When choosing the perfect van for you and your build, there are lots to consider. Most importantly, you need to think about what is important to you and what you need your van to achieve.
- Will you need one that is 4-wheel drive?
- Is being able to stand up inside important to you?
- Do you want a shower or toilet?
- How much stuff will you travel with?
- Gasoline or Diesel?
- Will you be hauling anything?
- How many windows are too few windows?
- Are you looking for something to boondock for long periods of time or week-long trips to Mexico?
- Do you have the knowledge and tools to work on older vehicles?
- Do you have a way to get hard to find parts?
- How much money do you have?
- Will you want to mount stuff to the outside of your rig?
- Do water tanks fit up under the floor? Are they at risk for freezing?
- Are you a Club Wagon Cool or Econo-lame?
As you have probably already guessed, I am a Club Wagon Cool person. When I started my Instagram and Pinterest search for ideas on how I was going to customize my van, I quickly noticed that most of the low top conversion vans were boring. Looking at a white Express Van or a dumpy Econoline from ‘92 every day wasn’t the way that I wanted to live my life. That’s where I got the idea for picking up an old hippie van and turning it into a modern living space. There are plenty of reasons to get into a newer van, but I found more for getting an old one: They are huge. Parts are cheap. The engines run forever. Every part I could ever need is in any junkyard in the United States. Old vans have character and a vibe about them. And they’re a third of the price of a 20-year-old cargo van.
I didn’t want to get anything too big, because of parking and U-turns, so I made a list of my hobbies (backpacking, climbing, cycling, painting) and all the equipment I needed for each of those to figure out the amount of room that I was going to need for storage. Then I moved onto realistically sorting out how much living space (kitchen, bed, clothes and food storage, emergency toilet, floor space) I really needed. I went through 10-15 different ideas of how I was going to lay everything out before landing on the way I did mine.
Take the time to find all of the ways that it will and will not work before adding anything permanent.
I came across my Club Wagon on Craigslist in Portland, Oregon for $4,200 and a snatched it up immediately. The 1973 E-100 Econoline Club Wagon came with wrap-around windows, three rows of seats, a 302 V8 paired with a C4 transmission, air conditioning, and power steering.
There is something unique about driving old vehicles. I have so many windows that I have a panoramic view everywhere I go, it’s fantastic. But I also have a lot of places for light to sneak in at night.
Although parts are super cheap and readily available, it breaks more often than a new vehicle. Make sure you enjoy working on cars if you get an old van.
If you need help finding the right van for your build or help putting it all together, send me a message because I’d love to work with you.