K5 Camper. My offroad home away from home.

zoomad75

Observer
This isn't a build thread. In as much as another way to track what's been done as I go along. From work to upgrade to being out in the wild with it. I've got a full blow by blow build over on CK5.com if you want to go down that rabbit hole, but I'll start out with the 50,000-foot overview from the beginning.

This is the start. Squarebody nuts might recognize it as it was Larry's truck to start with.


Eagle eyes might be able to spot the big brother lurking in the garage behind it. That truck has it's own following and rightfully so as it's a masterpiece of a Squarebody with modern muscle and it's own house on back.

Mine came off the assembly line late in 1991, the last year of production for the remaining squarebody line and was delivered to the U.S. Government as the original buyer. Near as we can tell it was not for the military but some other agency that needed a bare bones solid axle SUV.


The truck was as base model as one could be. No power equipment on the inside, no A/C, plain rubber mat and no interior paneling. A perfect blank canvas despite the lack of A/C
Oh and one very important detail that it lacked, rust. This truck was clean in all the right spots.


My last K5 was the exact opposite of this truck in regards to rust. Not having to deal with major rust mitigation saved dollars on the budget and lots of time.

The truck lacked an engine when Larry picked it up from some country bumpkins east of Pueblo, CO. Originally it was built with the standard TBI 350 and 700r4 trans backed up with a 241 t-case and a pair of 3.08 geared 10 bolt axles. All we ended up keeping was the 241 and 700r4 by the time phase one had been completed.
The bumpkins were not kind to it. They had made attempts to retrograde the truck back to a carburetor and when that failed they harvested the 350 for something else. By the butchery that Larry had to fix under the hood they might have used pitchforks to help remove it.


The plan of action was to leave it at Larry's place as he'd plug away at stuff when he had free time since I really don't have much free time. I helped when he needed me but during this stage my role was to obtain and deliver parts he needed to keep going. I already had a 5.3 engine pulled from a customer's truck and Larry had an 8 lug Dana 44 along with a 14bolt axle I had horse traded for. We'd reuse the lift and other key parts from my old K5 and get it rolling and back into my hands.

Fast forward a little and you end up with a very clean LS engine swap.




We got it running and the ball got hit into my court for my fitting out phase to begin.


The first ride out on the road bringing it home to my house.


The plan at this point is to get the truck on the road and driven a lot to work the kinks out of the new build. We were prepping for me to go on my first Desert Trip with Larry and I needed to make sure it was reliable.

The interior got a layer of Raptor liner and a new rubber floor mat. I reused the 2001 Silverado bucket seats from my last K5 and added the Cabela's trail gear seat covers. A Tuffy security console was coated with the Raptor material and loaded in between the seats.


This was the basic form that the truck went out on the Desert Trip in '17. We did add a vintage Warn winch bumper up front and loaded it with a Warn xd9000i winch.


Desert trip '17 had us in Utah to explore.


I'll add a link for the trip report.
Desert Trip 2017

The cliff notes version was that we had a blast. I broke a Stub axle, fixed it and only had to deal with running hot/stalling during the higher temps of the trip as we headed south and on the way home. I got hooked.

One of the outcomes from the trip was living out of the back of a K5 for a week in the desert wasn't quite as cool as it sounded. I needed a better way. Larry and Ty were living easy with campers getting set up and into Beer:30 mode in mere minutes compared to unloading, setting up a tent and all the fun that involves. Larry and I had talked about me getting a Four Wheel Pop-up Camper and how cool it would be when camping. I had been looking, but could never be in the right place at the right time. Efforts were ramped up on the search and oddly I found one for sale out of Grand Junction while we were on the trip. Again bad timing. Determined I kept the search going. Finding a few more but as I found most were attached to a K5 I really didn't need nor want to add as a project to flip at the same time. Eventually not too much longer after coming back from Utah I found it on Craigslist. The bonus was the guy was willing to split the pair. I blew up the guy's phone.

This is what I found.


A fellow squarebody member 1976K5Chalet even linked the Craigslist ad over here, adding more hits to the guy's phone.

