Guess who's back!?! Atl-atl's K5 Blazer + Four Wheel Camper "The Crawlin Cabin" documentation thread!

Atl-atl

Adventurer
Well Ive been busting ass on the Blazer trying to get it ready for Expo in a few weeks. Starting with building a new front lift panel. Ive built these before and I dont know why I decided to do it again when ATC campers will make them for like $500. What a royal pain.

You can kinda see in this pic the front panels were disintegrating, especially the upper one. It could barely hold the roof up any longer.img_0813-jpeg.182003.jpeg


So I removed it. Needs a little cleaning but the canvas will get replaced soon anyway.
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Got some 1/4" sanded plywood and cut it to roughly the same shape. Measured approximately 1000 times to make sure I was getting everything correct. The location of the 3 hinges is critical to the roof lifting the correct amount so the canvas has the correct tension. Its incredibly hard to remove the lift panels, keep the roof square and install the new ones in the same location. Also there are 140 rivets and 28 screws holding everything together. If you haven't ever drilled out 140 rivets and then replaced 140 rivets, dont.
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Old panel removed, pic for reference as Im building the new one. Its really easy to forget the orientation of the hinges.
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New panel stained, shellac'd, sanded and assembled. Didnt take any pics during because I was in a hurry. I PD Blasted the hinge springs because they were all rusted/corroded. Used my drill press to remove a lot of the rivets and open the holes up to 5/16th so I could size up the rivets to 1/4 from 3/16. Part of the reason these panels fail is the rivets break through the thin plywood so a larger rivet with a larger shoulder helps them last longer. Also since the hinges are spring loaded they constantly apply pressure to the panels which breaks them down over time. Also it makes reinstalling the panels a HUGE pain in the ********. Also also, please ignore the extra holes along the middle hinge-line. At first I decided to use a new hinge that wasnt spring loaded but then changed my mind only to realize the holes didnt line up. Im so mad about it I cant think straight.
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These spring loaded hinges make the panels essentially impossible to install after the fact. I would like to visit Four Wheel Campers one day so I can see how they do it. I imaging it happens when the roof is detached from the rest of the camper. Anyway I got an amazing tip from someone over on Wander the West that I wish I'd had in the past. It involves ratchet straps, rebar tie-wire and physics.
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So I started installing the panel in the truck but I ran out of daylight, forearm strength, and feeling in my hands so I stopped. Womp womp. More pics tomorrow when I (hopefully) finish...

Oh look, its tomorrow! Ha

Finished installing the lift panel today. The springs are very stiff and removing/reinstalling them definitely bent and tweaked them in such a way that they no longer like to move as smoothly. The were so stiff that the hinges were trying to remove themselves from the frame of the camper instead of flexing. I added a bunch of mounting screws and rivets in hopes the hinges would sit as flush as possible and start to operate better. I had previously hit them with PB Blaster prior to assembling the new panels. Today I soaked them with WD40 and will eventually spray some white lithium on them. They have started to move more easily after a few up/down cycles. I think they'll be good after their lube bath.

Also cleaned the interior a bunch, got all the mold stains off the ceiling and some of the stains off the sides. There was definitely some mold in the pop-up fabric, under the mattress, on the ceiling and some misc. places. The mold is cleaned up and gone but it stained the side fabric something fierce. Not even bleach would remove the black stains. Funny part is the outside looks nearly new, only the inside is stained. Either way, its a lot cleaner looking and smelling inside now. I also attempted to begin removal of the subfloor for the bed/cabover area but quickly realized that is a project for when the camper is off the truck so it will wait until after Expo unfortunately. The interior is looking really good except for the tears in the driver and passenger seat. Dont think there is time to get them reupholstered before expo so thats another one put on the back burner. At this point Im just going to wait to redo the "soft" interior parts (headliner, carpet, seats etc.) until after expo just in case there are actually a bunch of people that go inside the truck.
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Atl-atl

