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Our first attempt to build a simple but comfy campervan.

202290 Views 416 Replies 78 Participants Last post by  HDH
We purchased our Transit 250 MR with the 3.5L E.B. engine back in July. The plan is to turn this van into a simple but comfortable campervan. We got the tow package so we can pull a trailer with my motorcycles.

Due to business travel and some motorcycle trips this summer I haven't been able to do a lot to the van or even drive it a lot. At this point there are only 2,000 miles on the odometer. The original plan was to do some of the work myself and have other work done by a local van builder. However, after getting several quotes I have decided to do it all myself. This is a learning experience and if I don't like how it turns out I can always change it. The plan is to make everything modular and removable and make use of the holes that are already there.

The link below shows the build up to this point:

The picture below shows the van as it is today:
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I had good luck originally using Flickr to post my pics, and then linking to here. Probably still works.
Then I started my blog at, which lets me upload directly, is free, easy to use, and also has no issues with me linking blog pics and text to the Building Annie (or other) thread here by a simple c&p.
Doesn't seem to be any more work doing a write-up on the blog than writing up the post here. And blogspot has better editing tools.

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I've always had good luck with as a free hosting site. They'll make you watch a little ad that offsets the costs - but it's never failed me.
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Went camping last week in the Transit and loved it. Everything works very well but there are a few things that need to be modified.
I am going to install a water inlet on the driver side so I can just hook up a water hose when water is available. This water connection will also allow me to fill up the water tank in the galley cabinet without having to remove the tank. There will also be a grey water outlet drilled through the floor so I can drain (dump) the tank without having to remove it. The 190W solar panel, the 100 Ah battery and everything else work very well. I do however plan to upgrade to 200 Ah battery capacity this winter and install an inverter.
We camped in some camp grounds and did some camping in the wild.


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Wow -- where were you with that much snow in early July? Nice.
Your prior pictures must have been on a free Photobucket account because they're not showing up anymore. Sooooo, not sure what your gray water solution is, mine is a 5 gallon Homer bucket. I put an inexpensive bilge pump in mine with a spigot mounted on the bottom side of the bucket. I can flip the switch and drain the bucket pretty fast. I typically put a hose on it and I use it to douse my fire when I'm picking up camp.
Wow -- where were you with that much snow in early July? Nice.

Tioga pass going into Yosemite from the east.
In Oregon we still have a lot of snow as well. Had to turn around while hiking in Oregon last week when we lost the trail due to too much snow still.
Your prior pictures must have been on a free Photobucket account because they're not showing up anymore. Sooooo, not sure what your gray water solution is, mine is a 5 gallon Homer bucket. I put an inexpensive bilge pump in mine with a spigot mounted on the bottom side of the bucket. I can flip the switch and drain the bucket pretty fast. I typically put a hose on it and I use it to douse my fire when I'm picking up camp.

Yep, Photobucket informed me that I could continue to post my pictures for $499 per year. I cancelled my account.

My grey water solution is a 7 gallon water jug, and my water tank is 6 gallons so it will all fit incase my pump decides to empty the water tank. When we camp in the wild I bring 1 or 2 extra 6 gallon water jugs.
I had good luck originally using Flickr to post my pics, and then linking to here. Probably still works.
Then I started my blog at, which lets me upload directly, is free, easy to use, and also has no issues with me linking blog pics and text to the Building Annie (or other) thread here by a simple c&p.
Doesn't seem to be any more work doing a write-up on the blog than writing up the post here. And blogspot has better editing tools.

Stan, I followed your example and started a build blog on BlogSpot. Hopefully Google doesn't follow PhotoBucket's example now that I've placed everything on their site. The good thing is that now everything is neatly organized in one location.

When I have time I'll try to fix the photo links in my build threads on this forum.
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Since I can no longer edit my old posts, I won't be able to fix the broken picture links.
Instead I'll give this a try:

Our simple but comfy Transit Campervan:

A blank slate:

In July of 2015 we purchased a Ford Transit cargo van. We went with the 130" wheelbase and the medium roof height. The plan was to buy a diesel, but we couldn't find any at local dealers and decided that the 3.5 liter EcoBoost was perfect for what we needed. It is a twin turbo direct injection engine with 300+ horsepower and 400+ Lbs.ft of torque.

The plan is to use this van as my daily driver and convert it into a simple but comfortable campervan.

