As with most bespoke projects it started with an enquiry phone call. LAS were asked if they could convert an American motorhome into a conference vehicle, with a media centre at the rear and a relaxation area at the front. At this point I had to say "yes" just to find out more information about the project. The person making the enquiry was the head of events for Monster Energy.
For those who don't know Monster Energy, it’s an American based energy drinks company who sponsor various sports teams, Mercedes Formula 1, Nascar and various moto GP drivers just to name a few.
When I said "yes" it felt as though I had just committed myself and the team to a massive project which would involve a huge amount thought, planning and a few late nights. At this point I started to ask more questions and make notes to understand the scale of the project. Then the big question came from the client "How much will it cost?" I couldn’t answer this impossible question straight away, I had to look into the project requirements and call them back.
Brainstorming the project led to many ideas which included horseshoe seating at the rear, a conference table, a large TV, an Xbox, a sky dish and a pull-down screen for a projector. Also the exterior of the vehicle needed to be wrapped with the Monster Energy claw.
I then asked the question "What vehicle are you thinking about converting?" To which I got the reply, "A Fleetwood Revolution or a Provost, we haven't made our minds up yet."
Decisions... decisions... decisions
Armed with paper and pen, I then decided to go and take a look at both of the proposed Motorhome models. Firstly I sat in the Fleetwood Revolution trying to visualise a horseshoe seating area, a large TV, and a pull-down projector screen. I sat there for about an hour and still had a blank piece of paper in front of me.
It was impossible for me to see how we could convert the rear into the conference area as the full wall slide kept throwing up problems that we could not solve within a 10-week timeframe. I must admit I gave up on the Revolution and moved to the Provost Liberty.
As I sat in the rear of the motorhome and the ideas started to flow. After five I was on my third piece of paper, feeling great and highly motivated I returned back to LAS HQ in Northampton.
However, at the time I was only aware, of two of these motorhomes available in the country both were exceptionally well built, and very expensive to buy. This one, when it was new, would cost around a million dollars, and has recently gone through a forty thousand dollar refit!
Fade to Black
I believe a lot of things happen for a reason fate if you like. The previous year the family and I attended Santa Pod Raceway. We went to see the Flame and Thunder event and at the end of the quarter of a mile in the pits the Monster Energy Events Unit. Who knows the reason why, but I entered the unit where they were giving out free drinks. I looked around it was very noisy, black inside with some green lights although it was very dark. Whilst I was standing there in the unit, I would never have guessed that I would be trying to replicate a similar look and feel to the one I was standing in.
A few days later after my viewing of the vehicle, I contacted Monster Energy team and shared with them some of my ideas. One of which was not to convert the Fleetwood Revolution giving them my reasons why. The Monster Energy team agreed. The Provost was clearly the best option as it fitted in with Monster Energy's company profile. Quickly the motorhome was purchased, now all of us were totally committed to delivering this project within the 10 week timeframe.
The Provost motorhome is not the easiest or an ideal vehicle to convert as the majority of the interior was white, white cabinets, white fridge freezer and white Corian worktops. Whereas Monster Energy's colour palette is matt black and vivid green. Then there was the carpet the Provost had a rich blue carpet to match the blue dashboard and marble light coloured floor tiles. This needed to be changed to black or a dark coloured flooring.
It took two weeks for the purchase to go through which felt like a lifetime. It also reduced our time scale down even more. As soon as I heard that the finances had cleared I contacted Monster Energy and told them the good news, hoping to gain some time back. I suggested that we start by removing the floor covering right away. It was decided that we’d meet up the following week to draw up a plan.
Once the floor was removed we all met up to review the floor plan. One thing that came clear from the meeting was the fact the toilet and shower area in the centre of the coach had to be passed to gain access to the rear the vehicle which was the bedroom, soon to be converted into the media centre. We all agreed this was not an ideal fit for the corporate image or the final look and feel.
"Will Monster Energy
be brave and go with
our plan B to remove
the shower, replacing it with a toilet cubical?"
The original plan was to remove the bed, keep the cupboard on the left side of the bedroom to house the sound equipment, remove the wardrobe at the rear of the vehicle to allow more seating room and then put the TV on the left of what was the bedroom to cover the window.
All well and good but the shower and toilet did not look good, unlike Marks & Spencer's we needed a Plan B. So we took on the task to remove the shower and build a separate toilet, the Provost does have a washing machine which needed to be incorporated, which was also in wrong place. So we decided to build a new cupboard to house the washing machine. Plan B also gave us twice as much space! We then decided to put the TV at the rear where the wardrobe originally was. Yes, perfect this not only provided more space but would look fantastic.
As mentioned earlier in this article I’d seen Monster Energy’s event unit at Santa Pod. I noticed that they used branded fridges which gave me an idea. A meeting was speedily arranged with the client. Not only were LAS gaining more trust with the client we were now incorporating more ideas into the plan. Balancing ideas into workable solutions when time is not your friend is not an easy thing to do and we desperately needed to start pushing forward. A week went by and another meeting.
