Fuso Insulated Box Truck Conversion

quickfarms

Adventurer
It is important to decide how you would like to divide your budget. The smart money is spent on finding something used, where someone else has already taken the hit on depreciation, using that truck and deciding exactly what you want and don't want.

I think that you are going to struggle to find or build a capable FG on your budget. If you have the ability to buy a decent used truck and do all of the build out yourself, you have a better chance, but it will still be tough.

I see so many people who want "everything on a budget" and they end up with cheap/inferior parts that end up failing in some way, ruining a trip or an experience with that type of product.

If you could find an FG with an insulated box in good shape and build your own interior, you have a good base truck to modify as you see fit. If you can find a clean FG with a standard box, consider swapping that box for an insulated box, as insulating a standard cargo box can take quite a bit of time and effort to do properly. Time is money.

I can build you a shell and ship it to WA, but that may not be cost effective for you. A box 6.5' wide x 6.5' tall and 12' long weighs about 400 pounds, empty. This four season box is very well insulated and can be built quite inexpensively, under $3000 in foam and composite skins. This presumes that you have a work space, some tools, time and are keen to DIY the box/truck build yourself.

This is a simple, basic shell, no mounting plates, no doors or windows, no exterior cage, etc. It's just an empty box that requires complete fit out.
Where are you located
 

theangrychicken

New member
I'm not really planted in one spot. I've been between C. Washington and S. California lately. Will be in the Portland area next month for a few months.
 

theangrychicken

New member
I think I've seen that before.
I've been finding a lot usable truck box options outside of the Fuso platform too.

Talked to one guy in Utah that does van conversions.
Still not finding a company does cargo box to home conversion.
 

theangrychicken

New member
My Westy went to a new owner last month.
My home will probably go on the market within 1-2 weeks, with the current market, it should sell within hours of opening it up to sale.

I bought a box truck fl60 to store/haul my home items in after looking at some Fusos and NPRs. Turns out, I think I like cabin ergonomics a bit more. That has be thinking of the comforts of long drives and has opened up options. I've found few 4x4 box truck options out there. Fl70s, Kodiaks, F650s, etc...

When considering options, I'm trying to create budgets for comparison.
Also considering a Total Composite kit vs converting a box truck. I'd like to have around 112 square feet.
I've started adding up items to estimate the cost of converting a box myself, hiring a shop, or buying a turn key option. Must be self contained, 4 season capable, and capable of withstanding elements such as heat, snow, and 6 months of rain.
Homes can be built for anywhere between $100-$200 sq ft. I'm wondering if that math be transferred to this type of build?
Wondering if I can complete a conversion myself within 2-4 months at under $20K.
A friend suggested considering buying a used truck camper/5th wheel and simply transferring items over. Might be a budget option.

I'd appreciate any input!
 

DzlToy

Explorer
If you are selling your home, having tools and a place to work on a large truck is the first issue to resolve, IMO. This is especially an issue in large cities where land is expensive and people do not take kindly to someone working on vehicles in neighbourhood driveways. Assuming those are resolvable problems for you and that you have the knowledge, skills and abilities, or at least the gumption, to tackle a project such as this, building a "ready-to-live-in" box for 20 grand might be tough.

Do you have experience with fiberglass, e.g. surfboards or boat construction? Do you have a conditioned space for resins and glues to bond properly? A composite box is quite easy to build, but there are some prerequisites. A non-structural foam, such as Dow's XPS 60 series can be used for smaller boxes (8-12 feet in length), but I would not trust it for larger structures, choosing a true structural foam, such as Diab's Divinycell or Gurit's M-Series, instead. Neither of these products are cheap. Plascore is a more affordable option and could be used to make a 'poor man's' Structural Insulated Panel, or SIP, having Filon, ABS, Phenolic, metal or even wood face sheets/skins attached using a myriad of high strength adhesives.

These SIPs create a rigid, strong, lightweight, insulated structure and eliminate wall studs and welding tubes together, to create a box. Everything from beds and storage bins, to battery boxes and fuel tanks can be integrated into the composite SIP structure, creating a more flexurally and torsionally rigid monocoque with each piece that is added.

Windows and doors are easily installed, using stepped or staggered layers of foam sheeting, which is also the technique used to create large panels. Without knowing materials cost in your area, I will toss out some generic numbers from a wholesale supplier.

768 square feet of XPS to make a box 8' x 8' x 20' with 2" thick walls, floor and ceiling. Foam weight is nearly #400 in a ~3 PPCF density (Dow 60). These 24 sheets should cost you well under a grand. Certainly consider ordering additional material for storage bins, in-built furniture and the like; 24 sheets only builds an empty box with no windows or doors. It is not uncommon to see finished sandwich core panels or SIPs weighing 1 - 2 pounds per square foot. A 1500 pound box will hardly load the springs on an FL70 or an M2. Of course, you must add water, power, people, gear and so on and this is where the weight really begins to add up.

