Automotive

Peace Vans puts a compact, flexible Mercedes camper van on American roads

Compact, German-designed camper vans old and new are Peace Vans' specialty
Compact, German-designed camper vans old and new are Peace Vans' specialty
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Peace Vans began as a VW camper van restoration and repair shop, branching out into conversions in late 2017
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Peace Vans began as a VW camper van restoration and repair shop, branching out into conversions in late 2017
Peace Vans offers several levels of conversion, from just the pop-up roof to a full camper van with kitchen, storage and sleeping for four
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Peace Vans offers several levels of conversion, from just the pop-up roof to a full camper van with kitchen, storage and sleeping for four
The swivel seats are offered optionally on Peace camper vans
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The swivel seats are offered optionally on Peace camper vans
Compact, German-designed camper vans old and new are Peace Vans' specialty
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Compact, German-designed camper vans old and new are Peace Vans' specialty
Under-bench storage in the Peace Weekender
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Under-bench storage in the Peace Weekender
Removable, adjustable table
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Removable, adjustable table
Indoor/outdoor table positioning
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Indoor/outdoor table positioning
You can see the Reimo label in the right corner; the German company specializes in conversion components for all kinds of vans, including the US Metris
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You can see the Reimo label in the right corner; the German company specializes in conversion components for all kinds of vans, including the US Metris
The Reimo bench is mounted via floor rails and can be set in four positions, managing passenger legroom with rear cargo space
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The Reimo bench is mounted via floor rails and can be set in four positions, managing passenger legroom with rear cargo space
The bench folds into a double bed, and a second bed is located in the pop-up roof
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The bench folds into a double bed, and a second bed is located in the pop-up roof
Sliding the bench forward for more storage
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Sliding the bench forward for more storage
The Reimo kit also includes a rear cabinet
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The Reimo kit also includes a rear cabinet
Loading up for a camping trip
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Loading up for a camping trip
Mealtime inside Peace Van's full camper van conversion
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Mealtime inside Peace Van's full camper van conversion
For just under $11,000, you can add just the pop-up roof, giving your van some upper-level sleeping capabilities 
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For just under $11,000, you can add just the pop-up roof, giving your van some upper-level sleeping capabilities 
Seattle-based Peace Vans is one of several North American Reimo Metris installers
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Seattle-based Peace Vans is one of several North American Reimo Metris installers
Not quite ready for a midday nap ... 
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Not quite ready for a midday nap ... 
The kitchen area is compact but ready to cook, offering a dual-burner stove, sink and fridge
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The kitchen area is compact but ready to cook, offering a dual-burner stove, sink and fridge
Another look for the Reimo Metris kit
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Another look for the Reimo Metris kit
The pop-up roof is the one component common on all Peace camper vans
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The pop-up roof is the one component common on all Peace camper vans
Peace Vans full camper conversion
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Peace Vans full camper conversion
Out and about in a Peace Vans Metris camper van
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Out and about in a Peace Vans Metris camper van

Mercedes-Benz just refreshed the Marco Polo camper van, and once again we saw a slick, affordable camper van that Americans can only dream about. But those dreamers can actually wake up and find a versatile, little Mercedes camper van on American soil thanks to Seattle's Peace Vans, which offers full and light camper vans based on the Mercedes Metris. Its compact camper vans journey forward with pop-top roofs, multi-position sliding rear benches and room for four.

Peace Vans isn't a brand-new player in the camper van game, having several years of experience as a Volkswagen camper restoration and repair shop. While Peace was building its business restoring old VW vans, it also recognized the need for a new VW-style pop-up camper van. It explains that the American small camper van market was humming along okay for a decade or so after Volkswagen discontinued US van sales in 2003, but started to look grim once the older VW T3 and T4 camper vans began to age.

"Alas, here we find ourselves late into 2017 and there is still nothing in the market like our beloved Vanagons and Eurovans," the company recalls on its website. "We look across the ocean and drool at the options in Europe and wonder, 'Please can we have one?'"

