Posted by: Steve and Bethany | January 31, 2009


date; 12/16/09

holiday time, progress slows, plus it’s been absolutely frigid in Oregon.

While jake was finishing the step down, I brought the heater & the new aluminum parts back to my home shop for a week to work on them there, just too cold for a metal building with little insulation. I filled & sanded all of randy’s welds to paint job ready, those parts being the fuel can holders, spare tire mount & the upper lights.

upper lights with welds filled & sanded

Once the step down was ready, I had it powder coated, then mounted it in the floor cutout, then I proceeded to mount the electric steps to its underbelly, which I designed with brackets & holes located just for the steps. I purchased a triple step unit from an RV surplus store, took it to the shop, held it in place at the right height, dropped the steps down, only to find the bottom step will be exactly 10″ above the ground.. ..perfect.

passenger side with door cutout & steps, no aluminum skin yet

next was the side wall panels,

passenger side wall panel suspended in place pre door & step cutout

I’m finding I’m challenging myself on just how accurate I can be in building this. I took some measurements, layed the panels down, & cut the shape out of the middle of the original panels, as I didn’t want to use any original bolt holes or edges. One change I made on site was to use the passenger side panel on the driver’s side & vise versa, this, because the exterior of the UHAUL panels had all sorts of adhesive film glued to it, most of which I sanded off, but I didn’t want to glue my new aluminum skin on top of all this foreign matter, plus the varying layers created varying thicknesses which I didn’t want to show through. The UHAUL interiors, however, were raw fiberglass & despite some marks from me removing the glued-on mounts for the inside rubber rails, with a little sanding, were perfect. Another bonus was that the hole cut out of the driver side for the gas fill cap was now located on the passenger side right in the new door location, so no patching required.

The shape of the rear wheel cutouts had been making me nervous for some time, I’ve known from the first sketches, that although the shape of the wheel well is pretty much anything I want it to be, as clearance is not a problem, (raising the floor height up the 10″ to allow for the pivot frame gave me plenty of wheel clearance, no need to cut out a section of the floor) the wheel well shape sets up the exterior personality of the vehicle, so I made a full-scale mock-up, which I tweaked multiple times until the shape felt right. (really, look around next time your out, some cars wheel wells look utterly spineless, others, (like the H1) have their lips raised showing teeth) The persistent dilemma was at the passenger side rear, where the wheel well meets the steps. I finally decided on one version only to do something slightly different on the driver’s side, as there are no steps here. (I told you I obsess about everything)!

panel mounted, & a full-scale mock-up of the wheel cutout

door & step down cutout with steps below

note that the storage & propane compartment doors will also act as the wall panel below the front floor.

Now that I know the exact dimensions of the walls, I finally ordered the door, (I wanted it just as tall as I could get it) and the aluminum skin for the two sides & rear panel, as well as the FRP (fiberglass reinforced panel) for the rear wall. I chose to get another FRP similar to the UHAUL panels, as opposed to just using plywood for two reasons, one, the size panel I needed was 4′-2″ tall’, too big for most plywood, second, I kept picturing condensation under the aluminum skin rotting out the plywood, this probably has no merit, but to be on the safe side I wanted the additional fiberglass layer.  All these should arrive right at the beginning of the year, just as I’m dieing to get back into this.

The only part of the wall panels I was still concerned over were the cut edges, the sides & top will be sealed into the aluminum posts, so not a problem, the bottom edge however will see some weather, so I decided to seal it with 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ aluminum angle (which I cut down to 1″ x 1 1/2″). I dadoed out the bottom 1 1/8″ of the fiberglass 1/16″ deep, so that the angle would sit flush with the wall panel, then cut notches to form the inside & outside curves to follow the back half of the wheel well and top side of the compartment doors. This was attached with stainless screws plus degabond 54. I’ll build it all flush with bondo before applying the skin.

bottom edge dadoed & ready for aluminum edge

the reason I went with 1 1/2 angle verses architectural panel edging, was that I wanted the inside of the angle to hang inside the inside edge of the panel about an inch, so I can rivet plastic or rubber wheel well flaps here, to follow the outline of the well, & protect the adjacent storage & steps from constant mud & water. This also gives me a solid surface up front, to mount the piano hinges that will support the compartment doors, & a clean edge to adhere the aluminum skin to.

I just picked up a viair constant duty onboard air system, plus extra tank, it’ll be a while before it goes in, but I like to have all the parts within grasp, for my ever evolving design.

