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Old 02-23-2014, 11:09 AM   #1
jesusgatos OP
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Go-Go-GatosBros! evolution of the gyspywagon caravan

I've spent the last five years building a monstrosity of a motorhome out of an old deuce and a half, and... it's still not done. Lots of things have happened, and plans have changed. All for the better, I think.




Could have finished this motorhome conversion several times over, but I've spent most of my time and money working on other projects for the last few years. All kinds of different stuff, but helping my brother Robo-Boogie launch GatosBros has been the most consuming.




Robo's 10yrs younger than me. He was probably only 7 or 8 years old when I took him backpacking in Henry Coe for the first time, and he's still scared of man-eating wild boars because of the ghost-stories I told him while we were out there. But he's been my number-one adventure buddy ever since then.




Was living up in Oregon through most of the time he was in highschool though and it sucked to be so far away. Fortunately our parents were cool enough to let him come up to Bend and spend his summer vacations with me. So I took those summers off work and we made the most of that time we had together, riding dirtbikes almost every single day.




Gawddamn we had a lot of fun too. Boogie always went home with a big smile on his face and a broken-ass bike. I mean thoroughly destroyed. He worked at a bike shop through each school year, saving money to come do it again the next summer. Could always count on him to show-up with a mischievous grin and a stack of new tires.




And we went on some epic adventures, often exploring the pacific northwest for weeks at a time, taking off on our dirtbikes with a few things our backpacks and not much of an idea as to where we were going or how we were going to get there. Our folks knew we were out riding and camping, but I don't think they had any idea what kind of misadventures we were really getting into.




Taught him how to read maps and a GPS and we'd take turns navigating, playing follow the leader. Has always been a struggle to keep up with that little fucker, so I spent a lot of time chasing dust-clouds and tire-tracks.




With a range of 150-200 miles, sometimes just trying to make it from one gas station proved to be a lot more challenging than it might seem, especially when we were traveling through remote places like eastern Oregon and parts of Nevada.




We refined our camping style over the years, packing lighter and lighter, learning what we could live without. Seemed like the more we left behind, the more fun we had. But let's be clear, we're not any kind of idealistic minimalists. Down to rough it in order to avoid being loaded like pack-mules, but we like to live well. So we spent a lot of time talking about how nice it would be to have some kind of vehicle to support and facilitate more of these kind of adventures. Something like a mechanical sherpa. A rig would be able to haul all our shit and was capable enough to follow us almost anywhere we might want to go. Mmmm, wouldn't that be nice? So that's what this is all about - the vehicles that get us there, and back.

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Old 02-23-2014, 11:09 AM   #2
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Built this Tacoma a long time ago with those goals in mind, more or less as a dedicated camping rig, moto-hauler, and chase/support truck. Spent a lot of time road-tripping and wheeling and camping out of that truck, and it's served us well. Been down to Baja with it a bunch of times and it's perfect for those kind of trips.




Our parents were (and still are) adamantly opposed to the idea of me taking my little brother south of the border, but Rob's been rallying the shit out of the Tacoma up in Chico for the last few years. Maybe a little too hard if you ask me. haha. Our little red Tacoma is pretty close to perfect when you want to travel fast and light, but it's still not a very big backpack. That's why I gave it to Rob when I decided that I wanted to build something that I could live in full-time. Love that he's having so much fun with it.



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Old 02-23-2014, 11:10 AM   #3
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Don't think it came as a shock to anyone when Rob decided to jump on the gypsy bandwagon and build a motorhome. He's almost finished with college now, we've been talking about this forever, and he's been watching me build a motorhome for almost as long. So he bought an M932A2 last year, shortly after I decided to switch gears and swap the M109 motorhome box over onto a 5-ton. Caught some shit for trying to pull it with the Tacoma too!a




We actually had to sell the first 5-tons we bought to raise some money to put into GatosBros, but we've bought some more trucks since then. Quite a few of them. We've got a bunch of cargo trucks and tractors and an M936A2 wrecker.




Explained some of the reasons why I made the jump from a deuce over to the 5-ton here. Basically - these M939-series trucks are better in almost every way. They're more powerful, easier to drive, quieter, and more comfortable than a deuce and a half. Incredible machines, and an unbelievable value at the prices we're paying for them. 8.3L Cummins turbo-diesel engines, 5spd Allison automatic transmissions, power-steering, air-brakes, CTIS and 49" tall radial super-single tires on bead-locked wheels, etc.




