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Friday, October 05, 2012

Conversion Van Converted

This is our 18 year old Dodge conversion van - converted.

The rear doors open wide to show the 20 gallon water tank - the shower wand - the platform that forms a storage space - and the rear seat fully reclined.

The 20 gallon water tank is filled with hot water from our garage hot water hose bib. This provides 20 minutes of continuous hot showers at 1 gallon per minute. If you use the shower head button - showers can be extended longer. If hot water is needed longer than a day - this tank could be insulated.

The old Dodge conversion van is converted and ready for the road.

In review - I bought this 1994 Dodge Van from the original owner in June. He bought it in 1994 for $35,000. It was his only car for 18 years - his family was moving to Oregon - he was leaving the van behind. It has 109,000 miles on it.

We purchased the van to be a beach buggy for Lulu - a portable "cabana" for visiting the wild beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. Lulu had few requirements - tinted windows for private clothes changing - a flushable toilet - and a hot water shower. With those things - she could park by the beach - put on her swim suit - and put street clothes on to go for supper and ride home.

Think of the van as two basic things - a vehicle to get you to the beach - and a camper of sorts with homelike creature comforts. 

First - it is a 1994 Dodge Van B250 with a small V6 engine and automatic transmission. After making sure the engine - transmission - tires - brakes - power steering - cruise control - are in good working order - it was ready for conversion. The most expensive item was a $500 paint job at Maaco. Then came a windshield by Seminole Auto Glass for $250 - they came right to the house to install that. This was followed by full window tinting by Low Price Auto Glass to allow only 20% of the light and UV to enter - keeping out prying eyes - $120. A rear bench seat from the junk yard added $50 and seating for three more passengers when needed. A water tank and pump from Craigslist was only $40. About $70 of hardware - roof trim - headlight bulbs - plumbing - and carpet completed the job. Sears put shock absorbers on for $100. Finally - I installed a trailer hitch - $150.

Everything I have done to the van is convertible and removable. The van body was not altered in any way. Here are the boring details.

1. The number one item is a 54 x 48 x 12 inch platform assembled in the back. It is made of 3/4 plywood - and 2 x 2 supports. It slides in from the rear and sits there with the 4 captain's chair intact. It is not a full sized bed - that could only be accomplished by taking out the 2 captain's chairs.  The platform is covered with blue carpeting. Again - the carpeting is supported by screwed down tacking strips underneath - not glue. It makes for a very nice 54 x 48 softer platform. Neighbor George Dawson donated the piece of plywood - I did not even trim it.

2. Next I mounted the third row bench on top of that platform. This means the third row is raised up a bit - but the passenger's heads easily clear the high ceiling. The third row bench seat is attached to the platform by two large L-Bolts. By loosening these two bolts with a 3/4 inch wrench - the bench seat rolls easily out the back. The third row bench seat has rollers on it and it moves easily forward and back when you release the L-Bolts. I was going to attach it with wing nuts - but it needs more pressure than that to hold the seat solidly. This seat can also move forward and back on its track about a foot when it is bolted down. The seat also has 4 positions - full flat forward - seating position straight up - 3/4 recline - and full flat recline. When it reclines it makes a 48 x 48 flat padded bed. Not very big - but remember this is a 15 foot van - with 4 captain's chairs. This bench seat is super easy to remove and can be used as a bench seat for tailgating.  There is storage between the platform and the seat too. 95% of the time this seat will be removed and left in the garage. 

3. The shower - this is the coolest thing for me. I bought a 20 gallon flat water tank from a wrecked camper. I also salvaged the water pump with automatic turn off. The pump plugs into an outlet in the back near the light. This outlet is powered at all times - key or no key. It also has a handheld shower wand with plenty of hose. The shower wand also has an off and on button. Simply the tank has a filler cap just like a gas tank. In my garage I have a hose bib that puts out hot water. You simply fill the water tank with hot water from the hose bib. The water stays hot in the tank a long time - we will see if it needs insulation on it. With this set-up - you have 20 minutes of hot running water - much more if you use the button on the shower wand to conserve. This tank/pump/ shower is self-contained. It can be removed from the van and operated with a small 12 volt battery as a stand alone unit. You must take a shower outside between the rear doors. A curtain rod and shower curtain would complete a shower stall. I will do a full shower test tomorrow to see how long it really goes.

4. The water pump - bought on craigslist from a wrecked camper. It has a pressure sensitive switch that only turns the pump on when the shower wand is open. It has a safety on/off electric switch on the platform wall - also a plug that can be disconnected to remove the shower assembly from under the platform. It slides easily in and out of the back door under the platform. 

5. The spare tire - jack - lug wrench. The van has no trunk. On normal vans - the spare tire rides underneath the floor. This van has a 35 gallon tank where the spare would normally ride. When I bought this van the tire was on a rack on the back door. I hated that look. Now - the spare tire rides under that platform - clean and dry. It is easily removed from under the platform - out the back door. 

6. Toilet - the small Thetford toilet is very compact. It is about 12 x 12 x 12. It has a water tank in the top and a black tank in the bottom. It has running water to flush it - and a regular toilet seat. Remember - all the windows have been tinted so you can't see in from outside. You also have window blinds.  If you think this is gauche - consider how happy you would be having this when going down the road. Also think of how clean it is compared to some of the toilets in gas stations. Thetford is the top brand for camper toilets. 

7. Window tints. The rear and side windows are tinted to 20% - which means it filters out 80% of the light and UV rays. It keeps the van much cooler and makes the AC work less hard. The side windows also have blinds that are opaque and screened openings for ventilation.

