-->

2021 Four Wheel Pop-Up Camper Grandby Shell - full time overland build

ramblinChet

Active member
Here is a list of the options I selected along with a brief explanation for each:

MODEL:

2021 - Very easy choice since there are virtually zero FWC campers available let alone a Grandby Shell.

Four Wheel Pop-Up Camper - This was a long and difficult decision since over the past few years I have explored a number of options. Even up until recently I was still considering Arctic Fox, Lance, Palomino, etc. although I continued to come back around to FWC. My big turn offs were the interesting interior layouts and the excessively long waiting list which is now at 52-56 weeks. The value that I see in FWC is they have a mature product, a great reputation and can be ordered in a shell configuration which will permit the owner to customize. The fact that the top collapses to save on height is beneficial to my requirements since much of my exploring will be done off-road so impact with branches, low center of gravity, etc. all matter much to me.

Grandby - This was an equally difficult decision since many owners are quite happy with a slightly shorter option. When I finally decided to design this system using a 2021 RAM 3500 Tradesman regular can 4x4 8' box the solution was obvious - a Grandby it would be. My though was that for full time use the additional space in the camper shell would be much more valuable when compared to the additional storage offered by the crew cab. On those rainy or otherwise unpleasant days where I decide to spend time indoors the additional room afforded by the Grandby will be nice.

Shell - Although FCW has a number of options available for their interior layout I just was not terribly impressed by any of them. It is only my opinion but there is much to be gained by involving a professional with designing the interior. My goal is to perform additional research and solicit input from professionals who have more knowledge in this particular area. Again, I believe the current interiors in the FWC lineup is OK but it seems improvements are possible.

OPTIONS:

Fabric: Dovetail Greystone

Powered Roof Vent Fan ($310) - Although I have spent the past 2.5 years sleeping outside every night in a James Baroud hardshell tent and have no problems with the warm or cold weather, I have not spent a single night in a FWC. The powered roof vent fan seems like a very common option and since it involves wiring and it a reasonable cost I decided it was a good idea. I requested that the fan be mounted above the bed but was told it is commonly mounted above the stove. Since I do not have a stove I do hope this can be accommodated.

Rear Floodlights LED ($295) - A close friend recently had his FWC camper delivered and I was able to experience these rear floodlights firsthand. When pulling to camp late and setting up these seem like they would be a great benefit and at $295 I consider them a reasonable cost. If they were not LED I doubt I would have purchased them and that would have left me to select lights and perform the wiring myself. I am glad this was an option.

Thermal Pack ($750) - Initially I was not going to order this since I have slept in an unheated tent at near zero degrees Fahrenheit for a few days. I reasoned that in the FWC with a heater, the Thermal Pack would not be as valuable but then I began to consider fuel use, being out in austere conditions for weeks or even months, etc. and I easily justified the additional expense. One feature I do not like is the lack of sunlight when using this type of Thermal Pack. I do wish there was a heavier clear window they were able to use for this application.

King Bed Slide-Out on Cabover Bed ($500) - Although I enjoy sleeping N-S I was willing to sleep E-W. After thinking about it and reading posts by several others who either wished they had the king bed option or had it and loved it, I decided this was worth it. My plan is to sleep mostly N-S but we will see. If I have company the king bed option will be even more valuable. Another consideration is that the king option includes four pillows whereas I believe the standard option only included two - I may be wrong on this though. Those four pillows will provide me with additional options when configuring the interior since they may be used in other applications unrelated to sleep.

Smooth Siding, Black ($895) - This is all about looks and with a Granite Crystal Metallic paint on my truck black seemed like the best choice. It would provide some contrast but again be dark enough to blend well. I had considered the Metallic Charcoal color for my camper but was unable to find any pictures which clearly showed the RAM paint and FWC paint together. Black will be fine though and although the smooth siding will be more likely to show scratches, dents and dings all will be fine.

Since I do plan to install solar up top I am already planning to use forty pound struts in the front and rear. What will be most exciting is selecting the individual components and building out the interior once the camper arrives.

Cost of base camper: $13,295
Options: $2,750
Documentation fee: $65
Destination charge: $775
Installation fee: $595
Grand total: $17,480
 
Last edited:

Overdrive

Adventurer
Excellent choices. I have some experience with FWC's and I agree the Grandby's slightly longer floor makes a big difference. Good choice on the long bed and Grandby!

I assume you will be designing in your own heater/furnace and stove since you didn't list it as one of your options.

The only things I would suggest (you may have already placed the order?) is two roof vents (one over the bed and the normal one over the stove) and the small driver's side window. Many folks with the rear wall steps (me included) found them useful around camp to hang stuff on, and they are all but impossible to add after the fact, as the bolts are through the frame (of course) and it's all hidden with the finished product. You don't have a roof rack (mine came in handy) so you may have intentionally decided "no". Just my $.02
 

ramblinChet

Active member
Yes, I have placed my order and made my down payment. And you are correct, the current backlog is 52-56 weeks. Yikes!

No roof rack for me as I plan to use 3M VHB tape to attach my solar panel to the roof.

Most likely I will be building this out with a diesel powered heater from Eberspächer or Webasto. After spending time this past week in a brand new FWC Hawk I was was confused by the performance of the factory installed heater. It would turn on and blast us with air that was too hot for several minutes followed by a cooling period that was followed by a chilling one. The system does not seem balanced and I wonder why this particular model was selected. The Hawk had a thermal pack and the outside temperatures ranged from the high 20s to low 40s.
 

