Building a caravan from scratch...

Submitted: Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 19:51
ThreadID: 67983 Views:90126 Replies:40 FollowUps:51
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Hi all, thought I would pop some information on this forum. been a member for ages but first post.

Over the last few years I had been looking for a caravan that could sleep a minimum of 6 people in comfort, take motor bikes / quads and even a waverunner on a trailer. It had to be practical, easy to clean, strong (As I do go offroad) and most importantly - light!

So, I went to Ebay (as you do) and trolled to find a van that would do the job. went to the caravan shows (Penrith / Rosehill) and appart from a couple of well know van names there was nothing that really did everything I wanted and at 2T + tare weight, they were very heavy.

My towing capacity with my 4x4 is 2.5 tonnes. A couple of bikes and gear and I would be overloaded. Plus, its a lot of weight to tow in any event.

So I decided to design and build my own. I started the design using microsoft publisher...fidled around for a while (about a year) until I decided on the design. Then I went looking for materials. Foam core fibreglass is light, has good insulation properties but it is a nightmare to work with, is not impact resistant, and weighs in at around 8 - 12kgs per square meter. Looked at honeycomb core alluminium. Hard to work with. VERY expensive but very strong. Impact resistance is ordinary.

Being a Jayco owner, I wasnt going to even consider the frame, alluminium cladding and panel board designs> Heavy and medievil. No offence to Jayco, they make a great product.

Eventually I found a product in Germany, contacted their AU supplier, did the numbers and researched the design / manufacturing methods to use this material. Now, you are probably thinking i have experience at building. A BIG NO. I hadnt used a power tool more than 5 times in my life. I work in finance. I did study Naval Architecture for a few years back in the 80's so I could use a drafting board and understood composites..to a degree.

So..the material I ended up choosing is Polypropelene. Yep. Plastic. The whole van is plastic...give or take. The material is actually a woven 2mm thick carbon fibre style pattern either side of 26mm honeycomb core in 4mm pattern. So, all the structural stuff is 30mm and I grabbed some 17mm for the furniture / beds etc. The weight is only 4.5kg's per square meter for 30mm and 4kg's per square meter for 17mm. It is strong, light, easy to cut and work with (You can plastic weld it!), is opaque so lets light in (Good and bad) but it is 15 times more impact resistant than the next material used. I hit a piece with a sledgehammer and it only just marked the surface. The roof is one piece. From the A frame at the front to the rear of the van. No joins / seams. Each wall is one piece and wraps around at the rear to increase stregnth.

Anyway. I started this thing in September last year with legnths of Supergal steel in 150 x 75 section (4mm) and 9m x 2.5m plastic panels. It is now complete (Finished it in December), weighs in at 1.3 tonnes (Tare weight), dual axle, 4 lots of electric brakes, breakaway controller, 2 x 86 litre water tanks, cooktop and sink inside, floor to ceiling slide out pantry, 2 x Queen sized beds that fold out the sides with solid walls and roof, massive setee, 224 litre three way fridge, 4 burner gas BBQ with hood on a massive slide in the front of the van that comes out 1.8m from the van, hot water system etc etc. LED lighting outside and inside. Tonnes of storage and access hatches.

And....the van is 27 feet LOA, 21 foot body external, 2.3 wide, 2 meters internal height, has 2 x 1m by .6 m roof hatches, 3 large windows and a full caravan door. But, the caravan door is inset into the back of the van and the section it is mounted in is a larger door that you can open horizontally to allow the toys in and out. Ramp is at the rear that covers the whole door assembly which keeps the dust out. It is offroad capable, with more clearance than any current van on the market. The wheels are Sunraysiers (Standard 4x4 6 stud pattern) with light truck tyres (Had to do that to get a higher ATM rating than I would have acheived with offroad tyres). With the design, I was also able to go flat floor. No wheel arches! and yes, no chance of the wheels hitting the underside of the floor.

There is a couple of reasons I am here waffling on about all this. One reason is that I wanted to make people aware that it is not difficult to make a van at all. It is not that expensive either. There are better ways to construct vans than is really on offer at the moment from the majority of manufacturers. And...you can get the weight down. 1.3 tonnes for a VERY strong 21 foot dual axle van in my book is brilliant..and it is overbuilt to buggery.

The other thing is that it is incredibly versatile and spacious with the beds folding out the sides of the van.

The RTA actually sent an inspector to check the van out as they advised that they dont get home built caravans especially ones this size and with the odd tare weight and ATM. You see, the ATM on this thing is 3 tonnes! That gives me 1600 kgs of cargo capacity. The RTA inspector was surprised to say the least but left without raising a single issue with the van.

The second reason I am here typing is that I am thinking of designing some different types of vans / campers and selling complete kits. It cost me under $45K to build this van. The insurance company covered it for $80K without batting an eyelid and having just returned from the Rosehill show, I can say with absolute certainty that there was nothing there under 2 tonnes for this size of van and nothing in the toy hauler category with accomodation for 6 people. Certainly nothing with any meaningful cargo capacity and nothing that would accomodate 3 full sized bikes or a waverunner on a trailer.

That aside, using the same construction methods I used, you could build anything you wanted to and save a minimum of 30% over any other construction method / materials.

So if anyone is interested in yacking to me about any of this, please give me a shout.

No idea how to put photos on here so if you message me I will send you some photos.

