Our Quick & Easy Ford Transit Connect Campervan Conversion

I’m hoping that this article will reflect the work and love we’ve put into our Ford Transit Connect camper conversion project. We converted our van in two weeks and with only 500$.

Advantages of a small cargo van

Cost vs. Eurovans

When we started researching van conversions, we found out about Nomads with a Van‘s project. Their Kia Sedona minivan conversion was inspiring but very minimalistic and we initially thought it was too “frugal” for us. We wanted a fully-equipped van like people have in Europe when they hit the road. We realized that “Eurovans” (such as Volkswagen Westfalia & Vanagons) and small RVs were not an easy option in the United States, as we would have to consider spending over US$ 20,000.

Size

We then researched large vans commonly used for conversions, such as the Ford Econoline or GMC Safari. Again, we realized they would be over budget when it comes to the conversion. These also consume a lot of gas and are just too big for our driving skills.

The Ford Transit Connect 2010-2013 minivan

So we went back to a more frugal car-to-camper conversion project. After all the minivan format was genius. It was going to give us much more freedom to move around, and after all you just need a bed if you’re following nice weather -the rest of the time being spent outside. We started looking for classic “Soccer Mom” cars (Grand Caravan, Nissan Pathfinder, etc.).

One day, we saw this yellow NYC cab parked in front of our building in Queens:

Ford Transit Connect Taxi

It’s a Ford Transit Connect. We both fell in love with this European looking car which looks very much like a Renault Kangoo. It is certainly not sexy, nor modern. Believe it or not, this car was designed in 2002. I think the designer was probably 75 years old already.  But we thought it was super cute.

After more research, we concluded that it was the perfect car for our need. Besides taxis, this car is typically convenient for people who need accessible transportation (= wheelchairs) or small businesses. There is a lot of headroom and the back is quite large for a 4-cylinder car. Henri is 6 feet tall and would fit inside. Finally, it’s gas-efficient: 22 to 27 mpg.

We found this beauty for sale in Poughkeepsie, NY:

2012, 75K miles. The owner was a blues musician who took it on a U.S. tour already, which was a good sign. We brought it back to NYC and converted it.

How we converted our Ford Transit Connect into a camper in just two weeks for $500

Building a foundation

We started by removing the three back seats, which required purchasing special tools at Home Depot —you need a TORX screwdriver (about $20). Then, we put some plywood to use as a base. Plywood is very easy to customize and purchase at Home Depot (about $30).

Ford transit connect van conversion camper

For the bed, instead of  throwing out our house bed spring box from Overstock, we leveraged it to build a foundation and storage facility for the van. We unscrewed and rearranged the metallic parts in order to fit the size of the area (about the size of a full size bed), which was surprisingly easy -no welding or drilling was even needed. I think we got lucky on that one as the foundation was simply to re-arrange by just moving its different parts.

Ford Transit Connect van to camper conversion - bed frame

The foundation stays in place when the car is moving thanks to some metal brackets screwed to the plywood.

foundation-bed-ford-transit-connect-campervan

What we had in mind is that this foundation would be our storage space, through plastic boxes matching each compartment and accessible from each side of the vehicle (clothing: left door, toiletries: right door, food storage: back door).

Storage

We purchased boxes from four different stores (Ikea, Muji, Amazon, and another professional office furniture site – about $70 total) in order to fit each compartment with the exact dimensions and height we wanted. The boxes act as drawers, accessible from side doors and the back door.

There is just enough space left between the fondation and back doors to leave our cooler and water container.

plan of our Ford Transit Connect camper conversion

We have wall storage on both sides, thanks to an Ikea hack of the SKUBB wall storage solution ($20) with Magnets from Home Depot ($10)

Van conversion wall storage

We also have overhead storage above the driver and passenger seats (we use it for games, stationary) and on each side of the front seats, just like in any car.

Mattress and bed

Once we were done with the storage part, we just threw a full Ikea Meistervik mattress ($220) on top of everything. It is one of Ikea’s thinest and lightest mattresses. We could have put more plywood on top of it to eventually support the mattress, but it wasn’t necessary.

