February '18

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56 THE SHOP FEBRUARY 2018 F ort Collins, Colorado-based Vanworks has been in the van conversion busi- ness since 1978. Vanworks converted a Ram ProMaster 2500 and had it on display at an RV show in Denver in March 2017. There we met Barry Biss, who manages the company's van conversion department, a role he's had at Vanworks since the begin- ning. Biss says the van conversion market is strong, which has led to more competition among converting shops. Customers range from buyers in their 20s and 30s to 70-year-old retirees. They're attracted to the small footprint and economy van conversions and Class B RVs offer. Biss told us there's been an uptick in business recently, due in large part to the interest in the class of van that Mercedes has made popular with the Sprinter. Lately, it's been "crazy busy" he says, and Vanworks is completely booked up with custom build orders, due in part because the new Sprinter 4x4s have arrived. In fact, if we had been going for a com- pletely customized van rather than the demo unit, we would have had to wait—six months to a year. Down the road, Eric Miller, president and co-founder of Golden, Colorado- based TouRig, says his company is also booked solid through the spring for custom builds, and agrees that the demand is so high that one would be hard-pressed to find any quality upfitters that have custom build slots open any time in the next 8-10 months. To ease demand, another popular German product, recently available in the U.S., is a more affordable, modular system called TerraCamper that offers pre- packaged floor plans. THE APPEAL What this means is that besides some of the upgrades and amenities that often can be rolled into the vehicle loan, there are plenty more upgrades and accessories shops can provide for people who realize they also need this and that after they've signed all the papers for their new conversion van. In our case, although we did think to roll a couple of items into the loan, such as a The road is open & wide for today's van conversion market. Small is the new big—this van fits in a regular parking spot. Barry Biss explains the bicycle clamping system. Rolling with the Possibilities By Eddie Wieber

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