My next new build is about to start - V3 Explorer - Feedback from the group needed

#1
Thanks to everyone for taking the time to review my post and provide your insight and comments ...

My next build journey is about to startin earnest. It is likely to run a couple of years, but I have time.


Having built up a 2011 Sprinter into an adventure type, off-the-grid camper van, I am ready to start my next project. The Sprinter has been excellent and has covered 40K miles and will likely cover another bunch before I move it along. I learned a lot and figured out many systems on the Sprinter project.


I am now looking to build a bigger more capable Adventure/Expedition truck style RV. I have a fairly specific set of goals and mission foro the new rig. #1 It rarely if every will get stuck in a snowstorm while travelling around to various ski resorts and desitinations, #2 I will be able to keep if very warm and comfortable in winter (especially overnight), #3 Dedicated sleeping accomodations for two and temporary for an additional 2 if required, #4 It has an onboard shower/toilet.


The idea started quite frankly when I looked at an Earthroamer. I can't afford one of these rigs (there is no way I have $500K ofr this rig), but I also think I can improve on the vehicle given my specific requirements and goals. For example, there seem to be quite a few "cool", nice-to-haves on the Earthroamer that do not contribute to satifying my personal mission, make it heavy and expensive. I do not plan on rock crawling in Moab, but I do want to camp with my bikes on the BLM land in the desert.


I am pretty handy with tools and buidling things DIY. I am also pretty resourceful in sourcing things that may simplify the build. I have a ton of experience in sailing/marine world building light weight composite racing skiffs using foam sandwich, carbon fiber, expoxy etc. I expect that using modern sailboat construction methods and begin careful with the tape measure and scale, I will end up with "a box" that is significantly lighter than what is out their commercially. If I can build it light, I will get better fuel mileage, it should ride better, and I won't need a 550/5500 chassis. Not needing the specialy heavy-duty chassi will allow me to scour the used market for a truck and modify it versus buying purpose built and new.


What I am thinking: Lance, BigFoot, Earthroamer, Earthcrusier style shape. Sleeping area over the cab with basically a box behind it. Built using foam sandwich construction. Not a slide in, but attached to the frame in a typical 3-point style to allow for frame flex.


The truck platform: Dodge 3500 4x4 Mega-Cab DRW.
My plan is to hunt up a 1 year old truck used.


First stop is to Precision Body Line in Utah to have the frame lengthened to allow for an 11' box. Why? There are lots of these trucks around. Precision has done approx 1000 of these retrofits as part of their business of putting full length 8' beds on this truck. The frame rails are box channel and strong as.


At the same time, I will redo the wheels, tires and suspension. Using Rickson 19.5"x7.5" steel wheels, I will convert from DRW to SRW (better for traction in the snow). For tires, I plan to use the Toyo's M608Z 285/70R19.5. . With this setup, I should have a 9,750# axel, 5,000# wheels & 6,300# tires. Capacities should all line up?


Suspension brings up the first question: Should I, or do I need to switch out to the Kelderman Air Suspension? Or can I just level the truck and add airlift airbags to the rear?


The Box: I plan to build it using foam sandwich construction methods. Using 1.5" or 2" Corcell Foam, West laminating exposy resin with a combination of fiberglass and carbon layup. I will build the interior cabinetry etc using a simliar approach however, it will likely only be 3/8" foam with fiberglass only. This should given me a very light, strong box at somewhere between 500#-600#.


The interior layout will be very simple with significant focus on storage. This should allow me to keep the weight down, complexity of the build lower and keep it durable. Think of the down below of a performance racing sailboat. I likely won't mould eveything as this will be a one off DIY, but use foam/glass panels I will make up.


I would like to use Seitz S5 dual pane acrylic windows. But I am reading online that finding these in the USA is problematic. Has anyone solved this yet?


I still need a solution for the door. I would rather not have to build a door from scratch. Ideas?


Next Question: Water inside, above the floor in the heated space? Versus somehow below and attached to the chassis. This obviously simplifies, keeping the tank/pipes from freezing, but takes away from storgae space.


Do I really need a crawl/wiggle through access from the truck cab to the box? Sure it might be nice for the kids, but when it is going down the road, I will be driving it. When it is stopped, who cares? The answer to this question could alter how I layout the interior of the box. I notice some of the vehicles out there have this. But many do not. Thoughts?

Systems:

Power: House style 24V solar panels charging via Moringstar MPPT controller. At least 2 (maybe 4) 8D AGM batterries. Although, I have been researching Lithium Iron (not Ion) batterries. 2000w inverter. My Sprinter has a Magnum 2000 Sine-Wave Intverter/Charger that also supports shore power, and it is great. 12V & 110V BlueSea distrubution panels.


Hot water and heat: Rixen Enterprises - 17K BTU Espar Hydronic System. I have the desiel system in the sprinter and it is reliable, compensates for alititude and is idiot proof. It just works and the company has been great to work with.


Fridge: 12v/110v. I have an CR-130 Isotherm in the van, but I think there might be cheaper alternatives. I would also like a larger 7 cft version for this rig Thoughts anyone?


Toilet/Shower: I am thinking Thetford cassette toilet, like may of the European caravans seem to use. I still need to find a shower/floor pan that makes this simpler (or I have to mould one myself custom). Seems like with all the RVs I see out there, someone must have figured this out.


