Light Caravan build complete.

Submitted: Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 18:37
ThreadID: 131380 Views:3255 Replies:7 FollowUps:3
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I've had a few threads here and the advice I received was magnificent. I adopted most of it to improve my build and make it safer.

Briefly, the van was to weigh about 220 kgms tare, be 10'8" long, 6'2" wide and 7'8" tall from the ground. It was very ambitious. I haven't got to the weighbridge yet but I anticipate around 330 kgms.

Towball weight was the big worry. How do you know the van you are building will weigh your projected weight on the ball? You don't, you hope. In this case if the towball weight (max 25 kgms) was heavier than that say 40kgms then weight would be needed to be added to the rear. Imagine doing that? It would likely have meant adding say 30 kgms to the rear to lessen the ball weight from 40 to 25 kgms. With this in mind I deliberately located the axle 20mm less from the axle to the rear of the van compared to the axle to the front of the van body. ADR';s clearly stipulate that the front distance cannot be less than the rear. So ok there.

During the latter part of the build two items at the rear half of the van caused issues weight wise. The acrylic shower wall and the door. The original door was purchased from Canberra off a Robin pop top and was 1420mm high. This caused too much bending of my neck and upper back to make me comfortable and I had nightmares of hacking the top panel out to place a taller one in. So the move was to buy a new full height door and that was a good move but it weighed 17 kgms up from 8 kgms.

It all made for a tail heavy van but alas, a long tool chest sitting in my shed was the answer. It fitted on the drawbar and left enough room for the turning of the rig. Inside the box is a 100AH battery and a small table top BBQ and room for tools. End result is- towball weight of 8 kgms. Then there is table and two captains chairs to go under the beds forward of the axle. The Waeco CF-18 fridge and water tank are rear of the axle but only just. I think the spare wheel should go under the front of the drawbar. 8 kgms there would be good.

This is the first and only van I'll build. What lessens did I learn? Well, the axle could have gone 50mm further towards the rear in hindsight, I should have fitted brakes and will do so in the near future (my previous rig a Detour motorcycle camper had the same size 10" wheels and it had magnetic brakes and were terrific), I would order the roof sheets 70mm wider than the walls (I ordered them 30mm wider than the walls but any slight out of square frame causes issues).

Good decisions include-

6mm marine ply floors with 13x13x1.8mm tube joists spaced 160mm apart works well and is strong enough for my 125 kgms weight.

13x13x1.8 steel tube frame was good. Very strong when welded as a cage.

toilet and shower tray was the best decision for comfort and convenience

lightweight ceiling carpet from Bunnings at 300 grams/sq metre.

10" wheels and tyres are 9 kgms less each compared to 13"

The 50x25x3mm drawbar with 3 trusses works really well. So strong

and plastic drawers for the kitchen with acrylic sink...all good.

Solar camping hot water bag for a shower with cold water only from the tank proved itself in out previous set up so we stayed with it.

The "foldaway" antenna and booster at around $250 was worth the money.

large square hatch for ease of portapotti service (dreaded lifting it and stumbling down the steps)

Edging was black with white insert. Think this sets the van off nicely.

Anti Sway friction type bar has been purchased...on its way.

Eyelets at the peak of the van for tying the van down in gusty windy conditions.

I'm dreading the installation of the ceiling carpet but it has to be done.

Again thanks to all that helped me along the way.

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Reply By: Notso - Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 19:15

Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 19:15
Mate that looks terrific! How does it handle behind the trike?
AnswerID: 595030

Follow Up By: eaglefree - Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 20:18

Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 20:18
Hi Notso, thankyou.

I've only towed it 100 metres. It handled as you'd expect with only 330kgms behind you and near perfectly balanced... as if it wasn't there.

Trikes aren't the same. They rely on one wheel for steering. Rear engines trikes have the disadvantage of their C of G just ahead of the axle...under the passenger seat area. So, too heavy a towball weight and your front wheel tends to want to lift, on wet roads this becomes more apparent as you try to steer and you go straight ahead.

My trike however has extensive mods. It weighed tare 450 kgms when new in 2009. It now weighs 660 kgms and fully engineered for the roof and the Subaru engine 1820cc. It has an auto trans. Front wheel downforce has risen from 55 kgms to 75 kgms. Theoretically this trike should be capable of towing a van with more ball weight than the 24 kgms the manufacturer states. That is an avenue I'll pursue. If I can get an engineer to raise the tow ball weight to say 35-40kgms then it will be totally legal to tow this insurance wise. Until then our Hyundai i30 diesel will do the job ...we plan a round Oz trip with the car and van in May this year.

A anti sway unit is a must and will be fited shortly. After all large trucks passing could be interesting.
FollowupID: 863630

Reply By: Ron N - Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 21:51

Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 21:51
Tony, that's a very nice professional-looking effort and congratulations on the finished product.

Yes, I agree with the moving of the axle rearwards by another 50mm.
If you recall, I did originally suggest moving the axle rear of centre by 75mm - here ....

Ultra-light caravan build

The movement rearwards of the axle positioning by 50 or 75mm doesn't have as much effect on towball weight as you might initially expect - but it does improve handling and response to road shocks, truck windblast and swerves, substantially.

All in all, a top class effort. I wouldn't like to tackle a job that sizeable - but then again, I'm already waist-deep in multiple restoration efforts, and moving my workshop as well!

Cheers, Ron.
AnswerID: 595035

Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 22:13

Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 22:13
I have been following your progress along the way.

Well done and it looks like a professional van that you have purchased from a dealer.

All the best and safe travels as you head out and give it a maiden run.


Smile like a Crocodile

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AnswerID: 595037

Reply By: Member - ACD 1 - Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 22:56

Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 at 22:56
What a Cracker!

A fantastic looking unit. All that is left is to give it a suitable name.

Well done and safe travels.


AnswerID: 595038

Follow Up By: eaglefree - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 00:08

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 00:08
Thanks guys. As for a name, the trike was "Tweety" and Sylvester was suggested but I'm more for less cartoons stuff.

The van will be registered as - manufacturer "Dawson" and model "Awesome"

So, you can see here two emblems I made for the trike. They are mounted on the side of the roof. The ovals surrounds are two zero house numbers. I made a rear "plate" from Perspex and the Panthers are bumper stickers from USA (from the Carolina Panthers) that stuck on. They have survived 5 years without wearing at all.

So I've purchased a few chrome letters A & D. I'll make a similar badge representing "Awesome Dawson".

FollowupID: 863642

Reply By: Slow one - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 08:37

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 08:37
Big Thumbs up for what you have achieved.

happy travels.
AnswerID: 595050

Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 09:39

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 09:39
Top job!

Have watched your build with interest, and hope it performs as required.

Good luck,

Seen it all, Done it all.
Can't remember most of it.

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AnswerID: 595052

Follow Up By: eaglefree - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 11:11

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 11:11
Thankyou. Located the spare wheel on the front of the van along with the battery and small BBQ. Got a towball weight of 14 kgms now.

Much better than 3 kgms.
FollowupID: 863658

Reply By: V8 Troopie - Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 20:12

Sunday, Jan 17, 2016 at 20:12
A really chute little caravan you have created here, it turned out very well.
I hope you get many hours in it to enjoy.

A little suggestion, please do not invent new abbreviations when you describe what you have built.
The unit of weight - kilogram - is abbreviated kg. There is absolutely no need to add "ms" and in doing so it gets initially confusing to read what you are writing about.
There is a very good reason for standard abbreviations - everybody gets a chance to understand what your figures mean.
AnswerID: 595091

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