Introducing Polar Bear

Polar Bear and I in Utah On October 24th, I purchased a van from a fella in South Lake Tahoe. Nino and I named her “Polar Bear”. The idea is to turn this van into a camper. To be honest, I’m not 100% confident that this is the van I want to build from. I want to have a mechanic look her over and get a better idea of what I’m working with. Here’s what I know so far:

The Van

  • 1987 Ford e250 3rd generation Econoline van, regular body
  • 33″ x 12.5″ inch tires, 8 lug 16″ rims
  • What looks like a 6 to 8 inch suspension lift (maybe more?)
  • Ford 4th generation 300cu Straight 6 EFI engine.
  • 4×4 with Warn locking hubs, p205 transfer case, and 4:11 gears
  • 1 ton rear axle (Dana 60 posi) and 3/4 ton front axle (Dana 44)
  • 3 speed C-6 automatic transmission with a shift kit installed
  • Class 3 rear receiver attached to the stock bumper
  • Dual gas tanks (about 40 gallons total I believe)

The whole rig is rough. The drive train and engine are well taken care of. However, everything else is patched together. The sliding side door came off of a bus and you can still see the yellow paint. There are some rust spots, but nothing that can’t be sanded out. Much of the hardware is loose. The inside of the van is stripped out in anticipation of a new build out.

The Plan

First I’m going to focus on the outside. I’ve been hoping to find a pop-top to have installed right away. I want to replace the bumpers with heavy duty bullbars. I want to turn everything that is current chrome to black. I want a quiet the exhaust; right now she may not pass Colorado’s emissions testing. The body will remain white, but with a fresh coat of paint. I have a long list of cosmetic plans that I will detail later.

Once I feel good about the exterior, I’ll start working on the inside. I need to replace some gauges, seal the doors, replace or fix latches and fixtures. Then I’ll lay down a floor and walls. At that point, all I need is a heater and some bedding and I can use the van for overnight snowboarding trips.

Once that base work is complete and I’m confident in the van, it’s time to build out the “camper” components. Because she’s a gas rig, I’ll have to setup a propane system. There’s a slim chance I may look at a propane conversion for the engine. I intend to have a sink, stove, and mini fridge. I’ll likely buy a manual portapotty. I will need some form of sleeping arrangements, most likely a fold down bed. I want to install a wide range of electronic systems from improved lighting to external cameras. The rest of the build out will be all about storage, racks, and such.

Moving Forward

I have so many problems to solve at this point. I have no idea where I will find a pop-top at a reasonable price. I don’t have a garage nor a shop of any kind. Winter is here and it’s really cold out. I’m also very aware that I’m working with a 22 year old van. Between work and a slew of other projects, I do find myself wondering if I’m taking on too much. After driving this beast 1500 miles across the US towering over most of the other vehicles on the road, I gotta admit, she’s growing on me.

One Comment


Well, good luck with that. I have had 2 Ford mini-vans in a row and it has been nothing but money,money,fix,fix. I’ve had enough; there is not another Ford in my future. Maybe being a commercial vehicle and less loaded with do-dads it will be more reliable, but I’ll tell you, it wouldn’t have been my first choice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *