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Nice High-Top Van Conversion

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This is the beautiful high-top conversion van opened by new friend Jason. He turned it into a wonderful little home!

This is the beautiful high-top conversion van owned by new friend Jason. He turned it into a wonderful little home!

It’s been awhile since I did a post on a van conversion so I guess it’s time especially since this one fell into my lap! I was at the Grand Tetons NP and I’d parked off the road and was wandering around taking photos of wildflowers when another nice van pulled up and parked and the driver got out. I didn’t think much of it because there were lots of van in the Park. We exchanged pleasantries about how pretty the flowers were and then he took some pictures.
Looking in the side door you can see his cooler and water jug. On the far wall is a cabinet he built with his 5 gallon bucket under it.

Looking in the side door you can see his cooler and water jug. On the far wall is a cabinet he built with his 5 gallon bucket under it.

After a bit he asked if he knew me and if I had a website, of course I answered I did and he said he thought so and introduced himself as a reader. He said his name was Jason and he had just bought this nice van and converted it and was on the road full time now. He offered to let me take a look inside and, of course, I said I’d like to. He did such a nice job that I asked if he would be willing to let me take some pictures and do a post on it. He liked the idea so we were agreed. I told him where I was camping and he left to see more of the park and joined me that evening in my camp.
Looking in from the back door you can see he built the bed across the van and built it up on a platform with drawers. They make excellent use of the large storage area under the bed.

Looking in from the back door you can see he built the bed across the van and built it up on a platform with drawers. They make excellent use of the large storage area under the bed.

Unfortunately  I lost the notes I took so I don’t have many details, but the pictures will tell the story anyway. The main thing I liked about it was the drawers he installed under the bed and the very nice shelves he built around where the high-top attaches to the roof. Because he is from the south, he installed a powered Fantastic Fan Roof Vent and had a nice portable fan to use inside the van. Honeywell Turbo-Force Fan
Not only do hte drawers make very good use of he spade, they also make it very easy to organize and find things.

Not only do the drawers make very good use of the space, they also make it very easy to organize and find things.

The single largest storage space in most conversions is the area under the bed. The problem is that it’s hard to make good use of that space. If you just shove layers of things under the van, the space above the initial level of things you put under their is wasted. One way to use the whole space is to pile a bunch of stuff in a plastic tote, which let’s you fill the whole space right up to the bed.  But, piling everything in a tote makes it really hard to find anything. Unless you are really organized you won’t know which tote it’s in, and even if you do, you still have to take everything out to find it. Either you waste a bunch of space or you make it a pain in a butt to find anything–both are far from ideal!

The drawers are easily accessed from the inside. Notice the fan on the table beside the bed.

The drawers he built-in under the bed solves both problems, it makes excellent use of the space and makes it all totally organized. It’s a little unhandy to only be able to reach the rear drawers from the back doors, but most of us have enough outside stuff like camping gear and tools that it’s not a big problem.

Like many high-tops, their is a lot of storage space above the driving area, but he enlarged it by building shelves along the side walls.

Another thing I really like about his build is the wonderful shelves he built around the high-top. Most of us have enough stuff that we need to make use of every  bit of available space we can in the van and where most of us go wrong is by not using vertical space. By building the shelves around the top, he gets back a whole bunch of space and it takes no living space. It’s a really good idea!

The shelves along the sides and back. Also, notice all the windows. While there are negatives to all the windows, you must admit that being able to look out in a 360 degree circle is truly wonderful. Think carefully before you get a cargo van to be sure that you can live without the windows. Some can, but many people can’t.

Another thing Jason did that I highly recommend is install a powered Fantastic Fan Roof Vent. He is from Tennessee so he had to be able to cope with some high heat and nothing helps more than installing a powered vent. Most of us aren’t familiar with working with the fiberglass in the high-top but it really is not more difficult than working with the normal steel roof.   Search YouTube for videos and go on my forum for specific advice. You can get the vent from Amazon here: Fan-Tastic Vent with Reverse Switch
As you saw in a picture above, he also has a portable fan he uses inside the van. If you are a tight budget and can’t afford a powered fan you can save money by getting a non-powered vent and getting a portable fan (or two) instead. It’ll work nearly as well and cost a third as much. A combination of both is best, but just a vent and a portable fan will work extremely well. My favorite 12 volt portable fan is also made by Fantastic Fan, you can get it from Amazon here: Fan-Tastic Endless Breeze Portable Fan or here:
Nearly all of us need some electrical power, especially if you want to run one or two fans and use your phone, laptops, cameras and have some lights at night. For that, your very best solution is a small solar panel and a house battery. Jason bought the Renogy 100 watt kit from Amazon and it has been working very well for him.  It has met all his small needs without a problem and cost very little. You can get the Renogy 100 watt kit here: Renogy 100 Watts Monocrystalline Solar Kit or here:

The Renogy 100 watt panel on his roof has been all he needed so far.