The first modification was the installation of some Ford factory roof bars. These load bars have mounts that bolt to existing mounting points on the roof. The installation was simple but it's important to use plenty of sealant to prevent leaks. This isn't mentioned in the installation instructions but there will be leaks if you don't seal it, don't ask me how I know ?.

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Roof rack install.

Rhino Pioneer roof rack:

I ordered a Rhino Pioneer roof rack and mounted it on the Ford load bars. I bought the largest Pioneer roof rack available but it still looks small on the van. My daughter helped me and we were able to install the rack from 2 ladders. Luckily we managed the installation without damaging (denting) the ultra thin side wall and roof panels.

Next we'll install an awning.​
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Awning install:

Awning installation:

There are many options when it comes to awnings. Most campervans have a Fiamma or Dometic awning. I decided to go with an ARB awning which is designed for lower SUV's. The ARB awning is not as easy to deploy as a Fiamma, but at only a fraction of the price I decided to give it a try.
I installed a length of aluminum angle on the Ford load bars and mounted the awning to the aluminum angle. This worked great and the angle supports the awning over the full length.

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Ladder install:

Ladder install:

Now that we have a roof rack, we need to be able to get on the roof. I ordered a stainless steel ladder from EuroCampers and painted it black with bed-liner paint.

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Platform bed:

10/13/2015 Platform bed install.
We took the empty van on a weekend camping trip. This was great but we decided that the first thing we needed was a bed. I decided that I would go with a removable platform bed. The platform bed had to sit high enough so we can utilize the space underneath for storage and transportation of large items. The advantage of raising the bed is that I can sleep sideways since there is more space higher up.


I installed some angle iron on the side walls and used existing holes. I painted the angle with bed-liner paint left over from the ladder paint job.​
I used a Harbor Freight motorcycle ramp that was exactly 69" long and took it apart to turn it into my bed frame. See picture for details:

I used 3/4" plywood for the bed platform and covered it in cheap carpet with underlayment.

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10/18/2015: Upper cabinets:

Built some upper cabinets for the van this weekend. Two large size cabinets over the bed on both sides of the van and a less deep cabinet for above the kitchen area.
All cabinets are removable just like the bed. I can remove the bed and all 3 cabinets in less than 30 minutes.
The cabinets need to be finished and I have to install doors but we'll try it like this to see if the size of the cabinets works for what we need.

11/01/2015 Kitchen unit.

It was a very wet day in Oregon so I decided to start building my kitchen unit. We looked on-line for ready made kitchen pods and checked out the local hardware stores for kitchen and bathroom cabinets. In the end we decided to build our own.
I start with something simple that we will try for a while and modify if needed. Once we decide that we like it I'll finish everything.

11/05/2015 Test fitting the kitchen.
Installed the kitchen today. It's big but fits perfect. The counter height is 35.5", which is high but comfortable.
The upper cabinets will get the same aluminum edging treatment.
I will bolt it to the wall and hook up the wiring for the pump today so we can test the set up.
It's finally starting to look like a camper van.
We're still debating if we should paint the cabinets or just stain them.

11/08/2015 Testing

Made a little progress. Installed the curtains and the bed today so we could get a feel for the layout. I also worked on the upper cabinets a little.
Then we sat in the van with the curtains closed listening to the rain on the roof. With the lights and heating on via shore power it was comfy and cozy in the van. Can't wait for spring!
11/18/2015 Stained the kitchen cabinet.
Not a lot of progress the last week due to work and lots of rain in Oregon. I did stain and paint the kitchen cabinet with polyurethane.
I was hoping that the seat swivel would come in but SwivelsRus hasn't given me any tracking information or indication when it would be shipped.

08/29/2016 Finally some progress on the campervan project!

We're taking the van on a camping trip to Bozeman, Montana, where my daughter studies at MSU and then we'll go to Glacier National park for a week.
I haven't done any work on the campervan since last year and felt kind of guilty. So I took some time off and did some work before next weeks road trip.

I removed the upper cabinets for staining and painting with polyurethane. Then I lined the inside with cheap carpet to prevent rattling of the contents. I installed the carpet with snap buttons so it is removable incase I need to get behind it for the electrical wiring.

Stained and painted cabinets installed

Storage unit underneath the platform bed
In some of the other pages I have mentioned and shown some pictures of a storage unit underneath the platform bed. The main function of this storage unit is to have a solid foundation for the fridge/freezer slide so I don't have to drill through the Transit floor. The storage unit fits snuggly under the platform bed and is held in place by the wheel well in the front and doors in the back so it can't go anywhere.

