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To build or to rebuild... That is the question

four wheel camper

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#1 JoelLivin

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Posted 28 January 2020 - 06:25 PM

I have a little money in my pocket and I am desperately craving some adventure and a small adventure rig to go on the back of my truck.
F150 6.5 ft bed.

I really really want something like this

project-m-test-1200x800.jpg
Project M | Four Wheel Campers
 
favicon-100x100.png fourwheelcampers.com

I cant afford to buy it new. So I was thinking of making it. Taking a craigslist 100 dollar truck shell and stripping the windows and back hatch off of it. Then making a frame out of steel and basically recreating a four wheel camper project M. I like the fact that while not using it as a camper its alot of space and can be used just like a truck topper. I like that its lighter because it attaches to the rails. I would create modular systems to go into it when its time to camp, so think like a paletized kitchen that can slide into it, a water system for outside shower hookup, a cot or bunk that converts to a couch. All stuff that can be removed and put in the garage when not in use. Id also line the bed with insulation and carpet.

Just when I was really close to committing to this build I saw an old (maybe mid to late 80s) four wheel camper grandby for sale that is very affordable. Supposedly its in ok shape, the heater doesnt work (not a big deal to replace), and supposedly the canvas is in good shape (this would be the big thing for me, I do not feel like trying to replace material). It would have some downfalls, I would have to modify it to fit my truck as its a bit wider than my wheel wells. I would probably basically fully gut it, use the aluminum frame, add new skin, redo entire interior ect. would be alot of work. Or... I use parts out of it

Option #1 buy old used grandby and renovate
PROS:
-can be used now before even starting a major remodel of it (assuming theres an easy solution to narrow the tub width)
-Probably better insulated
-all appliances ect are in place
-a bit cheaper than creating from scratch
-aluminum frame (could be a pro or con, i dont have ways to weld aluminum so if its all good then im assuming pro, if broken welds then big con)
CONS:
-The length is off and would mean leaving the tailgate down, this kind of sucks, no backup camera functionality ect.
-the modifications needed would be relatively significant (need to narrow bottom foot area by I think 4 inches).
-Transporting bikes (which we do a lot) would require a very long hitch mount so just more stuff flopping around behind the truck, or a roof mount which is not the easiest to pull them on and off of.
-while camper is on it cannot be used as a truck.

Option #2 buy a camper shell, use windows and back hatch to make a project M knockoff out of steel frame
PROS:
-would fit truck exactly
-would be able to unload it when not used as a camper and use the truck as a ...truck
-can throw bikes in, even while using as a camper.
-would be lighter overall, especially when not being used as a camper, but as a shell
-more configurable space.
-Would be built beefy
CONS:
-would need to figure out the lift and canvas walls (this is a huge con)
-would take longer to be ready to go adventure
-would cost a little more
-would need to buy appliances like heater, water heater, pump ect.

Option #3 buy the Four Wheel Camper and just yank parts off including appliances, roof, canvas, lift mechanism cushions ect
PROS:
-Would not have to worry about recreating vinyl material (this ones huge)
-could use aluminum roof and lift mechanism, would be light weight and easier to install
-could reuse some appliances (would depend on whats all still good)
-recover cushions to reuse and save money
-Could use for a bit as is before ready to tear down (assuming theres an easy solution to narrow the tub width)
-All pros of option 2 apply
CONS:
-alot of trash to deal with after gutting camper
-Seems a big waste of a four wheel camper (even though it wont fit in any modern truck), just kind of hurts to think of discarding so much of it
-would need to also buy an old truck topper for the rear hatch (this is not too bug a deal, ive seen them for about 100 bucks or less since fit wont matter)

Thoughts?
Need to decide asap.

 


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#2 JakeSnapper

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Posted 30 January 2020 - 02:34 AM

I’d go Option 1. Cutting the tub would be far less work than either other option. Rolling with the tailgate down is no big deal. Believe it or not , you can drive without a back up camera. And FWC look good on F150s.
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#3 BBZ

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Posted 30 January 2020 - 03:27 AM

My opinion

 

Find a crappy, beat to **** FWC and rebuild it.. 

