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Old 09-22-2012, 07:55 PM   #1
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Default Meet Moby

Hi, my name is John Beech and we're located in central FL.

I've been reading a lot and recently acquired a truck, which I named Moby because she's large, white, and well . . . whale-like (yes, I name everything). She's got an auxiliary drop axle just forward of the drive wheels, which I rather doubt we'll ever need to use, but they're there and nicely tucked up out of the way.




I hope Moby is a good candidate for conversion. She's a sleeper-cab equipped over-the-road 21' box-truck with a rear roll up door and a Maxxon lift gate. She's what's called an expeditor in the trade. Anyway, Moby has a Caterpillar C10 engine (350hp, I believe), an Eaton 10-speed autoshift, and is equipped with 3.42 gears. She's a Freightliner Century ST built on a Mercedes chassis and how I got her is an interesting story best told in person.

I just had her PMed and the only surprise was what I figured to be a $5 seal on the steering box (where the pitman arm shaft protrudes) plus labor, turned into an $1100 R&R. Otherwise, she seems to be a pretty decent truck and now has a fresh DOT sticker (though I intend to retitle her as a motorhome).

Does anybody have a clue what I can expect variable costs to be, e.g. fuel mileage? I've budgeted for 8 mpg because looking through the fuel computer this is what she's been getting, but that seems awful low compared to what I have heard others on this forum say.

Anyway, conversion plans are pretty basic because we don't intend to develop wanderlust - not in a serious way. E.g. a place to rest our heads, shit, shower, and shave, plus some desktop space and work benches for 2-3 days at a stretch. Basically, I plan to use her to attend a few weekend model helicopter events during the flying season (March-September). I'm thinking a reasonable split will be about 12-14' for living quarters, and the remainder for model workshop. I think I can fit the Sportster back there so as to have wheels for local travel. That, plus maybe the BBQ grill (we'd generally rather eat out, or buy from onsite vendors). Both should fit nicely before unloading to make walk around room in the workshop.

Also, Moby's got bunk beds in the sleeper, but based on the photos below of a 2013 Expediter equipped as compact office (with fold-out bed), I think this space might better be repurposed thusly because after 35 years of marriage, I'm too used to having Lynn in my bed to deal with bunks. Anyway, smart gal that she is, she suggests perhaps a recliner and a flat screen would fit nicely . . . care to lay a bet where I'll find her while I'm chatting with fellow modelers? She's so transparent sometimes!

Anyway, the inside of an empty wooden box is what I have to work with. This isn't a photo of my box, just a better photo than what I have, but you get the idea. One difference, however, is mine has the translucent fiberglass roof and four rows of J-lock rails down the walls instead of three. Meanwhile, I'm thinking a man door and electric steps on the starboard side for normal access aft of the drive wheels.

In closing, does this look like a reasonable foundation/vehicle for my plans? Thoughts?
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Old 09-22-2012, 08:11 PM   #2
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First of all, I name vehicles too. My truck was named by my daughter, Grande Rojo.

I was looking for a Hot Shot/Expediter at first. There are lots of possibilities for this truck.
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Old 09-26-2012, 07:59 PM   #3
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Had a pleasant surprise today when I discovered the 20' box is actually 23' - yipee!
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Old 10-20-2012, 08:58 AM   #4
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Marketing guys, give 'em an inch and they take a foot. My box measures out to 23' inside . . . but it's a 24' box according to the literature - go figure!

I'm not planning on a pass through between the sleeper and the box. Moreover, I am thinking of remodeling the sleeper into an office. This means the box has to be sleeper, workshop, and contain SSS (shit, shower, and shave) facilities. Cooking gets short shrift as we eat out a lot anyway so maybe a microwave and fridge but it's unlikely we install the rest of a kitchen, e.g. cook top or oven. Moreover, I doubt we install two sinks (kitchen and bathroom) because one will do nicely. Anyway, all truck conversions are unique and in our case, no kids or guests means we keep it very informal - just one bed for me and Lynn, and it can fold down form the wall.

