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A Little Different Camper Build

Flatbed ATC Propex ENO Rheimo westfalia winch curtains

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#1 Basin Deranged

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Posted 05 September 2015 - 03:30 PM

gallery_5833_931_118683.jpgThis build is somewhat out of the ordinary.  The shell is an All-Terrain custom flatbed.  The interior, which I built, is inspired in part by our years camping in a Vanagon Westfalia camper.  I have built this camper for extended trips to places both remote and not-so-remote.


I must say at the beginning that the folks at All Terrain Campers are a joy to work with.  They are very willing to do custom work if it makes sense:  When my ideas didn't make sense they set me straight.


Why a flatbed?  The short answer is "Usable space."


It will take me a few days to post the entire build, but feel free to ask questions and make comments as we go along.





We actually owned the flatbed before we bought either the truck or the camper shell.  I was looking for all three at once and found a used Ute flatbed that Marc at XP Camper was replacing for a customer with one of his very nice aluminum flatbeds...


So We had to buy a truck to bring the flatbed home.





Out with the old. In with the new (only the "old" was new and the "new" was old!)gallery_5833_931_188695.jpg



Here's a photo for those of you who always wondered what a pickup looks like without its bed.gallery_5833_931_89839.jpg



The flatbed went on pretty easily.  As you can see I have a very spacious workshop, though it is missing a little bit in terms of protection from the elements.




The only tricky part of fitting the flatbed was cutting down the fuel filler pipe and its vent and overflow pipes then patching them back together with suitably sized fuel hose.  Because the space for the filler under the flatbed is so much lower than on the stock bed the filler ends up at a lower angle than stock. This causes problem at about 10 percent of the fuel pumps I have used.  In those cases I end up holding the gas nozzle at the proper angle to fill the tank.


With the flatbed installed it was time to take my drawings and visit the guys at All Terrain Campers for a fitting.  I had put together a set of drawings showing inside dimensions and locations for wiring, windows, propane, and water.  Jeff made suggestions for improvements which we incorporated into the drawings.


I had plenty of work to do to the truck itself while waiting for them to build the shell.

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#2 Basin Deranged

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Posted 05 September 2015 - 04:00 PM

Plenty to Do While Waiting for the Shell


My "non-expert" disclaimer:  I am not an expert at any of this.  I have modified a couple of camping vehicles to fit my needs but I have nowhere near the skills and depth of knowledge of a professional.  My knowledge does not extend much farther than what I needed to know to do this work.  Feel free to critique my work and suggest better ways to do things so that wanderers reading this thread in the future can benefit from the discussion.


We do a lot of jeep trail camping for which being able to air down the tires and reinflate them is important.  I mounted a small ARB air compressor in the engine compartment.  The compressor (and a variety of other items for this build) came from "Go Westy," a company that specializes in quality after-market equipment for VW Vanagons but also has a lot of stuff that is more broadly useful for other campers.




I made a mounting plate from an old aluminum road sign and mounted it to a trio of existing studs at the top of the passenger-side fender well.  I extended one of the studs with a coupler nut.








The hidden front receiver winch mount for the Tacoma is a great bolt-in piece from CBI Offroad.  It allows the attachment of a winch to the front of the truck without having to mount the winch permanently.








It hides very nicely behind the license plate and comes with a hinge for lifting the plate.







Go Westy makes a nice collapsing winch mount to mount to a receiver.




Next; some work to the bed itself.

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#3 craig333


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Posted 05 September 2015 - 05:05 PM

Nice. Can't wait to see the rest.

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Craig K6JGV_________________________ 2004 2500 CTD 4X4 FWC HAWK 1960 CJ5

#4 billharr


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Posted 05 September 2015 - 06:15 PM

Just click follow, so I do not miss any of your build. 

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#5 lqhikers


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Posted 05 September 2015 - 09:44 PM

I to will follow as it may be in my future to do a flat bed ( i tend to change rigs often!)

if i remember right dirty dog's rig had a side door which i really liked.

one of the reasons we had a Provan tiger 4x4 motorhome was the side door.

main reason no built up dirt etc after miles of dirt.silt roads.Plus being able to mount spare etc on rear.


curious as to you picking rear door.