Adventurer
Spent the entire day cleaning the seats and exterior paint. Old single stage paint is amazing. Even though it has lots of dents, dings, pitting etc. I decided I wanted to bring back some shine and try to preserve whats left of the paint. I was pleasantly surprised by the results. Oh and I swapped the grill to one with a badge. Here are some before and after pics for clicks.
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Helpless helper
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The before and after shots are pretty obvious...
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Atl-atl

Adventurer
Spent 30 minutes mocking up a fix for one of my biggest gripes with the Blazer, how low the center console sits. Any drive longer than 10 minutes and it drives me insane that there is no arm rest for my right arm. In my minimal research there are nearly zero options for front seats with armrests. The exception being more modern bucket seats, none of which fit the character of this Blazer. My only easy solution was to raise the center console. So I went at it with some 2x2s cut to the width of the console, poked some holes in to match the mounting pattern, trimmed the rear lower mounting plastic spacer thingy et voila!

Kinda hard to tell from the crappy pics but its raised 3 inches right now. I have an idea for a more substantial mount made out of bent metal that could potentially have a trap door to hold a side arm or something I want more secure and out of sight. For now Im going to try this out, its surprisingly sturdy. Ideally it would be another 2 inches higher but I like it for now. Its also still low enough to crawl into the back when necessary.

The mounting holes of my console had started to disintegrate and the PO used some flat stock to add support for the mounting bolts. You can see the fiberglass that stayed put, stuck to the carpet when I removed it.
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Here is what I had to trim off the fiberglass rear mount so the wood block would sit flush.
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The angle of the pics are different but you get the idea, its a lot higher! It definitely exposes where the paint is worn off the console so Ill be refinishing it some day.
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Slightly ghetto right now but I could just throw a carpet scrap on there and nobody would be the wiser.
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Atl-atl

Adventurer
Wheel Vintiques 62 series 15x8 steelies. They will be painted white, havent decided if Im going the cheap route and painting them myself or having them powdercoated. Im leaning towards DIY since they are primed and then I wont care as much about beating them up.

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Atl-atl

Adventurer
Well I was away from the truck for the last week but Im finally back for expo week and Ive made a little bit of progress. This is my favorite before and after so far. That nasty melting autozone covered steering wheel was my biggest gripe with the whole truck. OG steering wheels are becoming very hard to find for these trucks and people that have them want a pretty penny. I drove from Flagstaff to Tucson to get this one. It feels so cool/weird to drive a car with a steering wheel that is so skinny. I like it.
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The steering wheel swap was pretty quick with the correct tool. Although I reassembled it incorrectly and the horn doesnt work now. Fun fact, I didnt realize the truck had a horn 😂 until I pushed the Chevy logo as I was trying to remove the wheel for the first time. I still dont know where the horn itself is actually located hahaha.
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I think where I screwed up is the little button in the picture below. It has that little J hook that a knob seats in. I pushed it and rotated it so it was seated around the bottom of the "J" but I think it actually needs to be in the upper shaft)for lack of a better word) of the J. As it sits, pushing the horn button doesnt actually push anything. I think I can fix it without pulling the wheel again but I havent tried yet.
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Also replaced the taillight lenses. I tried to polish them but they are too far gone. Also replacements were $11 each so why not?
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vintageracer

To Infinity and Beyond!
For some reason a lot of the latest pics you have posted do not show up. They show as IMG jpeg that you cannot click on.
 

Fishenough

Creeper
New favorite build thread!

Why in a short story: I bought a new Toyota van in 1984 when I graduated from high school and through 6 years of post secondary, I camped a lot during my summers. After school 2. For all those years and after I very often meet a newly retired couple in their factory K5 blazer of the same color on the far off remote beaches of Vancouver Island and even some remote locations of British Columbia mainland. I got to know this couple well over the years. Stan would come out fishing and crabbing in my old canoe too many times to count. Those were the days when we would be the only 2 vehicles on that remote stretch of beach hours down old logging roads. As then and now I enjoy remote travel, I always thought their 4x4 camper was the ultimate vehicle, man I wanted one.