In separate threads I have asked questions about:

20KW genset: 20KW generator anyone?
LP Tanks: Looking for an LP tank for my conversion - FL
Toilets: Holy shite Batman, or what to do before splattering the fan!
Tires: 7 brands of tires on my truck!
Potable water: Potable water holding tank
Murphy beds: http://www.liftcoinc.com/product.htm...ft+Folding+Bed

I'm getting close to begin building what I need.
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Old 10-21-2012, 12:23 AM   #5
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Good to know I am not alone. Just bought a 2005 - 24' International box van today. Only difference. I will have a wood shop in back to build 'ukulele and other instruments.

I am tossing around various floor plans, but haven't landed on one yet. I would love to add an attic for sleeping, but I don't know that that is an affordable option. I plan to use the fron 11 ft for living space and the back for my shop. My van also has a lift gate that I thought was a must to lift tools and alternate local transport in and out of van. Keep me posted on your progress and I will do the same.
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Old 10-21-2012, 11:14 AM   #6
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My plans, as I am wont to do, involve keeping it simple. In this case, an open plan largely consisting of a multipurpose room instead one compartmentalized with single purpose rooms.

For example, vice the sleeping arrangements. I cannot under any circumstances foresee building a dedicated bedroom. Or worse, adding the complexity of slides in a desperate attempt to keep it from feeling like what it is . . . a claustrophobic space about the size of a small walk-in closet. Instead, I envision just one dividing wall, which splits the 23' long interior space into a 4' wide bathroom and a 19' foot workshop/bedroom combo. The latter being reconfigured as the need arises.

For example, the forward 4' for a bathroom because nobody but us will be going there. Accessed via a 2' 0" door (standard bathroom door width in most homes), the resulting 48" leaves ample space for a 38" radius corner shower, toilet, and sink. Plus, with careful planning, space for hanging clothes, storing towels, and a microwave (above the toilet). I'm also thinking of placing a 100A electrical panel in the bathroom if there's a place for it.

Along those lines, since the space above a shower is otherwise wasted, I'm comfortable with placing a 95 gallon potable water holding tank above the shower, which leaves 7' clear (higher than I can reach). This maximizes use of the bathroom cube, and hews to my multipurpose principal. Note the term 'cube' because in essence, I am thinking in terms of cubic space like a space station designer versus a traditional architect configuring square footage.

Locating the water tank above the shower is largely driven by consideration of the reduced 'basement' cube available in my particular truck (due to an auxiliary axle). While an obvious concern centers on the 1000 pounds of mass (95 gallons plus tank and structure) mounted high, e.g. posing an increased roll over risk, this is offset by the simple fact the 22,400 pound truck is a) designed to carry 30,000 pounds of cargo, and b) it's not a sports car anyway. Regardless, I'm sanguine about this risk and on balance (pun intended) don't think it's a deciding consideration.

This leaves 19' of box for my workshop/sleeping combo area. Since the one wall has a 2' bathroom door, this leaves space for perhaps a couple of 3' base cabinets on each side. I'm thinking of having the door open outward (against the cabinet) instead of inward. I haven't decided on base cabinets yet because this is also prime real estate for a refrigerator.

Regardless, a Murphy bed is my best idea for sleeping. I've found a queen size mechanism, which when it lets down, does so into the 19' part of the box. In comparison, 19' feels spacious while protruding a mere foot from the wall when stored. In effect, it's the best of both worlds because we maintain a comfortable area in which to maneuver within the workshop while not feeling cramped at night. Anyway, this seems like a smarter use of the available volume than a single purpose bedroom.

Of course, others will have different needs. For example folks building a truck to carry a race car may need to accommodate a crew. Similarly, folks traveling with a passel of children may need to sleep 12. However, Moby is being made to order for the two of us. Thus, sleeping in the 'workshop' is really no hardship whatsoever.

Two additional thoughts. First, I have a 6' sleeper cab, which I'm thinking of converting into an office. Second, since the truck is in essence a humongous air compressor, I figure routing an air line into and around the box means I can use compact air-powered tools, like a die grinder instead of a Dremel. This also means I can carry an impact wrench for the times I need to remove a flat.

