There are several excellent discussions going on right now in this forum regarding individual camper builds. I would like to start one on my thoughts for an entirely commercial build. I live in southern Indiana but have spent a lot of time in the west. This is my first van and first camper. I have no plans to tow anything and I would like this camper to last forever. I will travel on bad roads out west, so 4x4 is a must. The camper, ideally, will be completely self-contained for two people only; me and wife. Neither of us stands more than 5’8”. We have been planning this for a long time. I have been reading and occasionally commenting on this forum for more than a year. After I finished writing this I saw Orton’s new post, titled Items Not Needed in Conversion, Items Not Needed in Conversion
. I’ve tried to incorporate some of his advice. I plan on ordering the van in September, 2015 and hope to take final delivery after the 4x4 and camper conversions by May, 2016.
Below you will find my preferences and some justification for them. Everything is fluid and can be modified as needed. Comments and advice are greatly appreciated.
The Transit cargo van 250 – the 250 seems more stable than the 150.
The 130 WB – The 130 WB allows greater maneuverability both on back roads and city roads. I lose space, but I can add a cargo carrier to the trailer hitch if needed.
The Medium Roof – I need a center standing height of 69” after installation of floor and ceiling. That leaves about 3” total for floor/ceiling thickness. I hope the medium roof van will be just enough?
The 3.5 ecoboost w/ the 3.31 rear end – It has great power and good gas mileage. I am still considering the 3.7 with the 3.73 rear end. It has good power and about the same gas mileage. I believe the 3.7 rums at higher RPM? Which can I expect to be more reliable in the long run?
Window that opens located on the passenger-side sliding door – The Ford installed passenger-side window is large and inexpensive. It will allow light into the van verses a smaller and more expensive aftermarket window.
White Color – To keep the van as cool as possible in the sun.
Notable Accessories – Trailer hitch (good to have, and I may attach storage or a bike rack to it); Privacy glass; the higher amp alternator and double batteries.
Quigley’s has been visible and up front. They will likely be ready to go commercial this summer. They answered the one email I sent them.
Quadvan has said nothing publically. They have not answered two emails. I have heard (in the post below) that they are preparing for a Transit 4x4 conversion, but not from them directly, Quigley 4x4
I lean toward Quigley’s because they have been visible, but Quadvan might be more convenient if VanSpecialties gets the camper conversion.
My leading choice is VanSpecialties in Oregon; Alternatively Sportsmobile (Indiana) or Outside Van (Oregon).
I believe VanSpecialties and Outside Van will build the conversion as I want it (within reason). VanSpecialties answered my email and they have good prices. I hear they do good work. I have not tried to contact Outside Van. To me, they appear high end, tricked out, and possibly expensive. I don’t know that for sure. Location is a problem for both since I live 2000 miles away.
I live about 5 hours from Sportsmobile North, so very convenient. But they are more rigid in their design and they do not appear to offer a panel bed (see below). I’m not sure they would build to the specifications detailed below.
None of the local Ford dealers have had a 130 WB medium roof van for me to look at. I have not seen one. I looked at the 148 WB medium roof and the 130 WB low roof.
The following are details of the conversion. Ideally, it would have all the amenities including heat, hot water, stove, shower, solar panels, roof fan, portapotti, grey water tank and 20 gallon fresh water tank. I’ll leave room for a roof AC to be installed later if needed.
I measured a minimum of 108” of length on the 130 WB (low roof version) available for conversion (max is 111”). These lengths might necessitate preventing the driver’s seat from going all the way back. We drove the low roof 130 WB and both my wife and I seem okay with the limited space. There is an additional 6 -7” at the rear of the van between the rear doors and the back frame posts for a minimum total of 114”. Regarding center interior height, I will assume the floor and ceiling will eat up 3” combined, leaving a standing height of 69 inches. We will camp usually with no hookups.
The attached drawing shows the preferred setup.
Drivers side Conversion
1) Full height 24”x24” closet/shower combo directly behind the driver’s seat. It has removable shelves and a double door that can be locked open for extra room during a shower. It will be along the lines of accrete at Sportsmobile Transit
2) A sofa, 56” inches long and 15” high (when sitting) is located next to the closet/shower. This could be built as a permanent bench to allow storage underneath. Total length used is 24” + 56” = 80” leaving 28” free in the back.
