PROJECT_ToasterCamp - 5x8 Cargo Trailer Conversion Build

firecracker_jk

New member
Hi everyone! I have been a lingerer for a years on this forum. It is finally time for me to start contributing!

First and foremost. I am not sure what the rules are for posting external "social" content on Expedition Portal Forums. I am not affiliated with any companies or trying to sell anything.

I have my own website I have been working on. It will have much of the same information that this forum will have. Link to this build: patrickjamesmcbride.com/tag/project-toastercamp

I also have an Instagram page dedicated to this build: instagram.com/project_toastercamp

How it all Started.

I have been wanting to build my own camper for a long time. Now that I own my Jeep Wrangler and can do all of this awesome exploring, I wanted to explore and camp in places more and more. After discovering YouTube channels like Venture4wd* and TrailRecon*, the urge to camp more with my Jeep or “Overlanding” was like never before. TrailRecon and Venture4wd really have some nice setups with 4DR Wranglers and roof top tents. My Issue is that with a 2DR Jeep this is much more difficult to do. The short wheelbase is not very good on steep inclines, especially with a top-heavy RTT or other gear inside… PLUS It would mean that I need to ditch my back seat on these trips and couldn’t bring anyone along for the ride.

As much as I liked the idea of overlanding, I like the idea of base camping even more. If I want to drive out west, I would like to stay at least a couple days in one area and explore. This is where I think a camper really shines. Setup camp, do some challenging trails, and then go back to camp for the night… Trails I would not want to wheel in a loaded down Jeep.

So I started thinking about what kind of camper I wanted to build. I knew it had to be small and under 2,000 pounds. There are two main options… Enclosed Style or Tent style.

The Tent style trailer is by far the smallest and lightest. It gets you sleeping off the ground and setup time is decently fast. Cooking is pretty fast and easy with built in propane grill / stove, and sink. You can also fit a decent size refrigerator. These style trailers have been known to make it through aggressive trails like the Rubicon. It is not easy, but possible to tow it everywhere the Jeep goes.

The enclosed style trailer is larger than a tent style. You would not make it on the same trails that a tent style could get through. These trailers are just a bit too large and bulky for that. However, you can still get these campers out to the middle of nowhere on some mild trails… much further out than with a conventional camper. These campers are also a bit heavier. They are composed of more metal and wood, and typically are designed for longer stays. The sleeping comfort in these trailers can be far superior to a tent trailer. You can install any thickness mattress you want, you can have heating and air conditioning… Even a TV if you want. You have a permanent sleeping space that has more room for customization. The kitchen can also be a bit more centralized on an enclosed trailer. Typically with a tent trailer you have the fridge on one side, the sink on another, and the grill in a different spot. It is just hard to fit everything centrally. On an enclosed trailer, the kitchen can be outfitted with everything in a single location. Then enclosed trailer also always ready to sleep. If I am on the road, I can easily park someplace, and just hop inside of the camper to sleep… NO setup required! No tent to setup. Also the sleeping area of the enclosed camper is a bit more safer in bear country than a tent trailer.

There is a lot to like about the maneuverability of a tent trailer. I want one… BUT I like the idea of an enclosed trailer a bit more, because I like to base camp and stay in one area for a couple days at a time. I am not looking to bring the trailer on every trail with me… so why not have the best camping experience of an enclosed trailer?

After shopping around for enclosed campers, I decided most were WAY out of my price range at $20,000 or more. The cheaper ones that were in my budget seemed to lack in quality. They also had features I did not want, and lacked features I did want. So why pay for something that is so expensive that lacks the features I want? The answer to this issue is to build your own enclosed camping trailer. The problem is that it is a very big project to tackle.
I opted to build a trailer, but start with something so I am not having to build the entire thing from scratch. This is where an enclosed cargo trailer comes into play! It has a solid frame, and a decent, light weight constructions already…. That means I already have a frame, walls, doors, and a ceiling. And it already looks decent. It is hard to make something from scratch and have it actually look good as well.

Without further adieu, here is my Car Mate Custom Cargo 5×8.5 trailer. It is model number CM508CC. It is a flat front trailer. I had the trailer custom built. The only options I choose was an RV side door, barn rear doors, no vents, no spare tire, in dark metallic grey. My favorite feature is the side door with the screen door inside! It really feels like a camper right out of the gate.
I had to custom order the trailer and this process took several weeks for the camper to be build to my specs and then delivered to my dealer. It also meant that it would cost a little more… I think it was worth the cost and time. I paid around $4500.00 for the trailer delivery with taxes, registration, etc. Some pictures!













Lastly, I will be ending each major post with a Youtube video. I am trying to "vlog" the build to the best of my ability.

