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"Bobby" Van Build Thread | 4 Season Adventure Van | 2021 HR EL

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One summer when I was 12, my "Auntie Bobby" had a mid-life crisis, bought a Porsche 924 and took me on a 6 week cross-country road trip. My parents were happy to get rid of me for the summer so it wasn't a hard sell.

Auntie chain smoked Max 120s and drove 100 miles an hour when nobody was looking. She talked her way out of two speeding tickets by pulling out a map and pretending she was a lost old lady. We hit every national park along the way, sleeping in a tiny tent pulled from the hatchback at night. Auntie let me eat mac and cheese and junk food every night.

My first adventure van is dedicated to Auntie.


I built a money-is-no-object sprinter for my friend last summer and learned a ton. Now it's my turn!

Wheel Tire Sky Cloud Car

Bobby will be used for long weekend SoCal adventures and some longer road trips. She will be a basecamp for backpacking, resort & backcountry skiing, mountain biking, camping with friends and other outdoor hijinks. I have been remote since 2012 so I will experiment with working on the road as well.

My dream of making this an overland rig (to camp away from people and for looks) fizzled when I realized that the van is low, has a crappy departure angle and would cost a fortune to lift and do tire upgrades. But hey, it's easy to get in and out of and if things don't work out I can deliver Amazon packages.

Lastly, between me and my girlfriend, there are some teens in the mix. So while this will primarily be a ride 2, sleep 2 I designed ride 4 configuration. This will allow group camping, day trips and road trips with hotels.

Line Item Budget
Ordering a from Gary Crossley Ford
Van Design and Layout (Long)
馃洜 31" Removable Passenger Seat Install
Flatline Van Co Low Pro Rack and Ladder (Later Replaced with Unaka)

AMA Window Install
New Rack, 600W Solar, Cellular Modem
The Garage Floor with L-Track
The Galley Floor
Keypad Unlock

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2021 EXT HR Adventure Build in Progress
167 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Line Item Budget

Thanks to seemingly never ending rising home prices in LA and low interest rates I was able to refi my house to fund Bobby. I did a ton of research for my friend's Sprinter build and tracked all the costs and labor. It really paid off when it was time to figure out how much I needed to spend.

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I haven't seen any budgets shared outside of a paywall so I hope people find my adventure van budget helpful as a reference or starting point.

You will notice a lot of $$$ allocated for cabinetry. You'll see why in my design post. Spoiler alert: I visited Atlas Vans at the 2021 Van Expo and could not unsee the works of art that their craftspeople produce. I mean, even the gorgeous guitar prop on the show rig bed was made by one of their artists.

I'll consider sharing more detail about my assumptions in the future but it's not very organized at the moment.

2021 EXT HR Adventure Build in Progress
167 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Ordering a from Gary Crossley Ford

y best friend bough a Sprinter so I a year ago I decided to get one as well. The dealer said that they wouldn't be able to deliver until JULY. What! No way. I ordered a Transit online from Gary Crossley Ford to get it sooner. And I waited until December :ROFLMAO:

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I haven't bought a new car in decades, so the idea of buying a new halfway across the country was a little daunting. But after seeing @CrewVanMan 's responsive, informative and enthusiastic posts I started to warm up to the idea.

The process starts by ordering that B-O-B book. Set your time machine to 1995 because you will need to locate a check to purchase a binder with paper in it. I finally managed to procure this thing and it was like reading the tax code. It would be a great reference if you were the engineer at ford tasked with creating an online car configurator.

I am not good at this stuff so figuring out the package combinations took every last brain cell I had. The upside is that I learned a lot about the car. The downside is that I majorly ****** up my order. More on that in a minute.

I sent my order and $1,000 deposit in and the waiting game started. I got random update emails from the dealership which most of the time didn't make much sense as I am not versed in Ford Manufacturing Speak.

Regardless, the time finally came where it was safe to buy my one way ticket to Kansas City. The first person I met was the infamous Pam who is a chatty and friendly ford transit air traffic controller.

World Map Textile Interior design Art

My girlfriend made fun of my long ass inspection checklist that I found on this forum somewhere. But if nothing else, it made me feel like I knew what I was doing.

Tire Wheel Sky Car Vehicle

They let me take the van out for a ride and since my girlfriend was getting road trip supplies I drove it around alone. For some reason I could not figure out how to turn on the cruise control. When I got back I asked for some help and I was told, oh, your van doesn't have it.