AeroNautiCal

Explorer
Having to wait that amount of time does allow for some planning, and having the internal dimensions to hand it should be possible to mind's eye design interior configurations.
 

ramblinChet

Active member
Torklift frame-mounted rear tie downs D3112 mounted today. Install took about an hour and used basic hand tools to include calibrated 30-250 lb-ft torque wrench. Instructions called for three main outboard bolts to be torqued to 200 lb-ft with the single inboard bolt torqued to 75 lb-ft. The rear mount is effectively an extension of the existing frame and is solid beyond question.

Picture under driver's side rear quarter showing part of frame and OEM receiver hitch per-install:
IMG_0004.JPG

Same area post install with part number D3112 installed:
IMG_0006.JPG

Lowest part of rear tie down is 2" below bottom of rear bumper. Outermost section extends 4.25" from widest part of truck.
IMG_0008.JPG
 
Last edited:

RAM5500 CAMPERTHING

OG Portal Member #183
Most likely I will be building this out with a diesel powered heater from Eberspächer or Webasto. After spending time this past week in a brand new FWC Hawk I was was confused by the performance of the factory installed heater. It would turn on and blast us with air that was too hot for several minutes followed by a cooling period that was followed by a chilling one. The system does not seem balanced and I wonder why this particular model was selected. The Hawk had a thermal pack and the outside temperatures ranged from the high 20s to low 40s.
Yup! The FWC furnace and its ridiculous amount of non stop issues was one of the many reasons i sold my FWC fairly quickly.

The pre-2018 seem to be extremely reliable and the 2018+ ones are giant problematic turds
 

ramblinChet

Active member
Today I ordered MOPAR trailer wiring harness and mud flaps. My goal is to install the fifth wheel / gooseneck harness into this existing square that is already in my bed and connect it to the power and ground for the running lights on my camper.
tow and flaps.jpg

Here is a picture of the existing square:
IMG_0004.JPG
 

ramblinChet

Active member
OK, here is what I have decided to use in the bed for the connection between the Four Wheel Camper and my truck. The system can accept 6 AWG wire and handle 70 Adc and this is what each wire will be used for:
  • 12 Vdc at 30 amps running from vehicle battery to DC charge controller
  • ground running from engine block to DC charge controller
  • 12Vdc running from 7-pin trailer connector to camper running lights
MARINCO 70A 3-Wire Trolling Motor Plug & Receptacle Combo

375397-39735.jpg

marinco.jpg
 

DzlToy

Explorer
Marinco makes good stuff and the tinned wire is a great idea. I wish more people would use quality components in their builds. I have talked to 100 people who have stories about heaters that failed, roof fans that broke or leaked, solar panels that don't work, doors and windows that rattle, etc. I am still car camping and backpacking, so no camper for me, yet.

Along that line, please do not buy anything from Indel/Webasto or Eberspacher. Check out Toyotomi Laser heaters or ITR instead. Both companies make really good products.

For the 17 grand that you have set aside for a shell, you could build something better in the coming 52 weeks. There is nothing special about an empty shell made from sticks and fiberglass.

Motion makes decent windows, as do Motorcraft (UK), Sun View (BC) and Bomar (FL?). If you want to step up a notch or two, check out Diamond Sea Glaze, KCT or Outbound. You can drastically reduce HVAC loads and improve year 'round livability by installing high quality windows, doors and hatches. In doing so, your camper will provide you with many years of enjoyment.

Marine grade roof top hatches and fans are far superior to anything used in the main stream RV industry. Try to avoid using wood to build anything in the camper. XPS and FRP are your friends and can be used to make furniture, bed platforms and even countertops. CelTec is also a good option for furniture if you want ready made sheet goods, lighter than wood and water proof. Nail holding is about 30 pounds and screw holding is 10x that.

Used Tesla Model S batteries are far superior to mass market Chinesium products from Renogy, Battleborn and Xing Hao Ho. A single module weighs 56 pounds and has 400 amp hours of capacity. Measurements are 27" x 12" x 4".

Making your own sandwich panels is not difficult. They are light, strong and completely eliminate thermal bridging. None of those are characteristics of a 4WC, IMO.

0.03
 

ramblinChet

Active member
This will protect the positive and negative 6 AWG Ancor marine grade tinned battery cable running from under the hood, under the cab, and up into the bed.

electriduct.jpg

Untitled.jpg
 

s.e.charles

Well-known member
this doesn't appear to be the usual build; this planning phase is a pleasant change. hope that ideology doesn't waver after the unit is delivered.

following along.
 

craig333

Expedition Leader
Torklift frame-mounted rear tie downs D3112 mounted today. Install took about an hour and used basic hand tools to include calibrated 30-250 lb-ft torque wrench. Instructions called for three main outboard bolts to be torqued to 200 lb-ft with the single inboard bolt torqued to 75 lb-ft. The rear mount is effectively an extension of the existing frame and is solid beyond question.

Picture under driver's side rear quarter showing part of frame and OEM receiver hitch per-install:
View attachment 654428

Same area post install with part number D3112 installed:
View attachment 654429

Lowest part of rear tie down is 2" below bottom of rear bumper. Outermost section extends 4.25" from widest part of truck.
View attachment 654430
Scary looking. I'd have ripped that off by now.
 
Top