DIY Van Conversion Build Journal

Van Conversion

What is in this post?

This is the main post, where I have links to pages that cover my DIY campervan conversion on a new 2019 Ram Promaster 3500 159 EXT Wheelbase cargo van. It contains my process, materials used, and things that I think would have been helpful to have known during or before building.


I am not a van conversion professional or professional handyman. This is a documentation of my experience and so you should make your own decisions on how to build your own van, and seek professional guidance if you are unsure. This blog post also contains affiliate links, so if you click a product link and buy from the merchant, I will receive a commission fee at no additional cost to you. So, buying through my product links is the best way to say thanks if this blog post was at all helpful to you. In addition, If you’d like to support me more directly, check out my Print Shop to order fine art prints of my photography work.


Van Tour:

No items found.

Van Features:

Built for full-time living and working for 2 people and 1 dog. My conversion design is also centered around these storing gear for these activities:

  • Mountain Biking
    • 2 Mountain bikes, helmets, tools/pump, pads, and bags.
  • Skiing
    • 4-6 pairs of skis, poles, helmets, BC gear, outerwear.
  • Rock Climbing
    • Big ol’ rack
    • Ropes
  • Backpacking
    • Backpacking bags, tents, sleeping bags, gear.
  • Work
    • Camera equipment, tripod, computer & electronics storage, comfortable work area for two.
  • Dog
    • Food storage, bowls, toys, leash, etc.

Why Promaster?

There are way better resources than me for this question, but here is why I picked the Promaster:

  1. It’s wider
    • It’s boxy. This is really, really nice when you’re working with such a tight space. Shorter people can even put horizontal beds in quite comfortably, and this gave me room to have a pretty big clothing storage area next to a bed that is approximately full-size in width. I am 6’1″ and therefore standing in the van is huge for me.
  2. Front-wheel drive
    • The turning radius is nice. It handles nicely in the snow. Plenty of people online arguing about whether FWD is actually better or not. It still feels like your driving a big heavy 2wd cargo van when conditions get slippery. There’s pretty solid reasoning behind all the weight being on the back tires for RWD when you are going up a hill, but I have driven Teton Pass (10% grade) in the middle of a 16″ storm without chains on (with Ko2 snow tires). I have heard people say they like the 2wd Sprinters better than the 4wd ones for winter conditions. I have heard people brag about cruising past 4wd Sprinters pulled over chaining up in their Promaster. You can basically find every opinion possible on the internet and in the end, you just gotta pull the trigger on something!
  3. Maintenance
    • Because I haven’t always had the best experience with Ford in the past and the Mercedes are notoriously expensive to repair according to the info I have read, I was leaning towards the Promaster here. I don’t imagine there is a big difference overall between the Dodge and Ford maintenance costs.
  4. Diesel vs. Gas
    • I didn’t want to deal with a Diesel vehicle because of their performance in winter and the maintenance costs of diesel mechanics. I also read that they stopped producing the Deisel Promasters because they were “lemons”. I’m sure that’s an exaggeration but it didn’t instill confidence in me.
  5. New vs. Used
    • I went new because I couldn’t find a good deal on the extended size of the Promaster lightly used. Since I was going to put so much money and use into it I wanted to start with a new or lightly used vehicle.
  6. Looks
    • In my opinion, the Sprinters look the best, and similarly, the Promaster and Transit are pretty neutral. The Nissan’s aesthetic is horrible though and that’s why I haven’t even mentioned them. Those are the only 4 models I considered because I was looking at cargo vans exclusively.

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