Retired engineer builds transforming, off-grid, stealth campervan

Retired engineer builds transforming, off-grid, stealth campervan

With two years and $20,000, retired winery engineer Dave Orton turned a Ford Transit into a completely off-grid van home that sleeps two, seats four, and includes a toilet, kitchen and indoor shower.

Adding 80/20 aluminum extrusions to a stripped down transit van, Orton built up a kitchen unit with two fold-out tables (one indoor, one outdoor) and bedroom/living room where all furniture can be removed to haul cargo. The toilet room converts into a shower.

Orton designed an electrical system that provides adequate power without the need for shore power or a generator to keep the house battery charged.


  1. mrs johnson on August 30, 2022 at 4:18 am

    What a great build! I see the use of lightweight materials throughout. So many builds use heavy materials and actual furniture. Most don’t realize how much all that extra weight affects gas mileage and handling of the vehicle.

  2. Gerri Tramet on August 30, 2022 at 4:19 am

    Smart build

  3. Yvonne Hyatt on August 30, 2022 at 4:20 am

    Wish teens could see this, they can learn engineering.😊

  4. su Bra on August 30, 2022 at 4:21 am

    Thank you for your time and for sharing. I appreciate you. I wish yiu were my dad. Such wealth of knowledge you are so humbly sharing ina way that is nicely communicated. Thank you. God bless you and your wife safe travels.

  5. David Patrick on August 30, 2022 at 4:22 am

    I think it is funny that folks tries to be "stealth"…. When I see these rigs I assume it is a stealth motorhome … and mostly right. none the less these are nice.

  6. Julie Henderson on August 30, 2022 at 4:23 am

    You could use a portable shower seat to have a comfortable shower!

  7. Ray Penn on August 30, 2022 at 4:24 am


  8. Micheal Gillman on August 30, 2022 at 4:25 am

    totally over the top…you may as well live in a house, utter nonsense!

  9. Mr Cee on August 30, 2022 at 4:26 am

    Excellent build. Very insightful.

  10. Jon Cox on August 30, 2022 at 4:29 am

    One clever man.👍🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

  11. Donna Taliercio on August 30, 2022 at 4:30 am

    He’s a genius

  12. Pat Orton on August 30, 2022 at 4:30 am

    Do not live full time in the van. We have a nice house on 5 acres. Van is for traveling. Video was taken on the property.

    Find it interesting that most of the negative comments are about the multipurpose shower enclosure. When you want a short van that can be parked in a normal city parking place then you have to make some compromises. That eliminates a normal shower. Hard to call what I built a shower but you can use it to get clean in an odd way. Much better than staying dirty but certainly not like a shower at home. Many concerned about the electrical on the side walls in the shower. Water simply does not get that high on the walls. The reason for washing hair when on knees and using a full flow (not spray) nozzle are to control the overspray. Almost no water gets out of the shower and onto the towel I place in front of the shower. Not for everyone but it works well for us.

  13. Robert Hunter on August 30, 2022 at 4:31 am

    I am surprised at the negative comments. Obviously, in a mobile "tiny-house" it is all about compromise, and people will obviously design their vans what works for them personally, and what does not. Fulltime van life and part-time van life are different scenarios, as is urban and boondock style camping and everything in between. Different schemes for indoor toilet and shower not only depend on practicalities, but what people prefer. The same goes for the bed, kitchen/dining area, "garage" and so on.
    The diversity and ingenuity I see on these builds is amazing, and very educational. Commercial, professional campervan/motorhome builds are based on market research, and budget levels. They have obviously found that many in the market for a factory build is a large, dedicated kitchen/dinette area, and that is OK, but other like their comfort in the bed area, or more garage space for sporting toys. Or whatever. I think there are few really bad ideas, except where there is too much compromise on safety.
    Personally, I prefer the bed set up to be as fast and easy as possible. The day might be full of driving, or hiking, or whatever. So I am going to be tired. And probably in need of a shower before bed. So the kitchen area is minimal and has to be set up. That is ok, because an evening meal is going to be fairly basic, not a culinary masterpiece. With other folks, they draw the compromise line at food, and cook elaborate as meals as would back in their bricks and sticks place.
    I can imagine how builds can be anything as than driven by the personal needs of the campers, and the realities of small spaces. Thus I can’t understand negative comments. Someone’ s set up is not for you? Fine, get over it.

