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Torton

Micro Camper Conversion 2015 LWB XL

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Hello Folks, 

I've been building out my 2015 van into a micro camper for the past few months. I've been sharing the story on reddit, but I figured I should post here as well especially since I used resources I found on this site to influence my build. I have a ton of photos I've posted and taken. I'll start adding them here. So far, I've posted 4 different "phases of the project. So I'll make one post per phase to share what I've done so far. 

 Phase 1: 

Here is the start of the conversion of our Transit Connect into a weekend getaway camper. It's a 2015 model with the long wheel base, which adds around 1 foot of extra cargo length. The boxes are built with baltic birch. Using this wood helps keep the weight down by not having to add much extra support beyond the plywood itself. I "designed" the layout in Google Sketchup (it was the first time I had ever used a 3d modeling software) and then built templates out of cardboard. After that, I started building the boxes. 

Link to the album.

 

2015 Transit Connect - Long Wheel Base

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Cargo Area - Roughly 7'x4'
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Making Sure We'll Have Enough Head Room on the "Couch"



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Sketch-Up Drawing of the layout

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The Blue Box is the Water Container and The Red is Our Stove


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The "Kitchen" will be a drawer that slides 36" out from the side door.


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Cardboard Models


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Starting to Build the Boxes


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Interior of Box 1


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Box 1 in the Van - 60in Long

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Box 2

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The open end is where the drawer will slide out from. I'm going to add more supports on that side once the drawer is installed.

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Boxes in the Van
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The bed folds across from the couch. I still need to design the rear supports

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Front View of the Bed

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Bed panel folded onto the couch.

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Edited by Torton
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Very nice job .  You have put a lot of thought into your camper.

Looking forward to the Total Build.

Thanks for including the Happy Camper!

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Torton, I second G B L's comment, VERY NICE! Did you every consider buying a used, low millage 2013 first generation Transit Connect for the additional headroom? Or was the length more important then the height? Keep the photo's coming!

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Thanks for the kind words! I definitely considered the earlier generation, but both my wife and myself are pretty tall so the extra length was our priority. Now that I've got cushions and a ceiling in, I wish I had the extra height, but still think being able to stretch out on the bed is worth it. 

48 minutes ago, 103west43rd said:

Torton, I second G B L's comment, VERY NICE! Did you every consider buying a used, low millage 2013 first generation Transit Connect for the additional headroom? Or was the length more important then the height? Keep the photo's coming!

 

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So, I seem to be having trouble putting photos in the forum using anything other than uploading them individually. Is there a secret way to use embed codes that I'm missing? 

Phase 2: The Kitchen and Bed

Either way, heres the second part of my Transit Connect camper conversion. In this part, I've finished putting together the boxes that will serve as storage and the kitchen for our camper. The idea is to have something that is not as much about living inside of, but a motivator and facilitator to make being/going outside easier and more convenient. We'll be using this to take our honeymoon this fall.

The boxes are built out of baltic birch plywood, which I would highly recommend. The stuff is really great to work with and is super stable and sturdy. I've used hand planes to flatten and trim edges, which wouldn't work nearly as well with standard plywood. The mattress is from Ikea and the water tank and stove are standard things you can find at camping stores. Stove: Camp Chef Everest. Water Tank: Reliance 4 gallon Aqua-Tainer

Part 2 Photos

 

The drawer had to be built around two pieces: This water tank and the stove.

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I built the frame of the drawer first.

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The drawer is supported by 36" 500lb capacity slides. The slides were one of the most expensive pieces of this project so far. 

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Building the shelves to support the stove. 

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There's around an eighth of an inch of clearance above the water jug. These were some tight tolerances for me! 

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The top shelf is there to raise the stove higher for a more natural cooking position.

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The stove slides into the space in between the top and little compartment.

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The shelf sits on this little compartment where utensils and such will go. I might make this area a little taller to accommodate more pots and pans. 

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The full bed from ikea almost fit without having to trim the width. the bed dimensions are 49"x74"

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The bed trimmed to fit. I built temporary legs to support the bed. These will be replaced with something a little more sleek later on. 

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The foam was cut with a super cheap bread knife. Note: The foam attracts animal hair like a magnet, so once the cover is off keep it away from pets! 

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Laying out the lines for the foam sections. This was where my first set of cuts was. The rest were much more neat. I tried a couple different knives before I settled on the bread knife.IDt6YLx.jpg

 

Mattress Cut to Width. 

