After driving Gaia (the Sprinter van) across the country, it was time to strip the cargo area to the barebones and begin the buildout process. Gaia’s previous owner used it for weekend mountain biking trips, so it was already fairly empty inside in the back of the van. We removed the floor trimming, wall panels and the old insulation that had been put in by the previous owner. It started raining while we were working on the van, which is a rare occurrence here in Los Angeles nowadays, but we managed to stay inside and continued with the teardown. After removing all the floor hooks, it started to get dark and we needed to make a run to a car parts store to pick up a torx bit (there are many of those bolts in the Sprinter) in order to remove the rails that held the original wooden floor panel down.
When we finally removed the wooden floor panels, we discovered a lot of dust, sand, bolts, and what had a distinct asphalt or tar smell to it in places. My guess was that it might have been Fatmat, or some adhesive used to get the factory wooden floor to stick to the base of the cargo floor. It had deteriorated over time, and was now just and old gunky mess. Cleaning the inside of the van took hours, and we first tackled the dust, sand and all the loose bits. A previously used bottle of Goo Gone helped us get the tar substance off. In hindsight, something like Unique’s Degreaser and Oil & Tar Remover would have been a more environmentally friendly option, but we were not aware of it at the time. After getting the tar off, we filled a mop bucket with one gallon of water plus 1 cup of bleach and proceeded to mop the floor. Now that the floor was much cleaner, we had a much better idea of where the handful of little holes from drywall screws used to hold down the wooden floor were located. The cleanup process also revealed that the floor corroded over time in places, and rust began to form. We tackled that task a different day, and wrote about in in Part 2 of the teardown, which covers rust removal, JB welding the floor holes, and painting cargo floor with rust preventative paint.