Building a bed platform inside the van was a huge step towards getting on the road. To us, this means Ferdinand is more than just the Transit Connect we drove away from CarMax; Ferdinand will soon be our home. If you are currently on the road (or considering it) I’m sure you can relate to the hours we spent pouring over van builds. It’s easy to admire the incredible carpentry and craftiness of internet strangers. More than a few nights you could find us hanging out in the empty van drinking beers and brainstorming. We had a lot of ideas thrown around in the weeks preceding the project, but when it comes down to it, simple really is the way to go.
One of the major decisions that influenced our build was to not fully gut Ferdinand. In order to preserve resale value, we kept all carpeting, seatbelts, attachments, ect. intact.
Ferdinand started as a passenger van with two rows of back seats.
Step #1 – Remove the Seats
Step #2 – Evaluate our Space
At this point we had a general idea of the things we wanted to take with us. This included a few larger items we definitely needed to build around. Our refrigerator for the trip is a Yeti cooler (these keep stuff frozen for days!). We knew we would be opening the cooler fairly often so we didn’t want it under the bed where we would have to pull it out every time. We also fantasized about a shelf for food/dishes and some sort of water container coming off the back to create a sort of kitchen space. As two fairly tall people, we figured the frame was going to take up the full length of the van. After a lot of wild ideas (at one point we considered a retractable bed over the front seats…) we set our minds to an easy solution. The bed could be built at the same height as the cooler so the top could provide Erik with the extra foot room he needed. This left just the right amount of space for us to sit up comfortably and store the rest of our gear out of sight under the bed.
Step #3 – Build the Frame
The main frame consists of a rectangle of 5 2×4’s
When we measured this out we were careful to cut the boards for the width 4″ shorter than the narrowest point of the van. This accounts for the inches added by the boards on either end. The center support board was cut short in a similar fashion. For extra support and to prevent splitting, we screwed each corner together with a metal bracket.
We then cut two sets of legs; one set was longer than the other because of the footwell behind the front seats. We attached these to the inside of the frame 2″ below the top. Once again, this just seemed to be the simplest route.
P.S. we did add the center board for support after these photos were taken.
P.P.S. The placement of the front legs is a little inconvenient but the supports for the recently removed seats provides a level base.
The top of the frame consists of futon slats screwed into two boards that fit snugly into the frame. This acts as a lid and is not attached to the main frame at all.
We later cut this in half and added hinges for easier access.
Step #4 – Get a Mattress
As it turns out, finding a mattress that fits the exact dimensions of your custom van frame is pretty difficult. We were lucky enough to find something promising while wandering IKEA on our day off; a 3″ memory foam mattress with a nice cover. We bought the Full size and cut it down to fit. We also cut and re-sewed the cover.
The extra that was cut from the end fit perfectly in a pillow case and was used to extend the bed over the cooler like we planned. Add some bedding and our nifty new shelf and…. ta-da! We did it.