DIY camper box construction- what sizes/wall thickness steel or alu have you used?

ckouba

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Hi all,

I posted this on ExPo forum as well. I am pondering options for building an expedition camper build and am curious to hear from any home builders who have used steel to build their habitation box. What sizes and thicknesses did you use?

Chassis will be an M1088. Would be interested in knowing the subframe selection and results if you're willing to share that too.

My current thoughts make me think I am seriously over-spec'ing it. If you have built one, would you change what you've done if you were to do it again?

Thanks in advance,
Chris
 

Reworked LMTV

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I am doing the same build. My advice is to get two books:



I would avoid an all steel structure and go with composite construction. I have a 5 x 10 cnc plasma table and can cut up to 8" thick solid steel, but I'm still going with 2-3" FRP panels.

Both books are good, but Ulrich's is the better of the two. Ulrich is German. I have talked with him. Nice guy. We differ slightly in opinion on the frame. He prefers all FRP. I like a combination of steel frame and FRP inserts. Ulrich was concerned with the weight of a steel frame in sand. Valid concern. The issue with all FRP is attaching things to the walls and frame twist torsion. FRP must have a 4 point, 3 point, or spring suspension to absorb torsion, in my opinion.
 

ckouba

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Yep, already have the Haynes book. Ulrich's is on my Christmas list and if it doesn't show up under the tree, I will put it there myself.

You're going with a steel skeleton then, with panels adhered or riveted in for the actual wall?
 

Reworked LMTV

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Yep, already have the Haynes book. Ulrich's is on my Christmas list and if it doesn't show up under the tree, I will put it there myself.

You're going with a steel skeleton then, with panels adhered or riveted in for the actual wall?
Correct. Attached with Sikaflex.
 

Reworked LMTV

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IMHO get a taller ambulance box and gut it (or use as is). Can't beat the strength and weight. Probably take you less time over all and it will be much stronger.
I looked at this. Everyone has different needs. If you do part-time warm region tours only, this is a nice way to make an RV. If you do a 4 season RV full-time, avoid this type of build. Thermal bridging issues will lead to condensation and mold. It is a huge issue and PITA. Once you get mold, you have to yank everything out and start over. The built-in's are really nice in ambulances, but many would have to heavily modify heavily to get adequate space and layout.
 

coachgeo

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I looked at this. Everyone has different needs. If you do part-time warm region tours only, this is a nice way to make an RV. If you do a 4 season RV full-time, avoid this type of build. Thermal bridging issues will lead to condensation and mold. It is a huge issue and PITA. Once you get mold, you have to yank everything out and start over. The built-in's are really nice in ambulances, but many would have to heavily modify heavily to get adequate space and layout.
so far there has been zero issues reported by anyone with mold from all the builds and users been in contact with over last nearly three years. Many Many use them up north in ski country so not sure where you get the insulation points. Agree about if one wants to really set up with custom interior it would take work to gut it (which would allow for redo of insulation as well) .... but so would building out your own....

Main benefit is the "structural" and skinning is done already and it meets/exceeds most Expedition Habitat bodies in strength. Second benefit if one is not so inclined to "need" customized interior- aka- willing to make existing interior work for them.... then one is 3/4 done since wiring and cabinets already exist thus it is more like... updating a kitchen compared to building a new house.

just a .02 for Ckouba to consider.
 

Reworked LMTV

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so far there has been zero issues reported by anyone with mold from all the builds and users been in contact with over last nearly three years. Many Many use them up north in ski country so not sure where you get the insulation points. Agree about if one wants to really set up with custom interior it would take work to gut it (which would allow for redo of insulation as well) .... but so would building out your own....

Main benefit is the "structural" and skinning is done already and it meets/exceeds most Expedition Habitat bodies in strength. Second benefit if one is not so inclined to "need" customized interior- aka- willing to make existing interior work for them.... then one is 3/4 done since wiring and cabinets already exist thus it is more like... updating a kitchen compared to building a new house.

just a .02 for Ckouba to consider.
Interesting points Geo. I understand what you are saying.