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Temporary curtains
Now we have the bed but I like my privacy so we had to install some temporary curtains. I used a shower curtain rod behind the seats. This fits exactly in the indents of the Styrofoam blocks. In the back I installed a shower curtain rod as well that fits perfectly above the cable trays in the back. For the sliding side door I used a bungee cord. Then we bought some cheap black out curtains at the local Fred Meyer that had the prefect length of 63".
With the curtains closed you can't see that the lights are ON inside the van and inside the van it stays completely dark.

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Seat swivel:

11/26/2015 Seat swivel installation.

The SwivelsRus passenger side seat swivel arrived this week. It looks like a solid swivel and good build quality (it better be for that price).
I installed it right away.

I love the seat swivel, it makes the living space much larger in this relatively small campervan.
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Electrical including solar:

10/23/2017 Electrical.

I ordered a Fantastic vent and other bits and pieces needed for the electrical portion of the project. All the cables have been pulled and I installed switches and outlets for the 120VAC and 12 VDC devices. For now I keep it simple, I installed a Marinco 15A shore power inlet and keep the house system separate from the car battery. We either run on shore power or run on the house battery if shore power is NOT connected. I automatically activate a relay when shore power is plugged in and switch to 12VDC from a 120VAC to 12 VDC transformer. When not plugged in, the system will pull power from the extra battery, which is not yet installed. Solar power will happen sometime next year. For now I want to try the layout and systems. If we like it I'll pull everything out of the van and insulate it. After that I finish the wall and ceiling panels and finish the furniture.

08/29/2016 House battery

Until now I had used a small jump start battery pack as my house battery but this battery died after it hadn't been used and maintained over the winter. So I purchased a Duracell Ultra AGM deep cycle battery of 92 AH this weekend and installed it with a NOCO Genius battery charger. Eventually I plan on installing a solar panel(s) but for now this will have to do. I built a solid cabinet for the battery between the driver side wheel well and the galley cabinet. The battery is installed in a battery box and strapped to the floor and side anchor bolt of the van. After our trip I will finish this additional piece of furniture.

12/15/2016 Time for solar.

After several months in China for business I finally have some time to work on the van again.
It's cold and miserable in the Pacific Northwest so I won't be doing anything on the outside of the van. I decided to buy the materials for the solar portion of the project.

There are many different companies that sell components or complete solar kits and it seems that most DIY builders go with a kit from Renogy. I did some research and decided to buy a kit from a small local company here in Portland called "Light Harvest Solar".

My electrical house system is simple and all I have is a 12VDC/120VAC fridge/freezer, Fantastic fan, 12VDC water pump, 12VDC LED lights and some 12 VDC outlets. There are also 120VAC outlets for when we are connected to shore power. When connected to shore power a 120VAC / 12VDC power supply feeds all the 12VDC devices and charges the battery. When there's no shore power we'll get it from the battery. I installed a single 100 Ah AGM battery a few months ago, which is small compared to other installs here but it should be enough for us.
Due to the small size of our electrical system I decided to go with a single 190 Watt Monocrystalline solar kit. The kit comes with a Tracer 2210A MPPT (20A) controller, cable, brackets, fuses and I bought a remote controller as well, which will be mounted in the upper cabinets.
The solar panel is a high voltage panel so I had to go with a MPPT controller.

Can't wait to get it all installed.

03/21/2017 Solar panel install:

Finally have a week at home after constant business travel since early January. Luckily it stopped raining for a few hours in the Pacific Northwet. I decided to install the solar panel, which I purchased last year.

I used the Z-brackets that came with the panel to mount it to the roof rack on the driver side. The brackets bolt to Unitstrut nuts that fit perfectly in the slats of the Rhino roof rack. I am cheap so I made some aluminum strips with M6 thread that would fit in the slats.Later I found out that the Unistrut plates with 1/4"x 20 thread fit perfectly in the slats. Much cheaper than the Rhino hardware.

Since the spacing of the rack slats is fixed it wasn't possible to use z-brackets on the other side. I decided to use hinges, which make it easy to clean the roof underneath the panel. In the future I'll make some adjustable legs so I can change the angle of the panel when parked for better efficiency.

Due to the install of the fan there wasn't enough space for the 190W solar panel. I talked to the owner of Light Harvest Solar in Portland who was willing to exchange the panel for a smaller unit. In the end I decided to just let it stick out a little. The panel sticks out about 6".
Tomorrow I'll install a fairing in front of the panel and the roof rack to make it more aerodynamic and somewhat pretty.

