A convertible Sprinter

pfflyer

Well-known member
Not a topless convertible but a van convertible from cargo to camper then back to cargo. This van is first a cargo work van and maybe 20 days a year (1 or 2 nights trips at a time) a camper. I wanted something more than an iron tent but one that could be converted in about an hour. Another requirement is it needed to be able to go back to as close to stock when and if I decide to sell. That means not a lot of holes and alterations. So far I think I have achieved this with only a few exceptions.
First a little bit of history. I bought a 2002 with 367,000 miles back in 2012. Fell in love with the van and then stumbled onto this website. Never thought about using a van for camping but after looking at all the great builds here I got the bug. If I was going to do this I wanted a van with fewer miles that I could go cross country with little worries. That and business picking up I decided to buy a new 2013 crew cargo as my starting point. Alloy wheels added about 40k miles.
 

Attachments

pfflyer

Well-known member
We are not concerned about stealth camping and all of our trips except for Sprinterfest East have been at campsites with shore power. After sound proofing (Dyna-mat) and insulation (reflectix, ridged foam and fiberglass in some locations) my first additions were to be things that I could use for work and camping until we were sure we were going to like camping. To start I added E-track on the walls for a bed platform and also to secure cargo in work mode. Our first trip was basically a bed platform, standard queen size mattress, a folding table, porta-potty, TV, cooler, camp stove, ceramic heater, about 10 storage totes and most important a coffee maker. For power I used an extension cord fished up from an access hole under the van in front of the rear bumper to the rear pillar to a power strip. To wash our hands I used an auquataner over a 5 gallon bucket.
Our first trip was just an overnight trip and we both liked it. So instead of plywood base and a heavy and bulky regular queen mattress from our guest room we tried an air mattress the next trip. That was almost a disaster so it evolved to 4 sections of ¾ ply, 3” of foam covered with a vinyl upholstery and a much easier to handle 2” memory foam mattress topper. We are both happy and comfortable with this set-up. Next conversion the only thing I would change is from ¾ plywood for the base to ½” to make it a little lighter to handle.
To eliminate some of the totes (some were for work/camping like straps and tools) I added a Kobalt SS tool box to stay in full time. Originally I had bought some T-Slots series 10 which is like 80/20 to make a cabinet. This was much quicker. To secure it I cut holes in the bottom where 2 factory tie downs were and used a bolt through the tie down ring and large washers and nuts. The bolt rests on top of internal reinforcements on the floor or edge of the cabinet. Also 2 nutzerts anchored in the wall. If I needed to install the crew bench I would not have to remove this cabinet. To replace the two factory mounts I covered up I installed these. Used for lighter loads. This cabinet holds tools, straps and 1 drawer inventory that I remove and use for toothbrushes and other toiletry items for camping.
I then added this ½ of wire shelving I used for catalogs in the basement for extra storage, counter space and a place for the cooler and eventually my refrigerator. This also stays in full time and is just held down with bungee cords and the plastic molded top of the tool box.
Last picture is the van set up for work.
 

Attachments

Last edited:

pfflyer

Well-known member
Needed something better than washing our hands over a 5 gallon bucket. So I bought these 2 Gladiator cabinets from Home Depot. The bank of drawers is for cloths and dry goods and the other for a sink. The bank of drawers is fastened to the e-track with this custom threaded adapter. I have a couple extra for sale if anyone is interested. The two cabinets are bolted together with aluminum angle from corner to corner for extra strength. While in motion I use a ratchet strap for good measure. Sink top is a piece of corian I picked out of dumpster at a cabinet shop and the faucets are from a bathroom I remodeled. 12volt Shureflow pump is on the shelf and aquataner for fresh water and bucket for waste. This water is basically for clean up and we use a gallon of distilled or drinking water for coffee and bottled water in the fridge to drink. I can get it to what you see here in less than an hour from my work setup.
 

Attachments

Last edited:

pfflyer

Well-known member
127ah house battery installed under passenger seat and inverter and battery charger in custom console. I can power inverter from house or starter battery with a battery selector switch. This allows me to charge my house battery with a 3 stage charger while driving. I have a 15amp transfer switch when plugged in.
 