Cheers

Craig
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Reply By: suepajero - Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 20:10

Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 20:10
Hi Craig ,Well done great to see someone thinking outside the square Love to see some photos,i can't help but someone on here will tell you what to do Cheers Sue
AnswerID: 360226

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 20:17

Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 20:17
Thanks Sue. I still have all my fingers too! Just...

I can write a list of what not to do with power tools but people will think I am a candidate for a Darwin Award. For example...I went to cut stainless steel cable with a drop saw. Thankfully a neighbour caught me just as I started the saw...and used discouarging words that I cannot not repeat here :)

You see that is my whole point. If an impractical twit like me with no idea about power tools or construction could achieve this then anyone can! The trick isnt how to build it...it is what to build it from and getting the design right. I got both of those things right and designed things that I had no template for (Nothing to copy so to speak). I also had very limited knowledge of materials.

Working all that out, setting up trade accounts with suppliers etc all took longer than actually buiulding the thing! I put it together on weekends in my spare time with some help from some mates here and there (Damn they can drink!)

And...I am a single dad with 2 young kids, so I couldnt simply spend 12 hours a day doing it.

If someone wanted to do this, I could make it very easy for them and save them a lot of $ over RRP prices.

Anyway...enough waffling. LOL
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Follow Up By: suepajero - Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 21:40

Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 21:40
Hi Craig, seen as nobody has shown you how to put photos up Id appreciate if you could email me some Sounds like you have lucky kids that will be going on great holidays good for you stay safe
susan.lakey@gmail. com Cheers Sue
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Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 22:04

Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 22:04
On the way Sue!

Cheers

Craig
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Follow Up By: Member - William H (WA) - Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 22:31

Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 22:31
Hi Craig...............Will you send some picks this way please, im into building my own little Van, heaps of work still to do in it

Cheers for now...William H...Bunbury...WA.
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Reply By: Best Off Road - Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 20:33

Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 20:33
Craig,

You're scratching my itch.

I'd love to see some photos and talk.

You can email me

jimbest at bestoffroad dot net dot au

Cheers,

Jim.

AnswerID: 360228

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 21:05

Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 21:05
They are on there way now Jim

You should have them.

Cheers

Craig
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Follow Up By: Best Off Road - Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 21:42

Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 21:42
Thanks Craig,

I'll have a butcher's in the morning (problems with email at home).

Cheers,

Jim.



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Follow Up By: Best Off Road - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:53

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:53
Looks great Craig.

I love the concept of the side fold out beds. We had the same setup years ago in an old van. I'm surprised it never took off commercially.

Cheers,

Jim.

PS ignore DIO, he's the resident forum knocker/stirrer.

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Reply By:- Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 22:43

Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 22:43
Hi Craig,

Sounds great, I would really love to see it, can you please send me some photos.

I do agree that caravan makers could come up with some alternative designs to the standard that they all seem to be doing; I guess it depends on the market but they should try; after all plenty of camper trailer mobs do some interesting things - for example I saw at a show recently a camper trailer with a shower unit inside the tent!!!!

Anyway email is evanmunroe@bigpond.com

Cheers
Evan
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Reply By: Member - Tony S (WA) - Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 23:05

Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 23:05
Craig,

Another one please:-

margntony@bigpond.com
The rig

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Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 23:21

Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 23:21
Done!
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Reply By: Member - Mark E (VIC) - Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 23:55

Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 23:55
Me too for some pics, please.......

markeaust at bigpond.com

Thanks,

Mark


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Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 23:59

Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 23:59
Done! Cheers
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Reply By: rayj - Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 23:59

Saturday, Apr 18, 2009 at 23:59
Craig I would like the photos also Please. Sounds really interesting.
email rayjacksonperth@hotmail.com
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Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 00:03

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 00:03
On its way! Cheers

If anyone knows how to put the photos on the forums...please fee free.
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Reply By: PradOz - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 00:44

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 00:44
well done! after reading this it looks like you are going to spend more time emailing photos than what you did building it - just hope you get some time in it b4 you go crazy emailing all these happy snaps.

i would love to see photos too please - v8footy at hotmail dot com

thank you in advance
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Follow Up By: PradOz - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 00:45

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 00:45
ps - i am off to rosehill on monday and expect to see exactlty what you described - CUL8R
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Reply By: Member - res.q.guy (Vic.) - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 07:17

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 07:17
Hi Craig
Well Done, sounds like a great project.
I too would love to see the photo's if possible
Thanks
Regards
Neil

res.q.guy@westnet.com.au
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Reply By: Member - Geoff the chef (NSW)M - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 07:26

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 07:26
hi Craig,
I would like to see your results too please
cheers
Geoff

geoffsb57@yahoo.com
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Reply By: Member - Tony B (Malanda FNQ) - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 07:37

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 07:37
Craig. To save you sending them to all that ask - use the insert image at the bottom of the thread dialogue box . I would like to see some. Cheers Tony
AnswerID: 360279

Reply By: Saharaman (aka Geepeem) - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 07:38

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 07:38
HI Craig,
have just read your post - very interesting.
I also would like to see some pics.
Hope you enjoy your travels with it to the max.
Cheers
GPM
Email:

havilahheights@aapt.net.au

AnswerID: 360280

Reply By: Member - Don M (NSW) - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 07:53

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 07:53
Craig,

What a fantastic effort. I'd like some pics too, please.

dk.miller@bigpond.com
AnswerID: 360283

Reply By: Member - Lionel A (WA) - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 08:27

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 08:27
Craig,

No plans of building a van so you dont have to send me any photos.......hahaha.


