Posted by: Steve and Bethany | February 3, 2009


date;  9/29/09

Finally! I’ve been going a little crazy waiting to get to this point, but I’m finally ready to start construction.

Mill sprocket machine shop just finished making & powder coating the 3 point pivot frame, and although I wasn’t sitting around waiting for the past two months, I’m still really antsy to start construction. This is a great lesson for those about to undertake a similar project, be patient at the beginning, the first steps take the longest & make the least visual progress. Think of home construction, from the day you purchase the property, & start designing, it will be a few months minimum, before the neighbors see anything at all happening, some stakes in the ground here or there, all the while, lots of mental work, designing, math, & even some physical preparations are being made off site, none of which make any visual progress at all. Even when the first few things start, like excavation & foundation work, they go slowly, as lots of double checking dimensions & determining square take place all in the mud. It’s important to have a good base to build on, for any kind of project. The next step is when the framers show up, & within like three weeks, the whole house takes shape, it won’t be three weeks, but that’s now where I am.

Jake, over at mill sprocket, did an amazing job making the frame, I’m pretty picky about details & dimensions, & all I need to say is that the very first time we dropped the frame onto the bullet, every dimension, clearance, connection to the truck frame, & all other design aspects, fit & performed perfectly. How’s that for an endorsement! We even hoisted up one side of the rear axle about 14 inches to verify all clearances with the frame under duress (as in four wheeling) not a problem, not only did we still have plenty of room to spare between the bullet frame & the pivot frame, but the pivot frame stayed perfectly planar with the cab of the truck.

In the shop, rear tire lifted 14”3 point pivot frame 013

The finished rear end (sans bumper)3 point pivot frame 016

2” hardened steel rear pivot pin

Technically I wasn’t sitting around waiting for the past couple months, I finished all the ‘body work’ on the last of the u-haul parts needing some attention, filling in scratches etc. (the last time I worked with Bondo, was in 1983, on a 1969 Pontiac grand prix) I’m better now!, I don’t call it good so easily.

Last of the ‘body work’ on the u-haul partsuhaul 082

I also rented & started setting up a shop, to house construction over the winter, researched aluminum adhesives, & removed the storage ‘shelf’ behind the seats of the bullet & built some real cabinets to house tools, gear, maps in the center, & act as a dog step in from the camper. (I had these upholstered to match the bullet’s interior)

below – The original ‘bullet’ rear storage shelftruck cabinets 002

below that – The new rear cabs, upholstered

truck cabinets 007

way below that – The new rear cabs, installedtruck cabinets 010

I also moved all the u-haul wall panels over to the new shop , & determined I was going to glue aluminum panels to the exterior over the fiberglass, as the u-haul’s fiberglass has lots of micro cracks. I briefly courted replacing the u-haul wall panels with Alucobond panels as the weight seemed to be an issue, but after weighing the wood/fiberglass panels, (at about 2.2 pounds per square foot) and getting the weight of Alucobond (at 1.12 pounds per square foot) then calculating out the finished wall square footages, I realized it was going to cost me $1900.00 to save about 240 pounds, not enough to make it cost effective so I’m sticking with the u-hauls panels.

I also determined the weight of the pivot frame is about 1,200 lbs, the weight of the total box camper will be about 910 lbs, (yes, I weighed all the parts), the estimated weight of all the interior components should be about 1,000 lbs, & I’m assuming gear, filled tanks, tools, clothing, food etc. to bring in another 1,000 lbs. so total weight should be around 4,000 lbs, plus the bullet’s weight of 8,000 lbs, puts me at about 12,000 lbs total. (Just putting it out there).

I think the guys over at mill sprocket sensed my obsessive nature, because they got the frame back from being powder coated at 5:00 last Friday evening, & they were nice enough to stay late, to mount it on the truck with me (or let me help them) I personally wanted to feel the torque of the bolts. By 6:30 it was on, & you know first thing Saturday morning I was out in the driveway, starting. The first step was to glue down a 1/16” rubber layer to the tops of the frame members, not so much for vibration, as to prevent electrolysis between the steel frame & the aluminum floor boards. This would also stop any metal on metal noise. This was done with 3M HI TAC 76 spray glue.

1/16” Sheet rubber before cutting into strips3 point pivot frame 039

Next was to mount the propane tank in the under floor cage (fit perfectly of course) then mounting the floor boards, checking square, drilling the first holes, getting all the math I did in my head two months ago back & in a construction sense.

The propane cage3 point pivot frame 038

The front floor board determines everything, so I’m being really careful to get this exact. I also cut 7” off the u-haul width, which translates to 3 ½” from each side of each floor board, front & rear wall panel, etc. so I spent Sunday cutting parts down.(all the mounting holes in the middle need to stay centered, so I can’t take 7” off of 1 side)

Cutting the floor boards down3 point pivot frame 041

I also completely cleaned, sanded, & painted the u-haul tail lights and mounted those on their new home, plus installed three hidden LED lights mounted behind the rear nameplate to illuminate the ‘BULLET XV’ logo from behind. Of course the license plate mount had to be customized too, to get illumination on the plate.

Notice the pivot frame rotation, & how it remains planar with the cab3 point pivot frame 036

The rear bumper will be designed after I get further along, & see what I need to clear, but I do know it will house the rear winch, reverse lights, rear spots, ‘D’ rings for pulling, possibly the side stair mounts, I don’t know yet, but I do know who’s gonna make it!

Next is the front floorboard/front wall/ cab over floor assembly, (this all has to be assembled, mounted, cutout the rear window shape, glue on the aluminum face, figure out what I’m going to do for a window boot, then taken off the truck so it can be painted (all while keeping it perfectly square & rigid) and then, remounted back onto the truck permanently. Then I can mount the rest of the floorboards.

Now my mind’s running at full speed


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