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Converting our GMC Safari

As the van slowly puttered up the hill, I watched the needle on the temperature gauge steadily rise higher and higher. At the top of the hill the Pontiac collapsed on the side of the road in a state of utter exhaustion. We knew the routine by now. Adam opened the hood in an effort to cool the engine, we waited for the temperature to lower, and then we continued on our way. A mechanic had already broke the bad news to us – it wasn’t worth fixing. There was no telling how long it may hold on for – could be a week, a few months, or even a year. After 15 minutes Adam closed the hood and we pulled back out onto the highway. Our Pontiac Montana wasn’t your average minivan. It’s metal frame contained years of memories. It carried Adam and I across the country three times, survived numerous pot hole covered dirt roads, and somewhere along the way, it had evolved into ‘home’. But, as we drove down the highway headed for Jackson, Wyoming, we wondered if we would make it up Teton Pass. It was time – time to retire the Montana and move into a new van.

* * *

Our new van has generated a lot of interest from family, friends, and strangers alike. I’ve had quite a few requests to post some pictures of the conversion process and the inside of our new rig, so what better time than around the one year anniversary of getting our GMC Safari. The Safari was a passenger van when we bought it. Lucky for me, Adam is a mechanical engineer and super handy when it comes to designing and building, which allowed us to build and rig the entire conversion ourselves. (That, of course, along with the fact that Adam’s parents were super kind in letting us use their workshop and tools for the entire process!) We used our prior experience from the Pontiac to brainstorm what worked, what didn’t work, and ways we could customize the conversion for our specific needs. Once we had a basic design idea we started tearing out seats and gutted the van.

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Next, we insulated the walls and floor.

The bulk of our storage are three giant drawers that take up all the space underneath our bed platform. Adam came up with a super sturdy design using pieces of steel as tracks and old roller skate bearings for the drawers to slide in and out on.


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Once we had the bed platform in place we divided the space to create our kitchen in the back and closets/additional storage in the bedroom.

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After roughly a month of working on the van we were restless to get on the road and get back to climbing. We had the main structure of the conversion completed. Over the past year we have continued to improve upon the van and add in various details, including a passenger seat compatible desk for work, ‘secret’ drawers for Adam’s tools to maximize space, and a refrigerator, which runs off our solar panels. Check out the next post for a tour of our tiny house of wheels.


  1. A feat of engineering, very cozy and amazingly functional. Such a cool van/home, we were honored to be given a tour. Thanks and kudos, Gina and Adam! Looking forward to the next installment.


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