The hightop trucks are especially cool. Know they're a little weird looking, but that's because the hightops cabs that are built around death-proof rollcages. Seriously, the cab is constructed almost entirely out of some kind of 1/4" stainless steel plate, on top of a very stout rollcage. These were not retrofitted or built around existing sheetmetal. They were fabricated from scratch, in the way that we might build a competition-quality tube-chassis vehicle, at a cost of approximately $40,000 per cab. The whole thing ends up weighing approximately 1050lbs more than a standard 5-ton cab. They've also got some other really nice upgrades, like an all-new and improved dash layout, super-nice air-ride seats, and a gun-ring built into the hardtop (also built out of 1/4" steel plate). Oh, and they were designed to be IED-resistant too. Obviously this was before the advent of the V-hulls we see in newer military vehicles, but it's still pretty cool. My brother tracked down the manufacturer of these cabs and found out that they only made 500 of them, and another 150 cabs that never got installed. Guess the military moved on before these went into full-scale production, so there aren't many examples of what was destined to become the A3 version of these trucks. We've got seven of these hightop M923A2's, and they're almost brand new. Super-fresh rebuilds. If you can find one, buy it. Will cost you at least 2-4 times what a regular A2 truck is selling for, but if you ask me, they're worth every penny and then some.


Pretty impressive, right?




Standard 5-ton cab-mount:




Hightop 5-ton cab-mount:




Subframe that supports the cab/rollcage/floorpan:




Revised/updated dash layout:

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Old 02-23-2014, 11:11 AM   #4
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Rob's not looking to get into any big projects right now, so think he's just going to buy some kind of camper to throw in the back of his truck. My M019 box has been pretty close to finished for a while, and the only reason it hasn't been painted is that until very recently, didn't have a truck to put it on, so didn't know what color to paint it.




Eventually, it's pretty likely that all our trucks are going to end up with 5th wheel tractor plates that will make it easy-ish to swap around all kinds of different beds and motorhome boxes between trucks. First saw that idea here (there's a lot of room for improving on the examples shown). The mounting surface for the articulating 5-ton military 5th wheel tractor plate is 12 5/8" above the framerails, and the underside of a cargo bed is 12" above the framerails. Only problem is that the 5th wheel plate is a little wider than the framerails, so would have to cut-out a section of the subframe out and rebuild it to clear the 5th wheel plate. No big deal though, and when it's all said and done, think I can keep the cargo bed within 1-2" of the stock height.




Which would actually work out really well, because the stock 14.00 tires on the 5-tons rub the underside of the cargo bed when the suspension is fully compressed anyway. Would be an even bigger issue if we decide to run 16.00 (53" tall) tires on any of the trucks.




Have also been crawling around under these trucks, trying to figure out how difficult it might be to center-mount a winch in one of these trucks. Looks like I could mount a winch in between the framerails at the rear of the truck, then run the winch cable to the back of the truck, around a pulley, and back to the front of the truck, using a few more pulleys to assist with the routing. Eliminating one of the winches would shave some more weight, and removing the front-mounted winch would reduce the overall length and maintain approach angle of a non-winch truck.

Ideally, at least one of these trucks will be outfitted with some sort of knuckleboom too. Probably mounted right behind the spare tire rack. If the knuckleboom takes-up less than 2ft of bed-space, would still have enough room to fit a 12ft cargo bed/box with the same amount of overhang as the stock cargo bed.

Disclaimer: All these plans are subject to change. Think we're going to start by building one build super-truck and see how that goes. These trucks are pretty awesome as-is, and while I'm sure we'll end up making a bunch more modifications, you can bet we'll be using them in the meantime. Rob's already got one up in Chico and he drove it all the way down to race the King of the Motos.

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Old 02-23-2014, 11:11 AM   #5
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After I gave the Tacoma to my brother, I picked-up an old astrosafari to haul my wolfpack around in. That worked out pretty well for a while, but was about six inches too short to haul dirtbikes (without compressing the shit outta the front suspension) and figured that if I can't fit dirtbikes in a van, might as well be driving a station wagon. Considered cutting the roof off and high-topping it, but decided that if I was going to build an astrosafari, it ought to be 4WD.




So put it up for sale and replaced it with an allroad. On paper it was almost perfect, but in reality, not so much. Have had it for almost exactly a year now, and put about 10,000 miles on it. Mostly trouble-free, to be fair. It's awfully cruisey, fast and way more luxurious than anything else I've owned, but the fuel economy is abysmal and these things are way too temperamental. Probably the last vehicle I'd want to have to work on in the middle of nowhere, and it's way too fragile. Surprisingly capable off-road though. Consistently impressed with where I'm able to take this thing. Something like a 4Runner would still make a lot more sense though.




What I'd really like to be driving is something like this, a small diesel-powered tube-chassis pickup truck.




A few years ago I had an opportunity to design and build an FJ80-based 4-seater truggy for a client at Pacific Fabrication. Was given complete freedom to create whatever I wanted and it's still my all-time favorite of all the vehicles I've ever built.




But I'm way too busy right now to design and build something like that from myself. So I've been talking to Drew about reworking his Ibex chassis to create a more utilitarian version of his chassis kit. He's a really talented engineer and I think it's pretty likely we'll end up working together on this project. Hopefully sooner than later.




In the meantime, I'm rebuilding my great grandpa Blackmore's worktruck, which is a pretty straightforward project. All I'm doing is swapping the '66 Chevy cab over onto an M1031 chassis (that's basically just an extra heavy-duty military version of a 4WD 1-ton Chevy truck), and restoring/modifying the old workbed that my Blackmore built. It's sort of a present to MommaGatos, and it'll also serve as a family ranch truck and another adventuremobile. For example, it's highly likely that this is the vehicle Robo-Boogie and I will end up driving down to South America.




We purchased an S250 shelter that will be outfitted a like a very basic slide-in truck camper, but way more rugged and secure.




Also putting together a little trailer to tow behind these smaller trucks. It's built on an M101A3 chassis, and we're using the aluminum utility box that we pulled off the M1031. Should make for a super-useful toolbox/toybox, large enough to carry a couple dirtbikes and all our gear. Doghouse too.

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Old 02-23-2014, 11:12 AM   #6
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Old 02-23-2014, 11:13 AM   #7
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Old 02-23-2014, 11:43 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jesusgatos View Post
The hightop trucks are especially cool.//
They have a nickname in the Army, at least the 80's Army.

"Whorehouses."
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Old 02-23-2014, 06:21 PM   #9
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(they didn't have those in the 80's)
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Old 02-24-2014, 08:40 AM   #10
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(they didn't have those in the 80's)
Very well could be. I was in a line unit and we didn't see them often. We had a couple of M109 shop van versions about like this, and some apparently unit-built versions.


We called any truck with an enclosure on the back a whorehouse, since it seemed an enviably comfortable option to sleeping inside or on top of an armored vehicle and was attached to a headquarters unit, which had better coffee (+) and field-grade officers (-).

Anyway, they are very capable for a wheeled cargo vehicle, good luck with your project(s).
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Old 02-24-2014, 10:26 AM   #11
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Oh, gotcha! I was referring to our M923A2's with the rollcages as hightops because there's no official designation for them. Have heard other people call them frankentrucks. But yeah, the M109's are pretty neat. Have had a lot of fun with mine.
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Old 02-24-2014, 10:52 PM   #12
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Have you considered bolting down a travel trailer, minus the axle and tongue, to the frame, or welding it, and still have enough room or back for the bikes.
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Old 02-24-2014, 11:33 PM   #13
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Absolutely. I've already built the motorhome box for my truck, but Rob's on the hunt. Looking at cheap slide-in cabover campers, smaller bumper-pull trailers, whatever he can fit in the 14ft long bed. Emphasis on cheap. Easy enough to upgrade later, and we're stretching ourselves pretty thin trying to make all this shit happen.
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Old 02-27-2014, 07:55 PM   #14
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We bought an old military surplus M270A1 trailer today. 50ft long (40ft main deck) with tandem dual axles. Weighs 17,500lbs and it's rated for 40,000lbs. No idea what kind of condition it's in. Little bit of a gamble, but we're hoping it pays off. Been looking for a while and this is about as much trailer as we can afford right now.

Bought this trailer primarily to haul shipping containers, thinking that's how I want to tackle the whole mobile workshop thing. Really like the idea of being able to set two twenty footers a distance apart, and add a roof and end-walls to create a makeshift garage/workspace. Obviously not going to take this setup with us everywhere. This is more of a basecamp kinda thing. Still planning on building a smaller workshop trailer to travel with, and the shipping containers will serve as semi-secure storage while we're gone.

Trailer modifications might include turning the gooseneck into a stepdeck that we can drive trucks up onto so we can haul more than one 5-ton at a time. Weight is a concern though. Not sure how that's all going to add-up. Could maybe add some kind of a tag-axle? Will almost certainly add a winch of some kind, and ramps. Also tempted to throw one of our S250 shelters up on the front of it so we can register this thing as an RV!







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Old 02-28-2014, 04:43 AM   #15
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Holy crapfull of awesomeness, that rules.

I'll never be allowed to have one of those but I'm glad you are
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