Attachments

pfflyer

Well-known member
Here is how I hook up to 30amp shore power. 1 15 amp circuit dedicated for heater or portable a/c. I have an auto switch for the other 15 amp circuit to transfer power from invertor. Fished 10 gauge wire from hole already under van to rear pillar to Blue Sea breaker. I used a hatch cover instead of the factory plug to cover the hole and make easier access. I have a 30 amp inlet that I am going to replace this hatch cover with to make it even easier to plug in. I have cable on other side for cable TV or antenna. Same hatch cover and wire run to TV mount.
 

Attachments

pfflyer

Well-known member
:bow:I cant begin to thank all the contributors here. With out this forum and all the great ideas I would have never thought about this dual purpose van.
 

surlyoldbill

New member
A few years ago I saw camping setup that was a one-piece unit that slid into through the back doors. All cabinets, walls, bunks, water, aux batteries and electronics attached inside the cabinets. Kind of like a camper for a pickup bed, but without a top. It was a pretty slick idea, if you have somewhere to store it when not in use.
 

hein

Van Guru
Well done! I see a lot of new great ideas in your build. Thanks for sharing.

A nice touch (imho) would be painting the bed cross members black to go along with your cabinets (-which look awesome, btw).
 
Last edited:

Aggie

2010 Roadtrek SS Ideal
Interesting photo write up, a very functional dual purpose unit.
Thanks for sharing.
 

pfflyer

Well-known member
Well done! I see a lot of new great ideas in your build. Thanks for sharing.

A nice touch (imho) would be painting the bed cross members black to go along with your cabinets (-which look awesome, btw).
Thanks for the kind words. I wished I had your skills in my build. Painting the cross members is on my list of things to do. Not shown is a headboard that covers the back windows for privacy and a shelf that also needs to be painted or stained. Also on my list is a strip of LED's front and back under the platform to shed some light under there. I tested the front one and it works great and we are going to try it for a night light too.
 

pfflyer

Well-known member
A few years ago I saw camping setup that was a one-piece unit that slid into through the back doors. All cabinets, walls, bunks, water, aux batteries and electronics attached inside the cabinets. Kind of like a camper for a pickup bed, but without a top. It was a pretty slick idea, if you have somewhere to store it when not in use.
There was a link or picture here I think. I store some of my camper items in the attic and some in the basement. If I had it all together I could get it converted in about 1/2 hour but being able to slide it all in would be slick.
 

lkruper

New member
Here is how I hook up to 30amp shore power. 1 15 amp circuit dedicated for heater or portable a/c. I have an auto switch for the other 15 amp circuit to transfer power from invertor. Fished 10 gauge wire from hole already under van to rear pillar to Blue Sea breaker. I used a hatch cover instead of the factory plug to cover the hole and make easier access. I have a 30 amp inlet that I am going to replace this hatch cover with to make it even easier to plug in. I have cable on other side for cable TV or antenna. Same hatch cover and wire run to TV mount.
Very nice implementation. I have been attempting to design something that would work with a rental cargo van. How much of what you have done here would work for that kind of application and how long would it take you to convert?
 

pfflyer

Well-known member
Very nice implementation. I have been attempting to design something that would work with a rental cargo van. How much of what you have done here would work for that kind of application and how long would it take you to convert?
The shore power electrical or the whole process? On a Sprinter you want to rent or a rental you want to buy?
 

lkruper

New member
The shore power electrical or the whole process? On a Sprinter you want to rent or a rental you want to buy?
The whole process. I have been lurking on the Sprinter forum and posted a bit on the Ford Transit forum. I don't know if you can read that forum, but this thread (http://www.fordtransitusaforum.com/...ry-but-elegant-van-conversion.html#post114129) describes what I am thinking about.

I am investigating whether or not it is possible to rent a cargo van for a week or two, having prepared modules for all features of a normal van conversion and outfit the van in about 4 hours.
 