Cheers.....Lionel.
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Reply By: Dusty & Bumpy - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 08:33

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 08:33
G'day Craig.

I have just about finished the chassis of a smaller off road van and was ready to order foam sandwich fibreglass. Your cladding sounds very interesting could you give me some more details for the au supplier.

My design is complete but would also like to have a few pics.

Thanks and congrats for the work so far, David W
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Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:07

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:07
Hi David, can you send me your email address?

Cheers

Craig
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Follow Up By: Dusty & Bumpy - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 17:11

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 17:11
G'day again Craig.

What you have done is fantastic, I have built myself because I was never happy with commercial production.

My email is dkwilson2@optusnet.com.au

Also Craig I am in Malanda - where are you

Cheers, David W
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Reply By: austastar - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 09:52

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 09:52
Hi Craig,
Yep another request for you to forward your email photos, I haven't built any thing more complicated than a set of fiberglass panniers for the motor bike cause nothing I could buy was big/strong enough for 4 months touring.
Plastic sounds interesting.
cheers
dave

drleesatgmaildotcom
AnswerID: 360302

Reply By: DIO - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 10:11

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 10:11
You haven't told us what type and size chassis you used or what type of suspension - leaf spring, air bag, independent etc. Gee I'm really surprised that you have built a van of such size (27' - 9 metres approx) with so many heavy fittings inside and it only weighs 1.3 ton. Not too many fully loaded camper trailers would come in under that weight !!
A lot of people might find it a bit hard to believe that someone with little or no experience in fabricatiing and or engineering could build a van and have the RTA inspect it and not find ONE issue with it !! It's a real pity that you have been a 'member' for sooo long and yet this is your first post. How did you manage to make all the structural/engiineering/material/layout choices etc without the urge to ask or consult with someone on this forum ? Many would have enjoyed following you and your 'project' and then enjoyed seeing the 'end product'.
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Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 10:58

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 10:58
Hi Dio, some answers to your questions:

Suspension - I went with dual beam axle leaf spring with 10 inch electric braskes on each hub. Rating is 3.5 tonnes for the suspension as I wanted load carying capacity and realtive simplicity. I was leaning towards one of the Alko systems, which are really good INMHO

As I said before, I did study Naval Architecture which includes a significant engineering component and I spent well over 12 months reviewing materials and asking the questions. The material I chose has been used extensively in Europe and is slowly working its way into the trucking / transport industry here in Aus so it wasnt some obscure product. A bloke in QLD had built a motor home from it (He built them professionally out of traditional materials then built one out of this stuff. He saved a lot of weight and build cost but the good thing was I could ask him questions about the best ways to do things with the material. another guy in Perth built a 30 foot fifth wheeler out of the stuff. Both of those guys used MDF / frame for their furniture. The guy in QLD was kicking himself when he found out that they had 17mm product that is ideal for furniture.

I spoke with a number of caravan manufacturers and even a couple of repairers and quite frankly they were hardly supportive or provided any advice at all. A mate of mine owns a truck body building company and he had used the material twice so he provided good advice as well.

The chassis design is simple maths. My mate who welded it is a qualified welder and his father worked for Windsor for 35 years building their chassis so I wasnt without a few people with experience. We went from lenghts of steel to completed chassis in a day. The next saturday we had the completed to lockup and around to my place for fitout. You read right...2 x saturdays and one sunday. That is with 2 people. And they were not big days...8 hours on the first saturday and about the same the following and about 5 hours on the sunday. We did have an extra person to lift the roof panel up though due to its size.

The first weighbridge certificate showed 1.6 Tonnes. BUT, I had 4 dead car batteries inside the van because I was playing with balance / draw bar weight. I also had another battery in there for 12 volt use. 145 amp hour which is still there. I had all of my building materials in there at the time, power tools, a pile of rims and tyres etc and enough flooring to cover my entire house...which weighs a lot. When I took all that out and took it back accross the weighbridge it came in at 1.29 tonnes. Complete. Including the air cond which is a 1.5 HP full reverse cycle - as in a house air cond. Compressor is on the A Frame. Note though that when the van was weighed both times there was a 1.5HP window type above the fridge that weighed about the same as the setup on the draw bar.

I had it registered at the original weight because I wanted to get it done early so if there were any issues I could resolve them with plenty of time for the shakedown run in early Jan 09. I can now go back and do an amendment to adjust the tare weight on the compliance plate...if I could be bothered.

Also, I had weights for virtually every part of that van with the exception of things like rivets and adhesives. That meant I have a big excell spreadsheet showing the materials used and their weights so I could have a pretty accurate estimate of what it would come in at.

I am in a 4x4 club and they were certainly kept up to date as to progress and many dropped by to check it out in its various stages of completion.

re RTA, I have the guys number in my phone...because the one thing I hadnt done...was attach the compliance plate and I had to confirm it was done. He turned up at my place unanounced at 8am to do this random inspection. Also, the company that did the Blue slip were given specific instructions to go over the van thoroughly because I wanted to make sure that it didnt go on the road UNLESS it was safe. They couldnt find fault with it and it passed first go.

All the info you need re road worthyness requirements - DOT - regs, is available on the web from various websites. You just need to spend time researching it. As I own several companies, I dont tend to get it wrong when planning and researching.

I also had one of the State Sales reps for one of the caravan product suppliers come around and check it out as well. He took samples of the materials with him.

