FROM MOTORCYCLE RACING, TO MARINE DIESEL TECHNICIAN, TO VAN CONVERSIONS.
I can still remember sitting in the truck with my pop after baseball practice, listening to my father state, “If you don’t want to play baseball anymore that’s fine, but you need to find something else to do to occupy your time.”
I went a few days trying to figure out what that “something” could be. Pop called me while he was at work, and asked me what I thought about dirtbikes. Him and I both knew nothing about them, but I was instantly attracted to the idea. The next thing I knew we found ourselves in the middle of the mojave desert. We had to learn so many new things; staying on two wheels was only half the battle! They required maintenance!? What’s that? We were two fools that bit off more than we could chew.
Luckily my sister had a close friend who’s uncle had been riding motorcycles since he could walk, and he happened to live just a block away from us. He showed us the ropes of spinning wrenches and the in’s and out’s of a motorcycle. Our weekends switched from baseball tournaments to races at motocross tracks in southern California. I fell in love with every aspect of riding a motorcycle, as well as spinning wrenches.
By the age of 14 I was offered a summer job for the same gentleman that taught us how to change a motorcycle tire. It was at a marine diesel repair shop in Costa Mesa, CA. My tasks involved sweeping the floors, cleaning the bathrooms, and organizing parts; all of the “less rewarding” tasks of a small business.
Each summer I was given more tasks with increasing responsibility. While my friends we’re all at the beach chasing girls, I was in the shop dissembling heat exchangers, pop-testing injectors, troubleshooting generators and rebuilding engines.
As I grew older and gained experience in the marine diesel power and generation world, I decided to turn down attending Cal State Long Beach for a degree in Kinesiology and pursue a long-term career as a marine diesel technician. I spent 10 years driving up and down the coast of California performing service calls out of a Mercedes Sprinter van.
The company I worked for was kind enough to allow me to build out the sprinter van as I saw fit; granted I was able to perform the daily tasks required to repair diesel engines and generators. While I had never built out a sprinter van, I was confident that the skills my uncle, who was a contractor and finish carpenter, had instilled in me as a younger man.
I thoroughly enjoyed building out that van, and after it was complete a close friend of mine asked me if I’d be willing to build out his van for him. I was excited and couldn’t wait to build out his van with all the new ideas I had.
This continued on for quite some time, until I made the difficult decision to part ways with the company I was with for 10 years and make a leap of faith to pursue my own dream. I sold a custom built cafe racer (that I had built in my earlier years) for startup capital for Off the Grid Vanworks.
It wasn’t overnight, but eventually I had a “parking lot” of vans parked outside of my house, freight trucks dropping off parts and equipment, as well as a very disgruntled HOA.
In 2020 Off the Grid Vanworks moved into a shop in Murrieta, CA, where we are currently building vans to this day. I’ve been fortunate enough to find great team members that I thoroughly enjoy working with and have built some great relationships with our customers. You can find us here anyday of the week, consistently pushing ourselves to build “the perfect van.”