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From Renters to Van Life: The Story Behind A Mano Vans

Sole and Joey first got into campervan conversions when they built out their own van in order to escape the weight of San Diego rent. They adjusted to the tiny lifestyle and eventually decided to make converting vans into a business!

So far, they’ve converted 5 full rigs and done some other partial conversions, as well. Below, you’ll find a photo tour of their latest creation, along with a Q&A about how they got into the business.

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Now They’re Building Campervans in San Diego

There’s a cute little fold-out table.

There’s a cool Lagun mount that’s perfect for a stand-up desk.

Handy towel bars and gorgeous countertops.

A nice little control panel here.

A two burner cooktop.

I love the glass backsplash.

There’s a great little bookshelf over the bed.

A lovely double bed in the back.

I love that there’s a mirror!

Here’s the team!

Interview w/ Sole

What got you into building vans?

Joey and I moved into our van just after college. We were living in Santa Barbara and spending all our money on rent when I decided the next logical step was to buy a van- a high roof one, my only specification. We were able to find a used high top 159WB promaster and proceeded to drive to LA 4 times before being able to drive it home. With the help of Joey’s dad we began the building process with no clear vision or timeline of events. After a lot of mistakes, doing and redoing, taking down and putting back up, we finally moved into the van and adjusted to this new way of life in a little tiny home. We had the pleasure of living practically beach-front near the harbor in Santa Barbara, waking up to the squawk of seagulls following a tugboat full of bounty, high up in a mountain regularly patrolled by at least one mountain lion, and many other wild places that have housed for a night or two between destinations. As people stopped us and asked to peek inside, they were also planting the seed that will eventually blossom into us deciding to start A Mano Co and begin converting campervans. On a bittersweet September day we sold our beloved first van- that insulated box of metal and wood and memories that housed us for years and took us to places we will undoubtedly visit forever.

What are your future plans for the business?

Our future plans for the business are to continue to build fully-customizable campervans, though we are definitely open to expand to other vessels like boats or buses or proper tiny homes. We are currently also building custom home furniture like tables and benches.

How many vans have you converted?

To this day we have converted 5 start-to-finish vans, one 4-runner, and assisted on a couple half projects. We love being able to focus on one project at a time, giving it all our attention, and being able to build something truly custom tailored to our customers. We are also just a 2 person team so our work becomes personal and our clients become friends, truly a dream come true for us.

Tell us about this van. What are the features? Cost?

This van is our latest full build, its a 159WB Promaster with a full kitchen (dometic stovetop + fridge, sink), comfortable living (Webasto heater, 12v AC, Natures head composting toilet, Maxxair fan) and a lot of custom storage spaces. We made a laundry chute that opens to retrieve laundry or access the ‘garage space’, a locking pocket door to separate the cab from the main living area, a big spacious bench, and a fantastic split kitchen to maximize countertop space while leaving room for living.

Learn more

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Our big thanks to Sole and Joey for sharing!🙏

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.

Latest posts by Natalie C. McKee (see all)

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Liz
    March 1, 2023, 5:46 pm


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