Another 2020 Ram 5500 Flatbed Camper Build

smurfsky101

Member
2003 2500 - I really should start another thread about it, don't want to hijack this one further.

But yeah - lots of mods

12v AC split system (ducted)
11 KW lithium bank
Victron inverter
12v compressor fridge
1.6 KW solar on two charge controllers
froli springs below mattress
bunch of cell antennas / modems
induction cooktop

Yanked a bunch of stuff off the roof, but otherwise the interior is basically stock

That is awesome! What model Bigfoot is that? Any mods besides the additional solar? Looks to be a good option for a relatively turn key solution.


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2003 2500 - I really should start another thread about it, don't want to hijack this one further.

But yeah - lots of mods

12v AC split system (ducted)
11 KW lithium bank
Victron inverter
12v compressor fridge
1.6 KW solar on two charge controllers
froli springs below mattress
bunch of cell antennas / modems
induction cooktop

Yanked a bunch of stuff off the roof, but otherwise the interior is basically stock
Post a build thread man I'm curious about your battery bank. 11kwh is nice. Which fridge did you go with? Your truck looks awesome dude.
 

Brad_UT

Well-known member
I love it when a project starts to come together. We're nearing the end of the truck build and it's starting to finally look finished.

This past weekend I finished the aux water tank, aluminum TIG welded the tire chuck pockets and got the spare tire mounted. Thanks to @RAM5500 CAMPERTHING for the heads-up on the Mac's tire strap. It's a quality piece of kit made just up the road in Idaho.

Aux Water Tank:
36 gal polyethylene 3/8" thick heavy wall tank
Whale submersible pump
Heating pad on bottom for freeze protection
1" thick 2lb cross-linked polyethylene foam insulation all around
KUS level sensor wired to Victron Cerbo. Check these out. Well made and available in many lengths for about $93 shipped.
LM335 based temp sensor wired to Victron Cerbo (no need to buy Victron's, make your own for less than a buck)

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And, since it's been a while, a few pics of the whole rig just about done. Man, this thing drives great.

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The camper part has already started. Details coming soon.
 

Brad_UT

Well-known member
And a shameless plug for my aluminum TIG skills, or lack thereof. I'm at the point of the learning curve where they either turn out pretty good, or really really bad. It's anybody's guess which way it will go. Seems like half the time I spend more time grinding than welding -- like in the photo on the right. But I'm getting better every time and that's what counts.

Somebody once said, "If you have to grind your welds; then your a grinder, not a welder." :ROFLMAO:

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2wheel-lee

New member
And a shameless plug for my aluminum TIG skills, or lack thereof. I'm at the point of the learning curve where they either turn out pretty good, or really really bad. It's anybody's guess which way it will go. Seems like half the time I spend more time grinding than welding -- like in the photo on the right. But I'm getting better every time and that's what counts.

Somebody once said, "If you have to grind your welds; then your a grinder, not a welder." :ROFLMAO:
I joke, "Some days I think I'm a welder, other days I'm a grinder."

Fortunately, my grinding skills are better than my welding skills.

Your work is impressive, nonetheless.
 

DirtWhiskey

Western Dirt Rat
I'll say, good sir, that's one handsome rig. That deck actually looks awesome, other than the issues that you pointed out earlier, I'm seeing some really nice welds on that Alumline. How are you liking it since you've lived with it for a bit? Is it level? I wandered a local flatbed yard and I was really surprised how out of square and uneven some of the aluminum decks were by almost all manufacturers. My quote from Alumline was exactly HALF of Highway products, so I'm really looking at it.

I'm doing something very similar to you, except the front pass through box will be a backpack pass-through style. It will be an individual unit for more clearance so I can hold my spare inside of it, away from prying eyes. I live in Rose Park in SLC but my business is in south downtown. Lots of homeless problems down there and cars get ripped into all the time. So I can't have anything outside the vehicle.
 

Brad_UT

Well-known member
I'll say, good sir, that's one handsome rig. That deck actually looks awesome, other than the issues that you pointed out earlier, I'm seeing some really nice welds on that Alumline. How are you liking it since you've lived with it for a bit? Is it level? I wandered a local flatbed yard and I was really surprised how out of square and uneven some of the aluminum decks were by almost all manufacturers. My quote from Alumline was exactly HALF of Highway products, so I'm really looking at it.