Sadly I do remember the last time I met the Blazer, Malcolm Island Coop, it was so well travel at this point and all the lower panels were flappin and free from the inevitable rust from a decade of camping on a beach for upwards of half the year. If I find myself digging through my old pictures of a mid to late 80s pic, I will share it here for certain.
 

Atl-atl

Adventurer
New favorite build thread!

Why in a short story: I bought a new Toyota van in 1984 when I graduated from high school and through 6 years of post secondary, I camped a lot during my summers. After school 2. For all those years and after I very often meet a newly retired couple in their factory K5 blazer of the same color on the far off remote beaches of Vancouver Island and even some remote locations of British Columbia mainland. I got to know this couple well over the years. Stan would come out fishing and crabbing in my old canoe too many times to count. Those were the days when we would be the only 2 vehicles on that remote stretch of beach hours down old logging roads. As then and now I enjoy remote travel, I always thought their 4x4 camper was the ultimate vehicle, man I wanted one.

Sadly I do remember the last time I met the Blazer, Malcolm Island Coop, it was so well travel at this point and all the lower panels were flappin and free from the inevitable rust from a decade of camping on a beach for upwards of half the year. If I find myself digging through my old pictures of a mid to late 80s pic, I will share it here for certain.
That is wonderful! I would love to see the old pics and Im sure Four Wheel Campers would too. They love sharing vintage stuff on their social media platforms.
 

Todd n Natalie

OverCamper
New favorite build thread!

Why in a short story: I bought a new Toyota van in 1984 when I graduated from high school and through 6 years of post secondary, I camped a lot during my summers. After school 2. For all those years and after I very often meet a newly retired couple in their factory K5 blazer of the same color on the far off remote beaches of Vancouver Island and even some remote locations of British Columbia mainland. I got to know this couple well over the years. Stan would come out fishing and crabbing in my old canoe too many times to count. Those were the days when we would be the only 2 vehicles on that remote stretch of beach hours down old logging roads. As then and now I enjoy remote travel, I always thought their 4x4 camper was the ultimate vehicle, man I wanted one.

Sadly I do remember the last time I met the Blazer, Malcolm Island Coop, it was so well travel at this point and all the lower panels were flappin and free from the inevitable rust from a decade of camping on a beach for upwards of half the year. If I find myself digging through my old pictures of a mid to late 80s pic, I will share it here for certain.
Yes please post the pics. Very cool story. Love the Island. I still miss living in Nanaimo even though it was almost 40 years ago.
 

Atl-atl

Adventurer
Another day another (few) projects. Expo is 36 hours away and Im struggling to get everything done that I planned.

Wheels are painted Poverty caps are in and cleaned up. Tires get mounted tomorrow. The wheels actually didnt fit, the folded over "lip" of the center section juuust came into contact with the enormous drums in the rear. I wound up having to space them out to clear. Luckily I had a set of 6x5.5 1.25" spacers laying around. Also luckily(kind of) K5s have a 3" narrower track width in the rear so spacing the rears actually made the truck look proper. Only problem was the holes for the studs are larger than the puny factory 7/16 Blazer wheel studs so I pressed in some Tacoma 12x1.5 metric studs. Now I have mismatched lugs and studs front and rear ha. This is temporary until I refresh the drivetrain but it will work for now.

I decided to go the rattle can route on these wheels for cost/ease of repair/time savings. Took my time and did 5 coats and they turned out amazing. If you arent privy to the 99 cent Quick Color spray paint at Home Depot, its no joke the best spray paint out there. Only comes in black and white, gloss or flat. I chose White Gloss and its perfect.

Here you can see where contact was made before using the spacers.IMG_1162.jpeg
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Caps are lookin good all cleaned up.
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5 coats in.
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Also double-sided tape'd all the loose trim which Im incredibly happy about. It was all so loose it rattled around loud enough to hear when the windows were open. Obviously this is a bandaid but I dont have the time for replacing all the trim. Also cleaned it up and repainted the black stripe on a bunch of it. This thing is starting to look pretty nice ha!

Before
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After
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