2 aug 1999
The engineer came today. I can build a truck body without involving an engineer, but I do need a certificate from one to get the truck registered so it seems reasonable to involve him during the project.
He came, had a quick look and said “Yep, looks ok, I need to go for a drive but the certificate shouldn’t be a problem”. That’s a relief, I had visions of him saying “Tear the whole thing down”. I must admit though I’m a little apprehensive about the truck’s performance with this massive body added.
6 aug 1999
I start a three week holiday and hope to get the motor home clad and registered during this time.
7 aug 1999
Our lifestyle change moved another step closer today. For a while we’ve been tossing up what to use for a secondary form of transport, a 4×4, one motor bike, two motorbikes, push bikes? We pretty much settled on two motorbikes so then the question was, which ones?
They had to be fairly small to fit inside the motor home, also Chris wanted something with a low seat height so she can reach the ground, but they had to be capable off the bitumen. I suggested a Harley, after all they have a low seat. That idea didn’t fly so my next suggestion was a Kawasaki Sherpa. The Sherpa is a 250cc cross between a road bike and a trail bike, but closer to the trail bike style.
I liked the Sherpa but Chris was unconvinced. My next option was a Yamaha AG200, this is an “ag bike” which means that it is designed mainly for work on the farm. It’s a bit larger than the Sherpa but we decided to go look at one anyway.
On entering the bike shop I spied the AG at the back and made a beeline for it. I plonked my backside on the machine and looked around for Chris. No sign of her. Oh well I thought and continued to inspect the Yamaha.
“I’ve found it” Chris announces from behind me.
“A Honda 230, come and have a look”
Well I must admit it was a nice bike, a good size to sling around the bush and a very neat looking machine.
So to cut to the quick, we bought two of the little darlings on the spot plus riding gear such as helmets, jackets etc. Chris pushed hard for a deal, which she got…they threw in about a grand’s worth of gear for free.
I returned to the workshop and finished preparing the roof for cladding which I intended to do the following day. Some time later, while sitting atop the frame four metres above the floor, I nodded off. OK I can take a hint, I packed up and went home. I watched a bit of tele then pulled out my “Touring Alas of Australia”, all those red lines, each one a highway to an experience.
The map looking remarkably like my eyeball veins (my eyes have been quite sore lately, bit of welding flash I think).
I slowly entered the land of nod with images of the Cobourg Peninsula imprinted on my retina.
14 aug 1999
The new motor bikes arrived today but it was too late in the evening to go for a ride. We placed the two as close together as we can to see if they will fit in the spot allocated for them in the motor home. Will they?…it’s going to be close.
I spent the evening figuring out how to don and doff my new helmet without tearing my ears off. With a normal full-face helmet this is not a problem, but we’ve bought a new type of lid. These new ones are full-face but the chin part lifts up to convert the helmet to an open-face style. This will be good in the hot weather because we can get good ventilation, say when just cruising ’round the back streets or in the bush, but when on the road proper we have the protection of a full-face helmet.
15 aug 1999
I got to drive the truck today, a total distance of about 20 metres (ten out of the shed, and ten back in). I thought it was time for a photo shoot. In the shot below you see me comparing the design with the real thing, just checking that I’ve built the right motor home.
There have been some new bulkheads added. These will give strength to the body and hopefully prevent any lateral distortion of the frame.
As it happens these bulkheads line up exactly with some of the internal walls and therein lies a lesson I’ve learnt. You can’t necessarily have walls and cupboards just anywhere, there are often an integral part of the body and provide much of it’s strength so part of the design process involves juggling the location of these items between where they should be and where you’d like them to be.
Having said that, the fact that I’m building the frame from steel and have made much of it overly strong does give me more leeway to place things where I like.
The next photo shows the detail of one of these bulkheads. Note that the sheet is stitch welded all around, this creates a diaphragm that is very strong. The cross brace is really just to stop the sheet drumming.
For a while now I’ve had the help of a friend and fellow motor homer Bob Ecclestone (Bob is the president of the local CMCA chapter). Here we see him finishing off the welds on the outside of the frame (yes they are safely glasses, just don’t look like it).
