Rogue Van Company: From Chicken Buses to $700k Campervans

When you see someone proudly standing in front of a $700k Sprinter campervan conversion, your interest might be piqued. 

Who would build a campervan of this caliber? Who would buy a campervan like this? How did someone even start a business that is capable of converting a Sprinter van into, dare we say, a piece of art? 

We at Explore VanX had all the same questions. When we asked if Santiago, the founder and owner of Rogue Van Company, would have time for an interview, we were thrilled when he said yes. We learned all about Rogue Vans, Santiago, and his long-term love of nomadic living. 

Let’s dive in…

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Rogue van company van fleet

Who is Santiago, Owner and Founder of Rogue Van Company?

Santiago has an interesting story that comes from humble beginnings. For the past 15 years, he has traveled the world, living nomadically in various capacities. He’s hitchhiked over twenty-eight thousand miles across the US and Latin America, traversed the tallest road in India, and spent six years in Latin America alone, traveling by bicycle, motorcycle, and chicken buses. 

To fund his travels, he sold leather goods along the way. This passion grew, and in 2014, he decided to start a leather goods company in the US. He needed a vehicle to travel in and tour cities to showcase his products, so he built out his own custom campervan conversion. As an artist, he made it unique, and everyone who saw it knew it was a one-of-a-kind vehicle.

builder at rogue van company
rogue van build wiring process

This was back before #vanlife was a trend, and Meta and Google advertising weren’t a way to compete in the market. People saw his work at shows and on his personal Facebook account, and it blew up. He didn’t even have good photos! But when inquisitive eyes saw the (large) Apple monitor affixed to the wall and his custom cedar desk that flipped up to save space when not in use, they wanted to see more. 

Santiago saw the potential and jumped on it. He bought five Sprinter vans on the East Coast, flew some friends out with him, and drove all five back to Portland, OR, where his warehouse was at the time.  

Rogue Vans was born.

The Beginning of Rogue Van Company

In 2018, he decided to move his shop to San Diego. He invested heavily in robust equipment and kept leveling up on skills, craftsmanship, quality, and overall experience. By 2020, when the pandemic hit, he had a three-year waitlist for his custom van conversions.  

Once he was caught up on the custom conversions, he decided to shift back into production van conversions to take a bit of a break from the intricacy and time commitment of custom campervan conversions. 

Then came what you see on the Rogue Van website’s home page: their RC1 concept van. Santiago wanted to have a van that could showcase every feature you could have in one van. And that he did! Today, the RC1 is showcased at specialty exhibits across the country, like SEMA, to share what a Rogue Van can be.

In addition to the badassery of the RC1, Rogue Van isn’t just about building a $700k+ adventure van – they provide bespoke, intimate custom campervans on a fast scale to meet their customer’s needs, dreams, and timelines. 

Rogue Van Company is an expert Mercedes upfitter and dealer. They are consistently adding training, certifications, and accreditations to their arsenal of expertise with an emphasis on serviceability. They ensure that their vans look good, function as they were designed to, can be fixed and maintained easily, and are rugged enough to be used for 20+ years.  

What is SEMA?

SEMA stands for Specialty Equipment Market Association and is an event that allows automotive specialty equipment manufacturers to showcase new products alongside automotive manufacturers and connect with industry buyers from all over the world.

The RC1 was built with SEMA specifically in mind, and to date, nothing has compared to it at the shows. 

custom van conversion

Who Buys A Million-Dollar Van Conversion?

This was certainly our number-one question. With the growing popularity of #vanlife, there is scrutiny that some are trying to glamorize a lifestyle that once was simple and minimalistic. 

One thing we’ve learned in our years of nomadic living is that just as people have various-sized houses, types of amenities, and styles of cars, the same goes for full-time and part-time nomads. There’s no cookie-cutter way to live, and if someone wants to travel in a $6k self-converted Astro Van or a $700k+ Sprinter van conversion, that’s their choice to make. 

It seems obvious that celebrities are prime examples of the Rogue Van customer base. But they also cater to collectors, middle-aged and financially accomplished folks, and people with highly-ranking corporate jobs. 

They have seen a handful of couples who started out in an Earth Roamer and decided they wanted something just as capable but not as cumbersome, and some who have large, luxury coaches but want something better for shorter trips or that they can ship overseas. 

Single nomads with high-paying, remote jobs are also on their list of happy customers.

sprinter van supplemental seat in conversion

The Rogue Van Vision and Mission

Rogue Van Company takes people’s dreams and makes them into reality by building rugged, elegant, bespoke overland campervans. 

They are also proud to support and service the greater vanlife community with their full-service shop in San Diego. Santiago bought his first Sprinter van in 2013, back when you had to go to forums to get help and troubleshoot to figure things out. He understands what it is to need help. 

From projects that no one else will touch, to basic maintenance of RVs when a traveler comes through towns and needs support, Rogue Van does their best to accommodate schedules and get travelers back out on the road quickly, and with peace of mind.



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