I was up there by the weekend with cash in hand and checked it out with my Dad. It was rough in spots, but complete. The roughest was what I was to find was a common theme on these and other early FWC campers which was the insane use of particle board in the cab over and cab wall areas. This stuff had gotten wet and swelled to the point of it blowing out and resting on the cab of the K5 it was sitting on.


I made a lame attempt to dicker on the price knowing he probably had guys waiting to come in. But $300 for the camper alone was insane and dropped the cash on him to make it mine.


These are pretty unique setups compared to standard FWC campers or any other slide in setup. They don't have any bottom to them. We had talked about transporting the camper to Pueblo from Denver on a small trailer, but the back wall extends below the sides enough it won't sit flat. So the best solution was to install it on my truck and haul my top down on the trailer.


The Drive down was fine if the speeds were under 65. Anything faster and the darn camper was lifting. Between the air coming in the hole in the cab over and the fact the only attachment was the 6 bolts per side on the top of the bed there was not a solid enough connection to the truck for this guy. We were going to change that during the camper refurbishing.

Dropping it off at Jeep buddy's place as he's better in woodworking than I am.


We worked on it together over many weekends and replaced the particle board with plywood, gutted the interior to reconfigure the cabinet and re-install it with a small section of a K5 top to give it 6 more points to bolt the camper to the cab. This would get us ready for the 2018 trip to the Mojave Road and whatever else we could get into trouble with.


Here's a link to the trip report:
2018 Desert Trip
 
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zoomad75

Observer
The 2018 Desert trip was less technical than the previous year, but very high on being remote. I still managed to break a front axle shaft on the last day of camping on the beach at Lake Powell. But the previous year's fuel stalling issue was fixed with a new fuel pump and new chunk of rubber hose that was kinked and split inside the tank. With the truck ready to go with a quick pack I used it a lot that summer. Many weekend runs into the mountains with friends.

Camping at the base of Red Cone Pass.






Camping with my friends up on the Pomeroy lakes trail.




As usual, my setup isn't the norm for it's surroundings. I'm ok with that.


Later on we were able sneak Larry out of the house for a 2 night run up the Wheeler Lake trail and over Mosquito Pass into Leadville.




Most of the way up the section known as Bowling Ball hill, coming back to lend a tug to Larry.


At camp. One of my new favorite trails.






Heading up Mosquito passing a mine relic.




At camp on the backside of Mosquito Pass.


We ended up doing one more run up to Pomeroy lakes for a quick overnighter in the fall.

Our short term fix for the spare tire carrier folding down was going to be re-done over the winter season. Time to make a swing out.

In the mock up stage. The hinge point is actually a spindle and hub assembly from a front 10 bolt axle, complete with hub lockout. A little beefier than the trailer spindle kits most fab places sell for making bumpers. Plus the lockout works to lock the swing arm in any position.


We had to use the outer stub axle to allow the hub lockout to function. Works like a charm.


Finished product.




 

zoomad75

Observer
We also added a fixed basket for extra cargo, fuel/water cans or other goodies.




I also wanted to re-configure the lower bench/storage we had put together for the '18 desert trip. I leaned on a co-worker with cabinetry skills that I lack. The reconfigured bench now has an added flap to exend/widen the sleeping surface so once could sleep down there without hanging an arm over the side.









Typically we try to get in a pre-trip validation run prior to the big desert trip. It's a last chance systems check for everything. For '19 we had a fresh build coming with us that we knew needed sorted out before leaving. Ian's K5 is a genuine CUCV unit, with one tons swapped in along with a 8.1/nv4500 combo to move it down the road.





Keep this in mind, These pics were in the 2nd week of May last year. We might be on snow here, but we went through miles of mud to get there.





I got stuck. The most stuck I've ever pulled off in the snow. It took the Jeep and Tacoma tied together to pull me back out of this one.





Ian's ride did end up showing a couple of minor issues that we were able to handle up there without too much issue.



That was going to make the truck ready for the 2019 Desert trip. Unfortunately, I had to pull out of the trip shortly before departure due to family issue with one of my employees from work. I couldn't leave.