I found that the suppliers of materials were excellent and very supportive. Anyone else in the industry certainly wasnt.

Thanks

Craig
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Follow Up By: Member - Ed. C. (QLD) - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:30

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:30
So there!!

Stick that in yer pipe and smoke it, DIO.....................

;-)))


Confucius say.....
"He who lie underneath automobile with tool in hand,
....Not necessarily mechanic!!"

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Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:38

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:38
By the way DIO, its attitudes like yours that had me sick to the back teeth with talking to people in the caravan industry. Its all "cant be done", "wont work", "No one does it that way" etc etc etc.

That negativity and defensiveness is prevalent in most industries. It really fuels my fire. I love it when people say something cant be done because 9 times out of 10 they are afraid of change or have some personal reason for disuading you. In any event I dont care.

I dont like negative people because their attitude is contageous and often destructive. It achieves nothing.

I have a van that works, is very unique, water proof and virtually indestructable, will take all my toys and even ones I dont have yet!

Craig
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 13:48

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 13:48
Congratulations on what you have achieved Craig. I find what you have achieved amazing. If your caravan proves durable in the long term, and you wanted to set up a business, what a huge market you would have for a roomy and lightweight caravan. If you don't want to take it all on yourself, you may be able to join with an existing manufacturing outfit to produce these 'Craig Caravans'.

Don't worry about negative member/s here - ignore them - as most members do. As you can see, most members are positive and supportive.

Motherhen

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Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 14:10

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 14:10
This is the surprising thing. I have 2 options for building these with people I know who have suitable business premises. I went to speak to 2 companies at the Penrith 4x4 show about this as an option and neither were even interested in discussing it. Both had just decided to sell some other toy hauler from the US (Small thing).

They couldnt beleive the weight. They didnt understand the product obviously so it was a waste of time. They were very closed minded. So, I figure if I cant join them then I will beat them. So that is why I am happy to help people who want to do this for themselves as i Have done, and avoid the mistakes and a lot of time researching.

As long as the person/s are driven to complete things and want to do something like this then they will save a lot of $ and have a great product. You dont need to know a lot about power tools etc to do this. The only thing that is essential is that you use a qualified and experienced welder to put the chassis together and weld the suspension in place. I had a mate that did it so it cost me a case of beer or three and I paid for the welding materials.

But there are a lot of engineers in need of work, some that even come to your place with their welder (You should see the electricity meter spin!) and would do it there. It wouldnt cost much if you have it all ready. Lots of trailer places around that weld up the body for you too.

The only thing I outsourced was the wiring of the electric brakes. Didnt want to get that wrong. You can get an auto electrician to come out to you to do that and they are not expensive. Doing the gas is easy and so is the elctrics, 12v and 240v. An auto electrician will certify the wiring without issues (they test it etc) and a plumber who is gas certified can certify the gas system.

Dont be fooled into thinking this stuff is hard to do. With the gas, I found flanging instructions on Google, $20 at bunnings got me the flanging tool and away I went. practiced til I got it right. The local gas shop was really good too. Even though I didnt buy the gas equipment through them, I had a couple of connectors that didnt work with the items I had so they happily swapped them at no cost with the correct ones!

As I said, the suppliers are really nice people and so helpful. You dont ring them during their busy periods if you want to chat onto them or visit them and they are just great. These people dont often have huge turnovers and they treat you well in the hope that they will get repeat business. Having said that, one the nicest guys I dealt with is from Dometic. Really helpful guy. Professional and despite working with lots of caravan companies, never talked out of shop about any of them. Integrity and customer service? Imagine that...

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Follow Up By: OzTroopy - Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 01:36

Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 01:36
DIO ......

There was ... in a time before OH&S, Govt over-regulation and compulsory, generally useless TAFE courses ... a world where most people could think and do for themselves ..... safely.

Thankfully there are still a few people in the world today that have that ability ...
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Reply By: Member - Min (NSW) - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:11

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:11
Hi Craig,

You have done something quite amazing. It seems that your concept, design, materials, techniques and marketability would qualify you for a place on the New Inventors! Maybe you should be more circumspect in giving away too much information if your intend to manufacture kits yourself.

Having said that your generosity in sharing information is what this forum is all about. Good on you.

I'm sure someone could talk you through placing your photos on the site if that is what you wish. It would save many emails and you are going to have such a ball in your travels that you'll have lots of pics to share about that too.

Congratulations.

Min

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Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:16

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:16
Thanks for that! It was funny at the caravan park at Christmas...I had these people standing around with beer in hand staring at it.

Over 30 people came around and checked it out while I was in attendance and plenty more would have had a squiz when I was out and about.

I ended up leaving a piece of the material on the A frame so people could play with it. It was fun watching people angle it on the gutter then jump up and down on it.

Cheers

Craig

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Reply By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:22

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:22
Photos...tried putting them up here but they need to be web hosted photos. I will investigate how to do this later...happy to email if you provide your email address.

Cheers

Craig
AnswerID: 360313

Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 22:49

Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 22:49
Craig, they don't need to be web hosted.

The little TAB below that says "Insert Image" allows you to find them on your PC and upload them. Just don't make them too big.

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Reply By: Member - Ed. C. (QLD) - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:35

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:35
Ya done good :)

Very interested in your project, and keen to view pics of same..

Please forward to > edjan AT bigpond DOTcom < ..

