Dave's Outstanding Van Conversion

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Van 007

Dave and his van the day he bought it.

My Van is a 1985 Chevrolet G-20 Sports-van Conversion, which I have converted even more for my travels. I am running a Mr. Goodwrench 350 engine with about 12,000 miles, as of now. She is running with an Eddelbrock 600cfm carburetor. A th350C rebuilt transmission, new brakes all around and new master cylinder. Also added Gabriel Air Shocks in the rear and new Gabriel’s in the front. I have added an air/fuel Gage and a vacuum Gage to help monitor gas mileage, since this ole girl doesn’t have a computer.
The floorplan to Dave's van.

The floorplan to Dave’s van.

For cooking I carry a one burner butane stove, as well as a two burner propane stove with a 1 gallon propane tank. An Engel refrigerator keeps my food cold. For washing I installed a sink hooked up to a 12v pump and small grey water tank. I use a solar shower and a port a potty for other necessities.
The kitchen looking forward.

The kitchen looking forward.

Kitchen from side door.

Kitchen from side door.

IMG_2248

The base cabinet under construction.

The filler for the water tank is between the cabinet and the drivers seat.

The filler for the water tank is between the cabinet and the drivers seat.

Dave-solar-panelFor power I have 245 watts of solar on my roof, two AGM batteries (105 AH each), a tracer controller and a tri-metric battery monitor. In order to use the power I installed 10 12v outlets, 3 USB outlets and 2 110v outlets. I have a 12v 19 inch TV/dvd and an Epson all in one printer. The 110v items run off my 750w modified sine wave inverter.
Dave-solar-wiring
My bed is 4′ x 6′ with storage underneath. My front passenger seat swivels around to be used as a back facing recliner.
Looking at the wardrobe from the front seat.

Looking at the wardrobe from the front seat.

The main cabinet is 24 inches deep and 58 inches long. The wardrobe is 22 inches deep and 26 wide. Doesn’t sound too large but it holds the following.

  • My hanging clothes
  • a hose and two extension cords
  • My porta potty
  • two stunt kites
  • a didgeridoo
  • four tent poles
  • a four foot fold up table
  • a tool box and two sacks of wrenches plus has a shelf for toilet paper and garbage bags
  • and a couple shelves for small bottles like vitamins

 

The Wardrobe. I love how he has used all the vertical space in his van. Most people completely waste it.

The Wardrobe. I love how he has used all the vertical space in his van. Most people completely waste it.

 
The wardrobe from the back.

The wardrobe from the back.

Inside the wardrobe.

Inside the wardrobe.

I bought my water pump from Makrios RV $34
http://www.makariosrv.com/water-pump-for-combination-by-flojet-42510-0000/

My sink came from there also ($15)
http://www.makariosrv.com/plastic-oval-ivory-sink-16156pp/

My faucet $27
http://www.makariosrv.com/touch-faucet-chrome-15-045-02/

And my fresh water tank $59
http://www.makariosrv.com/fresh-water-rotational-molded-polyethelene-holding-tank-10-gal-l-1-a/

This looks like the same tank from Amazon.com for $45
10 Gallon RV Fresh Water Tank 

Under the bed from the back door. Notice he has two layers of storage under the bed. The first is then so he can find things easily, the rest is for standard large-item storage.
Under the bed from the back door. Notice he has two layers of storage under the bed. The first is shallow so he can find things easily. The area below it is for standard large-item storage.
The bottom area under the bed.

The bottom area under the bed.

Under the bed from the front.

Under the bed from the front.

The top cabinet opened.

The top cabinet opened.

The bottom cabinet opened.

The bottom cabinet opened.

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40 Comments

  1. Douglas

    How much space do you have left between your bed and bottom cabinets?

    • David

      Doughlas, if you mean front to back, on the left there is about a foot, where I store several items, plus a couple shelves about 22 inches off the floor. On the right between bed and wardrobe is about ten inches, several things there including an aluminum fold up table. Between main cabinet and wardrobe I have 24 inches.
      David

  2. Stephen

    Nice van Dave!

    • David

      Thanks Stephen. After having tent camped for more than a year, I knew the things I needed, the Van gave me the oppurtunity to add luxuries.
      David

  3. Pat

    Great looking van. That’s kind of what I’d like to have.

