I don’t want to bore you with continuous reports on my Road Trip, so I am going to throw in a Readers Guest Post on converting a Ford Transit to live in. My friend Randy did a great job and I hope you get some good ideas. It’s also important that you remember that my core obligation is those of us in critical need of vandwelling information NOW . They always come first! (Yes, I am aware they probably won’t have a newer Ford Transit, but the ideas found here can still be helpful). More travel posts are to come very soon!
Also, Ridgway was going to get snow (and we were sick and tired of being cold!) so we left there and are now in Moab. Anyone in the area I would love to meet you. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Transit Connects have been built by Ford in Europe since the mid 60’s. In Europe they’re available with diesel engines and manual transmissions which gives them excellent fuel economy. Our US versions have a 2.0 Liter four cylinder gas engine with an automatic. The gas mileage runs from the mid 20’s to upper 20’s. I have been able to get 28.4 MPG as my best so far. I previously owned a Ford Econoline with a V6 and I was unsatisfied with the mileage, so I decided to go smaller for the better gas mileage. In July, 2013 I bought a 2010 Transit Connect with 8,000 miles on it. Best of all, it was Red! It is the XLT model, which means it has the power windows, power door locks and cruise control.
To start the conversion, I did a lot of research on the Internet. I found about three different layouts. I have to give credit to Morehead Design Labs at http://www.Moreheaddesignlab.com. They have a conversion kit available on eBay http://www.ebay.com/itm/Ford-Transit-Connect-Camper-PKG-DIY-Campervan-Van-Cabinets-/280882906179 but instead I just went to Home Depot and bought three sheets of ¾ cabinet grade plywood and improvised. I did make some changes from Morehead Design Labs design. I made the bunk/bench wider at 26” and it doesn’t fold against the wall.
Currently I have the bed/bench with storage underneath and the cabinet on the opposite side. I’ve used plenty of bracing and anchoring to ensure the pieces won’t move in case I’m in an accident. I used speed nuts and ¼ x 20 bolts ¾” long. The upper cabinet braces are secured to existing bolts in the body. The speed nuts are just hammered into place and the bolt is screwed into it from the other side, drawing it’s prongs deep into the wood. It you want to remove a cabinet in the future it’s just a matter of loosening the bolts and pull the cabinet out.
Floor: The floor was covered with a 4X6 piece of the plywood. It should be anchored to the floor. Mine isn’t currently anchored. If I want to use the van to haul larger stuff, all the cabinets and bed/bunk can be easily removed.
Bed/bench: I had Home Depot make all the long straight cuts right in the store. Their large panel saw does a great job. All the pieces for the bed/bunk were cut by them. I just cut out the ‘cubby holes’ on the side. And then screwed it together using Torx wood screws. If you have a pocket jig available, I believe it would do a better job. So after cutting the cubby holes in the uprights, I just screwed it together. The upright against the wall has to be offset 5” to clear the wheel well. There are three cubby holes, two facing inward accessible from the center walkway and the third is accessible from the outside after opening the driver side slider.
Cabinet: I used a piece of cardboard to trace the curvature of the interior wall. I then transferred that to the plywood. Using a jig saw it was easy enough to just follow the pencil marks. Then I eyeballed the width and where I wanted the cutouts on the side of the cabinet. Using the Torx screws again, the assembly was fast.
Curtain and rod: I found the material at my local Goodwill for $5.00. And, I used a shower rod that has a spring in it. I just screwed it together until it was the right length to compress it and then put it on some existing plastic ‘knobs’ sticking out at the right height.
Window covering: I’ve used Reflectix on the rear and slider windows. I was able to cut it carefully so it’s a press fit. I will probably remove the individual pieces and spray paint them black. Then once their pressed into place you won’t be able to see the Reflectix on the outside. The windows are already tinted and with the black Reflectix it will just look like a limo tint job, but yet private.
Future additional enhancements: I will build another shorter cabinet that will sit forward of the existing cabinet. It will be used to contain a small Dometic refrigerator/freezer in a drawer. That drawer will open into the middle of the van far enough to swing the lid open. I’ll then add a swivel table top that will hold the cooktop. I want to be able to swivel it outside to cook when the weather is good. But, still have the ability to cook inside if necessary. The idea was gleaned from this web site: http://www.minicamper.nl/. Their layout is similar to MoreHead’s as well. If you watch the video, you can see the refridgerator/freezer drawer and swivel cooktop ideas. I will finish out the woodwork clear with a polyurethane. And, I’ll put a rubber or vinyl floor down that’s easy to sweep out. Ford sells a roof rack that’s specific to this van. I’d like to buy that and add a couple of solar panels to the roof. And, the batteries as well. As time and money permits.
Camping experience so far: Well, I’m 6’3” tall so the bunk is a bit short with the seatback in the driving position. I just raise the handle and push the seatback, forward a few inches and that gives me the additional space I need to stretch out. The bunk is 26” wide so it’s a bit narrow but it works okay for me and the chihuahua (Sophie). While sitting on the bunk facing the cabinet, I have plenty of headroom. The cabinet is close enough to cook on or use as a laptop table. But yet, there is enough space between the bunk/bed and cabinet to walk though.