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.
Earlier this year MAKE met up with Kevin Fitzpatrick, a North Carolina-based maker and audio engineer-turned-photographer with a keen interest in conservation photography.
Kevin has also made his home in urban centers throughout the northeast, namely Boston and New York City. But he always returns to the landscape of Appalachia–specifically western North Carolina around Asheville. The Great Smoky Mountains lay just on the horizon and the abundance of biodiversity in the region constantly beckons him here.
As Kevin describes the roads as “arteries” that move through a greater ecosystem and then recites a host of insects or flora discovered in the area, it’s clear he understands the macro and micro operations of nature in the region. He studies the balance of time here and translates that study to images using photography. It’s his passion.
Turning that excitement into action, Kevin has been participating in bioblitz surveys for many years now. A bioblitz is basically a short, intense field study of a specific area that partners scientists with ordinary citizens to both identify a region’s existing species and potentially discover new ones.
Of course this requires travelling. A lot of travelling. In 2011, Kevin was on the road for nearly a quarter of the year, making short three-day trips to nearby locales and sometimes longer trips to neighboring states for the purpose of participating in bioblitz surveys and working as a nature photographer. This meant many hotels and a lot less camping than he desired.
Putting two and two together he figured he could convert a vehicle for travel, to transport his gear and make a temporary home on the road. That’s where the Transit Connect comes in. After looking around he settled on the vehicle for its size and features, but also for its potential to be modded to suit his needs. He enlisted the assistance of the Intrepid Declutterer to strategize the volume of gear to transport and how this would translate to interior storage and a general layout for living and working on the road. They sketched out the ideas together.
Kevin then needed someone to help mod the vehicle to make this idea a reality. Which is exactly what Asheville-based Morehead Design Lab does, modifying campers, vans, trailers, and vehicles of various design. And yet when Kevin approached them they had never heard of the Transit Connect. When they saw the interior they, too, realized the possibilities.
Here are some snaps of the build-out process:
While by no means comprehensive, below are some of the modifications to Kevin’s Transit Connect:
- An exhaust fan installed on the roof expels hot air during summer nights and the interior is lined with a material that provide r-value insulation for winter nights.
- A rail on the main cabinet allow cushions to quickly turn the couch into a bed.
- A sink in the rear can draw water from both gray and potable water containers in a storage area below.
- 110V AC plugs and sockets were installed, that draw from a separate battery so as not to drain the engine’s battery. Two female sockets are available inside the cab, and one male plug is installed outside on the vehicle’s rear bumper.
- The primary countertop has a sliding tray below to quickly expand available working space.
- Every possible available nook has been turned into a storage compartment. For example, the couch seats can be removed to reveal storage below.
In the video below Kevin walks us through his progression from photographer to citizen scientist to maker on the move and the necessity for a vehicle to serve as a temporary home and office. A few photos of some the details of modifications made to his Transit Connect follow: