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Mobile Cabin

1999 Chevy Express 1500 - My Mobile Cabin

Originally published: June 24, 2018

I’m now the proud owner of a 1999 Chevy Express 1500 Conversion Van, my mobile cabin! Everything went according to plan. The only downer is the feelings of the prior owner. It was obvious he really loved this van. He took meticulous care of it. As he was giving me instructions on how things worked, it was more like a parent handing his child to someone else to raise. He took care of the van for its first 19 years, now the torch is passed over to me. I intend to take as good of care of the van as he did.

Where to Start

When you purchase a 19-year-old van, you don’t just hop in and take an extended trip. Well, actually, with this van you probably could, but I didn’t. It’s a large vehicle and I have to get used to the size and feel of it. Another thing is this Chevy Express didn’t have a rearview mirror. I understand why it didn’t, but I rely rather heavily on rearview mirrors and wasn’t ready to give it up just yet.

Additionally, because of the size of the vehicle and the inability to see what’s directly in back of me when backing up, I ordered a backup camera. The display for the backup camera is embedded in the rearview mirror. This way I can accomplish two tasks with one purchase.

No Rear View Mirror

I originally researched backup cameras on Amazon with the intent of installing it myself. However, the more I read, the less confident I felt about taking on the task, so I opted to go to a local car stereo shop. There they have kits and installation experts. From what I read, the hard-wired option is more reliable than wifi backup cameras. I wanted something as quirk-free as possible so hard wired it is.

Exterior Dings, Dents, Chips

Not being a fashion maven, exterior dings, dents and chips don’t really bother me. However, the prior owner ordered new bumpers for the van because the old ones have been dinged up quite a bit. In an attempt to protect them, he put camouflage duct tape on them. Not very attractive, but I guess it worked. Over time the duct tape began to wear so the bumpers look pretty bad.

Old Bumper

My next task is to find an auto shop to put the new bumpers on the Chevy. The bumpers are huge and take up quite a bit of space. Currently, they’re sitting in my basement (fog lights need replacing too).

New Bumpers

As far as the paint chips go, he was going to give the van a new paint job. I’m still on the fence about that, depending on how much it will cost. Yes, I would like to have a uniform van without paint chips, but it’s not a real priority.

Paint Job

Mechanically Sound

I believe this Chevy Express is mechanically sound as I have a record of everything that was done to it, right down to the scheduled oil changes and tire rotations. In spite of all that, next week I’m taking the van to Grumpy Gus, the best and least friendly auto mechanic in the world. I wish I could have gotten the van to him prior to purchase, but Grumpy Gus is about 70 miles away. One hundred and forty miles round trip is a long distance to drive a car I haven’t purchased yet.


So there are a few minor things I needed before I really settle into the van. The first thing was Bluetooth. A 1999 Chevy Express does not come with Bluetooth. It also doesn’t come with USB ports for charging cell phones and other USB devices. Fortunately, that’s an easy fix. I ordered a VicTsing FM transmitter  It supports up to 2 USB devices, micro SD card and AUX input. With this little device, I’ll be able to listen to audiobooks from my iPhone and have hands-free phone conversations.

FM Transmitter

Fortunately, the existing radio has a CD and old-fashioned cassette tape input. I think I got rid of most of my cassette tapes, but it will come in handy when I take out a book on tape from the library.

The one last thing I ordered, but probably don’t really need it, is a dual cigarette charger. Because the FM transmitter sits in the cigarette lighter, I wanted an extra charge option on the dashboard. However, after ordering it, I found there are two cigarette chargers on the front console.  Oh well,  I can always give it to either my hubby or my daughter.

Chevy Express Changes in the Future

The conversion van comes with a TV and DVD player. It has a lot of other entertainment gadgets/plugs that I’ll probably never use. Over time I might swap out the analog TV for a digital flat screen. In the meanwhile, my grandson can watch Elmo and crew on the old-fashioned analog TV. I don’t think he really cares.

Those are the basic changes I see based on less than 24-hours of owning the van. To make it really travel ready and comfortable, I’ll need to take a couple of overnight trips. Those trips will help me to figure out the essentials to make my mobile cabin livable and ready for traipsing around.

About the Author: Felicia likes to traipse around and write about her traipsings. FeliciaIn her mind, she lives in an RV and gets to travel to beautiful places far and near. However, in reality, she traipses around in her mobile cabin, Faith, a 2005 Chevy Express Conversion van. With Faith, she’s slowly (and I mean slowly) transitioning her mind to leave the ‘safe world’ of bricks and sticks in favor of the unpredictable world of van travel.

Last Modified: 4 May 2021

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