Back in October 2013 I published a post from my friend Randy on his conversion of his Ford Transit Connect and it looked very good. This is an update on the finished conversion and I have to tell you it is gorgeous! Its tiny, but a true minimalist could live very well in it! Best of all it has perfect stealth and gets an honest 28 mpg! He stayed a few days at the RTR and I fell in love with his rig! I think you will all enjoy it! Thanks Randy for writing this for us all! But first, go back and read the original post here: http://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/converting-a-ford-transit-connect/
This has been an enjoyable project! I started with a bare van (after removing the rear seats) and started from there. It’s been very important for me to do this without incurring any debt. I’m scheduled to retire in less than two years. I’m trying to pay off all my credit prior to retiring. So I’ve watched Craigslist very closely for good deals and bought when I had the cash available. I plan to use this van for summer trips and then return to Phoenix in the winter. Once I finish cabling the solar panel to the controller I’m going to call it finished. I have other projects I’d like to start. I’ll be at the winter RTR if anyone wants a closer look.
I’ve made the following upgrades since the first post.
- Built the cabinet to hold the Dometic fridge/propane stove/microwave.
- Put vinyl on the floor with aluminum edging.
- Bought an awning.
- LED lighting.
- Picked up a used 95AH AGM battery.
- Bought a used 135 watt solar panel made by Mia Sole.
- Built a roof rack to support the panel.
- Added a 600 watt microwave (Half Pint) with a 1500 watt inverter.
- Put a door on the upper cabinet to keep things contained.
Solar: I have less than $200 in my solar set up, including the battery. Hard to believe isn’t it? I bought used equipment whenever possible. The solar panel came from a huge array that had been taken down. The seller had over 80 of them. He also sold me the controller as well. The controller is made in Germany and is rated for 10 amps. It is working fine. But eventually I’d like to upgrade it. The panel is made in California by Mia Sole. While showing me the panel, we measured its output. I saw 19.3 volts and over 7 amps. I did scratch the vinyl floor while putting in into the van (arg!). I built the roof rack from 2X2 aluminum that’s 1/8” thick. I overbuilt the rack. But I knew that I was also going to add lights and antennas on this rack also. I will run the 8 gauge wire through the third brake light housing (once I buy the cable). That way I don’t have to drill a couple of holes in the sheet metal.
New cabinet: As I mention in the previous post, I wanted to add another cabinet. I included a link to a site in the Netherlands showing the cabinet I wanted to duplicate. I’ve succeeded on most points. The cooktop rotates outside so I can cook outdoors or indoors. It’s nice when you want to cook bacon and don’t want the grease or smell in the van. Of course it’s only a good idea when the weather cooperates. The fridge is mounted in a drawer that opens into the walkway. That’s been a nice touch. Pull it out when I want to get into it and then close the lid of the fridge and just push it back into the cabinet. The only drawback to this cabinet is that I only have one way to get into and out of the van now. I was able to find some ‘sink cutouts’ on Craigslist. Seems this guy builds countertops and was saving the area he would cut out for the sink. He had over a hundred and they were free! I went over and got three of them, all matching. I’ve now removed the old counters and replaced them with the Formica covered sink cutouts. It is much nicer to clean. I’ve also strapped a 1 gallon propane bottle to the front of the cabinet. The hose runs through the cabinet and doesn’t interfere with the fridge movement.
The floor: I removed all the cabinets and the floor. I was able to find a remnant of vinyl. I then spread the glue on the plywood floor using a trowel and smoothed out the vinyl. It takes some patience to work with this stuff. It can be trying to get all the bubbles out. Once it had dried, I cut around the edges with a razor knife. I found some ½ by ¾ aluminum angle to protect the edges and hide the plywood. It’s nice to be able to just sweep out the dirt. And it looked perfect for a while (see above).
Painting: I happened to have some nice tan paint. I was going to finish all the woodwork out clear. I actually bought some polyurethane and after trying it, wasn’t satisfied. So I painted the cabinets and bunk.
Battery: I knew I wanted a big AGM battery. I kept looking and found a guy in Tucson that had a bunch of used AGM batteries for sale. I paid $75 for the one I selected. He told me that a large computer company switches out the batteries when they get to half-life. He showed me on a voltmeter the battery was at 12.9 volts so I bought it. I really considered buying two of them, but realized I didn’t need it. I think my needs are modest. This battery weighs 80 pounds. I bought a tray with a Velcro strap to secure it. I didn’t want it moving around.
Microwave and inverter: I know a lot of people don’t think a microwave is necessary. Plus some are hard on a battery. I found the truckers use the Sanyo Half Pint microwaves and a 1500 watt inverter to run them. I already had the inverter in the garage and the Half Pint was on my desk at work. So I brought the microwave home and tried it out. Works great. I don’t plan to cook in the microwave, only heat up leftovers or reheat my coffee. I have been using it sparingly and it seems to work okay. If it doesn’t work out in the long run, I’ll use that space on the cabinet for a small sink.
In summary, I’ve really enjoyed this project. It has taught me a lot about solar and the best use of a small space. I’m happy with it now. Will I be in the future? I’ll have to wait and see. I do enjoy the questions and there have been a lot of them. People are naturally inquisitive and I enjoy answering their questions and showing off my handy work. I’ve used the van for camping with friends and short trips. I plan to make a trip to San Diego at Christmas time. I’ll park wherever since this van can hide ‘amongst the trees.’