We interviewed Marty about the high quality camper van conversion he did, converting a Ford Transit Cargo van into a top-of-the-line RV camper van. Marty did all the work himself, including carpentry, electrical, and plumbing.
Video showing Marty’s Camper Van Conversion
The Van: A 2018 Ford Transit Cargo Van
Marty bought a used 2018 Ford Transit cargo van to do this camper van conversion. It had been used as a contractor’s vehicle, and was just an empty shell. However, it was in good shape. It has a 148-inch wheel base and is the high roof model.
Marty did a lot of research and chose the Ford Transit because it has been shown to be very reliable. As such, it is used by a lot of contractors. This cargo van offers good performance at a mid-range price.
Marty bought the eco-boost version, with a turbo-charged V6 engine. The van has twin turbo chargers. He has found that this van has lots of power to handle hills and mountain passes. And to travel at speed when required.
At the same time, it is economical on gas. The Ford Transit van has more than double the gas mileage of the average RV. However, post conversion it has all of the features of a typical RV.
The Owners of the Camper Van, Marty and Gail
The proud owners of this high-end camper van are Marty and Gail. The couple hails from Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada. When we met them they were spending the winter in their camper van at Catalina Spa, Desert Hot Springs, California.
RV Features in Marty’s Camper Van
There were two key elements that Marty and Gail wanted: a full sized bed and a full-sized fridge. Marty achieved this, plus a full-sized microwave and a full wet bath for decent showers.
How to Make a Bed Comfortable when Doing a Camper Van Conversion
The van has a double bed that remains in place all the time. That is, it does not have to be folded away every morning. Achieving that was a major constraint in the design. Marty managed it, placing the bed at the rear of the van, where it just fits in.
The bed is as comfortable as anyone could want, thanks to the Froli system.
The Froli Modular Sleep System is a grid of high-tech spring elements. Although they are lightweight and take up very little space, they function like a standard box spring mattress. Each spring measures roughly 5 by 5 inches. They are made of a thermoplastic elastomer, which is a high-tech material that combines the strength of a durable, space-age plastic with the flexibility of rubber.
Marty and Gail enjoyed having this system on their sail boat, so they installed it in their camper van as well. Combined with a good quality 6-inch foam mattress and a topper, the Froli system ensures that the couple can look forward to a good night’s sleep, every night!
How to Optimize a Kitchen when Doing a Camper Van Conversion
Marty has optimized the kitchen for comfortable living, convenience, and safe travelling. A full-size microwave sits on top of a full-sized fridge. Marty and Gail like to have sufficient fridge space to be able to boondock for three or four days. Underneath the fridge, Marty has made a drawer for storing pop cans.
The kitchen sink features hot and cold water and a spray nozzle.
Surrounding the sink are storage drawers with travel-safe locks. You can tell at a glance whether the drawers are locked. This is an important feature. I have met many people who have reached their camping site, only to find smashed glasses strewn across their kitchens!
The kitchen drawers have full extension hinges to make it easier to find things. And they have high sides to prevent things from falling out. Marty continues his theme of making effective use of a small space with his custom holder for the garbage can.
Also, he has installed two plugs for kitchen appliances, as well as a propane detector and a heating vent from the furnace.
Marty has increased storage space further with his custom-fitted overhead cabinets. The doors of these have gas struts to keep them open. Marty has also built a flip-up counter to provide more surface space. And he has installed a propane stove top with built-in ignition.
How to Create a Comfortable, Functional Bathroom when Doing a Camper Van Conversion
The RV has a full wet bath so that Marty and Gail can enjoy comfortable showers. The entire bathroom is lined with fiberglass panels. The bathroom has storage, and a ventilation fan.
The toilet is a cassette toilet, which are used in Europe a lot. They are very compact, and are basically permanent toilets with a portable black tank. If you are looking for one, they are also known as cartridge toilets.
Exterior Modifications in this Camper Van Conversion
Marty’s first modification was to add extra windows for more light and ventilation. Also, on the passenger side he has installed a standard RV water heater that works on propane and 110 volts. There is also a standard, small RV furnace that runs on propane. It keeps the camper van as warm and cozy as they need it to be.
On the driver’s side, Marty has fitted all the usual RV hookups. There is a standard water inlet, and also access to the tank of the cassette toilet. Plus, there are hookups for a cable TV, 30 amp power, and a grey water outlet. The camper van can hold 28 gallons of grey water, and has a 28-gallon fresh water tank.
All of the holding tanks are inside the van, so that there are no concerns about freezing.
There is a lot of road clearance under the van, so Marty and Gail can go wherever they want.
Batteries, Inverter and Propane Tank
Under the bed, and easy to access from the rear doors, are lithium batteries, plus a 2,000 watt inverter charger. Also Marty has built a compartment to hold a standard BBQ propane tank. This has the convenience that it is easily accessible, and he can get it filled anywhere.
Marty has ensured that the gas locker meets fire prevention standards for gas storage, including ventilation.
Marty has custom-made a fly screen for the side door. It is secured in place with Velcro and magnets.
The Ford Transit has standard van seats. Marty added swivels so that the seats can turn around and become a seating area. The passenger seat was easy, but the driver’s seat required modification because the emergency brake was in the way.
Privacy and Coolness
The extra windows were required for light, but they did pose challenges for privacy. Marty has created covers for inside the window, with Reflectix cut to size. Reflectix can be bought in rolls and cut to size to keep out heat and light, or to provide privacy. You can choose to tape it in place if you are storing your RV, or use magnets to put it up only when you need it.
Marty has used a magnet system to make it quick and easy to cover the windows when they want to do so. This provides privacy and keeps the van cooler. He has made these Reflectix covers even better by adding on a fabric layer for the interior-facing side.
Marty has also made custom-fitted curtains for all the windows.
Solar and Electronics
Marty has installed high-end electronics in his custom camper van. It starts at the top with 300 watts of solar power on the roof. This connects to a 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter, stored under the bed. This allows them to run the microwave, coffee, toaster, etc. even when they are not connected to shore power.
To control the electronics, Marty has built an entire electronic panel where he can control devices and monitor systems. The solar controller panels shows how much power the solar panels on the roof are drawing. Also up there is a WeBoost system to boost their cell phone signals, making it easier to stay in touch even out in the wilds.
Also on the electronics panel is a remote furnace controller, and a remote propane controller. Plus switches to control whether the hot water heater runs on gas or shore power. And a switch to control the water pump.
The feeling inside this camper van is very light, bright, and airy. Marty created this deliberately, with the added windows, and a forced air ventilation fan that can exhaust or intake air. A lovely final touch is a big skylight to provide plenty of natural light and ventilation.
All in all, Marty has done an exemplary camper van conversion, that can serve as a model for anyone. He has created a unique camper van, a small, mobile space that has all the comforts of a much larger, luxury RV.
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