Kneeling Camper Mods

Submitted: Friday, Jul 06, 2018 at 00:15
ThreadID: 136941 Views:4095 Replies:9 FollowUps:5
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Hi all, we are considering buying a 1998 Coromal Magnum 380 off road camper with its respected independent swing arm & leaf suspension.
This should give us no limits to the type of touring we want to do.

We have mobility issues and climbing in and out of this little beastie may well be, or become, a problem. No steps would be really good! I think we can modify the interior without too much destruction.

My idea is to reduce the springs to two leaves instead of eight and the supplement that with air bags, for the load carrying.
The remaining two springs and the swing arms should (I hope) ensure the proper location of the wheels for travel.

When we camp, the air bags can be let down and the camper lowered by up to 120mm?? and leveled. (Still three steps up.)

The biggest unknown here may be the way the springs will respond to being bent way beyond their usual set. NB They are slipper not shackle ends. We need of course to check tyre clearance and other things that may limit the effective drop in altitude.

Any comments about this idea, especially engineeringly, cost and benefit, annoyance, noise etc will be much appreciated.
Bruce & Rhonda

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Reply By: Member - mark D18 - Friday, Jul 06, 2018 at 16:16

Friday, Jul 06, 2018 at 16:16
Bruce .
Sounds like a lot of trouble to me .
Mucking around with suspension like that may not work out to well .

I Would leave it the way it was designed .
AnswerID: 619985

Reply By: Keith B2 - Friday, Jul 06, 2018 at 16:54

Friday, Jul 06, 2018 at 16:54
When you transfer the bulk of the weight from the ends of the springs to the air bag, you are concentrating all of the load on one point, which may risk chassis failure. I think if you do this you will need to have the whole thing properly engineered.
Dumb idea maybe. But you could always put stands at each corner and simply let the tyres down without them bearing any weight and pump them up when you go. Tyres are cheaper than chassis.
AnswerID: 619989

Reply By: Member - Andrew - Friday, Jul 06, 2018 at 17:06

Friday, Jul 06, 2018 at 17:06
You are talking about a fundamental redesign of the suspension in the "hope" that it might work. A high risk strategy.
Have you thought of fitting a "people lift" instead?
Something like a small tailgate or wheelchair loader. That sort of thing is known technology that a commercial bus/truck body builder or a disabled equipment supplier could advise on.
You are not talking about a high lift or heavy weights so the engineering should be achievable and the device is more likely to be transferrable to your next project when needed.
AnswerID: 619991

Reply By: Erad - Friday, Jul 06, 2018 at 17:52

Friday, Jul 06, 2018 at 17:52
x2 regarding the concentrating the load on the chassis at the top of the air bags. You could overcome this maybe by bracing the chassis in that area with extra steel (flat or angle) on the under side of the chassis member, the length of the bracing such that it almost goes to the full length of the original spring.

Not sure i your van has shock absorbers, but if it doesn't, you should consider installing some as well. With leaf springs, there is a lot of friction between the leaves, and this damps out a lotof bouncing. If you remove most of the leaves, you rely o the air bags to replace the load carrying capacity lost by hte lack of leaves, but the air bags have no inter-leaf friction and the ride will be a lot bouncier.
AnswerID: 619995

Reply By: Gbc.. - Saturday, Jul 07, 2018 at 08:00

Saturday, Jul 07, 2018 at 08:00
I don’t know what sort of travel you get out of those coromal axles but thinking outside the box a bit.
A mates race patrol had max travel and zero sway bars. We used to use the winch and a bridle on the axle to crank the chassis down a bit onto the mid section of the spring travel for on road driving sections to give it some manners and less axle steer. It worked a treat if you drove it accordingly.
Would it be easy enough to use a couple of turning blocks and a bridle back to a 12v winch and just compress the existing system? 1 winch on either side would buy you a nifty self leveling system which the grey farts would drive you nuts asking questions about after every setup.
Good luck with your setup.
AnswerID: 620011

Reply By: Bruce K3 - Saturday, Jul 07, 2018 at 20:57

Saturday, Jul 07, 2018 at 20:57
Thanks heaps Guys,
Some really good sense and stayed on topic too.
Yes, I agree leaving it as it is might well be best.
As we get older prosthetic devices are more frequently employed.

The lift is a big $ one that I will keep in mind for lat'ron.

The axle winch is interesting. We might run into trouble getting a worth while drop with the camper's suspension being so hard, and not having any ready access to the chassis. That racing truck had soft suspension, which should have been easy to pull down a long way, even with just two people sitting on one corner at a time.