I'm doing something very similar to you, except the front pass through box will be a backpack pass-through style. It will be an individual unit for more clearance so I can hold my spare inside of it, away from prying eyes. I live in Rose Park in SLC but my business is in south downtown. Lots of homeless problems down there and cars get ripped into all the time. So I can't have anything outside the vehicle.
Thanks man! The Alum-Line bed is growing on me. It's flat and square and yes, some of the welds are quite good. But, some of the welds on the sides right where you can see them are horrible. The patches over the two diesel fill holes they drilled in error also stick out. (They should have replaced that whole side rail...) They kept me in the dark during the whole build/shipping process so when it finally arrived, it was a bit of a surprise and I wasn't ready. So I was a little irritated and I guess you could say I was primed to be overly critical. There aren't many options for a custom bed like this, so I'd use them again but I'd make sure that, 1) they give you drawings for you to approve before construction and 2) they give you the opportunity to do a Facetime or whatever to thoroughly inspect it before shipping.

I'm a little worried about security too. I had Alum-Line put three-point latches on all the box doors to make them harder to pry open. They did a good job on those. How's your rig coming along? Any pics? I'm up near Ogden.
 

Brad_UT

Well-known member
I took the truck out last weekend on its first real shakedown run. I followed the Pony Express Trail route from Salt Lake City west into Nevada. This is the 425 mile loop shown in blue below. It's mostly a big desert area with a few small mountain passes to go over. Roads are all dirt with some sections heavily washboarded.

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I had a blast and the truck ran great! Here are a few things I learned:

The air system I put together for airing up/dn the tires works fantastic. You stop, get out, connect a short air hose whip from each tire to its nearby air chuck and then use the valve/gauge/regulator to set your new pressure. The dual compressors can air up all four tires from 30psi to 70psi in under 10 min. The washboard sections are brutal at 40psi. 30psi smoothed things out a lot and I never felt like I was going to roll the tire off the rim. Feels like you're riding on pillows.

There is a huge disconnect/delay between the gas pedal and the engine and I'm not talking about turbo lag. If you're cruising along at say 10% throttle and slowly roll on more power, you can wait several seconds before anything happens at all. That's downright dangerous in traffic! I found that if I need a quick burst of power you have to completely let off the pedal and then punch it down again. The engine will then react quickly. This truck has a huge engine with tons of power but sadly it's severely detuned from the factory. There will be some tuning in this truck's future for sure.

As you know, all four wheels have the Centramatic sand balancers. Just as a test, I had the front tires balanced with stick on weights too. That made a big difference you could immediately feel. So, after this trip, I took the truck back to have the rear tires balanced with weights. We noticed the tread (just on the rears) had started cupping - a common symptom of imbalance. We did some quick weight calcs and determined that there is more imbalance in these tires than the Centramatics can cancel out. I either need heavier Centramatic balancers, or will have to keep using stick on weights in addition.

I shook something loose cause towards the end of the trip a new squeak appeared. I've been trying to track it down but so far no luck. I think it may be those damn polyurethane bushings in the Kelderman kit. Why they didn't put grease zerks in those is beyond me. Next time I have them off, I'll drill and tap some.

I made some bed sides out of 2x6's that'll let me haul camping gear until the camper is done. I also got the front fenders, rocker panels and bed box front sides sprayed with Line-X. All that is left are the side steps and an alignment.
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Brad_UT

Well-known member
The Camper Announcement:

I recently had the chance to go visit the guys at @Bison Overland Campers near Tulsa, OK. Drew and Cody are building quite the business and I was impressed by what I saw. We spent a few hours talking and looking over the builds they had in progress. The aluminum framing is designed and stamped by a legit engineering firm. It's strong but lightweight. Their welding is done by a career professional and it's top notch too. The sheet metal fab is done on site by some folks with the right skills and tools to turn out some beautiful work. All in all, it was readily apparent to me that they want to build a high quality product and are willing to spend the time and money to do it right. That aligns with my philosophy too, so we decided to move forward with a build that should be done sometime this fall.

