EJ and Florrie Bleendreeble's

Fergus the Magic Bus


Design Philosophy: 1

Introduction

Our philosophical approach to modifying Fergus has had two distinct phases. Let's call them Plan A and Plan B.

Plan A

Plan A arose out of our previous camping van, Sissey the Honda Odyssey. We created a camping van out of her by removing the middle row of seats, putting plastic shelves in the cargo area at the back to support an enormous Engel ice-chest and a small Wally-World microwave oven, filling the inside of Sissey with storage crates, and placing hinged and carpeted plywood panels over those crates to sleep on.

The main issue with this arrangement was that it was trying to solve one problem when it should have been solving another. It was an economical way of letting Florrie and me camp together, and it performed well in that respect. But the fact is that Florrie and I are not often able to camp together because of her work. Most of the time I camp alone, and when I camp alone I have certain very definite requirements which Sissey couldn't meet:

  • Although I prefer to be outside as much as possible, the van needs to be big enough to "escape" to if there are too many people around. "Escaping" to Sissey was impossible: too small, windows all around;
  • I want to be able to work at a desk, lounge on a bed, or sit in a reasonably comfortable chair if I'm inside. I couldn't do any of those in Sissey and feel that I had privacy;
  • I need a space that I can live in for a couple of days without going nuts if the weather is bad. Sissey certainly didn't offer that.

So the first part of this design journey was to accept that most of the time I'd be camping alone, and that if I were camping alone I needed a vehicle whose primary purpose was to meet my needs. The design could then be modified if necessary to accommodate Florrie too.

Wanted: A bigger van

Over the years, I'd looked at the new generation of vans, epitomized best perhaps by the Sprinter. I didn't much care for the look of them, I didn't want a diesel, and I don't much care for Daimler-Chrysler products. Recently I had been looking at the new Transits, and I liked what I saw from the very beginning. So when I decided I'd need a new van, the Transit was the starting-point.

At this point we visited Sportsmobile of Austin a couple of times. We saw a 2009 Ford E-series on which Sportsmobile had done their normal bang-up job, with its impressive "penthouse" roof. Unfortunately it had over 50,000 miles and was about $50,000. Somehow I just couldn't swallow spending that kind of money on a used van. And it had lots of things that we simply didn't need.

Out of these visits came Plan A. We would buy a new, low-roof, regular-wheelbase Transit, and have Sportsmobile add a penthouse roof, an a/c system, and a rotating passenger seat. The rest of the fitting-out we would do ourselves. For a total amount rather less than the E-series, we'd have a new van. We'd buy the Transit immediately, start our own fitting-out, and in three months Sportsmobile said they could do their modifications in a couple of days.

Finding Fergus

I used TrueCar to find Fergus. I wouldn't say that I have any opinion about TrueCar one way or the other. It didn't do a great job of showing all the options for the Transit, but then no one does a particularly good job of it, even Ford themselves.

We wanted a base van with certain additions. We wanted cruise control, an opening window in the side door, and windows in the rear door, and an enterprising salesperson in a dealership not too far away located Fergus in about two hours. The Internet can be a wonderful thing: buying a van unseen from an unseen salesperson in less than half a day. Now we had our van!

And that turned out to be the end of Plan A ....