You can do a project like this entirely by yourself, but for some things (handling the large sheets on the roof for example) it’s a hell of a lot easier with a helping hand.
At one point I was going to have the internal walls follow the body’s main support rails (upper arrow in the photo below). This seemed nice and neat, not to mention easy. The trouble is this caused some parts of the cabinet work to be deeper than required and others to be shallower. Using this technique would cause both internal walls to be about 700mm from the external walls which in turn meant that all cupboards, benches etc would be 700mm deep.
The trouble is that the shower needs 750mm and the motorbike storage (the garage?) needs at least 850mm, whereas a kitchen bench any wider than 600mm is a waste of space. So I decided that the placement of the internal fittings would have little or no relationship to the main rails.
Once I decided this I was free to do what I liked at the expense of creating myself more work.
The bottom arrow in the photo below shows the the supports I’ve added for the right-hand wall. Note how it allows for the kitchen cupboards to be about 700mm deep (in the foreground) then steps out to the 850mm required for the garage.
Adding these supports was a lot more work but the end result will be cupboards and benches that are an appropriate size.
16 Aug 1999
Some long-time friends of ours (Colleen and Dennis) have recently moved into their new house on forty acres to the north of Canberra. After years running their own business I guess they needed a change like many people do in their forties. Anyway I needed a day off from working on the motor home and neither of us had seen the new house so we drove out to spend the afternoon with them.
One thing about owning a reasonable piece of land is that you have a ready supply of firewood. Here we see Dennis using a labour saving technique to load the firewood, he backs his truck under the tree then chainsaws the pieces and they fall straight onto the tray.
Earlier in the day we where having lunch and discussing what we were doing with the motor home, including how much fun we thought our two motor bikes would be. I noticed a red Commodore driving at high speed up their long dirt driveway. It skidded to a halt directly outside the front door and the driver bolted into the house, it was their youngest daughter and she was almost hysterical, “There’s been an accident” she yelled, “they’ve crashed the bikes”.
The “they” she referred to was her two friends and they were both in the car. We ran outside to find one lad in the front seat, with a blood-covered face and holding his arm, and another in the back who looked ok. Dennis jumped in the vehicle and drove them to the hospital.
When they arrived the lad with the bloodied face was rushed inside but the other boy, the one that looked injury free, was told not to move until a stretcher arrived. It seems that there was some serious worry about his neck.
The point of this story, apart from the irony of two motorbike accident victims arriving just as we had espoused the virtues of our newly acquired two-wheel transport, is that it really drove home to me how your life can turn to shit at a moments notice. One second you’re mind’s full of impressing a potential girlfriend and what to wear to the disco tonight, the next you’ve got a face full of blood and the phrase “intensive care” moves right out of “Chicago Hope” and into your life.
Now I love motor bikes, I rode them years ago when, as the song goes “I wore a younger man’s clothes”. I had a 750cc Honda (with an 812 Yoshimura kit) in the days when they were one of the top Japanese bikes. Chris used to ride as well…until the accident of course.
I considered myself lucky to return to four-wheel transport with both my bike and myself intact, so when Chris first suggested we buy motorbikes instead of towing a 4×4 I was not keen on the idea. Still it did seem the most practical option and now we have them I’m loving the feeling again.
Hopefully, with us being older and a little wiser, and the bikes being smaller, we can have the fun of motorbike riding and stay in one piece.
27 Aug 1999
Another milestone passed. I spent the day on the road today with the truck, ostensibly for Mario (the engineer who certified the design) to do some trials on the body and mounting system. However while I had the trade plates I had a little drive as well. At first I was scared witless and stopped every few hundred yards to check everything. After an hour or so though it became apparent that nothing catastrophic was likely and I settled down.
As you can seen the body is largely complete is as far as the main frame goes. There’s still a lot of bracing to be done though.
Mario and I hit the road and it drove well, slowly but well. There was no noticeable pitching or tendency to behave abnormal in any way. Then we took it onto a fire trail near Molonglo Gorge and tested the mount’s ability to move with the chassis, once again no problems. When we had finished Mario gave it the thumbs up and I drove him back to his workshop before returning to the gorge to take some photos.