ECU

Well-known member
I ran in to a guy with a U-haul in a campground. He had all the stuff in rolling carts and the strapping to strap stuff to the sides. He had a cart that was a sink with some water storage. One cart had a stove top and propane tank under. Another that was the fridge and other carts for camping goods. He said he stored them in the garage and could roll them in and strap things to the sides of the U-haul in quite a short time. Kids could pack their cart/box while still in the garage. He rented the U-Haul with the 'attic' and the kids slept up there. The loading ramp made things easy.
 

pfflyer

Well-known member
The whole process. I have been lurking on the Sprinter forum and posted a bit on the Ford Transit forum. I don't know if you can read that forum, but this thread (http://www.fordtransitusaforum.com/...ry-but-elegant-van-conversion.html#post114129) describes what I am thinking about.

I am investigating whether or not it is possible to rent a cargo van for a week or two, having prepared modules for all features of a normal van conversion and outfit the van in about 4 hours.
I read through your thread and think it is doable. There are some issues that I see at least for me.
1. Most cargo rentals have no or few windows.
2. Will rentals have a vent or are you going to use the front windows for fresh air.
3. If you are designing your system to screw to existing holes or mounting points this will change with brands, body styles and model years. Every year you go unless you get the same van or year models don't change there is going to be engineering to be done at every set up.

The two Gladiator cabinets that I install for camping I do bolt one to the wall and the two are bolted together with alum angle for reinforcements. I think this would hold during some accidents but just in case I use a ratchet strap when van is moving. In your case I would try to utilize straps while moving instead of a design of bolting to the wall. this would give you more flexibility as models change and not tie you to one brand. Your idea of attaching 80/20 to the wall then your modules to it would work if factory holes were at the right height and accessible from the rear. This would add to your set up time as well verses just straps. For power in my research I came across this. http://www.xantrex.com/power-products/backup-power/xpower-powerpack-1500.aspx
probably more expensive than what you could build yourself but maybe an idea. The quickest and easiest way to do this is if you had a van for daily use and then build your modules around that but I realize that is not ideal for everyone. If I had all the components in my garage I could have it set up in 30 minutes.
 
Last edited:

lkruper

New member
I read through your thread and think it is doable. There are some issues that I see at least for me.
1. Most cargo rentals have no or few windows.
2. Will rentals have a vent or are you going to use the front windows for fresh air.
3. If you are designing your system to screw to existing holes or mounting points this will change with brands, body styles and model years. Every year you go unless you get the same van or year models don't change there is going to be engineering to be done at every set up.

The two Gladiator cabinets that I install for camping I do bolt one to the wall and the two are bolted together with alum angle for reinforcements. I think this would hold during some accidents but just in case I use a ratchet strap when van is moving. In your case I would try to utilize straps while moving instead of a design of bolting to the wall. this would give you more flexibility as models change and not tie you to one brand. Your idea of attaching 80/20 to the wall then your modules to it would work if factory holes were at the right height and accessible from the rear. This would add to your set up time as well verses just straps. For power in my research I came across this. http://www.xantrex.com/power-products/backup-power/xpower-powerpack-1500.aspx
probably more expensive than what you could build yourself but maybe an idea. The quickest and easiest way to do this is if you had a van for daily use and then build your modules around that but I realize that is not ideal for everyone. If I had all the components in my garage I could have it set up in 30 minutes.
Ventilation is a concern. One thing I came up with was to make a partition in the back which would include a window and fan for ventilation. See the attachment which shows an 80/20 frame. The shore power and water could be accessed through this at an RV site.

Your point regarding different vans and even different model years for the same van is something that works against this approach. Using 80/20 mitigates the effects of these changes because the attachment points are infinitely variable. My mockup does not rely on the height or position of the horizontal supports. I do think I need to design multiple ways to attach modules to the van sides and had considered straps as well as bolting to the support.

Also, your point about needing to re-engineer for each change in van is unfortunately very likely to be an issue that I need to consider carefully.

Thanks for taking the time to interact with my ideas, which is about all I have right now!
 

Attachments

pfflyer

Well-known member
I don't remember if you said or not but are you planning a 1-2 week trips in one spot or not more than 1 or 2 nights per spot then on to the next?
 

lkruper

New member
I don't remember if you said or not but are you planning a 1-2 week trips in one spot or not more than 1 or 2 nights per spot then on to the next?
Hard to predict with certainty, but my build should be able to handle 1 night per spot.
 

Top Bottom