Building the ultimate support truck (and family camper)

Discussion in 'Australia' started by seancampbell, Jun 24, 2018.

  1. seancampbell

    seancampbell Been here awhile

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    After posting a couple of photos with my truck in the background and fielding lots of complements and questions, I thought I would start a thread to share the journey of building the ultimate support truck.

    A bit of background:

    I have a group of mates who do a semi-regular, yearly adventure ride. Places like, Cape York, Simpson Desert, VIC High Country. In our group we are luck to have our mate Nugget, who has a 4x4 Mitsubishi Canter truck and who's dad drives it as our support truck. I have seen this truck conquer everything from rocky mountains and slick red clay to Simpson Desert sand dunes.

    This got me thinking.... Maybe I should get one and build it into a camper so I can take my wife and kids out to experience the things we see on our dirt bikes. And so, the idea was born.
    #1
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  2. LOFTYBOB

    LOFTYBOB Burning up 98 Octane

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    Following
    #2
    Dukehunt and sidetrack one like this.
  3. seancampbell

    seancampbell Been here awhile

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    I sold my car to fund the project and with being just an average guy with a wife and 2 kids, I had a very limited budget of around $20k. I wanted a 4x4 Mitsubishi Canter dual cab as the base for this project. Being a dual cab meant it could seat 7 (driver + double bench in the front & 4 in the back) but be nice roomy for my family and have the capacity to take others when needed.

    There were a few 4x4 Mitsubishi Canters already decked out as campers for sale but they were too expensive for me, even basic used dual cab 4x4 canters were asking $16k+. I kept scanning all the regular classifieds, watching auction sites and joined a truck based camper forum looking for the right rig. The auction sites look promising with several ex-Rural Fire Service trucks, but they soon got bid up and out of my reach. Then I started spotting ex-NSW Railway trucks hitting the auctions and followed a couple until I was out bid. Just when I was starting to think that this project would never get off the ground I found a truck dealer in Dubbo selling an ex-NSW Railway truck, the same truck I saw on an auction site and assumed I would be out bid, so I never bid on it.

    I rang the dealer and long story short, it was "passed in" at auction due to a couple of mechanical issues. The dealer told me what the issues were and we negotiated back and forth until the truck was mine for the sum of $6,500.
    #3
  4. seancampbell

    seancampbell Been here awhile

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    Now my wife was fully aware of the whole truck build idea as she had seen me sell my car and pour hours into looking online for a truck. I may have romanticised it a bit too much for her with the idea of the family traveling the country together in this fancy, fully kitted out luxury truck. She was very surprised when after dinner one night a big truck turned up and dropped off my truck.

    FG_Before.jpg

    She started crying, and not tears of joy at the sight of a big dirty work truck sitting outside our house!

    Meanwhile, I had half a chubby as I climbed all over it and imagined all the fun I would have transforming this into my..... OUR family camper (ULTIMATE SUPPORT TRUCK)!
    #4
  5. szurszewski

    szurszewski Long timer

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    Damn. You guys have all the cool shit down there. Please continue the thread so us topsiders can continue our jealousy fueled hatred of you.
    #5
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  6. seancampbell

    seancampbell Been here awhile

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    For months during the long search for a truck I had spent time drawing designs, saving photos online, reading truck forums and sourcing suppliers for everything I needed. With the truck now sitting at home... (actually outside home as it didn't fit in the carport and leaked oil like a Land Rover, so the driveway was out of bounds) I stated stripping off what I didn't need and get down to the good stuff.

    I sold off the 2 large tool boxes on the back, unbolted the ROPS bar and drove the truck to SIMS Metal where the steel and hardwood tray was sold for scrap. The weight of just the tray was 1000kg!

    First step was to ditch the truck wheels as I didn't want the Railways wheels and purchase a set of super single 17" steel rims and 37" off road tyres.

    FG_After.jpg
    #6
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  7. Mouse

    Mouse I'm only smelly

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    I could've recommended the perfect doctor but damn sounds like it's way too late!!

    Instead I retire to observe logic overcome good sense :photog(just kidding)
    #7
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  8. LOFTYBOB

    LOFTYBOB Burning up 98 Octane

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    What is the tow rating for that truck? I am looking for something to tow my recently purchased 5th wheel with.
    #8
  9. seancampbell

    seancampbell Been here awhile

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    In the photo above, you can see the massive stock rear leaf spring pack. Driving back from SIMS Metal with a cab-chassis on springs designed for 6000kg was...... scarry, dangerous, painful and funny all at the same time. I purchased a set of custom 4x4 springs from Suspension Supplies Australia(SSA) and had them delivered for the mammoth task of changing them myself. The standard rear spring packs were so heavy that I couldn't lift them!

    The new springs were designed for the weight I wanted and to give as much suppleness as possible for a truck.

    Before I started the project I was in contact with a mechanical engineer and had him on board to help "down grade" the truck to 4500kg GVM, approve and engineer the bigger wheels and suspension, plus a couple of other little things. Luckily for me the engineer liked my project. He actually came to my house to check out the truck once I had it stripped down to a cab-chassis with the bigger wheels and suspension on. He took photos and measurements, we chatted about what I wanted to do and he gave lots of advice. After that he was happy to "oversee" the project via phone and email with photos.

