The most important gear investment that gets the most use is our converted/up-fitted Ford Van. People mighty find it helpful to know what we did and why if they want to do a conversion/up-fitting themselves. Details below.
Original Vehicle Specs
2014 Ford E150 XL Van purchased new with a 5.4 liter gas engine.
The standard size (not the extended size) was ideal for us and the smaller engine (vs the 6.8 liter) has more than enough power for our needs. Since the conversion would automatically convert the drivetrain, axels and springs to a 350 model, we paid less going with the 150 model.
We purchased at end of 2014, the last model year for the Econoline van models. This was a good thing because it is easy to convert and up-fit these models versus the newer transit models, and we wanted the big standard 8 cylinder engine that are no longer available on Ford vans.
We did some internal build/add-ons ourselves for overnight use:
- Built standard bed frame from wood, the front part which could be disassembled/re-assembled on the road so that we can use dog crates during the day for transportation and remove them at night for the full length bed, while the dogs slept underneath.
- Custom welding for roof racks and added luggage boxes (Thule and Yakima). Built our own square open box that went on top as well.
- Rear trailer receiver luggage carrier.
- Installed side pull-out shade.
We planned for full conversion in 2018. Life got in the way so that pushed off till 2020. Then COVID further pushed back the schedule with our up-fitter (first, shop closings, then supply constraints on parts) until 2022.
- 4wd capable, but not overboard with wheel size and clearance capabilities, so that it was easy to drive at highway speeds but offer robust 4wd and off road capabilities.
- Replace gearing with 4.1 for better performance in mountain driving.
- Maximize the internal floor space for basic everyday use, such as picking up lumber and supplies for use on our farm and hauling dogs and crates. Filling the floor space with beds, a kitchen and other builds would negate use as a multi-function vehicle:
- We sacrificed having a shower and bathroom (we use a small port-a-potty instead).
- Beds built near the ceiling and drop down as needed to waist height.
- No kitchen, as we will just pre-cook what we need and use the freezer/fridge (which works great for grocery shopping and keeping food cold on hot days).
- High ceiling so we can stand in it.
- Better ventilation with windows on the side of the pop top ceiling and an overhead fan that can remain on during the day when we are hiking to keep the interior heat down.
- Reliable – nothing fancy or complex that would reduce reliability or make it hard for any standard auto repair shop to work on.
- Use a specialty conversion shop that only works on vans with ample experience to do the work. Fortunately, we have one in Colorado already.
- 4wd conversion using Ford F350 parts and components, with some modified and custom components that our up-fitter has designed and built over their years doing van conversion. The 4wd is operated via a floor shifter between the driver and passenger side seats and manual locking hubs.
- Aluminus front bumper with additional LED lighting (and the front standard vehicle lights replaced with LED).
- Replaced 33 gallon fuel tank with 46 gallon aluminum that has additional steel protective shell installed around it.
- Engine block warmer 120 AC plugin.
- Battery warmer 120 AC plugin.
- Added front and rear bumper electrical conduit to power a winch that is normally stored inside and used as needed via the trailer receiver hitch either on the front or the rear of the vehicle.
- 20 inch hard top with a fan and windows.
- Custom roof rack with ladder.
- Rear aluminus bumper with storage boxes.
- Replace muffler with flow-through type to increase engine power.
- Internal heater connected to fuel tank
- Secondary battery to run electrical add-ons (heater, lighting, other electronics).
- Internal Decked brand drawer system.
- Build aluminum bed frames (two twin size).
We will wait on framing the interior and insulating because we want to add in wiring ourselves for internal electronics and see how it all works and functions before enclosing them. There also may be other internal mods and builds we come up with based on use that will also affect the internal frameout.
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