 

firecracker_jk

New member
Link to my blog post: http://patrickjamesmcbride.com/project-toaster-camp-fabricating-a-2-receiver-tongue/

I decided the first mod to do on the trailer build is a new trailer tongue. Sure an off road hitch would be cool and all, but I had a better reason for making this my first project. The stock tongue on the trailer was very short. So short, that it was difficult to connect the trailer to my Jeep. I could not easily hitch the trailer to the Jeep without removing the spare tire. I could not clasp the hitch with the tire right above, unless I swung out the door and spare tire. I could not swing out the door and spare tire, because the tongue jack was in the way… Overall, this trailer just did not work on my Jeep. No problem… we can fix that.
I started the job by cutting off the old hitch. Pretty easy. Just cut out a few welds on it with an angle grinder and a few love taps with my 3 pound sledge hammer. Check out all of the rust underneath it. Keep in mind this is a brand new trailer… 30 miles on it.






I was left with the raw frame rails. I had to cut them down a bit more to fit the receiver tube* between. I felt like this was my best option to make for a strong transition. I started the cut with an angle grinder and finished up with a sawzall. Don’t worry about those cut marks. I ended up welding those up and grinding smooth.











Next, I had some brackets to make. There are a few companies out there that make transition mounts from the frame rails to the receiver tube. I felt that some 1/4″ thick plate will get the job done just as well at a lower cost. There is a rear bracket that I made first. This one was welded to the back of the receiver tube all the way around. Then I mocked up and tacked this to the frame rails.





I also cut out a plate for the inside that will connect the receiver to the top plate. I felt like this would really connect everything like a puzzle piece and really lock it together. There was also a bottom plate, and 4 front plates. All cut out with an angle grinder and welded on. I am not pro, but it looks pretty strong to me.











Lastly, here is the final pic. As you can see, I also added on some chain mounts* and a tongue jack. I will go into further detail on the tongue jack in a future post.



Product Links:
 

firecracker_jk

New member
The front of PROJECT Toaster Camp needed some additional space to store and protect the propane tank, spare tire (will be a future post on this) and firewood. It is also just a good place to put random things that I do not want to keep inside.

I started the fabrication by grinding the paint off the frame rails and lots of measuring / planning. The construction will be of 1.5" x 1.5" box tubing, expanded metal, and angle iron. Lots of cutting pieces with the chop saw, cleaning areas for welding.







The main feature I wanted with the basket was low profile. I did not want something that was bolted on or looked like a bolt on. I wanted it to be completely built in and sit as low on the frame as possible. I also wanted the front corners to be angled, to make them out of the way on the trail and from the vehicle. I used several c-clamps and extra pieces of metal to form jigs while welding, to keep things as straight as possible.









Next, I mocked up a 20 pound propane tank mount* I purchased from Amazon. It seemed like a high quality mount, but it did not fit my tank. I had to cut off the base of the mount and stretch it out with ratchet straps. Still a nice bracket. Not sure if Blue Rhino tanks are wider than average ones.







Finally, it was time to weld in the expanded metal and put a wrap on this project! Lots of tiny welds to get this done. I forgot to mention that I did add supports under the expanded metal with angle iron to help support the floor. You can see these supports in several pictures throughout the build. You can stand anywhere on the floor and it does not move or bend. Also painting expanded metal is not fun. Lots of wasted paint.













Product Links:
Propane Tank Mount: https://www.amazon.com/Nashfuel-Universal-Vertical-Propane-Brackets/dp/B00EP1S6H4/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=propane+tank+mount&qid=1592331612&sr=8-2

 

Recommended books for Overlanding

firecracker_jk

New member
What would PROJECT Toaster Camp be without a proper suspension? I see so many "off road trailers" with big tires and cool looking bolt-ons, but underneath the suspension is no different than an average street trailer.

With that being said, an off road trailer does not need to "flex" like a Jeep would... But you do need ground clearance, heavy duty components, and proper spring rates. Shocks make a major difference as well. I personally think all trailers should have shocks. Shocks really dampen the trailer... and sure you will not be inside the trailer when it is moving to feel the difference, but I have seen trailers get air born on bumps... They just bounce around all over the road. Shocks prevent all of this from occurring. There would be a very noticeable difference driving on a washboard road with shocks.

One discretion here... This build is not intended to be the ultimate high-speed offroad trailer. You will not see me doing the Rubicon trail with this trailer either... But I do plan to bring it out on unmaintained roads, like BLM land, Class 4-6 roads, etc.

The trailer came with a Dexter 3500 pound Torflex torsion axle. These axles use rubber to dampen the trailer on bumps. The entire trailer is held off the ground by a rubber torsion bushing / spring. I have read numerous reports where these axles fail in offroad situations. They are just not designed for that type of abuse. When they fail, there is nothing that can be done to get the trailer home. The trailer has to be flatbed towed. The tire sucks into the fender and there really isn't any way to to wedge it up. Example provided below. There are other torsion axles out there such as Timbren axle-less suspension, but I have heard these are not all that they are cracked up to be. They allow for side-to-side sway and excessive tire wear. They also ride on the stiffer side. I decided on tried and true leaf sprung suspension, composed of a 3500 pound straight axle, Jeep CJ leaf springs, and shocks.


I started out the axle swap with a plumb bob to measure the center point of the axle while the trailer was level. This would give me a good reference point when mocking up the new axle. I wanted to keep the axle in the same position as it was stock.



