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A 24-year-old spent $140,000 buying and converting a Mercedes van. Take a look inside the luxury home on wheels.

Monica Humphries   

A 24-year-old spent $140,000 buying and converting a Mercedes van. Take a look inside the luxury home on wheels.
  • Abbe Minor spent nine months and $140,000 converting a Mercedes Sprinter van.
  • Inspired by Mediterranean architecture, the van has plaster walls, handmade tiles, and organic shapes.

After years of living in and converting campervans, Abbe Minor naturally ended up with a community of people in San Diego working on similar projects.

One friend was working on a big red van. Another was building a space where every interior detail was orange with an '80s psychedelic theme.

The 24-year-old told Business Insider that her community offered her a version of "la-la land" — a place where boundaries were limitless and challenging the norm was welcomed.

So, she set out to do just that for her most recent van conversion. In April 2023, she purchased a bold yellow 2022 Mercedes Sprinter.

For the next nine months, she designed and built a space that's just as much functional as it is artistic. She used Moroccan plaster to create organic, curved walls, and handmade Spanish tiles line the shower.

The space screams luxury — and so does the price tag. By the end of the conversion, Minor said she spent $140,000 on the build. Today, she values the van at $235,000.

It's an investment she said she doesn't regret.

"I wanted to learn new skills and create something that scared me," she said. "At the core of all this is art."

This is Minor's fourth conversion since moving into a van in college

In college, Minor and her boyfriend at the time built out their first van and traveled around the country, checking off 46 states.

Throughout that adventure, Minor said she saw firsthand what some people are willing to pay for a campervan conversion.

While people spend a vast range on campervans, the luxury RV market caters to travelers willing to shell out high prices. In 2020, BI reported that luxury vans could have price tags of upward of $250,000. Since then, luxury campervan prices have continued to rise. Redtail Overland released its Skyloft Van earlier this year with a base price of $530,000, Autoevolution reported, and Noovo recently unveiled its latest luxury campervan, the Noovo Plus, which starts at $178,000.

"It made me realize the opportunity that was there," Minor said.

After graduating from college, Minor launched a business converting vans. She'd buy a campervan, spend a few months converting it, sell it, and then live off the profit for the rest of the year.

"I've done one per year, and I've really tried to make them boutique and artistic," she said.

For the past few years, Minor has supported herself through van renovations. She's also diversified her revenue streams thanks to social media and a book she's writing on how to renovate vans.

With the first two builds, Minor said her goal was to be strategic with her investment. She kept an eye on trends and focused on efficient conversions so her builds would sell fast. Minor said she made about the average US salary with each sale, so around $60,000.

With her most recent conversion, she tossed thoughts about money aside. Minor was inspired to challenge both herself and the industry on what a van could look like.

"With this build, I said, 'Screw it,'" she said. "I don't really care what the market wants. I don't care how much money I spend. I'm just going to create something that has never been done before."

The first step was purchasing a yellow 2022 Mercedes Sprinter.

The van renovation took nine months and cost her $140,000

A bright yellow van was the ideal canvas for this project. Not only did it personify Minor's bright personality, but it's something "you can't scroll past without being like, 'Whoa,'" she said.

Minor traveled to Pennsylvania to pick up the $66,000 van.

"Driving it home was the best time of my life," she said. "I was just floating, envisioning what I was going to do with it."

Minor then drove to San Diego, where she did most of the automobile work. She replaced the van's wheels, tires, and suspension and added a roof rack and ladder. Then, she headed to a small island off the coast of Washington, where she spent months working from a relative's shed.

Minor said most of her time in the shed was devoted to ideation.

She drew inspiration from Pinterest and AI renderings. She gravitated toward Spanish and Mediterranean styles, where "everything flows together and looks like it's like coming out of the earth."

The goal was to learn new skills and use new materials for the conversion. For example, Minor used liquid fiberglass — a material that's typically used on the exterior of automobiles — inside her van.

This approach is what helped create the curved walls throughout the space.

Minor also covered the van's interior walls with Tadelakt, a plaster used in Moroccan architecture. It's a material she said she'd never seen inside a van.

With the help of social media, Minor partnered with brands and installed thousands of dollars worth of free products throughout the space.

The van also has a handful of hidden elements throughout. The benches at the front convert into a second bed and a staircase is home to secret storage.

Overall, the entire conversion, including the cost of the van, cost Minor $140,000. She said that materials such as plaster and Baltic birch wood, used for the cabinetry, were some of the most expensive parts of the build.

The conversion took about nine months to complete, with just enough time to bring it to San Diego's TinyFest, an annual gathering for tiny homes and nomad living. There, Minor's van received an award for the best use of space.

Minor said her van isn't just a smart business move — it's an art piece

Minor knew this van would be a different investment than her other builds. Instead of immediately selling it, like she's done in the past, Minor will live in the van and create content to capitalize on the conversion.

A bright yellow van appeals to brands since it stands out. An interior with luxury details lends herself to working with high-end companies. And a space that's visually appealing leads to engagement and interest from viewers around the world.

While $140,000 might be a lot for a conversion, she said: "I think that'll be more valuable in the long run."

This investment, along with her upcoming book, means Minor can continue to live the free, independent lifestyle that van life has continued to offer her.

"I know so many van builders and so many companies who have scaled and have focused more on van building from a strictly business perspective," she said. "In which case, it just turns into a regular business that's complicated, that's restricted."

"I wanted to be more of an artist and keep my life as free as it can be," she said.

Ultimately, Minor acknowledges that everything has a price. She's listed the van on her website for $235,000. In the meantime, she's continuing to tweak and enhance the van as she lives and travels in it.

Reflecting on the build, Minor said her goal throughout was to create something uncommon and something "that was a reflection of myself and who I am."

She said she believes she's done just that.

"It's the best feeling ever when you can create a space that makes someone feel something," she said.

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