Quotes from Ulrich Dolde:

"Standard shelters which can be found ex army, border guards, police, fire
brigades and humanitarian organisations, and secondhand refrigerated
containers have a clear price advantage making them a good choice for those
who have limited funds and are happy with the predetermined dimensions.
However, don’t forget that you are likely to invest both time and money in an
option burdened with a number of disadvantages:
• Fixed dimensions.
• Most shelters are prone to thermal bridges unless these are modified with
a considerable amount of work.
• Secondhand refrigerated containers run the risk of the insulating foam
having absorbed water.
• Normally heavier than custom built cabins.
• An increase in compromise leads to a decrease in value when you want to
sell it.
Anyone who can and wishes to afford it, is generally far better off with a
custom built solution suited to his own personal requirements and designed
around the vehicle of choice. Disregarding the occasional home brew cabins
made of wood, I want to compare the two popular alternatives available for
the main structure: aluminium and GRP sandwich panels."

"Ormocar chooses GRP reinforcing profiles as opposed to aluminium or
stainless steel due to the risk of thermal problems and varying expansion coefficients
that may lead to tension cracks which, over time, would allow
moisture to ingress even though the RG50 PU foam used by Ormocar is
non-absorbing."
 

ckouba

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All the above are valid perspectives, but not relevant to the info I seek (not looking to start a debate over which construction method is best). My objective is to construct an RV which takes advantage of the platform to get my wife and I wherever we want to go with a certain level of hospitality. To put this more in context, we have a 1088 already. I want to do this to it (roughly speaking):

1576515951515.png

The entry may get pushed back up to floor level but it is what I would do if cost and manufacturability were no object. Looking at some of composite places, they are still big bucks once you start adding everything up. I am a DIY type of person, happy to experience the build side of things along with the usage. I can string steel together. I have little experience with composites so my preference would be frame it up.

If there was a place for me to get panels to fit into a skeleton frame based on the above sketch, I'd be all ears. Right now, my known quantity is the steel route.

ReworkedLMTV - I would be interested in knowing what steel components will be used for the skeleton on your concept. Got a camper build thread going yet?

Chris
 

Reworked LMTV

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I've been researching this for 3 years. My design has changed a zillion times. Mostly after talking to people that I would consider experts. If you have not attended the Overlanding Expo, please do so. Ask a lot of questions. Tour the Earthroamers, GXV's, the DIY builds, and investigate your assumptions. Film everything. One size does not fit all. Someone nearing retirement will not want the same vehicle as a highly testosterone'd 20 year old looking to not work and live in their RV after they graduate from college. What is right for you, may not be right for others. Drives me crazy when people don't consider a user's needs, abilities, and finances, and blast off comments about the RV that they have never built or have.

Total composites wants $15k for a boring box with no windows nor doors.

PM me if you want more info.
 

coachgeo

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Interesting points Geo. I understand what you are saying.

Quotes from Ulrich Dolde:

"Standard shelters which can be found ex army, border guards, police, fire
brigades and humanitarian organisations, and secondhand refrigerated
containers....
Most of the above info except a few generalizations fit Ambulance bodies at all. OP just stated he is sold on build one's own so just leaving this for others to gather knowledge from.
 

SausageGuy

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IMHO get a taller ambulance box and gut it (or use as is). Can't beat the strength and weight. Probably take you less time over all and it will be much stronger.
I have noticed the Blue Bunny ice cream trucks have a really nice box on them as they would be hella insulated as well. I have seen some selling cheap on auction sites.
 

coachgeo

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I have noticed the Blue Bunny ice cream trucks have a really nice box on them as they would be hella insulated as well. I have seen some selling cheap on auction sites.
OP has stated he's not interested in retrofit like this. Apologize CKouba steering your thread little to much off topic.
 

Ronmar

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A good site to get ideas from for steel and aluminum builds is Plan B

Look under "S.A.R custom boxes" they have a bunch of pics of their framework. Looks like 1X2 aluminum boxtube for floor, walls and ceiling on about 16" centers? The skin panels look to be a mix of bonded to frame and welded seams.
 

Ronmar

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Placed the way they are the framework only makes a 1” wall(R5) with a lot of thermal transfer area thru those tubes. I hope they have an inner wall and structure with a thermal break to increase the thickness/R value...
 
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