Background: Postman Pat is popular cartoon character here in the UK. As the name suggests, he is a mail man who delivers his mail throughout Greendale and Pencaster. With him, he always has his trusty sidekick, Jess the cat. As popular as he is, he also has a little red van with the Royal Mail logo, which is just as popular, and recognisable, as him. Here in the UK this colour, logo and character are synonymous with Royal Mail and the quaint everyday tasks involved with delivering the post.
My son is 2 years old, and since he began to talk his 2 favourite things have been cars and Postman Pat. He would shout 'Vroom, Vroom' when he saw a car and also when he saw Postman Pat in his van delivering mail. I bought him a toy Jess, a model van, the books, the DVDs, but the only thing he didnt have, was a real life Postman Pat Van.
What if I could make him one? One that was just like the real thing. One that had everything a real van would have, only smaller...
And so my adventure began
Before I began, there were a few things I had to consider -
1. At 2 years of age, he wont be able to control a vehicle by himself. This means I will have to create something that is remotely controlled, by me.
2. It needs to be as genuine as possible. Using only a still shot from the cartoon, I had to create a 'cartoon-like' van
3. Most importantly it had to be safe. Safe for him to sit in, and anyone else that may be using it.
4. Affordable to build. I didnt have nlimited funds so I had to be creative with my resources.
5. Adaptable as he grew. By this I mean, when he comes a little older, i would like for him to be able to control this himself, and remove the radio controlled element.
6. I needed to have the ability to make it in my garage, using my limited number of tools.
Step 1: Chassis
Selecting the chassis was key to the project. So I chose a mobility scooter that had 24V of power, working lights, a horn, indicators and headlights. All of these elements could be reconfigured and fitted to a Postman Pat van. How I would control it remotely would come later, but for now, I had the base.
First job was to remove all the unnecessary plastics, seat and handle bars, to leave me with the basic frame. From here I could work out the overall size I needed the van to be.
Step 2: Size and Scale
By using cardboard, I traced out roughly what shape and size I thought the van should be. I placed it on the side of the frame to check for spacing and position and altered it until I was happy that it was close to the real Postman Pat van I had in the picture I got from the cartoon.
At this stage I also drew a CAD model to give me some measurements that I could use when I began cutting the materials. Although basic, they were very useful when calculating how much material I would need to buy to build this project.
With my initial estimates I worked out that I needed-
2No. 8ftx4ft 12mm MDF sheets
4No. 3.6m lengths of 50x50mm softwood
As well as the material listed above I used scraps I had in the shed from previous projects. These weren't anything specific- just old bits that I was saving from the scrap. If you were to make this, you could use similar. I used OSB and 2x4 cuttings.
Step 3: Building the Frame
I decided to build a skeleton frame using 50x50mm strips of softwood pine. I would attach the bodywork to these, and they would offer structural support to the van. The main reason however was so I could round over the edges later, creating a 'cartoon like' appearance. Without this frame it wouldn't have been possible to remove enough material from the edges, and still maintain the necessary structural support. This will be shown better in further steps.
During this step, the dashboard was also added. As before, just scrap wood was used here. The piece I used it much too heavy but its what I had so it had to do!
Step 4: Adding the Bodywork
With the frame complete, I could now add the panels to complete the look of the van. Using my original cardboard cut out, I cut the sides using a jigsaw. The wheel arches were cut using a router and flush trim bit with a template which was cut from a CAD model on the CNC. These could easily have been cut with a jigsaw, however I wasn't confident in my ability to do this so I went with what I felt was the safest and easiest option for me.
I have added a comparison picture here to show how my van looked side by side with the real Postman Pat van. Overall I felt it was going in the right direction, however I wasn't happy with the height of the roof. I would correct this in the next step.
Step 5: Testing
At this stage my son couldn't resist getting in for a test while I was working on it. When he got in, I noticed something that I hadn't considered before.
