'86 Alaskan, '94 Dodge CTD

draker3838

New member
Well, here we go for my second post on Expo. I've been lurking for entirely too long, but now that I've got a setup that is thread worthy, Ill document the work to be done on our '86 Alaskan on the back of the '94 Dodge.

First, you might ask how we ended up with the Dodge/Alaskan combo. Here's the brief rundown:

Back in 2008 I picked up a 1990 regular cab Toyota pickup with the 22re and 172,000 miles on it. It ran like a top until the day I sold it which would have been about July of 2014. It had about 230,000 miles when I sold it and I wouldnt have hesitated to drive it to Florida at any point I owned it.

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I sold it to a guy from Green River, WY who happened to be driving his Corvette to pick it up. I thought I should have charged more, but I was glad it went to a good home.

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While I owned the 1990, I picked up a 2008 Toyota Tundra. It sure was a nice truck and after I hit a deer, I put a nice ARB bumper on the front end. I ended up selling it because I never really drove it due to gas costs at the time and it was a lot nicer truck than I needed. Also, I had a loan on it and every month when I made the payment it made me sick that I didnt own it outright. I am going to do everything in my power not to have a car loan again. I cant find the picture right now, but I will add it when i find it.

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Next on the list is the 2002 Dodge 2500 CTD I picked up sometime in mid 2014 after I sold "Little Red." It was a good running truck but the steering on it was horrendous and it was terrifying to drive down the highway. I took it deer hunting a few months after I bought it, hopped out to get a closer look at a sign and when I looked at the truck it had oil running down both sides. It ended up puking up more than 1/2 gallon of oil before I filled it up. Took it to the mechanic a week or so later and he said he had no idea where the oil came or what happened. He mentioned that it may have been lugged too low causing pressure to increase which caused it to release oil through the pressure relief valve which happens to be right by the fan. I'm not a mechanic by any means so I have no idea if it made sense, but he didnt charge me for looking at it. Anyways, after some thought, I sold it to a guy in Cheyenne. The '02:

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Right when I was contemplating selling the Dodge, I discovered Expo and discussed the Pan American highway with my girlfriend who said she would love to go. I really wished I hadnt sold the 1990 Toyota, so looked for a Tacoma that was in the right price range but couldnt find anything that was priced right after looking for several months. I ended up finding a 1999 4runner in town that was a west coast vehicle with no rust, perfect body, perfect paint, rear diff lock. The only thing that could have made it better would have been if it had the 5 speed, but I settled. We had planned on using the 4runner for our Pan American trip and had a roof top tent all but purchased when the truck began having low oil pressure. Turns out the spotless truck had cancer in the engine and was sludged up. It was likely just the pickup tube that was clogged, but I wasnt going to risk needing an engine replacement along our trip. I posted it and sold it on Craigslist, losing a pretty good chunk on the vehicle, although not too bad considering what I paid for it. The Jalapeno:

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About this time I realized that I had plowed through 4 vehicles in just a couple of years and was getting a little frustrated with vehicles. Anyways, after it was determined that the 4runner would be sold, I decided that we ought to take a step back before jumping into another small SUV. Did we really want to sleep in the RTT for 1.5-2 years? Did we really want to drop $2,000 on a RTT when we could potentially pick up a camper for substantially less and have a lot more room? Did we really want to be cooking outside every meal? We plan on bringing our dog on the trip so did we really want to be living in a SUV with him too? We discussed our options and decided it would be worth looking into a camper. My folks had a 2008 Alaskan on a 2005 Dodge 3500 CTD. It was a sweet set up and I happen to have a picture of it in front of their barn:

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After looking at a few threads on Alaskans on Expo and WTW, I ran across Brad's thread on his trip to Alaska with a '94 Dodge and an '86 Alaskan which can be viewed here:

http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/34534-Alaska-2009

If you havent read his thread, you should take some time to do so. Its a great write up that really gives you a feel for driving through Alaska and he has some great pictures. It will certainly make you start daydreaming.... ask me how I know! Anyways, on the last page of his thread he posted the truck and camper for sale. I ran the idea of taking our trip in this rig by my fiance and she seemed really into it. Since Brad was located just 2 hours away from Casper, WY in Spearfish, SD, we decided to take a drive up there and check it out. We both really liked the truck, camper, as well as our visit with Brad. We purchased it from Brad and plan to take it on our trip down south. We wished we had a picture with Brad, us, and the camper, but he snapped this picture as we were getting coffee on our way out of town:

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We hope to catch up with Brad and his wife Sherri before we leave to visit and snap a couple of pictures to add to the thread. We are planning on leaving Fall of 2016, which doesnt leave us much time to get work done on the truck and camper with the busy summer we have planned. We will be getting married in August and plan to sell most of our "stuff" as well as our house, then hit the road. It doesnt sound like much to do but just thinking about it makes me exhausted.

For the truck, we had thought about replacing a couple body panels and repainting as there are a few holes from rust, but decided that it may be more work than we are really willing to put out for the truck. The rust is cosmetic and the frame, undercarriage, and everything else just has a little surface rust so we will probably just leave it. We will do some preventative maintenance on the truck before we go, but it runs very well so we dont expect too much work on it.

For the camper, we plan on adding a fridge, fixing the bottle jack which leaks a little hydraulic oil, updating the fabric on the cushions and curtains, redoing the electrical, and a few other small issues. It would be fine to take right now as it is, but we would like to take care of a few things before we go.

Ill try to snap a few pictures this weekend and as we make progress on preparing for our departure. Thanks for checking out my thread!

Ryan
 

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ripperj

Explorer
Welcome from another Ram/Alaskan guy, nice rig, I like your parents setup too, Inc boat and barn:)
Be careful of the mods, they get out of control:)


Sent from my Passport
 

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draker3838

New member
Thanks for the replies. My folks' setup was really nice and they used it quite a bit. They used to park it in the barn and I would stay in the camper while home from college as the living quarters in the barn consisted of a studio loft with fold down Murphy beds. It was so quiet in the camper you could sleep for hours.

I might have to pick your brains on the electrical in the camper. I would really like to have a pure sine inverter connected to the two 120V outlets in the camper and have all of the lights, fridge, etc. connected to 12V. I think that would make electrical as simple as it could be while still having some convenience. Over on WTW, somebody posted a wiring schematic, but I'm still not sure how the 12V to 120V wiring is done in these campers. We intend on refinishing the interior, so taking out the ceiling and starting with all new wiring may be the best way to tackle the issue. Anyhow, more on that later.

We got the camper popped up the other day and finally had a chance to get a closer look at everything. Its really in good shape for its age. We will be doing a few upgrades to it, but will probably just enjoy the heck out of it. I mentioned to my neighbors that I was looking at a camper and they had never heard of an Alaskan. I think they are a little confused as to how it works, Ill let them wonder until they ask me :)

Anyhow, here are some pictures I took on Saturday.

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As I was taking pictures, my dog was very interested in checking out the camper too. I helped him in and he just slept on the couch for about 4 hours. I think he is as excited about the camper as we are!

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draker3838

New member
Ok finally time to update the thread. Ive been very busy with work (I am a CPA) and now that tax season is over I can make some progress on the camper.

The first item to fix was the hydraulic pump. When I got the camper, it leaked a decent amount of oil from the pump so it would be a good first project on the camper to tackle.

To do so I unbolted the jack itself from the floor of the camper and took off the line off the jack. I found that a golf tee worked great for keeping the hydraulic fluid from all draining out. Also, I put down a bunch of kitty litter to soak up the oil.

Next it was just a matter of disassembling the jack and replacing the seals. I initially thought the leak was from the gasket on the bottom of the reservoir so I replaced that and replaced the gasket at the bottom of the plunger tube and O-ring on the plunger. I reassembled the jack put it back in the camper and it kept leaking. The final O-rings that I remained in the jack were the two on either side of the lever to raise and lower the camper. I removed the snap ring, replaced the O-ring and reassembled.

