New Old Perfect Expedition Camper (NOPEC) - Transitioning a 1995 Kodiak Truck Camper Into A Newer Version

NOPEC

Well-known member
As winter starts to gently settle in around these parts, I have plans to do a bunch of renos to my camper which I "built" just before COVID. While thumbing through some photos to remind myself of what I had done, it occurred to me that others might be interested in the successes and failures which I had with his project. I have owned a variety of campers, trailers, etc., over the years and have always fiddled with them, always working towards improving the original factory build. The more I have done it, the more I learn and the braver I become. So, I thought I would try my hand at a "build Thread" on this project.

So here it is...

With NOPEC I decided that I would go all in with this project, at least as far as my skills allow. I wanted to turn the exterior fiberglass pieces into a one piece absolutely bomber shell in terms of absolute strength and weatherproofness. Part of the exterior work was also to vastly improve the thermal capability of this camper by reducing both the number of "holes" and the glass surface area. Any remaining windows would all be double layer acrylic. At the end of it, I was able to reduce the windows/holes surface area by 55%, with almost all of the remaining 45% being taken up with the new acrylic windows. Due to the age of the camper, I wanted to upgrade every system in the camper, mostly replacing all of the componentry and improving the various systems. These included replacing the absorption fridge with a compressor type, the old water heater, water tank, pump, almost all of the plumbing, electrical, solar, batteries, furnace, lights both interior and exterior and on and on. Anything sketchy at all was replaced, not the least of which was anything exterior that was of original RV "quality" which with age, just turns to UVed dust.

We are serious paddlers so part of the exterior was to build onto the pre-existing factory roof rack to end up with a super robust system of both loading and securing the kayaks.

We have used the camper a lot in the last two years, 12K kilometers this year alone. It has performed extremely well.

Over the next while, I'll post a few "segments" outlining what I did during the re-build. Probably, I'll concentrate mostly on the redoing of the exterior as I suspect that might be of the most interest. I have lots of pictures to hopefully demonstrate everything.

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trackhead

Adventurer
You should be proud of that work and just made that classic ready for another 30yrs. I did similar, as you know, but your work turned out way better.
 

NOPEC

Well-known member
You should be proud of that work and just made that classic ready for another 30yrs. I did similar, as you know, but your work turned out way better.

Trackhead - I followed your build way before you moved up north and was always impressed with your "jump into it with both feet" attitude. You were away ahead of me and you have been an inspiration, not to mention the cause of my interest in Monstaliner (next time..) Your latest "Gut, Foam board and Monstaliner, Interior Version" is really cool. BTW, we'll see how impressive things are on this end when I get into the "screwups" section later on.....

Very clean rig, looks fabulous, look forward to seeing more. I'll have to keep my eyes open for it.

High praise Billiebob, thanks. Next time I see you on the Galena Bay Ferry, maybe my camper won't be hidden behind a load of Fir logs. I also often think that that ferry ride is generally about one beer in length........
 

NOPEC

Well-known member
Warning - Kinda lengthy and photo heavy....

Further to my last post. So the plan with this camper was as follows,

Stage 1 - Interior mostly

a. Gut the interior down to a point where I could prep to fiberglass over all of the unwanted openings.

b. Fiberglass over these body openings which included all of the windows (6 in total), two windows in the door, holes (Side and roof) from the old fridge, hot water heater and one back hatch.

c. Re-do all of the interior walls that were affected by the fiberglassing and

d. Fix previous water damage/Re-build/refinish the inside.

(stage 1 was done during the fall and winter with the camper outside. I don't have a big enough shop to get it inside. Heating and doing almost all of the fiberglassing from the inside was not a problem as the camper was tarped and fine to work in with an AC heater. Stage 2 was mostly all outside, starting as soon as I could get the tarp off in the spring. Plus, with so much exterior fiberglass sanding, I am glad I wasn't tempted to expose any indoor space to that mess!!)

Stage 2 - Exterior mostly

a. Remove all of the trim bits that coverup the areas where the various body panels are joined (The absolute Achilles heel of these campers, IMO).

b. Fillet and feather all of the exterior joints after all of the panels were cleaned, degreased, de-caulked(including the F#@$^$$ bathtub silicone that always seems to show up after quickie previous attempts at "maintenance" :(). Then refasten hundreds of new stainless #8 screws (#10s where the old holes had stripped) and finally, scarify these joints really well to ensure good adhesion of the pending fiberglass.

c. Filling a ton of small holes (mostly hundreds of screw holes that resulted from holding the backboard in place during fiberglassing of the large voids from the inside).

d. Sanding, sanding and more sanding.....

Stage 3 - Exterior mostly

a. Exterior finish.

SO;

Stage 1 (I have to apologize for the quality of the photos, most were taken quickly with my phone during rubberglove/respirator removal in crappy light but hopefully, you get the idea!)

