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Van Conversion

by Len Sackett

Len describes how he converted a 2000 Chevrolet Express Cargo Van to an RV.

The cargo van was purchased new with just the two cheapest seats in it.

Before starting the interior I had a van customizing shop add the three exterior windows, spray foam insulation in the walls, doors and ceiling (about ¾ inch to 1 inch), and install running boards. The foam not only provides insulation it also significantly reduced cabin noise.

Later in the project I also had the customizing shop install carpeting and replace the original two seats with cloth covered captains chairs.

The interior paneling is 6mm one sided birch veneer plywood attached with self drilling sheet metal screws. The bulkheads that define the rear bathroom and closet area are made out of ¾ inch two sided birch veneer plywood.

The bathroom has two 9 gallon unpressurized water tanks under the sink and a small 12 volt pump operated by a switch mounted on the sink. Also under the sink is battery charger for recharging the house battery while hooked up to shore power for extended periods.

All lights (bathroom sink, two bed reading lights, two aisle fluorescent lights, mid cabin table lights, and side door kitchen light) are 12 volt and operate off of the house battery whether one is on shore power or boon docking. The same is true for the two Fantastic Fans (one in restroom and second just aft of captain chairs) that supply the van cooling.

110V shore power is brought in through an external 30A hookup

The house battery is a Delco Freedom battery that is charged off of the vehicle alternator via a battery isolator when the van is running and off of shore power when available. The house battery will supply 2-3 days of power while boon docking if power consumption is controlled.

The van has a 1000 watt Tripp Lite inverter for supplying 110 volt power while driving or boondocking. The vans 110 volt outlets (bathroom, mid cabin console, front between captain chairs console, and by side doors for kitchen area) that can be switched between shore power or inverter power.

The van has a 12 volt outlet in the bathroom, mid console, and it has three 12 volt outlets in the front console.

The side door kitchen area has its own electric water pump and faucet. The faucet is mounted on the aft side door and has a quick connect water/power line that stores inside the cabin wall in the faucet area. The water is supplied from the two nine gallon unpressurized water tanks under the bathroom sink.

The kitchen is accessible/usable from outside.

The only heating method for the van is a 1000/1500 watt electric heater that is mounted in the mid console and must run off of shore power. The heater has had its thermostat replaced with a more accurate home thermostat and a second heater blower has been added to pull cold air off of the van floor and mix it with the warm air coming out of the heater. The heater makes the van mid section comfortable down to about 20F with the bathroom getting about 20 degrees cooler then the main cabin. Also when the outside temperature gets down below freezing it is desirable to install storm windows onto the three single pane windows.

Our mid cabin is quite confortable.

Our bedroom is quite cosy.

Our laundry room/dryer uses natural convection.

We have an outdoor fireplace.

The van cost about $25,000 new and I would estimate that the materials and conversions ran in the area of an additional $3,000.