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Old 01-27-2014, 07:33 AM   #21
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We didn't like the floor plan or cheap construction of the typical truck camper, plus we wanted a true flatbed camper. We decided to build our own, using a steel frame, 2 inch polyisocyanurate R13 insulation, 1/16" aluminum skin isolated from the steel frame with nylon spacers, and a continuous aluminum skin roof with zero holes. I also did not like the way camper jacks stay attached to the camper while driving so I fabricated quick connect mounts that allow the jacks to be installed in under 1 minute. During trips they are stored under the flatbed truck.




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Old 01-27-2014, 08:17 AM   #22
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Hey Fermion,

That 5th wheel is way cool. You should start a thread about your project.

You're incorporating several ideas to prevent water intrusion and hopefully eliminate corrosion too. Good Luck!

Are you aware of airforums.com? That web site/forum is also owned by AndyR. Even though your rig is not an Airstream, the members at Air Forums would love to see you project and your progress.

Thanks for posting.
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Old 01-27-2014, 08:35 AM   #23
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Sorry for somewhat hijacking the OP rant against truck camper quality. I totally agree with him though.

Thanks. It is not a 5th though, it is a regular truck camper but meant to go on a flatbed truck (the bottom of the camper is perfectly flat with no protrusions.). I have a thread on the camper section of rv.net with a ton of build construction info and pics.

RV.Net Open Roads Forum: Our custom true flatbed truck camper build thread


Our camper will look like this when mounted on our Isuzu flatbed:

(the camper is the green drawing, the rear pod will get made in the future and will hold motorcycles and snowmobiles)



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Old 01-27-2014, 08:58 AM   #24
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My 1976 Airstream Argosy motorhome is not without drama or repairs, but it has held up quite well in a humid, salty environment (I live on the coast, and bought it from Florida prior owners). I mean, there are things that leak, and old problems that eventually get fixed, but for what it is, it is great.

I've seen very cheaply made pop-ups owned by friends, and those are definitely made for short term ownership. Lots of our maintenance issues are just squirrely things about the old 454 Chevy that runs it, and well, a 1976 anything is going to have problems.

But like Brewer said...the memories...definitely the memories.
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Old 01-27-2014, 12:05 PM   #25
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We went from tent to pop-up and now have a 31 foot Keystone Hornet. We have only had minor issues with any of our units. Looking to upgrade to Class A soon.
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Old 01-27-2014, 12:15 PM   #26
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My 5th wheel RV is fiberglass. No problems so far.
My Aliner hard-sided pop-up is fiberglass. They switched from aluminum construction a while back. It's only 4 years old, but so far no issues with frame rust, soft floors or skin delamination. It's stored outdoors and still looks new. Hope this keeps up!
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Old 01-27-2014, 02:30 PM   #27
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In '78 I was in a 3 month trade school. One of the other students had his parents old Airsteam. I think he said it was a '39. Seemed pretty nice, of course expectations change in 36 years.
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Old 01-27-2014, 04:38 PM   #28
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My last one was an Argosy, made by Airstream.

No problems at all with Aluminum skin. However there were some really stupid design/implementation problems.

The bottom was fully enclosed, good. The bottom panels curved upward to meet the side skin. They lapped the bottom to the OUTSIDE of the side skin, thus any water running down would go inside the bottom skin.

Door, a suicide door. If the lock gave way the door would open and them be blown backwards, likely ripping off the hinges. Made special bracket to to ensure it would stay closed even if lock broke.

The door lock. A miserable construction, had to be extremely gentle in closing, as it was prone to breakage. It was unobtanium. To replace with anything else required surgery to remove old one.

As in all older RV's the Converter/charger was very efficient at boiling battery acid.

The battery box, just large enough for a smallish battery, to use anything with larger AH capacity would require surgey again. Fortubatly nowadys sealed battery can be had and put inside, no venting required.

A minor pain, the antenna downlead was well buried twin lead, thus routed next to the aluminum skin totally messed up the impdeance, to replace with coax required removal of interior paneling. Lots of riveting but doable about 8 hours of labor. I set it up for an Amateur radio 2 meter foldback antenna.

But it towed real nice, and sold it for more $ than I paid for it after using it for about 5 years.
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Old 01-27-2014, 04:58 PM   #29
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The bottom was fully enclosed, good. The bottom panels curved upward to meet the side skin. They lapped the bottom to the OUTSIDE of the side skin, thus any water running down would go inside the bottom skin.
That is just pure stupid. We have never built a camper before this one and we got that correct! (aluminum roof laps OVER the side skin, side skin laps OVER the bottom skin)
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Old 01-27-2014, 05:28 PM   #30
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......... However there were some really stupid design/implementation problems............
I don't think that most RVs are actually engineered - mostly just assembled in a pole barn somewhere.
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Old 01-27-2014, 05:34 PM   #31
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I have enough trouble dealing with a regular vehicle. Plus, after reading "Doctor Sleep", I find RV's kinda scary....
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Old 01-27-2014, 05:37 PM   #32
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I don't think that most RVs are actually engineered - mostly just assembled in a pole barn somewhere.
Airstream/Argosy was founded by a couple of former aircraft design engineers. Can't remember what brand.

