Conversion van

Conversion van

A Conversion van Is a full-size cargo van that is sent to third-party companies to be outfitted with various luxuries for road trips and camping.


Conversion vans came into style during the 1970s and 1980s. Early conversions were simply vans with seats put in them, often with murals painted along the sides. Although many were used by rock bands and the conversion van developed something of a "bad boy" image, most were used for basic everyday transport.

After the mid 80's, luxurious interiors featuring thickly padded seats, wood trim and luxury lighting began to appear in conversion vans as families and retirees started using them for road trips and camping. At the same time, both the federal government and vehicle manufacturers began efforts to exert some degree of control on the van conversion industry, demanding that certain safety guidelines be adhered to. With these two changes, the price of conversion vans started to increase, resulting in decreasing sales. At the same time, the price of gas was also increasing leading still more people away from these large cargo vans, whose V-8 engines and poor aerodynamics resulted in poor gas mileage. Finally, the growing demand for minivans and SUVs siphoned off even more potential customers. Despite these setbacks though, as the economy boomed in the 1990s, conversion vans sales began to improve, with almost 200,000 units sold in 1994 alone. As of 2007, about 20,000 conversion vans are being sold each year, with most being sold for family transport.

Conversion types

There are several different types of conversions aside of the usual passenger-van-like conversion:

1. Campervan-This van has more features that enable camping, such as a toilet, fridge, microwave, sink, side sofa, popup canvas top that allows standing up, and sometimes a stove.

2. Disability Vans are built to be accessed in the cargo area by wheelchair. These vans are stripped in the back (providing seating for only 2), and have a ramp installed below the door for easy entry/exit.

3. Office Vans Also known as "LandJets", are built like a small office in the back, with a desk and chair bolted to the floor, an electrical outlet in the office area (for computer, etc.), and usually 1 or 2 seats in the back for passengers. These are most popular for traveling salesmen and TV camera crews.

4. Motorhomes "Class B" campervans are built on a full size cargo van that is lengthened a couple of feet. Lengths range from 17-20 feet. "Class C" mini motorhomes have the back completely taken out of the van (known as a cutaway), and have it replaced with a larger back that offers more space than Class B's. Lengths range from 22-30 feet.

Vans used in conversions


Conversion vans are originally bare, windowless full-size 1/2 ton or 3/4 ton cargo vans such as the Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana, the Dodge Sprinter, and the Ford E-Series. The Conversion Van Marketing Association (CVMA) is a partnership between General Motors and 23 conversion van manufacturers. Exclusive partnership means members of the CVMA are the only manufacturers authorized by GM to build Chevrolet or GMC conversion vans.


Vans used for conversions in the past that are no longer in production are the Chevrolet Van/GMC Vandura (1970-1996), the Chevrolet Astro/GMC Safari (1985-2005), the Dodge Ram Van (1981-2003), and the Volkswagen Eurovan (1992-2004).

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