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Transit Van Conversion Complete

It’s not only more-or-less complete, but it’s in the driveway!  I’m tweaking things and making some additions but after about 15 months from initial contact to finish we finally got to pick it up from Van Haus Conversions in Vancouver, WA in mid-September, amidst the smoke and fires across the western states.

This previously empty Ford Transit cargo van is now officially a nimble little 4×4 adventure campervan, (or disaster bug-out van, or zombie apocalypse survival unit) or… The New Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle.  It’s quite the change from the original Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle which was a 25-ft Sprinter-based Class B RV from Leisure Travel Vans. We had a good time with the LTV Unity, but our two biggest wishes were to 1) have internal storage for our mountain bikes and 2) downsize to a smaller, more off-road-capable camper van, which would also allow us to park more easily in busy metro areas.  We did take the Unity out on dirt roads a lot but we were often of course constrained on just how rugged the road could actually get with a vehicle of that size and length.  Anyway, here it is – wishes made true — and it looks great:

The new campervan is built on a 2019 Ford Transit cargo van (Long Body, High Roof, 148″ wheelbase, non-extended, 19.5 feet long).

QuadVan in Portland, Oregon did the conversion to support 4×4 as well as upgrade the suspension, add a locking differential and protective skid plates, raise the low-hanging rear shock mounts and the overall body and add all terrain tires.

Van Haus Conversions did the build out to a campervan.  (Here’s some pictures of the work in progress.)  The design features a queen-sized raised-platform bed that creates a large “garage” space for bikes and gear underneath.  The living area centers around the galley with a sink, refrigerator, double burner induction cooktop and a fold-out swiveling table between the two front swiveling seats and a small bench seat that hides a dry composting toilet.

Click through for a full gallery of the completed build – I’ll update the gallery as I make changes to the van:

     

I’ll link to a new page here documenting various build details and decisions, where to buy stuff and additional customizations I make along the way as I did before with my LTV Unity.  But for now, here’s the build feature list (includes QuadVan, Van Haus Conversions, and my own additions):

(Please note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases via my links to Amazon.)

House Build

  • Insulation/walls: sound deadening, radiant barrier, several inches of rock wool, and Luan plywood covered in closed cell foam and marine grade fabric
  • Floor: closed cell foam, two 3/4″ plywood layers and marine grade decking
  • CR Laurence awning-style front windows and bunk windows
  • Galley cabinet with countertop, under sink storage and four drawers
  • Overhead cabinets along both sides plus open shelf over cab area
  • Bench seat
  • Drop leaf swivel table system on Lagun mount
  • Fiamma Awning F45s with electric motor (10.5 ft) on van side wall, plus LED light strip
  • LED lighting throughout (overhead, under cabinet, garage, porch, awning, steps)
  • Platform bed (67″ x 80″) with Innerspace RV high-density foam mattress
  • Insulated window coverings for all windows and cab area
  • Magnetic-closure bug screens for sliding door and cargo doors

Appliances

Electrical

  • 400Ah Lithium-ion battery system (LifeBlue LiFEPO4 )
  • 500 watts solar (five Renogy 100W panels on roof)
  • External Zamp port for extra solar and 120W AcoPower portable folding panel
  • Red Arc 50amp DC-DC charger & battery management system
  • 2000 watt 110V inverter (Xantrex Freedom XC 2000), three duplex outlets (inside and out)
  • iSeries tank monitor
  • Victron battery monitor w/Bluetooth
  • Amp-L-Start vehicle battery maintainer
  • shore power connection
  • multiple USB 4.8 amp ports and 12V ports (inside and out)
  • Cellular booster w/externally mounted antennas (weBoost Drive X)

Plumbing

  • Sink and faucet combo in galley
  • Shower head, hose and port in garage
  • Frizzlife MK99 under-sink water filter
  • Camco EVO Premium RV filter for tank filling
  • 24 gallon interior fresh water tank
  • 28 gallon under carriage gray water tank

Garage

  • Two L-track mounted on floor, two on cabinet walls, one on cat apartment
  • 2x RockyMounts Hotrod swappable bike fork mounts (on homemade mounting plates)
  • Removable cat apartment (w/feeding room and litter box room)
  • Tool kit, tire repair kit, compressor, tow strap/rings
  • Various storage organizers

Cab Upgrades

4×4 Conversion

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Transit Van Conversion In Progress

Conversion of this Ford Transit van into a super-cool 4×4 campervan (aka, the Traveling Cat Adventure Van II) is now finally really making progress after several delays, most notably the shutdowns for Covid-19.

