Converting Quirky’s Dinkiest Camper, Kirk!

“I knew I wanted to travel NZ in a campervan and loved the idea of having one that was custom-made for a solo female traveller… so Kirk was born!”

Read on as Tegan tells the story of how she designed and built Kirk, Quirky NZ’s only single-berth camper. 😍

Getting Kirk

How did you find a van you wanted?

It was luck mostly! I knew I wanted something small so I narrowed my search on TradeMe and Marketplace and Kirk popped up at the perfect time. She was in Dunedin, so I had to make the trip over to pick her up.

I was living in Queenstown, so there weren’t a lot of options nearby. Searching in bigger cities is the way to go (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch etc.)!

Planning the Build

Did you have any initial hesitations about converting Kirk by yourself?

Of course. The entire project! I was quite new to building at the time – I’d only just started my apprenticeship and wasn’t even sure where to start. Kirk had a huge wheelchair lift in the back (as she was previously used as a mobility van) so I couldn’t even picture her as a camper and I had no idea how I was going to turn her into the comfy, cosy dream home I wanted.

Looking back, were those concerns valid? How did you overcome them?

For sure. I think it’s normal to be hesitant when doing something for the first time. For me, I just looked at heaps of other campers that had already been converted to get ideas and inspiration.

Breaking down the build into little baby pieces helped as well, i.e. Step 1. Draft design ideas. Step 2. Choose final draft. Step 3. Figure out the logistics of each area (lid, drawer, open wall, closed wall) and so on. Focusing on one thing at a time helped me not feel so overwhelmed.

What resources did you use to answer any self-build questions you had throughout the build?

My boss and colleagues were a great help, they were full of tips and tricks (almost too many if you know what I mean). 🤣

Quick-Fire Questions

What inspired the name “Kirk”?
Her number plate KRK600

Did you have a conversion buddy?
My fiancé was a great side kick, bringing me wine and snacks for smoko. He also did the plumbing and electrics which was fab. 😍

What’s your favourite part of Kirk?
The wall paper I found for her interior! It’s pink with flowers and cute little bumble bees on it. It just captures my personality so perfectly and really reflects how much love I poured into her. My absolute favourite compliment has been ‘oh this van is such a Tegan van!’.

The moment I first laid eyes on Kirk’s soon-to-be wallpaper!

How long did the conversion take?
A looooong time, haha! I was working full time and only did a few evenings and weekends at a time so it took about a year.

How would you describe Kirk in three words?
The Roadie Queen

The Van Build

Talk us through the build. How did you do what?

I drafted a few design ideas and ultimately chose the one that I thought utilised the small space best and had a nice comfy bed setup (I looove being cosy so that was my top priority).

For the floor base, I used plywood, and for everything else, offcuts of MDF and plywood that I managed to snag from work. I tried to keep them all the same depth, so you couldn’t tell that they were different materials once they were painted.

I put the toilet, storage box and sink in first, as they go in an L shape at the front. Then I could work on building the slat bed, making a pull-out drawer for the kitchen, and finishing off the shelving.

The shelving was always going to be the hardest part, as it runs along the car and had to be cut to the same shape (everything else was a box). It actually ended up being the most fun part of the build though!

How did you find the conversion overall?

Stressssful haha but so satisfying! Kirk showed me I can do whatever I set my mind to and it really felt like we were on this journey together (is this what it feels like to have your first child?🤣).

The Highs

What was the most satisfying aspect of the van build?

The finishing work for sure! I love making products LOOK nice so I really had to remind myself throughout the build when she was multi-coloured, multi material (multi everything!) that the finished product would be very different.

What was the most challenging aspect of the build?

Can I say all of it? 😉

The Lows

What was the most frustrating part?

Really having to let go and understand that building a van is not like building a house! Things aren’t going to be level or cut into the dimensions you have on your plan because it’s not a straight cut slab to begin with. My perfectionist brain could not embrace the ‘what’s 10mm between friends’ gag…

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

Functionally, the toilet and storage box lids lift up to 90 degrees before they hit the back bar so if you’re parked on an angle the lids won’t stay up. That’s the only practical thing I would change. I’m so proud of myself and Kirk so other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing!

Top 5 Tips for Rookie Converters

  1. Remember, vans are not straight and square.
  2. Clamps are your best friend.
  3. Work out how many electrics you will have first, as this dictates the size of
    your solar panel and battery.
  4. The more complicated the floor plan, the more complicated it is to put
    flooring down later. (Avoid building crazy nooks and crannies on the floor because you’ll have to navigate them later!)
  5. Have a detachable hose to fill up the freshwater canister so you don’t have
    to take it out. It’s very heavy to put back in.

And another little thing! Plan a practical space for toilet paper – nothing comfy about having to scramble while you’re on the loo! 😝

All in all…

I found building Kirk to be a much more emotionally challenging experience than a physical one! Take all the time you need, make sure you enjoy the ride and that you’re building things to how you want them. Change your mind, change it again (we all do it!) and watch your little home on wheels come to life.


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Or want to rent one first to see what you like? Check out our collection of bespoke, self-contained campervans for hire here!

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