Beginning the conversion

Hey there, I’m new to the forum as I am just beginning the process of converting a Ford Transit. Will be using it as a base of operations for climbing and skiing. My hope is to hit major climbing areas in the US and eventually get up to AK and far northwestern canada for some big mountain trips. I have been thinking about this for the better part of a decade and finally saved up the cash to do it. During the conversion process I plan to use it as a weekender / vacation machine and after that it’s full time for a while.

I’m looking for a place to discuss the very large number of decisions to be made throughout the build process. Some of which are van specific (I’m also on the ford transit usa forums) but others are more general and was hoping for a wider audience here.


For what it’s worth, I’ve been a nomad for nearly 60 years, and built or been involved in the building & sometimes restoring many rigs including vans, buses, motorhomes, trailers, & boats.

Comfort, convenience, and reliability are typically my major goals.


"Life can be as simple or as complicated as you make it.
Simple is cheaper and more reliable."
~ Off Grid

Good luck with your project. We also converted Ford Transit into a campervan and I went to Alaska and NWT i Canada twice, all the way to the Arctic Ocean. Our built is on YT, but I cannot link it here, I am “new user”. I am too on Transit USA forums.

Hello & Congrats on your investment. I’m currently building out my Transit for full-time living and can’t wait to begin this new chapter in life! I’ve found this forum to be fairly quiet. Hopefully in time more people will participate. Enjoy your process!

We picked up our new Transit Trail EL EH last month. We are not planning on living in it. We are retired and plan on discovering USA. Just finished up the floor. Am collecting the parts for the electrical system. Have the Thinsulate ready for the walls and ceiling but first ordering a Rack to layout the 2 Maxx fans and the 3 220W solar panels. The AC will be in the cabin so I will not be sacrificing roof space for an AC. First time building one but, I have access to a friend who owns an upfitter shop for advice. good luck

Thanks for the replies folks. Doesn’t feel like an investment yet! All expenses no payoff so far, hah. I have never built a van before but grew up doing construction and carpentry, now I’m an engineer.

Progress so far has been mostly project management and operations. Evaluating features and options, making decisions about the build, and ordering parts and supplies. A lot of the big stuff has come in.

Some major decisions so far:

  • INSULATION: I am 95% sold on DIY spray foam for insulation, most likely a Froth Pak kit. Thinsulate is a close second but winter use is a major priority for me, and the majority of builds I see from cold climates are using spray foam. It’s by far the best R-value-to-thickness ratio which is chief consideration. And it alleviates debate about where to put the vapor barrier. The one concern I have is about the weep holes or ensuring other drainage. All the weep holes on my van seem factory-sealed with flexible adhesive so there is no drainage already.

  • FLOORING/FRAMING: Going to do a floating (non framed) floor with a 1.5" XPS board and 3/4 ply on top as a subfloor. Cabinets will primarily be attached to the steel wall pillars with rivnuts, rather than using floor joists as the main structural attachment point. I will still attach cabinetry to the floor, either by glue&screw a footer OR I had an idea of routing tracks into the 3/4" plywood for aluminum L tracks, then cabinets could be bolted directly to that.

  • Plumbing: Interior wheel well water tank with heat for winter conditions. Exterior undermount gray tank with an alternative feed to a portable interior grey tank to only be used in winter. Pretty sold on a composting toilet. No internal shower, but planning a rear-door mounted showerhead with on-demand water heater.

  • Propane: Undermount 5.9gal goWesty LP tank, mounted near the rear axle. Galley and water heater are on the passenger side which has the exhaust system. I’m paranoid about routing LP lines over a hot exhaust pipe, so I think I’m going to cut a channel to do a continuous route (no fittings) that sits under the subfloor to get the propane across the vehicle to the galley and hot water.

  • Heat: Espar gasoline heater. In front of driver rear wheel well. Undermounting this may be an option but looks like it might be complicated. I think I want a blast gate to recirculate internal air or draw fresh air from outside the van. MaxxAir fan mounted in the front to allow best ventilation to the galley during winter.

  • Windows: Doing a sliding door glass window with OEM fit and a sliding panel. Kitchen ventilation with door closed is a priority for winter. No driver’s side passenger window. Two rear windows over the bed - arctic-tern double-pane gull-wing style. Again, need a source of cross ventilation in the van, so a front mount fan demands rear windows. No rear door windows. Only problem with the gull window is the sliding door could hit it… made an oversight there, will have to be careful with that one or make some kind of safety stop.

  • Security: Going with 4-door deadbolts on a separate system. I just ordered Thunderbolt M2 locks. Even if a thief breaks the windows they won’t be able to open the doors and will need to crawl through the windows, making smash&grab less likely. I may also do window glass anti-smash coating - 3M ScotchShield seems like the product, and it will tint the front windows too.

  • Electrical: Can’t fit much solar on the roof since it’s not an extended box. Maybe 400W, possibly 500-600 if I really pack it full but I don’t want to do that. I’m going to oversize the batteries even if I can’t fill them in a single day of solar, this gives me a few days of buffer in the winter. Will also add alternator charging although this will also be slow, but it’s still something. Still debating whether to go for a 12V or 24V system. 24V seems like the way to go, I want a 3000VA inverter so kind of right on the dividing line. It will cost me a few DC-DC converters but will save me on a lot of wiring.

So far it has been a lot of prep work. I needed to take out the front cab vinyl flooring as there is water soaked into the carpet pad and it will never dry if it’s sandwiched between the vinyl and the metal floor. Quite a job - need to remove both front seats and almost the entire lower dash. I’m not sure where the water came from - the dealer I bought the van from power-washed the interior (dumb move) so I suspect it’s from that. It’s also dryer as you go “up” the footwell which suggests it’s not leaking from the fire wall - I have read the threads about potential water leaks through the fire wall, but have yet to find any conclusive evidence. There doesn’t seem to be any NEW water, and it’s still the rainy season here in the PNW, so that’s good. Have not found rust anywhere it shouldn’t be which is great, although the van is only 26k miles.

Hi mate!

400W is actually quite common in my experience. You could have a couple of batteries with a duo regulator, or even two regulators to keep them independent. This way you know you’ll have a fully charged backup if you keep them isolated. Lots of people wire them in parallel, but personally I’d always prefer the former option in case of any issues taking out both batteries at once.

You could also use a heat shield, or similar on the gas pipe so long as it is more than 100mm away from the exhaust. Might be best to go the other way if you’ve figured a plan, though.

Please keep this thread updated; I’m interested to see how things go!