A couple protections, sheets, sleeping bags, pillows… and that was pretty much it.

Our Ford Transit Connect conversion

Fort Transit Connect Van to Camper conversion

More privacy with Reflectix

To create more darkness for a better sleep and privacy, we just used DIY Reflectix blinds ($20). When we left, we had not had time to figure out a proper solution. We initially used tape in order to hang the blinds, like in the picture below. It looked ugly and it was a pain to tape it everyday. We eventually improved it using permanent Velcro, which makes everything much easier and better-looking. Every van conversion I read about uses a lot of Velcro and Reflectix.

For additional privacy we also built a curtain that separates the driver area from the sleeping area. We simply did this with a rope and a $10 blackout curtain from Wal-Mart. On a previous picture you can see that we initially tried out a shower curtain rod, which just didn’t work out for us, it was falling down everyday.

Van conversion DIY curtains

It’s confortable! We don’t need more than this very basic van conversion.

YES, it is super cosy. We always sleep eight or nine hours straight and have no back problems or anything that might stop us from enjoying the adventure. I personally sleep much better than in our previous apartment in NYC (it mostly depends on where you are parked anyway). The storage solution has also been working out quite well. It’s a little annoying when we have to access our food storage, because we have to take the cooler outside first, but it’s not that annoying. I love the large side windows, they make waking up in the nature a very cool experience.

Why we skipped insulation

Our van conversion is of course not suitable for very cold or very hot climates, like an RV or insulated van would be. We haven’t worked on insulation at all. It’s also quite limited when it rains, as we have no living space. We once had to face long periods of rain in Michigan and felt rather limited with this van. So it will work perfectly if you stick to sunny areas and follow good weather.

It’s also a good fit for van dwellers who don’t mind relying on external facilities, from paid campsites for example. We probably use more paid campsites than people with larger vans, and we don’t feel comfortable using Wal-Mart parking lots with such a small van (especially as we need to cook outside). However, our camping costs have been very reasonable (as long as we keep jobs).

Car maintenance and performance

This Ford Transit Connect is easy to maintain. Even if it’s not a common vehicle in the US, we had no trouble finding parts that are easy to replace ourselves (e.g. air filter) in auto parts stores. It’s supposed to be known for transmission issues, but we never faced any -that being said the transmission had been replaced by the previous owner just before we bought the car. It’s really great in terms of gas consumption. The only pain is that it’s really slow in mountains. We avoid turning the A/C on while driving in mountains as it takes too much engine power. Being slow is really the least of our concern though.

Conclusion

We’re very happy we did not invest too much money and time in the conversion, because as travelers we are always outside, which we think is the point of traveling. Facilities (WC, showers…) have been very easy to find in the US. So far, this simple conversion has been working out really well for us.

Free camping Grand Teton

Any questions about our Ford Transit Connect camper conversion? Let me know in comments, I’ll be happy to answer. 

32 Replies to “Our Quick & Easy Ford Transit Connect Campervan Conversion”

  1. J’adore!!! Vous me donner envie de repartir. Et bravo pour le plan du storage, les couleurs sont canons! 😉 miss you les loulou!

  2. Thank you for mentioning the SKUBB storage solution and putting the famous song TLC – no scrubs (Ikea no skubb remix) in my head for the next 24 hours. In exchange, I will have to mention my boy Gradur and his signature song “Calibré”. (3 fois plus que le salaire du maire)

  3. I have the same van! I have been fighting with the shower curtain rod curtain for the past year and have been trying to think of another way to make the curtain work. I love you’re idea might have to try out :).

    1. Hi Sarah! Oh my god I love Vanny Devito!! She should meet with Van Allen, I’m sure they would get along. I’ll keep following your blog! Safe travels

    1. Hi Andrew, sure, it was: https://www.overstock.com/Home-Garden/Priage-9-inch-Queen-size-Easy-to-Assemble-Box-Spring-Mattress-Foundation/10298376/product.html?TRACK=emailcusts&cid=241786&ehid=25DF07BFDE58CEE9E053289C010AB385&fp=f&fp=f&utm_campaign=t_20150115_shipconf&utm_content=e&utm_medium=email&utm_source=strongview

      It is based on a metal frame, the rest is just a cover. Of course, the Queen size doesn’t fit, so we had to rearrange the metal pieces to fit it exactly to our Transit Connect. It worked out well but it was a lucky move, we got this idea as we were about to throw away the metal frame while emptying our apartment.

