The world’s best Ford Transit conversion ideas

The Ford Transit, which first hit our roads in 1965, has long been known as the ‘backbone of Britain’. With the fifth million van rolling off the production line in Southampton in 2005, it is anybody’s guess how many different kinds of jobs have been completed over the years with the help of this trusted four-wheel companion. From house moves to building work, the Transit has been relied upon as the ultimate workhorse for what seems like forever.

A different kind of journey

1972 Ford caravans poster

Image Credit: Andrew Bone

The Transit, however, is useful for much more than just moving tools and goods from place to place. As the fascinating (if somewhat outdated) above poster from 1972 explains, the Transit – along with other new Ford vans – has long been the perfect vehicle for ‘setting you free’ so drivers can enjoy exploring new places.

The ‘Ford based motor caravans’ shown in the poster were striking variants on the classic Transit design and a far cry from the vehicles most of us would associate with the name today. Nevertheless, the way these early examples of a practical van which boasted ‘good looks and comfort’ and could ‘make the world wide open for you’ were used do share a link with the present day (although we’re not sure today’s adverts would claim that driving a Transit is ‘easy for a woman and fun for a man’).

Two activities which have enjoyed an upsurge in popularity throughout the UK in recent years are DIY conversions and camping. It is no surprise, therefore, that people around the country are now combining these two pastimes to create some truly amazing living spaces within one of the most reliable and robust modes of transport we’ve ever known.

Some of our favourite conversions

The classic camper conversion

Classic Ford Transit campervan

Image Credit: Niels de Wit

Any aspiring travellers who are reading this and thinking that, whilst it’s a nice idea, high quality van conversions always cost the Earth and will remain out of reach for most of us, think again. We loved this Sun article about a couple who spent around £2,000 completely renovating a 2003 Ford Transit from scratch, and are now using it as both their transport and home as they travel around Europe. Here’s how the costs broke down:

  • £900 to buy the ‘well-used’ vehicle
  • £450 to nurse it back to health
  • £1,000 to convert the interior

After months of hard work doing up their van, Aaron Goodfellow and Sophie Taylor have just started their continental trip and have only clocked up 2,000 miles so far. However, they have big plans for the rest of the summer, with visits to France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, the Sahara desert, Italy, Croatia, Germany, Sweden and almost everywhere between pencilled in.

Click on the link above to see exactly what they did and how they are now making the most of life on the road.

The true caravanning experience

Ford Transit and caravan welded together

Image Credit: Niels de Wit

For those who want the matchless driveability of the Transit combined with all the in-built mod cons of a classic caravan, meanwhile, why not have the best of both worlds?

The above mix-and-match project shows that you don’t need to be an interior design expert to convert your Transit into a home on wheels – although, if you want to go down this route, you may need quite good welding skills!

The extra large option

Ford Transit XXL

Image Credit: Brian Snelson

We might as well tell you up front: this one isn’t available in the shops.

The Ford Transit XXL was produced as a one-off in 2007 to celebrate the iconic vehicle being named as International Van of the Year (an accolade it has also picked up twice since, for the Custom and Connect variants).

This eye-catching seven-seater was apparently the result of two Transit Tourneo executive minibuses literally being cut up and stuck together – although we suspect the process, which was carried out in-house by Ford’s expert engineers, was a bit more involved than that.

Despite essentially being done for publicity purposes, the production of the XXL did have a serious side: as Auto Express noted at the time, the project ‘really [did] prove the adaptability of the Transit chassis’, and was a timely reminder that the model is ‘one of the most versatile vehicles of all-time’.

Even though it was filled with all sorts of unexpected features, it was not the XXL’s leather upholstery or built-in DVD entertainment system which most surprised reviewers at the time, however – given its 7.4 metre length, motoring journalists were most impressd by how well the Transit handled!

The ultimate trailer

Finally, even though it may not be a Transit (at least, we don’t think it is), we felt we had to include this ‘bespoke’ trailer, which ingeniously repurposed the rear half of an old van: 

Rear half of van converted to trailer

Image Credit: dave_7

The resourcefulness of whoever decided to carry out this particular ‘conversion’ has to be admired, even if it doesn’t look like it would have made the most comfortable of homes!

A few tips from the experts

Tent on beach

Image Credit: Ted Gresham

If you are now feeling a bit more inspired to try your hand at a conversion of your own, there are still plenty of things you’ll need to consider before getting the map out and planning your round-the-world camping trip.

We spoke to Sarah Riley, founder of Inspired Camping, who shared her top tips for ensuring your conversion experience is as smooth as possible:

“Thinking about converting a van into a home on wheels can be one of the most exciting things for an aspiring traveller to do. There's nothing better than thinking through how you want to use your van and the adventures you are about to embark on. 

“Imagine exactly how you want to use the space and what needs you might have while you are on the road. Plan exactly what you want your van to do in terms of eating, sleeping, resting, storage, terrain handling, mileage, off-grid technology and comfort. My top 5 tips are...

1. Maximise storage to allow for an organised and uncluttered space

2. Make your sleeping area as airy and comfortable as possible to ensure you stay happy campers on the road

3. From experience, mosquito nets are an essential to avoid over-hot spaces with unwelcome night-time visitors

4. Off-grid technology and Wi-Fi on the road are essential, especially if you want to wild camp and intend to keep working whilst on the road

5. Cooking in small spaces is tricky, so clever multi-functional designs are a must for a successful conversion”