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#6 Basin Deranged

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Posted 06 September 2015 - 03:03 AM

Thanks for the comments folks.  I probably won't have time to post any more for a couple days. 


Regarding the door.  I went with a back door for two reasons.

1) The primary support for the area over the cab is supplied by two aluminum channels that run the length of the camper and cantilever out over the cab, one on either side.  In order to install a side door one of these channels must be cut way down in depth or the door must be made shorter, or a combination of both.  Since we do a lot of traveling on jeep trails which can cause a lot of twisting and swaying to the camper I felt that we were better off with the increased strength of the back door configuration.  And I'm over 6 feet tall so didn't want a very short door.

2) We like to take our tandem bicycle with us on some of our trips.  Shoehorning it in a side door would be difficult, if not impossible, since we wanted to keep the camper as short as possible while still allowing the bike to fit inside.  

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#7 longhorn1


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Posted 06 September 2015 - 02:08 PM

What is the gap between the slide out portion of the bed and the lower matching wood face?  Is that extra storage?  The outside view didn't show the cabover as having extra depth.

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#8 Basin Deranged

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Posted 07 September 2015 - 04:53 AM

The cabover is about 5 or 6 inches taller in order to make the camper tall enough to provide 6'4" of headroom.  Because the floor is higher than on a conventional slide-in camper the camper has to be taller for us tall folks.  This also means that, on a smaller truck like the Tacoma, the gap between the top of the cab and the bottom of the camper overhang is larger than usual.  The extra height and the larger gap increase wind resistance and cut down on fuel economy I think.  This is the only drawback I have found to the flatbed configuration.


We use the extra space to store the bed cushions for the slide-out bed, the auxiliary flexible solar panel, and the dinette table.  You can see the storage space beneath the bed in the second photo of the first post.

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#9 Basin Deranged

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Posted 08 September 2015 - 01:36 AM

Kitting Out the Flatbed


One of the things I like about the flatbed configuration is the potential for storage space beneath the bed.  Finding ready-made boxes to fit proved to be a more difficult task than I had expected.  It seems that most of the box manufacturers make much larger boxes for use under semi-truck trailers or much larger commercial flatbeds.  I sent emails with my specifications to several manufacturers and got a good response from a company in Michigan, K&W Manufacturing.  In about 3 weeks I had my boxes.






I installed the 120 volt outlet that comes with the Tacoma bed into one of the boxes.





I also built a deep box under the flatbed that is accessed from the back.  This was my first experience with TIG welding so it's a good thing that all the welds are hidden deep under the flatbed. This picture shows the bottom of the box being fabricated.







We keep tools, a folding camper ladder, and recovery gear in the rear side boxes, the auxiliary battery in the front side box, and a fuel can, leveling blocks and a shovel in the back side box.


I built an aluminum bumper. (more amateurish TIG welding)




I made the bumper to accept the GoWesty Hi-Lift jack adapter.




The red thing near the middle of the bumper is the power socket (Anderson Power Pole) for powering the winch when it is mounted on the back of the vehicle.


I had to modify the tow bar that came with the truck to work with the new bumper configuration.  The stock receiver sits under the Tacoma bumper and compromises the departure angle of the truck, so I cut out the center section of the bar, flipped it over, and welded it back together.  This allows the receiver to sit on top of the bar rather than under it.  You can see the two welds towards both ends of the bars near the mounting brackets.






By the time I was finished with all this work it was time to make another trip to ATC for a test-fitting of the new frame.





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#10 Basin Deranged

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Posted 08 September 2015 - 01:52 AM

Frame and Shell

I drove the truck to ATC for a test-fitting of the frame and to resolve some final details of wiring and window placement, propane line placement, etc.




I took final dimensions from the frame so that I could now draw the cabinets and the finish details.  My drawings are pretty crude but they include enough detail to work from.





While I was drawing and scratching my head the guys at ATC were quickly finishing up the shell.  The shell was ready right on time.






Actually they built more than a shell for us.  They installed the propane tank and water tank.





They installed the sliding bed and made cushions for the benches that I would build later.




They installed solar plugs and various wires in the walls, the vent for the Propex heater that I would install, and the sink drain.






It was time for me to get to work on the cabinets and wiring.

Edited by Basin Deranged, 08 September 2015 - 02:03 AM.

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