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Which truck for FWC flat bed?

hawk fwc flatbed

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#1 thejm



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Posted 17 February 2019 - 10:45 PM

What would you choose if you were in my shoes? Please help me decide which trucks to consider for a first-time FWC flat bed build.  


Having gone from a 2wd Vanagon to a 22' RV (all the while obsessing over which kind of adventure-mobile would make the perfect go-anywhere dream rig), I'm now convinced that a 4x4 truck with a FWC Hawk flatbed is the way to go for my particular desires, budget, and values. 


I stopped taking trips in the Vanagon because I could no longer trust that it would get me there and back.


I'm not driving the RV as much because its nearly impossible to book RV campsites last minute, forcing me to camp off the beaten path. Driving even on well-maintained gravel forest roads is a VERY slow nightmare and with it being only 2WD and over 11,000 lbs, I'm asking for trouble. And the mileage is terrible--8 MPG cruising around 60 MPH. 


I thought Tacoma was the way to go for reliability, size, and longevity, but after doing some research, its seems like the general consensus is to go domestic and go 3/4 ton. It seems like a lot of folks are building on Rams but I've heard they aren't the most reliable. I hear the Ford F150 with their new V6's and the payload package gets great MPG's. Sounds like Chevy suffers in the MPG department.


This is not intended be a daily driver--the camper will stay on at all times. I'm planning on a flat bed Hawk with lots of goodies sitting on a fully decked out Norweld. I'd like the "first" truck to be:


1. SAFE: I want to know the thing will stop if I need to slam on the brakes and that it won't tip and loose control if I accidentally swerve. It must handle well on icy roads and be able to go the speed limit up hills without overheating. I don't want any stress...that defeats the purpose of getting away!


2. RELIABLE: In my experience, Toyota is extremely dependable but perhaps not when carrying more than its recommended payload (especially off road). Which other trucks can I rely on to just go go go?


3. FUEL EFFICIENT: I want to get at least 12-15+ MPG's while driving conservatively. I miss the 17+ MPGs of the Vanagon when getting 8 in the RV.


4. OFF ROAD CAPABLE: I don't want to do any rock crawling but I also don't want to be limited as to where I can go (like I've been in the Vanagon and the RV). I want to go off the grid and enjoy the experience! I don't want to fear getting stuck somewhere out of cell phone range!


5. SEATING AND SIZE: I'll live with a single cab to start as my girlfriend and I don't have kids but an extended cab with a short wheelbase might be nice. Crew cab is probably overkill at this time although I'm sure the dog would like it.


6. BUDGET: +/- $15K cash. I realize a truck that ticks all these boxes may not exist at this price point, in which case I will have to make sacrifices somewhere. One of the reasons I want to go FWC is so that I can move the camper to new (or newer) chassis' as needed down the road.


I'll mostly be solo or with my girlfriend and the dog. I'll be carrying a couple of surfboards, a snowboard and skis, and bicycles (not likely at the same time). I'll be carrying a full load of water and extra fuel to camp comfortably in the winter (Eastern Sierra mostly).


Things I've considered:


A truck with higher mileage may not be as reliable. 

An older truck with low mileage may have an inefficient engine in it. 

Some trucks are much harder to find in the used marketplace.

Some brands/years are better than others and unicorns might exist out there.


I know there's a lot out there on this highly subjective topic so I'll continue to do my research, but maybe you already have and have got some wisdom and insight you wouldn't mind sharing with me. Thanks!



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#2 rando


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Posted 18 February 2019 - 02:42 AM

I am very happy with my Fleet Flatbed on a Tacoma, I went with this combination for the reasons you identify and don't regret it. 


One thing you may want to consider in your configuration is resale value.   As much as we all like to think that this next camper is 'the one', it seems that it rarely works out that way and we end up switching out campers/vehicles fairly often.   To this end, I am not sure it is wise to stick what will likely turn into a $50,000 camper on a $15,000 truck.   Once they are mated, it would be hard to sell them separately, which means the whole setup essentially becomes the model year of the truck.   It seems that a well outfitted flatbed can fetch $50 - $80k on the used market, but someone spending that much on an RV will likely not be in the market for a 10+ year old chassis.   You can save $7 - 8K on the flatbed by going with a simple tray with under bed tool boxes over a Norweld and that money may be better invested in a newer truck. 

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2016 Fleet Flatbed

2016 Toyota Tacoma

#3 CougarCouple


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Posted 18 February 2019 - 06:53 AM

Hi thjm
Which flat bed model are you looking at?