8. TV - the van does have a 12 volt TV in a wooden cabinet. It is the old analog type - not good for receiving stations now - but it is a good monitor to use with a VCR - DVD - or DVR. It has a remote control. There are two wooden cabinets that could house those units. 

9. There is plenty of storage under that platform - actually a 48 x 54 x 12 inch box. - about 18 cubic feet.

10. There is a 12 volt light in the back that is always powered with an on/off switch. There are reading lights for each passenger. 

11. Not installed yet. I have a giant AGM storage battery - with 245 amp hours of power. I also have a 12 volt to 120 volt inverter that changes DC power to AC house power. With this big battery and the inverter - we can operate standard home appliances - like TV's - hair dryers - computer chargers - and desktop computers.

12. Finally - I installed a trailer hitch bought at Capital Hitch for $150.

It also took three days of my time.

I can remove everything from the van in 10 minutes. No holes were cut into the van - nothing was removed or altered.

The van will be used mainly for trips to the beach. Maybe we will take it to the Disney Fort Wilderness campground. Maybe we will make a few longer road trips. Who knows - maybe we will even sell it some day.  :-)


Van $1200

Tax Tag Title $250

Paint $500
Windshield $250
Shock Absorbers $100
Shower tank and pump $40
Rear Seat $50
Window Tint $120
Hardware $90
Toilet $100
Total $2700

First $4000 gets it - only kidding.

The rear doors open wide to show the 20 gallon water tank - the platform that forms a storage space - and the rear seat fully reclined.

Here the rear seat is in the upright position. The seat rolls in and out on little wheels. It can be placed by one person - but fits in very easily with two people. The rear doors open to 50 inches wide - the seat is 48 inches wide.

Inside - the rear seat in place - even when bolted down - it slides back and forth about one foot on rails.
When I went out this morning - the seat made the van smell musty - I have since removed it and plan to shampoo and bleach it more. It needs a bath.

Here is the seat folded in the full forward position. This allow full visibility out the rear tinted windows.

Here the seat is at 3/4 recline. It allow greater visibility out the rear windows.

The Thetford flushing toilet is self-contained. There is a fresh water tank and a black water tank. You pump water into the bowl - then pull the flush handle for it to go down into the chemical bath. The black tank it easily removed for dumping into a common toilet. The toilet is portable and can be stored under the platform.

The color television is 12 volt. Since the FCC changed the broadcast regulations - you can no longer receive over the air programming. It can be be used as a monitor for satellite TV - DVR - VCR - DVD player.

On the left is a cabinet for a VCR or DVR. It has a 12 volt plug - also a cable TV plug.

The driver cabin is basic Dodge. It has power steering - tilt wheel - power brakes - reclining captain's chairs - AM/FM radio - automatic transmission - air conditioning.

The rear captain's chairs recline and slide forward and back. They would be removed for any long road camping trips. Just 4 bolts attach then to the floor.

The rear platform adds 18 cubic feet of storage space. The spare tire is stored here. It can be removed and hung on the back door if more space is needed. We have the bracket to do that.

The engine hides under that console cover. The cover is very easy to remove to service the engine - just 2 latches hold it in.

The 15 inch wheels were removed - sanded - primered - and painted. The original hub caps were polished and re-installed.

This rear utility lamp is always hot wired. The black wire and plug powers the water pump. It can be detached and the platform with pump can be slid out the back in seconds.

The rear windows have 20% tint - keeping 4/5 of the light and UV out. The windows also tilt outward for ventilation.

The side windows are tinted and also have screens. The window slides open.

Overhead you have LED light embedded in oak beams.

The tilting steering wheel contains the horn and cruise control.

The console engine cover is easily removed with 2 clamps.

The spare tire is slid under the platform. The toilet could be stored under there too.

2 large L-Bolts hold the rear seat in place when needed.

This is a top view of the L-Bolts holding the rear seat down. Notice the rear seat has wheels to roll it in and out.

This switch turns the shower pump on and off. The water can also be turned on and off by the button on the shower head.

This pump provides shower pressure. It can be turned full off at the switch or controlled at the shower head.

One problem - the 1994 Dodge seats belts do not match the 2000 Dodge Caravan seat buckles. 

I must replace two buckles. 

The original seats belts hang in the corners.

This is another lined cabinet above the rear seat.

The van is 15.5 feet long - very short for a van.

The fiberglass top is one piece. It adds about one foot of head space compared to a regular van.

All windows are tinted to the legal limit. Each window has a slide opening with a screen.

The black trim gasket is one continuous piece that is 30 feet long. It had to be heated to be installed. Even then - I got blisters on my fingers from installing it. It does at a nice trim touch and covers all the installation screws.

This picture was taken in the back yard of our brick house. It is on the spot where we will build our new house. The van is kept in that metal garage in the background. The garage has two - 10 x 10 doors.

We still need 2 trim pieces to replace the old ones along the running board edges.

The tires have plenty of miles left in them - I doubt if I will ever replace them.

This is the back storage platform with the bench seat removed. The seat was removed for another shampoo. This platform is 54 x 48 - not long enough to be a full bed. For a long trip - I would removed the 2 captain's chairs and extend the bed.

Yesterday I installed this Class III hitch receiver - good to haul 5000 pounds with a tongue weight of 500 pounds. 

The chrome on the bumpers is great - the vinyl portion needs a good polishing.

Sears had a great deal on installing 4 shock absorbers. It ended up costing $100 with rebate. This was a big improvement in the ride.

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