For more than eight years, Brandon Zinninger and his team at Reparadise in West Valley City have been turning camper trailers — usually vintage Airstreams — into high-tech custom homes on wheels.
But as the market has fluctuated — as well as the interests of Zinninger and his crew — Reparadise has found themselves spending more time in the shop crafting unique rigs that are capable of trekking far beyond drive-in campgrounds.
“We’ve been working on upgrades on a lot more trucks and vans — from older stuff like VWs to new EarthRoamer-style trucks,” explains Zinninger. “That culture has always been there. The van community has been around since the 70s, but it seems like there is always a new wave when a certain generation latches onto something and takes it to the next level.”
About 10 percent of customers that come into Reparadise seek to live in their van or trailer. The rest are looking for vehicles to facilitate their outdoor-fueled vacations and weekend adventures.
“You have your Four Runners or pickup trucks, but people are starting to ask, ‘What can I do to take this thing to the next level? Can you put an electrical system in? Solar and a battery package? A better suspension and some slide outs for my gear? A cool mobile kitchen?’” explains Zinninger. “Now they make a lot of really efficient mobile fridges running off solar so you don’t have to bring a cooler. You can head off to explore Utah’s backroads with five days worth of food.
“We do a ton of solar upgrades with Lion Energy in American Fork. It’s cool to work with another Utah company,” says Zinninger. “If people are doing video or drone work or need to be on their computer while off in the desert, they can charge all of their stuff using energy they capture from the sun.”
To give people a taste of van life, Reparadise built out their own Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4 van with all of the trappings: queen-size memory foam bed, slide-out gear storage, heater, AC, generator, outdoor shower head, fridge, stove-top, fridge and more. It’s available to rent through the RV rental marketplace, Outdoorsy, and gives people a chance to see what van living can be like, says Zinninger.
Reparadise is also seeing its share of unconventional vehicles that customers want transformed into off-road rigs, including most recently, a 1962 Unimog — a utilitarian truck used in the military, firefighting, agriculture and more. In fact, this January, a Unimog set a world record when it crested 21,692 feet on a Chilean volcano to replace an emergency radio system.
“People see it in the shop and say, ‘What the hell is that?’ It almost looks apocalyptic-style,” says Zinninger.
Zinninger is altering the rig so it has the latest off-roading gear with all of the creature comforts inside for a family while they explore Southern Utah. “It doesn’t have this everyday practicality, but it is pretty unique, wild and cool, and it piques everyone’s interest. We do everything we can to keep it lively here.”