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Old 05-29-2017, 09:23 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2017
Posts: 2
The Green Machine


This is a thread dedicated to my first self-built camper van. It's been called a few names (some not appropriate for this site) but the only one that has semi-stuck is The Green Machine.

The van is a 1998 Dodge Maxiwagon. Basically a one ton 15 passenger van. It came with a 360 v8, one ton rear axle and a 4k front axle. Dodge sold a bunch of these to churches.

That's where I got mine. First Baptist Church in Williams AZ, while I was working at the Grand Canyon.

The day I found it. The church either sold it or traded it to a car dealer in Flagstaff. The van was gutted for cleaning.

After extensive haggling, I was able to get it for $3500. 1998 Dodge Maxiwagon with 89,000 miles.

Day I got it home.

A day later... No I didnt find a child in the wall, she's my kid.

Dodge was thoughtful enough to stamp in this nice flat square bit in all it's roofs. It's as if they knew what the fate of all their vans would be... I cut that out and threw in a fan and insulated the walls.

It was hot miserable work so I didnt take any pictures.

I was going on the 'keep it cheap' route. Basically I wanted a metal tent. Cooking, hanging out, ect were all to be done outside the van.

It's not like it ever rains on a vacation.... right?

What I decided to do was to buy a premade bed frame and stick it in the back of the van, and slap a nice thick 10 inch queen sized mattress on it. My kid seems to like the van.

Look at this command center, and that horrid late 90's radio.


I went to a big box retailer and splurged on a $75 head unit that works with my android phone. This is probably my second favorite thing in the van.

After the install kit and a good deal (open box discount) on a set of 8 way speakers, I had a 2.1amp phone charger and sweet tunes to drown out the Dodge build quality.

Purse clasps...

On all four corners...

Moulding tape to hold the magnet on...

Poor man curtains! - Note the paracord on top along the seatbelt bolts. I have small alligator type clips there now to hold the curtains half open, if I want too.

Brake rotors and drums were warped and a bit dodgy, but pads were good. So I tossed on a set of brakes and drums. Little did I know I had a bad caliper up front, got the front pair replaced later.

Version 1.0! Super cheap! Super simple! Super awesome. Note the bench seat. The plan was that if I was even in an accident that bench seat would hold all the crap in the back. Not that It matters because dodge vans are as safe in an accident as skydiving with an anvil for a parachute.

A mood picture for all the ladies...

I was now the proud owner of a home built hobomobile-I mean camper van. Which was fortunate for me! Because....

At this point in my life, I was going through major changes. Wife and I ended our relationship and I moved over 1000 miles to the PNW. Towing a Volvo wagon on a trailer, the van it did great. 13-15 mpg at 60 towing 5500 pounds of trailer and car.

So... I had started a new job and a new life. But I still wanted the van done a bit better. I only slept in version 1 of the van twice. It was great, but that bench seat was in the way. and the carpet inside had gotten wet and wouldn't dry out. I realized I needed to make some changes.

After living in my new place with my new GF for a few months, the van mostly unused I put an ad up on craigslist for a carpenter.

I offered $1000 for someone to lay wood floors, a bed frame, a cabinet and shelves in the van.

As you can see I spared no expense in creating perfecting blueprints that any carpenter could take and create a majestic bit of artistry for my 19 year old van.

That was my craigslist request.

There were quite a few replies, some people were rude because I wasnt offering enough, others sounded like drugged out guys who thought id be an easy target to get robbed, and one guy, sent me pictures and a link...

I chose Kevin. I dropped the van off at his house...

Id say this is pretty damn good for $1000 and a crappy 3 minute mspaint blueprint.

Here she is all done...

Version 2.0! This was taken at La Push, WA.

For cooking I have a butane stove, Cubies for water, I use an extension cord to provide power to my laptop when I am at a campground. I do all my cooking and dish washing outside of the van.

My #1 complaint is standing room. The van has a low roof and boy, at this point I am wishing I had found an old handicap van instead. But, for what it's worth I love this dumb green thing. Maybe enough to buy a fiberglass bubble top or maybe a pop-top and put it on.

There are still a few things I want to do to the van, and a few things I've done to it that I need to photograph and show off, like a 19 inch tv and a hole I put in the wall to pass an extension cord through.

Im also fixing to start a ~4100 mile trip from Seattle to San Diego and back on the 9th of June, so that should be fun! 15 days of HASHTAGVANLYF

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Old 05-29-2017, 04:26 PM   #2
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Location: Estes Park, CO
Posts: 194
Awesome post, thanks for sharing this life adventure. Sound like its time for a high top! Wonder how hard it would be to install 4-wheel drive? How's the drivetrain holding up?

2009 E-350 Lopes 55
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Old 11-13-2018, 04:17 PM   #3
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Location: Richmond VA
Posts: 313
@VVandering, glad to see another Dodge out there. Nice economy buildout. We'll probably do something similarly simple with our new-to-us '94 Dodge. After more than a decade with a VW poptop we were pretty well set on a highroof for storage and more living space and found an ex-handicap van that we think will do well for us. Good luck!
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Old 11-14-2018, 10:34 PM   #4
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Very nice post, thank you for sharing such a fantastic build
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Old 12-14-2018, 07:34 AM   #5
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Posts: 22
Good looking Dodge Maxi, $3500! Right on.
I’ve always been partial to that colour green. Thinking I may paint mine that colour someday. We did an almost 8000kms tour of the Maritime provinces in our ‘97 maxi last summer, and I gotta say that 5.9L, 4spd with a 3.92 rear gear combination was a dream on the highway.
I do admire your positivity given your recent chain of events. Good on ya, and good luck.
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