A conversion van is a type of full-sized cargo van that has been modified to suit a variety of purposes. The van may be modified by the owner, or a third party company, to be sold for profit. Many different types of cargo vans can be customized. Conversion vans became stylish and popular in the 1970s and 1980s as an alternative to RVs and motorhomes. Some conversion vans were equipped with luxurious accommodations to provide a high-class ride, while others were turned into self-contained RVs to provide for cross-country travel. Over the years, conversion vans have been adapted and modified to accomplish a variety of tasks. There are two primary types of tops and several popular uses for them.
The Two Types of Tops
At the most basic level, the two main classifications of conversion vans is the top height.
- Low Tops – Primarily seen in older vans, the low top roof retains the original factory installed roof. While it creates a more aerodynamic vehicle, it is also less spacious internally. In the 1980s, when conversion vans begun seeing prevalent use, low top vans became unpopular because of their limited space. In the 80s, TVs, VCRs and video game systems that owners enjoyed installing into their vans were too bulky, and the reduced internal space of low top vans was noticeable.
- High Tops – This popular top type is created by removing a portion of the factory-installed roof. It is then replaced with a higher fiberglass roof, providing for higher clearance. The primary benefit of a higher roof is that it allows owners to stand in their vans, as opposed to having to bend over or hunch. The raised section is often customized with TVs, lights, DVD players and video game systems. Some owners will use this section for various types of storage as well.
Popular Uses of Conversion Vans
The primary use of a conversion van is decided upon before the conversion process begins. A third party company or a private owner may initiate the conversion process. Below are the most popular types of conversion vans:
- Travel Van – Perhaps the most popular type of conversion van, this model is often seen with both kinds of tops. A travel conversion van is not to be confused with a motorhome van – this is designed for luxury road trips, not long-term living. Travel vans will typically have four captains’ chairs with a bench in back. It is commonly upgraded with a high-end stereo system, LCD TVs and video game systems. They typically have large shaded windows and storage cabinets as well. These vans are ideal for a medium to large-sized family, looking to embark on a comfortable road trip.
- Disability Van – These vans are specifically designed to transport persons with disabilities. More attention is paid to structural and functional modifications than luxury accommodations, however they are usually comfortable. These vans typically feature a raised roof, platform lift and a lowered floor. These modifications allow a person in a wheel chair or with other disabilities to easily enter and exit the vehicle.
- Motorhomes – Usually referred to as Class B motorhomes or camper vans, this type of conversion is used for luxury living. It may also be used full-time or part-time to accommodate those who wish to travel the country for extended periods of time. These are built for camping and living in RV parks, equipped with a bed, microwave, side sofa, pop-up canvas top and other modifications to make life on the road more bearable. Arbogast Class B motorhomes have become the standard type of motorhome for travelers who don’t wish to purchase a larger RV, yet want to live comfortably.
So Many Uses, So Many Vans
The category of “conversion van” encompasses any type of van that has been modified to suit a specific purpose. The most common types of conversion vans can be found from many auto and RV dealers, fully modified and ready for use. While some owners choose to convert their own van, purchasing a pre-modified van is ideal for ensuring optimal functionality.
Harvey Platt is a contributing writer and experienced traveler. He enjoys continually exploring new locations. Harvey regularly uses conversion vans in his travels, to allow him a level of flexibility not seen in other vehicles.