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Old 03-31-2005, 01:09 PM   #1
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I'm a long time follower and first time contributor of this forum. It has been a wealth of information.

I have a 1990 379 extended hood Pete that I use to pull a 2000 48' Cargo Mate Eliminator living quarters trailer. I got the trailer for less than the manufacturer's cost to build it when I bought it off of a bank who had the floor plan on the trailer dealer that went bankrupt. It seemed like a good deal at the time. I had a 1995 K3500 Chevy with the 6.5 turbo that I planned to pull the trailer with, but soon found out that the truck and its brakes were not up to muster when it came to the trialer's 18,000 lbs. loaded weight. Having been an over-the-road driver, I knew a Class 8 tractor was the only way to go with that kind of weight. However, the cost of commercial insurance and license can hardley be justified, given the amount of time I get to play with my toys. I've come to realize that I can convert the truck to a motorhome and/or buy a conversion for the amount I spend on insurance and license for my current rig.

Having built my own racecar and being the DIY type, I've prety much decided to convert the truck to a motorhome. Besisdes, I have a friend who will help that converted a bus that looks like it was done by a profesional. I've talked to a Manufacturing Shop here in WV that will build the box to spec, leaving me to finish the interior. Based on some of the pictures I've seen of the conversions the shop has made, I'm impressed with their quality and construction. However, I've not had a chance to talk to any of their customers and have some concerns about the specs. The entire box would be construced with aluminum using 2"x3" aluminum boxed tuing in the floor and 1"x2" aluminum boxed tubing in the walls with .063 aluminum skin bonded by 3M tape on the outside. Having drove a truck, I know that aluminum trailers are highly susceptible to stres cracks. Given that SH and the other manufacturers use steel to construct their boxes internally, I'm wondering if cracks are common in aluminum constructed conversions and that's why SH and the others don't use it? Then again, it could be the cost. Anybody have any thoughts?
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Old 03-31-2005, 03:07 PM   #2
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Nothing wrong with a properly done Aluminum structure. Airplanes and large Yachts use aluminum all the time.
I suppose it depends how well done thw welding is, and the design has a lot to do with it as well.
Many Fire Trucks and Ambulances are made in Aluminum as well.
Steel is OK, but what is better, 1.5" X 1.5" .059" steel or 2" X 2" .125 wall tubing???
It all depends.
You might consider .125" plate walls instead of .062.
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Old 03-31-2005, 05:50 PM   #3
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Quote:
The entire box would be construced with aluminum using 2"x3" aluminum boxed tuing in the floor and 1"x2" aluminum boxed tubing in the walls with .063 aluminum skin bonded by 3M tape on the outside. Having drove a truck, I know that aluminum trailers are highly susceptible to stres cracks. Given that SH and the other manufacturers use steel to construct their boxes internally, I'm wondering if cracks are common in aluminum constructed conversions and that's why SH and the others don't use it? Then again, it could be the cost. Anybody have any thoughts?
I admire your skills and ambition as you (like many on this site) set out to build the ideal motorhome. The contributors on this forum are an incredible source of experience and knowledge.

I share your interest in an aluminum frame and skin accepting that cost will be higher than steel. The weight advantages of aluminum are appealing even though your rig can probably carry much more. Heavier (especially in transportation) does not necessarily mean better. I know that MCI bus conversions also use the 1/8th inch skins. How did you arrive at your aluminum frame thickness specs?

I don't know if stress fractures are more a product of the design rather than the fact that they are aluminum. Many trailers are made out of all aluminum and last decades and hundreds of thousands of miles. I doubt that your mounted coach would be subject to any different conditions.

How do you plan to mount your coach structure onto the truck frame?

Again, please share your enthusiasm and updates on the progress of your coach. Pictures often say more than words ever can . . .
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Old 03-31-2005, 08:45 PM   #4
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Thanks for the replies.

After submiting this post, I contacted the shop that I'm considering have build the box and spoke to one of the employees who helped build the past conversions.

