My First Conversion

On March 1st 2008 I got a Ford Transit van to convert to a camper and spent about 4 month doing just that. This is the story of its conversion.

I have tried to list everything I used and how much I spent to give an idea of cost. As you will see the cost of maintaining the van is far more than the conversion and that is an ongoing cost!

Anyway this is the Transit on the day of purchase!

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First I had to get rid of some rust spots inside, there was some odd defects including a weird burnt bit on the side. I sanded down all the rust and painted over it. I got the floor welded in places as didn’t want the bottom dropping out!

 

Then it was time for insulating and panelling. I put cavity wall insulation in and fitted 9mm plywood panels over it. I then sealed between each plywood panel with silicone. I didn’t insulate the floor, I just put plywood over the top of the metal. I cut down the bulkhead so as I could climb through from the cab.

 

I then built the furniture, I built the bed frame from baton, the end result gave a good solid bed base with plenty of storage space underneath. I also used baton, although thinner stuff, for the kitchen cupboards frame. I cut up some pallets to make cupboard doors and then sand down and varnish them. I fit the cooker and hey presto we have a fully functional kitchen. I really wanted a nice old piece of wood for the kitchen worktop but couldn't find any so I bought a new piece. I varnished it and it looks ok. I also cut it so as there is a bit at the end that lifts up for the sink.

 

I fix a marble slab for the wood burner to sit on and put carpet down, (yes I know cream isn't a very practical colour but it was free on Freecycle!) The wood burner was made from an old gas bottle. I got a bit of help from an old friend to fix it.


Then came the really fun bit, decorating the inside. I made a table over the bed that folds away when not in use. I did some stencil art and tie-dyed a sheet as a throw to cover the back doors. I painted the outside by hand with an army green colour. I made a massive ‘SURPLUS PEOPLE’ stencil and also copied some Banksy stencils to brighten up the outside.

 

Cost and materials used

Transit van = £1750.00

Conversion:

Tools = £17.95
Fixtures & Fittings = £81.75
Plywood x 8 = £156.64
Battening = £28.00
Mattress = £90.00
Kitchen surface = £26.79
Slab for burner = £11.98
Decorating = £21.06
Insulation = £15.97
Gas Cooker & bottle = £85.90
Utensils = £10.35
Furnishings = £2.39
LED lights = £29.82
Wood burner = £45.00
Exterior paint = £70.00
Chimney & Flashing = £20 to fit - donated by a good friend :)

Free stuff:
Carpet = Freecycle
Cushions = donated by family
Cupboard doors = pallet wood

Conversion total = £713.60

Maintenance:

Service & welding - April 2008 = £289.61
Tyres x 2 - May 2008 = £150.40
Service, MOT & welding - January 2009 = £617.27
MOT & brakes - January 2010 = £377.44
MOT – August 2010 = £40

Fuel filter – November 2010 = £20

Tyre – January 2011 = £60

Welding – July 2011 = £100

MOT – August 2011 = £50

Gearbox & clutch – September 2011 = £350

Service – October 2011 = £100

 

See the photos below of the van conversion taking shape:

Rust
Paint
Bulkhead
Ply Lining
Ceiling
Gap
Propped
Sealed
Floor
Welding
Paint
Floor
Floor
Bed
Kitchen
Pallet Wood
Sanding
Doors
Doors
Work Surface
Slab
Wood Burner
Flue
Fitting the Flue
Wood Burner
Flue
Paint
Back Doors
Fold Up Table
TV
Bed
Rust
Painting
Stencil Art
Stencil Art
Rasta Radiator
Do Not Clean
Finished
Finished

Here is a video my ex partner made of the van build.

I went to lots of festivals and had lots of great weekends away in my Transit for a couple of years. I then decided to move into it full time and go travelling around Europe. In my first year I travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. I then came back to the UK for a few months.

 

I spent another year in Spain and Portugal in my Transit until the MOT ran out in August 2012. The rust was so bad by this point that it seemed a waste putting too much money into driving all the way back for the MOT and pay masses amount of money on welding and potentially other issues.

 

I drove it around with no MOT for a couple of months but knew I couldn’t carry on doing that. In October I met a couple with a house and lots of land in central Portugal near the town of Gouveia. They said I was welcome to come and live on their land in my van and so I did.

 

In April 2014 I had pretty much ran out of savings and was not able to make money in Portugal so decided to move back to the UK. I knew I was going to get another van when I got back as I had arranged to borrow some money off a family member until I got a job. I took the wood burner and flue out of the Transit and sold the van in Portugal to someone who sold it on to a couple who used it as a holiday let on their land.

 

Sadly in October 2017 forest fires ripped through the central Portugal region where I lived for 18 months. Fifty people lost their lives and many thousands lost their homes and everything they owned. My old Transit was burnt along with other vehicles that its new owners had on their land. The end of my old Transit was nothing compared to what people lost but still a sad end.

Here is the final sad picture...

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If you have any questions about my conversions, materials or suppliers used please feel free to email me using the button below and I will do my best to help.