 

That what I did.. 500 bucks, 80s Grandby.. gutted to frame and built how I wanted..

 

no furnace, no water tank.. basically a shell with a lower bed option..  We spend 3 weeks in Baja in it.. great camper and super light (900 ish)..

 

The only thing original on this camper is the roof and we spent a good bit of time fixing that (silicone flat roof material that rolls on and making sure all screws with gaskets were new).. 

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Edited by BBZ, 30 January 2020 - 03:28 AM.

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14 F150 SuperCrew 6.5 Bed, 5.0

 

http://www.wanderthe...ect-90s-granby/

 

 80's Granby rebuilt from frame..


#4 JoelLivin

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Posted 30 January 2020 - 06:42 PM

I’d go Option 1. Cutting the tub would be far less work than either other option. Rolling with the tailgate down is no big deal. Believe it or not , you can drive without a back up camera. And FWC look good on F150s.

 

 

My opinion

 

Find a crappy, beat to **** FWC and rebuild it.. 

 

That what I did.. 500 bucks, 80s Grandby.. gutted to frame and built how I wanted..

 

no furnace, no water tank.. basically a shell with a lower bed option..  We spend 3 weeks in Baja in it.. great camper and super light (900 ish)..

 

The only thing original on this camper is the roof and we spent a good bit of time fixing that (silicone flat roof material that rolls on and making sure all screws with gaskets were new).. 

 

I appreciate the opinions.  Thats what I need.  
So, I bought one!  As soon as I figure out how to load pics on here i'll do so.  

I am so very torn though still.  Even with your wonderful advice. 

 

So it doesn't fit in the truck, too wide by 4 inches and too long (objectionably) to close the tail gate. Yes agreed I can drive with the tailgate down and no backup camera, i get that, I am quite good at it. But for the times my wife hops in the truck... lets just say id feel better if it worked as its supposed to.  Also, being a new truck (ive never done a new vehicle so im kind of babying it I guess, and theyre damn expensive) im reluctant to have the tailgate down while driving all over kingdom come.  I know that rocks tend to find it more often and they usually get beaten up more like that. 

If I modify it to a  project M knock off, modifying the frame enough to hold more weight in the front and extend that bed out taking the length off the front behind the cab section (like this: https://expeditionpo...version.182832/ )  (and if you know any more builds who have done something like that id love to see it). 

 

then anchoring the thing to the bed rails of the truck like a truck topper. Id build a removable super thick carpet pack that insulates the truck bed inside.
This would be nice because it would shed all that floor pack weight as well as leave me a truck bed to use as a truck bed. I could also add different "modules" depending on what we will be doing, for example if its just me and my 13 year old going to park at the base of a 14er to wake up early and summit that bad boy then we can load it sparse, just the "kitchen module", dometic cooler, couch bed and go. OR if it will be me, my 15 and 13 year old we could load a "bunk module" or whatever. Point being it would be a blank canvas at the beginning of each adventure. I can see that biting me in the ass too though and having half a garage crowded with my camper modules when not in use.

But it would kind of suck because it obviously wouldn't be as nicely sealed as a fully contained unit with an RV door. And also any appliances or furniture would have to go in and out,

Thoughts? When making that decision think the old military adage "lite lean and lethal" thats what im after. I want something that is versatile, stealth camp ability adventure rig. Not looking for a camper ill live in for weeks at a time. In fact within a year or so me and the wife will probably buy a traditional RV that will be used for the whole family on more traditional vacations, it will be more the park queen and im looking for this one to be the more out there option on weekends.


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#5 JoelLivin

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Posted 30 January 2020 - 06:48 PM

got for a great deal.  Heater doesnt currently work, fridge is just an ice box (never seen that before). and it doesnt fit the truck... but I am excited about it

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#6 JoelLivin

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Posted 30 January 2020 - 06:50 PM

from the back, Ill need to figure out how to lower resolution of other pics if I want to post them as well. 

