A Van of Adventure

Local couple starts Kestrel Van Concepts to build vans for living, camping, traveling, and exploring

By Molly Priddy
Billy Yunck and Ingrid Wick, owners of Kestrel Vans, pictured on May 10, 2018. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Like many ideas for inventions, the foundations of Kestrel Van Concepts lie in necessity.

It was at least a decade ago, and Billy Yunck and his wife Ingrid Wick were trying to figure out how best to travel to their favorite campsites and distant travel destinations.

“We’d tried all the different camping styles,” Yunck said.

At first, they tried the classic pop-up camper on the back of the truck, but when Wick became pregnant, they wanted something a little more. So they went for the hardtop camper for the truck, which worked for a while, until they transitioned to a pull-behind trailer.

“That got about 9 miles per gallon,” Yunck said with a laugh.

Then they saw a Mercedes Sprinter van, a vehicle large enough for an adult to stand up inside but which was still a single entity, not a pull behind, and not an attachment on the back that they had to take off and put on over and over.

Chris Follett wires the interior of a van at Kestrel Vans. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The decision was made, and Yunck flew to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he picked up a basic van. With a background in home construction and contracting, Yunck dove into building out the van with all the bells and whistles the young family might need. Then they bought a longer van, built that one out, and decided to quit their jobs and hit the open road for six months.

The van had a sink, a toilet, cabinets for storage, a pullout bed, and space for their daughter to sleep stretched across some seats. It worked like a dream, and people they met on their trip wanted to check out all the modifications they’d made to their van.

“They’re such nice rigs,” Wick said. “They get good gas mileage, the seats are actually comfortable, which is so important, and you can still park them.”

“While we were on the road, a lot of people toured (the van),” Yunck said, “And when we got home, I didn’t want to build homes again and we thought we’d give vans a try.”

Thus, Kestrel Van Concepts was born in January 2017. The name comes from a nesting of kestrels on the family’s first 10-acre property, which they sold when they struck out on their half-year journey. The small bird of prey is a tactical flier, but also strikingly beautiful, a combination Wick and Yunck thought worked well for their vans.

Billy Yunck and Ingrid Wick, owners of Kestrel Vans, pictured on May 10, 2018. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Kestrels are high-end custom vans, and customers can choose between fully customized work or a pre-selected kit to install in their vans. The basic kit includes lights, interior insulation, and a platform bed. Those can be installed in six days.

Custom vans can take longer, with more possibilities to consider and individual van work, instead of a full production line of the same models. Customers have chosen to install extensive wiring, personal Wi-Fi hotspots, showers, solar panels, and more.

Appliances run off the diesel tank, removing a need for propane and streamlining the process a bit more.

“Every one is custom,” Wick said. “If you can’t mass produce, you can’t go any faster.”

The couple, along with a subcontractor, typically works on two vans at a time, and they hope to work out more efficient processes as the company grows. But they don’t want to be hurried, since the workmanship and safety of each product is paramount. Even the electrical wiring is marine grade; the couple knew how intensely they cared about their daughter’s well-being while out on the road, and wanted to pass along that care to their customers.

“We care a lot about safety and quality,” Wick said.

And while the couple is thrilled to be busy, there’s still that desire in the back of their minds to hit the road again in their van.

“It’s been pretty much nonstop, unfortunately for our camping plans,” Yunck said with a smile.

For more information on Kestrel Van Concepts, visit www.kestrelvans.com or call (406) 249-1865.