The Alaskan... It raises, It lowers. Now without leaks!

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fluffyprinceton

Adventurer
Nice camper - but it's not an '86. More like a pre-early '70s. You have that nice ash ply interior - Alaskan went to a plastic laminate covered ply in the early '70s. Also your pump is from the same era. They had spruce framing in the top, nice & light. You have the most desirable model in my opinion...I found them easy to work on - and they all needed work. Enjoy it.

I'm pretty sure about this, having had 3 Alaskans over the years - Moe
 

wyorunner

Observer
So heres an idea... several of you Wyoming folk I know have something I could come help with.... You have a nice truck and camper that I could assist on, chabono has property that needs fencing, guy in Cody, he has beer I need to drink... Yea I think I should come up for a spell. Also, congrats on all things brother look forward to watching/helping when and where possible, and hopefully meet up with you somewhere. Good luck let me know if you want or need help.

turd
 

draker3838

New member
Nice camper - but it's not an '86. More like a pre-early '70s. You have that nice ash ply interior - Alaskan went to a plastic laminate covered ply in the early '70s. Also your pump is from the same era. They had spruce framing in the top, nice & light. You have the most desirable model in my opinion...I found them easy to work on - and they all needed work. Enjoy it.

I'm pretty sure about this, having had 3 Alaskans over the years - Moe
You know I think I would have to agree with you. I had seen some of the 80s models and yes, the interior was nearly the quality that this one is. This one does need a little bit of work, but all in all, especially considering the age, its in really good shape. a little water damage under the windows and a little by the air vent. Ill get to work on that once we quit getting snow..... Gotta love spring in Wyoming.
 

draker3838

New member
So heres an idea... several of you Wyoming folk I know have something I could come help with.... You have a nice truck and camper that I could assist on, chabono has property that needs fencing, guy in Cody, he has beer I need to drink... Yea I think I should come up for a spell. Also, congrats on all things brother look forward to watching/helping when and where possible, and hopefully meet up with you somewhere. Good luck let me know if you want or need help.

turd
Thanks bud. Ill call you soon and see if we can get a plan going. Ill be working somewhat furiously to get it ready to live in as the house will go on the market in hopefully 2 weeks. Id take some help working through a few things on the truck. Let me know when youre thinking about coming up and Id pick you up in Denver.
 

fisher205

Explorer
You know I think I would have to agree with you. I had seen some of the 80s models and yes, the interior was nearly the quality that this one is. This one does need a little bit of work, but all in all, especially considering the age, its in really good shape. a little water damage under the windows and a little by the air vent. Ill get to work on that once we quit getting snow..... Gotta love spring in Wyoming.
Ryan,
If you check the build date on the plate by the backdoor it says 86. Otherwise I would agree with both of you. The Alaskans were built in a lot of different places and I think what was built and the quality varied between the shops. Glad you fixed the pump that easily. The worse part is I had a hydraulics shop rebuild that pump recently.

I may have sold the wrong Alaskan, I have the '97 tore apart right now and putting in new roof beams and taking care of some other damage to it. Hopefully we will be putting the skin back on soon.

Brad
 

draker3838

New member
Ive looked all over this thing and can't find a date anywhere! I see the tag that says it was made in Ft. Lupton, CO with a serial number but nothing that shows the date. Are you talking about the plate to the left of the door on the bottom of the upper half? It could have been made right before the design change and considering its condition, I wouldnt be surprised if its an '86.

Pulling the skin off one of these sounds like a nightmare! We are going to reseal everything with new butyl tape and sikaflex as recommended from Wander the West. I would also like to rewire the whole thing so the running lights will work properly and to be able to use the outlets with an inverter, but I think it would be a lot easier pulling the cabinets and ceiling down than pulling the outside skin. Other than that, we are just going to use the heck out of it.