Many Thanks:)

Regards, Ed C

Confucius say.....
"He who lie underneath automobile with tool in hand,
....Not necessarily mechanic!!"

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Reply By: GoneTroppo Member (FNQ) - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:41

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:41
Craig, love to see the pics, The motor home concept you spoke about is of great interest.

I've been down the same track with these as you did with the van. Just can't find anything remotely suitable.
Cheers
Chris


c.l.jahnke@bigpond.com

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Reply By: Member - Malcolm (Townsville) - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:42

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:42
Hi Craig

Reminds me of the 5th wheeler project that I started 8-9 years ago. I was going to use cold room panels (in aluminium) 100mm on roof an 40/50mm for walls - a minimal 40mm box steel frame and sikaflex the whole lot together. Scrapped the project but still have all the materials, plans, etc :-)

If you email me your photos I will adjust the sizes and post them up as soon as I receive them. malcolm at sbca dot com dot au

Malcolm
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Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:17

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:17
The cold room panels are good. They are very strong and have lots of benefits. But like alluminium yachts, you can get condensation build up. Good material though!

The plastic is about 30% below foam core sandwhich, in equivalent thickness, for thermal properties and you can easily fix that with the addition of Laminex to walls and roof. Yep, it does bond perfectly with the stuff. I had a kitchen manufacturer laminate a piece so it could see the effect on weight and also whether it would stick.

Thanks re photos!

By the way...the floor is the same material as the walls and roof!

Cheers

Craig



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Reply By: David H - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:46

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 11:46
G'day Craig, i too would love to see some photo's please if thats ok, whats is the product called? good luck with making and selling the kits, sounds like you would have a great market, would certainly give the major players a run for there money, don't know how they justify the costs sometimes, anyway thanks again.
cheers
David.
atrekcamping at ozemail dot com dot au
AnswerID: 360322

Reply By: landseka - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:14

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:14
G'day Craig

Congratulations and what you have achieved. It's good to see a dream fulfilled! :)

Would love to see your photos as well thanks.

oldgold_77@yahoo.com.au

Cheers

Neil
AnswerID: 360324

Reply By: Rolly - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:15

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:15
Craig,

I have absolutely no intention of building my own rig, under any circumstances, but your attitude and approach to your project has me sorely tempted!

Naysayers are the bane of our society and, unfortunately, seem to outnumber the 'do-ers' by a large majority.

I commend you for your inspiring originality and persistence.

You might just have started something that the builders of traditional RVs have been assiduously trying to avoid for decades - forward thinking.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

AnswerID: 360325

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:36

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:36
Hi Rolly...are you on Overlander forum as well?

Most van manufacturers I am told build at a cost of about $45 per square meter. No idea if this is true or not but makes sense given the materials used a lot of the time.

I heard from a mate that one manufacturer was getting fibreglass sheet, spraying glue on it then pressing foam slabs to it and calling that foam sandwhich. That is delamination waiting to happen. There is a guy in QLD doing foam core fibreglass sheets and he is great! He vaccum bags it, uses proper marine grade resins and uses proper curing techniques to produce a good solid product.

The stuff I used is $125 per square meter trade. It aint cheap! But, you use a totally different construction method which saves time (Time is money!) and you save massively on weight. No panel joins means no opportunity for leaks.

What I want to achieve from all of this is to help anyone who wants to build a van do so. As I said, I have the information, design / s, can write the instructions if there is enough interest and use my trade accounts to save $ on it. If I dont use them they will close them off :(

Cheers

Craig
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FollowupID: 628141

Follow Up By: Rolly - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 14:24

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 14:24
Not Guilty, M'Lud!

I'm located on the other side of the island continent ;)
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FollowupID: 628150

Reply By: bloosted - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:34

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:34
Bloody Brilliant mate,can't wait to see the pics and for people/person to knock it before they see it must have issues
AnswerID: 360326

Reply By: Member - Malcolm (Townsville) - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:35

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:35
Here are Craig's photos .....

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Malcolm
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AnswerID: 360327

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:45

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:45
Thanks a heap for that Malcom!

My next step with this contraption is to convert my fav photo of a sunset out at Coongee ponds into 16 colours using photoshop, then use my projector on a dark night to project the image onto the sides of the van. Drawn it in then paint it!

By the way, the stainless cables on the fold out beds are there to adjust the angle only in case the van is on a slight lean. It is actually supported internally and there are three things preventing the beds from collapsing and putting your butt on the ground. Which would be very embarrasing me thinks :)

I was VERY worried cutting 2m by 1.5m holes out of the sides I can tell you. But, i had confidence in the design...A few mates were more worried than me when I pulled out the circular saw LOL. They thought I was joking until they saw me marking out the cut lines!

The funny thing is I have a friend who is the nicest guy on earth. But he has a rule. No beer until you achieve something and it must be positive. There were many hours without beer I can tell you...LOL

I had a ball building it, the kids had a cubby house for a while (Until I kicked them out) and my mates got to drink free beer for a while. It really was a very good experience despite my best efforts to cut my limbs off

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FollowupID: 628142

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:51

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:51
Oh yeah...I went with a blue theme for mood lighting LOL

I grabbed some stainless steel Blue LED square lights they use in timber decking and put 3 inside around the settee, 1 over each bed and 8 down the left hand side. Also used those cute LED handles at the rear.

