We decided to convert our car into a low budget camper van for short trips away.
- Short stays (long weekends, and bank holidays)
- Storage for camping gear
- Comfortable sleeping deck
- Economically viable- the whole project has to cost less than a few nights in a hotel!
- Removeable- the whole setup had to be able to come back out the car and stored away up the loft. The car must be structurally untouched and unmodified.
- Quick- the conversion from sleep to driving mode and vice versa takes around 2 minutes. To completely remove the bed and put the seats back into the car takes about 20 minutes.
From Car to Campervan
The car which we will convert into a campervan is a Citreon Xara Picasso, voted Poland’s ugliest car of 2015…
We call her Brenda. She might be ugly, but we like her very much.
Choosing your car
Choosing the right car to convert to a camper van is very important. You will be spending a lot of time both driving, and relaxing in your camper car.
The Citreon Xara Picasso was designed to accommodate 15 screaming children, and transport them safely and securely across a battlefield at an average speed of 20 mph, whilst providing enough storage capacity for prams, nappies, overnight bags, swimming gear, golf clubs, picnic baskets, dogs, and other parental paraphenlia.
Brenda gets 90 Miles to the gallon on the motorway, and driving Brenda feels very much like sitting upright on your own couch, whilst the world moves past you.
The key advantage Brenda has over most cars is she has lots of headroom, the rear seats come out completely, and most importantly, when emptied of kids and pets, the back measures just under the width of a double bed.
This makes Brenda the ideal candidate for a campervan conversion.
We removed the back seats and stored away so the car can still be used as a normal car later
How to Keep Costs Low
After much research and looking at examples, our strategy was simple:
We would seek to emulate great American frontiersman…
Travel light, and use the land
In other words, use what we already have lying around.
In this case :
- Ikea Kallax units
- Ikea storage boxes
- Furniture board offcuts
- Memory foam mattress topper
- Inflatable camping mattress
Forming the Bed Base
The stroke of genius that kickstarted the whole campervan project was an Ikea Kallax unit we had spare and unused stored up the loft.
When turned on its side, this unit is the perfect size and shape to form the raised base of the bed, whilst allowing storage underneath.
Fixing some basic battens to the side of the kallax units provides a platform for the furniture board, to allow us to sleep above the storage area.
We bought one additional unit to form the other side of the bed base.
As an extra measure we added one vertical batten in the middle for extra support, though this may have been overkill we didn’t fancy the idea of falling through during the night!
The two units, once fitted with battens slot easily into the car to face each other:
By using two separate unattached units, and the furniture board in the middle, the whole assembly can simply be taken out the car, and stored compactly in the loft if needed.
Our furniture board simply slides into the middle, and rests upon the two battens.
We added dowels to the furniture board, and drilled holes into the battens. The dowels plug into the battens to stop any forwards or backwards movement.
The deck below has plenty of space for storing long or bulk items such as windbreaks, fishing rods, awning poles, and cats.
As well as the central storage space, the Kallax units offer a number of compartments which can be easily accessed from the side doors for convenient, or often used items.
Ikea storage boxes slot perfectly into these units so you can keep your cats organized and tidy.
The Ikea Kallax units are just shy of a full bed length, so we extended the bed using folding brackets.
Tip: remember to buy non-rattle brackets, it’s worth forking out for these, as you will be driving long distances!
Disclosure: the non-rattle brackets we got were in fact do-rattle brackets. We resolved this by storing our pillows around them.
Once stopped, the front car seats angle forwards, and these folding brackets simply fold up, and another piece of furniture board sits on top to extend your bed in a matter of seconds.
It’s so easy even this dog can do it!
No dogs were harmed during the production of this campervan.
These brackets, along with the Kallax units extends the bed to a full length, plenty of room to stretch your legs!
In place of a bulky mattress, we recommend a memory foam mattress topper:
- Thinner than a traditional mattress
- Can be rolled back easily when driving
- Plenty of padding.
- Can be cut to custom shapes, many modern mattresses aren’t Xara Picasso shaped!
(optional) We also added an inflatable camping mattress, for a bit of extra cushioning.
The bed is very comfy and spacious!
- The car can be changed between car and camper mode in about 1 minute.
- It still has two front seats for driving normally
- The bed is a standard double bed size
- with plenty of storage underneath!