Class B Sienna Conversion Ideasby Brandon Dingess
Class B motor homes are essentially vans with the addition of motor home amenities such as a bed, small kitchen and a storage area. Some class B motor homes even boast bathroom facilities -- though they're usually small. Most of these vehicles appear to onlookers as no different than their non-motor home counterparts. The Toyota Sienna, a two-wheel drive, eight-passenger minivan, can be converted into a functional class B recreational vehicle suitable for one or two people on short-duration excursions.
A separate power system will be necessary for the non-standard equipment you're likely to add to a Sienna motor home conversion. The car's battery would run down if it were powering everything, so you'll need either a solar panel set or a secondary "leisure battery." Solar panels can be mounted on top of the Sienna and wired into its own electrical system separate from the rest of the car. A "leisure battery" is a separate battery that powers the vehicle's appliances such as a small refrigerator or an electric cooktop, but is recharged by the van's alternator when running. Audit your expected power requirements before you make a purchase so you'll have a system that can handle your needs.
The middle and rear rows of seats will need to be removed to make room for a sleeping area in your class B Sienna; they are designed to be removed, so it will do no long-term damage to your vehicle. Build a platform in place of the rear row of seats. An air or foam mattress -- or anything that's comfortable and collapsible because space is at a premium -- will sit on top of this platform. The inside of this platform can be divided into storage space for clothes, sheets, toiletries and even a rolled-up mattress.
Privacy can be a big concern when using a converted vehicle as a motor home. Most minivans and cars are designed with big windows so passengers can see out, but this also allows others to see in, which is undesirable when you're sleeping, eating and changing clothes inside. If your Sienna's windows aren't already tinted, get them darkened to the maximum legal limit. This, coupled with small curtains will prevent the curious from seeing what's going on inside your vehicle. A sliding curtain can be placed between the driver's area and the rear compartment for further privacy; this arrangement can be handy when one person has to sleep while another is driving.
Food Storage and Preparation
Recreational vehicle stores sell small refrigerators that draw little power. Specialty items such as these, however, are often more expensive than something like a small, dormitory-sized refrigerator. It all comes down to size and how much valuable space you're willing to commit to a fridge -- either type can be powered to run in a class B motor home. Many RV stores also offer small electric range tops, but it might be cheaper to use a portable propane camp stove. Small propane canisters don't cost much and can last a long time depending on the amount of cooking you do. The propane stove has the advantage of portability and can be stored when not in use, giving you back a flat surface for dining or writing.
Bathrooms in a vehicle this size are a matter of personal preference. Installing one will severely limit the amount of space left in the vehicle, and the cost of plumbing and holding tank installation will likely make the idea cost prohibitive. One solution is to keep a portable toilet that can be set up outside when at a campsite. With a portable, solar-heated shower and a small basin, you can even set up a whole outdoor bathroom area at a secluded campsite.
Vehicles aren't meant for long-term habitation, so you'll need to install a ventilation fan to prevent both the air from getting stuffy, and condensation covering the windows and walls. Most ventilation fan kits require a hole to be cut in either the vehicle's wall or ceiling before installation, so be certain it's what you want before you proceed.
- link Toyota: 2011 Sienna
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