It was a year ago, last July, that I ordered the van and set things in motion.  I wasn’t able to find a Transit van anywhere that wasn’t either completely bare bones or loaded with every option – including glass in the rear doors and dark paint that I didn’t want, both which would make the van less comfortable in hot and sunny climates.  So I had to order from the factory.  I was able to finally pick it up last December and pass it off to QuadVan for the 4×4 conversion part, including upgraded suspension, locking differential, raised shock mounts and all terrain tires.  (More details here.)

Van Haus is doing the actual campervan conversion and we worked out a mostly final design layout in January.  I was originally excited about doing a build like this one where there was enough storage for the bikes inside the van under the bed but still room for a wonderful dinette seating area situated mid-cabin.  The platform for a queen-size sleeping area would extend out over the dinette area.  However, given all the gear we like to carry on our adventures (mountain bikes plus gear, two-person inflatable kayak plus gear, telescope and camera gear, folding chairs, portable grill, etc.) plus room for the cats’ litter box and feeding area… well, it seemed pretty clear we needed to dedicate more room to the “garage” by doing a common fixed platform bed.  Plus the queen-sized bed needs to be oriented lengthwise since I can’t fit width-wise between the walls of a van, even with those side extrusions some people put in.  So here’s the final design.  Plus, now there’s room for a full cat apartment under the bed platform.

 

Due to scheduling and miscommunication mishaps, the van didn’t actually get over to Van Haus until late-February and then didn’t really get started before everyone went into shelter-at-home mode in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.\

At the end of May, Van Haus was able to start work again, albeit at a much slower pace with social distancing safety measures in place.  I already sold the original Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle in late May and now Darlene and I eagerly await completion of the van conversion, hopefully in August sometime.

As of late June, they’ve installed the front side windows and the little bunk windows over the sleeping area, the powered Fiamma awning w/LED light kit, the 500W of solar panels on the roof, the MaxxAir fan at the rear of the roof, the Amp Research powered steps on both driver and passenger sides, the various external ports (120V, 12V, aux solar, shore power, etc), my two little cellular booster antennas and the swivel seats in the cabin area.

As of early July, they’ve now installed the floor, all the wiring runs, the infrastructure for the upper cabinets, ceiling insulation and initial wall insulation, and the bug screen.  They’re now in the process of making the wall panels and when those are done the full wall insulation will go in.

Mid-July now, and the wall insulation is finished and the wall panels are in.  They’re starting work on the cabinet parts using a CNC machine:

   

It’s late July now and the cabinets are coming together and they’re building the aluminum bed frame.  They also tried squeezing my spare oversize tire underneath the rear of the van but then convinced me to go with getting a tire carrier for the rear door (from Aluminess).

 

Early August and now some of the overhead cabinets are installed, plus the bench seat (which hides the toilet) and the Rixen heat/hot water system.  The electrical components (inverter, fuse box, battery system) and other plumbing will be going in soon.  They’re estimating another two weeks of work.

Well, early September now and the van build is complete… except we’re waiting on the spare tire carrier for the rear door from Aluminess.  With luck it will actually arrive at Van Haus by Sept. 14th or so and we’ll be able to drive up there and take delivery of the van later that same week.  Fingers crossed – it’s been 14 months since I started this whole process!

Click through for the full gallery:

   

 

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Transit Van Arrives

  

With Glenn’s help, I picked up my new Ford Transit van in Portland on Monday, soon to become the *new* Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle.  First step was delivering it to QuadVan in Portland to have a four-wheel drive system installed plus upgraded shocks (Bilstein) and leaf springs (Vancompass), a full set of skid plates, larger all terrain tires (BFG KO2’s), new wheels, a locking differential (Detroit Trutrac) and have the rear shock mounts raised up.  Once this work is completed, the van is off to Van Haus for a complete campervan build out – somewhat similar in layout to this one but with different cabinetry designs, appliances and materials.

While meeting with the owner John of QuadVan, we got to meet his amusingly helpful German shepherd:


Update (February 25th, 2020):

The van was finally transferred from QuadVan to Van Haus to start the build out this week.  It’s a late start, but at least it’s starting.  Should be about 12 weeks to completion.  In the meantime, I’ve worked with Erik of Van Haus to finalize the design – and we’ve moved away from the dinette under the slide-out bed to a fixed platform bed design just to get more storage room for all the gear.

 

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