I desperately want – no need – a compact commercial van. There's just something about an all-in-one, hauling, sleeping, road-tripping machine that hits all the right fuck-you-society spots. And now I have a template for the support vehicle. It's a Transit Connect Wagon built by DIYers and filled with lots of silly expensive enablers to bring my stupid ideas into existence.
It's called the Hackmobile, a joint project between Ford, Make magazine, and the fabricators at CGS Motorsports. It was part of the Ultimate Maker Vehicle Challenge, and out of 10 entries, the Hackmobile won.
Now "maker" and "hack" are two of those bullshit adjectives dreamed up by Berkeley post-grads to describe something that already exists. In this case, it's a lame, 21st century spin on the DIYer because people that use 3D printers and CAD-controlled milling machines need another useless, pseudo-hip title on their business cards. Forget that.
Bottom line: You don't buy it, you build it. Or in the case of the Transit, you buy a ton of shit and then build stuff with it.
It starts with a Transit Connect Wagon that's been stripped from the front seats back to make use of all 104 cubic-feet of space. A massive work tray slides out from the hatch, with grinding wheels, a belt sander, a drill press, and of course, a 3D printer. Next to that is an air tank and compressor, and underneath is a 63cc generator and a series of cubbies for everything from ear plugs to razor blades.
Between the two sliding doors are another pair of trays, with the bottom housing more cubbies, along with a welder, soldering station, and vice. There's a retractable stand for a laptop protruding out the front door, complete with GPS, WiFi, and a 4G hotspot, plus it connects to the 3D printer with CAD.
Yes, that's a projector, with two canisters mounted on top of the Transit to house the screens. Why? Why the hell not? Same with the LED strips on the wheels.
Since Ford and Make won't tell me what it costs, I'm going to say somewhere between $20k and Facebook's monthly RedBull allowance – not including the price of the Transit.
The wraps officially come off this weekend at the San Leandro Maker Faire, but I got a peek at the SF TechShop, a fitting location filled with all manner of wondrous machines that I want to get dirty with. They've got welders and lathes and CNC machines and it's my new happy place as soon as I can scrounge up the cash for a membership.
And if TechShop wants to put more of its $30m of funding to good use, building a few of these Transits and renting them out of through their eight locations around the country seems like a no-brainer. At least with extra liability coverage.