Indeed, it's a question we've pondered here quite often, as we cover hordes of smart, multipurpose European camper vans with affordable price tags and everyday usage possibilities before turning back to the tumbleweeds rolling lazily across the North American camper van segment. We have seen a gradual shift in recent years, with the buzz of #vanlife and emergence of small camper vans and conversion kits, but it's a slow road with much mileage remaining between the American and European markets.

Out and about in a Peace Vans Metris camper van
Out and about in a Peace Vans Metris camper van

In 2016, Peace Vans set out to become one among the new breed of American van converters building the market up. After driving several available van models, including the Ford Transit and Nissan NV, it settled on the Mercedes Metris due to what it saw as a superior ride, clean styling and robust dealer support.

It didn't hurt that a well-known German camper van component maker was readying a Metris-specific kit during that same time period. Reimo, a company behind several of the mini-campervans we saw at the 2018 Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, had already started work on a Metris camper kit after getting wind that Mercedes would be launching a US-market Vito van in 2015.

You can see the Reimo label in the right corner; the German company specializes in conversion components for all kinds of vans, including the US Metris
You can see the Reimo label in the right corner; the German company specializes in conversion components for all kinds of vans, including the US Metris

Peace Vans' launched the Reimo-based campers in late 2017 and now installs three different levels of conversion, mimicking the type of full and light camper van styles popular in Europe. The fully equipped flagship camper van includes sleeping, cooking and storage amenities, while the four-person and two-person sleeper vans include only the bedding.

The full Peace Metro camper van is based on the cargo version of the Metris, to which Peace adds a crash-tested three-seat bench. That convertible bench is mounted via floor rails and slides into four different positions to adjust the interior between comfy camp lounge and cargo-hauling five-seater. At night, the bench folds down into a double bed, and a second double bed in the pop-up roof creates enough sleeping space for a family of four.

The kitchen area is compact but ready to cook, offering a dual-burner stove, sink and fridge
The kitchen area is compact but ready to cook, offering a dual-burner stove, sink and fridge

The camper van also includes a kitchen block with dual-burner propane stove, sink and 49-L fridge. It can carry up to 20 L of fresh water and offers storage space throughout the kitchen, full-height rear cupboard and under-bench area. The van also has an auxiliary battery that can be charged up via solar power.

The full camper conversion starts at US$36,995, before you factor in the price of the van. Peace Vans can source vans from a local Mercedes dealer and estimates the price of a conversion-ready Metris cargo van at $33,000 to $45,000, putting the complete camper price roughly between $70,000 and $80,000. That's not quite the "affordable" price we would have hoped for, but it's not so far off last week's $66,525 price conversion for the German-market Mercedes Marco Polo, which is based on the V-Class van, the fancier consumer version of the Vito, the Metris van's European sibling.

For those who want to go cheaper, Peace Vans also offers the Weekender and the Pop-Top. Based on the Metris passenger van, the $22,495 Weekender package is quite similar to the Marco Polo Horizon or Activity, offering a light sleeper van with the three-seat convertible bench, pop-up roof and dining table, but no kitchen or storage cabinetry.

For just under $11,000, you can add just the pop-up roof, giving your van some upper-level sleeping capabilities 
For just under $11,000, you can add just the pop-up roof, giving your van some upper-level sleeping capabilities 

The $10,995 Pop-Top package is the simplest of the bunch and is just what it sounds like: a pop-up roof, topping the Metris passenger or cargo van with a two-person sleeping area. Those who put the Pop-Top on a Metris cargo van can convert the interior to camper form themselves.

Source: Peace Vans via Curbed

3 comments
guzmanchinky
Love vanlife. Maybe I'm just a big fat American (215 pounds) but the Sprinter is about the minimum size I can camp in and be comfortable. Good thing is American roads are plenty big for it. In Europe I'd probably rather have the Metris.
Doodah
When I saw that it's Peace Vans I groaned inside a little. Those guys charge such a shocking premium it's amazing there's any business case at all. But I always here good things and that they do good work. I wish I could just get a Ford or something similar. Have it as modular as possible, so I'm not owning several different cars. Just one car, that can cargo, move kids around, and then convert to a camper. I wouldn't really need stuff like water storage etc, I can always carry that.
cole43
CaveVan also produces this same van in Colorado
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