I am new to talking about my interest, but have looked into van camping, stealth camping, boondocking, and maybe van dwelling for going on 20 years. My hobbies run from cooking to SOT kayaking. My curiosity and reading include not only van / RV dwelling but permaculture, aquaponics, and just plain freaking fun :-).
You can see a very similar to almost same van here if this helps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7k_ET1YjDU
I am still working (50 yrs old) and currently in a newer job in Central Florida. I am selling my house bought for two on the water (not an easy sell, long story. Cool place though). I am downsizing and moving to a townhouse close to work. In the meantime I am considering a number of options regarding van modification for camping / living.
Perhaps the best place for this novice to start is with some real basics and not to tear out to the bones on this van. The interior is still in very good to excellent shape. My gut tells me to keep the interior all nice like it is in case I sell it for something more serious in the lifestyle. Make the best of what’s in there. If possible make any mods / builds removable for resale. If mods are to be permanent, make them the best I can quality use and if needed resell the van later.
So…. my thinking is improving the sleeping area to allow two to sleep… improve cooling as efficiently as possible and install at least one extra battery to make that cooling possible (with the equipment that helps the battery run its best). Try this out for long day trips that run a little long and a need to sleep before heading home the next day. If I like how it works, then add on what I can until its time to “upgrade” to something bigger in a dwelling van or perhaps a tiny house or RV to haul…..
The van engine and trans are in good shape. Exterior could use painting but the interior, originally finished by “Elk” is in excellent condition. I laugh because to me the interior is more of a party or “date” van….. Fancy lights, really tiny storage over the big passenger windows, two stereos, separate controls for AC in front and back. I recently sold the middle passenger seats as I don’t have a truck and made use of the now considered “cargo” space. The bench seat in the back is currently in “bed” position as it is electronically controlled. I don’t want to wear out the system as it works fine. I acquired the vehicle in case I had to stay overnight on the employer campus while I was commuting from the house. Florida weather is just too hot in the Summer for that consideration.
To keep this as brief as possible, I have seen some really efficient and wonderful mods to vans including Dodge Ram conversion vans. I realize that just for basics that it is helpful to have safe and well planned installation of good deep cycle batteries…. at least one for days hanging out at the beach or parked at a local music festival for AC / cooling.
So many options! LOL I understand that the priorities for necessities of camping / living are mine to make. In an ideal world I would have acquired a longer van but this one was “free”. Ideally…. I would actually remove the bench seat and customize build my own furniture to fold up / down for multiple uses (bed being #1) and maximize storage. While cooking and keeping food cold are manyfold in options…. that can hold off as for something fancy. I’ve seen some really nice vent fans and solar systems to operate them. I think that’s definitely a strong consideration to start off with.
I can fit on the bench bed to sleep but its too short to include any companions. I have overcome this by using the large storage tubs I have in back to add pillows on top and it helps. I feel I can do much better if I HAVE to keep the bench seat in. The hardware / wiring / mechanics underneath limit storage…. I feel I can still do a little better over what I’ve done thus far.
My thoughts are to build a frame at the back to add bed padding on top and create more efficient storage under than the current two large tubs. One tub holds my porta potty and supplies. The other tub keeps some recreational items and bare bones basics of auto care.
Where the two passenger seats used to hook into “bases” on the floor…. is now bit of space! Behind the driver seat an extra CD/ stereo player / radio exists. I have no problem covering or removing this to put in some kind of build (cabinetry) for storage / shelving / cooler / portable cooker / battery storage-system.
Above and behind the driver cab is a tv and vcr that came with the van. The DVD player was removed by previous owner. I like DVDs or VHS but heat doesn’t like vcr tapes. ha ha. TV / VCR is still in place. Perhaps removing the TV provides some circuitry and a tiny bit of storage space should I invest in something electrical that is useful.
Between the bench seat as it lays down and the double passenger “suicide” doors is a tiny bit of space for possible use as well. Maybe a battery box.
Would love to insulate the van for better climate control but that would require going to the metal. So I think that’s out.
Yes, that is brief for me. I am loquacious and working on it ha ha ha. I would really love if nothing else be able to improve this van as travel in the Tampa Bay area includes so many fun event possibilities. Day trips are great but I feel the van could be improved for better enjoyment while I’m here now. Maybe some overnighters…. get me really interested in more for the lifestyle!
Thanks to all for your insights.