Putting the house on the market today. Things are getting a little scary with oil and gas and coal markets in the dump. When its sold, the plan is to live in the Alaskan for the summer at my buddy's place at Alcova.
 

fisher205

Explorer
When its sold, the plan is to live in the Alaskan for the summer at my buddy's place at Alcova.
Cool, You'll be able to go fishing out the backdoor. I'll try and get you some pictures of the wiring before we close it up. We already replaced the interior paneling. While it was apart I decided to replace the front vent with a fantastic fan. But the wiring was in place for it. We'll have to get together once I get mine back together.
 

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draker3838

New member
Alright... Ive owned this thing far too long without doing a thing to it or using it but things have changed. As I mentioned in a previous post, I put the house on the market and was hesitant to do so. Oil, gas, and coal markets are down which means real estate in Wyoming is down. I put the house on the market last Friday, showed it 15 times in 3 days and it is under contract so it looks like I will be living at Alcova sooner than later. Ill be a full time RVer in less than a month! Ive been spending my time on the house to get it ready to sell which has paid off, but yesterday and today has been spend getting the camper ready to live in.

Yesterday we removed the upper cabinets and I got to work rewiring the camper. When trying to remove the upper paneling, I realized how tough these Alaskans are built. They were screwed, nailed, glued, fitted, and they were a nightmare to pull apart. I decided that i would pull the "master panel" which would reveal the electrical input and allow me to figure out the electrical. While in there, I hooked up the 120v electrical, marking lights, and I added a hookup for a solar panel which will be added in the near future. After that was done, I sanded the entire top half. Here are some pics....

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I was shocked to find out that the supporting structure had zero rot. The ash plywood was rotted in some places but I was thrilled that there was no structural rot. 30 years old and still looked brand new under the plywood! No wonder these things last forever!

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Replaced the power input and running lights connector and added a solar input plug.

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to lift the top up enough I ran a bolt through the camper and screwed a supporting 2x4 to the lifting point. It took a while to figure out but its really sturdy.

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He is just ready to go camping.

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Unfortunately the threading on these flow control valves are different than the threading from the pistons so Ill have to get an adapter.
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Sanding on the inside
 

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draker3838

New member
Quick update...

The Alaskan is coming along great, which is great news as it will be home in 9 days since that's when the house will be officially sold! As I mentioned in the last post, the wiring was in progress and we had pulled the overhead cabinets out to be refinished. Those have since been finished and last night we installed the Formica counters that replaced the original worn out counters. We picked a Formica that was as close to original as possible as we are trying to keep things original with a little updating here and there. We also installed some snap together vinyl flooring which looks really sharp. One more note, its been really heating up here and to keep things cool in the camper this summer we installed two Fantastic Fans.

Also I mentioned in the previous post that I rebuilt the hydraulic lifts and picked up some flow control valves to help the top raise and lower evenly. Turns out the flare to pipe fittings in 1/4" are tough to find but I was able to special order them from Grainger and should be in tomorrow.

Left on the to do list:
- Install flow control valves and bleed hydraulic lift system
- Wire up Fantastic Fans
- Rewire lights
- Wire in the 200AH deep cycle battery, 1500 watt inverter, and charger controller
- Replace miscellaneous weather stripping and finish replacing butyl tape
- Build bed platform to clear the cab of the truck
- Get out and use this thing!

We are going to Cody for a beerfest on July 16 and are going to try to drive Chief Joseph Pass and the Beartooth Highway while doing some camping along the way. Its been a few years since I have done that trip and I think it would be a good trial run for the truck and camper. Anyhow, here are some pictures of the progress.

Floor before (added 3/4" plywood over drawer in dinette section as it was a little soft):
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And after:
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Countertops:
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And a beer for me after finishing up!
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Also, on a sad note, we had to put down our dog last week which was very tough but the right decision. We didnt get a chance to take him camping in this camper which saddens us but he will certainly be with us in heart!

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