The Dodge Sprinter (they are sold in the U.S. under several different labels) is just about the ideal vehicle to live in. They are roomy on the inside and they have a high-top so you can stand up in them. But even more important is the fact that they are made by Mercedes Benz with a small, very efficient diesel engine. They average 22 mpg and yet still have the power and torque to climb any hill and cruise effortlessly at freeway speeds even when fully loaded. Their one disadvantage is that they are very expensive. Even used they cost nearly as much as a brand new American van. In this story we are going to look at one converted by a retired Vermont boat-builder. As a craftsman, he had the skills to do the build entirely by himself. If you aren’t as skilled, you can still get a lot of really good ideas from this conversion. If you find a handyman you can afford and trust, just showing him these pictures should be enough for him to duplicate it for your van.
In the picture above we see lots of ideas to make your vandwelling life better:
- An awning
- Solar Panel
- Top escape hatch
- Vent and Vent cover
- Carrying a bicycle
- Carrying a kayak
- A chair in the entryway
This is a great idea: most van side- doors are very wide, wasting lots of space. He regained that space by building a box on the step, and putting a chair on top of it. He uses the space in the box, and in good weather he leaves the door open and sits and enjoys life. In bad weather he closes the door and sits and, guess what, he enjoys life.
In the picture above is the kitchen which is straight across from the side door. It has everything you need: a 4- burner stove, sink, and refrigerator.
In this picture we are looking forward to the cab.
You may be thinking that the van is cluttered. When you live full-time in this small an area, you are constantly fighting (and losing?) the battle against clutter. Some people hate it, some people thrive on it. Everybody is different.
In the picture above we are looking back down the side of the van at the bedroom. Notice the large storage cabinet between the kitchen and the bed. He also has cabinets over the kitchen and on the walls above the bed giving him lots of storage space.
Also notice the skylight above the bed. That is the emergency exit and gives him an abundance of light and ventilation.
He is using throw rugs on the floor, which I do also. I prefer durable floor surfaces like wood or linoleum that can be cleaned easily. For comfort, looks, and to protect the floor, I put down throw rugs in the traffic areas. Cleaning is as easy as taking the rugs out and beating them and then sweeping the floor.
Here is the bed. While he is single, it’s large enough for a couple. A converted Sprinter is the ideal van for two people with its abundance of room.
Stored away in a cubby-hole under the bed is the porta-potty.
There are also cabinets on the wall on the passenger side of the van. One thing you will notice in all the pictures is that there are things hanging from the walls. That is something I do also. It aids in organization. If I am using something all the time, I like having it close at hand, so I will put it in a bag and hang it close to where I use it. Or, if it is something I rarely use, I will put it in a bag and have it close at hand for the time I am using it, then I will put it away when I am done.
Continuing with the theme of using every possible square inch of space, the area under the bed is used for storage as well.
The picture below shows the overhead cabinets on the passenger side of the van.
This is the chair he built that sits in the entry way of the van. In this picture the door is closed. The cushion on the seat is removed and we can see the storage under the chair. No space is wasted!
In the following picture is a cabinet he built to hold his electrical center. It sits between the bed and the chair on the passenger side of the van. It holds his inverter and AGM batteries.
In the picture below is the mosquito net that hangs down over the door to keep the little flying critters outdoors where they belong. It just rolls up and is secured with bungee cords. There is Velcro along the sides to close it tight to the walls. I’m not sure where he got his, but I have seen one exactly like this from Wal-Mart.
In this picture you can see the truly ingenious way he carries his kayak, bicycle, spare tire, and storage boxes. He had it built by a custom welder-fabricator. It’s hard to describe! Hopefully the pictures and my brief description will be enough to give you the general idea. It is a custom receiver hitch, with three receivers, one on each side, and one in the middle.
In the two pictures above and below we see that the receiver on the left, driver-side of the van holds the kayak upright. It is hinged to fall down to horizontal as seen in the picture to the right.
With the kayak down, you can see the middle receiver which holds the bicycle rack and a trailer ball.
In the picture below we are see the back door open. For it to open he had to swing-away the large white box that sits in front of it.
In the picture below we are still looking at the receiver on the driver’s side. You can see it has a bar extending to the right that is hinged and swings horizontally. The large white box sits on it (seen in the pictures above.)
In the picture below, the arm and box are swung away showing the receiver on the passenger-side of the van. You can see that the middle receiver with the trailer- ball and bike rack are raised so the arm can swing under them. The receiver on the right has a step that he uses to step into the back of the van, and the box rests on it and it carries the weight of the box. There is a tab going off at a 45 degree angle to the receiver, it matches a tab on the swing away rack and a pin goes through them to secure the box.