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How to get a kitcar into a Luton Van


I decided that  there were 3 things that needed to be done with the car:

  1. Take it to get a proper exhaust manifold made
  2. Get a method of transporting it to trackdays
  3. Get a method of transporting it racing next year in 750MC

I don't like trailering cars and I no longer have a road car capable of it (Pug 106GTi's only weight 950Kg).

I then looked at driving it to the places.  But the car is hard work on anything over 20miles due to the huge wind buffeting and exposure.

So I then looked at buying an old van and converting into a transporter.  I went to look at some vans.  My initial choice was a good ole' Ford transit LWB.  They have the load length but they don't have the width - there is just 5' between the rear doors and the car is, yep... 5' wide.  So too tight a squeeze without damage.  Wider "transits" from other manufacturers would be an option.  The Renault Master, VW LT35 and Citroen Relay all come in slightly wider body versions that you could squeeze it in.  However a quick look on AutoTrader showed the fact that these vans are quite rare, especially as I live on the moon (well East Anglia).

I then looked at a Luton van.  This is just a transit chassis with a big box on the back.  Width between door posts is 70" and length is 125".  A taillift is fitted but can only carry 500Kg at its centre point.  That's a shame as I was looking at extension ramps at that point.  But so far so good....

I then realised that I should see what makes sense: buying or hiring? 
I drew up a quick spreadsheet and plugged some numbers in.  Basically if you use it say 6 times a year then hiring is cheaper for up to 5years!  It removes the hassle of storing it, taxing it, servicing it, insurring it and generally looking after it.  So hiring is the way to go.  I found two places a mile away that can hire Lutons and so this started to take shape.

Buy vs hire spreadsheet

How to get it in?

As I said the tail-lift would be good but it is too weedy and if the van is hired - I wouldn't want to break it!  
The only other options are to use part tail-lift and part crane, or ramps.

The part tail-lift and part crane method would use an engine hoist or similar to lift the rear of the car via its rollbar, while the front end is lifted on the tail-lift.  Once raised to the full height you have to then move the crane forward until the car is inside the van.  I'd played with a "small" engine hoist before and it was hard work to put together and take apart and didn't like rolling very much.  It was also quite restrictive in reach etc and also required dead flat concrete etc to work on.  A new one is over 150 so this was looking an expensive experiment.

So I then looked at ramps.  It sounds scary to have to drive up ramps but it was looking the most elegant way to do things.


I went to the van hire place to measure up.

Width between door posts is 70", loading depth is 125", height to floor is 32".

van1.jpg The end of the loadspace is just a wooden board with more space over the cab
van2.jpg The loading space meets the world.  You can see the rear step/bumper is slightly seperated from the main load space (by 4mm).

There is a nice slot that runs between the back step/bumper and main van area.  This is a gap 4mm wide and the full width of the van.  It is 9" deep too!
This would be the location point on the van for my ramps to attach to.

If planks were just rested on the back step then the sump and possibly the chassis rails would hit the back step and cause damage.  By building a pair of fixed ramps inside the van the car will then clear the back step.  The question is:  how high do the fixed ramps need to be and how bad does that make the angle to drive up?

I also wanted to know how strong the main drive-up planks needed to be.  I did a quick test to see how thin planks stand up to the weight of a car (or a quarter of the weight).

ramp2.jpg The car is on 3/4" veneered chipboard offcuts.  As you can see - the wood bends but it still holds around 100Kg without breaking.



To see how big the ramps etc needed to be and see what sort of angles I would have to climb I needed to sketch things out.  Visio is great for this as it allows scaled drawings very easily.  I measured the relevant dimensions of the striker and drew the sketch out.

Van/Car Sketches

This shows that using a longer ramp than the loads 10'5" you can improve the angle quite a bit.  Using 12' ramps creates an angle of 14degrees.

The drawing also shows that with 4" high fixed ramps inside the van I should easily clear the back-step with the sump.



Ramps - the shopping list

From Jewson, my local farm machinery shop (Pecks in Ely), and screwfix direct.

Item Size Qty Cost
Main ramps into van 47mm x 200mm x 3.6m Joists 2 10 ea
Fixed ramp tops in van 25mm x 150mm x 3.9m Sawn Carcassing 2 4.50 ea
Wood for supports and crossmembers 47mm x 75mm x 4.2m 2 4.50 ea
Woodscrews #10 x 2.5"  100 5 box
Threaded Rod for making long bolts M10 x 1m 1 2.50
Metal for brackets  Steel offcuts: 3mm strip, angle, box ? had it
Anti-Skids for ramps Roofing Felt ? had it



Although I did all the fabrication tasks in parallel I've listed them individually to make it easier to see what's going on.

