Man and woman taking photograph from the back of their van, him standing in front of van and her lying within
Derek and Jade Brannon relaxing in their van. (Image credit: Derek Brannon)

Derek Brannon, 40, and his wife Jade, 30, are part way into their five-year plan to convert their 1998 Dodge Ram into a personalised home on wheels.

The project is a massive undertaking and has utilised the couple’s skills, time and energy since they first began in 2021. It’s a labour of love for Derek and Jade and one which should pay off for them in the long run. With the changes they have already made and those that they’re still working on, they will have a van worth over £200k for less than a quarter of the price. 

Derek shares his best tips for others thinking about embarking on this challenge: 

A Photo looking into the back of a van whilst the door is open, giving you a look at the homely interior.
The van in progress. (Image credit: Derek Brannon)

1. Envisage the finished product

Think about how you want the van to be at the end of the process and work backwards. Both visually and practically, nothing is worse than having to take things back apart because you forgot to add a power outlet. Lots of patience and lots of cardboard templates are essential. 

2. Storage is king

Use every bit of space that you have. Storage is hard to come by in a van and every square inch counts so be smart. I built a slot in my wardrobe cabinet to hold all the window covers when they’re off and as a pantry we actually use collapsible tote bags so we can bring them into a supermarket for all of our dry goods then slide it under the bed. 

3. Design for the future as well as the present

I have multiple wires going from one end of the van to the other that serve no purpose right now other than for “future proofing” because I know we’ll eventually want power in that spot for something. Also, every open hole behind a panel has an access door just in case we think of something in the future to put in there. 

4. Don’t compromise on time

Woman working on her backyard, woodworking and cutting up planks of wood for her van
Jade working on a wooden panel (Image credit: Derek Brannon)

Take the time, build it right and build it strong so that it will last forever. This is definitely a large project that I have planned out over the course of five years but, if all goes well, I will have built a better van than what they charge for £200k, for under £50k. 

5. Waterproof everything!

Trust me.

6. Plan how you will keep your valuables safe 

I have a couple of hiding spots in the van for valuables, but exactly where is a secret. 

A look into the inside of a converted van, through the open back door, showing a makeshift bed and dining table
The van furnished with custom plush seating. (Image credit: Derek Brannon)

7. Have a plan but…

It’s practically a guarantee that things will go wrong along the way. We had a three-phase plan for our van conversion. Phase one was to make the van look good with some minor upgrades, but we quickly had to adapt as we found a massive amount of moisture and mould. We realised that the quality of the original build was so poor that it wasn’t worth our time to fix anything up.