... Bruce Meets World ...
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How to rebuild a van

We bought Bruce on May 20, 2018, and the plan was to ship Bruce to Buenos Aires, Argentina at the end of October 2018. This meant that we had 5 months to transform Bruce from a fire truck into our "home on wheels", get our driving license and keep up with our full-time jobs. Bruce was parked somewhere in Zeeland, not exactly close to Amsterdam, but fortunately, we had a lot of help!

The first step was the demolishing and disassembling of the entire fire truck, shutters on both sides, all kinds of fire fighting equipment, the double cabin with space for 4 extra firefighters and last but not least, there was a large green water tank of 3000 litres. To start with, we gave Bruce 2 tyres on the rear instead of 4. Those 4 tyres gave too much resistance while driving over a soft surface and we opted for 19,5-inch wheels because that made the truck look a lot higher and tougher. All the work related to the tyres and the disassembly was done by Michel, the salesman, and he delivered the 'bare' truck to our camper builder in Kortgene, Zeeland. Michel recommended this guy, Sjoerd Willebrands, to us. Nowadays we don’t refer to him as `a guy` but as a HERO.

Because the truck was in service for 23 years as a fire truck, the floor was full of moisture and had to be removed and we replaced it with an insulated floor for more comfort. We had some similar issues with the shutters on the truck, they were not insulated well and absorbed a lot of moisture. The problem got solved with the help of a blacksmith, he did magic by using two aluminium plates. After a lot of measuring and fitting, we were happy with the result, the sides were now very well insulated and the seams were completely stainless.

Bruce was already 1.80 metres in height on the inside so there was no need for us to raise the roof. The biggest advantage was that the original Rosenbauer roof could stay, this gave Bruce his unique look. When the basis was done, we shifted our focus to the design and layout of the interior, it was nice to start with an empty space where everything was still possible. There were a few things we really needed on the inside, like a good shower, enough storage space, a fixed bed and a spacious kitchen. With all this in mind, we started making some drawings with different options for the layout. We wanted to make sure that Semora did not feel claustrophobic, so the inside needed to be open and spacious. The shower was the only component that could really "block" the view and that is why we placed it behind the driver's seat. We made many different layout options and finally, we agreed on layout number three:

A brief description of the layout: At the back of the bus we build the bed over the entire width (1.85m x 1.40m) and we want a slatted base and a good mattress (from Ravensberger in Zoeterwoude) because we will travel for a longer time. Attached to the bed is a 2-person train seat, where the middle part can serve as a table, but in a normal position, it is our couch and possibly a bed for a third person. Next, we want both on the left and on the right a lot of kitchen space. Semora loves to cook (and does it very well) and with Bart, as sous-chef, we need to have enough space to prepare our meals. Because of this setup, we have a lot of space for cupboards and a gas oven under the kitchen blocks. Further, alongside the left part of the kitchen is the bathroom and driver's seat, alongside the right part is the outside door and the passenger seat.

Finally, under the bed is a large storage space for all our stuff, 12 Curver folding crates (with labels;)), camping chairs, two extra diesel tanks of 20 litres and the wheel chocks. Behind this, we neatly concealed all the electricity, the water tank of 150 litres, two large 12-volt batteries and the gas tank.

Once the layout was fixed, we both had our own tasks and that worked out really well! Bart was in charge of the practical things, figuring out how it would all fit, order things and so on. Semora was focused on the design, the colours and the details of the interior. This included decisions about colour combinations, the practicality to use everything and to keep the space nice and also easy to clean. With all these challenges, our 8m2 felt more like 100m2! Semora did a wonderful job in organizing the interior space. She made it feel like a home and this was so important because we would live there 24/7 for a least one year. We were so proud that we achieved that homey feeling!

Bart loves working with excel and with a project of this size, it is necessary to make good planning, not only the layout is important but also the necessities. Thanks to this large excel file we had a list of all the things we needed to order and buy, going from electricity, taps, sink, oven, toilet, inverters to gas pipes. We spent hours researching on the Internet to arrange and furnish our camper in a sustainable way. In addition to finding furniture on flea markets, we also opted for a large solar panel on the roof (300w). It allows us to live as independently as possible (except on multiple cloudy days). The idea is that the solar panel and the driving will recharge our 12V batteries, so we have enough power to live around four days without sun. For almost all the electricity we chose Victron, a very strong Dutch brand.

Next was the exterior of Bruce. Some people would keep the original exterior, but we deliberately chose not to do so. In some countries, driving around in some sort of "government vehicle" is not approved. This made us decide to give Bruce a friendly and inviting appearance. We had some issue with the flashing lights because a private person is not allowed to use them and, in the end, we had to remove them because we could not find another solution. After having projected a lot of different colour combinations on Bruce in a Powerpoint - yes, in Powerpoint, we didn’t know anything about Photoshop (yet) - and a lot of help from Daan, our hero with colours, we came to our perfect combination: Light Pistachio in combination with Delft Green on the lower part and a white stripe in between.

In September we realized that we would not be ready on time, we postponed the shipping of Bruce for a month to the end of November and Bart went to live in Zeeland for a couple of weeks to help out a lot more. In the meantime, Semora stayed in Amsterdam and she made sure the house was ready to be rented out by the first of December 2018. She also packed all the things we needed, like kitchen equipment, camping gear and the last finishing touches for the interior design. These last few weeks were a struggle for everyone involved in this crazy project. But the idea that we would be on the plane on the first of December was a great motivation to keep going and there was just no way back for us!

On November 28, 2018, we had to deliver Bruce in the port of Zeebrugge. Sjoerd drove behind us to quickly finish the last things on the parking lot of the port. With minimal kilometres of experience in Bruce, lots of blood, sweat and tears, we handed over our keys to the port staff and said goodbye. No idea if and how we would find him on the other side of the ocean.

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Bruce Meets World ...