Here we see a shot of the rear with the truck parked across a very shallow gutter, note how much the chassis had moved in relation to the body, even with this small ditch.
I expected the above, after all that was the whole idea of the rubber mounting system. However I was a little surprised to see how much the body moved in relation to the cab. After all they are mounted to the chassis at points that are very close. The photo below shows both the angular and lateral movement. Good thing I left plenty of clearance
29 Aug 1999
The Canberra chapter of the CMCA was showing some motor homes at the Camping and Four Wheel Drive” show and I took mine as an example of a “work in progress”. It caused a lot of interest, most people were intrigued, I guess some thought I was crazy while others were simply gob-smacked.
Those who knew the ACCO said it was the best truck for the job, simple old fashioned technology that will go anywhere. When we told people that we were hitting the road most professed envy. Comments like “I’d love to do that” and “You lucky bastard, I’ll do that one day” abounded. Of course many of them could do it right now if they really wanted to but let’s keep that our little secret, I don’t want too many people filling all those great campsites.
20 Sep 1999
Not much exciting happening in the last couple of weeks. It’s funny how I thought I was nearly ready for cladding about three weeks ago when in fact it’s only now that that is the case. There’s an incredible amount of fiddly braces to insert before the cladding can be put on and each one seems to take an age. Also I’ve had to finish most of the storage bin doors and window shutters. There’s a lot of work been done I guess, it just doesn’t look like it.
Let’s see what else has happened, oh that’s right, I quit my job.
23 Sep 1999
That’s right folks, in less than three weeks I’ll be unemployed. I handed my notice in last week.
I usually start work a couple of hours before everyone else so, first thing, I placed my resignation letter on my boss’s computer keyboard. For two hours I stared at the ceiling and the letter, I nearly lost my nerve and removed it.
Later a co-worker needed to use the boss’s computer and moved the letter to the side of the desk. “Bugga”, I thought, “he’ll never see it there” so I waited until he was otherwise occupied and moved it back to a prominent position.
Then my boss was late into work, talk about prolonging the agony. Anyway they took it rather well once they had determined that I wasn’t leaving for another job. After all, it’s hard to fight a mid-life crisis.
Here is a photo of my workstation.
I’ve been staring at screens like this for over 18 years. Will I miss the work? Hmm, how should I put this…
Will I miss the income, bloody oath I will and there will be a transitional period, with little income and the same out goings, that I’m not looking forward to. When I get worried I look at my spreadsheet, the bottom line looks OK so I stop worrying (hope I got the formulas right).
Anyway, while writing the previous paragraph I had a conversation that convinced me (as if I needed it) that our plan is the right thing to do. A year or so ago, while deciding what vehicle to use as the base for our motor home, I contacted a bloke, who we’ll call Fred, about his off-road motor home project. We’ve spoken several times since and I just had a thought that he should be about finished and maybe he would be coming to the next CMCA rally.
So while I was typing I dialled his number. We got talking and sure enough, after 12 years of labour including many dramas, he had finished the motor home.
On the very day that it was wheeled out of the shed his wife was diagnosed with leukaemia.
They wheeled it straight back inside and it sits there to this day, covered in plastic, while they sort their lives out. “It’s just convinced me that you should do what you want to do when you want to do it”, Fred said “never mind waiting ’till you’re 65, you might not make it”.
I’ll drink to that.
I remember doing a staff development course several years ago and hearing of a survey taken on elderly people with a question something like “Is there anything you regret about your life?”. Almost all of them responded that they wish they’d taken more risks. What kind of risks? I wondered, financial risks, emotional risks, physical risks. I don’t think it matters, the important thing is to do something that’s outside of your comfort zone. I’ve done a lot of things over the years and, even when they went wrong, it NEVER turned out as bad as I thought it would.
I have been told this first hand by dozens of older people and now I get further confirmation from Fred.
So if you’re reading this and thinking “Gee I’d like to do something like that one day” then wake up, buy a bus and bugger off. There may not be a “one day”.
12 Oct 1999
There’s a panic on at work to release a new product so I’ve been working back a bit, I was also sick for a while and then we attended a CMCA rally. The upshot of all this is that I’ve done very little work on the truck of late.