Next, I unbolted the axle and cut off the stock axle tabs. A 3 pound sledge hammer was the final persuasion to getting the brackets off. Then I prepped the bottom of the trailer for welding. I had to cut about 1" of the aluminum skin off and grind the paint of the frame, to have a good spot to weld the new brackets to.






Now it was time to mock up the new suspension and straight Dexter axle*. The Jeep CJ front spring mounts* were perfect. They centered the springs under the frame rails. The stock rear mounts were not the best for my application. I did not want to weld them on because they were made of the same steel as the leaf springs. I suppose I could have drilled and tapped the bottom of the frame rail... but I wanted something a bit taller as well. The answer was to fabricate a mount with some steel tubing and flat plate.





I welded everything up and took the trailer for a test drive. I was liking the new height, but I noticed the trailer would sway quite a bit. I also noticed one of my Jeep leaf springs had a crack in the main leaf.



I decided to just buy some new leafs. I went with some Crown Automotive CJ heavy duty front leaf springs*. The new springs raised the trailer another 3/4", but eliminated the swaying on the highway. The trailer road really well over the harsh roads in my area. The trailer did not move up and down as the suspension soaked up all of the bumps. I still want to add some shocks*, but I will put that off until I have everything inside the trailer and know what the true ride height will be.




Product Links:
 

old_CWO

Active member
Nice work on the CJ suspension! I have CJ7 rear springs with shocks under mine and like it very much. the reproduction Jeep spring mounts and u-bolt plates are significantly beefier than the standard trailer bits.
 

deanorino

New member
Looks great! Might try something like the shocks you've used on my trailer refresh. Let me know how those springs go in the long run . I'm going to run some 2k trailer springs for now, but this will be the next upgrade if I don't like the ride.
 

billiebob

My Uncle drove a government issued Jeep in Europe
The trailer road really well over the harsh roads in my area. The trailer did not move up and down as the suspension soaked up all of the bumps.
I've been thinking of this for a few years. The short leafs trailers come with definitely ride stiff. They work fine on pavement but not off road. And I agree with your logic of starting with a manufactured cargo trailer. It would be hard to beat the $4500 price starting from scratch and likely weigh much more.
 
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firecracker_jk

New member
Thanks for the feedback! Hoping to have an update next week. I have been working hard on the trailer

Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk
 

Recommended books for Overlanding

Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide
by Tom Sheppard
From $99.99
Crossing the Congo: Over Land and Water in a Hard Place
by Mike Martin, Chloe Baker, Charlie Hatch-Barnwell
From $29.19
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
by Laurence Gonzales
From $9.99

firecracker_jk

New member
With my offroad suspension complete, as well as many changes to the tongue of PROEJCT Toaster Camp, I thought it would be fitting to completely transform the sides of the trailer. The trailer needed larger, more robust fenders and I thought it would be a good idea to have some steps / protection on the sides of the trailer. Lastly, I needed a way to mount rear stabilizer jacks.

I started fabricating some fenders with 1.5″ box tubing. Thin wall. I do not have a tubing bender anymore, so I improvised by cutting 13 slots in a 3.5″ space to allow the tubing to bend. Then the plan was to weld the metal back up, and grind it smooth… A few days later resulted in four relativity uniform fender tubes.













Next I took a break from the fenders and prepared the side of the trailer. I stripped the stock fender off. Then I had to cut a couple inches of aluminum siding off the bottom of the trailer, so that I had a larger section of frame exposed to weld to. This left me with a layer of adhesive to scrape off. I was able to completely remove the adhesive with an angle grinder and a flap disk.











Heading back to the new fenders, I cut a few short pieces of tubing with the chop saw. These pieces would connect the two main sections together. I was able to use large clamps to get everything square as I welded it together.





The side of the trailer needed something strong to support the fender. I did not want the fender attached to the body of the trailer like the original one was. I used some 3/16″ wall 1.5″ box tubing to create some posts that would come off the side of the trailer, one in the front and one in the rear of the tire. I tack welded a piece of scrap under the frame rail to help make sure everything would be square. I was finally able to see what the fender looked like on the trailer!





Next, I put some effort into the rock slider / steps. By simply clamping a peace of box tubing underneath the frame, I was able to mark it exactly where the cuts had to be made.



 

firecracker_jk

New member
Moving to the rear of the trailer, I tack welded a slider bar in place and discovered there would be much fabrication work involved with getting a stabilizer jack mounted. I wanted to be able to still swing the rear barn doors all the way open. This was no easy feat considering most angles would prevent the crank of the jack from being able to spin a full 360 degrees. I decided to make the jack mount recessed into the rear slider, perpendicular to the angle of the slider. This worked perfectly, and I had all of the room I needed to completely swing open the rear barn door and even latch it open.













Now that the base of the sliders /steps were complete, I needed to cover them with some expanded metal to give them a platform and match the look of the front basket section. I started by welding in some 1.25? angle iron to create supports for the x-metal. Then I tack welded in a larger sheet of x-metal. I thought it would be easier to weld it on and then trim it to fit. This approach worked well and there was no guess work involved on the angles of things. Lots of little tack welds to get it fully glued on.











 
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