Rolling Studio - FG Camper Conversion

john lovett

Observer
Hi, I'm new to this forum, although I have been following it for some months. I really appreciate the huge amount of information posted by members and figured it was my turn to add to the knowledge base. I started this thread to document the challenge of turning an ex water-board truck into a campervan.



After 10 years happily towing this small, lightweight, off road caravan all over the country, we have once again decided that a single vehicle would suit our needs better. We generally only camp for a couple of days in the one place and, for us, the extra mobility far outweighs the occasional advantage of being able to drive away from where we set up camp.



Rather than sell the caravan, we will modify it to fit on the back of a Four wheel drive Mitsubishi Canter truck. The van is made of lightweight ply, foam and epoxy. It is very strong and weighs (without chassis, water and gear) around 500kgs.



The plan is to chop the front off, shorten it by 100mm, run a pop up roof the full length of the van and move the door from the back to the passenger side. The double bed will be replaced by 2 bunks to give more interior space. An extra fridge will be fitted under the bottom bunk to replace the Engel we used to carry in the back of the Landcruiser.

We were lucky enough to find an ex water-board short wheel base 4×4 Mitsubishi Canter, Cab chassis in excellent condition. After a couple of test drives we convinced ourselves that, once some weight was added to back, the rough ride would be ironed out and the vehicle would be perfect for what we want.

I’m not a mechanic or an engineer or a welder or cabinet maker. But with help and information from a lot of more knowledgeable people than I, progress is being made.

I hope this post encourages anyone considering doing this sort of thing to get hold of some tools, make lots of inquiries and be patient and persistent until the job is done.

Sound Deadening Cab

Perched on top of a clattery diesel engine is not the ideal place to cover long distances, so before anything else, we decided to strip the cabin and line it completely with 30kg of barium impregnated vynol.



Seats, lining, floor mats, door trim, head lining were all removed, painted metal was washed down with grease and dust remover and the sound deadener was put in place with contact adhesive.



Panels that used to resonate with an tinny ring now make a dull, heavy thud



The floor was covered and a layer of deadener coated the engine covers. When all the lining, seats etc were reinstalled and spacer washers were placed between the seat frame and engine cover to create a better seal, there was a noticeable drop in cabin noise. Next, smooth out the bumpy ride and it will be the ideal touring vehicle!



The sound deadening material came from a Melbourne based company Solavis. A 1m x 6m roll was, when I purchased it, $85 through their ebay store. To stick this down I used around 3 litres of gel type contact adhesive. Solavis also sell aluminium tape to seal the joins. The truck cab required 2 rolls.

I don’t know if this stuff is any better or worse than Dynamat, but it’s a hell of a lot cheaper and I’m more than happy with the result

Subframe

Before work started modifying the caravan, a subframe had to be built to allow the box to sit rigidly on the chassis without stopping the chassis from twisting. After much scribbling, head scratching and research, I decided to use laminated ply and fiberglass rather than steel. The laminated subframe will be lighter than steel and will better absorb any movement between chassis and subframe – causing the subframe to wear rather than fracturing the chassis.



40mm waterproof ply rails and cross members









Q-Cell fillets add strength to all the joints



Once wrapped in a double layer of fiberglass mat, the subframe becomes strong and robust without being too heavy.



The subframe is attached to the chassis with 8 steel mounts and sits on two strips of nitrile rubber.



The four front mounts are spring loaded to allow chassis flex. Nylon plates stop any steel against steel friction



The two front mounts incorporate support arms that will bolt through the box.



The 4 rear mounts are 10mm fishplates






Two rear storage boxes bolt to the end of the subframe. The cavity between the storage boxes will hold 2 large water tanks.
 

alan

Explorer
Hi John!
Welcome to the forum!
Your project looks great, obviously you have built boats before, keep the pic's coming, some great ideas there for everyone.
 

PKDreamers

Adventurer
Wow
great work and when you finish your give us a call and you can build ours too :wings:

Very good read and Keep the pics comming along too.
:coffee:
 

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john lovett

Observer
Thanks Alan,
Thanks for the welcome. Unfortunately I'm not a boat builder, but I have a good mate that has built everything from small dingys to racing yachts. He was a great help when I built the original caravan from ply and epoxy. It's a time consuming process, but the end result is strong and light.

Thanks Pete and Kel
Would love to help, but when this project is finished we will be heading off into the sunset, just like you guys!
Cheers, John
 

PKDreamers

Adventurer
Lol well you make sure you do use the truck and get away in it.
Cant wait to see it all done.
Keep taking pics as you go.
 