21 Oct 1999
We’ve just returned from the CMCA rally at Forbes. We had a ball. I was hoping to get our truck to the rally but just couldn’t make it, however we camped with some friends of ours who did have theirs.
Below we see Peter & Marie’s “Slineaway” on the left and Adrian and Carrol’s “Tender One” on the right. Somewhere in the middle at the rear is my FWD.
We spent most of the time at the rally sitting around chatting, eating and drinking. I mentioned to Chris that we had better not make a habit of this when we hit the road or we won’t fit into the motor home after a while.
Below we see Adrian and Carrol relaxing in the shade cast by Tender One.
Saturday is open day when the general public can view the motor homes. The big and unusual rigs get a lot of attention and Adrian is run off his feet all day showing Tender One’s features.
Some people just stand totally awe-struck by these big rigs. Others don’t know what to think. I’m sure most wonder why you would spend so much money on such a vehicle, but those who understand just can’t get enough of them.
I overheard some comments coming from inside Slineaway, “…a shower…what a great kitchen…look, a 9 speed Road Ranger…dual cab…this is just what we want”, and those comments were from the wife. I guess we may have another truck joining us before long.
I left the rally determined to get stuck into our motor home.
28 Oct 1999
I feel like a traitor. It’s only a couple of weeks since I thumbed my nose at the rat race and here I am working on a quote for a photographic job.
Still it’s different this time, I no longer really care if I get the job or not. Sure it’s a nice little earner that would pay for a large part of the motor home, but hey, I was happy before I got the call.
I delivered the quote today to a massive government building, seven floors of stained concrete monolith in the bush near Canberra. What a depressing place. While studying the building plans I was struck by the rows of work stations and thought to myself that this would not be a pleasant environment to work in. Viewing the grey facade confirmed my feelings.
Still if they accept my quote at least they’ll get to look at plenty of Rob Gray original landscape photos :-), maybe that’ll help.
On leaving the building I looked back and was struck by the similarity between the massive buttresses looming above the eucalypts and the landscape in the Budawang Ranges. I must try to return to my beloved Budawangs before long.
Meanwhile, back on the motor home front…
Progress has been slow, it seems that every day I have to spend most of the morning attending to banking chores or buying materials. I’ve been mostly working on the pop-top roof above the bedroom. It works now but is getting heavy and will soon be too heavy to lift.
Enter some hydraulics.
I have been resisting the temptation to mechanise too many of the motor home’s features in an effort to reduce complexity. But I have to admit that the addition of hydraulics to the design does simplify a lot of the design and the subsequent operation of various features, eg the pop-top and deck.
I’ve also welded some of the floors into the storage bins, decided how many water tanks I’ll have and how to hang them, decided to include some air conditioning and how to install it, played with installing the inverter and bought four batteries which will make up one of the two banks I plan to have.
So I haven’t entirely slack, there’s just not much to show for it.
2 Nov 1999
My car’s on the fritz so I’m riding one of the Hondas for a few days. It’s a heck of a lot of fun but it’s taking me a while to get used to it. Not the actual riding, I’ve ridden motor bikes a lot over the years, rather the practicalities of motor bike transport. Or should I say the impracticalities.
I finally got used to wearing a small backpack so I could pick up a bit of shopping or some parts for the truck but yesterday I had to collect about a dozen pieces of 10mm steel plate I’d had cut to size. I loaded them into my pack one at a time each wrapped in some towling then heaved the pack onto my shoulders. Each piece of steel was pretty small but together they weighed about 20kgs. I rode back to the workshop half expecting one of the straps on the pack to break and send the pack, and therefore my centre of gravity, swinging. I made it without incident and my back should be OK in a week or so.
Another thing I’d forgotten about bikes is the cold. We haven’t bought much in the way of cold/wet weather gear yet so I’m reduced to scrounging various items of bushwalking clothing in an attempt to stay warm when I ride home at night.
We didn’t watch any TV when we were in Townsville recently but I’ll bet they dispense with the daily weather reports in favour of a bi-annual one. In the autumn they slap the janitor in front of the camera and he says something like “For the next six months it will be 28 degrees and clear”, then in the spring they haul him back again and he says “For the next six months it will be 33 degrees, muggy as hell and will piss it down every afternoon”.
