How To Build A Campervan Part 4: To Seat, Or Not Two Seats

If you’re converting a passenger van, you’ve got to make a decision about the seats. The way I did it is a little atypical, but there are some pros and cons to each of the possible options. While it seems like the obvious choice is to take out all the seats, giving you more space, I have found that leaving some of them in place is even better. You might even want to leave them all in, though that’s only useful for some people.

One of the benefits of the seats I removed was opening up a bunch of space behind the driver (me), where I put a refrigerator, plus creating space for my batteries and other gear. The seats I kept gave me a place to sit during the day to do work, and one that functioned as a sort of entrance foyer to make it easier to get dressed, put on and take off shoes, and more.

So out they go. Well, some of them, anyway.

Follow my travels on my YouTube channel and check out my book about budget travel, appropriately named Budget Travel for Dummies. Also, check out the previous installments of this series:

  1. How To Build A Campervan Part 1: What’s A Campervan?
  2. How To Build A Campervan Part 2: The Perfect Van (Also video)
  3. How To Build A Campervan Part 3: Adding Solar Power! (Also video)

Seats and Seat Removal

Many people chose a commercial/cargo van for their conversion project, and the benefits there are multifold. First, such vans are usually cheaper. They’re also more of a “blank slate,” with next to nothing inside. Usually, any of the fancy Instagrammable campervans you’ll see started with an empty cargo van.

I didn’t go that route. I wanted the Transit Connect Wagon specifically for its gorgeous panoramic roof. My idea was to be able to lie down in the back and stare up at the stars. This option also included a headliner, extensive plastic panels (including cupholders!), and of course, seats. In my case, it was a 60/40 bench in the middle, and 2 individual seats in the back. Some TCs come with 4 individual seats.

While I was always intending on taking out some of the seats, there are some cases where leaving them in is a valid option. They all fold very flat, leaving you with a little less vertical space, but an essentially flat floor. On this you could put a cot, some foam cushions, or if you hate your back, nothing at all. While this would limit your power storage options, it would let you carry passengers when you’re not camping and adventuring. You could also just go with a foldable/storable solar panel, charging an integrated power bank. Not as robust as a more elaborate setup, but one that’s completely removable.

For me, I wanted a “day” mode, and a “night” mode. I’m a freelance writer, and as such, I have time to travel but I also need to work. I wanted at least one seat in the back where I could sit and write, edit photos, etc. I had been designing a desk in my head for a while, but more on that in the next installment of this series. For night mode, I wanted a reasonably comfortable place to sleep, which meant a full length bed of some sort. I devised a way to have both of these options with minimal hassle switching between them.

To get to that point, I needed to remove half the seats. In the Transit Connect that requires a Torx head, aka a “star” bit. A hex/Allen wrench or key will work in a pinch. Each seat has four of these. The middle bench is quite a hassle, as you’ll see in the video above. The trick is to pop out the plastic covering using a small flathead screwdriver, which will give you easier access to the bolts.

Theoretically, you could take out the entire middle bench, or if your van is so equipped, both middle seats. This would give you a little more space, and possibly make getting in and out of the van easier from both sides. I left the 40% split of the middle bench in place, and it has proved to be handy. My initial reason for leaving it in place was that I had a bunch of friends who were all interested in adventuring with me in the van. Leaving the middle seat would allow for 2 passengers, plus space in the back for a tent for them, luggage, sleeping bags, and so on.

What I didn’t expect was how handy the extra seat would be for solo adventuring as well. It ended up being a sort of “foyer” to get shoes on and off, get dressed while sitting instead of lying down, and a place to eat in the van without converting out of night mode. I like it so much that it’s going to stay in place no matter what else I do with the van. One of those potential projects is making a second bed frame to cover the width of the van instead of one half, but more about building the bed in the next installment. Stay tuned!

And in case you want to start from the beginning:

Check out my website or some of my other work here. 

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