Meanwhile, since I have an auxilliary axle, I believe I can take advantage of it. For example, I can lower it onto stacked 2x12 boards to, in effect, raise the drive wheels. This means it's a built in jack to facilitate changing same flat. Add a 5T bottle jack and I can do the deed to the steer tires also - without a service call. Moreover, I figure routing an air line isn't limited to inside the box but may also be routed around the box, which means I can carry an impact wrench for the times I need to remove a wheel.

By the way, did I mention my truck is equipped with a squat option, which lowers the rear axle as much as 6 inches? Thus, by thinking laterally, the auxiliary axle also gives me the means of leveling the truck because placing boards beneath just the low side makes it easy to level the cab side to side, which is less expensive than installing leveling jacks and probablty 90% as useful. Anyway, this is why I am loathe to remove the axle altogether and sell it off.

Finally, while I have yet to lay the plan out on paper, e.g. to determine exactly where a television fits, plus maybe a couple of windows, and of course, an entrance door I have begun by dealing with the biggies. E.g. where to sleep, poop, shower, and of course where to place my workbench as I build out the truck to suit my my intended purpose. E.g. attend model flying events with some semblance of comfort and style - a few times a year - without breaking the bank.
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Old 10-21-2012, 12:50 PM   #7
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FYI - Not sure if you are worried about complying with any codes, but National Electrical Code (NEC) does not allow an electrical panel to be installed with a bathroom. The code sections would be 230-70(a) and 240-24(e) This is mainly because the panel would be to close in proximity to wet locations. (This applies even if you use a weather proof panel). any electrical outlets need to be GFCI protected if within 6' of a water source also.

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Old 10-21-2012, 02:32 PM   #8
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Do those codes apply to a motorhome? Something to think about regardless, thanks for the heads up!
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Old 10-21-2012, 09:41 PM   #9
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I can't vouch for other states, but out here in Washington, Rv's fall under the NFPA 1192 Standard for recreational vehicles. Section 4.4 Electrical requirements sends you to the NFPA 70 (National electrical code) chapter 551 Recreational vehicles for all electrical requirements. There is not a direct mention in that chapter for having to comply with the panel location requirements of 230 and 240, but the inspectors I deal with out here consider it a gray area and will not permit the panel to be in a bathroom. Even if you are not getting inspections and such, it is never a bad idea to comply with codes (especially electrical and life safety). Being as compliment as possible can help down the road if there is an accident or an insurance claim.

Once I finally get mine off of the drawing board and actually build, I will have it inspected by the local agency and get a placard to show that it was built to code and inspected should I ever decide to sell it. That is probably more hassle and work than most wish to take but my type A personality drives me to it...

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Old 10-21-2012, 09:56 PM   #10
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In that case you may as well draw plans, get an engineer to certify them, and then pull a permit. They're funny about wanting everything done in the proper order, don't you know?
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Old 10-22-2012, 09:50 AM   #11
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That is my plan lol... Every piece will be modeled in the computer, weight accounted for and a stress analysis run on the steel framework. I am the type that wants to know exactly how everything will go before I start. I do have the advantage of having all the software and engineering tools available to me, and I deal with the state agency that does the plan review on modular buildings and RV's daily. That combined with waiting for the last kid to be pushed out of the nest before i can dedicate funds to the project should give me lots of time to get the design right (hopefully) before I actually get to cut steel...
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Old 10-22-2012, 10:33 AM   #12
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It's better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. It's why I hesitate to grant veto power to a bureaucrat. Anyway, while I too am an engineer, some of the best engineers I've met didn't have a degree but relied instead on a modicum of common sense and experience, which is a tough combo to beat.
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Old 10-22-2012, 03:33 PM   #13
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If anyone is curious, I'll save you the trouble of joining just to read the NFPA 1192 regs.
NFPA 1192: Standard on Recreational Vehicles

On page 1192-5 they basically state the regs apply to new construction recreational vehicles manufactured after Sept 2011. Since my truck is a 2001 and I'm not an RV manufacturer, and considering the regs aren't retroactive, I rather suspect they simply wouldn't apply (presuming they apply in my county/state in the first place). Anyway, for $47 you can buy the PDF, which you can print, or for $39 you may buy their printed copy, or you may simply read it online for free. Here's the table of contents.