So, because the material is opaque, you get a lovely blue glow surrounding the LED's and it really gives the van a lift at night. You wont have trouble finding it in the park! Also means there is some light in the van while the kids are asleep without it being too bright.
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FollowupID: 628143

Follow Up By: Member No 1- Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 14:29

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 14:29
okay...how does the BBQ fit through that little hole?

bloody fantastic van but...well done craig
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FollowupID: 628151

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 14:46

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 14:46
The BBQ is mounted to a masive slide that is level. I used that legnth of Monopan in the picture to level it due to a slight slope at the van park :)

I ditched the screws that held the hood on, drilled out the thread, grabbed 2 small split pins and bolts from Bunnings and Voila! The hood is quickly removed and stored in the storage section on the other side of the van. So the BBQ slides in and out easily.

If you are going away for a weekend and you are not going to be using the Hood, just leave it at home. Ialso grabbed a battery driven rotiserie thingy...

For those looking to put a BBQ on / in a van, make sure you get one with Stainless Steel gas outlets, not cast iron. They break after a short period of time on rough roads and they weigh a lot. also more expensive. That one cost me under $200
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FollowupID: 628153

Reply By: andson - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:45

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:45
Craig,

Please send some pics to me at shane@mandurahholden.com.au .

thanks heaps

shane
AnswerID: 360329

Follow Up By: Member - Malcolm (Townsville) - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 13:39

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 13:39
Craig

Sent some stuff on my project from 2002 for info.

Malcolm
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FollowupID: 628146

Reply By: austastar - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:58

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:58
Hi again Craig,
thanks for the photos, the van looks great.
Lots of interest from the group here too.
Any chance of some more info on the product: name, links for tech specks etc.
cheers
dave
AnswerID: 360332

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 13:04

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 13:04
The product is called Monpan. This is a link to some specs on the materials.

http://www.monopan.ca/docs/MonoPan.pdf

You can get it clear or painted in 2 pack on one side only. You can get white, white or white...unless you order a truck load of it. The "Pink" hygene trucks are being made in this stuff now.

Cheers Craig
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FollowupID: 628144

Reply By: marek - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 13:08

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 13:08
Hi Craig,
Congratulations on the excellent project. I've been planning to build a slide-on camper for my Ute. I've got a drawn up plans, the only problem was to find right materials. The same as you, I don't like a steel frame. Just wondering if you could share your suppliers of Polypropelene and other bits and pieces. Thanks.

Regards

Marek
AnswerID: 360333

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 13:14

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 13:14
Hi there, give me a call on 0408 688344 and I will give you some info. If you can tell me the dimensions of the ute top I could think of a few ways to build it to get the weight down.

That would be a really cool project. Do a quick calc at 5kgs per square meter allowing for floors, walls and roof. That will give you a basic weight you could expect, not allowing for fit out obviously.

You wont need to use any frames if you do it the way I am thinking...depends on the shape.
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FollowupID: 628145

Follow Up By: Dunedigger - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 15:57

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 15:57
Hi Craig and others,

I am interested in a pop top slide on too. Love to hear more about this and some of the ideas

How did you work out the measurements and hinging for the fold out section ?

How you made this without having used tools before, is amazing.

If people like I could start a yahoo group to further discuss amongst our selves. Craig, can you suggest a name pleease

Dunedigger
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FollowupID: 628156

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 20:23

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 20:23
How about DIY caravans and campers?

I think that would be something people would look for?

Any other thoughts? Let me know what you come up with and I will join it.

Cheers

Craig
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FollowupID: 628205

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 20:53

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 20:53
How did you work out the measurements and hinging for the fold out section ?

I knew how wide I wanted the beds and how long. I knew the height of the wall. So I used a CAD program to draft it up. I ended up making a cardboard cutout of it and testing it. Biggest worry was whether it would clear the roof panel easily when coming out as it is quite a big box section on the bottom.

The base of the beds are all one piece. Just made a box by measuring it out on the sheets allowing for the fold lines. Cut it out, routed the material where I wanted the walls to bend up and trimmed it up before capping the exposed edges and installing the hinges etc

The sides of the bed base are all different heights as well. This allowed for the walls to fold in on each other but not touch. Also meant that the section you climb over to get into the bed is lower but high enough to not let the matress etc fall out when stored in the upright position.
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FollowupID: 628211

Follow Up By: Dunedigger - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 21:27

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 21:27
Hi Craig, ( and others )

i have set up a group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DIY_caravans_campers.

You will be able to post to the group after approval from the Moderator ( me at the moment but I am open to some others moderating if necessary )

Pictures can be posted in the photos section but not by way of atachments

Dunedigger (aka Rex)
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FollowupID: 628219

Reply By: austastar - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 14:03

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 14:03
Hi again, thanks for the specs, I think we will see a lot more of this product.
cheers
dave
AnswerID: 360336

Reply By: Member - DickyBeach - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 18:08

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 18:08
Great effort Craig, congratulations, and a great tale - I love stories like this that prove that "it can be done".

A couple of questions please (and I apologise in advance if I missed the answers in this long series of posts):
1) How did you join the top and bottom to the walls - welding I presume?
2) How did you secure the floor to the chassis?
3) I see from the product specs that right angles may be formed with almost no intrusion into the inside corner - did you have any difficulties in achieving this result?

With thanks,
Dicky
AnswerID: 360388

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 20:20

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 20:20
1) How did you join the top and bottom to the walls - welding I presume?