  4. Hello

    Yhanks for sharing your ideas. I’ m thinking about doing the same conversion and start exploring Portugal and then the rest of Europe.

    I am however lookinh for insulation options. Have you done any research about it, since you posted the article?

    Thanks

    Pedro

    1. Hey Pedro,
      Unfortunately we haven’t explored insulation as we haven’t really needed it. We try to stick to places where it’s never going below 5 or 10 degrees Celsius at night, following the right season. If we were to do it I think we would have a hard time, cause this van has many big windows. If you look up #fordtransitconnect on Instagram, some van dwellers have successfully done it.

  5. Hey guys, awesome job! I’m planning a van conversion this summer! I was wondering if you had any problems with condensation in the van when you slept? Any permanent ventilation strategies or just crack a window type job? Haha
    Cheers,
    Harry

    1. Hey Harry! Thanks for your message. We haven’t insulated the van or built ventilation. When we sleep, there is condensation in the morning yes. We try to leave one of the windows slightly open which kinda solves the problem but it’s not always possible. Honestly, we don’t care 🙂 but we’ve seen people cutting holes in their van to install ventilation. It looks expensive to do that. Good luck!

    1. Hi Leila, sorry for the late response – Absolutely no problems with our transmission which had been replaced once in 70000 miles, just before we bought the car second hand. This car is a frugalist’s dream, it’s very cheap to maintain and cost efficient.

  6. Thank you for this! The details are amazing and I think I could do most of this myself. I got my Ford Transit Connect two days ago and I’m going camping this week. Can hardly wait!

  7. How’s the reliability been? Also how’s the power of the 2.0L engine? I’m debating between this generation and the post-2014 version which has a 2.5L engine that has more power. Nice conversion. Probably going to do something similar but also add secondary battery system.

    1. Hi Chiento, sorry for the late response – Power of this car is really weak, it’s like a Ford Focus- people will laugh at you in mountains. We didn’t care. This car is very gas cost efficient.

  8. Great build! I bought a transit connect as well and have been modifying it for the last two months.
    In my case, I have insulated everything and installed a roof fan. Really glad I came across your pictures to compare and draw inspiration.

  9. Hi! Love your inspiring text and images! 🙂
    I have a Transit Connect too from 2013, but is struggling with the lenght of the bed. Mine is 155cm from backdoor to back of the front seat. Is yours longer or how did you solve it?
    Love, Bård from Sweden!

    1. Hi Bard, sorry for the late response – Our bed was about 180 cm. It was fitting between the back of the front seat and the back door. I’m not sure if you have the newer Ford Transit Connect model? It’s pretty different.

  10. Hi – love your van and the write up of your conversion.

    Can I ask how the eats came out? Just a case of buying the torx screwdrivers and unscrewing them????

    Thanks

    Danny

  11. Hi. Love the blog and your van. It looks ace and hasgiven us the inspiration to do our own.

    Can I ask how tricky it was to remove the seats?

    Many Thanks

    Danny

  12. hi there-
    i am converting a ford transit connect and wonder how you are fitting the rtic cooler under the bed and yet the bed does not look very high up to me. it looks great!
    I am trying to have storage under my bed and want the cooler to go there under as well.
    Thanks!
    How high is your bed from the floor of the van? Can you sit up in the bed?

  13. I just got back from a trip to New Zealand and saw a lot of mini-van conversions. It was summer holidays and I was in a resort destination (for work), so when I went to the beach, the parking lot was full of them. Most of them were Toyotas, but smaller than the U.S.-based Sienna and closer in size to this Transit Connect. One very nice thing I saw is some of the brand-new Toyotas had special magnetic screens that (a) slipped over the open window when the door was in the open position, then (b) stuck with magnets. After putting the screen on, they then closed the door. VERY NICE!

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