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Van Renovation: 2013 Ford Transit Connect

This blog will document the renovations I did on the 2013 Ford Transit Connect I purchased in October 2021. When I started to look into buying a van in 2020, I had originally wanted to buy a brand new Ford Transit High Roof (so I could stand up), Long Body (so I could put in a queen bed). The plan was to have it arrive from the factory all prepped to my exact specifications. Since my perfect van costs around $50K (not including the renovation process), I was planning on saving my money for a few years before I pulled the trigger. (Sensible Kristin doesn't buy toys on credit.)

After an extremely stressful 2021 tour season, I decided life was too short to wait for the "perfect" van. I wanted to start road tripping during my off season like I did in my car in 2020. I settled on buying a used "starter van" for a fraction of the cost. She's not going to last me forever, but the Ford Transits are considered work horses who will just keep on trucking for a lot of miles.

The Ford Transit Connects were cheaper than full-size vans, so I started there. More recent Connects have a lower roof, so I intentionally chose the older 2013 version with its extended roof. This way, I could install a full-size bedding platform with storage underneath and still be able to sit up fully on the bed during the day. (I don't want to have to perform origami before I get ready for bed at night.)

Once I found and bought the van, I started to make a plan to retrofit it into a mini RV. The van had been a work van, so I knew there was going to be an intensive clean up phase. This is what she looked like when I bought her.

I started by stripping out the floor, seats and ceiling.

It was gross. So much so, that I ended up hiring a mobile detailer to come to me and finish it up.

It was well worth the money to start with a clean slate.

The next step was figuring out the bedding platform and storage area. This involved lots of sketching and measuring.

I live in a 500 sqft condo with no garage, so my construction space and equipment was severely limited. Fortunately, Home Depot will cut wood for you.

Before assembly began, painted everything a light gray color to pretty up the wood.

My poor living room was construction central for about a month.

But the bedding platform (with room for storage underneath) worked perfect in the space.

It even left the whole front area clear so I could put my Diet Dr Pepper cooler right next to the driver seat. #priorities

For the storage area, I made two matching frames with top lifting, hinged lids.

One of them will be for clothes, and the other will cover the cassette toilet which will roll out on wheels.

The next phase was to cover the van walls with something pretty. Since my off season is in the winter, I knew cold weather would be a factor. I decided to make insulation panels to affix to the walls.

I started by tracing the various sections of the walls in the van with transparent tracing paper and then making patterns out of a pretty pastel map fabric. (As my condo décor will attest, I have a thing for maps and pastels.)

Once I cut out the fabric maps, I used them to trace out a 1.5 inch thick Thinsulate backing.

I then spent an entire month sitting my couch, hand sewing them together with a light gray border since the panels were too thick to run through my sewing machine.

They turned out really well. The only one to give me trouble was the ceiling panel which had to wrap around the ceiling fan hole. Full disclosure: I screwed up the first one by putting the hole in the wrong place and had to do it all over.

I finished it off by making skirts to hang down in front of the storage places. I figured that was easier than construction drawers with solid walls. (Plastic bins slide easily on carpet.)

Below is the view from the driver-side door. I bought a matching rug to complete the look.

Below is the view with the rear doors open.

I was going for a light and airy space with a cozy feel. It's not perfect, but I'm very happy with my first attempt at renovating a van. :)

On January 3rd, I depart for a month-long road trip to the four corners region in the west. I'll let you know how it all works out from a practical standpoint.

Post Script: I gave my van the name, "Rocinante." It's the name of the space ship in my favorite TV show, "The Expanse." It's also the name of Don Quixote's horse and John Steinbeck's camper van. The name means "work horse" in Spanish.


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