be the start of the adventure. 


    Smatt xx
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    Ellie on

    Aw Sam what a lovely entry! Look forward to the next one and see you in France!xxx

    smatt on

    Thanks Ellie! Hope to catch up soon! :) xx

    Claire Ringer on

    Hi Sam,

    Thought you finished work at the end of this week, my bad. The van look awsome! I bet you will have a fantastic time and won't want to come back. Am sure that the weather will change soon. I've seen reports on the tele this morning that we have a heat wave coming.

    It's been great working with you. I'll keep in touch via your blog.

    Again, have a fantastic time mate, am sure you will.

    Lots of Love

    Claire x

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