Of course it’s pretty hot and humid up north in the summer but as a full-timer you can head south before then. If you need any more reasons to go full-timing then that should do the trick.
Meanwhile back at the truck there’s not much to report. I’ve hung a 230 litre drinking water tank and am now making the brackets to support tanks for the grey water and about 6-700 litres of general purpose water.
22 Nov 1999
Contrary to what you may think by viewing this diary there’s been a lot happening. In fact that’s why there hasn’t been any entries for a while, I’ve been working 10, 11 and 12 hour days and, frankly, have been too buggered to write about it.
Anyway what’s been done? I’ve built hangers for two fresh water tanks and a grey water tank and hung a third fresh water tank.
Here we see the hangers as they appear today but they where actually built as a single unit with braces connecting the two halves. I feel the bracing is required because each side has 300-400 litres of water and I reckon that’s stretching the friendship asking the hangers to support 400kgs (that’s static load, not to mention the dynamic stresses caused by driving on a rough road).
I had no sooner built them when I remembered the chassis flex. After all that time allowing for the movement of the two chassis rails I go and build a rigid structure that spans both rails. If I tried driving the truck with this in place something would give.
So, once I recovered from this most recent stupidity attack I removed the entire structure and cut it in half. I still need bracing between the halves however, it just has to allow some movement. I welded four plates to the old brace stubs and drilled them for some bonded rubber mounts as shown below with the mount placed in position.
I’ve moved the winch sheave block to the rear of the chassis and added a roller just behind the winch to direct the cable underneath the body.
I’ve almost completed the under floor (The rig has two floors, the under floor sits below the main floor at a distance of between 200 and 450mm according to what clearance is required for things like the winch. This creates some large storage areas).
I’ve mounted the inverter and air conditioner, modified the battery cradle and started installing a hydraulic system. Below we see the inverter and air conditioner in the under-floor section next to the shower base.
The inverter weights 50kg and the air conditioner about 40; they’ve been in and out more often than I want to think about. I’m knackered just writing about it.
24 Nov 1999
You can’t get there from here. There was a joke a while back, something like a city bloke asking a local yokel how to get to Bullamakanca. The yokel responded that you can’t get there from here, you have to go somewhere else first. Well that’s how I feel.
A couple of week ago I was working on the bedroom’s pop-top roof. I got most of it working but realised that it was getting too heavy to lift manually so decided to install some hydraulics to do the work for me.
The end of my journey to build a pop-top was within sight but I realised that I’d have to visit a lot of other places before returning to the job at hand. To wit…
To finish the pop-top I would have to install the hydraulics because adding more to the pop-top would make it impossible to lift.
To install and test the hydraulics I need 24 volts.
To obtain 24 volts I need my batteries in place.
If I’m to draw 250A from the batteries while testing I need a battery charger.
The only 24v battery charger I have is my inverter so I have to install that.
To install the inverter I have to build the under-floor storage.
The inverter and air conditioner share the same storage compartment so I cannot finalise the invertor’s mounting until I have the AC and mount them both.
I cannot install the AC without knowing exactly how the ducting will work.
I cannot really know how the ducting will work without doing some of the panelling in the lounge area.
And that’s just the major items.
So to finish the pop-top at the upper front of the motor home I have to work on the lounge and the lower rear. Go figure.
Of coarse I could jerry-rig things to get the hydraulics working well enough to test, but this is work that has to be redone and I already do enough things twice due to stuff ups.
Today I mounted the hydraulic power pack and the first clevis for the pop-top ram.
16 Dec 1999
I feel like Frankenstein, the doctor that is, not the monster. For months I’ve been slaving the inert body of my motor home, an ugly looking beast conjured from the depths of my mind with a little help from the Wondonga truck wreckers.
Today I breathed some life into it. I installed four batteries then connected them with wire as thick as your thumb (actually as thick as MY thumb, I’ve no idea how large yours are). I then had one negative and one positive wire, I bolted the negative to the inverter, held my breath and touched the positive.
