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Well-Driven 2003 Chevy Cargo Van Converted To Elegant Living

This post was updated on April 20th, 2024

Zach Both has a passion for filmmaking. He’s worked as both a designer and art director, and now he can claim fame as one helluva van camper builder.

He chronicled his van camper renovation in a reddit mega post.

Many might say that a van with over 200,000 miles already on it wouldn’t be an ideal starting vehicle. That fact didn’t stop Zach from putting in hours of sweat and about $12,000 into renovating the interior and exterior to pristine condition.

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Here’s what the van looked like before he started working on it.

Zach Both van

What he wanted the finished product to look like.

Future van reno

First step: remove the floor mat and vacuum!

Vacuum in van

Grinding away bits of rust in preparation for the renovation.

Grinding a van floor

On went a new coat of white paint.

Painting a van floor

With spray adhesive, he added foam insulation to the van’s interior walls.

Spray adhesive

Insulation on van walls

More insulation on the floor and ceiling.

Insulation on floor and ceiling

He even added fiberglass insulation (wrapped in plastic bags) to the lower side walls.

Insulation wrapped in bags

Cutting the birch subfloor.

Cutting birch subfloor

Birch subfloor in van

Adding a ventilation van to the roof.

Adding fan to van roof

This load of plaster lath he got for free from a church.

Plaster lath

With some sanding and stain, it looks great as an interior roof covering!

Plaster lath installed

Custom-fitted wooden paneling takes away the ‘van’ feeling.

Wooden paneling

Laminate flooring.

Laminate flooring

Bed box.

Bed box

Roughing out the kitchen area.

Kitchen area in van

This roof rack is from a Hummer…!

Hummer roof rack

And allowed him to install solar panels securely up top.

Installing solar panels

Exterior of the van after finishing the remodel.

Exterior of van

Custom cabinets in the kitchen.

Custom kitchen cabinets in van

This bed came from a broken down IKEA futon.

Bed from IKEA futon

Looking out the rear of van

The small workspace next to his bed provides room for a computer. After all, if you’ve got to work from the road…you need some elbow room.

Van workspace

Some have wondered about bugs getting in through the windows. He says that,

The borders of the window actually have velcro all around them. Then I made removable mosquito screens (using that pet mesh screen stuff) that attach to it. Don’t have any photos of it though.

Additional counter space

These neat chalkboard windows provide privacy and interior accents!

Chalkboard windows

One thing you might find missing, a toilet – he said he uses public restrooms, and has a gym membership to use their shower facilities.

Another tidbit: the added weight of the van conversion did take its toll. He gets only 10 to 12 miles per gallon now.

Zach captured the entire build-out in a website he calls a ‘friendly advisor’ to those wishing to convert their own van. The Vanual, as his website is named, has detailed sections on what to use for flooring, wall covering, and electrical and solar needs, among a bunch of other super helpful topics. Check it out!