From Empty Shell to a Live/Work Space on Wheels—a Van Gets a Road Trip Makeover
Me and you and a dog named Myka, travelin’ and livin’ off the van.
Source: Jon Mattrisch
Some might call it a camper van. But really, for owner Jon Mattrisch, this Ford Transit 350 hybrid delivers so much more. Gracie Gray, as it’s named, functions as a four-wheeled vacation home, tour bus and photo studio. In it, Jon; his wife, Krisha; and their dog, Myka, are taking an 18-month journey [read more here]—one where this little troop will devour the greatest beauty the USA can serve up. And Jon, a professional landscape photographer, will capture every stunning pixel of it for posterity.
Before embarking on this odyssey, Jon began with a blank canvas—an empty cargo space that he transformed into a comfy, functional home and workspace. After her makeover, Gracie Gray now boasts an electrical system, solar panels, exhaust fans, portable toilet, cooking facilities, a fridge and more.
Here, Jon documents Gracie’s extensive . . . let’s call it, vansformation.
Jon laid out a subfloor frame.
Jon cut pieces of Polyiso board, which he installed inside the subfloor frame (seen in last photo). This insulation layer would live beneath the plywood and vinyl plank flooring. Myka, meanwhile, steadied the wires.
Before final installation, Jon needed to decide placement for electrical components, including four 100 ampere-hour AGM batteries, a 3,000-watt inverter/charger, the AC/DC distribution box, the solar MPPT charger and all related wiring.
The view into the van via a giant hole Jon cut in the side panel. This will allow for adding horizontal space via flares.
Jon added ¼-inch plywood walls, vinyl plank floors and a ceiling made from pine tongue-and-groove board. The flares (rear left and right) provide an additional 6-plus inches of horizontal space for the bed area. Batteries, meanwhile, have been mounted at bottom left.
Jon tested the bed frame.
The finished van with kitchen, left, and bench area with computer monitor, right.
The front seating area. These two benches can be moved to create additional seating, and double as storage boxes. For additional storage, Jon built a center console, which he installed in the cab between the driver and passenger seats. The wall-mounted computer screen, at left, serves as both a work tool and as a TV.