By Cheri Sicard
In the video below, Bob Wells from Cheap RV Living interviews Kelly, an engineer by trade, who created about the most advanced DIY camper van you will ever see. He even installed a slide room on a van! As Bob says, “Everything you could want in a van is in this van!”
Kelly’s engineering mindset has allowed him to come up with many innovative ideas for his camper van, but working at a fabrication shop has given him the ability to actually turn those ideas into a tangible and practical reality.
Kelly’s goal was to build an RV that did not need to stay at RV parks and plug in (a man after my own heart). Not only did he accomplish that, but he did it without needing any propane in his rig!
It started with a Ram ProMaster 350 van, the biggest one they make. It sits on a 1-ton chassis. Kelly chose this van because it has lots of room underneath where you can hang things. For instance, your water tanks.
Kelly ordered a van with sliding doors on both sides so that he could add his slide-out room on one side. A DIY van with a slide out—I am amazed at that alone!
The pair started the tour with this feature, as it truly sets this particular van build apart. Kelly says it was important to order the van with the slider door. Then, you can order a slide out kit. You then basically build a box that gets fastened to the van door, and a frame for the track to mount to before wiring it all in.
The kit Kelly used is the same type that an RV manufacturer would buy when putting slides in a trailer, 5th wheel, or motorhome.
Kelly’s slide out on a van is a regular 12-volt powered slider just like you might have on a larger RV. It slides in and out with the touch of a button. When closed, you might never know it slides as his stealth van looks like every other van in the world.
When opened, it provides what looks like a huge amount of space, even though in reality it’s only about 18 inches.
Unsurprisingly, the side of Kelly’s van is also impressive:
- The slide room provides counter/table space on top of lots of storage drawers
- There’s a sink, fridge, butane stove, and microwave
- Full-size bed with lots of storage underneath
- 780 watts of solar panels on the roof
- Rooftop DC split system air conditioner
- 700 amp hour lithium batteries
- A second inverter that charges the batteries while driving
- Composting toilet
- 2 freshwater tanks and 1 gray water tank
- A hydronic system that keeps the battery and water tank heated
- In-floor radiant heat
Be sure to watch the video for the full tour. The quality of Kelly’s workmanship is impressive and you are sure to be amazed by what he has done to this formerly humble little van.