Pug 106's were not designed to be used as workmans vans but as I live just 1mile from Jewsons it seemed ok to do this.  Travelling back on the 60mph limit at a steady 40mph was quite nice - it was sort of reversion therapy... you can bet that the old guy sitting on my tail in his Rover looking annoyed would've been the one annoying me if I'd been behind him!!!

pug_loaded.jpg What do you think of the new spoilers MaxPower readers?
Almost as long as the car so must be good eh?
People assure me this is illegal BTW :-(

Fortunately it wasn't raining today - so I managed to layout all the wood etc on my patio instead of in the cramped garage.

wood_samples.jpg Here you can see all the timber being assembled.  On the left are the tops of the two fixed ramps in the van.  On the right are the two drive-up planks, and the wood being worked on is making the legs for the fixed ramp.

Making the static ramps for the van is easy.  Make sure you have a jigsaw though as there is a lot of sawing!  

completed_fixed_ramp_glue.jpg The fixed ramps in the van are to be 10' long.
The 2" x 3" wood has been cut into 6" long sections.  They are then arranged every 12" under the fixed ramp (11 supports).  This gives a height of 4" (3" per block and 1" thick top plank)
fixed_ramp_glueing.jpg Each block is first glued into position with PVA woodglue.  Use the roughest side of the blocks and use a knife to hatch the plank areas that bond.  Once all in position I put the heavy drive-up plank on top to weigh it all down.
fixed_ramp_reinforcement.jpg The next day I then proceeded to drill each support twice (3 at the ends) and used a 2.5" long #10 woodscrew to secure them further.

Brackets are required to safely hold the ramps in place inside the van, and to allow the drive-in ramps to hook onto.  
I elected to make the brackets from steel since I had lots of odd bits lying around, a fresh bottle of gas in the MIG welder and a desire to go all "Scrapyard".
The base bracket is a piece of 3mm thick angle.  A piece of wide strip is welded to make a 'T' section piece.  The bit sticking down is the bit that sticks into the gap at the back step of the van.  There are two of these brackets required.  
I then made up some end pieces from more angle with 10mm holes in them.  These form the end pivots of the "hinge" I am making with an M10 threaded rod.
For extra reinforcement I used a section of tube between the two end pieces.
The bracket was made such that the end pieces would sit "inside" the planks brackets coming over the top.  

hinge_plate.jpg Two views of the first bracket.  Note the rough as old boots welding - but providing it's strong it doesn't need to be beautiful.  Welding this material is actually pretty good - 3mm is nice and thick so difficult to burn through.  On my Clarke 150 MIG I used Gas: 4/6, Power: 3Min and WireSpeed: 5.

Crispy Bacon when I could see what I was doing.

I then made the mating brackets on the main drive-in planks/ramps.  These were initially made from more 3mm angle with 10mm holes.  These are fixed to the plank with long woodscrews.
Once one bracket was in position I offered it up to the fixed bracket and then located the second.  Once both brackets are positioned I then added an extra webbing piece between them and a further bar made of thin tube to give added "anti-twist" strength.

hinge_close2.jpg Both brackets in place and the M10 rod connecting the two together.
See how thick and meaty the driving-in plank is - just like a tuna steak!  Heheh
ramp_hinge.jpg An underside view of the plank bracket showing the reinforcement welded sections and multiple screws.

Sanity Check on Van Fit

Before I made the second bracket I decided to check how the first one fitted the van.  I was most concerned with whether the door would shut and if not - what gap did I need to leave, and where to put that gap!!!

So I went to the friendly hire place again and measured up.  I discovered that I have the bracket the right distance towards the back of the van such that the door could be shut which is nice.  I found that I will have to mount the ramps in the van a little further back though so as to leave a "gap" for the door to close into.  This is what re-checking is all about!

Final Assembly

This discovery meant extending the plates back into the van so I can get the ramps sitting nicely.


The completed pair of brackets.
I used some M10 bolts as the locating "pegs" for the internal ramp.  I drill holes in the ends of the internal ramp that sit onto the pegs.

Here they are painted in a random tin of matt black paint.

Here are the completed internal ramps showing the mounting holes for the bracket "pegs".
?TBA The completed ramps assembled at approximately the right height (32").
The slope is 14degrees.

Note the cross-bars a each end.  These give a nice fixed distance between the ramps to aid alignment.

The crossbar at the far end is bolted onto the internal ramp with M10 rod.  This bar should be strong enough to take a winch system being bolted on if required.




I first tested the car on the finished static ramps.  This proved easy pickings for the structure.  

Having the supports every 12" seems to work well.






With only occasional usage the ramps need to be stored easily.






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