Hammer Time: Conversion Vans

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time conversion vans

Who wants one these days? For the last ten years the entire conversion van industry has been pretty much niched out of existence. First minivans started becoming the mode of choice for those wanting a big screen and a wide array of entertainment options on the road. Then the mastodon SUV’s came to fore. Offering to tow your camper, pop-up, motorbikes, and pretty much anything else that you seemingly needed to take with you. That was only the beginning

Technology became smaller and cheaper. With each GPS, DVD, MP3, and Smartphone, even the smallest cars can now be outfitted with virtually all the entertainment you would ever want at your fingertips. You don’t need a van to schlepp your TV, game system, radio, deluxe speakers, and fridge. You don’t even need a minivan if you’re smart about it. With $4 gas a daily reality in the US now, and $7 becoming the norm in Europe, it’s easy to predict that conversion vans will pretty much bite the bullet. And you would be right… perhaps…

Google ‘conversion vans’ and you still get the choice of thousands of used GM and Ford full-sized van bodies that have been the standard for decades. Throw in some nice cushy seats. Some overhead lighting. A big screen TV and game system. Shelving and speakers… and a nice carpet with a fold out bed in the back. There. Done.

Except the Lay-Z-Boy approach towards luxury is rapidly going the way of Dodge Aspens and Lincoln Navigators To be brutally blunt about it, some mature folks may still want the tried and true. But they’re going to just buy an RV, SUV or even a minivan these days. Heck maybe even a four-door pickup with a trailer attached to it. All of these things are as common as corn flakes on used car lots and repo sales. Even the most blinged out of offerings can be bought for quarters on the dollar compared to a new conversion van.

So why pop $50k+ on a new one?

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2 of 57 comments
  • Redsockss Redsockss on Aug 15, 2011

    Well, it’s pretty obvious that a lot of you posters haven’t seen, driven or asked conversion van owners about their vans in quite some time. First, they’re the same length of a suburban with the same engine block and transmission with a tom more interior room. They have WAY WAY more features than an Escalade, Navigator or Denali and cost less…YET…..holds its resale better than any of the 3. Ask a current van owner about their van and they will tell you they “LOVE IT” Very frankly, it’s the best kept secret in the car business. It holds a large family in comfort and they are just cool cars.

  • JoshikusIII JoshikusIII on Oct 26, 2013

    This is obviously a very opinionated subject. Yes they are stereotyped and outdated. I always thought they were a neat idea and now that my family has grown such that we need up to 7 people legally seated the idea is very appealing to me. They are solid, roomy and versatile and for $4-5k you can find a model a few years old in reasonably good condition. The motors in these are time tested solid runners since they've been around so long. The only other way to have captain's chairs and seat more than 5 adults comfortably is a charter bus as far as I know. It sounds to me like most of the negative responses are from people who experienced or 'heard about' a unit that was not properly maintained in which any motor vehicle will suffer badly from. So until I can afford a $55,000 tahoe which gets about the same gas mileage with less space and a higher insurance rate this is the most practical option...plus I can sleep in there and watch TV when the wife is on the fritz, lol.

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  • Alan I would think Ford would beef up the drive line considering the torque increase, horse power isn't a factor here. I looked at a Harrop supercharger for my vehicle. Harrop offered two stages of performance. The first was a paltry 100hp to the wheels (12 000AUD)and the second was 250hp to the wheels ($20 000 (engine didn't rev harder so torque was significantly increased)). The Stage One had no drive line changes, but the Stage Two had drive line modifications. My vehicle weighs roughly the same as a full size pickup and the 400'ish hp I have is sufficient, I had little use for another 100 let alone 250hp. I couldn't see much difference in the actual supercharger setup other than a ratio change for the drive of the supercharger, so that extra $8 000 went into the drive line.
  • ToolGuy Question: F-150 FP700 ( Bronze or Black) supercharger kit is legal in 50 states, while the Mustang supercharger kit is banned in California -- why??
  • ToolGuy Last picture: Labeling the accelerator as "play" and the brake pedal as "pause" might be cute, but it feels wrong. It feels wrong because it is wrong, and it is wrong because Calculus.Sidebar: I have some in-laws who engage the accelerator and brake on a binary on/off all-in basis. So annoying as a passenger.Drive smoothly out there. 🙂
  • Johnny ringo It's an interesting vehicle, I'd like to see VW offer the two row Buzz in the states also.