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Monday, August 29, 2011

VW bus living- YOUR tiny house/cabin conversion, on the cheap?

     (First off- MANY of my cabins/things I built are for sale- to fund NEW projects/episodes of "Tiny Yellow House"- CLICK HERE!) 
Well, I just spent a chunk of last weekend (aside from preparing for the hurricane) in the New Paltz. NY area for weekend #1 of "The Wolfe's Den" treehouse installation. While out there, I noticed an inordinate amount of vw buses and campers cruising the back roads- some of them in pristine condition. I even saw a Vanagon for sale- a mere $1200- and as that's something I've wanted to own and convert into micro guest quarters for some time now, I did actually stop to pick through it.
     Anyway, off craigslist, here's a non-running model for a mere $850 or bo. Now, some of you may be thinking "Just what the heck could you do with a hulking wreck like that, Deek!?"

So here's what I would do, so as to make this into a very unique vacation camp in the woods (once I had it towed to wherever after hopefully buying it for less than the asking price- which is very feasible- say, $600).

-Repaint it- even if I had to do it the non-pro way and use a glossy house/exterior paint. A REAL paint job would be ideal (costly), but if its just a woods cabin, anything would be an improvement and would help to additionally protect it from the elements. I'd do so after scouring the rust off of the front, of course....

-Position it on blocks, or some sort of platform- those tires aren't in great shape and won't hold forever (again, this is for a static cabin, I wouldn't even bother trying to get something like this to run).

-Tear out ALL the seats and benches as I can assume they're in bad shape and have been sitting around for ages (You CAN sell these so as to make back some of your purchase price to other vw mini-bus owners and collectors). I'd then bolt in a simple floor frame to level out the contours- and add a layer of light weight, tongue and groove cedar or pine for flooring. Tearing out the front seats would give you MUCH more room for living, sleeping, and hanging out- or you could leave one seat- if you could turn it around and re-install it, as a sort of vehicular lounge chair.

-Level out the dashboard's top with nice, poly-coated piece of wood for shelving.

-Recoat or paint the roof to prevent leaks and to make it look less awful. If the roof had too many problems, you could bolt on a simple gable frame with corrugated roofing over it, or build it around the van, in a picnic-canopy manner (4 posts and a roof- a structure which you could later screen in).

-Install (safety pending) a tiny cast-iron or sheet metal (thick gauge) tent woodstove- again, assuming I could add some fire walls and do so SAFELY.

- Add a tiny, tiny solar panel to the roof for lighting.

-Build a tiny deck off of the front- and keep in mind if the vehicle were anchored, you could remove the large side door and even build a foyer (or additional living space) off the side of this down the road.

Basically, I'd leave the shell intact for the most part, but remove almost everything- steering wheel too, from the interior so as to give such a small space a more wide-open feel. You could then position a new boxed-frame bed (with MUCH storage underneath), and add system of simple/narrow shelves against one side.
Keep in mind (perhaps you have to leave this one wheels) that as this would be classified as a vehicle or camper in some counties, you might be able to circumvent certain cabin building or zoning restrictions- you'd have to look into that.

And there's just the inkling of an idea I've been wanting to try for some time....

Yes, my book has this in sketch/plan form- but an idea that uses, or can use. almost ANY junky car shell.

-Derek "Deek" Diedricksen