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Old 08-21-2011, 07:47 PM   #1
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Default Tractor to Toter

Do any of you have any experience converting a tractor to a toterhome? I have read that the frame should not be welded but I remember seeing this done at a truck company I worked at in 1970. I thought it might be cheaper to buy a tractor than to buy a single axle truck with a long frame. When I look for trucks to buy, there are millions of tractors but almost no trucks that would work for a toterhome or RV.
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Old 08-21-2011, 08:52 PM   #2
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Check out the Escapees forum, a bunch of guys on there have bought tractors and converted them to single axle with a small frame stretch to haul big 5th wheel rv's. I know you are doing something different, but the basic work to start would be the same.
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Old 08-22-2011, 08:09 AM   #3
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You are probably right about a tractor being less expensive than a long framed straight truck. There is no reason that a frame cannot be strecthed and welded but you need to know what you are doing. Truck frames are made of high tensile material that is sometimes heat treated. This stuff can be welded successfully by the right people. You will want to make sure that the pieces you weld in are made of the correct material as well. Some folks choose to have frame rails made the slip inside of the existing frame and bolt to it. My toter was stretched this way. This method may be more practical for the guys building their own trucks. Make sure that you extension rails are made of good material and use the proper bolts. Double frames do have a small disadvantage. They are prone to rusting between the frame layers which can cause trouble in the long term.
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Old 08-22-2011, 05:45 PM   #4
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Default Tractor to toter

Thanks for the information. After I asked my question, I realized that there is a lot of information on this forum that I should read first. I also looked at the Escapees forum - another great source of information. I love it when the people who have "been there and done that" record their lessons and share it with the rest of us. I would much to prefer to learn from other than to learn the hard way. Thanks again for responding to my questions.
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Old 08-22-2011, 09:17 PM   #5
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Generally "toterhome" refers to a tractor with a small/medium size living quarters box behind the cab, and a deck with a fifth wheel hitch or gooseneck hitch. Something like this:


Is that what you want to do?

If the living quarters you want isn't too big I suspect you could fit something on a regular/longish frame tractor. If you found one with a large sleeper and remove the sleeper and build the box? I'd do something like that before buying a straight truck since most straight trucks aren't class 8 hdt's. Unless you don't need the big engine/trans stuff.
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Old 08-24-2011, 07:17 AM   #6
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That is a beautiful toter. I am aiming for something like that except without the fifth wheel hitch (at least right now), so I suppose what I want is really a motorcoach or RV instead of toterhome. The picture shows the size I am interested in, so I think the beginning steps are the same.
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Old 08-24-2011, 11:22 AM   #7
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Default Welding

Toterwannabe:

First, good luck with your project.

Regarding your welding question . . .

If you mean cutting and extending the frame, then welding is the only way. If you are in a large city, there are certainly frame shops that can do that for you. The price here in Grand rapids, MI is currently about $1800.

I had my frame extended six feet in the back after I dropped the front driver and extended the driveline. This was to accomodate a 16' box I was putting on it to make a motorhome. The frame was welded, and has held up nicely.

Now, if you mean welding "to the frame" to mount brackets for side boxes, or battery boxes, or for whatever, there is a school of thought that says "no, don't weld to the frame." Further, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Handbook implies it is prohibited (393.201), saying all accessories attached to the frame must be bolted or rivited.

That said . . . your vehicle is not in commercial service, so technically all that federal stuff doesn't apply. You can't be put "out of service" for welding to the frame because you are not "in service." So do what you want, it's your truck. Just be safe.

I have three large stainless steel "tool boxes" installed on my "motorhome" used for storage. The brackets were all welded to the frame, as were the mud-flap supports. No problemo, so far.

About the only real caution I will pass along regarding working on the frame, is DO NOT DRILL, WELD, OR IN ANY WAY ALTER THE TOP AND BOTTOM FLANGES OF THE FRAME RAILS. This is where all the strength comes from, so don't mess with the flanges.

I will be excited to hear how your progress progresses.

Keep us all posted!
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Old 08-24-2011, 03:21 PM   #8
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[QUOTE=Highway OPie;37297]Toterwannabe:

If you mean cutting and extending the frame, then welding is the only way..
[Quote]

Why?
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Old 08-25-2011, 07:02 AM   #9
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Well, just using long side plates and through bolting them wouldn't provide the strength and rigidity on the frame I would trust. In the commercial market, frames are always welded when extended or shortened, with additional welded side plates at least on one side of each frame rail.