As for construction and design, the shop constructs utility bodies for trucks and custom built trailers and has been doing it for some time so I'm not real concerned with their welding and design.

Though I'm not surtain, I imagine that the body would be U-bolted to the truck frame like most other utility bodies. As for the aluminum frame's thickness specs, the shop manager provided them when I originally contacted the shop about building the box. I'm surtain he told me the thickness of the 1x2 and 2x3 box tubing, but I negleted to write it down.


The manager was out today (in Louisville for the truck show), so I could not obtain more detailed info. I had planned on visiting the shop tomorrow to view more photos of their conversions and work out dimensions and prices but have decided to wait until the manager returns. Besides, I also plan on being in Louisville Saturday.

I agree that a pictures often say more than words so I'll post pictures when I can, but given my stoneage connection speed, it may be a while before I can get them posted.
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Old 04-01-2005, 12:21 AM   #5
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Vern396
all right!...another "379"er
we are also working on a 1995 regular hood "379" (N14/super 10/front drive axle removed) moho conversion (~34' with ~27' tag trailer).
our framework will be welded steel (we actualy plan to "stretch" the sleeper to 25' ) with "3M VHB" tape bonded aluminum skin. i`m still not sure if we should go with regular .095" aluminum or maybe .065" 6061 T6.
the T6 is more $$$ ... but ultra strong and easy to lap-joint.
i`m still working on AutoCAD to figure out all the little details...
cant wait to see your rig/progress
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Old 04-01-2005, 07:24 AM   #6
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Hey Spooner

I figured you would come knocking on the door. Something about a Pete just draws a crowd.

I've seen the pictures of your conversion and have always thought a high rise sleeper could be stretched to make a conversion. Keep posting your progess so as to motivate me to keep working to get mine done.

My Pete has a 48" flattop that is going to have to go to make room for the conversion box.

You indicated that your conversion is going to be 34'and that you remeoved the intermediate drive axel. Have you, or are you going to, stretch the frame as well?

I'm planning on a 28'conversion, but I'm concerned with the wheel base. From the back of my truck cab to the back of the tires on my last drive axle is 16' +/- a few inches. That will leave me with about 12' behind the wheels which I'm afraid may be too much. I too want to pull a tag trailer for the toys (69 Chevelle, SS 396), so I may have to stretch the frame. I've also though about pulling the intermediate axle out, but like the idea of having the additional tires on the ground and locking differential for traction in swampy pits. I've pulled out of some fine messes with the way the truck is configured now, so I may just leave well enough alone. What do you think?
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Old 04-01-2005, 06:40 PM   #7
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Here are a couple of good canidates.

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Old 04-01-2005, 07:23 PM   #8
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Needlenose!!

Vern
sorry, i was not clear there: our overall lenght will be 34'
the conversion part (stretched sleeper) will be 24' long and 95" wide up front (slightly wedge shaped in the first 8') and the rest of the body will be 100" wide.
inside height will be 81" and overall height we shoot for 11' (no roof AC; i`m thinking about a low mounted "mini split" heat pump
our WB with the front drive axle removed is now 278" (was a 250wb tandem).
rear overhang is only 8'4" from CL axle ...


....need to run for dinner....more later
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Old 04-01-2005, 09:43 PM   #9
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Vern,

have fun in Loisville, would be there when it would be 1000 miles closer to Arizona

My brother already started a little, our conversion is planed to get as good as possible road handling at the 75mph speedlimit in AZ, UT, NV. Also it should tow a three axle enclosed trailer with two of our cars in it like there is nothing behind it.
Also we live on a dirt road and we camp often in sandy areas (close to the sand dunes) we decided to go without slide outs. I seen the most expensive new diesel pushers trying to put them damn slide outs back in after a little sand storm... it is just hilarious to watch them

but anyway will keep our website with the conversion pictures up to date, but we are still in the destructive phase.... hopefully soon we start with the construction.
O'Malleys website

