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All About Van Conversions

As opposed to people-moving “mini-vans,” “vans” are usually cargo movers. Cargo vans have a couple of front seats, everything else left bare for maximum storage space. Still, because vans are spacious, there is a whole realm of possibilities outside of cargo-carrying, requiring van conversions. Van conversions start from the basic van layout, a couple front seats and a few hundred cubic feet of storage.

What to do with that space depends your individual needs, and there are a couple of ways to go about your own van conversion. Mention “conversion van,” and most people immediately think of those 70s and 80s vans with murals painted on the sides. They had curtains in the windows, interior carpeting, and a bed, everything needed for proverbially “living in a van down by the river,” but there are many more possibilities. Just as there are many types of drivers and numerous things that a van might be expected to accomplish, there are just as many van conversions to meet the need.

Van Conversion Types

High-top people-movers, up to 15 passengers, use four or five rows of seats, while lengthened camper vans eschew seats for high-traffic carpet, innovative storage, bedding area, even small-scale stove, sink, and refrigerator.

Family vans and travel vans are usually equipped with super-comfortable seats for touring, and may fit up to seven passengers. Big windows, shades, game consoles, DVD/BD players, and flat-screen TVs are common for this type of van conversion.

Disability vans are built to accommodate those who get around in a wheelchair. Electro-hydraulic ramps permit access from the rear or side of the van, sometimes requiring beefed-up suspension components and dropped flooring. For handicapped drivers, these van conversions are fitted with hand controls.

Office vans are used by businessmen on the go, such as mobile sales and support or construction site management. Power inverters and battery banks provide power for office equipment, such as computers, printers, copiers, and phones. Unless it’s bolted down, it’ll probably be secured in special cases or drawers to keep it in its place when on the move.

Specialty conversions are also available, such as for contractors and subcontractors. These conversions might include specialized storage systems, mobile charging and power systems, and internal and external tool and equipment racks. Food trucks, ice cream trucks, and mobile medical offices are also the result of innovative van conversions.

Van Conversion Methods

Most of the time, van conversions are performed by professionals in the field. They receive the van body and chassis from the manufacturer, then modify the van according to whatever specifications the client requires. These van conversions might be sold inside or outside the manufacturer dealership, or it might be sold by the conversion company or another specialist in the field.

Given a good van base, though, there’s nothing that prevents the do-it-yourself van conversion. With basic construction skills and hand tools, there are almost no practical limits to what you can accomplish, be it a custom camper van, off-grid tiny home, or mobile automotive repair station. We do not recommend, however, attempting a DIY passenger or touring van, as passenger safety is of utmost importance on the road.

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