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Ford is working with MAKE to profile owners of the Transit Connect, a vehicle that offers creative types a small, modifiable vehicle to suit their passions and personal pursuits. In this series, we’ll be profiling Transit Connect owners and looking at how they’ve customized their rides.

Kevin Hornby is an auto conversion specialist. He owns Kevin Hornby Designs in Vista, Calif., just north of San Diego. But working in California instead of, say, Italy has its disadvantages.

Unlike Europe where car manufacturers sell scores of small, modifiable vehicles, the choices in the U.S. are far more limited. So when he learned Ford was going to start selling the Transit Connect in America he jumped on it.

“I said ‘this is it.’”

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He says the Transit Connect fills a niche in the American market for an affordable, small-sized vehicle that is well-suited to customization. Here’s how he describes the vehicle on his website:

Remember the days of the Volkswagen camper…easy to use, didn’t empty your wallet at the gas pump, and priced to fit almost anyone’s budget?  Well it’s here again thanks to the Ford Transit Connect and Kevin Hornby Designs. Packaged into a small daily driver, this vehicle is a great choice for the sports enthusiast, weekend camper or tailgater.  Unlike the old Volkswagen camper, you can travel comfortably at well over 50 miles per hour and you’ll get that new car smell and warranty to boot.

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One of Kevin Hornby’s fully loaded Transit Connects complete with bed, flip-up grill, sink, and shower wand.

To capitalize on the Transit Connect’s potential, he developed a design for turning the automobile into a self-contained camping and travel unit. It includes a fold-out, 6-foot long bed, a flip-up counter and sink, a wand shower,  a pressurized water tank, and space for a refrigerator or toilet.  One of the cool parts of the design is it still allows for use of the backseat. He calls it “The Module.”

Kevin says he’s had “tons and tons” of interest in his design and for Transit Connect modifications in general. But few sales. He’s sold about five modifications, including one that included a flat screen TV, a tracking satellite, and a swing out generator.

“The guy just wanted to get out and go,” he said.

He says because the vehicle is affordable and easy to work on, it appeals to owners who want to do the modifications themselves. Most people call him for ideas and then go off and build it on their own.

“It’s small. It’s easy to drive. It’s a great little weekend camper.”

He doesn’t begrudge all the DIYers, but he cautions against trying to do too much.

“With a small vehicle you have to keep things simple,” he says.

Stett Holbrook

Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.


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