That's my opinion . . .
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Old 08-25-2011, 07:31 AM   #10
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My truck was extended using "C" channel rails bent to fit inside of the existing frame rails with significant overlap on both ends. I see no reason that this is not a good way to extend the frame,
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Old 08-26-2011, 06:39 AM   #11
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Default C Channel

Hello andyg:

C Channel would probably work effectively if a nice snug fit with lots of overlap; sounds like a good approach. I am sure this would be another method of frame modification for a toter.

Everyone brings good knowledge to this site!
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Old 08-27-2011, 09:48 AM   #12
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Highway opie - I love you truck! I am 2 to 3 years from building a toted. I will keep you posted. My goal is to develop a good plan based on the lessons learned by people like you so thanks to you and the others for your help.
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Old 08-28-2011, 06:36 AM   #13
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Default Go for it!

Toterwannabe:

I was in the "thinking stage" of my conversion for over ten years! I knew the general approach I wanted to take, but it took me that long to make the comittment in my heart, and then finally to find the tractor I wanted. So far, everything is going according to plan.

In the year-and-a-half I been working on my conversion, I have learned three important lessions:

1> It is costing more than I had planned for getting the "outside" work done; the stuff I can't or won't do myself, like extending the frame and dropping the front axle (and extending the drive line).

2> It takes longer than expected to get things done. No one in the trucking/upfitting business is in a particular hurry, especially for us. Folks like us are considered, "One pump chumps" and they know we will never be back, so why hurry, or why be honest. Keep your guard up, monitor the work closely, and demand quality.

3> Find a good dealer or independent shop to have your "heavy" work done that you can't do yourself; explain to them your plan; and then work to develop a long term relationship. There is a lot more to consider when getting the work done than just finding the lowest price.

I am finally to the point where all my "I can't do that work myself" stuff is done, and everything left I will do myself, under my own control, on my own schedule. Now the fun for me really begins.

Good luck and keep us posted!
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Old 09-08-2011, 06:50 PM   #14
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What wheel base is to big? I was going to put a 24 foot box on my 93 t600 and I am going to stretch frame. But to put a 24 foot box behind the cab and have enough room for the 5th wheel im going to be almost 400 inch wheel base. How are the boxes measured? from the front over hang or just the the square part of the box?
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Old 09-09-2011, 07:07 AM   #15
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I think you just figured out how long "to big" is. At this length you may not be able to pull a long trailer. How are you going to turn a corner with this thing? Are you planning to put a different front axle for turning radius and weight? Actually this length may make your front end to heavy. I have a toter with a 12' box and it is very heavy on the front. I'd say that my wheebase is about 290" My box is 12' NOT counting the overhang. If you need space consider using a shorter box with slideouts. I'm not trying to poo poo your idea but that is a pretty long truck.
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Old 09-09-2011, 04:15 PM   #16
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It is all good. That is why im asking questions before i start.im thanking 300 wb and one slide out would do good.Im looking to put a stacker trailer behind the truck like a 40'.Thanks for any help
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Old 09-09-2011, 04:31 PM   #17
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A toter box is generally rated by the floor length, the overhang over the cab does not count.

You definitely need a shorter plan. Math: 40' trailer + 5' between truck and trailer + 24' box + 10' for cab/hood = about 79'. Way over legal.

I am still planning mine, and I am working the math backwards. Take all your other variables: trailer length, the minimum you can get away with between the truck box and the front of the trailer, the length of your truck from the back of the cab to the front bumper, and gap between the cab and box. Add all that up and deduct it from the max legal length where you plan to travel, and that is how you stay out of jail! Easy math.

As to turning with a long trailer, that really depends on what you are doing with it. If you are just running the highway to major race tracks you can get away with a pretty long rig, the tracks are set up for it. If you're like me and have to maneuver into the midway spaces at hot rod shows and the like, or you are planning on going to campgrounds, whole different story.

Also most of those crazy long toters you see these days are pulling much shorter trailers to keep the total length legal. Or they are rolling the dice with the scale man. It's a trade off between trailer space and living space, only so much to divvy up.
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