If anyone reading this employs people they might feel sorry for me for a few moments.
(Fact 1) With a project like this, it must be done on a budget and on time.
(Fact 2) Good staff are hard to find, to which I cannot praise the team I employ enough, but one of them, in particular, is exceptional with his ideas. In one of the meetings, he said: “I don't think this white kitchen top is going to look very good, why don't we build a bar?” Then came a brief silence and the response was “Give me a high five let's do it, it will look fantastic.” At that point, I would happily have done time for murder. With only four weeks to go and knowing absolutely nothing about beer barrels and coolers, but as they say, every cloud has a silver lining.
It then started to get a little better over the next week, with things going smoother. I found a good contact who supplied me with the beer cooler and equipment. The lighting had already been sorted, although I needed a good idea of how to flood the white roof with a green light. High intensity LED strips had been tested, but if you looked at them for too long you would strain your eyes.
One of my team came up with the idea to build a centre panel and fit the strips along the edge. The first attempt ended up being too heavy and had to be scrapped. The second attempt was to build an aluminium frame and fit the lights around the edge, then with a piece of ply cut to 40mm larger than the frame it looked like we were getting somewhere.
Our next step was to add three speakers to the front centre panel, then cover the panel in black leather which would then be suspended from the roof. The rear centre panel was made in the same way, the only difference was we decided to leave out the speaker.
Now we had three speakers fitted in the front central panel as well as the five fitted in the rear of the vehicle, all of these had to now be connected to a rather large amplifier. Any more than this would have made the windows vulnerable with the misuse of the volume control.
The Longest Night
Lee had taken charge of the project from the off and was very keen to get rid of the original white fridge because it was too big and it was white. With a new microwave to buy and a fridge we would turn over another £1,000 of our heavily committed budget, so I kept saying "No!" One morning I arrived at work only to find the right-hand windscreen removed and the fridge standing outside the garage door.
The remaining white cabinets needed to be matt black so we needed to decide "What process do we need to carry out this transition?" First, we decided to use a laminate, then we tried the material we were using to wrap the exterior, neither worked.
A few sample paints were used and we found that a matt black with a slight metallic effect could work. However, once dried it was clear that was also a "No". In the end a standard Matt black had to be used.
To spray the cupboard inside the vehicle would require air fed masks for the sprayer, but you also have to have a good extraction system as not to get overspray on the woodwork you have already painted, and the preparation.
Just to spray the interior panels an extraction system had to be designed, the woodwork filled, primed, rubbed down, then two coats of top coat applied and that was after the whole interior was masked up.
I just couldn't believe what our team had achieved in such a short space of time!
The Final Countdown
Monster Energy arrived at 08.50, ten minutes earlier than expected. I wouldn't let them see it and asked them if they could go for a coffee and give us an extra hour, to which they did.
I am writing this story 24 hours after the vehicle left the LAS workshop because I still can't believe how as a team we pulled it off! The conference table was fitted with the seating all in place and the area all clean and the green lights were flooding the roof. I thought it looked fantastic but what would Monster Energy say? I let them in and they loved it!
There were a few tweaks to be made. The conference centre at the back may have been done, but the bar needed to be finished, seats needed to be fitted and the sofa bed could not be fitted yet because the heater behind it needed modifying. Lee who had fitted the cooler and knew about the gas pressures to drive the lager and Guinness had now gone home because he had been working all night. Now the leader of the team, I knew I had an impossible task ahead until the driver presented me with some vital information, HE HAD FORGOTTEN HIS PASSPORT! I though this kind of thing only happened in films.
The ferry had to be booked for the following day and he needed to leave no later than 02.00 the following morning. Due to a number of hours we all had worked no one would have lasted until that time so when Lee came back, Adam went home, followed by Bob who had also worked all night. Adam returned later to carry on with some trimming which was greatly appreciated. Everyone kept plodding on and by 21.30 we had done as much as our bodies would let us. The bar was now working, the vehicle had been cleaned and with only a few visible jobs to do it was nearly ready.
I think luck was definitely on our side and at 22.00 I took the vehicle out for a road test with what was left of my team. It was a shame that it was dark and raining and we were all very tired, but it was still a job that had to be done. Except for a faulty door, all was okay.
The vehicle drove fantastic with no interior rattles or bangs, just as it was originally. I think the original cabinating must have been made as modules and then fitted in sections because we were unable to take them apart. The sides are screwed, glued and pinned meaning the only way for removal was a sledgehammer. I must admit that we at LAS adopted the same process when building our cabinets, hence the absence of any rattles and creeks, making a tremendous difference when driving a rear-engined vehicle.
At 22.30 the Monster Energy Provost Liberty left the LAS workshops with a very happy driver making its way to the ferry. It will be returning to LAS in two to three weeks for completion.
The vehicle will be used as a conference centre as well as hosting some VIP guests, one of its first being Lewis Hamilton. We hope that he likes it as much as we do.
All we need now is another project like this to go at, but we hope the next one will give us a little more time.
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