So thats it for now. Please shoot holes in the thinking. Offer answers or whatever. I would rather get it designed right and start the build knowing I can get to the end versus finding a big gotcha half way through.


The plan is to build the box first. As I get close to completing and finishing the box/interior, systems etc, I will go find the truck. This way, I will have a relatively new/current model truck once I am ready for final assembly.


And now back to the drafting board.


How cool is it going to be. Gypsing around ski areas in the winter and chasing wind a waves in the summer with my kiteboard.


Thanks again everyone for you input.

John


PS: If anyone is interested in watching a short video on the Sprinter I built here is the video link: https://youtu.be/OYcZBNgCsqo
 
#2
That is going to be one LOOOONG truck. Just the regular mega-cag is pretty big with it's 6.5' bed. I can barely picture it with an 11' bed. But hey, Earthroamer and the like are pretty darn long too.

Not sure if you want a 12v only, gas/12v, or 12/120v fridge. You can find a Norcold in the 6-7' range starting around $1000.
 
#3
I am hoping for the 12v/110v two-way fridge. The one I have now is different technology from the 3-way propane jobs. I can't remember what they call it. But the net-net, it doesn't have to be level to work.

Yes, it will be long. The box part (11') is approx the same length as the largest Lance slide-in. I am guessing it will be roughly 25' long. My Sprinter which is the 170" Ext is 23.5' (the ferry guys charge me for 24').

The longest 550/550 cab-chassis has roughly a 200" wheelbase (which is what the Earthroamer LTVs is built on). I should end up being right about the same place at 195-198.

Thanks the idea on the Norcold.
I am hoping for the 12v/110v two-way fridge. The one I have now is different technology from the 3-way propane jobs. I can't remember what they call it. But the net-net, it doesn't have to be level to work.

Yes, it will be long. The box part (11') is approx the same length as the largest Lance slide-in. I am guessing it will be roughly 25' long. My Sprinter which is the 170" Ext is 23.5' (the ferry guys charge me for 24').

The longest 550/550 cab-chassis has roughly a 200" wheelbase (which is what the Earthroamer LTVs is built on). I should end up being right about the same place at 195-198.

Thanks the idea on the Norcold.
 
#4
BTW: Based on my parts list and costing so far, I am hoping to have this going down the road for roughly $150K. Not including anything for my labor of course. But the project and the build is fun for me and I can't buy one of these mac-daddy rigs for what they get for them.
 
#5
Validated and changed a few things ..

I was fortunate to meet Ryan in the Gorge this weekend. Check out what he is doing at www.bahncamperworks.com. While not exactly the same as my build there is enough in common to validate a few of my assumptions/changes.

The Kelderman air suspension mods are out. I can always add it later. But I have decided on simplicity, reliability and repairability.

Tires: Conti MPT81 - 275/80/R20 (37" dia)
Wheels: Buckstop Alu 20"x9". Stazworks look super cool too, But man are they heavy.
Suspension (Front): BDS 3" with new radius arm option. Bascially just levelling versus any actual lift.
Suspension (Rear): Air-bags w/on-board compressor.

I have moved away from the DRW in favor of SRW. Since I am changing everything out anyway and the axels are identical, why spend the extra dough?

Another couple of questions for the group???
#1 Given that I am going to the larger 37" tires, what should be my new gearing? The biggest I can order from the factory is 4.1.
#2 If I am chaging out gearing anyway, should I do a locker in the rear?


That's is for now. Pictures in the next post.
 
#6
The panels are taking shape - Pictures

As a reminder:

The floor is 3/4" marine ply with 20" carbon fiber biax cloth resin infused (Proset), vacuum bagged both sides.
The walls and rear of the box are 1" Divnycell H80 foam core with the same cloth both sides.
The roof is 3'4" H80 foam core with the same core, but instead of being flatte is has approx 1.5" of camber.

Note that the window, door and roof openings are all done in advance in the foam core. Once the carbon skins are baged and cured, everything is sealed and super tight. Its much easier to cut/work with the foam versus waiting until afterwards and cutting carbon.

2016-07-19 12.40.19.jpg 2016-06-28 16.12.19.jpg 2016-07-19 13.46.09.jpg 2016-07-19 12.27.20.jpg 2016-07-03 14.42.06.jpg
 

sg1

Adventurer
#9
Very interesting build. I own a RV with a similar size camper box. It is German build with fiberglass- foam- fiberglass sandwich. 1/16 skin-1 3/4 foam-1/16 inch skin. Fully equipped with all the conveniences you mentioned it has a dry weight of about 1650 lbs. Had it now for 6 years and used it in Africa, Europe and Latin America without issues. The Seitz S4 are not great quality but do the job. The moskito screens are quite useless. Would I build today I would take Outbound windows. They are much better quality.
My watertank is inside and I never had problems with freezing. I would not build a camper with an exterior tank. I have seen to many travellers with frozen waterlines. Just use the external space for storage.
Unless you want to boondock in unsafe areas where you may have to make a hasty get away (I never had to do it so far) you do not need a crawl through.
Your panels look great. You will be surprised how to well they insulate compared to even a well insulated Sprinter.
Stefan
 
#15
I have a megacab stretched to long box, with a 9' flat deck, it is right at 24' long. Would love to build a custom camper for it though...eagerly watching your build...lots of pics please:)
 
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