Edited by CougarCouple, 18 February 2019 - 03:59 PM.

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F250 extended cab, Cougar from ATC. You guys rock thank you!

#4 justbecause



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Posted 18 February 2019 - 02:41 PM

A midsized truck with a full camper isnt going to be fuel efficient. You will be pushing the limits of what the truck can do.

Really dig into Instagram and the forums and look at the midsize guys who are honest about what they get mpg. 8 isnt unusual. 10-12 is average. I see some people claim 15. I don't believe that. My mostly stock frontier only loaded with camping gear e rated tires arb, no additional armor gets 16 at the best of times. Even in my current set up I feel like the brakes aren't up to the task. that's the major thing keeping me out of a camper is I'm 95% sure i need a full size, the real question is do i make a 1/2 ton work, or stuck it up accept 12mpg and get a 3/4 ton

If I could find a used 4x4 truck with decent mileage for 15k I would have already bought it. Used trucks are unreasonably expensive now and I believe I'm better off getting a brand new truck.
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#5 Beach


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Posted 18 February 2019 - 03:35 PM

With the flat bed model and the gear you want to carry. your on the right track going 3/4 ton but I'd also consider a 1 ton, especially if you find one that meets your price point. My F250/Hawk fully loaded gets over 11 mpg consistently and sometimes hits 13(barely). I don't fret about 1, 2 or 3 mpg, otherwise i would get rid of my rig buy a Prius and pack my tent and jetboil. On a 3,000 mile trip the cost difference between 12 or 15mpg is about $100  

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#6 ntsqd


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Posted 18 February 2019 - 03:58 PM

I bought a used 3/4t diesel because within our truck budget no gasser was going to get decent mpg's with a camper on board. With more in the truck budget that may not be so correct. Seems like these really late model gas trucks easily equal our average, but I seriously doubt any of them can equal the two spikes that I've recorded. I plan on 13 when figuring range etc. but the average seems to be closer to 15 if we don't have to be somewhere by a certain time. I have seen ~19 twice (18.9 & 19.8). One of those (18.9) included the Grapevine on I-5, so it's not like it was all flat and level with a tail-wind. I only occasionally spot-check it as I'd rather enjoy the trip.


Having been around pick-ups my whole life I never considered a 1/2t. Partly because there are no used 1/2t trucks in our price range with a diesel engine, and mostly because I knew that I wanted the bigger brakes and the floating rear axle. Had I bought a 1/2t I knew that I'd end up turning it into a 3/4t, so why not just start there?


Most of the time the physical difference between two same age & brand 3/4t & 1t trucks is very small. As petty as it looks to type it, I dislike the 1t's Fed required cab clearance lights enough to build a 1t out of a 3/4t if I have to. Turns out that in our truck's case the differences are so small that careful selection of wear replacement parts have made it a 1t in all but what the sticker says.

Edited by ntsqd, 18 February 2019 - 04:00 PM.

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Where does that road go?

#7 BrianG


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Posted 18 February 2019 - 04:46 PM

Ntsqd, 1T cab clearance lights, my 1T 2018 Ram doesn’t have them? Thejm, your list of requirements is well thought out but considering there are only three of you (same as us), might want to spend more on a truck (crewcab) and go with a slide in FWC. The extended cab is a prime storage area.

Just my thoughts, good luck,
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2018 Ram 3500 Mega Cab 4x4 Diesel, 2015 Hawk Silver Spur Exterior, Front Dinette

#8 Wandering Sagebrush

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 04:54 PM

My 1 ton doesn’t have clearance lights either, it’s a 2014.
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#9 smlobx


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Posted 18 February 2019 - 05:06 PM

I think a flat bed 3/4 or 1 ton truck for a Hawk is a great platform.

Finding a good dependable truck for $15k will be the challenge imho.

I would suggest a Ford but I am biased.

The owner of the American Adventurist website, Dave, built a great rig on a new Ram but sold it just about as soon as he finished the build.
The biggest problem with the Ram 3/4 ton was the rear spring suspension which wasn’t strong enough for the task.

You can read all about his build here:


Edited by smlobx, 18 February 2019 - 05:08 PM.

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#10 Wandering Sagebrush

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 05:12 PM

My 1 ton doesn’t have clearance lights either, it’s a 2014.

Google says it’s driven by a width requirement. Anything over 80”. A cited example F150 Raptor, required. Regular F150, not required.
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