04/08/2017 Catching some rays.

04/12/2017 Are we done yet?

Found a few hours to do some more work on the Transit. This project should have been done a long time ago but business travel pays the bills so the Transit will have to wait.

Wired the solar panel. The "temporary" electrical setup will be cleaned up soon and I'll enclose it in the current location underneath the bed.

Quick and dirty temporary mount for the MT50 remote meter. Man, is it a satisfying feeling to see all that "free" power coming in.

04/13/2017 Roof rack fairing install:

I ordered a 50" roof rack fairing from Rhino that is designed to be clamped onto a Rhino crossbar. Since the solar panel is sticking out I had to build a support structure that the fairing can be connected to. The nice thing about the Rhino roof rack is that it is very easy to mount something on the slats without drilling into the rack. I fabricated a support that can slide back and fort so I can try the perfect angle and distance to the roof rack.

I'm not sure that I like the looks of it because the roof isn't flat and the faring is too short.

So, I went to TAP Plastics to buy some black ABS material to extend the fairing to the top of the solar panel.
However, while I am posting this I realize that this is stupid! I should have bought a larger piece of ABS and make a one piece fairing. The old fairing can be used as a template for the holes.

This is the fairing with the added piece:

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Ceiling and insulation:

09/01/2016 Ceiling panels.

Today was rainy day in Oregon so the perfect day to work on the van before our trip to Montana this weekend. I decided to start with the ceiling panel above the bed.
I used white hardboard for now, which I may cover in vinyl or carpet later on. The rear panel above the bed was easy, it is supported on the sides by the upper cabinets and I used riv-nuts in existing holes in the center. It was much easier than expected and I continued with the rest of the ceiling.

The panel in the front was a real PITA due to the angles and the Styrofoam blocks, which I left in place. I scribed the front corners but it took me a while before it all fit to my liking. Here's a picture of the front ceiling panel:

I ended up doing the ceiling in 3 sections and I installed 2 strips over the joints. This is the end result of todays work:

05/20/2017 Ceiling insulation.

This morning I removed the ceiling panels so we could install Thinsulate.
I dropped the headliner above the cab as others have suggested and was ale to stuff the pockets above the side door windows with 2 smaller pieces. The large area above the cab was done with one large piece of Thinsulate. It helps to have long skinny arms so you can shove it all the way to the top of the windshield.

Next we insulated the rest of the ceiling. I was able to do it with the upper cabinets in place. The whole process took about 2 hours.

After that I put Humpty Dumpty back together again and went for a test ride. It's amazing how much quieter the van is. The doors and the panel behind the galley still need to be insulated but it's already a big difference. I'm hearing engine noises now that I hadn't heard before. I love the turbo whistle.
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Celing fan install:

09/14/2016 Vent install:

Today I finally cut the hole in the roof for the Fan-Tastic vent that has been sitting in my garage since last year. This was by far the scariest thing I've done so far. Cutting a large hole in a brand new van was something that I kept putting off. It wasn't so bad and I should have started with this.

I should have started with the vent and the insulation but I like to do things backwards. So I had to remove the ceiling that I installed 2 weeks ago and I had to remove and modify the roof rack to make space for the vent cover.
I covered the roof with moving blankets and placed the fan adapter from Hein on the rack to mark the cutout for the vent cover (outside).

I left the awning and the Ford load bars on the van and removed the rack with the help of my daughter. The rack will be modified on the ground so I don't run the risk of dropping something on the flimsy Transit roof.

We taped some plastic sheeting to the underside of the roof to prevent a mess inside the van. My daughter assisted me.

With the roof covered and some wood on the load bars I drilled the 4 holes in the corners.

Then I cut the hole.

Placed Hein's adapter for a test fit:

And placed the fan on top to make sure it would fit:

Removed everything for some paint, which will dry overnight and will be painted white tomorrow. This is probably overkill because no one will ever see it again but that's how it will be done.
Tomorrow I will finish the install and modify the roof rack.
To be continued!

09/15/2016 Vent install continued:

Today I continued with the vent install. I test fitted the vent and adapter and decided to enlarge the holes in the roof for the srcews and built an inside frame to sandwich the entire assembly to the roof. This worked out really well. Once you cut the 14" hole in the roof the sheet metal is really flimsy but after mounting the fan as I did, everything becomes real solid and no need for braces between the roof ribs.
Picture below show enlarged holes for screws and everything painted:

The next picture shows everything mounted and sandwiched in the garage. I predrilled and mounted everything on the floor because I didn't have an assistant today. This way I could just set everything on the roof and support the lower frame with a shower tension rod so I could screw it together from the top.