No, you can weld for added stregnth but there are easier ways to do it. You can buy alluminium extrusion that the panels "slip" into. Its a right angle with a rounded shape. The difficulty using that is that you have to be very precise with your measurements cause if you cut it even slightly wrong, you have just burned an entire panel! The other issue is that those extrusions are designed for truck bodies where there is little shape in the front. I had 2 steps in mine so it would have been very difficult to get that right (I thought anyway - never tried it).

I used alluminium angle - others had used it in Europe. Bulb tite structural rivets and marine grade adhesives.

2) How did you secure the floor to the chassis?

I ran horizontal super gal box section the width of the van which was welded to the main chassis rails to support the floor. The floor was then secured by glue, rivets and self tapping screws into the horizontal beams. I then braced it under those beams and at the sides with 2.5mm checker plate that is bent at 90 degrees. So it goes up the sides of the panels - glued and riveted, and is then bolted underneath into the horizontal beams. Covers the exposed honeycomb from the floor.

If you want more info than that you will need to call me :)

3) I see from the product specs that right angles may be formed with almost no intrusion into the inside corner - did you have any difficulties in achieving this result?

None at all. Brought a 90 degree router bit from Biunnings and just ran it through to create a "V". Then bent it together to have a nice rounded edge - and no join. I did brace it internally with angle as well as it is still under load at 90 degrees so you need something to hold it. The trick is in the measurements as you have to allow for the groove in measurements internally and externally and that depends on how deep you are making the groove. I ended up with a list of what I called magic numbers that I applied when using the different thickness materials for different tasks and different tools

With the steps in the front, I just didnt run the router that deep - just enough to effect the "bend" that I wanted. That way I had a continuous piece for the roof from front to back
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FollowupID: 628202

Follow Up By: Member - DickyBeach - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 20:28

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 20:28
Thanks for the quick reply (628202).

DB
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FollowupID: 628207

Reply By: Member - DAZA (QLD) - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 19:19

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 19:19
G/Day Craig

Congratulations on a job well done, it looks better than a bought one, I reckon a few caravan manufacturers will be closely monitoring your achievement, ignore the knockers, there are Doers and Watchers, you are a Doer.
AnswerID: 360402

Reply By: Al-one - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 20:04

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 20:04
Craig,
It's a real credit to you. Could I have any information emailed to me please.
Cheers.
bbrook67@gmail.com
AnswerID: 360416

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 20:21

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 20:21
Hi there! What information are you after?
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FollowupID: 628203

Reply By: Al-one - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 20:58

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 20:58
Craig,
I was after th photos. I see some are posted on the forum but if you had any more they would be appreciated (particularly any during construction)
Cheers,
Al-one
AnswerID: 360427

Follow Up By: Johnny boy - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 21:10

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 21:10
Hi all,
Can anyone help by posting the pics on here for us all to enjoy as there is enough of you all with pics now to do so LOL!

Cheers John..... Im hanging out to see them !!
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FollowupID: 628213

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 12:26

Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 12:26
I placed some photos of the van under construction on the Yahoo forums that Rex created.

Cheers

Craig
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FollowupID: 628299

Reply By: Johnny boy - Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 21:15

Sunday, Apr 19, 2009 at 21:15
OPPS I should have scrolled UP sorry LOL!
AnswerID: 360433

Reply By: OzTroopy - Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 02:04

Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 02:04
Well ... Ive been reading this thread since it started .....

Whether its just a great marketing ploy or not ... there have been some very valid points raised by cyoung 2203 and the finished product is impressive ... and Im not easily impressed.

Most general production caravan designs are pathetic imho ... useless little cupboards and drawers, buggerall, really useable multifunction space and all designed to look like a motel room when its meant to be a camping box on wheels ... Congrats on the simplistic approach cyoung.

Those in the trade saying no ... same goes with alternate housebuilding methods and other fields ... cant get their heads around the quality of different material types or fastening systems. Lots of good stuff out there for all sorts of purposes - and the more one looks - the more purposes come to mind ... dammitt .. LOL

Been looking at doing a few projects using the foam core sandwich panels .... this plastic looks the goods as an alternative. Thanks for making it known.

Only thing that concerns me about using the stuff on a large vehicle/van is high wind conditions ... Lots of wind resistance but less anchoring weight if vehicle is empty ... but probably not an issue since the transport industry iseems to be adopting it enmasse.
AnswerID: 360463

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 08:13

Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 08:13
Thanks Oz Troopy.

By the way, I know what you mean re cupboards etc. My benchtops are over 1 meter tall. That wouldnt suit everyone but I am 6.1 so didnt want to be hunched over the sink.

My settee is 64cm at the seat and they are significantly higher than my Jayco's seats. Very comfy :)

Cheers

Craig
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FollowupID: 628262

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 10:51

Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 10:51
Your center of gravity is really low though as well. And you can use heavier steel if you want in the chassis - box section - instead of C chanel because you weight is no longer a critical issue because the rest of the van is really light in weight.

The only issue I found was painting it. One side is done in white 2 pac so no issues. The other side is natural and the 17mm doesnt come painted. Some wood duck at Bunnings convinced me to buy some primer and paint that he was certain would work. Spent three days painting interior. Looked fantastic. First hot day and there was a bubble on the wall about 12 inches round. Been peeling it off ever since!

The material is actually very nice natural. Soft white, opaque, carbon fibre pattern and high gloss. It has a slight ripple pattern in it as you can see from some of the photos.

