From company cargo van to family camper

hyperboarder

Adventurer
I have a pretty random vehicle history. I tend to be an opportunistic buyer, perusing Craigslist when the mood strikes and occasionally buying something I stumble upon. It happens probably every 18-24 months with more planned vehicle purchases interspersed in there as well. This has led to a number of vehicles over the years, but only a few stick out as memorable. My TJ Wrangler, which was the first vehicle I really modified. My Outback XT, which was arguably the most well rounded vehicle I've ever owned. And this old, basic 92 E250, which was purchased ~12 hours after finding it on Craigslist.

Backstory; Some random night in 2012 I was poking around Craigslist and found an ad for a Motovan. 92 RB E250 setup for hauling a pair of dirtbikes inside with mileage that made me do a double take (42k). I emailed the seller, who was quick to respond, but told me I'd have to meet him and the 50 or so contractors that had already emailed about the van in a grocery store parking lot the next day. I responded and after promising I would be using the van for the same purpose he had built it for, he agreed to give me an early look and first right of refusal. I rode my DR650 down the next morning and after about 3 minutes of looking, went to an ATM to get him a surprisingly small amount of money. A few hours later it was in my driveway:





It was originally owned by StorageTek in Louisville, CO as a campus vehicle. When they were purchased by Sun Microsystems, the seller had purchased this van at auction (for an even more surprisingly small amount of money than I paid him), ripped out the racking, threw insulation and pegboard on the walls, a truck tool box in as a wheel chock, and used it a few weekends a year for hauling his bikes to the track. It was mechanically sound but spartan, no cruise, no AC, manual everything, and a collection of random dents with a bit of rust here and there. All in all, not a bad starting point.

My original modification set was small. I moved the box forward a bit to accommodate slightly bigger bikes with the intention of fitting my DL1000 in there from time to time. The first time I tried to load it I ended up dropping the bike on top of myself inside the van, so that has never actually happened. However, my former DR650 and current WR250R fit quite comfortably. I also added a seat in what would be the middle/3rd row position and replaced the stock stereo with a simple Pioneer bluetooth unit and Infinity speakers. That was about it for a few years, it served it's purpose as a moto hauler, building material getter, general utility vehicle.







 

hyperboarder

Adventurer
Fast forward to early 2016. We've decided that some sort of camping rig is needed for some weekend excursions. I spent a couple months looking at small class C RV's, nothing was really jumping out at me though. Mediocre quality for 5 figures, pass. Briefly thought about a trailer, but doesn't really fit the bill right now. We came back to the van and what we could do with it. Not quite ideal for sleeping in, but otherwise a great camping vehicle, which led us to RTT territory. My wife wanted just the RTT, I wanted a small trailer to mount it on. I won:



In reality I expect the RTT to actually reside on top of the van, but we're going to try it both ways and see what we like. We've got two young girls and a pair of dogs that will be joining us, so a little interior build was in order too. We may upgrade the RTT to something big enough to fit the girls too, but for now they have fine sleeping areas in the seat and the padded bench top. I added a 65qt AC/DC fridge, some storage and kitchen gear, and built a platform for the back. Put a table on the rear door too.



Fridge and kitchen on the passenger side, dogs on the driver side, lots of storage in the 2 channels underneath plus inside the cargo box between the seats. Found a passenger seat swivel at the junkyard but couldn't get it to work with the truck box, so it's on Craigslist. Same with a later model center console, just couldn't get it working. Did this instead:



New seat covers, an inverter, and, as of last night, side doors with windows and we're just about ready to give it a proper shakedown. Heading to Bend in about a month to get that done.
 

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hyperboarder

Adventurer
Finally, the current issues. I got the mechanicals fully up to date on maintenance, it could stand a diff fluid swap but can live without it for a bit. However, as I mentioned, it does have a bit of rust:





As of last night the side doors don't quite match either, no silver stripe on the bottom. That plus the rust leads me to wanting to solve both with one fix. My plan is to grind out the rusted areas, patch as needed, prime, and then put bedliner all the way around the bottom. The grille is now black so that should tie it together nicely, especially if I also bedline the bumpers. Any thoughts? There's also some roof/rain rail rust but it's minor and I should have no issue sanding it down, priming, and painting that away.

The other nice to have items would be cruise and AC. Barring doing a junkyard AC system swap, any other good and possibly simpler solutions? How about cruise?
 

Bbasso

Expedition Leader
Adding cruise control on my 2001 was just a few stock parts that can be sourced from the local pullapart.
But on the older models, I'm not sure.
Hopefully it's as easy...
 

hyperboarder

Adventurer
I have actually been eyeballing that kit quite a bit. Not a bad install?

Just got a gallon Monstaliner kit and some chassis saver for the rust/mistmatched door issue. Let the girls choose the color. After a few vetoes, ended up at Outbreak.
 

hyperboarder

Adventurer
Installed one of these tonight, tucked it in to the channel for the gas tank filler. Well hidden and a bit more protected from the elements, doesn't look to be too difficult to get an extension cord to either. Whittling away at the to do list prior to April.

Wanted to clarify a bit on my plans too, though 4WD would be nice, this has been a cheap rig from day 1 so I don't expect it'll ever make it that far. A nice comfy family camping setup is the goal. Heading to the junkyard Friday to see what I can find for cruise and AC.
 

Navi

Adventurer
Installed one of these tonight, tucked it in to the channel for the gas tank filler. Well hidden and a bit more protected from the elements, doesn't look to be too difficult to get an extension cord to either. Whittling away at the to do list prior to April.
I bought that same plug for my block heater and trickle charger. I'm planning to mount it in the bumpers lower valance, but I haven't had the time to mess with it yet.
 

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hyperboarder

Adventurer
I bought that same plug for my block heater and trickle charger. I'm planning to mount it in the bumpers lower valance, but I haven't had the time to mess with it yet.
I've had it for a while, hesitated to install it as it required making a sizable hole. I got motivated last night and it was a piece of cake. The 2" hole is a bit bigger than needed, if you have a 1-7/8" hole saw it'll be a tighter fit and give you more wall between the screw holes and through hole. I also replaced the hardware with a stainless bolt and lock nut set.

Do you have any concerns regarding sparks near the gas cap?
Thought about it, but not really. It's easy enough to be smart about the order of operations, so plug in the van when the cord isn't powered and then plug the other end into shore power, which should mitigate any sparking.
 

ert01

Adventurer
I added that same plug onto the front face of my front bumper. I have my block heater and my battery maintainer hooked up to it.

It works really well up there... if my wife forgets to unplug the van before backing out of the driveway, the cord simply pulls straight out.

If you put it on the side of the van you'd REALLY want to make sure you're unplugged before driving away haha.

I personally would be concerned about putting it anywhere near the gas filler, but then again, I'm an electrician and I work in the petro-chemical industry and we have some rather extreme building specs/codes when it comes to that sort of stuff.
 
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