Small, Simple, Efficient RAM ProMaster DIY Camper Van Conversion

We have enjoyed RVing over the years, but lost our last RV in a highway crunch.

One thing we did not enjoy about RVing was the 10 mpg gas bills and the 2 lbs per mile of CO2 emissions. So, this project is about getting back into RVing with a smaller footprint.

ProMasterr camper van conversion

 

 

Important Update

The material on these pages describing our camper van conversion has been moved to our new new site dedicated to efficient RVs and camper vans.

The new site covers all the material that is here and adds a lot of new material on other camper van conversions, camper van design and build, resources for people converting vans, other efficient camping vehicles, new ideas in efficient RVs and camper van travel hints.

The new site is here...

I'm leaving these pages here as you may have bookmarked them and the Comments section has some good suggestions, but I suggest that you go to the new site -- I won't be updating this material anymore.

Thanks to all the people who read these pages and especially to the people who left comments and suggestions!

Gary

 

 

 

We bought a relatively small and efficient RAM ProMaster cargo van (a US version of the popular European Fiat Ducato) and are in the process of converting it into a simple and (hopefully) efficient camper van.

I'll report on progress as we do the conversion -- I expect this will take a number of months. Once its done, we will report on how well the conversion works out on the road and what the fuel efficiency is like.

Update: Conversion finished Dec 2014 -- see the Table of Contents just below for many pages of detail on the conversion. Design information such as weight, heat loss, labor... are also included for each section.

Update: First trial trip Jan 2015 -- see TOC below for trip report including fuel economy, what worked well and what did not, ...

Comments, Suggestions and Questions are most welcome...

This project fits into our Half Plan in that its RVing for about half the energy and emissions.

If you want to know more about the ProMaster, I'd suggest the ProMaster Forum -- lots of very knowledgeable people there.

 

Table of Contents

Planning and Design

The Build

How Well Did It Work Out?

Cost, Labor, Weight

Lifetime Fuel and Emissions

References

Odds and Ends

Comments and Questions

 

Objectives for the Conversion

These are our main objectives for the conversion.

To try to achieve these objectives we ended up picking the RAM ProMaster cargo van, which has an efficient, lighter weight, front wheel drive layout, and relatively efficient power plant. Within the ProMaster line, we picked the shortest version that would give us just enough space for what we needed. And, after estimating what the van would weigh after the simple conversion, we picked the lowest gross weight version of the ProMaster to get the lower final drive ratio that it comes with. We plan to keep a strict eye on adding weight and should end up well below the allowed gross weight.

Our last RV (a Coachman class B Ford van conversion) suffered a lot from the try to cram every kind of RV feature known to mankind into a tiny envelope problem. We ended up tearing out a lot of the interior and revamping it into a simpler form that put a lot of emphasis on a good bed, descent storage, and minimal cooking facilities. This made the RV a lot more useful to us -- it was more open to be in, and more comfortable to live in. This was the starting point for this new RV conversion of the ProMaster -- keep it simple and open and practical.

Vehicle

We started out looking for a Sprinter cargo van that could be converted to an RV. These are diesel powered vans made by Mercedes Benz which have been sold in the US under the Freightliner, Dodge, and now Mercedes brand. They have the inside room, full standing height, and high mpg that we were looking for. In the end we could not find a good used one to convert anywhere near our area, and were also put off a bit put off by the mechanical horror stories of some from the owners and the sparse service network.

About this time we heard of the ProMaster which had just come out in 2013, and had a look at it. It seemed to fill the bill well. We would like to have picked up a used one, but they have not been out long enough for there to be used ones available, so we ended up going over budget and buying a new one. Time will tell if this was a good choice.

Another option that is just becoming available is the new Ford Transit van. This is another vehicle that has been popular in Europe for years and is just now being introduced to the US. It has about the same envelope as the ProMaster and Sprinter. Dealers are just beginning to get them as I write this.

There are some commercial RV's coming out on the ProMaster chassis. These may suit some well, and are certainly worth taking a look at, but for us they are too big, too fancy, have more "stuff" in them than we want, don't get the gas mileage we want, and are too expensive. I think that people in Europe have more choices and might well find a commercially made Ducato or Sprinter based RV that fits well. A video that shows some of these...

 

 

 

Comments/Questions

Any comments or suggestions are very welcome -- we are still trying to work out the best way to do the conversion.

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