Skin these foam sheets with your choice of Filon, Phenolic, Fiberglass, Carbon, Kevlar, sheet metal or almost anything else that you can think of and you have a strong, light box for not much money. Depending on your desire for mod-cons, adding batteries, solar, appliances, genset, electronics, doors and windows, can add up quite quickly. If you are willing to gut a wrecked RV, do some bargain shopping or buy used, that only helps the budget. Being able to do all wiring, plumbing and fixturing on your own versus paying a shop to do that will also save a bundle.

Tell us more about what you are trying to do and the generic advice can be replaced with specific advice.
 
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kerry

Expedition Leader
Not directly relevant,but. . . When I bought our Fuso with a service body, another member here bought an identical truck. He removed the service body and started to build his own box. I bought a Northstar TS 1000 and within a couple of weeks we were off camping. 11 yrs later we are still camping The other member put his truck up for sale a couple of years later with a bare frame for a cabin attached to the chassis. There’s a TS 1000 for sale on Denver Craigslist for $2500.
 
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theangrychicken

New member
If you are selling your home, having tools and a place to work on a large truck is the first issue to resolve, IMO. This is especially an issue in large cities where land is expensive and people do not take kindly to someone working on vehicles in neighbourhood driveways. Assuming those are resolvable problems for you and that you have the knowledge, skills and abilities, or at least the gumption, to tackle a project such as this, building a "ready-to-live-in" box for 20 grand might be tough.
I don't have experience fiberglass construction. I work in medicine, focused in improving care in marginalized/remote areas. Part of pipe dream in all this is to return to Guatemala to work on projects in sustainable systems and research.

When I was much younger, I used to be a land lord and worked on an assembly line putting together 5th wheels. I can turn a wrench, and do basic work, but I'm no engineer. I'll be storing my FL60 at a friend's house in Arizona, he has property and a place for this project. Hold it there until I pick up property in Costa Rica. It's possible that the two of us could do most, if not all the work, over 2-6 months. We have been discussing this, he actually has one of my cars down there now and is doing some fab work on it. . It's a big reason why this new home needs to have tow capacity. He works in construction, does weld, and is great with aluminum.

IMG_7856.jpg


I did call and speak to a sales person at a lot selling a box truck that is on my list. It's a 14' x 7.5' box, states it's new, aluminum and wood construction, made or sold by HK Truck works. That's all the info I could get from him. Looks like it would be easy to install insulation, wire it up, and plumb it before sealing the interior with walls/windows/floors. But I don't know how strong/rigid that box is. I'd like ceiling to be able to hold some weight. Panels, storage box if needed, and also have an "upstairs deck".
 

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quickfarms

Adventurer
Typical commercial truck box roofs are built a light as possible. The floor of the box is the strongest. And the walls are designed to prevent shifting cargo from leaving the vehicle.

Truck boxes split open all the time in accidents.

If you want a roof deck the weight needs to be Transfered to the walls. Another option is to reinforce the roof from the inside
 

DzlToy

Explorer
"Thickness" is an easy way to increase flexural rigidity. That does not increase compressive, tensile or shear strength, all of which are key to building a good SIP. You could make the roof rigid enough to stand on or walk on with a few inches of Dow 60 and some Filon or phenolic sheeting. This adds insulation and keeps your interior ceiling height high, at the expense of raising your exterior height, but with minimal weight gain up top.

Buying something with a box, even a less than perfect one, will save you time and money over building the SIP or sandwich panel equivalent. Unfortunately, many people build DIY RVs, travel trailers and tiny homes with wood and as if they were framing a house. I get it: easy and accessible, even for a novice. This construction is why boats rot and RVs fall apart in a few years. So, if you are going to build in wood, either be prepared to build heavy or to rebuild it right in a few years. Personally, I would rather do it once and spend 10 years enjoying myself traveling. Nothing will be perfect the first time; you will make mistakes and you will wish that you had done this or that differently almost as soon as you have finished. This is just the nature of building and fabrication.

If you are going to be traveling alone, especially in a foreign country, the truck must be simple and easily serviceable by yourself or someone else who can figure out what to fix if you lack the knowledge, space or tools to do so.

Make a list of goals and honestly review 'must haves'. Are you OK with a cheap Chinese $400 12 DC cooler that WILL BREAK, causing you to waste another $400 or can you afford to buy a National Luna for $1200 - $1500 and have reliable refrigeration for 15 - 20 years? To me, this is not a question, but again, this is not my build. I hate doing things twice and I hate buying crap that is going to fail.