In my mind I had thought that he would sit on the bench area behind the steering wheel, however I noticed when he got in that his legs were too small and his head would have been too close to the roof if this was where he was to sit. Instead he chose to sit on the floor. I realised at this point, I had to make him a seat
Step 6: Making the Seat
Using a jigsaw, I was able to cut away some of the bench area I had hoped he would sit on. This would create an ideal sitting position in the middle of the van. This was made from a simple softwood pine board that I had in scrap. I rounded the corners to make it a bit safer and more comfortable for him getting in and out.
Although this solved one problem, I realised later that it created another. I will address and solve this problem later in the project.
Step 7: More Bodywork
As well as the outside of the van, there was also work to be done inside. After the seat was installed, I placed a board of OSB in the rear to allow for the transport of mail and other goods. And to keep them inside I added a couple of doors. Again, I referred back to original pictures I found online from the cartoon to get them as accurate as possible.
Step 8: Curving the Corners
When i set out with this project i said i wanted it to be as close to the cartoon van as possible. In order for this to happen i had to round over all the sharp, square edges.
I researched online and tried to get the largest radius bit i could find. I was hoping for 50mm radius but had to settle with 32mm. I bought several and waited weeks for them to arrive only to find they were all just the same size but labelled differently.
Step 9: Wood Filler
All of the elements i have added so far have been attached using wood screws. Whilst they are very sturdy and secure, they leave a small divot where each of them enter. To cover this up i used wood filler to over fill the holes. This was then sanded down to leave a smooth surface.
*I also added the rear doors with silver hinges at this stage
Step 10: Electrics - Steering & Lighting
Using the existing circuitry and control, i added new light fixtures on both the front and the back. I wanted this van to have fully functioning features that could be controlled both inside and via the handheld remote control.
To control the steering i added an ESC to a windscreen wiper motor. This was powered by a 24v to 12v convertor. Several configurations of how this would go together were tested but the pics above show what i think worked best.
The original control box was added just to be sure all was working as it should. This would later be replaced and mounted in the dash.
Step 11: Priming for Paint
After all the rough edges and surfaces were sanded down, I applied 3 coats of primer. I also used Polyfilla to fill any of the larger holes and also at the joints. The doors were disassembled and mounted to scraps of wood to hold them upright while painting.
Step 12: Paint and Decals
To get the colour I needed and the ability to withstand a bit of abuse, I used Sandtex Pillar Box Red Paint. When this is applied it gives a nice shine and is guaranteed for 10 years. I applied 3 coats with a fleece roller to get an even finish.
The decals were bought from Stand Up Stand Out Graphics (SUSO GFX) and made to order. I drew the design in Illustrator and emailed it to the company for them to cut. These are a hard wearing vinyl and should last as long as the paint.
Step 13: Radio Controls
To control the van and all the electrical elements I needed a controller that had up to 8 functions, including steering and speed. For this I bought the Turnigy TGY-i6 radio control. This would allow me to control the headlights, indicators, horn, side lights, steering and fwd/reverse controls. This controller comes with a receiver and is a fairly straight forward plug and play process.
To create a solid power cut I installed a turn key from a motorbike, which means I can remove the key completely and remove any possibility of the van being taken without my consent, and control.
Step 14: Finishing Touches
To complete the van, I added bumpers, grill, headlight surrounds, a dash for the controls and licence plates. I laser cut the dash however when it was installed I found it to be too flimsy (1mm acrylic) and didn't support the buttons and switches as solid as I would have liked. I replaced this after with a 2mm aluminium surround, using the same CAD file I used for the laser cut part. The aluminium was cut using a water jet.
Jess the cat kept a close eye on how things were progressing!
Step 15: Completion
The last few things to complete the van were to add floor mats and make a leather seat. The light surrounds were created by 3D printing silver ABS to fit the headlights. The indicator surrounds were again custom made from 2mm aluminium, using a water jet cutter.
The video shows the van prior to completion. Max just couldn't wait to get out for a spin when the weather was good!