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The "couch" in place.hzIURxV.jpg

 

I didn't realize how funny the "couch" would look, but that's the price I pay for having a full size mattress in the van. ecTTtP3.jpg

 

Here's the slide out drawer coming out of the van.7Kpcj5R.jpg

 

The stove on its platform with cubby open.8W405Ay.jpg

 

The stove open and ready for cooking

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Edited by Torton

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Phase 3: Upholstery and Doors

Here's the third album of progress on the Transit Connect Camper. It might not look like much, but the functional refinements make a huge difference! The photo included in this post is a couple buddies having some cold drinks under the awning after a mountain bike ride. 

 

I took the van to Kentucky for it's maiden voyage in June and the trip went really well. The only piece that was super annoying was having to lift the seat in the back to access the large storage area under the "couch". I didn't expect for it to be as big of a deal as it was. I added a couple doors to make accessing the storage area easier. The bed was one of the best parts of the van, it's just barely narrower than a full bed and is full length. The Ikea mattress proved to be much more comfy than I had expected! The cooking drawer also proved to be as functional as I could have hoped. Having the 7 gallons of water in the van was great, since hiking in 90 degree weather left me dusty and thirsty. I also added the ARB awning, which is probably my favorite piece of the build so far especially since I'm a ginger and have trouble being out in the sun. 

Phase 3 Photos

Here's a photo with the "couch" without the doors on the bench. In order to access the storage area you had to lift up the seat. During my first multi-day trip with the van, I found that this was way more of a pain than I had expected it to be, especially when having to do things like change or cook where you have to enter the storage area many times in a row. Also, even with the current set up, we can still fit two bikes inside the van without putting them on the cushions.MmdTByH - Imgur.jpg

I added 3 doors to give easier access. Cutting huge holes in the bench was a little nerve-racking, but it is so much better than constantly lifting the bench top.

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The cabinets are sized so that our folding chairs and table can fit in the back portion of the cabinet. Now we'll be able to slide them in and out of the back door.

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The bed folded down. The entire back of the van becomes the bed, which is about 2 inches narrower than a full size bed and full length. This is before adding the cabinet doors, which will allow access to the under-bed storage that wasn't possible before when the bed was folded down.

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Bonus cooking set-up photo.

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Edited by Torton

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Phase 4: Windows, Insulation, and Vent Fan: The day I cut huge holes in my brand new car. 

So, this album brings you up to date on where I'm at as of last night. I spend almost the entire weekend installing 3 windows, a Fantastic Fan, and insulating body panels. 

We've got a trip coming up in October, so the goal was to make it a little more "livable" for the trip. Without windows in the back of the van, it got pretty stuffy in there with two of us. 

The windows and vent are from Vintage Technologies that sells parts for teardrop trailers. Cutting into the van was a little scary, but once everything was all put back together it was well worth the trouble. The windows make a huge difference! Since I had to make panels to help mount the windows, we also started insulating the ceiling and panels. It's one layer of self-adhesive duct insulation which a lot of people use as a cheaper alternative to Dynamat, and then a layer of Reflectix where space allowed.

 

The next step is to start doing finish work and making things look neat.

Phase 4 Photos

The point of no return. The lines look a little sketchy in this shot, it took a couple tries with one of the corner to perfectly match the template.

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Holes Cut! The blue tape made marking the cuts much easier and kept the paint from getting scratched. 

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Windows In

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Interior window shot. The windows open and have screens in them.

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Hole cut for side window. I didn't realize until I started cutting that the panels on the side are plastic rather than metal. 

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Window #3 in! The angle of the body panels give a weird optical illusion in this shot. The window is flat against the van. I swear!

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Battens glued to the ceiling

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Frost King duct insulation on the ceiling

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Step 1: Self-adhesive duct insulation

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Step 2:  A layer of Reflectix, glued in place

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Step 3: Wooden Panel

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Ceiling vent framed in. The Reflectix is glued in, the tape is just there to keep it in place as the glue dried. 

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Ceiling vent installed with bead-board

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Hard at work installing Reflectix

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Bonus "Work Shop" Shot. This is where I've done all of the work so Far. Also, Jake the Dog.

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Put back together!

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Ceiling vent. Not crazy protrusive!

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Edited by Torton

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21 hours ago, T0ASTERvan said:

You're set on the decals.. I'm still not willing to put any on the body or doors.. just been using the rear window.. but we're close enough, you need to keep in touch and cruise with us on our next jaunt.

Yea, I'm generally not a sticker person, especially for cars, but my wife felt like they made the van look less creepy when sitting in our neighborhood. The plan is to get one sticker per state or major attraction we visit in the van. Right now, much of what is on there are magnets that I'll probably take off. 

