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10 Amazing Homebuilt Campers That Will Make You Embrace Vanlife


By Christopher Smith, Motor1.com

Most die-hard gearheads are familiar with the phrase built not bought, and that’s the crux of this slideshow special. There’s nothing wrong with buying an awesome RV to embark on cross-country adventures. But we have a special place in our heart for individuals who build their own home-on-the-road. The ingenuity and creativity that goes into these projects never – and we mean never – ceases to amaze us.

Here’s a look back at some of the more impressive do-it-yourself campers we’ve had the pleasure of writing about over the past year. This isn’t a slideshow of big-budget projects crafted by rocket scientists, however – you’ll see everything from vans to buses, ambulances, fire trucks, and even a simple station wagon on this list. And all of them have a personal touch as proper DIY creations.

So go ahead, embrace your adventurous side. Perhaps this list will encourage you to build a cool life-off-the-grid project of your own.


Freightliner Thomas School Bus


We start this adventure with a favored platform for camper conversions. Old school buses are tough, they offer lots of space, and you can usually find them pretty darned cheap. This motorhome was designed by a former New York City resident named Danny, who designed the interior and built it with the help of a small crew. With 38 feet of old bus behind the driver’s seat, there’s plenty of room for all the comforts of home. And when cabin fever strikes, he even built a ladder from the bedroom to access the roof.


Land Rover Defender


If you want to go off-roading, you could do worse than choosing a Land Rover Defender. Its compact size isn't ideal for camping though, unless you give it both an extending roof and sides. While on the road this impressive machine is Defender-sized, but once parked it expands upward and outward to easily accommodate two people with room for a kitchen, bathroom, and 100-liters (26 gallons) of water.


Ford Shuttle Bus


This is David. He and his wife Madison ditched their New York City apartment for this old shuttle bus, which was bought from a company in Arizona. They chose the bus because it was a great compromise between a large motorhome and a small van, but being a bus it was also a stronger platform versus a typical camper. The plan was to embark on an epic 18-month journey to visit every national park in America. We don’t know if that dream was accomplished, but we’re jealous they even had the chance to make it happen.


Chevrolet Medium Duty Ambulance


We have a few ambulance conversions in our motorhome archives, but this one is neat because it actually started life in a traveler’s paradise. This medium-duty Chevy once served as an all-terrain ambulance at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Being an ambulance it already had some hardcore electrical systems and copious storage areas, so the owner added beefy tires, a bed, kitchen, and a stand-up shower to round out the package. There’s even a garage in the back, and thanks to the on-board electrical capability, there's a sweet entertainment system for when the weather isn't outdoor-friendly.


Bendy Bus


There’s lots of room to roam in Australia, which is where this very unlikely bus-camper conversion comes from. Similarly, there’s lots of room to roam inside this 1986 Volvo B10MA – 430 cubic feet to be specific. It pretty much has a full-size version of everything you’d find at home, and the flex section sort-of serves as a divider to the other half of the house where the full bathroom and large bedroom are located. You won’t go off-roading in this ride, but being a bendy bus it’s surprisingly maneuverable for its size. It certainly gets our nod for livin’ large on the road.


Subaru Outback


See? We told you this list includes all shapes and sizes, and this Subaru Outback is surprisingly well-equipped for an extended off-grid journey. Specifically, the owner of this clever creation wanted it for a six-month climbing trip and its modular shelving system creates room for clothes, a stove, electrical outlets (using solar power), and plenty of room to sleep. It doesn’t have all the amenities of home, but come on – it’s a Subaru Outback. How cool is that?


1953 GMC Firetruck


When pro snowboarder Austin Smith needed a personal reboot, he turned to #Vanlife for therapy. Working with friends on his brother’s old 1953 firetruck, it was reborn as a four-wheel-drive overlander with a modern driveline and a mini log cabin built where water tanks used to exist. There’s plenty of space inside to stretch out, and when it gets cold there’s a wood-burning stove for heat. It’s also the only vehicle on this list that has a legit porch, and as the video shows, this rig takes Smith to some epic wintertime hangouts for equally epic snowboarding adventures.


Mitsubishi Fuso


What is it with snowboarders and going off the grid? We just saw Austin Smith’s reborn firetruck, and now we a radically custom Mitsubishi Fuso from pro snowboarder Mike Basich. This rig is a bit more involved, however, featuring all the amenities of home including a bathtub (yes, tub) and a side that opens up to form a deck. Apparently, Basich also likes snowmobiling and the lift gate on the Fuso’s rear is strong enough to lift his sled inside the home-on-wheels.


M923A2 Military Truck


We’ve seen a few converted military trucks turned into campers, and why not? This massive 6x6 M923A2 isn’t necessarily economical, but it's a proper overlander with ground clearance to spare. A shipping container serves as the living space, decked out to resemble a cozy cabin inside. It has all the amenities of home, and the total project was less than $40,000.


Ford Transit Custom


We love all the vehicles on this list, but few capture our hearts the way this unassuming-yet-delightful conversion does. This is truly a DIY project, with owners Mat and Danielle hand-building nearly everything you see inside. Ingenuity abounds in this van, from the secluded bathroom to easily refillable water tanks accessible inside and outside. And there’s no denying the personal touch that makes this tiny house a legitimate home.

See more at: Motor1.com

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Home Magazine: 10 Amazing Homebuilt Campers That Will Make You Embrace Vanlife
10 Amazing Homebuilt Campers That Will Make You Embrace Vanlife
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