Thomas
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Old 04-01-2005, 10:50 PM   #10
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.....before you guys go off half cocked check with Randy Butler he has many ideas to share with you all and does reasonable work.......geof kaye
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Old 04-02-2005, 09:19 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by KAYE RIVERCITY:
.....before you guys go off half cocked check with Randy Butler he has many ideas to share with you all and does reasonable work.......geof kaye
Geof
yes, i agree....i never seen a Butler MC up close but just by reading Randy`s posts i guess he would be the right guy to do a conversion for me ..... but i just love to do this stuff myself
i enjoy the designing, the challenge, the shopping, the building, (and most of all..) to be different
btw
i`m a craftsman: we build V8 powered high performance sand/desert cars (street legal in AZ) from scratch (including design, welding, sheet metal body work, upholstery, drivetrain, plumbing, electrical,... im sure the building itself will be no problem for me
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Old 04-02-2005, 09:27 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by KAYE RIVERCITY:
.....before you guys go off half cocked check with Randy Butler he has many ideas to share with you all and does reasonable work.......geof kaye
Geof,

When I would buy a finished conversion Randy (together with ARI) would be on top of my list, but I decided to build it myself:
- cheaper
- fun to build
- bring in my own ideas
- making a one of a kind conversion
- etc etc

about your comment about "going off half cocked":
It was maybe your experience when you did it for yourself, but we have a shop, tools, wood and metal working experience to make this thing right.
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Old 04-03-2005, 10:36 AM   #13
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Hey guys,

I didn't mean to start a keayboard kung fu match going here, just looking for some "friendly" adivse.

Anyway, just back for Louisville. The show was great as usual and I piked up some ideas and information.

Kingsley had two conversions there on display, one with a garage and one w/out. Can't say I was overly impressed and was scared by the asking price for the used one. Could have bought a new SH for the same money.

I checked out the construction of some of the aftermarket sleeper manufacturers and confirmed that the use aluminum in their products. After thinking about the issue I'm a little less apprehinsive about aluminum construction.
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Old 04-03-2005, 01:15 PM   #14
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I wonder what the advantage of making the structure out of aluminum is? If freight is being hauled I can understand, but in a conversion I do not see any advantages.

I feel aluminum is a disavantage for a number of reasons. On the conversions weight makes the trucks ride better. Tires are a spring too and by reducing reccommended tire pressures to increase the ride creates other issues. We do not overload the axle weights, or really even come close. The structure is actually only ~15% of the total weight of the completed coach. Aluminum is more difficult to weld, much more expensive to purchase, more difficult to cut and fit. If the structure is make out of aluminum I would still use the attachment tape to adhere the panels because the aluminum exterior panels are going to expand and contract with temperature changes and the tape allows this movement without making the panels bow and bind.3M tape is very expensive...there are alternatives that do the same job for a lot less money. I too am guilty of trying to make things overly difficult at times. The steel frame with taped skin is still hard to beat. I never have been a fan of plywood with fiberglass over it either, look at some FRP after 5 years, can you say delamination?

Spooner,On the 81" interior height I feel you will regret that for a very long time. The three major reasons for that are.... the AC in the ceiling and lights, you lose another four inches of height.... you are limited to 12" upper cabinets........the above the cab bunk space is to small to be of any practical use.

On Geoff.......I don't cut deals, if you give a deal to someone that means that you are overcharging someone else to make up the difference. Geoff did stop by and talk for a few minutes in Louisville (he and the girls kind of made themselves at home in the condo). It's always neat to meet the people that you chat with. Yes he did have two "wimen" with him too. That wasn't fair..he had two and I was by myself.........I need to talk with him about that. The style conversion Geoff likes is the most expensive we do, approximately $8-9000 a foot depending on interior.

BTW, when I walked into the show early Saturday morning a guy that had a shirt with initials of a sleeper company on it had a flashlight in his hand looking under my condo slideout trying and figure out how I made it work, I think I surprised him a little bit. Guess it's a good thing..........got the other boys wondering a bit, they are so used to doing the same old same old for so long now. The condo slideout seems to be giving them something to think about.

