For a long time, I have hoped to buy a small bus or a cargo van to convert to a camper. After all, it would be invaluable when I travel for work, as well as for the occasional vacation. Naturally, with every available dollar going to developing the homestead, that isn't possible, at the moment.
However, early this year it became a necessity that I purchase another vehicle, in order to ensure that my 18 year old could safely commute to a new job. The timeline was extremely short, as they wanted him to begin immediately, so I set out to find something that would be suitable within 24 hours.
The catch to this, of course, was that I only had $3,000 to spend (savings intended for my house, but that's another story) and finding reliable used vehicles in that price range can be difficult. Mostly, I was finding mini vans. So, it occurred to me that I could buy the van and drive it myself, since I would be driving far less than my son, and pass my more fuel efficient car on to him.
So, that's how I ended up purchasing an ugly Dodge Grand Caravan.
The van had been used as a family vehicle and it showed. The headliner was an entire mess and the front windows didn't work, but it was mechanically sound, particularly for it's age.
So I shampooed the carpet, ripped out the out headliner, put in a new window regulator. Suddenly, it looked like a a whole different vehicle.
And, once I realized that both the second and third rows of seats are stow & go, I had an idea that seemed off the wall at the time: turning it into a part-time microcamper.
Everything had to be easily removable so that it could be quickly switched back and forth, as I do have to use it as a family vehicle, as well. So, this is what I came up with...
The headliner was replaced with silver velvet, which I am entirely aware is not a fabric recommended for this application, but I liked it, so I used it. I purchased a small floor couch with an internal frame so that it can be locked into a seated position or laid flat into a bed. The floor is covered with an indoor/outdoor rug, which can easily be rolled up and put away whenever the seats need to be used for passengers.
I created a black velvet curtain, that hangs from a rod that extends between the handles on either side of the passenger compartment. I chose to go with a temporary curtain rod so that it can be placed immediately behind the drivers seat, moved towards the back of the van, or removed entirely, depending on the need at any given time.
I also created black out shades for all of the windows, but somehow managed to not be able to find the photos of them (and it's freezing outside, so you're going to have to take my word for it). Also, since the windows are blacked out, I installed a backup camera for obvious safety reasons. Because I was not interested in running wiring for the camera, I chose a wireless model that is charged via solar panel.
A cargo basket was added on top, to make it easier to transport things, especially when maximum room is needed inside. When not on a road trip that requires luggage, it's normally just my spare tire that rides up there. However, it did come in handy when I ran into a garden tub at a yard sale (the post for which seems to have made it to the socials but not on the blog for some reason).
The transformer minivan has turned out to be an excellent mobile office, as well as being great for camping. I have camped in it in the middle of nowhere, as well as stealth camping in an urban area and it works quite well.
I purchased a couple large mosquito nets so that I could keep bugs out and still ensure adequate ventilation, even during the summer heat, while I worked.
Using this set up, and a rechargeable camping fan, I was able to work all summer without problems. Many meetings have been conducted from the back of this van (I'm starting to feel like I should name it, at this point, because I'm tired of saying "van"...but what would it be called?), and many more will be in the future.
A friend and I even took it on a road trip to the Grand Canyon, during summer solstice, and I have no complaints about it's performance as a microcamper. In fact, it has convinced me that purchasing a larger vehicle in order to fully built out a camper conversion is something I definitely want to do at some point.