Let me know what the next trip is!

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Very nice work. I can tell you have more patience than me. And I don't know if I could take a saw to the door panels without having spare doors ready to go ;)

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Very nice job the progress is impressive . Looking forward to  the finished camper.

Where's the first destination ?

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With the Econoline vans, the cargo hold was always very hot & stuffy, and even at full blast, the air conditioning was never good enough to cool the back of the van from the vents in the front.  I understood that being a cargo van, it was only engineered for the comfort of whomever is riding in the first row, since nobody is suppose to be riding in the back.  I thought that with the Transit Connect, since it is smaller, that the front A/C vents would be sufficient for the entire inside of the van.  

 

It makes me want to cut into my roof.  Perhaps install something ridiculous, like an A/C unit.  

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First off, very nice work on your conversion! I'm using your work as the basis to plan my own build out. I have a couple of questions. First, you noted that with this conversion you are still able to put 2 (I assume mountain) bikes inside the van. Can you share some pictures of that? We are huge mountain bikers and skiers so that's what we are planning for. Second, what roof rack system are you using? It looks like you have the crossbars mounted straight into one of the mounting locations for the OEM roof rails. Is that correct? I have a set of Thule Aeroblade bars that I'd like to use. Jury is still out on if they are wide enough. I'm going back and forth on the factory roof rails. Right now, I'm leaning towards them just to raise the entire system up from the roofline so that I don't drag my ski box across the paint attaching it in the winter. I'm also looking into seeing if I can get an awning like yours to mount into the t-channel slot in the Thule Aeroblade bars. Again, great work on your conversion, its truly an inspiration!

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The job keeps getting better and better.  The  vent you put in the roof makes AC unit an easy install.  If you camp in the summer in the south west, there is a 12 volt evaporate cooler (Swamp Cooler)  that mounts in the 14X14 vent you put in the roof. I think a light trailer that is in the slip stream for the extra gear would be what I would choose.

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You like the swamp coolers over air conditioning?  Why?

Just based on my own experience, swamp coolers were not as comfortable.  We had them on the roof of a trailer that we stayed in when I went hunting.

 

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If you are in a dry enough climate the work pretty well and use much less power.  The one I was refering to is 12 volt and would work well in a TC camper with limited power resources. If you have the power AC is better.

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On 9/28/2016 at 8:01 AM, chong said:

First off, very nice work on your conversion! I'm using your work as the basis to plan my own build out. I have a couple of questions. First, you noted that with this conversion you are still able to put 2 (I assume mountain) bikes inside the van. Can you share some pictures of that? We are huge mountain bikers and skiers so that's what we are planning for. Second, what roof rack system are you using? It looks like you have the crossbars mounted straight into one of the mounting locations for the OEM roof rails. Is that correct? I have a set of Thule Aeroblade bars that I'd like to use. Jury is still out on if they are wide enough. I'm going back and forth on the factory roof rails. Right now, I'm leaning towards them just to raise the entire system up from the roofline so that I don't drag my ski box across the paint attaching it in the winter. I'm also looking into seeing if I can get an awning like yours to mount into the t-channel slot in the Thule Aeroblade bars. Again, great work on your conversion, its truly an inspiration!

Hey Thanks! I swear I had taken a photo of the bikes in the back, but I can't seem to find it. I'll take one next time we're out. It's a tight fit with the wheels still on (650b and 29er), but it works. So, the rack I'm using is actually a ladder rack from Vantech that mounts in the rack channel via bolts directly through the roof. You might be able to just get the feet and mount your bars to them. I'll be getting a ski-box soon to give us a little additional storage for longer trips. 

Sorry about the delay! I'm just returning from a long trip in the van. 

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Wheels still on you say. That's even more interesting. I'm planning on front wheel removal. I prefer that for bike stability. I'm hoping I can get 2 bikes next to each other and only take up half of the width of the van. I'm planning on using some of those heavy duty drawer glides to make a drawer that pulls out of the back of the van for easier loading/unloading.

If you don't have a ski box yet, I love my Yakima Skybox 12. My advice would be to get the biggest box you can fit on the roof. The cost difference really isn't that much and the extra space is something I continually wish I had.

 

 

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Great build, looks like some fun adventures to come :)

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Great work and thanks for sharing.

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I missed seeing this thread originally. Glad two forumites floated it to the top.

You made some great mods to your van.

Extra points for getting your significant other to help.

Hope to see more in the future.

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Excellent work

as we say over here , it,s the DOGS DOO DAHHS

well done 

 

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