Putting A Bed In A Bus
Installing a late model Z-bed mechanism
Installing a bed is probably the most important piece to install if you are trying to convert a Kombi into a camper. It's not hard, but there is a certain order in which it must be installed or it won't operate right or even worse; it won't operate at all. Here, I'll go over how I installed a late Z-bed mechanism into my '66 E-Z Camper in order to have it operate correctly.
First you need to determine just how wide you are going to want your bed/seat. A major error that can easily be made is to have the base cushion too close to the side of the bus (I'm ONLY talking about the outer wall of the bus, NOT the side of a cabinet). The sides of the bus angle IN the closer you get to the roof. If your seat is too close, the base cushion will hit the wall, window frame, etc. and you will NOT be able to make it into a bed. It's really not how wide the bed is, it's really that you don't get too close to the sides of the bus. MAKE YOUR BASE CUSHION COME NO CLOSER TO THE SIDE OF THE BUS THAN 3". You can have it about 1/2" away from a cabinet that is straight up & down with no problems.
NOTE: If you are planning to have a table attached to the drivers wall, you NEED to take the stowed width of the table + 1/2" - 3/4" to ensure you don't have any interference problems with that when you operate the seat base.
I installed the LEFT mechanism first ensuring the base was at least 3" away from the wall. Since I was going full width, I just ensured the base part of the mechanism was at least 3" away from the wall as well. This made the seat base on the REAR edge (where it will bolt to the bed mechanism) approx. 56 1/2" wide. If you are mounting the right ride of the bed, use the edge of the seat BACK bracket as a guide (since these sit wider) and ensure there is at least 1/2" of space between the cabinet.
Since I was going full width, I modified the RIGHT mechanism slightly by trimming off the top mount. Compare the two photos below and you can see about how much. Depending on just how wide you end up making the seat will determine if or how much you will need to cut off. Then I just drilled and countersunk another hole further down for the top mount.
Next, you can make the seat back. For the width, just measure from the inside edge of each seat flange mechanism (where the seat back will bolt to). Then subtract 3/16" from that measurement. This will leave a little room on either side later for the upholstery material that will have to fit between the wood and the mechanism. The height of the seat back is determined by how long it needs to be to lay flush into this part of the mechanism on either side when the mechanism is in the bed position. My seat back ended up being 16 1/2" high. Yours may vary depending on what mechanism you use.
Then I made the seat base. I again measured between the two seat base flange mechanisms and subtracted 3/16" from that measurement. Then I made my seat 22" deep. Do not make your seat base LESS than about 19". It needs to be long enough to cover the vertical wall that supports it that you haven't made yet. I recommend leaving it longer than you need to ensure there is enough later. It can always be trimmed down if it's too long for you. I purposefully made mine longer than normal to get a longer bed since I'm tall. We'll go back to the the forward end of the base a little later anyway so just leave it long for now.
You will need to make the sides which hold on the face. I just copied the old pieces from the donor bus like a template. Install your sides to the mechanism and the floor.
I made the forward wall of the base to the lower cabinet even with the vertical rib in the side of the bus (just aft of the rear door). The height of this cabinet face is determined by how the seat base sits when it's in the bed position. Remember that there are the "L" shaped support braces which lay onto a metal rail on the top of this cabinet. The easiest way to do this is to attach the seat back and seat base into place on the mechanism and put it into the bed position. Then use clamp a couple 2X4s onto the seat base and seat back so that the beds parts are perfectly in line. Now tape one "L" braces onto the base of the seat and measure the distance from the notched part (that will actually rest on the cabinet face) to the floor of the bus. Mine was approx. 13". Your measurement may vary. This needs to be right or the bed will tilt up or down if it's not right and won't lay flat.
Now with the height determined, you just need to make your cabinet face. , then mount the face to the sides. Then center the metal cap on the cabinet facing and mount that to the top edge. This is a really important piece, because it ensures that the seat base and "L" braces don't ruin the wood cabinet facing.
Finally, you can now trim the seat base to the depth that you want provided that you have some overhang to cover the top of the cabinet face. It's important to note that if you are making a full width Z-bed like I did, you will not want to have the forward edge any WIDER than 55" This is the edge that can contact the walls of the bus and any wider than 55" will be really close to windows and stuff like that. regardless on how wide your seat is, ensure that you have at least 1" of room along the outer walls of the bus when you move the mechanism through all it's motions. I used a drink cup to round the fwd corners of my seat base so that there would be less chance of banged knees and such. Obviously, it's not required, but it does save the knees.
One advantage of the late model seat mechanisms is that the mechanism is out on the edges and opens up a lot more storage room. The seat base opens like a chest and holds a lot more stuff. Because of this I chose to omit the door on the cabinet face since it's awkward to use and just more engineering. The late mechanism also has a nice catch incorporated into it as well.
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Revised: April 24, 2004 .