This is how it looks inside the van with the fan mounted:

I used butyl tape between the fan and the adapter and the roof and the adapter. After cleaning up the oozed out butyl, I sealed everything on the outside with Dicor self leveling caulk. No pictures of that. The caulking was the worst part of the job. It turned out OK but it's messy I just hate it. Without caulk everything looked real clean and neat, it's just some added protection against leaks.
Next I modified the roof rack to make space for the fan. I only had to cut and remove the center slat. The other 2 slats were just cut partially. One of the cross braces had to be cut as well but I moved it toward the front a little to support the center slat.

Tomorrow morning I will reinstall the roof rack.

09/15/2016 Vent install: Complete!

Some pictures of the final result. It was a pain to install the roof rack from a ladder. I had done it before but now there was a vent in the roof that was making things complicated. Luckily I had some great assistants (wife and daughter) so we did it without falling of the ladder, scratching the van or destroying the vent!

09/17/2016 Ceiling back in after vent install.

Wired the fan and installed a 12VDC (house) and 120VAC outlet underneath the bed for the Dometic Fridge/Freezer. After that I put the ceiling panels back in place.
The trim piece for the fan had to be cut to length and fits good, however the roof is slightly curved and I don't like the gap. Will have to fix that later but for now it will have to do.

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Wall panels and insulation:

05/11/2017Time to insulate and finish the wall panels.

Thanks to and I knew how to continue.
I started with the wall panels on both sides of the platform bed. We sleep sideways so I need all the width we can get. I glued plastic spacers to the walls with 3m 5200 Fast Cure.

I then created a template from cardboard.

Then I traced it onto 5mm underlayment and test fitted it. I adjusted the panel to make space for the carpet covering that will be glued on the wall panel.

After that I installed Thinsulate and mounted the carpeted wall panel over that.


The panel behind the galley cabinet will be done the same way. The backsplash is sticking into the wall indent and I don't want to move the galley forward. With the smallish 130" WB we need every square foot we can find.
The ribs will get plywood covered with carpet treatment as well and the rest will get carpet glued directly onto the painted metal.

05/12/2017 Passenger side panel done

Insulation and wall panels continued.

Continued working on the insulation and wall panels. The wall panels take a lot of time. I am using carpeted 5 mm underlayment to trim the ribs and frame around the sliding door.

The end is in sight, I'll probably leave the exposed white metal at the indents the way it is for now. We'll live with it for a while and decide later if it needs some kind of carpet or vinyl upholstering.

05/17/2017 Slow but steady


Got a little more done today on the drivers side wall panels. This is very time consuming.

Was ready to glue this piece of carpet to the plywood but noticed just in time that I traced the wrong side of the plywood onto the carpet. That's what happens when I try to get it done in a hurry.

I mounted the remote display/programmer for the solar MPPT controller on the center rib.

Next will be the panel behind the galley. I have only a few days before I go on a long business trip again so I'm not sure if I will be able to get to that. It's supposed to warm up in Oregon so I need a few days to try out my new motorcycle before it's back to work again. Too much to do, too little time.

05/18/2017 More wall panels


Today I removed the platform bed and the storage unit underneath. I stained the storage unit and will paint it with polyurethane in the next few days.
Insulated the walls underneath the bed and covered the walls with carpeted plywood.

06/12/2017 Last wall panel and insulation finished!

Insulated the wall behind the galley cabinet and installed the final wall panel.

We're going to use the van on a 10 day camping trip to Yosemite and northern California early July and see how it works. After that I'll work on the finishing touches. Some items on the "final" punch list:

  1. Insulate the doors.
  2. Install some trim pieces.
  3. Install Eccotemp water heater for outdoor shower and instant hot water for dishes etc.. I'll probably install this on the rear door and build an outdoor shower set-up between the open rear doors. Already have the Eccotemp and love it.
  4. Build a small awning over the rear doors. Awning will be mounted on the roof rack and can slide in and out.

Some things that I would like to do (nice to haves that will probably never happen)

  1. Install grey water tank under the van.
  2. Install propane tank under the van.
  3. Install large water tank in the van with option to fill from the outside.

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