    FramePaint.jpg
    I dragged the family heirloom of a compressor out the front and bought a sand blasting attachment and some media to sandblast the chassis. After it was cleaned up and a few coats of chassis black was applied the project was starting to take shape.
    #9
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  10. seancampbell

    seancampbell Been here awhile

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    Standard GVM is 6, 500 and GCM is 10, 000kg.

    I'll have to check what my downgraded engineers report says for what it is now.
    #10
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  11. seancampbell

    seancampbell Been here awhile

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    When designing a camper to go on the back of a 4x4 Canter you need to take into consideration the fact that the chassis has to twist as part of it's design. Nothing is welded to the chassis rails. Everything is riveted or bolted on so there is a degree of flexibility and less chance of cracking.

    The rear articulation of the rear suspension itself is fairly limited, but when you combine that with the natural and designed twisting of the chassis, the end result is acceptable for the intended use. If you were to "hard mount" a camper or any other tray to the chassis you are limiting the area when the chassis can twist to the area between the cab and the camper (or tray). The end result of that is cracked and broken chassis.

    Thankfully, months of research armed me with the know how to build flexible camper mounts.

    DSC03031.JPG

    The bottom section is made of 'C' channel and bolted to the chassis, while the top section is made out of square tube and welded to the camper sub-frame (blue square tube).

    The design eliminates any fore/aft & left/right movement and the spring allows the chassis limited twist under the camper. Two strips of 25mm custom made polyurethane cover the entire frame rails and replace the small steel spacer in the photo and help distribute the weight of the camper over the entire chassis. The flexible mounts only come into play when off road, when articulation past suspension movement is required.

    The sub-frame is secured with 4 of these mounts.
    #11
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  12. Mouse

    Mouse I'm only smelly

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    Think that twisting problem is an issue for the unimog as well, may be worth looking at how the mog bodies attach.
    #12
  13. seancampbell

    seancampbell Been here awhile

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    Once the sub-frame was mounted, I designed and built the "tray" or floor of my camper. From the start I wanted the finished camper to be the same width as the cab (1995mm) to improve clearance and reduce damage when off road. A basic flat frame was built and FormPly was used to create a flat bed "tray".

    Lights, wheel guards and other such things were quickly bolted on and with engineers report in my hand I went for a Blue slip inspection then registered it as a UTE! (4490kg)
    #13
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  14. seancampbell

    seancampbell Been here awhile

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    Yes, I did study those. They are "hinged" and actually pivot:

    UniMog.jpg

    Too much engineering for a simpleton like me. Plus the spring mounted way is also tried and trusted on many other heavy vehicles.
    #14
    Mouse likes this.
  15. seancampbell

    seancampbell Been here awhile

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    body-mount.jpg

    Another example of spring mounts.
    #15
  16. ferals5

    ferals5 Team black bikes

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    Work down rated a couple to 4500 and they have a GCM of 8000 (defeated the purpose tho because they had less payload than a falcon ute :fpalm). As a side note with the new rules the 4490 can tow more on a 50mm ball than it could when rated 6500.

    the chassis springs are very much tried n true... We've had unimogs and others with pivots but I only see the occasional broken spring mounts on the cheaper builds so for the outlay it's a good choice. :nod
    #16
  17. Paul124ac

    Paul124ac Long timer

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    Following. Love it. Question, are “downgrades” affected by the rule changes as of the first of next month? Stupid bloody thing to change, gunna put many out of business.
    #17
  18. ferals5

    ferals5 Team black bikes

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    catch 22... pick your poison... light vsi6 or heavy vsb6 :lobby

    given the 4500 choice is for a car licence then it is easier imho
    #18
  19. seancampbell

    seancampbell Been here awhile

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    Great question.

    Let's hope I never have to answer it to anyone in authority.


    My truck being 4490kg would come under the Light VSI6, I think my engineers report covers off on all of it. The actual "camper" was built after rego and I would argue that it's just a "slide on" that's bolted on. If push comes to shove I'll just get my engineer to add the camper onto his report.

    My engineer was great and entered all the new info into the RTA (RMS) computer system himself so that when I arrived at the counter with Blue Slip and insurance they just asked for my money. It did help that Mitsubishi Australia offered the Canter in both 4500kg and 6500kg. You just ticked the box you wanted and.... abracadabra.... you had a light or medium weight truck. I phoned Fuso Australia and got hold of the right person who emailed me an official letter stating that my truck, VIN######### was offer for sale in both 4500kg and 6500kg and that it requires not modification to be "downgraded" to 4500kg.
    #19
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  20. seancampbell

    seancampbell Been here awhile

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    Anyhow, back to the build...

    Once registered I wasted no time in starting the camper build. I knew the dimensions I wanted so I knocked up the basic frame and started to get the picture of how it would look.

    Also important was to get a visualisation of the internal space so I could plan the fit out.
    SunnyCorner.jpg

    LOOK.... a bike ^

    You may also see that the rear is sitting low and the front is sitting high. NO, I didn't mix up the front and back springs, it just worked out that way on the first go. SSA, the suspension people were great and with their advice I changed a few things... took a leaf or two out of the front and added a couple of lifting springs to the rear. They even sent parts to me for free to make the changes.
    #20
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