Minivan Camper from the Netherlands!

One of our readers sent me this great link last week, but I am late in getting it posted due to another computer issue.

Last October, my laptop was locking up. After a total system recovery, That problem went away, but a couple weeks later it was failing to stay on. It would just decide to shut down, sometimes a few seconds after hitting the on button, sometimes after the log-on screen came up, and sometimes just before the desktop was completely loaded. For awhile, it seemed that after the desktop was comletely loaded I could use it all day without an incident.

But then it happened… it shut down right in the middle of an hours work and I lost everything! It was just as though someone had pulled the battery! That was last Monday, and I have spent the better part of a week again, getting this new laptop set up with everything. I had put off doing it earlier (but should have) and now it had to be done!

I think that after nearly 16 hours of use every day for the past two+ years, I just plain wore that little Acer Aspire out (as evidenced by key identifiers worn off and the space bar nearly worn through!) They just don’t make them like my old ThinkPad anymore!

All my files from the other computer were easily recoverable from Carbonite, although that process took several hours. Carbonite does not store downloaded programs, though, so I still had to load those manually. And since Windows 7 does not use Outlook Express, all of my saved OL files had to be installed on the new W7 platform, which took awhile to figure out. But now I am up to full speed again.

Anyway, computers are not what this blog is about, so let’s get back to business. The site that was referred to me is http://www.minicamper.nl/auto/interieur.htm which is based in the Netherlands. I have researched and studied a lot of conversions, and I have to say, this is the neatest small, factory-made conversion I have seen yet! It is based on the Ford Transit Connect chassis (they say it’s the longer one), and has more innovative features than I have seen on anything before!

Their changing photos go a bit fast to really study any detail, but keep in mind, you can right-click on the photos as they come up, and then save them to a file or print them. Don’t worry, they won’t use a lot of ink, as they are only about 2-1/2 x 3-3/4 inches, but I suppose you could enlarge them in your printer settings.

The first thing that caught my eye was the full, penthouse-style pop-up top, which is something that I feel is a very worthwhile addition for standing room inside the van. And the pent-house style top gives you standing room all the way back, unlike the V-tops. It is much better than a “bubble” top because it does not raise the center of gravity, nor does it create unnecessary wind drag to bring fuel consumption down. Also, it makes a “stand-up” vehicle garageable and keeps it from looking like a regular RV, which is also a necessity in some neighborhoods. Without windows or “hookups” on the side, it would be easy to mistake it for an ordinary delivery van.

Don’t get me wrong… I still think a pop-top is an expensive item which you are going to lose when you trade the vehicle (as will happen with everything else in a factory made unit), but if you have the money for the purchase, and want a ready-made high mileage vehicle (27 MPG highway), then it can be a worthwhile investment. The savings in fuel (as opposed to full sized vans) would easily compensate for what you might lose in depreciation).

The second thing that caught my eye was the swing out cook-top, which allows you to cook either inside or outside the van. What a neat idea (for a “fixed in place” device)! Also, from searching through all the pages and pictures, it appears that the small cooler is on a slide-out under the cook-top and part of the sink.  Although I like the idea of the slide out, the cooler (refrigerator?) is somewhat small, and only pulls out toward the inside. I feel that if the cook-top is going to swing out, then why couldn’t they use a larger sliding track, so that the cooler would also pull out toward the outside? It would make it much more efficient for access for outside picnics. But that’s a small concern, and could probably be remedied.

Also, in looking at the pictures, I see they have an optional tent for the back of the vehicle, so that you can expand your living space. They said that the tent is “self-supporting”, which is an inprovement over the “TailVeil”, but I don’t remember seeing a floor in the tent that they showed. To me, that would be a necessity to keep ground-dwelling bugs out! But you could always buy a Sportz SUV tent, and have all that.

Please notice the YouTube video at the bottom of the home page, which is in English. It would be nice if they made a site version in English, but maybe that’s in the works, so we have to give them a chance. If you need to translate anything on the pages, you can check out a reasonably good site at http://freetranslation.com. The free version let’s you check out about a paragraph at a time, by copying it and pasting it into the form box, but for a free service it seems to work OK… not perfect… but OK.

Seeing some of these sites has given me new ideas for a gaucho couch variation of our minivan camper, and I may add these new ideas to the book.

For instance, we have a set of like-new dinette cushions left over from our 34-foot Class-A motorhome, from when I removed the dinette, put the couch on the wall where the dinette was, and then added two FlexSteel rocker/swivel/recliners to the “living room”. (I said before that we  like our recliners!) These four cushions make a 39-inch-wide dinette or single bed. Out of curiosity, I measured the cushions laid out lengthwise, and they measure 75-inches, which is a standard RV-length bed.

I chose not to use these for my original minivan idea, although it would have saved some money buying new cushions. Also, for the two of us, I wanted a bed wider than 39-inches. Neither did I want a dinette taking up room at the front of the minivan. But seeing some of these other ideas, it suddenly hit me! I could turn them into a gaucho couch and still make them into a bed along one side!

Some advantages might be that the porta-potty could go in the back, rather than behind the driver’s seat, where it would be more convenient to be picked up and moved to another location (or even emptied). Some cabinetry could be added to the passenger side of the van, allowing for the possibility of some swing outs/slide-outs at both the side door and at the rear of the van. By hinging a sink or stove at the right rear corner, it would allow it to overhang the rear bumper when pulled out, so that you don’t bang your shins on the bumper! And the liftgate of the minivan would provide a ready made shelter from a light rain or sun. I am starting to imagine all kinds of possibilities!

I have no other use for these cushions. They have been stored since the early 90’s when we remodeled the old motorhome! The question now is whether time has deteriorated the foam inside them. Still that is a minor issue, as I can always get new foam or even have new coverings made. They can still be used for the start of a new prototype van conversion, and then be replaced later!

So meanwhile, enjoy the ideas that can be obtained from such sites as http://www.minicamper.nl/auto/interieur.htm and I will keep these new ideas in mind as I work on my initial version of the “self-created” minivan camper concept and see what I can do about a gaucho couch version of it. If you want a recliner, though, you may have to supply your own!

As always, let me know your thoughts!