Edit add: by the way AVION RVs of old were supposedly far better than Airstream anything. Hard to find them nowadays. THe new fiberglass ones I know zero about.
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Old 01-27-2014, 05:37 PM   #33
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The treated wood in your trailer probably contained chromium copper arsenate (CCA), which used to be the standard wood preservative. It, and almost every other newer wood preservative, contains copper of some type. That copper in contact with the aluminum was likely the source of your trouble.
Aluminum and copper are some distance apart on the galvanic corrosion table, indicating a good chance that corrosion will occur if conditions are right.
The issue with PT wood corroding aluminum is well known in the building trades: Aluminum nails and fittings aren't used with pressure treated wood and any aluminum flashing needs a barrier between the wood and the AL to prevent corrosion.
I guess the builder of the trailer just didn't care.
From what I've seen, builders of many RV's have great faith in the ability of caulk to keep water out. In my opinion, any design that depends on caulk as the primary/only water barrier between surfaces that are subject to vibration, exposure to UV light, and to large changes in temperature is a design for failure.
So it would seem wise to have some replaceable zinc bolted to the aluminum to act as a sacrificial anode.
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Old 01-27-2014, 05:51 PM   #34
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As in all older RV's the Converter/charger was very efficient at boiling battery acid.
It is amazing how far they have come with converter technology. The WFCO in my Aliner includes a 25A three stage charger which does a great job on everything from float to rapid charge. I was able to get 4 years out of the original cheapo deep cycle battery thanks to proper charging
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The battery box, just large enough for a smallish battery, to use anything with larger AH capacity would require surgey again.
This hit me in spades. After four seasons, I wanted to get a new battery and figured I might as well put in a size 27 in place of the size 24. I already had a size 27 battery box in the garage I used to use for the trolling motor on the boat. But wait....... ! When I tried to mount the size 27 box where the size 24 box had been, it interfered with the two propane tanks. Now I'm figuring out how to jury rig a way to mount it without having to do any cutting and welding of the L brackets that hold the battery box. There's always something........
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Old 01-27-2014, 06:07 PM   #35
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Just to add to the "design features";

All of the marker lights, incandescent of course, were fed from tow vehicle's headlight switch's accessory contacts. Which are reted just good enough to run the TV's own accessory lights.

On my Argosy I added a relay, which was activated by the accessory line from the 7 way plug, and the actual marker lights were fed via the relay contacts from the RV's battery, which was fed from the TV's battery line a far hevier wire and not routed through any switch.
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Old 01-27-2014, 07:08 PM   #36
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Airstream/Argosy was founded by a couple of former aircraft design engineers. Can't remember what brand.

Edit add: by the way AVION RVs of old were supposedly far better than Airstream anything. Hard to find them nowadays. THe new fiberglass ones I know zero about.
Agree - Airstream / Argosy are more an exception to the rule as far as RVs go. Most are just slapped together.

I always admired the GMC motor homes. Quirky, but with more actual engineering than most.
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Old 01-28-2014, 10:25 AM   #37
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Regarding the OP's bad experience with his Lance truck camper, I found that this manufacturer was not too badly rated by buyers, according to the following site. Admittedly, the count of responses for each manufacturer is not that high, so the ratings may not be accurate as they would be across a larger sample.

RV Rating - Customer Survey of RV Makes and Models

It shows that Lance is rated 4.5 stars, the same as Lazy Daze. There are a few makers that are rated 5 stars, and many I have never heard of. I have read that many top brands went defunct because the sales price was higher than the norm; quality does not come cheap.

On the other hand, things do not last forever, and a lower cost vehicle that lasts as long as the owner's interest in this traveling mode is perhaps the most suitable. My generic class C had only 25K miles when I bought it. The 1st owner drove it 15K miles, the 2nd owner 10K miles. It's at 45K miles now, which would be a lot higher if it were not for my wife's occupied time to tend to my late FIL, and then for my sudden health problem last year. I hope to return to RV'ing this year, so I can drive it to the ground.

All motorhomes have some problems. I found a blog of a Roadtrek owner who bought his expensive motorhome new. He had to take it back to the dealer several times for warranty repair, but he still loved it. There were even a few features that were never installed correctly or only half-way, and the dealer and he did not know enough to check out thoroughly at delivery inspection.
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Old 01-28-2014, 10:27 AM   #38
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So it would seem wise to have some replaceable zinc bolted to the aluminum to act as a sacrificial anode.
As a practical matter, approx how far away could the zinc be located and still "donate" across the aluminum? It could be a good backup to other methods of protection.

I've always depended on physical separation of the dissimilar metals, when possible. Neoprene washers, plastic film, etc.
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Old 01-28-2014, 11:05 AM   #39
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On the other hand, things do not last forever, and a lower cost vehicle that lasts as long as the owner's interest in this traveling mode is perhaps the most suitable.
But a trailer (as opposed to a motorhome, van conversion, etc) is a very simple thing with few parts subject to wear, etc. It should be practical and not costly at all to build one correctly from the start. For example, it would have cost virtually nothing to put plastic between the aluminum and the treated wood in the OP's trailer, and only a few dollars to use fasteners that are of the proper type to avoid galvanic corrosion. It costs virtually nothing to put things subject to wear (water pumps, batteries, relays, etc) in places where they can be accessed and serviced easily.
I guess the problem ultimately is attributable to consumers. If they don't demand a well-engineered and built product then the mfgrs won't make them right and won't see any value in trumpeting the longevity features in their marketing. The trailer with the coolest stickers on the outside wins.
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Old 01-28-2014, 11:50 AM   #40
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For example, it would have cost virtually nothing to put plastic between the aluminum and the treated wood in the OP's trailer, and only a few dollars to use fasteners that are of the proper type to avoid galvanic corrosion.
My last two trailers had 1/4' plywood over the untreated wood studs to which the aluminum siding was stapled. I think the OP's treated wood camper was the exception, not the industry standard.
I view RV ownership the same way I view home ownership. They will need to be regularly maintained in order to prevent reabsorption into the earth.
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