Chapter 1 Administration
1.1 Scope
1.2 Purpose
1.3 Application
1.4 Retroactivity
1.5 Equivalency
1.6 Use of International System of Units (SI)

Chapter 2 Referenced Publications
2.1 General
2.2 NFPA Publications
2.3 Other Publications
2.4 References for Extracts in Mandatory Sections

Chapter 3 Definitions
3.1 General
3.2 NFPA Official Definitions
3.3 General Definitions
C
hapter 4 General Requirements
4.1 Differing Standards
4.2 U.S. Federal Regulations
4.3 Exterior Labels
4.4 Electrical Requirements

Chapter 5 Fuel Systems and Equipment
5.1 Quality of Design and Installation
5.2 Propane Systems
5.3 Propane Piping Systems
5.4 Fuel-Burning Appliances
5.5 Venting, Ventilation, and Combustion Air
5.6 Marking Appliances (Installation and Operation Features)
5.7 Circulating Air Systems for Heating (Other Than Automotive Type)
5.8 Air Conditioning (Other Than Automotive Type)
5.9 Consumer Information
5.10 Gasoline or Diesel Fuel Systems.
5.11 Propane Vehicle Propulsion Engine Installations

Chapter 6 Fire and Life Safety Provisions
6.1 Interior Finish and Textile or Film Materials
6.2 Recreational Vehicle Means of Escape
6.3 Fire Detection Equipment
6.4 Other Considerations
6.5 Automatic Generator Starting System (AGS) Requirements
6.6 Vehicular Requirements.
C
hapter 7 Plumbing Systems
7.1 Plumbing System
7.2 Plumbing Fixtures
7.3 Water Distribution Systems
7.4 Drainage Systems
7.5 Waste Holding Tanks
7.6 Vents and Venting
7.7 Plumbing System Tests

Annex A Explanatory Material
Annex B Propane Pipe Sizing
Annex C Product Listing Standards
Annex D Informational References
Index

Anyway, using these regs as guidelines as I make modifications over time may save me trouble down the road, which I think was your intent. It's obvious someone put a lot of thought into these so I thank you for sharing the information.

Unfortunately, this is exactly how government grows. Worse, it puts a bureaucrat in a position to interfere with your private property rights. I'm saddened these things aren't offered as best practice guidelines for citizens to use as they see fit. E.g. use them, don't use them, it's up to you but you're gonna get sued anyway, so why interject the bureaucrats?

We don't need more government regulations!

Cheers,
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Old 10-22-2012, 05:07 PM   #14
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Yes it was my intent just to let you know what was out there and available. how much of it folks want to incorporate is up to them, besides it makes for some good reading just before bed..lol I have to agree 100% on the excess of the bureaucrats, I have well over 6 feet of various code books on my shelf, all with the intent to keep us all safe, and a whole lot of rule makers employed. Some of it makes a lot of sense and will help to build a safe product, but much of it is mission ridiculous. We have national codes that have been amended by each of the states and sometimes by the local cities... I deal with designing buildings for many of the western states, and Canada and just keeping track of the differences can almost be a full time job.

As far as year of construction, out here they go by the date the coach was built, not the year of the chassis. I still don't think as a home built unit you will run into any issues either way..

Looking forward to seeing pictures of your progress.

Dave
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Old 10-22-2012, 05:50 PM   #15
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We face the same issues with airplanes. I'm not allowed to install a modern autopilot in my 1954 Bonanza. Instead, I have to install one designed in the 1950 or 60s because those are the units the airplanes were certified with back in the day.

Hence, I have an option of spending $15,000 for a vastly outdated design - complete with discrete components like resistors, diodes, and capacitors in parallel/series circuits along with heavy old clunker servo motors . . . versus 21st century microprocessor based designs, which are equipped with ultra lightweight brushless motors many times faster, stronger, and with better centering. Worse, the old units depend on spinning mechanical gyros instead of piezo crystals. It's almost like insisting you design using a vintage HP 15C scientific calculator versus a modern day workstation with Solidworks.