    • David

      Thanks Pat, not hard to do, but I would say it would be better to start with a high top. Sure do miss that, but I believe by spring this ole girl will have one.
      David

  4. Naomi

    I really like this – especially the wardrobe.
    Odd question – does one need to add anything to the fresh water tank to keep the water fresh, or to clean the tank regularly? I know if water is stored long-term, it needs something to keep bacteria at bay.
    Thanks in advance.
    ~Naomi

    • David

      Hi Naomi. I don’t know about anyone else but I add just a tad of bleach to mine. I also have two 6 gal. containers and a couple two gallon, I also add bleach to those occasionaly, just to be safe. Lately with the rain here in Arizona, I have been catching rain water, I run it thru my MSR water filter, saves running into town for water. Did a blog post on it here
      http://davidswanderings.com/2013/07/03/creativity/
      David

  5. Tina

    That is a great layout! You have made wonderful use of your space. I love the two storage areas under your bed and the sink setup.
    Thanks for sharing Dave and Bob!
    Tina

    • David

      Hi Tina and thank you. As I have said before, after tent camping in a small suv and knowing the things I needed, I tried to incorporate that into the Van. The Van just gives me the opportunity not to have to deal with ice and a chance to have actual storage space for my items. There are some things I might have done differently, if I had found Bob’s forum before I did my build. But there is always time for changes.
      David

  6. CAE

    Nice! What kind of mileage does she get?

    • David

      Hi CAE.
      Well, this is an interesting question. Since this first 2600 miles out here was her maiden voyage and because of the carb I am running, the best I got was 14. Because of the elevation I have to keep tinkering with the carb, that is why I installed the Innovate Air/Fuel gage, vacuum gage and tach. On the way I found two vacuum leaks and was running real rich. Also because of the altitude I have lost 5 inches of vacuum which really plays havoc. Tomorrow I am changing plugs, wires, cap and rotor as well as an oil change. I am boosting my quality of plugs, wires and have gotten a high capacity coil. Will probably be doing a blog post on my work. I am also running what is called a Tornado, added within my air filter, which actually brought my mileage up about 2-3 mpg from what I was getting. I am also running heavy, 15 – 25 gal. of water and enough canned and dry goods, coffee and sugar for months. I am hoping with a few changes I should be able to get 15 or 16 mpg.
      David

  7. Jim

    I was impressed during the tour of your van at the RTR.
    You’ve put a lot of thought and effort to make a very livable situation for yourself on a small budget.

    • David

      Thanks Jim, good to hear from you again. We just have to remember, that anything is possible, the sky is the limit.
      David

  8. Tim

    That’s one of the best layouts I’ve seen so far!! Great work.
    Accell spark plug wires solved a problem for me and I think it was money well spent.

    • David

      Thanks Tim, just did the tune up to the Van. She seems to like the new Acell wires and high output coil.
      David

  9. BIKER

    WOW such a nice job on everything !!

    • David

      Thanks Biker! Folks may not believe it, but that is the first carpentry work I had ever done. A friend, Norm, loaned me all his tools and another friend, Ray, who owns a sawmill worked with me on cutting out all the framing. Don’t know if folks noticed, but I did install a drawer above the fridge, and I must say I was surprised at how well the cabinet doors came out. My friend Norm did help me in fitting and building the wardrobe, but all the rest I did on a first time ever basis.
      David

  10. Laughing Richard

    Hey David,
    Really good example of how to use every available square inch of space. You’re an inspiration!
    See you in the fall. Hope to be there when you do the high top.
    Richard

    • David

      Thanks Richard, looking forward to you getting back this fall. Sure would like to find my high top and a place to spend a day installing it. It will come.
      Happy Trails
      David

  11. Wolf

    Hey Dave !
    Quite a setup my friend. You almost have a stick `n bricks in your van …. lol. I am a minimalist and could not live with all that “stuff”.
    Take care my friend & be safe ,
    Wolf

    • David

      Hi Wolf, I do carry a few toys, kites, didgeridoo, but most everything else is either parts for the Van, tools, which anyone who owns a 28 year old vehicle should carry or food. If I was a minimalist, I suppose I would take out my survival backpack, which I do carry and leave my van where it is and just start hiking. I carry that backpack just in case there comes a day when I may have to walk back east, and take the shortest walking route I can find.
      David

  12. Ken in Anaheim

    David…..NICE JOB !! Out of curiosity, when you were tent camping, what type of tent and vehicle were you using ?
    Thanks

    • David

      Hi Ken, I was in a 2000 Ford Explorer with an 18 cu. ft. Thule box on the roof. My tent was a six person four season Cabela Alaskan Guide tent. I could stand in the tent, in the center, and it is rated for 75 mile an hour winds. On a standard setup I would only use about ten tent pegs, but if storms were comeing I would use all 24.

