E.J. and Florrie Bleendreeble's

Fergus the Magic Bus


This is a revised version of our Web site. We've simplified it considerably: it's now one continuous web page (the page you're on at the moment). So you can use the links at the bottom to move to the section you're interested in, or you can scroll down this page and browse.

 History

Fergus replaced a Honda Odyssey, which was simply becoming too small for the kind of camping we wanted to do. He is a 2016 low-roof, 130"-wheelbase cargo van, with 3.7-litre V6, rear windows, sliding side-door with window, dual batteries, 3-outlet CCP, four upfitter switches, cruise control, cargo protection (walls and rubber-carpeted floor), and towing package.

 Basics

Like some other members of the Ford Transit USA Forum, we don't care for bashing holes in Fergus or doing anything else to alter him irreversibly when the time comes to sell him. Nor do we want any longer to permanently install expensive options like the popup roof and built-in 120-volt a/c units which were part of our original plans. So everything is secured to cargo hooks, sometimes by turnbuckles and S-hooks, sometimes by bungee cords.


A very rough idea of how Fergus is laid out.

This has turned out to be a good philosophy for us, as we've changed the interior layout several times.

 Bed/bench

There are two beds running from the back of the van forward, each consisting of 3/4" plywood panels, one 18" and one 16" wide, hinged longitudinally on the non-wall edge and covered with cheap Home Depot carpet which is stapled on. One bed is six feet long and permanently installed on the driver's side, the other is 5'8" long and is installed on the passenger side when Florrie comes camping with me. These both sit on gray-painted parson's table legs from Home Depot, whose hanger bolts allow them to be screwed into quick-mount surface plates. When both beds are installed and unfolded (the beds must be opened simultaneously, and therefore the legs on opposing benches must be offset from one another), a van-wide platform is created. These beds are secured to cargo hooks with turnbuckles, chain, and S-hooks.


As far as possible, only light objects go below the beds. The bungee cords merely stop the crates "walking" while we're under way: they will likely be of little use in the event of a moving accident. Should that happen, we are depending on the turnbuckles to stop the platform moving and the bench legs to stop forward movement of the crates ....

The table legs are approximately 14" high. Sitting on the carpeted plywood bench are sections of 3" foam - the very firmest you can get. In the bench position, one piece of foam is the backrest and one is the seat. In the bed position, the foam pieces lie side-by-side. They do not move apart when you lie on them because they grip the cheap carpet. This gives a seat height of about 19" or so (that is, parson's leg + thickness of surface plate + two 3/4" ply panels + three layers of carpet + 3" of foam).

At night, the benches fold out into a huge double-bed platform. During the day, the beds fold up into benches. The "outermost" legs - now pointing upwards against the wall - hold the narrower foam pad against the wall for a backrest. Bedding folds up and sits at the rear end of each bench.

 Storage

There is room under each bench/bed for four translucent Sterilite crates, two lateral and two longitudinal (to get around the wheel well). Obviously, when Florrie's bed is not installed, those crates are absent, so all four of Florrie's crates are for her lightweight possessions (clothes, toiletries, etc.). Crates on both sides are "located" using bungee cords over cup-hooks on the legs, and those cords are secured to cargo hooks or to openings in the van walls.


Locating the cabinets right behind the driver and passenger seats will - we hope - stop the worst from happening in the event of a sudden stop. The doormat goes outside the sliding door when we are camped. Inside Fergus, it sheds constantly.

In addition, we have two three-drawer Sterilite cabinets located immediately behind the driver and passenger seats. We have cutting boards screwed into the top of those cabinets for food preparation (these were not installed when the photos were taken). The cabinets contain heavier items, food, and cooking implements and ingredients. On each wall we hang shoe-hangers for odds and ends. We also use small ClosetMaid wire-shelving accessories for smartphones and for hanging things like rucksacks, although these inexpensive items may no longer be available. And there is a little one-legged stool that fits over the handbrake and between the front seats. This has a power strip mounted along the back and makes a handy substitute for a console. It's designed in such a way that we can still lift the handbrake, should that ever be necessary.


This little table sits between the front seats and rests on the "ledges" around those seats. The fan heater lives under there, but it's placed elsewhere when it's in use.

 120-volt

We have a simple "shore-power" setup at the rear of the van - just a three-way adapter strapped to a bench-leg.


The little bungee cord is stapled to the underside of the bed/bench. You can run the power cord down the little gap between the end of the kickplate and the seal for the door, as indicated by the white arrow: it won't "pinch," as you will see if you close the door and slide the power cord up and down.

From it, a substantial power cord can be run under the rear door without "pinching" - no need for a dedicated power inlet in the side of the van. The main power cord is about 25 feet. We have an additional 100 feet on a spool in the rear-most driver's-side crate.

We "daisy-chain" power-strips down each side of Fergus.


