Text and pictures © 2009-2016 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2014/09/29
"Any man, in the right situation, is capable of murder. But not any man is capable of being a good camper. So, murder and camping are not as similar as you might think." — Jack Handy, american writer.
Left: A view of the car with the bed folded and the mattress rolled up on top.
Disclaimer: I won't accept any responsibility whatsoever if you saw off a finger, screw an appendage, get beheaded by the boards in a car crash, get post-traumatic disorder when it collapses in the middle of the night or get dumped by your girlfriend because you cannot afford to take her to a 5 star hotel.
Right: A view of the back of the car with the bed unfolded, the mattress on top.
After a few years happily camping in our modified Renault Kangoo, the engine died and since in the last 6 months I had already changed belts, alternator, battery, spark plugs, inner fuel tubings, valves, turbo, ABS disks, brake disks, and whatnot, and it had barely reached 120 000 km, I said fuck it and threw it away.
Right: Setting up the bed: after hooking the beams, just unfold the boards on atop them, it doesn't matter if the back seats are here or not. Notice the corners cut on the sides of the middle and front board; otherwise you touch the ceiling.
As a replacement, we purchased a Peugeot Partner Tepee Confort and of course I had to rebuild the 'bedroom' in it. The car is bigger but the inner space is about the same (and indeed I had to cut some 5cm width off the mattress). Also the inner pockets are not as useful as in the Kangoo: there are no ceiling box; there are no less than 9 slots available in the front of the car but some are absolutely useless (triangular diagonal, WTF ?!?); the back speakers are sloping and you can't put anything on them; etc...
Right: View of the bed form the inside of the car. Notice the 4 slings that come out of the support beam and hook up on the seat belt holders.
Some of the requirements in my design were:
Right: A closer look at the beam crossing. The top one is iron 18x18mm. The bottom one is made of an identical iron 18x18mm with a lighter aluminum beam on top with a notch cut in the middle to let the top beam go through.
Left: The support beams, the slings going through them, the holding binners and one of the cords that goes on top of the seat belt holder. The one with the sling goes to the back as I leave the front sling in place and just hook up the biner.
Right: A closer look at the bottom beam pair. The length is 142cm. The two beams are held together with some gaffer tape.
Before I came up with this design I got inspiration from several sites such as this one, this one, or this one.
Right: The lower support beam is made of two parts: a lower steel beam and an upper aluminum one, cut sideways in the middle.
So let's see the equipment necessary:
Right: The boards, unfolded into bed position. You just need to put the back seats down and the front seats in the forward position. Note that the back hinges are on top while the front ones are underneath.
Left: The holding sling hooked on top of the seat belt. The first time you need to adjust the length with a bubble level, but once this is done it doesn't take more than 20s to set in place.
When folded the boards fit behind the back seats (this is the safest combination). And if you don't want to carry the back seats, you can either fold only the front board underneath the middle one, or fold it all and use the roof seatbelt for security. When opened in bed position, the two metal bars are tied to the seatbelt holders and form a cross onto which the boards are placed.
Right: The car can be driven with the beams in place and the front board folded under the middle one. But this is DANGEROUS, as if you get rear-ended this will most likely break your spine.
Inserting the board into the car is easier than in the Kangoo: you just insert from the rear. Note that before starting construction, you MUST check all the dimensions as the all models of Partner are different, even the same model can change from year to year.
Getting in sleep mode: lay down the back seats, put the slings on the seatbelt holders, level the support beams, unfold the board from the inside, put on the mattress, make your bed, get in from the side or the back, open the side windows and have sweet dreams.
Left: Some padding is necessary against the side and against the back door if you want to keep the car in pristine conditions and keep the board from bouncing around.
Total construction time is about 4 hours. Probably a lot less if you have experience with this kind of stuff. There is no trick. I chose not to attach the support boards to the back board, allowing for various positions underneath the back, depending on what you want to carry. Make sure you properly file the edges of the metal beams so the the slings run smoothly through them.
Right: If you want to drive without the back seats, you at least need to secure the assembly with the back seatbelt (and a biner to hook it).
Left: One of the two support boards: 40x80cm, with 4 corners screwed on top.
What's missing ? As the ground of the back is plastic, things slide towards the front when you brake, some kind of grip on the floor is welcome. Also tinted windows. Backseat pockets. Carpets to hide the floor boxes. A box between the front seats...
There are certain things you can adjust in the design: you can shorten or lengthen up the front board if your height is less or more than 1m80. You can also change a few cm in the height above the floor of the car (currently 40cm): put it a bit lower if you are tall and cannot sit comfortably while on the bed. Put it higher if you need more spare room underneath, but beware not to run into the metal backseat holders, the max height is about 45cm, and you may need to shave a cm off the 78cm width of the back board if you raise it due to the seat inclination. Also if you put it lower than 40cm, you won't be able to leave the backseats inside. So if the range is 40~45cm, the best height is finally 40cm.
Right: Dimensions of the main assembly: 124.5x78cm, 115x70cm, 115x35cm on a 14mm plywood. This results in a 183cm bed. If you are tall you can cut the front board longer. Note the 8x8cm notch on the middle and front board; it is so you can unfold it without touching the ceiling of the car.
If you build a cozy nest based on this design, send me a pic ! And if you want to know what else to pack into the car, look at Jenny's lists.
As far as camping goes, here are the differences I've noticed between the two. Note that there are plenty of models available in both lines.