DIY Conversion vans are always a prototype

Design drawing for cabinets
pro·to·type (ˈprōdəˌtīp/) noun: 
(1) A first, typical or preliminary model of something, especially a machine, from which other forms are developed or copied.
(2) A DIY conversion or adventure van, from which new layouts are continually developed or evolved.


We “finished” our conversion about a year after we got the van. By that point we had all the systems in. Either to our original design or to the design that we made up as we went along that reflected our real-world usage better. We didn’t necessarily have everything tidied up (we still don’t!) but all the components worked.

Now though, after using the van for a while, we want to make some changes. We don’t know quite what we want to change, or how we’ll do it, but we feel there’s potentially a better layout, a better storage setup, a better way of stopping water tanks from freezing over the winter, and a better way of freeing up cargo/bike space in the rear of the van.

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Keeping conversion van weight under control

Sprinter Vehicle Identification Placard on driver's seat base

Its easy to get carried away with a van conversion and add all sorts of stuff. But the weight can add up much faster than you think, and soon you could be pushing up against the maximum vehicle weight.

If you’re using a long wheelbase 2500 crew van with a V6 engine and 4×4 transmission like we did, your payload weight isn’t very high at all.

Although 1-1/4 tons sounds like a lot, it soon disappears as you build out cabinets, a bed platform, a fridge, electrical system and some water tanks.

Add in a couple of people, a couple of mountain bikes, and some food, clothes, and water for a week’s getaway and things can get out of hand.

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What to do with your 3-person passenger seat bench when it’s not in the van

Three-person passenger bench seat removed from van

The bench seats in a Sprinter are burly. They are designed to keep three passengers safe in a crash, so they are heavy and sturdy.

We move our seat out of the van every now and again, either when we’re working on the interior or when we need to carry oversize objects.

What we needed was a way to get the seat from the van to wherever we want to store it, and also a way to make sure the seat can be easily moved by just one person if it’s in the way of other stuff we need.

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Cutting bed mattress foam to size

Mattress foam clamped and being cut

Our memory foam mattress was 80″ long. Our bed panel was 73″ long. Time to cut the mattress down to size.

The traditional tool for this is an electric carving knife with two reciprocating blades like a mini hedge trimmer. We don’t have one, so we clamped the foam to compress it, then sliced it with a razor blade. It worked really well, with a smooth, straight cut line.

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Dash cam and rear view camera in one unit – installation and first impressions

Audiovox Dashcam

We have mixed feelings about this $85 dash cam unit. It does the job, it’s relatively inexpensive, and it has a rear view camera monitor built in to the mirror. However, the blue tinted mirror is weird and the video image can wash out in bright light. Overall, it’s worthwhile if you want a dash-cam and backup camera, but there might be better options if you want a dedicated rear-view monitor.

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