How to Live in a Ford Festiva

By Ghost Dancer

This is a series of posts made on the Yahoo Group VanDwellers by Ghost Dancer. He is the owner and founder of the group. As of this writing, 11-7-05, he is still an active member of the group, and would be glad to answer any questions about living in a small car or van. Just click here: Yahoo Vandwellers

First Post:  #4350 Jan 3, 2004

But … What do I camp in? Well, I have changed from the truck & camper. I still have them but I don’t use them, I’ve found something better. I  wanted to get back into another van but  being nearly broke from my injury and the resulting loss of work, I needed something that would get great mileage. What I found, quite by accident,  may surprise you. I couldn’t find a van that would get 30 to 35 MPG (not even a mini van). So, I sort of made one (And it gets 40 MPG highway & 33 MPG city).

What am I living in? A 1989 Ford Festiva!  Everything behind the front seats has been removed including the rear seat. Kinda like stripping out a passenger van. The passenger seat can now recline back into a flat position. And by adding my clothes bag at the front edge of the seat I convert the seat into a bed. I added a gel-cell battery (house pack) to the back in what was the area behind the rear seat. And with the seat gone I added a board to separate the living area from the storage (trunk) area. The battery is behind this board. I also carry my 10-liter shower bag in the “trunk” and put it on the rear deck (above the trunk & just inside the rear window of the hatchback) to heat during the day. I use a short 3gal bucket (and 3 trash bags) for the port-a-pot. I can cook on an LP stove & use a small ice chest for a sink & cold food storage.

It is rather tiny, but it is a comfortable home. And since I have lived in a pickup cab (without the camper) I now have more room. A Ford Festiva RV, kind of like a micro-micro-mini-van.

Second Post: #4737 Mar. 7, 2004

Highly Modified! = gutted?  Well, no.  Not yet anyway.

Once I decide that I really like it, {Yea right, it barely had 91,000 on it in mid Sept. Now it has over 105,000 on it. The new tires have been rotated two times! Much to the tire guys surprise.} I’ll do a re-build of the interior. At that time I’ll completely gut it out for a full insulation & rebuild.

Highly Modified =
A full, self supporting, electrical system.
A class “1” receiver hitch.
Auxiliary fuel & water storage.
On-board solar heated shower.
Sleeping quarters for one.
Cooking area & LP stove.
Insulated ice box.
Dining, reading, relaxing area.
Money Safe!
And a very high tech, or rather HIGH POWER communications setup.
***** Hence the little car’s nick-name, “RC-2″ *****

It got a new set of (4) tires, $80.00 at Wally World, just after I got the title. I sent the title off to be transferred & ordered a set of plates & insurance. I got everything back in 12 days. In those 12 days I’d put on the new tires, removed the rear seat, and found a way to sleep in it. Then I put on the temporary plate, added a 60” stainless steel whip antenna to the roof & a CB radio under the dash AND “Radio Control #2 was headed north to the folks house in Illinois. Turns out that I got over 40MPG on that trip! Looks like a KEEPER?

But, once I got to Illinois, we made some insulated window covers for RC-2. On the trip north the fuel gauge didn’t operate properly, (still doesn’t) and not knowing how far I could drive on empty I took a 5 gal. G.I. can along for extra fuel. (It was the only can I had on-hand!) And I carried a pair of 3 ltr. bottles of water. And my solar heated shower bag is an *MSR* 10 ltr. bag that I fill with potable water (or I fill it with an MSR **Mountain Safety Research** water filtration pump) so as to keep it clean for double duty as shower & water supply.

About the electrical system. In the rear of the car I carry an auxiliary battery. A “house” pack unit. (Blue top Optima gel cell.) It is charged through a continuous duty relay. The only time that the house battery & the car battery are connected is while the car is running, therefore charging both batteries together. This house pack operates the car’s stereo, a cooling fan, two interior lights, a weather alert radio, a Garmin 3+ GPS unit, a mobile FRS unit, a 600 watt (soon to be upgraded to 1200 watt) inverter, and the CB radio system. {A Galaxy 66 with a Texas Star DX-500 linear, a Galaxy 88 with a Texas Star DX-350 linear and a Uniden 55 kept on channel 9 plus 1 scanner and two scanning shortwave radio’s.

The car is also wired for 110 volt power with an inboard distribution box and charging pack to recharge the house pack should I stay hooked to shore power for a few days. When I’m on shore power I can use a 700 watt (milkhouse type) heater and a lamp to read by. This summer I’ll add an AC unit & a microwave.

The money safe. I’m not hiding money from a would-be thief. I hide it from the highway patrol. If they find you are carrying more than a few hundred bucks they think you are a drug smuggler. And then they rip your van apart looking for their proof. If they find any proof you go to jail and if they don’t find any proof they just go away. That is they leave you standing on the side of the road with your van torn all apart and things scattered all over. They are supposed to help you put it back together but some
hot call always comes over the radio and they all scramble away. It takes about 10 minutes for 15 men and 4 dogs to trash your van! You can bet that the next officer will be along in about 20 minutes to write you a littering citation and/or call a tow truck if you are still there. In the 3 times it has happened to me I’ve never recovered any damages. Only 2 officers were officially there for just a few moments and could not possibly have done that much damage. 13 other officers were in that area and they didn’t see anything wrong. “Sir, you must have been vandalized while you were away from your van. Did you see anything happen?”

They have a machine that can see the bar code of cash money. The little strip at the end of a bill. It tells them how much the bill is worth and how many of them you have! I now wrap mine in foil and store them in a fireproof safe lined with more foil. Does it work? I don’t know, but I’ve not been pulled over lately and told how much cash I have on hand.

And maybe now with my hair shorter and more age in my eyes, maybe I don’t look as much like a drug runner as I might have before. I’m not saying you should hate the police. It is that which remained mis-understood that is often feared the most. Be positive and educate rather than to hate. Some of us are just different. Not wrong, just different.

Third Post: #9340 Aug. 14, 2005

I lived in the micro car for 15 months & still use it as a daily driver and weekend camper. Micro mini van? 1989 Ford Festiva. Somewhat shorter than a VW rabbit, but with a hatchback. Resembles a two door Dodge Omni or a Subaru Justy, both of which are larger. The car currently has 4250 amps of 12 volt storage, 1250 under the hood & 3000 in the house pack. A 1200 watt inverter (Now unhooked because I don’t use it.) & a 600 watt inverter. Rather than “ham” radio, I have a high output (1000 watt++) CB/10 meter with a roof mounted 108″ antenna. (Not a typo, I use a fiberglass & copper 108″ not the common stainless steel 102″) Hence the name “RC-2” “Radio Control” #2, the #1 was about 15 years ago, an ’80 Ford Fiesta. The Fiesta was a VW rabbit clone, the Festiva was made by what became KIA motors. Two shortwave radios (DX-380 clock radio & dash mounted DX-394) the factory radio. A Sharp 15″ LCD/VGA TV monitor. Computer (Sony Vivo) with 5.1 surround sound wired into the cars factory speakers + a woofer added. HEARD! 200 watts front, 200 rear, 300 woofer. I could play CDs or watch DVD’s or regular TV. One of the seven antennas on the car. At one time, it had a 120 volt fridge & microwave. But I kept burning the food & couldn’t balance a diet. Inside & outside lights (lots of them, SEEN!) and fans.