There was a bright flash as some internal capacitance was satisfied then the reassuring hum of life. The LCD lit and displayed “Set Inverter”, my monster’s eyes had opened.
I sat awhile to see if the inverter (sorry, “Power Conversion Center”) would pass the smoke test, it did so I relaxed.
Now let’s see if is actually inverts. I found a short extension lead, cut it in two and bared the wires to make what we used to laughingly call “death leads”, one for input to the inverter (shore power) and one for output. I connected them and plugged a light into the output.
It lit, so far so good.
I plugged the input into a power point, the “AC1 in good” LED started flashing indicating that the inverter was synchronising its waveform with the mains. After a few seconds there was a click as the inverter handed over to the shore power. The “Inverting” LED went out and the batteries started charging. This is one clever piece of gear (A Trace SW3024, 3300w inverter/charger).
20 Dec 1999
Just as an aside from motor homes, any bushwalkers among you may have spotted the handsome devil on the cover of this month’s WILD magazine. That’s right folks, it’s me, doing what I do best (nothing) in one of the places I love best (Kosciuszko National Park).
The seat beside her is normally occupied by myself when I’m in training.
24 Dec 1999
I thought you might like to see the pop top in action. It’s not finished yet but you can get the idea from the photo below.
Note the use of threaded rods to pre-tension the spring. Unfortunately the two springs are not enough to take the load off the roof. It works quite well now but the pop top is not finished and will get heavier. Hence my decision to add hydraulics to the rig.
The addition of this pop top has made the bedroom/office a very roomy place indeed, no scrambling into a rooftop coffin here.
One of the design criteria for the bed area was that it be usable even if the pop top is not raised, for example when grabbing a few hours sleep in a rest area. With the roof in the down position there is about 600mm head room above the mattress and 1100mm above the floor. A little tight but no worse than many bed-over designs and it only has to be tolerated occasionally.
4 Jan 2000
Well here we are in the new millennium, sometimes I feel that I’ll still be building this motor home in the next one, oh well. We’ve been away floating down the Murray for a while so obviously haven’t done much on the rig.
7 Jan 2000
I will need a compressor while on the road for tools and tyres so I decided to just take the one I’ve got. It’s a little big I suppose but what the heck. I’ve mounted it behind the drivers side of the cab on rubber isolation mounts.
I’ve spent the majority of the last week or so working on the steps. Why so long? Well as you know I never do things the easy way. The entrance to the living room is actually two metres off the ground, this requires about eight steps. The whole contraption has to lift up under the body and I want the steps to collapse when they’re stowed and stay horizontal as they are lowered.
At the time I’m writing this I have just about finished but have no recent photos so here’s a shot taken early in the process, I’ll add some new ones soon.
10 Jan 2000
Something of a milestone was passed today, the first sheet of cladding was installed. For those who don’t believe we are cladding the motor home with checker plate here’s a photo of the first sheet.
The first panel of checker plate is attached.
That’s 2mm aluminium checker plate, it is fairly heavy and will look weird but it will take a hammering and that’s what I want.
So how is this sheeting attached? Pop rivets?, tech screws?, Sikaflex? None of the above. It relies entirely on double-sided tape.
That’s right, double-sided tape. But this is not your average hardware store mirror tape. It’s 3M VHB (Very High Bond) and believe me, this stuff sticks. When I asked the 3M rep what I do if I make a mistake placing the sheet he simply said “You don’t make mistakes”.
Apparently the minute you press the sheet a 20% bond is created. At this point you need an air chisel to remove the sheet (destroying it in the process).
So the first thing we needed was a method of placing the sheet in exactly the right place. Bob and I came up with a solution, as follows…
Step 1. Shape the sheet as required then clamp it in position.
Step 2. Drill two or three pilot holes large enough to allow a pop rivet mandrel to be inserted.
Step 3. Remove the sheet and enlarge the holes in the body to a size appropriate for the pop rivet body.
Step 4. Insert pop rivets and hand pull so the rivet is firm, but don’t pop. This will leave the mandrels sticking out from the body, thus creating some locating pins.
Step 5. Prepare the body for your VHB (I’ll describe this later).