Last edited:

kerry

Expedition Leader
One of the most interesting subframe designs on here so far. Well executed too. Keep it coming.
 

mog

Kodiak Wrangler
Wow, that look great, and very well planned. I look forward to watching its progress.
 

haven

Expedition Leader
Fantastic build, John! Please keep us up to date on your progress.

I'm a little concerned about the locations where the steel tabs that attach to the camper frame are bolted through. Even with steel plates on both sides the frame (inside and out), I think the bolts could wear oval holes or slots in the fiberglass/wood sandwich as the frame and camper twist in opposite directions. I think some sort of steel sleeve might be needed to protect the fiberglass and wood from the bolts.

Just a random thought from 8,000 miles away.
 

john lovett

Observer
Thanks everyone for your comments, and thanks haven for your thoughts from 8,000 miles away. I'll keep an eye on the mounting plates.



Dismantling

Removing the caravan box from it’s chassis was a more time consuming job than it would appear. At the time of building, the guys from Traymark that built the chassis recommended using Sikaflex as well as a dozen nuts and bolts to hold things together. The bolts came out without drama, but breaking the bond between the Sikaflex and chassis was a days work. A couple of steel wedges, a pinch bar and a sharpened hack saw blade lubricated with a water spray turned out to be the most effective tools.



Once the shell was separated from the chassis all shutters, windows, doors, hatches etc. were removed. Internal furniture and wiring was stripped out and the pop top and solar panels taken off.



After bracing the roof opening, a circular saw made short work of trimming 100mm from the front and removing the sloping section of the roof. Next, to rebuild the front and extend the opening for the pop up roof.
 

pods8

Explorer
Once wrapped in a double layer of fiberglass mat, the subframe becomes strong and robust without being too heavy.
Any reason you're using fiberglass mat verse fiberglass cloth? Granted the random orientation of the mat makes loading in any direction equal but that is at the cost of greatly reduced strength verse cloth. Since you're doing 2 plys of mat you could have done 2 plys of cloth oriented 0/90deg and +/-45deg. Would have fibers oriented in 45deg increments to cover a variety of loading conditions and be notably stronger than just mat.
 

john lovett

Observer
Hi pods8,
The fiberglass suppliers suggested mat to cover the bulk of the frame and the layered/stitched fabric in the following pic for areas of stress (joints etc.) The woven fabric was applied first then the chopped mat layered over that.
I've also bolted 3mm aluminium angle into all the cross member joints. The fiberglass suppliers were happy to sell me the woven mat, but said it was over kill and a couple of hundred dollars more expensive.





 

john lovett

Observer
Rebuilding

A new front section was framed with waterproof ply then externally clad. Vinyl esther resin was used to completely seal inside and out. Fiberglass chopped mat was then applied to the exterior.

Rather than the time consuming job of filling and faring used on the original caravan, the whole structure will be clad in 3mm white aluminium composite sheet.






Door opening moved to LHS. Cut out in lower front to give air space around rear of engine.



Urethane foam was bonded to new inside walls before internal cladding was applied.



The opening for the full length pop top extends 100mm into the camper to make it rigid. All internal furniture is bonded to the walls bracing the whole structure.
 

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pods8

Explorer
Hi pods8,
The fiberglass suppliers suggested mat to cover the bulk of the frame and the layered/stitched fabric in the following pic for areas of stress (joints etc.) The woven fabric was applied first then the chopped mat layered over that.
I've also bolted 3mm aluminium angle into all the cross member joints. The fiberglass suppliers were happy to sell me the woven mat, but said it was over kill and a couple of hundred dollars more expensive.
Well it all depends on what you're intent is for the fiberglass, if you're just sealing up the wood and adding some arbitrary strength then I suppose mat would be fine. If you're actually doing any sort of calculated load for a certain amount of fiberglass then cloth will usually give you much more strength for less plys/weight. It also gives a better resin to glass mixture which again is stronger and lighter. But if weight isn't as much of a concern and you're not really adding the fiberglass for specific loads then roll with what you like working with.

By the way when I say cloth I don't mean woven fabric with matting attached like in your picture, more so a cloth in the 8-10oz/yd^2 type fiberglass is what I was thinking. The woven fiberglass with the matting on the back very tough to wet out? Looks pretty thick.

"Overkill" is all based on intent of the application. Again if its arbitrary then sure use the cheap stuff, but when you're going for a certain strength if it takes more matting which inherently soaks up more resin than a lesser amount of cloth the savings might not be as cut and dry. (I'm coming from an epoxy mindset where soaking up more resin can add up cost quickly).

Any who, carry on it was just an inquiry on my end, looking forward to seeing more!

Rebuilding
Vinyl esther resin was used to completely seal inside and out.
How is the smell level on that stuff? I've only played with epoxy.
 
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