Innovative Van Conversion
This is the story of OpenSpaceMan’s beautiful van conversion! He has some of the most innovative and original ideas I have ever seen. I’m very grateful to him for sending in the text and photos (your story and photos are welcome too!!!!!) He started with a 2008 Ford E250 3/4 Ton Extended Van that came to him with a aftermarket fiberglass hi-top, carpeted walls and two cheap vent fans in the roof (he replaced those with Fantastic Fans).
Step 1 Insulation: I gutted it, lined it with Reflectix, 1″ Pink Panther Foam board and screwed 2 x 4’s length wise to mount stuff to…at this point that was as far as I planned out:
Step 2 – The bed: I went to Home depot, stumbled around for ideas and came up with the erector set galvanized pipe supports…mounted to 2 x 12’s…I form fitted them around the wheel wells and it worked out pretty good. At this point I discovered some rolls of cheap (I thought at the time ) indoor / outdoor carpet that was on sale at Lowes…and for consistency sake I hunted down every last roll in Southeast Wisconsin…and that is what I covered everything with.
Step 3 Wiring: After I insulated it, pre- wired it and re-installed the carpeted walls…the interior began to shrink…a few inches here a few inches there…but I figured being able to have some control over the temperature was worth having to crouch down a little more….I’m a little over 6′.
In the photos below we see his fuse box and solar controller and batteries in a home-made slide-out tray.
It was beginning to take shape. I originally didn’t even think of solar…I was just figuring on plugging in to shore-power at a campground or plugging in every few days somewhere to charge the house batteries…then I started doing research and figured solar was the way to go.
I was frozen by inexperience at this stage of the game…and after a ton of reading and a long internet search I found an electrical engineer in Colorado who was kind enough to post very detailed photo’s of his solar RV install and I just duplicated it in my much simplified system. We had many email conversations and since I couldn’t find anyone in my area…he convinced me to do it myself…
Step 4: Almost finished: I’m still working on a few things. I would like to put an awning up eventually…but it’s mostly done.
Underneath the sink are (3) 42″ panels that lay across the van width wise to create the bed…I use one of the panels as a desk also. By designing it this way I could put a couple of bikes in the center for a day trip. If I don’t feel like setting them up I just put the mattress on the soft rubber floor.
Aerial view of solar panels…the roof has a ton of curves…probably engineered that way to make it more aerodynamic…but the only solution I could find online was some dude in California that restores old Airstreams…so I copied his design and used a bicycle rack that you sometimes see on a pickup truck cap…an added bonus good air flow underneath the solar panels to keep them cool.
The White Whale…but my brothers kid calls it the news van…There was a house fire down the street when I was on a ladder wiring up the solar panels and a bunch of neighborhood kids thought I was a news van…because a cameraman was down the street filming the fire.
Below is a bigger photo of the Solar Mounts…I had to buy something from Thule…called “artificial rain gutters” because of my curved roof…and then the mounts attach to that and then I put locks on them…and since I built it upside and then put it on the roof…it will take two people with a lot of time, a ladder and some tools to get them off. Buy the Thule racks at Amazon.com here: Thule 542 Artificial Raingutters
Thule Roof Rack Gutter Mount Foot Pack Thule Roof Rack Load Bars (65-Inch, Set of 2)
Hopefully with the price of solar panels dropping…it won’t be worth the trouble to steal them and that’s what insurance is for. Because of how high I had to mount them to get clearance…the fiberglass in that area is like 3 inch’s thick so I had to use longer bolts.
Here are some more pictures of the bed to clarify how it works. He carries the mattress pad stored along the wall, then when he stops for the night he lays it on the floor down the middle of the van. In the above photo we are looking back down the van from the front with the pad in place for sleeping. he said: “This my preferred (warm weather) sleeping setup…the endless breeze is blowing at a perfect angle…I cut a queen foam mattress in half and found a place on line to make me a cover…it’s sort of like leatherette …they did a great job…and for the chaise part I bought a back/spine support wedge pillow…measured it up and had the same place make a cover for that…It’s 32″ x 80″ …I know that seems narrow but I used to live on a boat and it’s about as wide as a bunk…but alot longer.”
He carries three panels that he lays across the width of the van over the cabinets. In cold weather he can sleep on them. Here are the panels deployed. they leave about 40 some inches of headroom while he sleeping on it. This is the passenger side looking towards the back.
In the above photo we can see that he also uses just one panel as a desk. He said: “I mostly use one bed panel as part of my L – shaped desk…I prefer to sleep with the mattress on the floor…and it only takes 10 seconds to strap it back to the wall. I just leave the other 2 panels up against the rear doors…for the back of the chaise lounge.”