For those who need more amenities than a mere car can provide, a conversion van can be the best option. For travelers, executives or those in specific service industries, a conversion van can offer the features that make their journey a productive and/or enjoyable one.
But what is a conversion van? In basic terms, a conversion van is a regular, full-sized van that has been fitted with non-factory standard equipment to make it suitable for a specific purpose. For instance, a recreational conversion van may be fitted with a foldout bed, a sink and stove, and a retractable dining table.
A conversion van designed for executives may include plasma screen television sets with satellite reception or laptop ports with wi-fi connectivity. A conversion van intended for medical use may have special hospital monitors installed to record a patient’s condition, or special lifts for handicapped patients confined in a wheelchair.
The installation of any of these special features, ordinarily not found in a van right off the assembly line, classifies a van as a conversion van. Additionally, vans that have been modified by individual owners as a do-it-yourself project also qualify as a conversion van, since it has been modified from its original form.
As stated, conversion vans usually begin as simple full-size cargo vans, either half-ton or three-quarter ton. The most common models are the Dodge Sprinter, the Ford E-Series or the Chevy Express/GMC Savana van. These vehicles are usually stripped down models, most times containing only the most basic of interiors, leaving them free to be customized in any number of ways. While many auto manufacturers produce vans these days that come directly off the assembly line with features that used to be reserved only for post-production modified vans, there are specific companies that specialize in van conversion and work closely with the original manufacturers to be in agreement on certain specifications.
For instance, the Conversion Van Marketing Association has partnered with General Motors to work solely with GM and Chevy vans. And there are a select few companies that are officially authorized to convert Dodge Sprinter vans, such as the Midwest Automotive Designs Corporation in Elkhart, Indiana.
This does not mean that there are not other companies that work in the conversion van field. There are any number of private companies that work on vans brought in by individuals and customize them to the customer’s specifications, creating one-of-a-kind designs that reflect the personality of the owner.
But in the beginning, most vans slated for conversion are clean slates, with only the most necessary of interior details: driver’s seat, passenger’s seat and steering wheel, and even these features may soon be modified. From this blank canvas the required special features are added, along with the requisite wiring and body modifications. And as this conversion progresses, the van begins to take shape into the desired function.
Conversion vans can have different purposes. Medical, business or recreation, the conversion van can be configured to provide accommodations for a variety of needs.
Outdoor enthusiasts are naturally drawn to campervans, which include such welcome features as toilets, refrigerators, sinks, sofa beds and a microwave over or stove. Some models may include a canvas top that pops up to allow users to stand while inside. The creation of a conversion vans such as these make a separate trailer (not to mention the added weight that can affect driving and mileage) unnecessary. Have such amenities close at hand also means that nature loves can venture even further into the wilderness, not tied down by the need to be close to a camping site with bathroom facilities and showers.
Office vans can take the busy businessperson away from the building and out in the field where they may be needed. Equipped with a desk and chair, office conversion vans may also include the typical office equipment: fax machine, copier, and laptop computer. Additionally, the office van may include a mobile wi-fi hotspot so that users can check and send email, surf the web or download important data.
Related to office vans are those used by television and radio stations, which contain much of the equipment used by those media outlets so that they may broadcast from the field where the news is developing.
Medical conversion vans contain vital equipment that can monitor the condition of an injured person until they can be transported to a hospital emergency room. In a similar vein, a disability van can be converted to accommodate a person bound to a wheelchair, with a special lift or ramp to raise the chair and user into the vehicle. Some vans are capable of carrying several wheelchair users safely and securely.
Other types of conversion vans include executive luxury vans equipped with satellite television and minibars and motorhomes which are campervans that have been extended a bit further (usually one or two extra feet) and offer even more room.
Thought they usually start off as stripped-down cargo vans, conversion vans begin to take shape through either one of a few officially authorized conversion companies or individual designers, and can take several forms including campervans, office vans or medical vans.