When we looked at the vans on the market in our area and at shows we took note of all the components they have used. No matter at what aspect of a van you look you realise that there are only a very limited number of choices, in some cases only a very few. All vans end up with the same components more or less arranged in a slightly different way, but still the same components.
We were talking to a few manufacturers about some of our wishes and ideas and we found very little understanding or cooperation. It was put very quickly in the all too hard basket. We learned that custom build does not really mean custom build, it only means pick bits and pieces from a predefined selection, shake it a bit and be happy with what comes out. We realised that it would be extremely daunting if not impossible to communicate more than a few special requirements to any of the manufacturers. They are set in their ways, not willing to move away from one or the other way of building their product.
Companies building steel frames would rubbish aluminium chassis or frames, and companies using aluminium cladding would rubbish composite panels as too hard to repair and other reasons. I can understand the attitude to some degree with local labour cost and component prices, that they need to streamline their production as much as possible, but it leads to very standardised and unified products to some degree. For me I compared it with the houses in the new suburbs on 300sqm blocks. No tree around, every house with 1.5m distance to the property fence, all with the same minimal number of power points in the house, rubbish plumbing with trickle showers, electric wires thrown across the attic, soldered copper pipes directly to the taps, tiling without proper slope and pooling water on the bathroom floor and I could go on. They look nice and new, fancy, modern, but they do not really provide a pleasant experience of living to me.
We had arrived at the decision that we had to custom build our van and after trying to find a company even willing to look at the concept, we also became aware that we would not find somebody being willing or capable to do what we wanted. I really wonder if there are other people like us having similar experiences or thoughts.
Ok then, we decided that we would try to design our van and organise everything ourselves. We also had to source all the materials and components. Over the period of 6 months I researched the market for potential components we wanted to use and also for building materials. I looked at USA, Europe, China and also Australia for all the items in question. Australia is very limited in choices and very high priced especially through specialised caravan suppliers. China supplies most small building parts at the best prices through AliExpress, Alibaba and Ebay. A door latch for example is a bit over one dollar from HongKong and the same product (really the same) sells at Bunnings for 10 times as much – ridiculous.
I have many more examples of items where local prices are simply unacceptable.