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Ford E250 Van and Honda CBR600RR Motorcycle

Pimp My Van!

Gut It / Plush It / Drive It

Vans are among the most versatile vehicles. People find all sorts of clever ways to make use of the compartment — People and packages are packed in for delivery; living fixtures are installed for camping and living; clients are entertained and business is conducted in posh executive vans. A van can often haul as much as a truck, if not more, and ofter improved security from theft and shelter from the elements. They're ideal family travel means. If down and out you can live in a van. Also handy to have when moving, or helping people move. Great for hauling kids and animals around.

All-Purpose Vehicle

The challenge is maintaining the flexibility of the vehicle. Once fixtures are installed this flexibility can be seriously reduced. It was imperative the van be suitable for daily use, capable of and furnished for long-term travel, as well as hauling heavy equiment like motorcycles and ATVs.

So I went searching for a van with as much interior room as possible, without overtly seeming like a mobile home. Most conversion vans and campers are nice, but have fixed furniture. Captain's chairs firmy bolted to the floor. Kitchen fixtures, shelves and/or compact toilets. A rear bench which folds into a bed. Some vans have a sink and stove, and storage shelves or cupboards. All this stuff reduces the amount of usable space.

Gutted Van Interior

Start with a Hilton Passenger Van

When I got this thing it had a cabin full of comfy seats able to accommodate eight butts in back and two up in the cockpit. Behind the rear bench seat was a luggage compartment separated by a sheet of thick Plexiglas. With the high-top roof and the extended frame the van has about as much cabin room as possible.

The Actual Gutting

First, out came all the seats, seat belts, and related attachments. Then the baggage compartment divider, which put up a fight. With the floor bare the anchors for the motorcycle hooks were bolted in. To prep for the carpet both driver and passenger seats, the assist bar near the side door, and engine cowl were all removed.

Gutted Van Interior
Van Interior

Carpet

After gutting the interior the next major hurdle was installing a carpet. I purchased a 6' x 20' section of some nice blue shag carpet from Home Depot. The boys down at El Kapitan did a fantastic job of installing it, working it around all the edges of the floor plan and carefully tucking it beneath the walls.

Futon Couch and Bed

After reviewing many different convertible couch/bed options I settled on a sectional futon couch which folds down into a bed. Couch beds with metal frames are heavy and bulky and often require being bolted into the floor. Lightweight futon couches are easily removed and quickly stashed, and contribute little to the overall weight of the vehicle.

An exhaustive search finally led me to Futon Factory on Venice Blvd in Los Angeles. They fashioned me a custom set of two futon sections with matching pillows and bolsters. The futons fit neatly between the wheel wells, and when the motorcycle is loaded they rotate length-wise and fit next to the bike in the cabin.

Magnetic Curtains

Window converings in a conversion van, motorhome, RV or fifth wheel are usually collapsible blinds like Venetian blinds, or cloth curtains which can be tied back, or shades on a roll. All of these require some hardware installation which adversely affects the clean appearance of the windows.

After giving velcro some consideration I decided upon a magentic system where strong Neodymium magnet sewn into cloth curtains would attract thin metal plates carefully slipped behind the soft fabric which covers the window frame. I'm inclined to believe this is an original solution.

Loading the Motorcycle

Securing the Motorcycle

In a prior van I was able to snugly fit a heavy Suzuki GSX 1100 Katana. This time around I contended with a much lighter Honda CBR600RR weighing in at 347 pounds dry. Nonetheless the load requirements for this cargo were foremost throughout this entire project. Before the carpet was installed a set of removable bolts were sunk into the floor. Closed hooks were cranked into the wall and one wheel well. Four sturdy straps torque the bike down so that it doesn't move even an inch.

Everything Else Goes Into Bins

Food, clothes, tools, supplies and everything else is put into four large bins. Within each bin is a set of smaller interchangeable containers which facilitate orghanization and reign in the potential chaos the sheer number of separate items could cause.

In fact, everything becomes part of this modular system. Even the motorcycle and its numerous related items could be considered a unique compartment inside the bin which is the van.

Installing Electricity

Finally, after all the stuff was in, an electrical system needed to be devised to power all the house utitites.

  • Remove passenger seats and rear divider
  • Sink threads for removable bolts into floor
  • Install carpeting
  • Find futon couch bed solution
  • Privacy solution: magnetic curtains
  • Replace stock stereo and speakers
  • Embed speakers into cabin wall
  • Get bins for food, clothes, tools and supplies
  • Acquire large water jug and pump
  • Mount AGM batteries into custom framework
  • Install power inverter
  • Bolt in and wire up solar charge controller
  • Install 120V battery charger and rear outlets
  • Install emergency supplies under floor
  • Mount three aircraft reading lights
  • Re-wire cabin lights to run from house batteries
  • Install two auxiliary 12V cigarette outlets in cabin

Completed Tasks

Each one of these tasks was a time-consuming, labor-intensive and/or expensive project.

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