Textile Eyewear Cap Artist Backpack

Long story short, I messed up my form and did not check the right boxes for adaptive cruise control. Sure, my fault, but WHO THE EFF spends $60K on a van for road trips, orders every tech package and decides that cruise control would be a bad idea. I was mad that they didn't review my order as part of the process and perhaps call it out.

I was so deflated. The guys started to look into the costs to add it and even if the parts were available it would be a couple grand plus a couple of days of labor! Worse the fleet manager (forget his name) kept on saying that my car would never have the same fit and finish after being taken apart and put back together.

2021 EXT HR Adventure Build in Progress
167 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Van Design and Layout

Like I said in my first post, Bobby will primarily be a ride 2, sleep 2. But I designed ride 4 configuration option for teens and friends to tag alone in certain situations. This will allow group camping, day trips and road trips with hotels.

When I first started thinking about the layout of my van over a year ago the options were daunting. YouTube knows the correct number but I probably watched 200 hours of #vanlife videos during Covid. My GF, now titled "Van Wife" and I joked about all the cute couples that put themselves out there.

When I finally made some key decisions, the whole process got a lot easier: Adventure Van Layout (Garage), no shower, no fancy toilet.

After some false starts with various CAD programs I ended up doing my first design in Lucidchart out of despiration. (Highly unrecommended)

Here's what my rudimentary design brief looked like to start:

Initial Layout

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For layout and finishes, the Atlas Vans owner's personal build did it for me. I mean look at the detail and finish! I was gushing over it at the Van Life Expo in Big Bear. The employees were super cool and invited me to Ventura for a shop tour. I haven't taken them up on it yet, maybe when I am in the thick of my cabinets and I need to see how they solve some problems close up.

I have dozens more pics of Atlas Vans. I think most of the effort they go through is overkill for a van that is gonna get beat up but it sure looks great. (First pic is Roost vans)

Tire Wheel Automotive parking light Vehicle Property

Furniture Cabinetry Window Interior design Wood

Vehicle Motor vehicle Automotive carrying rack Hood Automotive lighting

Building Wood Comfort Lamp Table

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There is no way I could afford atlas and I am not much of a woodworker so I stated looking at DIY kits.

A note on DIY cabinetry kits - I looked at every one made. I think there are a lot of great options out there but for me, only Roost hit it for me aesthetically. Unfortunately I learned after spending a lot of time designing around their emerging system of "Beta" Transit products that it gets really expensive. I will find out for sure soon but it may be a lot more than custom cabinetry!

After lots of conversations with Roost, the design evolved into something that was more supportive of their DIY kits. . Using their components as reference really helped me finalize some things. Dennis from Roost was very helpful and provided a lot of real world vanlifer advice along the way.

For example, nobody wants to poop in a van! Plan a restroom, do it outside and use a contained "chamber pot" type of setup inside. My GF and I are dirtbaggers, works for us.

Design Version 2
I bit the bullet and taught myself sketch-up after seeing my friend do it for his van. Yes, I could have built it in carboard (I validated a couple of things with that). But I think 3D CAD allows faster iterations if you can get some proficiency with the tools. (I had a lot of OnShape CAD modeling experience for 3D printing and that gave me a leg up.)

2 Person with Roost Products
  • Overhead cabinets now shown but I will have them run the full length of the van on either side.
  • There is an error in this version - the pass cabinets will slide toward to take up; side door space like every other van out there. Also missing a couple of things. That cabinet will have a stove and sink.

Font Auto part Drawing Slope Diagram

4 Person
This design uses a 31", 2 passenger bench seat. I bought a Transit passenger van factory pullout online and it should arrive any day now.

Font Drawing Auto part Diagram Slope

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Trying to make Roost products work is a bit of a mess. I would be hacking the stuff up to remove interferences and several things just didn't work out the way I wanted. So...

Design Version 3
Coming soon...

2021 EXT HR Adventure Build in Progress
167 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
31" Removable Passenger Seat Install

Window Automotive design Motor vehicle Mode of transport Fixture

have two teen girls and my van wife has two teen girls. My kids like to "camp" like Elon Musk at burning man - roll into a plug-and-play and be serviced. On our last multi-family camp trip was a dispersed camping experience over Thanksgiving in Mecca, CA. They arrived, sans private jet, on Day 2 conveniently after the camp was fully set up. They departed a day later when the spotty cell service became unbearable.

On the other hand, my Van Wife's kids still like to get dirty while enjoying the great outdoors. So I am calling this the Nora and Lucy seat.

There are lots of threads out there on how to install these in various ways. But I will share some things that I didn't run across that someone else may find helpful.

