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The Plan The Ceiling Fan Insulating the van Back Door Windows Driver's Desk Sub-Floor Mounting the Solar Panel Trunk and Bed Combo The Upper Deck Cabinets
Mid-Van Windows The Sink Dresser Storage The Office Desk Wall Paneling Peel-n-Stick Tile Floor Paneled Ceiling The Door Decor Extra Stuff


Can a guy with no experience with power tools, carpentry, electricity or plumbing
turn a cargo van into a livable home-on-wheels?

   Blue Maxx 1 - Front The Plan.  Ah yes, The Plan.  I did have one, basically:  buy a ProMaster cargo van and convert it into a livable RV.  Good plan, Rick.  Top notch, top notch.

    I would not have the luxury of garaging the van throughout the project.  It's my only vehicle, so it's my go-to-work chariot every day, so I could not let it sit with half-finished steps, like cutting the hole for the roof fan on Tuesday and putting the fan in on Friday.  Rain and bugs would have a lot to say about that. 

    And it already has plenty of stuff in it, including an XL Twin bed on a frame, a desk, a chair and a half-dezen or so storage bins.  Hence, things will have to be "worked around" as things progress.

    I don't have a garage, so that was never a factor, anyway.  There are not many out there that will accommodate a 9'6" tall van (including the fan).

    Well, what I had to figure out first, I guess, was:  what do I want in it?

    Bed, definitely.  I'll be spending a third of my road life asleep, so this was a high priority.Blue Maxx 2 - Profile

    Desk suitable for laptop writing sessions. The Plan includes pursuing a part-time, one-my-own-time, copywriting career, so Maxx would be a Vehicle-Bedroom-Office combo above all else.   

    Big fat-ass desk chair.  Oh hell yes!  Big and cushy enough to lounge in when I'm not "working."  Sitting up on the bed is OK if it's all you got, but the sheets get all in disarray, and it's too easy to spill your drink on your chest.  Gotta have a big old Ahhhhh type of chair to rock-and-roll around in.

    More windows!  Necessity as well as enhancement.  Original plan had windows going in all around, but... well more on that is that section.

    Fridge.  DC-powered.  One consistent and persistent PINTA of roadtripping was buying ice every damn day to keep the goodies in the cooler from goin' bad.  And, with 8-pound bags going for $2 or more in many places now, a fridge will pay for itself in a few months.

    Electricity.  "Solah Powah" as the Bostonians say.  Gotta.

 Blue Maxx 3 - Rear   TV or a big monitor.  Laptop screen and iPad Mini are tolerable, but a nice modest 24" screen will be jussst fine.

    Dimmable lights, yesss. 

    Microwave oven, of course.  I won't need a freaking stove.  I have one in my cottage and I think I've used it 6 times in 2 years.  The MWO will take care of most of my heating needs, and one of those small propane grills -- the kind with the skinny silver legs that fold up to clamp the lid on when you're done -- will take care of my grillin' needs when I get a burger craving.

    And storage!  Lots and lots of storage.  If I'm gonna be toting everything I own around with me, I need to reserve a good amount of space (so I can keep a good amount o' stuff).

    OK, that's a good start.  So, how to do it?  Well, buy some tools and materials then ... use 'em!

    Home Depot became my friend.  So did Amazon.  And so, especially, did YouTube.  I watched a LOT of videos and read a LOT of articles.  I'm not here to one-up any of them.  I'm here to pay homage to them.  I'll dole out copious credit at each appropriate step. 


    I knew I'd need to be cutting a good amount of wood and screwing in a lot of screws, so a circular saw and a drill were at the top of my Tools To Buy List.  First time in my life I've ever had that list.   I bought cordless Ryobi tools, with an extra battery pack and two chargers.  I bought a Ryobi jigsaw too.  And a ridiculous supply of blades.  In one of the videos I saw, a guy was trying to cut a hole in his van roof for a fan and his jigsaw blade snapped before he was 1/4 of the way done.  It was his last blade.  He persisted with a handsaw, but shut the camera off.  When he came back on, the sun was waaay down, and he looked really pissed off.  So, mental note:  buy a crapload of jigsaw blades.

    I bought a crazy big set of drill bits too, and an array of hole saws (I came to love those things!),


    Probably my best friend of ALL, though, was CorelDRAW, the graphic design program.  I've used it at work for more than 12 years, but it has never served me as well as it did here.  I used Corel to make accurate charts of the ProMaster's floor, ceiling, walls, and irregular ribs.

cross-section-small van-top-down-view
    Corel did not get deeply involved until about Step 5 or so, and from then on it was a clear MVP.  With a 1" = 10" scale, I put everything on tabloid sized paper that I could turn to PDF or print out at work.  Everything was measured down to 1/4".  I learned, for example, that your standard 2x4 is only "nominally" 2x4, but is actually 1.5" x 3.5", which equated to 0.15" x 0.35" on my scale diagrams.  Every stud, plank, and panel was laid out with scaled precision, and I dare say they came out pretty much right.