Intro: Stealth Micro Camper in a Ford Escort Van
A bargain base vehicle!
I bought this small van from an auction for just £260 as a cheap runabout but it proved too good to scrap. It was an ex-fire service van with a full service history and very low miles. So in very good condition, especially considering the price. Since then it proved to be a great little weekend getaway vehicle and I even used it to work on a contract in London for a few days. I stayed in Wimbledon park when it was snowing!, cooked a meal, slept well and in the morning washed, dressed in my working suit and went to work. I also love festivals and in the picture you can see my van with a free-standing drive away awning which gives a 6' square space with the full use of the facilities of the van.
How the idea came about
I set about thinking whether I could convert it into a micro camper.
The first question. "Can I sit upright on the wheel arch?" Well no.. as I'm 6' 2". but I can sit on the floor and use the wheel arch as a table.
Second question: "Can I lie down full length?" Well yes, if I push the front seats forward a little.
From there I measured and planned an interior. I did loads of sketches and drawings.
I won't include plans here as your van may be different and to be honest I was only working to my rough sketches and cutting pieces to fit as I went.
Electrics: Auxilliary leisure battery, 240v 1000w inverter, split charge diode, swivel spot light, night light blue leds, electric tap, electric water pump, 12v electric coolbox, 240v socket, 12v socket usb socket, 12v computer fan (for the roof vent) and a great sound system!
Other equipment: mushroom roof vent, stainless steel sink, water bottle. Cartridge gas camping stove, gas ring heater, roll up futon 'bed in a bag', duck down quilt, awning (Outdoor experience drive away awning), hinges, corner brackets, corner blocks, screws, wire, industrial carpet, carpet underfelt, plywood, chipboard, wood strips, varnish and a fire extinguisher.
Only basic tools required including:
Dremmel (very small hand drill for modelmaking)
glue tube dispenser
I don't have a workshop, so I had to do the build in a car park (parking lot) with a very long extension cable for my power tools.
The first thing was to screw 2" x 1/4" battens to the cross members to take the ply lining. I then glued carpet underfelt, (the thin waterproof foam stuff), to all the bare panels for insulation. Note: the insulation also deadened the sound considerably resulting in a much more comfortable ride. Insulation is important as condensation will form when warm moist air (from your breath and cooking) meets cold metal surfaces.
Next I cut 1/8" ply to fit the side panels and roof. I sanded and varnished it with PU varnish which brought out the beautiful grain and colour of the wood.
Fitting more battens to the sides and wheel arches, I began to box them in and make cupboards and worktops.
I made a floor out of cheaper chipboard and covered it in industrial carpet.
I then could easily fasten screws into this wood floor for the brackets securing the units.
I fitted the submersible pump into the water bottle and attached the tubing to the electric tap and wired in the electrics. I fitted the leds and spotlight into the roof panel before fitting it.
I secured the gas cooker with wingnuts to the worktop. The cupboard door handles were made from the leather of an old belt and I added magnetic catches. The folding table was made with a wide rubber strip as a hinge, it could be folded and stowed back onto the worktop sideways. I could use this table by sitting cross legged and eat at it, or use my laptop plugged into the 240v socket. (that's for the UK, it's 110v in the USA I think?).
The split charge diode works by isolating the vehicle battery and charges the auxiliary battery when the alternator is charging. i.e. when the engine is going. (Note: If I built this now I would use a more up to date, battery to battery VSR, voltage sensing relay, instead). All the electrics went through a fuse/switch panel with cut-off isolator.
The great thing about this micro camper is that it in no way LOOKS like a camper and yet can sleep two in comfort and can go anywhere a car can go, unlike larger vehicles. I ended up using it on many occasions to go to events, like music evenings (when not wanting to drink and drive), parties, weekend expeditions, sports events and even work placements. You can still put cycles inside, for example, just using it as a plain van whenever required.
I thought that people would think I was crazy doing this, but I found a great deal of interest when I was building it and since.
Let me know if you have done something similar, any questions welcome.
Footnote: I am living full time in a much bigger van that I am upgrading. I will share that when I've finished converting it.