The Renogy solar controller that comes with the kit.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of Jason’s van and have gotten some ideas for your next conversion! Here are some of the things in his van available from Amazon. If you click the link to go to Amazon I’ll make a little money on any of your purchases, even if its a different item. Best of all, it won’t cost you anything:
Igloo 6 Gallon, Blue Water Container
Fan-Tastic Vent Vent with Reverse Switch
Fan-Tastic Endless Breeze Potable Fan
Renogy 100 Watts Monocrystalline Solar Kit
Honeywell TurboForce Fan


  1. Openspaceman

    I sort of wish I would’ve kept my van build a lot simpler when I see guys out there living the dream…This is a real good balance between function and style. Nice job!

    • Bob

      I agree totally Openspaceman!

  2. Linda Sand

    I immediately turned to look at our short entertainment center to see if a couple of them would make a good base for a bed. Ours currently holds up Dave’s large screen TV so I’m sure a couple of them would hold my weight. Drawers! I’m always looking for good ideas for my next van so I appreciate this one as I do all the conversions you show us. Thanks, Bob and Jason, for sharing this one.

    • Bob

      You are very welcome Linda!

  3. Lucy

    Nice van, well designed, simple and functional; the bed held by the drawers seems like a very creative way to keep all handy & organized. Love this van !
    Thanks to Jason & Bob.

    • Bob

      You are very welcome Lucy!

  4. tommy helms

    Bob’s getting recognized in public now. Fame and fortune soon to follow…maybe not for him, but certainly for Cody

    • jeff

      Pretty soon he’ll be driving one of those big diesels like Oprah owns!

      • Bob

        Sounds good to me!

  5. Scott

    I really like this rig and enjoyed this post. Simple and elegant enough.
    I guess the house battery is in the cabinet, do you remember the size of the battery (ies?) and was it connected to the alternator also? or an A/C Shore power inlet? or just the panels?

    • Bob

      I’m sorry Scott, I don’t remember. My recommendation would be one 12 volt battery for a 100 watt panel and to also hook it to the alternator. The two compliment each other very well.

  6. Bill

    Really intensely simple but totally all u need build! I am impressed with the storage. I agree Cody is destined for fame and wealth! LOL
    Bill n Sadie plus Mic

    • Bob

      Thanks Bill!

  7. Joy

    Nice and simple…I love it!

    • Bob

      Thanks Joy, I agree, the simpler the better usually.

  8. Travelman

    I just bought 93 Ford conversion van with the 116 thousand miles on it. I been trying to figure out where to start and Jayson idea seem simple way to do with van. Thanks Bob and Jayson for shering.

    • Bob

      You’re very welcome Traelman. At the top of the website are some pictures and below them are some menus. Clock on “Van Conversions” and you’ll see many other examples of vans.

  9. Cae

    You can also buy a solar powered vent that goes right on the roof.
    Pit built for boats , so it won’t leak and does not need to opened.

    • Bob

      Good idea Cae.

  10. jonthebru

    Question: When you remove all the fluff from the conversion vans upper portion are there ways to easily install the cabinets like he did or is it an engineering feat to do so? For example nuts, wood or metal strips attached or embedded in the fiberglass?

    • Bob

      jonthebru, I can’t give you a good answer for that because I’ve never worked with fiberglass. I know someone who somehow glued boards all along the roof wherever she needed to attach things. I don’t know the exact method she used but you can go on my forum and there are many experts on fiberglass that can walk you through the whole thing.

  11. Connie

    Great looking van Jason! Bob I want to thank you for this site. It’s like you slipped into my mind and read it. I especially love the eloquent essay on lives of quiet desperation. I closed my blinds since it was so autobiographical. Unfortunately, some of us have to take care of other people so we have to live vicariously through you. I at least intend to get a small rv for some vacation trips. Thanks again

    • Bob

      Thanks Connie! I understand that some people can’t just head out. But I think you have a great idea to make small steps to make your life better. Even taking occasional trips will make your life better and happier. I wish you the best!

  12. John Geering

    Hello & Happy New Year 2016 !
    Would appreciate comments: pros & cons of living/traveling in a ‘conversion van’ [need to buy] vs. towing a 10′ ‘cargo-trailer conversion’ behind a perfectly-preserved ’95 MBZ C-280 ‘smaller’ sedan I OWN.
    Many thanks !

    • Bob

      John, first be sure that the car is rated to tow that way and be sure the trailer has it’s own brakes. Bear in mind that it’s one thing to tow a trailer 2-3 times a year and a very different thing to live in it and tow it all the time. That will cause much faster wear and tear on the car.
      All the positives are with the car/trailer. More room’comfort, better MPG, less expense to buy. But, trailers are a pain in the butt to tow and they will greatly restrict how far off-road you can go.
      If you are mostly going to stay in one place a lot then the trailer will work well. If you’re going to travel a lot then the van would be better.

      • John

        Many thanks Bob ! ! summer ’15, I had proper hitch installed by U-Haul, puled loaded 5′ x 8′ trailer from CO to NJ, then same back thru CO to WA State. Living out of a converted trailer would weigh less than what I pulled, describe above ! Now will look seriously for one !
        Thanks again & bet for ’16 !
        P.S. I’m “stuck” in Tonga, the South Pacific til mi-April – heck, somebody’s gotta do it ! LOL LOL

        • Bob

          Thanks for taking one for the team John!

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