I am thinking that we might get a set of steps that will do 4x150mm or 5x120mm rise instead of the 3x200mm rise that is common with high vans.
I might have to make them.
Now for the homework.
AnswerID: 620030

Follow Up By: ian - Saturday, Jul 07, 2018 at 21:12

Saturday, Jul 07, 2018 at 21:12
Would a slide out ramp be an easier solution?
FollowupID: 892353

Follow Up By: Gbc.. - Sunday, Jul 08, 2018 at 07:30

Sunday, Jul 08, 2018 at 07:30
I’ve seen ramps on vans before. I saw one van and hugely modded troop carrier that was completely wheelchair friendly. Not cheap though.
FollowupID: 892359

Follow Up By: Bruce K3 - Sunday, Jul 08, 2018 at 22:50

Sunday, Jul 08, 2018 at 22:50
Shallow steps are better for us than a ramp at the moment.

We have looked at the idea of a van or toy hauler capable of a wheelchair and there are major mods required mostly.
A min 820mm wide door and the inside swing room needs to be 1300mm in a couple of places.

These really need to be 18' plus vans with no lounge or dining in them or even a bed unless they fold up during the day or night i.e. when not needed.

I have done detailed drawings of what is needed, and have included a shower the floor of which encroaches into the main passage. The beds are "murphy" style side fold-up which have a fold down table/desk if we want. All seating is camp style fold-up and the portaloo can be moved around.

At the moment the Coromal 380 will work and we can achieve a 900mm swing room for a sit on walker and space for a portaloo and commode frame by removing the dining seat by the door, having a fold-up table and then the lounge made into a bed with a fold-up section in the middle. Pretty easy.

A twin bed Evernew pop top we looked at is OK but not offroad. The commode can fit and stay between the beds. The only other thing is that the table needs to be easily movable/packed away.
FollowupID: 892370

Follow Up By: Dean K3 - Tuesday, Jul 10, 2018 at 17:00

Tuesday, Jul 10, 2018 at 17:00
That picture of troopie is the weirdest bonnet I have ever seen.

Looks like somebody morphed a thales bashmster (errr mean bushmaster) onto a cruiser chassis and body - somehow curious to know who did it etc so any info appreciated
FollowupID: 892395

Follow Up By: Gbc.. - Tuesday, Jul 10, 2018 at 18:28

Tuesday, Jul 10, 2018 at 18:28
It was stretched for length as well as height. Check the number of rear windows. It was quite big.
FollowupID: 892397

Reply By: Member - JOHN C16 - Monday, Jul 09, 2018 at 07:47

Monday, Jul 09, 2018 at 07:47
Hi Bruce and Rhonda

It may be helpful to contact Jol Fleming at Direct 4WD Awareness. Jol is a well known 4WD adventurer, trainer and tag along tour guide based in Alice Springs. He is also a quadriplegic.

A custom off road caravan was built for him in 2016.

Here is a link to his website:Jols Van

Jol can be contacted on 0408 485 641

AnswerID: 620048

Reply By: Member - McLaren3030 - Monday, Jul 09, 2018 at 13:28

Monday, Jul 09, 2018 at 13:28
Hi Bruce K3, I assume you a purchasing a 1998 van owing to a small budget available. IMHO, any alteration to the suspension is fraught with danger. You may find it difficult to get insurance if you have modified the suspension, and then not got engineering sign off. Also the Off Road vans of this era are no where near as strong as the off road vans of today.

Having a van/camper custom built is not cheap, my son-in-law's father is a paraplegic and had an existing van modified with a wheel chair loader and wider door, and it was not cheap. However, this may be a better way to go if you can afford it. Either that, or have a van/camper custom built from scratch. If you haven't already done so, it may be worthwhile speaking with a couple of manufacturers to get an idea of costs involved with either custom building, or modifying an existing van.

Try this website They build vans for people with disabilities.


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AnswerID: 620055

Reply By: Bruce K3 - Wednesday, Jul 11, 2018 at 13:50

Wednesday, Jul 11, 2018 at 13:50
Thanks to everyone.
We have looked at wheelchair vans and the ones recently (still?) available start from $40,000 used and are quite big. Some of these have been on the market for nearly 12 months.
The one from the Alice is very small.
I wouldn't like being the person sharing with him, there is no room once he is in there.

I think our solution if we go off-road is to get a set of steps that are made to purpose. I agree that doing mods to the vans chassis and suspension is fraught with opportunities for grumpiness.

One of my problems with this is that I'm not sure what kind of traveling we will be doing. I suspect it is a mixture of go-go and stop-stop. Having been in and lead tag-alongs we are familiar with the keep moving, "I want to stay longer", well, come another time scenario. We don't mind that at all, but staying longer means a bigger rig is then appreciated. Then how much will we do any way?
We, i.e. me! - I am not really settled on this yet. So still looking, thinking, dreaming.

We have done AroundOz, the longest shortcut (Cairns to Busselton), some of the Flinders and north into Oodnadatta, Finke, Maryvale,AliceSp. Also the Sunset NP Vic, Great Dividing Ra. from Singleton to the Qld Border. So we cant complain even if we really don't do too much more.
AnswerID: 620084

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