What the f#ck are we doing? Yes; we are taking off the all the paint. Question is where to start when you have such a big surface covered with paint...
Since we had to begin somewhere we chose to start with the hardest to reach; the roof and gutters. After we had setup some scaffolding around the van to improve accessibility and ensure we wouldn't have to stand on the actual roof we used a selection of different types of metal, copper and Scotch-Brite* disks to remove the paint and rust.
After we removed the silicon and cleaned the rust out of the gutters, we were happily surprised as they appeared to be in pretty good condition. It’s nice when not everything is a disappointment.
We used a rust converter to treat all the remaining corroded spots; repeat the application of rust converter until satisfactory. To finish the paint removal procedure we applied a thin layer of primer to prevent the bare metal from rusting (again). Either spray the primer or simple apply it with a brush; we’ll be sanding it all down again when preparing for the actual paint.
The entire procedure is a time consuming job; even with the two of us the removal of all the paint took us two days of hard labour, so beware!
Now why didn’t we dissolve the old paint using some kind of corrosive substance? Mainly because the drawback of using acids to dissolve the old paint is that it is very (very, very) difficult to clean out all the acid remainders in between body panels and hollow spaces. Eventually the acid will come out by itself, but it might take months before it does. Imagine bubbles appearing underneath the fresh paint. Not a very pleasant outlook after all the hard work...
*Scotch-Brite paint removal disks can be mounted to a drill and are designed to only remove the paint and not to damage the metal.