Cheers
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FollowupID: 628287

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 10:54

Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 10:54
If I ever build another one, I would give a lot of thought to doing the roof and walls in Laminex or similar. Think I mentioned that earlier, as long as the laminex was not too thick or it may affect the structural integrity of the fasteners. You would be right with another 2 - 3 mm me thinks

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FollowupID: 628288

Follow Up By: OzTroopy - Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 11:25

Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 11:25
Thanks for that feedback and info contained in your other posts.

Building a lot of one-off stuff for myself has led to being overly concerned with repercussions ... especially more recently in todays litigation mad society.

Had initial thoughts that a big van made of material as light as the plastic sheeting might behave like a sail boat with no keel .... but all good so far eh ...

I imagine that other colours could be organised if the quantity ordered was substantial enough.

From your experience ... how is the stuff when cleaning ... as easy as a laminate ????
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FollowupID: 628292

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 12:11

Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 12:11
I know what you mean. I didnt reinvent the wheel with the construction methods I used though and I made sure structural alluminium was a quality grade. Not some recycled blend.

Other colours can be organised but you need to order over 70 square meters I think...going off memory here. Not worth it. Most panel beaters are doing it tough and will enjoy doing something different. I had a quote to do the whole exterior in 2 pack, any colour I wanted for $300. Or, another $100 would get me a combination of colours...ie red, yellow and blue.

Cleaning wise it is fine> It cant stain. I tried dying it with some food colouring and clothes die to get some with a blue tint. Didnt do anything other than make a mess. LOL. I was determined to get my blue thing happening so thats when i went blue LED lights :)

Small things amuse small minds they say.....LOL

I have a pretty heavy truck for towing which is good. Thinking of getting a new Pajero later in the year for towing. Wouldnt expect and probs at all. Like any van, you have to load it correctly. I have not put the bikes / quad inside it yet to see what effect that has on the stability but not expecting any issues. I would just balance it by putting more weight forward to evenly distribute the load. 2 x bikes is under 300KG's. Water tanks are located slightly forward of the center above the axles. Fridge and pantry are slightly forward of center with this in mind and all storage is forward of center.

You wouldnt have to worry about that so much if you built something that wasnt designed to take the toys like this. I actually toyed with the idea of using the water tanks as moveable ballast...have it on a track underneath and pulley system so you could move it forward to balance the load when you have the bikes / waverunner in or back when empty. It is entirely doable but time constraints didnt really allow me to pursue it. I figured I could achieve the same result with my collection of dead batteries. 4 x batteries at 50 - 60 kgs each is pretty good ballast LOL
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FollowupID: 628295

Reply By: cyoung2203 - Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 08:20

Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 08:20
I towed the van in January over Mooney Mooney and had about a 25 knott cross wind. No issues. The dual axle helps a lot there I think...

I also used the floor to ceiling pantry and the fridge hole to make a floor to ceiling structural support. I used 30mm for those and braced to wall, roof and floor. Like all vans, the furniture if properly braced helps hold the whole thing together...but it isnt nescesary. I have received photos from someone who made a car trailor (Enclosed) with the same material. Same construction techniques. No furniture in that!



AnswerID: 360482

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 08:22

Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 08:22
One more thing...I read on the web that in Europe they were going to use this product for emergency housing! You could easily make a quick asemble portable home out of this stuff.

And no.....I dont work for Monopan LOL
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FollowupID: 628266

Reply By: Dunedigger - Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 08:38

Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 08:38
Craig has posted a lot more photos on this site in the photos section
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DIY_caravans_campers

Dunedigger
AnswerID: 360483

Follow Up By: cyoung2203 - Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 12:14

Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 12:14
I and others had problems getting a login with the link in the forum page. Go to yahoo.com.au and create your logn there. That link works. The one on the forum itself does not.

Cheers

Craig
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FollowupID: 628296

Follow Up By: Dunedigger - Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 15:42

Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 15:42
For those wanting to join you must be a yahoo groups member to join up on the page to join yahoo groups ( it's easy ) just go to http://www,groups.yahoo.com and click on sign up, then you can join the group

Dunedigger
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FollowupID: 628332

Follow Up By: Member - Malcolm (Townsville) - Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 17:12

Monday, Apr 20, 2009 at 17:12
I for one, am not interested in joining any yahoo groups. So I guess I won't get to see all these great photos.

Why don't you just put them on www.photobucket.com then we don't have to join anything to see photos.

Malcolm
living the 'good life'

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FollowupID: 628345

Reply By:- Saturday, Apr 25, 2009 at 10:32

Saturday, Apr 25, 2009 at 10:32
Fantstic Effort mate
Where might I get the material you used for the project. I have designed my chassis and have decided the poly sheet is the way to go
andy.ross@bigpond.com.au
Andy
AnswerID: 361414

Follow Up By: Member - Craig Y (NSW) - Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 22:11

Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 22:11
Hi Andy, just checking that you received the email I sent you?

Cheers

Craig
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FollowupID: 630091

Follow Up By:- Friday, May 01, 2009 at 19:10

Friday, May 01, 2009 at 19:10
Hi Craig,
Yes I got it. Been a bit busy to chase anything as yet tho.
I shall keep in conatct

Be Well
Andy
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FollowupID: 630359

Reply By: Gone Bush (WA) - Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 22:59

Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 22:59
Craig has posted a bunch of his photos here too:

Site Link

I'm glad I ain't too scared to be lazy
- Augustus McCrae (Lonesome Dove)

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AnswerID: 362370

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