@Adrifters - F550 Surf Camper Build - Adrift Motorhome


F550 Surf Camper Build - Adrifters

Hi All,

Spent most of the last year and a half building an expedition camper for our u1300 Unimog. Our plan was to spend a few years in Central and South America doing volunteer medical work and surfing. We love our truck, but our family is growing and it just became increasingly impractical to fit everyone into it. As I'm guessing is usually the case, the second I got everything just perfect and exactly how I wanted it on the Mog, we realized it just wasn't suiting our needs anymore. So, we are going to sell it and get something with a super cab/rear seat.

We have pretty much settled on an f-550 for the platform. We looked at Fuso's extensively, but the lack of a crew cab in a 4wd configuration left me feeling like I'd end up doing alot of heavy fabrication again to fit in a crew cab. We also wanted a fairly new to new truck, and it seems the older fuso's are the more desirable.

Our life has changed a little too, so our new goals are to have something that will be very capable offroad with plenty of payload capacity, a rear seat, comfortable and relatively quiet at 75mph, but that can also serve double duty as a flat bed truck on our farm when we arent travelling.

Basic mods planned for the truck include

2011-15 F-550 CrewCab
Conti 335s on Beadlock 20X11 Rims
Will start with the stock 4:88 gearing, but short leash to switch to the 5:38 gearing which brings the ratio back to stock
Considering a Rear coil spring conversion
No Pass through
Torsion Isolating aluminum flatbed/subframe. The camper will be mounted on Reico Titans and set up to be easy on and off

Here is a pic of the new base vehicle, a 2016 F550 V10

Here is what the truck looks like now

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We are getting the Mog ready to sell and actively shopping for the f-550. Still debating years (2011-14 vs 2015/16) as well as Gas vs Diesel. I know the gas versus diesel debate has strong opinions on both sides, but, I'd love to hear them again!! :) The additional cost ($8000+, plus I'd need to make a removable set of Mods for low sulfur diesel which I priced at 2k)) and weight (almost 1k lbs!) are diesel deterrents.

Would love to hear any advice in the context of our build (a few tidbits below)

  • Our Camper Weighs about 4500-5000lbs wet
  • We travel to Areas without ULSD frequently
  • I'm guessing we will drive less than 10k per year
  • We usually don't drive a vehicle past 100k (just seems thats a resale inflection point)

I guess its not totally salient, but maybe worth mentioning that we are coming from a Mog, which already tells you we are ok with traveling a little slower up hills :)
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Our camper itself is a hard sided, lifting roof design. It was originally a cube, but we are in the midst of converting it to a cab-over design. The entire box is made out of high strength modulus composite panels. The cross sectional strength on these is amazing, I could stand in the middle of our floor panel with it only supported on the ends and only registered a 1/4" deflection (I'm 6'7", 260lbs).

The material itself is called transonite, a pultruded composite panel. It has a 3D crosslink at a density of 5-7 per sq/in between the panels making it incredibly strong and delamination proof. You can kind of make out a portion of the internal structure and crosslinking here

The strength is awesome, but it also makes it very hard to cut, and impossible to rout without modifications. We used a collection of festool track saws, and mirka and festool dustless sanders to do the work.
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The box was put together using 3m 5200 fast drying adhesive to make all of the initial bonds, and then secondary fiberglass bonds on both sides were done with a X-mat fiberglass cloth and vinyl ester resin system. A lot of nasty, itchy, scratchy work.

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Here is a pic of the top box over the bottom as we were glueing in the roof

And Heather checking out why our design doesn't work with a pass through :)

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We recently ran out of panels due to the re-design, so I've been making more myself (not pultruded panels, just regular composite) out of 5lb H80 divincyl and 0/90 co-fab with an isothallic tooling resin. Its quite a bit of work per panel, but they are very strong and very light (1lb/sqft). We've also been making a few out of carbon fiber where extra rigidity is needed.

Here is a pic of our carbon roof support/wiring channel being created with a vacuum and halved 2" PVC as the form. The roof is flexible and these really increase the rigidity

Finished Panels still in their Peel Ply

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While switching directions on our truck definitely generated a ton of new work on the camper, overall I think its gonna be worth it to have something we can use for a longer period of time, likely more frequently, and that will accommodate more people. We originally thought of switching to an f-550 about half way through our build, but we both were really concerned about length, as our camper, in its orientation then would have resulted in a total vehicle length of 25 feet and I really wanted to be closer to 23.

In our original design, the water tank (110 gallon, we like to post up in baja for weeks and need to rinse after surfing) sat behind the kitchen cabinets, and the kitchen faced forward towards the back of the cab (centering the load of the water mid wheelbase).

It took a fair bit of figuring, but to turn our camper into a cab-over design, I'd need to do the following:

  • Rotate the camper 180 degrees with the kitchen now facing to the rear
  • Move the camper door to the other side
  • Reframe the front surfboard locker into a water tank pocket and relocate the tank from behind the cabinets to the forward locker
  • Relocate the fridge and remove the existing kitchen cabinets
  • Trim out and remove the rear storage locker completely, plus the portion of the surfboard locker that isn't the new water tank pocket
We got lucky that most of the camper was already bilaterally symmetrical, so rotating the camper 180 degrees only required a few changes (namely the door so it still exited on the passenger side).

Due to the height of the box I had to work with, the re-design will require the camper to sit on a locker to bring the cab-over up high enough. I will be recessing the water tank and the batteries down into insulated pockets in the locker that communicate with camper air to keep my COG low.
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Adrift in the Green Room (AITGR) - Our new f550 based build thread

My track saw just about walked off the job on this one. As an aside, for making a composite box using secondary fiberglass bonds instead of bonded aluminum or composite extrusions, three absolutely essential tools:
  • Festool Track saw and 55" and 118" tracks
  • RAS 115 Sander
  • Any high powered vac (fein, festool, mirka)

I got the RAS late in the game but it really sped things up.

Heres a pic of what is coming out and the original door glassed back into place

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And she's gone!!

Was able to re-use the original hatch doors as a basis for reframing the wall.

I continued to reframe the front wall and get the water tank pocket in, and then tossed the top box on to check measurements before trimming it down into its new configuration

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