I’ve also figured out how to carry a couple mountain bikes on the rear, & use the mounts for this rack (yet to be designed) to house removable pulleys to run the rear bumper winch line through to lift & lower the spare (it weighs about 160 lbs, & will be about 52″ above the ground). This will require winch rope not cable (as cable’s too stiff). I’ve got some time before I design the rear bumper/winch.

a minor change in the order of events, the aluminum skin was ordered in december, before the holidays, because of the year-end, suppliers don’t have roll stock until mid january, so we won’t get them till the 3rd week in january. at first I was disappointed, until I spent an evening at the shop cleaning up & making a list of all the things I can keep myself busy doing (there’s plenty). I’ve welded some nut plates for the rear post to pivot frame connections. I’ve gotten the FRP for the rear wall, so I’ll remount both sides, & the rear wall, plus cutout for the spare tire mount & fuel can holders, etc.

all wall panels temporarily on, pre aluminum skin fuel can holders & spare tire mount installed

boy, that went fast!

this week I’ll design the rear bumper & structural spare tire bolt stand.


I made several full-scale cardboard models of the rear bumper,until I arrived at this design plus this past weekend, I welded up the spare tire post & pulley/mountain bike rack receivers  (these have to be able to take the weight of the spare tire).

interior view of spare tire post & pulley pole receivers

rear wall showing pulley/mountain bike rack posts

This was probably the most accurate welding I’ve ever done (I’m more of an art welder) I designed these with 1″ black iron pipe as the removable pulley rods, which thread into a 1 1/4″  black iron pipe receiver about 5″ long, that mounts through a hole in the rear wall.A large washer welded to the outer end form a ‘flange ‘ against the skin, & this then slides & mounts into a 1 1/2″ iron pipe sleeve which mounts from the inside of the wall panel to the aluminum structure that goes across the top of the rear wall. All this so I can remove the rods when not in use, but remain fully weather proof.

the 3 pieces of the receivers

I also picked up the rear winch, a SMITTYBILT XRC 10 with synthetic rope, 10,000 lb capacity right now I’m making sure it fits properly inside the bumper.

another thing while waiting for the skins was to cut the hole for the fuel cap door, & fuel line shield below the floor. I had randy at harvest valley make some aluminum ‘z’ & channel so I could reuse the UHAUL fuel line shield, I just had to extend it up to the bullet floor height for mounting.

the UHAUL fuel line shield extended 4 1/2" up & cut a little shorter in length

while under there, I started to mount the duel air tanks, only to rethink my choice to mount these under the center of the floor between the two main frame rails. I realized that these air tanks need to be drained periodically to prevent rusting out, plus once I sat under the truck (yeah, I can sit totally upright under there)! I thought the air lines would be too close to the exhaust system, & might melt, so they quickly moved over to just to the rear of the propane cage, easy to access & drain, easy to protect from road projectiles.


finished the drawings for the rear bumper, I ended up drawing the winch in autocad, placing it within the bumper to verify all clearances & mounting pointsI think I spent as much time on these drawings & design as I have drawing a small home!

I’m having ‘beast bumpers’ in springfield  fabricate the bumper, as ken’s knowledge in winch & frame mounting points relieves me of a little bit of the pressure!


Randy @ harvest valley specialties called to say the aluminum skins would be in next week, so we set up friday feb. 5th to cut & glue them onto the wall panels, these have to set up for a couple days before we can move them around. this weekend I’ll cut out the window openings. what held me up on these was getting the water tank, which establishes the height of the basement ceiling, which establishes the exact height & size of the windows, this plus I decided to rotate the bed layout.

Initially I wanted the bed, pillows toward the camper, but once I mocked it up in place I realized just how much space this takes out of the camper (I’m getting used to this 14′ long space). this will be a queen size bed (60″x80″) rotating it pillows to the side, will give me an additional 20″ minus 10″ for a front storage cabinet = 10″  for the bench & counter/cabinets. this means alot for the workability of the cabinets & counter, plus it lines up with the dimensions of what’s below the bed (24″ for dog beds & 22″ for dressers plus the cabover dimension of 32″=78″ plus a 2″ overhang for the bed) With this math done, I can cut out & order the windows.

I’ll also weld up the spare tire bolt plate.

done, this plate has the lug bolt studs that match the bullet, & will mount to the post from the outside through the spare tire mount body on the rear wall panel.

windows & storage compartment door sizes are now known (oddly the compartment doors are exactly the sizes I drew on the first autocad drawings) so I can now order all of those, & cut out the wall panels for them, before the skins go on.

all door, window & baggage compartment door holes cut out, officially ready for aluminum skins

sausage & I removing the wall panels.. ...ugh.. .. ready for transport

crap, it feels like I’m back in november. I’ve always hated taking apart things I build, but on friday the aluminum skins get glued to the wall panels. All doors & windows are now being made, this weekend I’ll mount the air tanks, while I can reach above & below the floor at the same time to bolt them in.



  1. nice work pal. nice website too.

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