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Old 02-23-2016, 10:06 PM   #1
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Default New to the truck conversion world.

I'm new to this forum and to the truck conversion world. I've been looking at totterhomes for a couple yrs now. I pull a goose neck trailer with a 2500 Chevy truck to mud events and quite a few car show on a regular basis. I have felt for the last year or so that it's time to upgrade to a larger tow truck. We camp just about everywhere we go with a pop up camper. We also drag our RZR and ranger everywhere. Typically that's three trucks and three trailers. A lot of stuff to be hauling down the interstate, not to mention the amount of fuel I've spent doing so. To streamline our caravan I've decided to build a totterhome my self. I have just purchased a 98 international 4700 with a Dt466 in front of an Alison automatic trans. It currently has a 27ft box on the back. After looking at it and throwing a tape measure around it I believe I want to convert it into a 14ft box with a bunk over the cab. Now to the questions. Does it make more sense to use the existing box ( it is a Morgan built box with composite walls) or frame and build one from scratch? If building one from scratch, what would the materials of choice be. 2x2" 14g box tubing with aluminum walls????? What should the wall thickness be? What is the average height of the interior? Is there somewhere on the forum that maybe someone did a layout on demensions with a material list?
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Old 02-24-2016, 06:16 AM   #2
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Hello and welcome to the site! Sounds like an exciting project you have planned. Hopefully, someone knowledgeable will be along soon to discuss your questions. Best of luck with your conversion!
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Old 02-24-2016, 08:55 AM   #3
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Building the necessary structure for an attic is going to be tough with an frp box. On a positive note. you can find many older u haul boxes that are 26 ft and already have an attic. Then you can sell yours.
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Old 02-24-2016, 05:12 PM   #4
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Well the plan is (after thinking about it all day) is to sell the frp box off and build one from scratch. It seems like cutting up that particular box up would be more headaches then it's worth.
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Old 02-25-2016, 05:59 AM   #5
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Maybe to lead you another way....
I considered what I think you are thinking.
Smaller box for the people with an open deck for the toys, like an electrical/plumbing supply delivery truck(forklift h heavy stuff of off the back of the open deck).
Then I thought,hmmm I just love working on a quad in the dark/rain/cold/sun. Why not keep the 27ī box, add a wall with a sealed door at the 14'mark.
The toys are locked up, there's hooks on the wall for jackets/waders/helmets. Boots stay out of the living area. Tools have a place and I didn't have to fix that busted tie rod we towed over a mile in the rain outside on a cheesegrater expanded metal deck while my buddy held a flashlight and a tarp :-\ not like I've done that before..........
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Old 02-25-2016, 08:09 AM   #6
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that is a thought, and a good idea. i need to pull a gooseneck trailer with it. so i kinda need the totter bed.
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Old 02-25-2016, 08:29 AM   #7
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I really respect your ambition. And I'm guessing you are highly skilled otherwise you wouldn't even consider this build. But, have you done your homework? What you are intending to do is a huge project. Many people have done this and later wished they hadn't. Now, many have done it and are happy too. I would suggest you sit down with paper, pencil, and calculator. Then do tons of figuring. When you come up with what you think is going to be your final cost, double that. Then figure out how long it will take you. Then double that. Now you're going to be close. Now, go scour Race, Drag cars, Trailers and Engines for sale | RacingJunk Classifieds . Pretty sure you're going to be able to find what you want for less than it will cost you to build. I'm also leary of the truck you bought being able to handle the demands. Those were built for around town delivery trucks weren't they? Not over the road long haulers.

I'm sorry if I'm too negative. Part of it is the fact that I have almost no skills myself. I also watch those adds on racingjunk and constantly see rigs being offered for pennies on the dollar compared to building. I really hope for the best for you and don't want to offend. Just want to suggest this as a viable option.
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Old 02-25-2016, 09:43 PM   #8
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Welcome!

I agree with Bob, with one exception, double your cost estimate, and then TRIPLE your time estimate. Not to talk you out of it, I did my (small) build, and most of the guys on this forum have done the same. Just know what you are getting your self into. If it is because you love to build your own, more power to you. If you think it is to save money, probably not so much. It is not the big ticket items that get you, it is the hundred trips to home depot for screws and wood and glue and cabinet hardware and carpet and welding supplies and on and on and on.
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Old 02-26-2016, 02:15 PM   #9
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i don't take offense to any suggestions. that's why i joined the forum is to get good feed back and opinions. talking to others always sheds light on a subject. I have been looking at racing junk for a about two yrs now. I told a friend of mine the other day that i may want to have my head examined for wanting to do this lol. I own and opperate a custom hotrod and fab shop and i love building stuff myself. As far as time frame i figured if i started this spring, i more then likely will not get to enjoy it until next summer. before i start on it i thought that I would put projected cost together. Maybe share it on the this thread and you guys can tell me if you feel I've left anything out.
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Old 02-27-2016, 07:01 PM   #10
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I'm thinking the MDT is not gonna be to your liking. The DT466 is a good engine, if you dont mind the o-ring cylinder liners that normally go bad. And the Allison is likely a 542, ok but no overdrive or lockup converter. Your likely to spend a lot of money on this, I'd go with a HDT.
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Old 02-27-2016, 08:32 PM   #11
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I agree with kulas44. Although I love my Topkick, it is head and shoulders above my old dually in handling, braking and space, I regret not going with an hdt and am scheming that move now. I just don't want to start over from scratch again. I wish I had started with an hdt in the first place. This is one of those times that bigger IS better. Also an hdt based conversion is likely to have more resale value in the future, the biggest market for larger trucks set up to tow is the big 5th wheel rv market, and those guys are all running hdt's, mostly volvos.
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Old 02-28-2016, 02:31 PM   #12
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I've seen a lot of totters based on that chassis. I just assumed it would work for my needs. I also don't have much in it. I traded an enclosed trailer I bought of a bankruptcy sale. I got the trailer for a song. Would a manual trans been a better route?
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Old 02-29-2016, 11:23 AM   #13
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Generally a manual transmission will hurt when you go to sell it. Not that many people are inclined to actually shift anymore.........
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Old 02-29-2016, 04:15 PM   #14
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Given that you do not have much actual money invested, you need to evaluate your time to build vs selling this truck and upgrading to a finished or bigger truck. I totally understand the thought of doing this and having your business, so you have the skills and ability along with the tools to do the job. I do hot rods as hobby and would rather work on them than build the T/C. I guess depends on your time and finances.

Concur with the suggestion that a bigger truck is going to be better. Also the lack of OD will hurt highway cruising speed and mpg. I tried starting with a class 6 medium duty Super C, and then upgraded to full class 8 conversion. Could have saved time and been ahead going with the bigger T/C first. Would not go back to medium duty chassis.

A real engine brake is nice, exhaust brake is not as good. Not sure if your DT466 has one? Bigger engine allows for better speeds up hills and then safer down with an engine brake (or exhaust brake as better than nothing). You will not have much mpg difference with bigger engine, since majority of the time the engine is making same power for a given situation. Having reserve power is nice.

Nothing wrong with manual trans, but do agree it can potentially hurt resale. The big truck "automatic" trans are really just computer controlled geared manuals - the computer does the shifting. You may find a big Allison and torque converter, but more than likely it is a real geared trans that just has computer controlled shifting and has a std dry clutch. The early autoshift had clutch pedal for starting and stopped, then not used once moving. Later more full autoshift do not even have clutch pedal in the cab. Kind of like driving a conventional automatic trans, but slower shifts.
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