The object above the power-strip is a folding chair, which is only there when Fergus has the one bed/bench in him: otherwise it goes in Rover, our tiny trailer.

The cords to the power-strips are run under the plastic kickplates at the rear of Fergus and at the sliding door and provide ready 120-volt access throughout the van.

 12-volt

We have a 300-watt pure sine-wave inverter powered from the CCP with a breaker/switch on the left side of the driver's seat pedestal. This is to power small 120-volt loads when we are under way, such as the brick-sized power-supply for Florrie's work laptop, and the small crockpot so we can cook the evening's dinner as we drive.

The CCP also has a low-amp, cigar-lighter output. This has a switch, and is used to power the Endless Breeze 12-volt fan and the Engel fridge if we are parked somewhere during the day without external 120-volt power (e.g. eating, shopping, or relaxing in a park somewhere). Having dual batteries, we do not worry about running them down with these small loads.

From the two switched 12-volt outlets on the dashboard, we run a) the Bluetooth system for my smartphone, which connects to the AUX input on the radio and provides phone communication and radio/music, and b) a cable to three 12-volt outlets and two USB outlets in a small, cheap unit that is stuck onto that mysterious bottom shelf at the foot of the instrument console. Passengers can plug their smartphones into that.


In the driver's side 12-volt outlet are the feed to a smartphone and the BTC450 Bluetooth unit, connected to a microphone mounted just behind Fergus's steering wheel. Audio output goes to the AUX IN plug. The passenger-side 12-volt outlet descends to a unit mounted on the "shelf" at the bottom of the console. That unit offers several 12-volt and USB outlets: one of the 12-volt outlets powers the fridge when under way. A passenger can charge a phone from that same unit.

 Ventilation

With each year that passes, we need worry less and less about heating Fergus because we are in the South. We have a small, battle-worn fan heater that usually lives beneath the one-legged stool and is used sometimes in winter. It warms the van up in a few minutes.

Air-conditioning becomes correspondingly more important. We use an LG portable a/c unit that lives permanently behind the passenger seat. Its single hose will just make it from the back of the unit to the top of the passenger-door window and into our custom-made outlet. Portable a/c units have problems which can be studied elsewhere on the Internet. We have no expectation that ours can cool Fergus during the day: we are only interested in staying cool at night, and our unit manages that all right. The main problem is that it can't quite get rid of the humidity sufficiently, so we can be cool enough but still not quite comfortable. However, it's much better than nothing and occupies just one square foot of valuable floor space.


The a/c unit is shown behind the passenger seat but facing the wrong way (and unsecured as yet). When in use it's turned around 180 degrees, and the exhaust hose is vented through the passenger-side front window. Note the carpeted "box" in the well of the step, supporting one side of it.

 Cooking

We have a small and ancient Wally-World microwave unit on the floor just forward of the driver's-side bed. This allows us to make tea and coffee and to cook even when both beds are down (it used to be beneath one of the benches). The empty freshwater tank rides on top of it: it's outside when we actually camp. In the gap between the back of the front seats (which slope, of course) and the Sterilite cabinets is space for the two-burner Coleman stove. We also have a single 120-volt hotplate - an excellent purchase - which when in use plugs into the power-strip mounted on the back of the one-legged table that sits between the front seats.

All food, cooking implements, and ingredients live in the Sterilite cabinets.

 Fridge

We have the Engel 120/12-volt MT27 refrigerator. This is quiet, incredibly energy-efficient, and very expensive. We just missed a $300-off sale on Amazon a short time after we bought it: sometimes the early bird doesn't get the worm. This wonderful device liberated us from our ice-chest - "for this relief, much thanks," as Francisco said in another chilly context. Approximately 0.73 cubic feet may not sound very big, but we manage to get a whole bunch stuffed in there, including frequent leftovers. It sits behind the driver's seat on a little carpeted table, and is secured firmly with turnbuckles, chains, and S-hooks to the nearby cargo hooks.


This shows the location of the fridge, the microwave oven, and the inverter (just below the fridge). The empty water tank rides on top of the microwave: when we're camped, it's outside the van.

 Problems

We have had one or two minor problems. The throttle-body module failed in South Dakota, thousands of miles from home. We had the vehicle towed under Ford's roadside program to the Rapid City Ford dealership, who replaced the module a day and a half sooner than they promised: outstanding service. (Failure rate on these modules was so high at that time that they had prudently stocked several.)

The TPMS system failed and was replaced, but at least that wasn't a show-stopper. And there is a peculiar intermittent fault where the colored backup lines on the rear-view mirror's camera display will disappear. This problem self-repairs in anything from a day to a week, and has not happened recently.

 Verdict

Based on its utility, economy (just a shade under 20 mpg overall according to the computer), driving position, quietness (even with no insulation), versatility, the numerous Ford service centers, and reasonable price, I would say it's the best vehicle I've ever owned.