31" vs Larger Seats
I would not want to ride in these seats for any length of time. Think spirit airlines if they had a lower cost economy section. They were built for the back of a Transit passenger van so they are small and don't recline. But I am hoping that 2 small-ish kids won't complain about sitting in them for 5 hours. Especially with a table and phone charger at their disposal.

Sourcing the Seat
You can probably get the seat for $150 locally but good luck. I wish I knew enough to ask @CrewVanMan for one when I picked up my transit, I heard later that he has a warehouse full of 'em. After looking on craigslist and ebay, I bit the bullet and paid Truck Seat Warehouse $585 plus $246 shipping. Gulp. That's a lot of money for some uncomfortable vinyl seats. At least it came with the rails.

Chair Product Automotive tire Comfort Armrest

It took about 3 weeks and I had to pick it up at a local terminal - 183 pounds including the palette.

The odd shaped legs are due to the fact that this seat was designed to go over a wheel. Of course placement is dictated by the frame supports but as luck would have it, I could get it close to the wall and exactly where I needed it front/back. I lined it up with the driver seat in the swivel position as well as the driving position. I also woke up in the middle of the night and made a note to myself to make sure I could actually remove the seat through the sliding door with a cabinet installed.

Installation Notes
  • Place the seat (rails attached) and when you like it, locate where the front rails holes will penetrate below with some landmarks
  • Make a rail hole template out of cardboard or scrap wood showing the holes and take the template under the van and see if there is any obvious interference with the other 3 holes. Wait, why didn't I use the rail? They were attached to the seat at the time.
  • Drill a small pilot hole to confirm that the rail is located where you thought it was and then re-verify all your measurements
  • As you can see, I used Aluminum plates. It's super easy to work with. Shout out to my buddy @gregoryx who gifted the metal to me!
  • I fabricated 1-1.2' x 2" square washers for the rails
  • Those are 5/16 x 1-1/2 class 8 bolts with nyloc and washers - no metric equivalents at my neighborhood hardware store
  • Gah! The rails will sit above my 1/2 subfloor. Is this one of the reasons why people use L-Track? Well there is not turning back. Maybe I should raise the whole floor 1/2" in the front to make it flush?

Motor vehicle Automotive tire Automotive design Mode of transport Automotive exterior

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2022 T350HD #11000 Avalanche Gray
843 Posts
I look forward to your build. I do not have a no limit budget but we are planning on spending a lot and not cutting corners. I hope to have my van by early may but sooner would be better.

79 Posts
Yea Mauronic great story!...I'm following and I have a very similar build plan. I hope to have my ride come April and like Gregoryx also live in OC - Newport Beach.
Looking forward to seeing more of your build!

2021 EXT HR Adventure Build in Progress
167 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
@gregoryx and @Henchman it would be awesome to connect sometime!

I鈥檓 in Altadena and my GF鈥檚 bestie lives in Newport Beach. Let me know if either of you guys are in the area and I will do the same. Otherwise we can always plan something.

Stay safe, I heard about the fires.

2020 High-Extended AWD EcoBoost Cargo with windows
4,812 Posts
@gregoryx and @Henchman it would be awesome to connect sometime!

I鈥檓 in Altadena and my GF鈥檚 bestie lives in Newport Beach. Let me know if either of you guys are in the area and I will do the same. Otherwise we can always plan something.

Stay safe, I heard about the fires.
Also Newport Beach.

X9C 350 Med Roof Pass AWD 3.5L Non-turbo
135 Posts
Its funny because that is exactly how I felt when I realized I didn't get cruise control either... Luckily the Rostra doesn't seem too hard to add, I don't see why the cover wouldn't be easy enough to fit back into place.

2020 High-Extended AWD EcoBoost Cargo with windows
4,812 Posts
Ok guys lmk anytime you鈥檙e around and I鈥檒l gladly serve cold refreshments!:)
I scoped you鈥檙e build Gregoryx and see bikes so perhaps a ride is in order!?
Love your build btw I鈥檓 beyond impressed馃
Thank you, good sir.

Mountain bikes are my 3rd sport (running first, rock-climbing second, snowboarding / split also third); I'm always down to ride - I just don't ride very well! Usually Coastal Peak / El Morro area or Aliso Wood are my go-to spots. But I'd welcome new locations. Or get a bit more epic and ride up Saddleback...

Or if you run as well, we do a double. 馃榿

Oh... I'm generally "around" unless I'm out of town - in which case, I'm usually up the 395 corridor or much further away. 馃槉
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