  14. Samisven on August 30, 2022 at 4:34 am

    Its all functional and stuff… but is he really a "Retired engineer" a fired engineer top.


  15. Vishy on August 30, 2022 at 4:36 am

    To save space he should consider washing hair in the toilet. Could also consider cooking food using farts instead of propane

  16. K. PacificNW on August 30, 2022 at 4:36 am

    How do you sleep at night with the doors locked (it’s urban, after all) without being too hot? Running a compressor to run an A.C. unit wouldn’t be stealth. And can you go inside the van and lock the doors (for any reason) during the day if it’s 80 degrees out? Certainly you can’t spend all day, every day, in a Starbucks. Staying warm is one thing; staying cool is the hard part, if you ever need to lock yourself inside, do work, feel safe, etc. One might be able to run an A.C. if one had a super good solar power system, and it was never cloudy. I live where it’s cloudy a lot. These are the details I’m looking for. Thanks!

  17. Lainey Bug on August 30, 2022 at 4:39 am

    You know he had an erector set when he was a kid…

  18. Chris Barrett on August 30, 2022 at 4:39 am

    What a nightmare!!!

  19. mark pope on August 30, 2022 at 4:43 am

    What year is the Transit and was it a crew?

  20. David Cummings on August 30, 2022 at 4:45 am

    Nicely done

  21. treal512 on August 30, 2022 at 4:47 am

    Sorry, but that shit is wildly obvious. Not stealth.

  22. D W on August 30, 2022 at 4:47 am

    I want to hire you to do this build for me!! Love it!!!!

  23. Nanno on August 30, 2022 at 4:47 am

    This man is a genius!!!

  24. Eric Ross on August 30, 2022 at 4:50 am

    Cheers to you for not building a stove inside! I went from Phoenix AZ to well above the Arctic Circle in a Toyota Dolphin and almost NEVER cooked inside. Why would you cook inside when you could cook outside? No one agrees with me when I have preached this throughout the years. Anyhow, nice work!!!

  25. wilfried gronau on August 30, 2022 at 4:51 am

    fyi there are 400 watt induction stoves

  26. solovjud on August 30, 2022 at 4:52 am

    Did it skip over the build inside roof/ ceiling? Was particularly interested in that,
    ; ok, will watch again, lol! Loved all the clever ideas. Thank you

  27. B QUE on August 30, 2022 at 4:53 am

    An independent and practical thinker, nice. I like the versatile split fold- down bed, and no doors on upper cabinets and using baskets in them.

  28. karl schmidt on August 30, 2022 at 4:54 am

    Impeccably simple. Simply impeccable.

  29. Eric Ross on August 30, 2022 at 4:56 am

    The extruded rail construction is brilliant!!! Reminds me of Construx & Lego building since childhood. There are infinite possibilities with that slotted extrusion framing. Thanks for the ideas!!!!

  30. Robert Agar-Hutton - Tai Chi Self Defence on August 30, 2022 at 4:59 am

    Some nice ideas (and some I don’t like – but that’s to be expected). Helps take me another small step towards doing my own build.

  31. A E on August 30, 2022 at 5:00 am

    I like a lot of this van. The flexible bed / table system. The vent. The flexibility of the aluminum framing. The shower enclosure just needs a couple of tweaks. A plastic panel to shield the electrical stuff coupled with a toilet cover would make that shower much more pleasant – wouldn’t have to get on your knees anymore. I’d also make a small change to the wood bins in the shower enclosure. They look smooth and hard to move. Can’t imagine his wife moving them by herself. But thats an easy fix. Just cut some slots big enough to hood your fingers through. Like some milk crates have. No hardware required.

