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Innovative Van Conversion

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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:

Van interior stripped down to bare walls.

Van interior stripped down to bare walls.


Here you can see the Reflectix form-fitted to the walls.

Reflectix on the back of the van.

The most important thing in this photo is the 2x4s along the walls. That makes it easy to secure things to the walls like cabinets and shelves. It also makes it easy to insulate. .

The roof insulated with Pink Styrofoam sheets.

The roof insulated with Pink Styrofoam sheets.

The bed frame.

The bed frame.

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.
The bed frame installed

The bed frame installed

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.
Homemade slide-out battery box

Homemade slide-out battery box

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.
300 watt Pure Sine Wave inverter.

300 watt Pure Sine Wave inverter.

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.
The finished interior looking forward.

The finished interior looking forward.

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.
Ken-Step4-top-solar-001Aerial 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.
Ken-drivers-sideThe 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 here: Thule 542 Artificial Raingutters
Thule Roof Rack Gutter Mount Foot Pack    Thule Roof Rack Load Bars (65-Inch, Set of 2)
The soar mount.

The soar mount using Thule Artificial Rain-gutters (see link above).

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.

Ken-mattress -top

Here is the mattress on the panels. I’ll probably only use this setup for cold weather camping…I haven’t been to Alaska yet
but I’m sure it will be warmer with 3 feet of space between me and the van floor. (Editors note: Absolutely right!! I have been to Alaska, and in every vehicle I have ever lived in the floor is outside temperature, but just a few feet above it is MUCH warmer!)

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.”


  1. Linda Sand

    I love the concept of even height cupboards supporting desk or bed. Multi-use is good when van dwelling.

    • Bob

      I agree Linda, I have never seen anything like it but it sure seems like a great idea! Easy to assemble and easy to stow-away. I think it would be especially good for a coupe who need a full size bed but then need lots of room during the day.

  2. OpenSpaceMan

    Great editing job on the stream of stuff I sent you. You sure put this together quick…Looks good.
    *If anyone out there decides to mount their solar panels with those luggage/bike racks…they make them in regular height, 8″ height and 11″…I had to use the 8″ ones because of the extreme curves in my roof.
    **I’ll check in over the next few days if anyone has questions or wants to know the source of any of the materials I used…alot of it was re-purposed from what it was originally intended to be used for. If that makes any sense.
    Thanks again, Bob…I learned alot from your site.

    • Bob

      Thank you Openspaceman! You really had some new and creative ideas in your conversion and I am glad to share them with the readers!

    • Steve

      Id like details on that battery box. Former cabinetmaker here. Thanx in advance. Steve

  3. randy(livinfree 1964)

    Very nice job on the conversion,must have alot of time in it,IT SHOWS!!!!I might have to change a few things on my rig now,”thanks alot!!” lol. :}

  4. Cyrus A Palmer

    Sweet van! I’d live in that….

  5. stan watkins

    Inovative but I would need a couple windows at least.

    • Bob

      Stan, windows are a very personal thing. For some of us their disadvantages outweigh their advantages. But, many are like you and must have them. I tried to get in the middle, I have some but not many.

  6. Diane

    great job 🙂 Is the carpet glued to door skin?

  7. DougB

    Those panels look like half-thickness office partitions, which would be really strong and really heavy. What are they really, please? That wall carpeting looks awesome.

  8. OpenSpaceMan

    Diane_ Thanks for check out my van…I used Loctite RV glue to attach the carpet to everything. It can be messy to work with in an aerosol can but it’s not coming off.
    DougB_ The panels are made from (1)sheet of birch 3/4″ plywood…I had Homedepot cut it in 3 pieces…The frame for the bed panels is that stuff you nail to the wall to put adjustable shelf’s in a closet…It just happened to fit nice and snug around the plywood after carpeting it. They might weigh 15 lbs. a piece so pretty easy to throw around with one hand.
    *I secured/attached the two pipe framed supports to the 2×4’s behind the walls with large turnbuckles and eyelets in the four corners…so when I’m done beating the crap out of this van ( hopefully many years from now ) I can take both sides out of the van and put them in another one…I’ve taken the narrower passenger side out many times when I needed to hall something big…the side with the batteries in it will be a different story. _Thanks

  9. OpenSpaceMan

    Steve_ The battery box it self I got off ebay from some dude in Vermont…It’s made by QuickCable specifically to hold (2) Trojan T105 6v golf cart batteries…got a good deal on heavy duty drawer slides from American Scientific & Surplus.
    I built a box around the battery box (it has a 1″ lip around the bottom with holes in it ) so when I built the wood box I drilled in the same spot and put bolts underneath upside down and used washers and 1/4″ wing nuts to attach it. Even though the drawer slides are super strong the batteries weigh 120lbs. when I slide them out to check the water…I screwed a couple of pieces of wood together that I put underneath when I slide it out. _Thanks

    • Steve

      Gotcha, thanx man!

  10. PamP

    Wow! Quite some innovation. good work and inspiring to we readers


    I like the set up, especially the desk. But I would think all that carpet would be a PITA to keep clean. I’m one who always removes carpet for that reason.

    • Bob

      GYPSY JANE what’s “cleaning” I’m not familiar with that concept!! living as close to nature as I do, I just get used to dirt, in fact, I like dirt. But from your blog I see it is possible to live close to nature and stay clean, so I may give that a try. But probably not!

  12. Curtis

    One of the best van conversions I have ever seen. Thanks for sharing.:)

    • Bob

      Curtis, he really did a slick job!

  13. Douglas

    Great conversion. It looks similar to some of the nicest tool trucks i have seen working at auto and diesel shops in phoenix. Email me when you get the chance.

  14. Anders Jensen

    You guys should check out the company 80/20, they selll all different Aluminum extrusions and fittings you can fabricate anything. Would be great for this type of application.

    • Bob

      Thanks Anders.

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