Anyway, a modern day autopilot weigh a fraction of what an antique autopilot weighs, consumes a very small fraction of the current, and offers many more features, along with a huge step forward in reliability . . . for about $2500. Yes, 1/6th the price!

Unfortunately, bureaucrats at the FAA (Feds Against Aviation) won't allow it without a horribly expensive certification process, which small manufacturers simply cannot afford. This, despite the fact these systems are installed every day in home-built airplanes, which have the same performance capabilities and share the same airspace - go figure. In fact, the most popular home-builder's system is designed bt the dsame fellow who designed the antique autopilot in my airplane and he refuses to ever certify a system. Says it's too much trouble. This means, of course, he cannot sell his system to about 3/4 of the available market, which goes to show there;'s a real price being paid every day by American small businesses due to overbearing government regulations.

eEven more sad, since the old style autopilot designs represent a fair fraction of the value of an old airplane, $15,000 against an airplane worth maybe$20,000, e.g. a Cessna 150 made in the 60s, folsk cannot reasonably afford to install onet because they can never hope to recoup the investment. As a direct consequence, pilots forsake the safety improvements of having an autopilot and do without, which si costing lives year in and year out. The stats bear this out in a category called CFIT - controlled flight into terrain, and loss of control due to disorientation, e.g. getting into clouds and losing situational awareness or just making a dumb mistake. Senseless as an autopliot often could have saved the aircraft and the lives. Heavy sigh.

We somehow have to get government out of our lives. I understand it's all been done with good intentions, but it's simply taken on a life of its own. It's destroying what it means to be a freedom loving American.
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Old 10-23-2012, 05:59 PM   #16
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I also agree with following the standards (within reason) when homebuilding. Things like no electrical panel where the shower water can soak it just make sense whether the government makes a rule or not. Or having the propane tank in a compartment sealed from the interior as opposed to sitting on the floor connected by a hose (don't laugh, I've sen it)
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Old 10-23-2012, 08:01 PM   #17
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Guidelines are OK with me. A prudent fellow will follow them.

However, I disagree completely with them being forced on folks. If I'm determined to go to Hell in a handbasket, it's my business and nobody else's. The problem, as I see it, arises when folks think they know better what's best for me when in reality it's none of their business.

The road to Hell is indeed paved with good intentions.
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Old 11-12-2012, 08:52 PM   #18
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Back to things related to conversions, I've begun shelling out hard earned shekels for the bits required to make Moby into what I need. E.g. doors, shower stall, and some lumber. Been busy planning out what I will do. This is fun!
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Old 04-09-2013, 09:33 AM   #19
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It's been a while since I've updated the group on Moby. Since my last report we have been working on converting the box into something better suited for a team support vehicle (for my model helicopter business). The work involved in converting it from a cargo carrier, thus far, has largely tilted toward elbow grease versus money.

This has involved sandblasting rusty things, sanding the wood deck, along with paint, and wall covering. These efforts are the foundation for what follows, e.g. the fixtures and displays. Fixtures being things like aluminum wall lockers (polishing aluminum is both laborious and dirty), as well as work tables.

Next up, I have to build a bulkhead (wall) to create a small a private area (for a shower and toilet). While this reduces the the 24' long box by 4', I have no choice because Lynn abhors the chemical toilets (Port-'o-Johns), which event organizers typically offer - in short, she's insisted.

I also have yet to wire the box for lighting and power (via a generator) as well as plumbing, communications, and entertainment. However, the reason I've left this for later is the first order of business has been to strive to figure out 'how' we want to use the space. Moreover, since the electrical will be exposed (within metal conduit), leaving it for later has no immediate negative repercussions. Ditto the plumbing.

All this has been eating into my spare time, but our flying season is cranking up (since few want to stand in the middle of field flying toy models when it's cold, windy, and wet) and I now find myself a bit behind on this project. However, the planning and execution have been both interesting and fun (if I discount the sore muscles).

Anyway, if you've been following the Moby build, consider yourself updated!
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Old 04-09-2013, 10:40 AM   #20
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Looks good! How long did it take to train your dog to hold the end of the work piece? I also see the hands of people polishing aluminum. Keep up the good work and please keep the pictures coming.
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