  32. David Barnes on August 30, 2022 at 5:02 am

    I watched this video 6 months ago and revisited it again today. It’s just as fresh and informative as the first time.
    My own life of living in my unconverted work van for the last 6 months has been an education in itself and the reason for rewatching this video was to draw inspiration for converting my new van (when it’s finally delivered). Having watched so many videos and read article after article, this modular approach is about as close to how I will be when building my interior.
    Stealth is vitally important to me, as is allowing the use as a work van.
    I’d like to thank you for the video and pass on my admiration to Dave for revealing his thought process, his calmness and his honesty, which is all too overlooked in this modern world.

  33. Consumer Grade Reviews on August 30, 2022 at 5:02 am

    My 20th time watching this. I’ve seen a lot in 4 years and this is still the gold standard for camping or stealth van lifing. Thanks for sharing Kirsten and Pat!

  34. J B on August 30, 2022 at 5:04 am

    Real life experience with kindness that teaches. In how it just function very good and easy to repair in total control.

    All the 101 fundamentals so neatly arranged for us all. Thank you for this gift. Sharing that mistakes are needed.
    As we’re your students you Sir is so very rare. Eyes wet. You just made history happen your a hero.
    This is my award for you SIR.

    Ride Easy

  35. Michael Bahl on August 30, 2022 at 5:04 am

    How much weight was saved by using aluminum framing vs wood?

  36. livableincome on August 30, 2022 at 5:04 am

    In my opinion, these vans are probably the most comfortable and practical. And secure. But not stealth. Everyone knows it is someone’s expensive house on wheels. It would only pass as stealth near industrial yards. Or maybe a construction site.

  37. David Patrick on August 30, 2022 at 5:04 am

    This takes too much to think about to camp…. for me that is.

  38. mark pope on August 30, 2022 at 5:06 am

    Is he a retired mechanical engineer?

  39. D price on August 30, 2022 at 5:08 am


  40. Dan Russell on August 30, 2022 at 5:11 am

    The layout and functionality of the van is fantastic

  41. Robson M on August 30, 2022 at 5:11 am

    10.30 wash dishes with cold water? Don’t think so u will do it propely

  42. robert persall on August 30, 2022 at 5:12 am

    very nice. A lot of great ideas! Love the 80/20! Coming from an engineering back is invaluable!

  43. Jason Hill on August 30, 2022 at 5:12 am

    Uaaaaaaaa. No…. No. Was that swivel passenger seat bolted into a pice of plywood. It’s a good way to get rid of your passenger, in an accident. That laptop table was flimsy, janky looking & sharp. If You accidentally hit that table the wrong way, your fancy laptop is now a paperweight. & That shower! That’s what an engineer calls an, An’t nobody going to use it but you, shower. With all the work to put it together. No real place to put anything. And a floor pan that looks so hard to even stand on. I just had to stop their. No,,,, No, This van was not made for 2. Or Maybe it’s a two go in, but only one returns, kind of van?

  44. Patrice Gauthier on August 30, 2022 at 5:14 am

    🙂 when I saw this video I said to myself, that smart man must be an engineer… then I red the description… bullseye

  45. C on August 30, 2022 at 5:14 am

    Clever build sir! Thought out excellently! Last thing you want is someone pestering you in the middle of the night!

  46. traida111 on August 30, 2022 at 5:15 am

    I can understand why the shower got negative comments. The thing is a lot of people watching are looking for ideas for their own build. So when they see something they couldnt live with they may be forced to comment. But if the owner is happy with the set up then people should just say thank you for sharing the build.

  47. John McDonald on August 30, 2022 at 5:15 am

    Excellent use if every bit of space. I love the single or double bed feature. I is a solution to an issue I have pondered for a long time. Thank you, Dave, – you have filled in many of my own "blanks".

  48. mark pope on August 30, 2022 at 5:16 am

    These days with converter thefts you may want people to know you are sleeping in the van. Also, not every city is harassing stealth campers these days, especially with COVID.

  49. c on August 30, 2022 at 5:16 am

    Thank you for sharing.It’s very impressive.

  50. Brian G on August 30, 2022 at 5:17 am

    I have to say I’ve seen better designs on the wet bath. But my opinion is subjective.

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