The pricing isn't trivial, but it's not outrageous like some of the other flatbed camper options. Still, I'm going to save some money where I can by doing the interior myself. Bison will just build the shell. That right there was a big selling point for me.

Check out these guys if you haven't already. They're coming out with some composite panel camper options which are pretty exciting.

Camper Features:
Flatbed cabover pop-up custom built to match truck dimensions
Aluminum frame, aluminum skin, well insulated - maybe spray foam?
Desert tan exterior color with black trim
Tern Overland door, windows and hatches
North-south queen bed
wet bath with Thetford cassette toilet
~30gal water tank / Remco AcquaJet pump / filter / 12VDC 6-gal water heater
12V DC compressor fridge/freezer
propane cooktop / microwave
115V window A/C
Diesel air heater
~700W solar panels
Fiamma awning

Interior Layout sketch:
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DirtWhiskey

Western Dirt Rat
I took the truck out last weekend on its first real shakedown run. I followed the Pony Express Trail route from Salt Lake City west into Nevada. This is the 425 mile loop shown in blue below. It's mostly a big desert area with a few small mountain passes to go over. Roads are all dirt with some sections heavily washboarded.

*******

I made some bed sides out of 2x6's that'll let me haul camping gear until the camper is done. I also got the front fenders, rocker panels and bed box front sides sprayed with Line-X. All that is left are the side steps and an alignment.
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Love that Pony Express route through the "Wesert" and Nevada. Some really great gems and some unbelievable scenery. AND Dangit that's one handsome rig. Love the rails. Sounds like Alumline does what many people do: the skilled dogs do the real work and the newbie grunts do the **** work. Good to know that at the base of it, it's solid and straight. Should last a lifetime. Like I said, they are quite reasonable on the pricing. The main problem for me is everybody is out 14-18 weeks for delivery, which kills summer for fun and play. I have too many trucks and the lady is getting antsy, so I'm looking at used aluminum flatbed units (ei UNICORNS), or in-stock units (ei, agricultural units with 5th wheel setups and huge skirts), none of which will be the right size. Wish me luck.

I'm building a budget Expo rig. Work/play. Can't spend a ton of money cause the 'Rona hit my bar really hard (we are doing great now but there's a sizeable hole where money went). So I went and bought this for Covid Xmas from an Expo member (RAD DUDE). He was kind enough to pick me up from the airport in Kalispell and drive me up to his ranch near the Idaho panhandle in Montana and I drove it home through a blizzard through Montana, Idaho and northern Utah. 2001 F450 Super Duty 7.3 Powerstroke with 38k original miles. Was a brush truck in Troy Montana for its life. Over $27k in service records:

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Turned it into this, with some (READ: ALL) help from the boys at Oakley Offroad in Sandy:

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Swapped/rebuilt axles and suspension from a 2006 Super Duty with the wide track front Dana 60, matching S110 rear with True Trac, re-geared to 5.38, Yukon zip locker in front, super minimal 2" level, dual stabilizers and some other extras but not much else. Now I have a 7.3 Powerstroke with the way better turning radius of the 2005-on models. Radius is unbelievable really.

Plan is to have a super flexible rig. I also have a stout oil rig flatbed trailer I had modded out to make it completely flat and had it lifted a few inhes, and I bought a big ARE welder shell/canopy that sat unused on a truck shell lot so I bought it and now have a really good use for it.. That canopy will live on the trailer when it's not hauling my cataraft or yard debris. I'll have a camper on my flatbed in "play mode" and put the ARE shell on the flatbed in the more common "work mode" or for hauling gear/bikes/outboards/stuff to shuttle for mountain, lake and desert trips. Here is a shot of the shell as it lays currently on my flatbed trailer:

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I keep saying I'll do a build thread instead of hijacking other people's threads, but I'm lucky if I remember to brush my teeth in the morning so... I love Ogden BTW. Let me know if you end up wandering around SLC. This thing should be ready to roll in the next month or so and I'll need to get it on some dirt!
 
Looks like we need to do a Utah meetup with all these rigs around here lately haha. I'm in the middle of moving but I think after, we need to set something up, get a few coolers of beverages, and break these trucks in properly.
 
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