Are you OK with with hammock or a futon mattress, some Thrift Store folding tables and some Rubbermaid bins or do you want builder grade (cheap) or pre-assembled metal cabinets or tool boxes? Are you OK with bedliner on the floor and some Salvation Army area rugs or do you want a hand laid teak floor or Amtico? All of these questions and 100 more must be answered before a build can commence. Spend months planning, collecting, drawing and designing and I assure you that less time will be spent building and/or rebuilding.

Buying good used stuff will always be cheaper than buying new and buying quality parts, new or used, will always be cheaper in the long run than buying cheap crap that breaks and leaves you stranded or wishing you had built something differently or more robust.

Consider furring out the walls of an existing box, running all of your wires and plumbing, then spraying the entire interior in a closed cell spray foam (~1.7 PPCF). This adds rigidity, insulation, sound deadening and a vapour barrier. Anything from cloth to ABS and plywood to leather can be put on the walls over the foam, using the furring strips as attachment points. Residential ASTM certification can be maintained at up to 4" of thickness with some products. This gives you an R-Value of 26, which means your HVAC runs less and you save $$$.
 

theangrychicken

New member
I definitely would not build a box out of wood. I actually want to use as little wood as possible. We would consider building cabinet frames from aluminum tubing. In addition to worrying about torsional rigidity and humidity. There are insects in some regions and other pests to consider in the build. I am def a person that wants to do it right the first time. The car pictured above spent 3 years undergoing exterior restoration. I don't want to comment on how much was invested there. :p

If I opt to pursue the build option, I'd either want to either: 1. Convert an existing commercial box if possible. 2. Buy a build camper box. 3. Consider a Total Composite kit. If I am understanding this correctly, if a box truck conversion is chosen. We would have to brace up the walls and ceiling to assume load and forces.
 

DzlToy

Explorer
R33 Skyline or Silvia with a front clip change?

Yes on the bracing and you are wise to avoid wood as much as possible, IMHO.
 

theangrychicken

New member
R33 Skyline or Silvia with a front clip change?
BNR32

I'm still building a budget sheet so I don't have a complete spec for a total price.
Some of the bigger expenses will be in the heating/cooling, plumbing systems. I'd like to make use of solar and diesel. Avoid propane if possible. Just want to minimize multiple needs for simplification. Run cooktops, water heat, and air heat on diesel. Its going to be a forever home that will get a lot of use so quality and serviceability is important. But I don't need things like expensive/heavy granite counters or expensive hardwood flooring.

I'm very open to hearing feedback regarding total budgeting.
 

DzlToy

Explorer
Marine appliances such as Wallas diesel cooktops, Force10 propane stoves and Toyotomi diesel heaters are all quality products, but will take a chunk out of your budget, once. If you are set on the $20K, make a shopping list with a "Choose Your Own Adventure" kind of configuration. If I spend $1500 on refrigeration and $1500 on a stove, can I safely cut a corner somewhere else or do I need to increase my budget? I saw that you do not want propane and I agree, but that may limit your options. There aren't 100 companies making diesel stoves and water heaters. Pulling tech from the marine/yacht world and high quality motorhomes is great for functionality and longevity, but will destroy your budget. This is the reason I have not built my camper box yet. I refuse to buy junk just to have a camper, and good stuff does not come cheap. So I am researching, saving and designing while I have the time, with plans to build in a few years. It sounds as if you do not have that luxury.

Do your research on Indel/Webasto and Espar/Eberspacher diesel heaters, as personal experience and reviews are all over the map. The same goes for air conditioning if you are planning to install it. A LOT of power is required to dehumidify and cool air in a 14 - 16' long box. Don't let anyone fool into thinking you can get by on a 24 VDC 10 amp AC unit or a few Chinese solar panels or batteries. The math simply does not add up.

Can you build as you go along or do you want to be 100% finished with the project before leaving? Can you build and test in stages, making purchases over time as you raise funds?

Attend some boat shows or shop marine salvage yards or dismantlers; you have that advantage in the PNW.
 

theangrychicken

New member
Can you build as you go along or do you want to be 100% finished with the project before leaving? Can you build and test in stages, making purchases over time as you raise funds?
I'd like to be complete or near before heading out. Budget at that time should be used for traveling/maintenance vs building.
Budget is not dead set at 20K. I'm not sure where a realistic budget is, hence this discussion and the current shopping list previously mentioned. $20k was based on cost of sq foot builds for quality homes which may or may not apply here.
 
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