Well, one last trip in our first Kodiak "URSLA" down to the Ft. Peck Reservoir region in NE Montana before the work starts....
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First, gutting. You have to remove everything from near the opening to be filled in, in order to be able to cut away a couples inches of the wall, right down to the fiberglass shell. You need to have a space for an overlap over the inner surface of shell material as you lay the fiberglass matt down.
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Here is the old absorption fridge bottom opening from the inside as I cut back the interior wall for the overlap. The old furnace intake/exhaust opening is below it, it will be going as well.
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After exposing the inside wall, I created a backer for the fiberglass using old plywood covered in packing tape or Tuck Tape. After taping the plywood, I waxed it heavily using paste wax to ensure good release. Arborite works just as well but you still have to wax the heck out of it. You have to ensure that you screw the plywood down really well or you will get bleeding past the edges of the opening which just makes for more sanding and a wavy joint. This is the exterior of the window located on the lower part of the camper at the front.
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The front window and fridge opening from inside after the placement of the waxed backer plywood.
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I used three layers of fiberglass matting, precut, numbered and identified with an up arrow (three layers of fairly heavy matting approximated the original thickness of the outer shell, maybe a tad thicker). What I did was fiberglass a block of three openings at once, allowing each of the layers of matting to cure for at least 24 hours. Leaving a 1500 watt heater on continually really sped things up. This is the same window as above from the inside after completion of the fiberglassing.
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Same window as the above, from the outside after removal of the backer plywood. The packing tape/paste wax release worked like a dream. You can see a little bit of bleeding into the edges. There is always going to be some surface anomalies on the exterior of the new fiberglass, to be dealt with all in good time with the rest of the exterior filling and sanding.
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And finally when the wraps come off, you now have much of the fiberglassing of the exterior behind you, even though it looks like a patchwork quilt. The next time, I will carry on with what was going on in the interior after all of the holes had been filed.
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I'll be making occasional reference to the products I used in this project. Being from the school of crying only once, I bought the best I could find. IMO, right up there are the products made by West System and Total Boat. I know that you can certainly buy cheaper epoxy and filleting material but I bit the bullet and went with these guys.

I could not be happier with how their products consistently worked. Plus, being a prairie born land lover, I know zippo about boat building but I found the West System online products/techniques manual was gold for beginners like me. Who would have known that filleting wasn't just about fish.....

Another thing I did that might be helpful to others, is that I sourced almost all of my material from my local Marina. I pitched them basically that I was going to buy a lot of stuff and they may as well have my business (Alicia in charge of their parts department, bless her heart). They agreed to do their best to price match or beat anything I could get from the big Marine suppliers, Amazon, etc. Only on one or two occasions could they not beat the big guys and generally, they whumped them. So my fiberglassing material, most of the electrical (Blue Sea), sikaflex, Perkins lights, hatch covers, my DC fridge, all sorts of odds and ends and even some high teck made in NZ Kayak portage trollies for a pending summer paddling trip, all came from them. It was pretty funny when the folks at the Marina started following the build, always inquisitive about what I was up to. Ya Gotta love small towns.

Stage 1 - to be continued. Cheers
 
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trackhead

Adventurer
Funny seeing the inside, as I obviously have essentially the same camper. Our water intrusion point was the old refrigerator vent. Living in the Alaska rainforest at the time wrecked the camper. The floor essentially had 1 centimeter of standing water in it when I pulled it up. That was the impetus for me gutting mine, same logic you followed. Seal all possible entry points......

On my current built I rented an industrial tent with wall and a huge diesel heater for the Monstaliner install. Outside temp was -12c, inside tent was 15c. Blasted hot air for 16 hours and it worked out.

Why do all camper projects occur in the winter?
 

NOPEC

Well-known member
On my current built I rented an industrial tent with wall and a huge diesel heater for the Monstaliner install. Outside temp was -12c, inside tent was 15c. Blasted hot air for 16 hours and it worked out.

Why do all camper projects occur in the winter?
Always winter because there are waaaay better things to do outside when it is above 0! (other than skiing, of course....)
 

NOPEC

Well-known member
Further to my last post. this is the second installment of this build thread;

c. Re-do all of the interior walls that were affected by the fiberglassing (cont'd)

After I glassed over all of the window holes and other large openings, I then had to fix the inside walls. I filled the holes in the pre-existing inside wall by gluing one inch hard pink foam board to the newly fiberglassed exterior wall. There was already one inch of hard foam in the rest of the wall, so thickness wise, it matched perfectly. I used PL700 Premium construction glue (it doesn't eat foam like the PL400) for all of the interior wall gluing. I left a generous space on the edges and completely filled the resulting void with low expansion foam in a can. After trimming off the excess foam, the original wall was now ready for the new wall to cover everything up, hopefully...

I had thought about FRP skins and other non-wood options (such as arborite) for the new interior walls, but because I live out in the sticks, going to look at and source these materials was outside of my scope of interest so I just went with 4x8 wood panel door skin material. It is relatively (was) cheap, light, easy to work with and easy to source at my local building supply store. I used cardboard templates to mark out the panels and double coated the skins (both sides and edges) with Zinsser 123 primer and then pre-painted the exposed interior side with several coats of a high quality BMoore paint, knowing full well that touch ups would still be required.

I glued all of the new walls over the old ones employing a very high tech system of using old wooden scrap lumber screwed to the floor and other surfaces and then forced hard against the wall while the glue dried. Primitive but it worked really well.
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After the new walls were all in place, I started to rebuild the inside: install new componentry (fridge, stove, hot water heater, plumbing, countertop, etc.), figure out the new wiring which now involved a new AC circuit, solar controller, fuse block, etc., etc. It was still winter outside of the camper.
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Once winter started to slacken, it was time to start on the exterior. I had all of the rough outer surfaces of the window and other holes to deal with, but what I had really been waiting on was the challenge of transforming the exterior into one contiguous box instead of all of the bits and pieces that it currently comprised of.

I suspected that there were lots of surprises waiting underneath all of those goofy aluminium extrusions that covered the edges of the fiberglass sections. I was not to be disappointed!!
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Next Post I'll go into fixing the exterior. It took a bit of time and effort...... :D cheers
 
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