  13. Suzann

    Great layout Dave! I have an 93 Ford Hi-top Conversion Van that I’ll be living in FT beginining Aug. 19th. Friend will help me build bed platform across back after removing 3-section bench seat & do a few other modifications.
    Have absolutely NO income, but landed a volunteer in park position in central northern Florida. I’ll have water, fire ring, picnic table, electric and shower/potty nearby. Big improvement over my last stint in a Walmart parking lot!
    Will show friend your post for ideas, though the solar, sink, etc. I won’t need nor afford now.
    You are proof that living well can be done! Best wishes to you!

    • David

      Hi Suzann, I think ones just needs to think what they might like with them and work from there. Less is always better. The things you decide to carry, you just need to make a place for them. Best of luck to you with you Van, I know what it is like living on a low income, it takes awhile but you can always get there.
      David

  14. Gloria Brooks

    I was fortunate to be able to see Dave’s brilliant van conversion in person. It’s like a doll’s house. I was truly amazed at what he could fit into such small spaces. You’re so very talented, Dave! Gloria

    • David

      Hi Gloria, thanks for the kind words. This being my maiden voyage in the Van, everything seems to be working out well. But I am still of the belief that anyone can do amazing things if they just set their mind to it.
      David

  15. Charlene Swankie

    The layout of my van is very similar to David’s and it has served me well over the past four years. There are some things I plan to revise and tweak, but overall I am happy.

  16. VernM

    While I enjoy seeing the innovations and conversions others have added to van conversions such as yours, Dave, I find myself worrying — as a once-upon-a-time media journalist — where all those loose things are going to go when the unthinkable happens. I know most of us want to think a rear-ender or roll over will “never” happen to a good careful driver like me, but they can and do. And all those things unstowed securely in cabinets and elsewhere that can take the G-loads of a crash, are going to turn into guided missiles. That’s one of the reasons I converted my van as I did (see post elsewhere on this site)with all having a place behind a door or bungeed to something secure or bolted securely to the floor anchors.
    Please think about that as you enjoy the life on wheels.
    VernM
    “The Little House on the Highway ™” once upon a time.

    • greybeard33

      Hi Vern, when I am traveling mode, there is very little that is not secured. The reason I got this Van was at the end of a winters stay in Arkansas, a week prior to leaving I was T-Boned by an uninsured driver. They pulled a high speed U-Turn on the highway, across three lanes of traffic and caught me in my passenger door. I traveled quite a distance getting my Explorer back on four wheels. So I am a bit familiar with what can happen on the highway. The Explorer had many things in the back for storage, luckily nothing big or solid hit me, but when I stopped, I had many things setting at my feet that had been buried in the back. So, I do take precautions, I know the unexpected can happen.
      David

  17. greenminimalism

    Fantastic job. Looks very comfy. Thumbs up for the Rubiks cube too, gotta have something to do in all those spare hours!

    • greybeard33

      Hi greenminimalism, thanks and it sure is comfy. Been doing the cube for 33 years. Once a day, sometimes more. Started doing it mornings before work, always thought if I was going to go out and gas pipe someones house, my brain should be warmed up first. Now I just do it once or twice a day to keep the gray matter active.
      Happy Trails
      David

  18. Martin Hamilton

    Nice job on the conversion. I would do that but it adds so much weight to the vehicle. I decided to do without all the shelving, go with plastic drawers from Wal mart and continue to get 21 mpg on my E150 Ford 2003 van. Thanks for sharing.
    Martin

    • LaVonne

      I love David’s conversion but I’m planning the same, Martin, as well as sleeping on a cot instead of building a platform. For me, it’s not just about the weight but the simplicity. I’m very lazy! lol

      • greybeard33

        Hi LaVonne, good to see you. I tried a cot in my tent for several months, but having had back surgery some forty years ago, it just didn’t make it. Needed something solid to sleep on. Hope you are getting your Van soon, probably see you at the winter RTR.
        David

      • Bob

        LaVonne, we aren’t lazy, we are practical!!
        Bob

    • greybeard33

      Hi Martin, I don’t believe I added to much weight with the cabinets. A friend or two have sawmills, so we cut up some two x 10’s, made out of light weight pine, into 2×2’s and 1×2’s. That is what the entire frame work is made of, then just covered with 1/4 ” luan. The large cabinet without anything in it can easily be picked up by one person. The wardrobe the same. The bed frame is made of the same wood. The only weight is the water and food, plus tools I carry.
      David

  19. Curtis

    Wonderful conversion Dave, thank you for sharing!

  20. Mara

    That’s an amazing use of available space, Dave! I love all the photos and explanations of how you did everything.

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