A tricked out van with medical equipment may sound like the dream of a serial killer, a la Dexter, but the intended use is quite extraordinary. There are countless possibilities: a mobile HIV testing exam room (as below), or perhaps, a faster and more efficient response for organizations like the Red Cross… or a barbershop (as above).
Below, we step inside the above van outfitted with HIV testing equipment.
Few places offer the ability to customize a van in this way. Automotive Designs and Fabrication, however, can make this dream come true for you, as well as any other type of customization you might imagine. In fact, it modifies 300 vans every year, specializing in high-end, customer-specific customizations to large vans and sprinters.
Aside from the casual millionaire who can drop several thousands of dollars on a luxury party bus or limo (as above), many of Automotive Designs and Fabrication’s clients are families with special needs children, and people looking to expand their business into a mobile unit.
Though its function is less humanitarian, similar challenges must be overcome when customizing a van for a business like a barbershop, complete with reclining chair, sink, towel warmer, specialized vacuum for the hair trimmings, mini bar and remote controlled blinds for privacy during the on-the-go haircut.
Below, a before-and-after comparison of a live media production van shows a dramatic transformation.
The van with a complete medical exam room is for an organization that does mobile HIV testing. It comes equipped with a sink, bathroom and separate small exam rooms to offer the patients more privacy and confidentiality. The two vans below feature similar modifications AND x-ray machines.
Below, a van has been equipped with a dental-exam room, including a fully operational panoramic x-ray machine.
unknownlist sat down with Jeremiah Weaver, the project manager for Automotive Designs and Fabrication, to get the insider’s perspective on how things are done at this unique business.
unknownlist: Are your clients usually individuals or businesses?
Jeremiah: I would say it’s about 50/50. We’ll get a lot of families that need some sort of larger vehicle to transport their entire family or they have special needs like mobility and need to integrate a wheelchair lift into their van, but still want to be able to fit the whole family. And we’ll also get companies like Pinkberry or something who want to build a mobile platform to serve their foods and expand their business.
u: Are all your vans only custom made in your shop, or do you have a selection of already made vans for clients to buy right then and there? Like party vans, limos, etc.
J: No, every van is custom built to the customer’s specifications.
u: Does that require you to learn new design or engineering techniques for the different types of customizations asked of you?
J: Each van has its own set of challenges that we need to overcome, but since we’ve been doing this for so long, it allows us to know what’s going to work and what’s not going to work from the beginning. Jobs that are completely out of the box we need to figure out a new approach from the beginning and figure out what we can or cannot do and we’ll need to work with the customer throughout the entire build of the car to really make sure that it’s something that’s going to work for them, but also is still possible for the van chastity.
u: For example the medical exam room vans, did you have to do your own research on how to engineer one, or did you bring in a specialist? How does something like that work? Does the client provide you with any specific info?
J: When we first started those cars, there weren’t very many of them on the road in a van platform, there were some trailers and larger kind of platforms to work with where we could take ideas from but really we just had to work with different parts of the law on things we could or could not put in the van. We had to integrate the legal aspects of what a customization like that would require and work them into the smaller van chastity. We look up the building codes or government regulations. So, for the medical exam room van we would look up hospital building codes for a room like that and integrate that into the van platform. The rest would be customer dictated.
u: Do you usually meet with the client throughout the process to make sure the customization is to their satisfaction? What happens if they do not like the way it is engineered halfway through?
J: Yes, it depends on the style of build, the easier jobs its kind of like they’ll just give us a floor plan and trust our experience to make it work. Some of the more complicated ones, like the mobile barbershop, those are the ones we’ll work with the customer. We’ll build the van up, but we won’t progress with the build until the customer has approved of the full mock-up. If they change anything after that mock-up stage there’s an extra fee for that.
u: After you have completed the van, do you usually partner with the company or have a contract with them if they need more vans from you in the future?
J: No, we don’t really have explicit contracts, but if the company or business is looking to build several vans of the same style we’ll make templates of the van and document it really well, so it’ll be much easier and faster for when they want it in the future.
u: How many people does it take to complete a van? Does it vary depending on the type of customization?
J: It definitely varies. It’s on a case-by-case basis. Some cars only take one person from start to finish. Others take the entire shop and we have about 20 employees.
u: Can you go through the different types of employees you have who work on the different parts of the van?
J: Once we get the van in we have basic workers to just disassemble the van down to the basic frame. From there, we have metal workers/fabricators who do all the structural aspects. After that the wood workers build it up in two stages, the paneling and then the more skilled workers will do the cabinets or stuff like that, then it’ll go to upholstery for the seats and vinyl. Then we have people to do flooring and then assembly and electrical stuff kind of happens at the same time. Lastly, I come in for quality control to make sure everything is to the customer’s satisfaction.
u: How long does it take to complete a van?
J: Once again, it varies; it’s case sensitive, anywhere from 1 day if we’re doing a simple kind of seat build to 4 to 6 months for the more complicated vans.
u: What is the strangest customization you have been asked to do?
J: We had one customer who ran a flower business as well as a dog grooming business, so he wanted to integrate his flower delivery as well as his dog show crates into one single van and it was the smallest van you could get. So, the back half of the van was for holding the flowers, the front half of the van was dog kennels. It was definitely unusual.
u: As a business how do you hope to expand or grow, what else do you hope to offer?
J: We recently just acquired another shop, so we have two facilities building the same exact vans, which is huge for us in terms of extension, because at this point we’re putting out roughly 300 vans a year. We’re just able to get the vans done faster because people don’t want to wait 4 months for a van. So, at this point we’re just optimizing our build processes to cut build times. We are also focusing on keeping up with modern technology like integrating Wi-Fi into the cars and stuff like that. We need to keep up with the times because our customers always want more technologically advanced features. Know more.