 

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#7 JoelLivin

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Posted 30 January 2020 - 07:21 PM

gallery_10101_1381_455891.jpggallery_10101_1381_177401.jpg


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#8 BBZ

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Posted 30 January 2020 - 07:38 PM

I have lots of thoughts..... and opinions

 

I basically got the same thing, but mine was much worse.. once I realized it was a total do over, I just gutted it and built it the way I wanted. Was hoping to keep the ceiling headliner, but it just had a nasty smell, so that had to go but that enabled me to rewire it and insulate it better. 

 

I wanted it built light and took out heater, fridge, sink,  rollover bed etc.. 

 

Our only has a stove inside. Weighs roughly 800-900 lbs. 

 

Narrowing floor pack isn't hard if you have basic carpentry skills. 

 

Re doing the canvas was by far the hardest part.. my wife sewed it and we got it done. only original part is the roof which required a lot of work as well, but getting a new one was expensive.. and well you can only get in california.. so not worth it. 

 

If you look in my signature there is a link to my build so you can see what I did... 

 

If your siding is in good shape, you can simply paint it (did it to my previous camper, 80's Fleet, came out great). 


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14 F150 SuperCrew 6.5 Bed, 5.0

 

http://www.wanderthe...ect-90s-granby/

 

 80's Granby rebuilt from frame..


#9 rubberlegs

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Posted 30 January 2020 - 07:46 PM

Not familiar with F150, but our Tacoma tailgate is very easy to remove and install. You could find another backup camera and mount it, or do like I did and remove the camera from tailgate and affix it to the camper.


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Tacoma/Fleet 2018.


#10 JoelLivin

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Posted 30 January 2020 - 08:36 PM

I have lots of thoughts..... and opinions

 

I basically got the same thing, but mine was much worse.. once I realized it was a total do over, I just gutted it and built it the way I wanted. Was hoping to keep the ceiling headliner, but it just had a nasty smell, so that had to go but that enabled me to rewire it and insulate it better. 

 

I wanted it built light and took out heater, fridge, sink,  rollover bed etc.. 

 

Our only has a stove inside. Weighs roughly 800-900 lbs. 

 

Narrowing floor pack isn't hard if you have basic carpentry skills. 

 

Re doing the canvas was by far the hardest part.. my wife sewed it and we got it done. only original part is the roof which required a lot of work as well, but getting a new one was expensive.. and well you can only get in california.. so not worth it. 

 

If you look in my signature there is a link to my build so you can see what I did... 

 

If your siding is in good shape, you can simply paint it (did it to my previous camper, 80's Fleet, came out great). 

Luckily the canvas (or vinyl covered cloth to be precise) is in very good shape, that was the one thing I paid most attention to because I knew I didnt want to redo it.  of all the things that could go wrong with this camper sewing was not on my agenda. 

My carpentry skills are pretty on point, i used to build fine furniture and custom pieces for people (before I sold the house that had the rather large shop in it), my metal skills not so much, but probably know enough to make it good. 
 

Ive looked at your build before when i was trying to decide on the four wheel camper, its a very good looking rig and a very similar truck to mine (mines even white).  being lite weight is huge.  Thats one of the reasons I was thinking of just getting rid of all that floor pack and going minimalist. That and the fact that I always carry mountain bikes, snowboards, skis or whatever around in the bed. 

 

With just painting the siding, my thought was, if I shorten the camper while lengthening the bunk then for strength using a good aluminum sheet would add some strength.  Along with bracing that I would do as I would have to extend the bed overhang by 18 inches or so.
If I dont do that then im not sure if ill do different siding or not. 

 

Do you leave your camper on your truck pretty much 100% of the time?  Thats always kind of the big deal for me is how to use it. 
its a pain to get on and off, but if its a full on camper id want it off most of the time, but if its a Project M knockoff thenn id be fine with it on most of the time. 


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