I was able to squeeze in some other runs for the summer, but I didn't go out as much as I wanted too. But what I did do was a lot of fun for sure.
 

zoomad75

Observer
My pooch and I met up with our Jeep buddies and family up on Rainbow lake outside of Westcliffe Colorado. By now I had camp setup down to a few minutes from parking to top up, stove ready and sitting in my chair with a cold one in hand. One of my buddies was still setting up a tent and just looked at me slack-jawed. I didn't envy having to set up a tent. Those days are over for this dude.


Me and the pooch hiked down to the lake to check it out. It's more full than anybody remembers it. Larry and I have camped up here would have been parked 200 feet into the lake since it was lower then.


Since I missed out on my big trip of the summer the owner at work let me pick when I wanted to go out again. I decided to load the wagon west again for Moab to attend the annual gathering of the guys from CK5.com for Blazer Bash. None of my normal off road cohorts could make it. But one of the guys from Denver on CK5 wanted to go and he was wrapping up a fresh build on a '77 K5 that had a FWC camper installed very early in it's life. We thought it would be cool to meet up along the way and hit the Rimrocker trail to make our way from Colorado to Moab.

Knowing how rare one of these campers is, seeing two of them in the same spot is very unusual.


We stopped at one of the overlooks on the higher section of the Rimrocker.


The view was for miles. We got a good shot at some weather we were likely to head through soon.


We were under a time crunch to try and make it to the lake near the state line to camp at for the first night. We boogied through most of the trail, but we still were awestruck with the views.




As we pressed on, the sun set prior to us hitting the desired campsite. We were shelf road with an unknown drop to our left and mountainside to our right. I made the call to make camp at the first flat section of ground we can see.

We found that site just a few minutes later. Thank goodness it's easy to setup camp even in the dark.


One great meal and a couple of beers later we all turned in for bed. I woke up early to catch the sunrise over the trees across from us.


Camp view in the morning light.


As it turned out we were only 7 miles from the lake.


The state line is not too far from the lake.


We elected to split from the Rimrocker and take LaSalle pass over into Moab.



Heading down LaSalle across the rocky section.


Finally down out of the tight trees and bushes.


Coming up two classic Moab trails.
 

zoomad75

Observer
We chose to run Hell's Revenge for our first trail ride. We were cautious as the CG of both our Blazers with campers made things a little more tippy than normal. Even with a couple of bypasses we had a lot of fun and showed the campers could crawl with them.




We hung out at one of the hot tubs for lunch and watched the big dogs climb out of it.


We plowed around on the trail for the rest of the day. Somewhere along the way our trucks had a new nickname coined, Crawlabago's. We had a riot exploring on slickrock and the amazing traction it provides.


Our second trail we chose was Flat Iron Mesa. Things got cranked up a notch.






Line choice is everything. This was the wrong line!




Blending in.


Our day was cut short. 3rd time in Utah, 3rd axle shaft.


Chrome-moly shafts are on the upgrade list.
 

1leglance

2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
Great write up and pics, very cool to see the old iron rolling, and glad Larry and Bill have another fun rig to run with.
 

zoomad75

Observer
Thanks Lance. Funny thing is about calling it old iron and my mind has this mental block thinking that it's old. To me, it's not, but in reality it's 29 years old. Hell, it was built a year before I graduated HS. When I think of old iron I think of my 69 Nova or my Dad's 57 Chevies.

I know this it doesn't feel old to drive that's for sure. With fresh bushings in the suspension, Bilstein shocks and modern running fuel injection it starts and runs like a new truck.

I was totally jealous of Bill and your recent adventure too. Looked like fun.
 

zoomad75

Observer
This hill is way steeper than the pic could ever show.
Pictures have a way of doing that. The freakiest part? Sitting in the driver's seat looking over the big hood and only seeing the horizon off in the distance. It's like standing on a high dive and not being able to look down. I can thank my spotter below who had much more Moab experience than I. There are two little yellow lines painted up at the top to put the truck in the middle of (a K5 is wide enough to go line to line), looking out the driver's side window I concentrated on staying inside the line and my son watched on the other side. It took a couple of seconds until the nose pitched down enough to see the trail through the windshield again.

It wasn't until we got down to reach the spotter when he tells me of a driver that went over too far to the passenger side off the top and flopped on the roof at a previous event. I thanked him greatly for telling me after we got down.
 
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