Randy
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Old 04-03-2005, 10:22 PM   #15
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.....Randy with your design ideas and theuality of your work and your issues of perfectionism.....$8-9kfoot is a deal....just as soon as I write off my Volvo in the next few years....I'll come aknockin' nd bring more "Wiminn"....they liked the couch so much we had to come by again on Saturday just for a look see before we left......geof kaey
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Old 04-03-2005, 10:37 PM   #16
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.....calm down V8Rail....you guys on the LS1 list are just a bit too touchy defending yourself all the time......Mikie Beatty is one of you sand rail kinda guys so I hear all about your list discussions......all the time. I'd do another trailer/truck in a minuite and we have a buyer interested.... BUT I have labor problems currently-My head mechanic relapsed on crack cocaine and I have to train another-but first I have to find a replacement......with women it takes time to get one with the right temperment and attitude and good mechanical skills.....everything else in negociable. In the vehicle rebuilding/updating/replacement/military vehicles there are a lot of projects that last for 10 or more years and then something happens and the project is on the market at a huge loss....I buy those huge losses at pennies on the dollar and put together a crew to finish or alter them.....using my own employees on overtime/part time/training/lost time or any other plan that gets the job done.....geof kaye
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Old 04-04-2005, 12:49 AM   #17
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Randy,

we do steel frame exactly because it is easier to build and the weight difference is not that big.

goef,

I have no idea what you are talking about. Never posted, not even read the LS1 forum. Ls1 is a entry level engine for us We may put one in our 1972 International ScoutII because they are cheap to get
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Old 04-04-2005, 01:38 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by butlermotorcoaches:
...
Spooner,On the 81" interior height I feel you will regret that for a very long time. The three major reasons for that are.... the AC in the ceiling and lights, you lose another four inches of height.... you are limited to 12" upper cabinets........the above the cab bunk space is to small to be of any practical use.
...
Randy
hey Randy
yes, 81" is not much (for a 6'3" guy like me) but there will be no roof AC (we plan to use a low mounted "mini split" style unit) and no over the cab bunk (i think they look plain ugly; we will reuse the stock unibilt sleeper front/roof part)
the Pete is more of a SURV (sport utility RV ) and not a MoHo for us: we actualy dont spend much time in the RV (most of it is sleeping ) we like the outdoors (nothing better then sitting around a campfire with a ice cold one after a long day playing in the dunes/desert )
the "handling" (on the demanding roads and conditions here in the west) is a lot more important for us; thats why we try to keep the profile and the center of gravity as low as possible
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Old 04-04-2005, 04:07 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally posted by butlermotorcoaches:
I wonder what the advantage of making the structure out of aluminum is?
I feel aluminum is a disavantage for a number of reasons. The structure is actually only ~15% of the total weight of the completed coach. Aluminum is more difficult to weld, much more expensive to purchase, more difficult to cut and fit.
I appreciate Randy's input, as I am admittedly new to this and initially thought that aluminum was a good material given its weight and use in trailers. Your practical considerations make sense. I did not know that the cargo carry capacity of these truck conversions was so unlimited. I know that well appointed Class A motorhomes can approach 30,000 lbs. Load up your family and friends along with your "essentials" and the scale really tips.

Regarding conversion weights:
What are the typical single rear and front axle ratings (Class 7/modified 8)?
How much does a finished and furnished conversion coach weigh? (I know this must vary a lot but perhaps recent Show Hauler completions can serve as examples).
How much does a steel frame actually weigh?

Having little background in this, I'm just looking for some understanding to the building methods behind the ideal truck conversion.

John
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Old 04-04-2005, 06:38 PM   #20
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Well mine is rated at 12k Front, 22.7k Rear. Right now I'm running ~30,000 loaded full of fuel, water, and propane with me the wife and 2 dogs in it at the time. As much of a thing pig as I am I'm not sure I can come up with another 4500 pounds of junk to put in it. The 30k is an estimate because it was 31k total with my trailer on it, I'm assuming about 1k toungue weight on the trailer. If you want I have the weight ticket in the rig and can get specifics tomorrow.
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