Good ideas don't have a shelf life. Take for instance the old VW Westfalia bus from the 1960s and 1970s; its fabric top popped up to create sleeping quarters that used the exterior side of the roof as a sleeping platform. That idea has been revived, this time on a new vehicle. Ursa Minor Vehicles, located in Chula Vista, California, has the 2003-2008 Honda Element as the vehicle of choice. Sitting around after a morning of surfing down in Baja, John Gish flashed on the idea to convert his all-wheel-drive Honda Element into a vintage-VW-inspired mobile hotel.

Marrying his engineering degree and experience with the same composite resin infusion process that he uses to create state-of-the-art single-piece molded kayaks, John quickly had a prototype designed, built, and ready to test. It passed with flying colors, and the ECamper was born. These days, Honda Element owners bring their vehicles to Ursa Minor at the rate of about four a month. It takes four working days to complete the transformation.

Not only is it a speedy conversion, but another particularly good piece of news is, in these economically challenging times, it's nice to report this modification has a thrifty suggested retail price of about $4300. Imagine being able to turn an everyday fuel-efficient transportation vehicle into a quasi-RV for just a few dollars. Equally important is that, during a long weekend of biking, hiking, and surfing, you no longer have to sleep in a primitive camp setting. Plus, once back at the office, your Honda Element can still be parked in the covered parking area at work (and at home), and the vehicle can be called into service and used to take the client to lunch as if nothing had changed.