There is another, albeit smaller, side to this whole RV thing - those crazy folks who build their own for whatever reason. Whether you've scratch-built it from the ground up, assembled a kit, or (like me) scrounge up appropriate frames and go from there: let's hear about it.
I'm on number three.
The first was simply a utility trailer that got an enclosed box for a fraction of the cost of the used toy haulers I was looking at. It was carrying mountain bikes and race gear, so the GVW didn't matter and all the commercially built units were overkill for what I needed. A guy my dad worked with had a dump trailer he didn't need anymore...and so it began.
Number two was a more adventurous project. I started with a tent trailer deck and built a steel stud frame and sheathed it, first in OSB then in 1/4" ply when that failed dismally. I camped the trailer as a bare shell a few times, but the noise when the wind blew wasn't conducive to a good night's sleep. It's still on my 'ideas' pile, but it wold have to be FAR more rigid than that 'technology demonstrator' was.
Those two were pre-internet and pre-digital (for me at least) so there are pics but they are in a box in the basement and haven't seen the light of day in a long time...lost at sea.
Then I got a great deal on a 24' 1977 Dodge C..."had I known then what I know now..." nuff said.
That was how I found this forum.
A couple other projects and work since then and now I'm at a stage in my life where I want to go back to school and get the education I should have gotten years ago. Part of that 5 year strategy is staying in a trailer to keep my accommodation costs down....the rub is that I drive a compact pickup and don't have said trailer.
For this boatbuilder, the solution was a cinch...
My principal build requirements have been low build cost, low towing weight, four season (no canvas) and a permanent bed.
So far, I am building to all of those except for a minor concession in the bed - it will convert to form one side of the dinette.
I started with a tent trailer - $50 on craigslist. Once the body was off, the build could begin:
The deck is a sandwich of 3/8 ply, 1" foam, and 1/8 doorskin on top to provide some puncture resistance. At the moment, I'm sheathing the top of the deck in epoxy and 6oz cloth (pics to follow). The body will be foam and epoxy and will be shaped like a horse trailer - the head will be u in the nose and the bed will be in the back with a slide out in the back wall for a footwell. I will have to fab the (manual) slideout mechanism. My plan is to use heavy duty drawer slides, but any insight there is appreciated.
This is the completed but not yet glassed deck:
For the appliances, I scrounged up a free camper on craigslist. For the cost of a case of beer and the dump fees ($60), I got a stove/oven, two way fridge, lantern, windows, and a bunch of other bits. I still have to replace the heating element in the fridge (works great on gas) and the furnace valve body was beyond my desire to fix it, but otherwise everything works great and just needs to be cleaned up a bit.
Today, I'll be glassing the rest of the deck and next weekend I'll start assembling the cabinet carcasses and bulkheads. I was going to get the shell done first (the way you build a house) but the overhang off the back will be easier to build if I have the bed framing in place first. All will be built with 1" foam and then glassed. I haven't decided to make a weight concession with the galley countertop and dinette table and go with 3/4" ply or to use foam with an upper skin of 1/4" ply. Either way, they will be small enough that I can make both from the leftovers.
That's my build to date...let's hear about yours !
Francesca, I'm curious to know how you judged the net weight of the build would exceed the trailer's capabilities from my original post ?
I think you misunderstood - I'm not putting a traditional TT body (and its corresponding weight) onto a popup frame.
Why would those wheels/tires be unsafe ? They're rated at around 900lbs EACH...which is well over half of the design gross.
I will probably be going to a 12" wheel (@~1150lbs), but that's just to give me a little more ground clearance for logging roads.
The scale ticket was 480kg to dump the body (the rolling chassis was tare) so that's my design limit. The trailer's reg is for 700kg, so that's my design gross, though that's more legislative because of lighting and brakes than structural. I haven't weighed the rolling chassis, but I'm including it in the design limit since it is structural weight after all.
Westend's got it right: this trailer with its full body will still come in less than the scale ticket when I took the last one to the dump...INCLUDING the frame's weight (it was tare on the last weigh in)
Since I drive a small pickup, a heavy trailer is utterly useless to me. That's why even the cabinet carcasses and bulkheads are glassed foam rather than plywood, which would be cheaper, easier and faster to build.
Hey cargo, thanks for posting that. I bookmarked and I'll poke around your site tonight...even if it's just to poach ideas !
Sonic, Checking out your mods next - that's exactly what got me started...especially after a tow driver lifted the nose of my Dodge C too high and the tin on the back wall dug into the lawn and pulled the back wall off. Reworking it was no big deal skills-wise,(though it was a pain to have to do it) but it showed me how shoddily mine was put together.
That's not to suggest all (or even most) commercially built RVs are, but from the outside it can be difficult to tell if you've got a lemon. Mine showed great or I wouldn't have bought it, and since then I've poked around some of the well known brands and seen things like underbody electrical connections and bare OSB skirting exposed to road spray.
If one has the skills and the desire, there is absolutely no reason NOT to build one. I always check out U-builds when I see them and, if there's one thing that's consistent: they're overbuilt, probably because any reasonable person will increase the safety margin when working in unfamiliar territory.
Being able to get exactly what you want out the other side of the project is the biggest plus for me as well. Again, that's not to rip on folks who buy/restore commercially built units or prefer to buy a pre-engineered, pre-built solution: different strokes and all that.
recycler, thanks for your thoughts on this. I don't profess to be any sort of expert so I like questions about why I'm doing it.
My thought with a 1/4" skin over 1" foam for the countertop was that the foam is the same as for the rest of the build so I'll be able to use scraps for a lot of the little jobs to minimize the waste - countertops, gussets, cabinet gables, etc. I hummed and haahed on the plywood for a bit, but went with 1/4" because that (plus whatever laminate I choose) are a thermal break between the bottom of a hot pot or pan and the foam which melts pretty easily. Now, I know *I* would never put a hot pot onto a bare countertop....but that's not why I went that route.
As for why I decided on 1" foam overall ?
I tow with a Ranger so I limited the width to something I could see past without adding extensions onto the side mirrors. I live on the west coast of BC - the terrain tends to be pretty tight in some of the areas I like to get to get to and I like knowing that, if my front fenders make it through then the whole mess will make it through. I recently picked up a brand spankin' new trailer for a guy I work for and I spent most of the trip checking the mirrors....
Long story short, my outside width is 65". That leaves me with about 63" inside
width. 1" will provide plenty of insulation for my needs and maximize interior volume. I had thought about going with 1 1/2" or even 2" foam but I don't see an advantage that's worth the cost to an already-tight floorplan.
In a project like this, I see the cabin space as being the shortest path between working perfectly and a dismal failure. I have no problems building something that is structurally bombproof and would survive a tornado on top of a tsunami, but the ergonomics aren't my strong suit.
Maybe I just spent too long building workboats that are function-over-form, but that's why I went with 1" foam.
Sonic, I looked through your mods and, I gotta say, it looks like what you've done shows someone who's got some pretty good ingenuity. Had I bought my moho from you and you had said it was 'good to go', I would have the impression that you would have noticed and dealt with any 'surprises'.
Little things like covered toothbrush holders: trust me, I know how hard they can be to find !
And I've been going back and forth between swivel chairs and a dinette....
How are those EZE gutters holding up ? I'm going to track some down when I get to that point.
Is using the blank tank rinse easier than rinsing via a hose into the toilet ?
cargo, I'm a sucker for cherry:
I can't wait to see overall pics when it's all together...wow.