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Old 01-25-2013, 08:31 AM   #1
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Default Thinking of starting with a reefer

I have found a 20 foot International 4700 reefer with only 70k miles and the dt466e engine, 4 spd auto.

It has a rollup rear door, aluminum walls and floor, kemlite insulation (whatever that is), and a side door. I would change out the rear rollup door for swing barn doors and add a full width 8 foot ramp since this will be a motor garage for our dirt bikes.

It seems a huge start to begin with a refrigerated truck, saving thousands in materials and hours of labor. I also like the aluminum vs wood interior. Why do more people not do this?

We would remove the refrigeration unit and build a 5 foot overhang (class C rv style) out of fiberglass or aluminum sheet. This would be the main permanent bed.

Since the whole unit is insulated, I don't think I would build a walll separating the garage from the living area...the 4 stroke WR250R dirt bikes are not very smelly anyway and it would save some work and space not having a wall and door inside.

My big unknown is how a international 4700 drives in offroad, mud, sand, snow. We want to take this to Alaska and Arizona...but I am not talking about driving in 4 feet of snow, just being able to handle small amounts during the crossover seasons. By offroading I mean dirt roads on BLM land, but not rock climbing or anything. It is a 25,500 GVW truck, but it does have a long 216" wheelbase with a relatively short 20 foot box and 22.5" wheels. This seems it would actually give decent ground clearance and decent exit angle, at least vs a normal class C RV or heaven forbid a low riding class A.

What do you guys think?
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Old 01-25-2013, 03:27 PM   #2
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When I was considering buying a box truck body for my cab chassis as opposed to building, I went to a local truck dealer that had a large supply of used bodies on hand and nosed around in a bunch of them. Both standard and reefer boxes. To me, the reefer boxes all looked very heavy compared to a standard box. I did not personally care for the aluminum floor, it is not flat and the channels are designed more to catch melt off from the cargo and channel it out of the truck, I think you'd end up having to cover that with some sort of wood flooring anyway to make a nice level surface for finish flooring like carpet or linoleum. As to wall insulation, you'd probably be lighter with residential type foam or fiberglass but you would spend time and money to get that done. I was also looking at adding an attic/bunk or buying a body with the attic already in it, and I came to the conclusion after looking at some other conversions that had homebuilt an an attic there was no way to really make that look factory and not just rigged on. So I was leaning towards a furniture body with the attic already in place, but those were hard to find as well.

As to your dirt bikes, some of those reefer bodies I looked at must have been designed as local delivery trucks where they run boxes in and out with a dolly. They had a single 4' swing door on the back, with a long pull out aluminum ramp like you'd find on a uhaul truck. I would think that would be perfect for you, nothing to build, and you could easily run a dirt bike up a 3' wide ramp through the center door, then just slide to either side to tie down.

I ended up giving up on the truck body, and am building instead.

good luck!
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Old 01-26-2013, 09:32 PM   #3
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As far as off road, depending on how the box is mounted (large "U" bolts or rubber mounts) would greatly affect durability. They are really not designed for extreme use, but can be modified to handle the frame flex that occurs off the beaten path.
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Old 01-27-2013, 01:18 AM   #4
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As an owner of the truck you are talking about (my box is slightly larger) I have a couple thoughts.

First, while you do start out 'ahead' by having the insulation already in the walls, you are forgetting something important.. electrical wiring. Unless you are planning on running without it in the box. If you have to start tearing into the walls and ceiling to run wires, might as well just start over. As Dodger stated, residential rigid pink is much lighter and cheaper than the material used in reefers.

As for going off road with a IH4700, I dont recommend it. You might think you have a great deal of ground clearance because the box is so high off the ground. But get under the truck and see how close the rear end is to the ground. Less than 14" off the ground. And you may have a much newer truck than mine (96) but if you dont, the turning radius is horrible. I can turn around a tank in less space.

All that said, the truck is good for what I wanted it for. Tool storage and living space. It isnt fancy, in fact it's downright industrial in look and function, but it works for me.
The show I travel with now moves every week, which isnt ideal for a truck this size (you cant exactly just run to the local Wally World in it) but I am thinking about my next project. A cargo trailer converted to living space. That way I can go shopping in the 1 ton I use to pull the trailer anytime I need to.
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Old 02-02-2013, 12:37 PM   #5
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I Have done this in a 28' reefer trailer that I use as a hunting camp. I cut a house size door and two house windows in it. I put a gas wall heater in it and stays warm in -20 as long as you keep on shoe/slippers. I only put in cheep home depo rug. Floor is cold but not to bad in say 30-40 deg temps. for power I ran wires in track along base board and up to out let or lights. I turned the 45 gal fuel tank into gas storage from gen. and quads. It has worked out great with self tap screw into ribs or tie down track to put up cabnets or walls. I plan to do it again with 24' truck to go from Mexico to Alaska in two years. Good luck to you on your build.
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