OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are so many ways to select and customize a sprinter. First, we had to think about our priorities. Second, we had to find a reliable sprinter and didn’t want to spend $50,000 on a new vehicle. Buying a used sprinter in decent shape is a tall order. They are typically commercial delivery vehicles which are sold when the mileage is high and the interior is used up.

We found a sprinter in fantastic shape with low miles at a reasonable price, but it also had a short body – one of the shortest that is offered. We could search for months before finding another sprinter this nice, and it was also only 20 minutes from where we were staying in Phoenix. It just seemed like it was meant to be, so we quickly scooped up this nice little sprinter. We would have less room for storage than we would in one of the longer sprinters, but still a little more than in Vanifest, our current 4×4 Dodge van.

Really, the biggest question was how much were we willing to minimize. Our answer? Plenty!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis small space needed to be designed for maximum efficiency, and we also only had three weeks to complete the conversion before going back to Mexico. We would be staying with Brian’s family for the holidays and they generously allowed us to use their garage and tools for the project. There was a deadline, though. They were preparing to rent their house and spend a year travelling in an RV. This is why the customization had to be finished so quickly.

The project was such a whirlwind. Brian did amazing things with our conversion and I am so incredibly proud of the work he’s done on our new home. First he created a project plan and ordered everything online. The FedEx and UPS trucks made daily stops at the house, sometimes more than once a day. Brian spent a lot of time on the roof of the van installing two large solar panels and a nice roof rack for kayaks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe did all the custom carpentry for the interior and his skills grew exponentially throughout the duration of the project. In the beginning, we didn’t know the true dimensions of a 2 x 4 and were shocked to find out they were actually 1.5 x 3.5 and all our measurements would need to be recalculated. Brian quickly figured out how to use simple plywood and 2 x 4’s to create custom cabinets, a bed platform, a vented box with a gasket for the propane canister and a protective box for the huge auxiliary battery under the bed. He removed and re-installed the headliner to install insulation underneath, plumbed the sink and propane fittings, and cut a corian counter top so it would hold a recessed refrigerator and a sweet combination sink/stove. He even hunted down special hinges online which would hold the upper cabinet doors up when they were open.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe also did all the electrical wiring and installed RGB LED lights which can produce every color of the rainbow. I really wanted these special lights and they are so enchanting. Last but not least, he installed a wonderful heater which will sip a small amount of diesel to provide as much safe interior heat as we would ever want. All that is left to do is to have a sprinter technician drop the fuel tank and install a stand pipe to feed diesel fuel to the heater.

Brian has made my van dreams come true. Oh, how I love this man! I did what I could to assist, like painting, sanding, and making curtains. He did everything else.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was not able to get many photos of the van after the conversion and I plan to do a better write up with more photos after we return to the US this spring. Toward the end of the project I became very sick. And I mean sicker than I have ever been. I picked up a scary respiratory illness in Phoenix and struggled all night to breathe. I felt like we may need to call an ambulance at any moment as I struggled to get enough oxygen. We went to an Urgent Care clinic and found out this kind of thing is very common in Phoenix with all the dust and exotic plants there. This had been my longest stay in Phoenix, and I was also exposed to a lot of dust from the project and stress during the holidays. The nurse just gave me a routine breathing treatment and an inhaler and sent me on my way. It was my first time using an inhaler, exciting!

We had plane tickets to fly to Mexico in two days, and I wondered whether we should stay in Phoenix with the Urgent Care clinic just minutes away, or leave the area since something there was making me very sick. Should I go to Mexico with this health issue looming? Do I trust my body to recover, or will this problem get worse in Mexico?

To be continued…


Lisa Hackett

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, drive from Idaho to Alaska solo, live and work in a van in the wilderness and dodge encounters with wolves and bears. Seriously. More

3 Responses to Striving to Minimize – Customizing a Small Sprinter

  1. Erin says:

    Hope you feel better soon! Can’t wait to see pics of the finished Sprinter.

  2. Chris says:

    I hope you feel better, too. I hope I get to see what a combinations stove/sink looks like and how it works. It must be nice to be able to stand up in your little mobile house!

  3. Duke says:

    Can you post more pics of your van and cool features that you added. Maybe things you woudl of done differently? I will soon be customizing my own sprinter. Thanks

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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