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Our Low budget van build – VW LT31 Interior – stage 001 – Rust Removal

Our Low budget van build – VW LT31 Interior – stage 001 – Rust Removal

Our low budget van build is slowly coming along. Every day we are a little bit closer to getting it done. Like chipping away at a stone with a soup spoon, we are slowly getting it done. Fortunately we have a wide selection of good quality tools at our disposal, but the more we work on our van the more there seems to be that needs working on.

When “Purple Turtle” / “Thunder Truck” Arrived we knew we would have many long days ahead. Being mentally prepared, and as excited as we are, to take our time has been the biggest help with the refurbishment.

After getting the vans brakes repaired and replaced we were able to roll her out and start working on getting the horribly old and damp interior out. The easy part was ripping it all out. Once we had it all cleared we could see how badly the rust was. The previous owners had done some very basic sealing and insulation and there must have been an extreme amount of condensation. This has lead to surface rust on the interior that is much worse than the exterior and even underside of the vehicle.

This old insulation fiber made me itch and the old soggy MDF made my eyes water and had me sneezing for hours! Unfortunately the breeze actually seemed to make it worse! Getting this on my skin made me itch like crazy and gave me welts! Certainly not meeting any EU standards here. We did decide to keep the dry and relatively good condition insulation foam on the walls as this will be sealed up and out of harms way soon!



After grinding away the rust (LEFT) and what it looked like before (RIGHT)

Getting the wire brush and electric grinders didn’t make the job much easier. Still hard work grinding away at the floor and trying to get into all the corners. I found using an old plastic 20 liter bottle to sit on made the job a little easier, it gave me the freedom to slide around with out having to use my hands.

Once all the rust was removed, we vacuumed and then wiped the metal down with some old petrol. Then we added the paint, a thick paint designed for garden gates and fences. We weren’t too worried about the final appearance as this is to seal the metal and will be covered with insulation and wood flooring. We hope this will be good enough to last another 30 years!


  • Be prepared to get dirty! Grinding away at rust creates lots of dark brown dust – this will get everywhere so make sure you have the right clothing, and if possible a face mask and eye protection.
  • This brings us to protective wear. If you are using an electric grinder or drill with a brush attachment – protective wear is essential. Good clear glasses, and long pants and long shirt is needed. The brush can spit out individual metal strands and these are sharp and dangerous!
  • Use the right tools. An electric grinder is absolutley needed when doing large spaces like this. We used 2 brush discs as they wear through easily if you use to much force. We also had rust removers and rust converters at hand for the hard to reach spots.
  •  Take your time and be thorough. Don’t rush, you will only get exhausted, and tired and end up having to do it twice.
  •  Apply your sealant / primer / paint as soon as possible. Letting your freshly cleaned and exposed metal sit will attract more rust! Its incredible how quickly the rust starts again! We learnt the hard way and had to give the floor a second scrub down.
  • Removing every speck of rust isn’t essential, but try and remove all the loose and scaled rust. For the hard to get to spots, a flat screwdriver can be effective at getting those bubbled and cracked sections of paint and rust off.
  • Use a plastic chair / bucket / bottle to sit on when grinding and an old padded cushion or some kind of knee protection when painting. This really helped make the process a little more pleasant.
How we bought the van, damp dark and dreary…


And almost done with the first layer of paint on the floor. You can see the roof has much rust, but we are looking at removing the roof and getting a fiber-glass hightop installed…

Next we will be measuring and cutting panels for the foot wells on both the passenger and drivers side! These will be welded in and prevent us from falling through! This area was the worst rusted zone, and hopefully the only area that needs to be replaced with new steel sheets. Follow us to stay updated as we continue our low budget van build!


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