3) Overhead cabinets extending 60” long from closet/shower and hanging 14” down from the ceiling. Some of this space will be reserved for the control panel. This leaves 24” in the back without overhead cabinets.
4) The Interior Height Distribution is as follows: 15” for the sofa plus 14” for the overhead cabinets. That leaves 40” clearance for sitting on the sofa below the cabinets.
Passenger Side Conversion
1) A 58” long galley protruding across the sliding door opening. This leaves a 22 inch opening to get in and out. Galley will have a single stove, refrigerator, microwave, and sink. The galley can be 32 inches high. (I may remove the stove and go solely with a portable propane stove).
Total length used is 58” + 22” = 80” leaving 28” of free space in the back.
2) Overhead cabinets hanging 14” down from ceiling and extending 30” from the end of the sliding door opening (not protruding into the door opening space). Some of this space might be reserved for the microwave, which could hang down more than 14”.
3) The Interior Height Distribution is as follows: a 32” tall galley plus 14” overhead cabinets leaves 23” sleeping clearance below cabinets (sleeping arrangements detailed below).
Back of Van
1) Boxes 16” high extending to the back frame post and just wide enough to cover the wheel well. Possibly, these could provide a little bit of storage.
2) A 3-panel bed system. Each panel is 26” wide and all three are the same size. These will be stored, stacked one above the other, on the 16” boxes in the rear of the van. They will provide room to sit with storage (in milk crates) underneath.
3) A set of panel braces at the height of the galley on both sides of the van for sleeping. The brace on the driver’s side can extend to the closet/shower. The brace on the passenger side will sit on or be supported by the galley.
4) In the rear doorway space (6-7 inches) I would like to be able to store a mountain bike. With the front wheel off, the widest part of the bike is the rear axle. It is 8.5 inches wide at 13 inches high. If this height and width is not impeded, I think I could fit the bike in a 8-9” wide area at the rear of the van against the rear door.
5) The Interior Height Distribution is as follows: Boxes 16” + 6” of stacked panels (I’m guessing each panel is 2” thick). That leaves a total of 47” of headroom for sitting.
1) I would like two solar panels (or one if I can get a 300 watt) and a roof fan. Maybe two 300 watt panels if I can swing it. You can never have too much power. I would also like to leave room for a roof AC to be mounted sometime in the future. Will I need AC on less than really hot days?
Heat and Hot Water
1) The Espar system for heat and hot water is one option. It runs off the vans gas tank. VanSpecialties indicates they can install the gas or diesel versions. It is expensive but that’s not a deal breaker. I’ve heard it is loud (too loud), unreliable, needs constant maintenance, and still requires another method for cooking. Those things could be the deal breaker.
2) The Webasto system is a second choice. It also runs off the vans gas tank. VanSpecialties can install it. It is much less expensive than Espar, and I’ve heard it is more reliable and quieter. But it leaves another method for hot water and cooking.
3) A propane system is a third choice. VanSpecialties can install a 7.5 gallon tank. This is the least expensive option and it covers heat, hot water, and cooking. But it requires a second energy source that could be a pain to refill. I’m not sure how long 7.5 gallons would last.
4) My preference right now is to get the Webasto system for heat, and the propane system for hot water, cooking, and possibly as a backup heating system. I suspect that heat will be the largest consumption of energy.
5) Considering Orton’s advice, I could go with his hot water system – A 5-6 gallon tank with a 625 watt pencil heater, a submercible pump, a garden hose and a garden nozzle for the shower. The galley sink does not require hot water in my opinion. Add to that a portable stove and I could eliminate the propane all together and use only the Webasto system for heat. I would likely be carrying a portable stove anyway. I do think that interior heat is a requirement for us.
1) My preference is for privacy windows with sliding screen openings on both sides of the van covering as much length as feasible. VanSpecialties has 10” wide windows.
1) I don’t know much about this subject. I would like as many batteries as I can fit. I was thinking as many as 4, but Orton says one 8D 255 amp-hour battery is enough. It might depend on what the upfitter will do.
1) I’m not sure what size is ideal. I’m looking at the Nova Kool R3100 (3.0 cu.ft), the Nova Kool R3800 (3.5 cu ft) and the Isotherm 100 (3.5 cu ft).
1) Small and simple sounds fine with me. As Orton suggested, simple mechanical dials, no clock or pushbuttons.
I will enjoy reading all comments and suggestions. Thanks in advance