Step 6. Press the tape to the body and peel back the non-stick backing slightly from each strip of tape. Stick the backing to one side with masking tape.
Step 7. Hang the sheet on the mandrels ten or so mm off the tape.
Step 8. Starting at one end/side or the middle as appropriate for the situation, remove the backing entirely and press the sheet home.
Step 9. Now pop the rivets leaving them behind the sheet.
Step 10. Fill the small locating holes if you feel it’s necessary.
There, that was simple wasn’t it. Now what about preparing the body for the VHB tape.
If possible remove any paint, loose material etc then clean the areas to be taped with the appropriate 3M cleaner (I think you can use hydrocarbon thinners but I decided to use the official cleaner).
You should have a large supply of clean, lint-free rags for this job. The cleaning should take the form of a single stroke on each section of rag. Once you’ve wiped with an area of the rag it is dirty and should not be re-used. Also do not rub backwards and forwards as this simply moves the dirt from one place to another.
This should leave you a nice clean steel frame, something like this…
Now add the VHB tape…
Note that I haven’t taped the cross member, I don’t think it’s necessary to tape everywhere and besides, VHB is very expensive (about $1.25 a foot). However this depends on the sheet size, larger sheets may need to be taped through the middle.
I plan to paint the entire interior with the Barrier 2000 insulating paint but if I’m not careful there will be some Achilles heals. The small areas behind the sheet that are not covered with tape, if these are not painted now I will never have another chance.
Now I add a bead of sealant to the cross member so there is no metal-to-metal contact to cause noise and possibly electrolysis.
Once the sheet is applied I run sealant around all the joints at the back and, eventually, paint the entire inside with Barrier 2000.
16 Jan 2000
Move over Eiffel tower, stand aside Sydney Harbour bridge, the Golden Gate?, child’s play. Of the many steel marvels in this world the rear steps of my motor home must surely be the most astounding.
The steps took on a life of their own, taking a couple of weeks to complete (not full time though). Still, as the entry point to the lounge room is two metres from the ground the stairs have to be a fairly serious affair.
Here is the computer drawing of the stairs.
The hardest part was determining the locations of the pivot points for the top step and the link from there to the body. Here is some detail of that area.
The top step is fixed to the body. The second step is controlled by the top link (both shown in raised and lowered positions). Various other constraints caused the pitch between the top and first steps to be different to that of the rest of the steps, therefore the position of the top pivot point was not a no-brainer as it would have been if all steps where equal.
Once I got the top step working it was a fairly simple matter to hang the other seven parallel to the first.
There are eight steps in all, they collapse to a height of about 60mm when raised and stay parallel as they lower. This is so we have horizontal steps regardless of the distance the stairs get lowered due to different ground levels (Ok that’s my excuse, really I just wanted the challenge, and besides they look great).
This is a semi-animated JPEG, place the mouse on a number to load the sequence images showing the steps in action. The first time may take a few seconds, after that it will be instant.
Originally I was going to used hydraulics to raise/lower the stairs but decided that a winch was easier and more appropriate.
Above we see the original location of the winch, in the lounge room. The trouble was this particular winch (a Superwinch T1500) is unbelievably noisy and this location does not lend itself to much soundproofing as this would encroach even more on our lounge area. I moved it under the floor.
After re-installing the winch it worked well but due to a slight miscalculation in angles the cable bunched at one end of the spool.
At first I thought this wouldn’t matter but I soon realised that it did.
As the cable wound onto the spool it built up about four layers of itself then the top layer or two “fell off” causing the steps to jerk downwards a few inches. Not a catastrophe but disconcerting and the resultant shock load may have caused problems in future.
Originally I figured to add another pulley to redirect the cable, then I reasoned that if the new pulley was spring loaded it would remove any sudden shocks from the system and help keep some tension on the cable when the steps were lowered.
I installed the pulley and spring then realised that there was another benefit to this spring loading.
As the stairs raise and the geometry changes they effectively get heavier, this in turn causes the spring to extend and the cable to “walk” up the spool thus producing a very even winding.
Once raised a pinchweld seal is engaged and the load is taken off the winch by a cam lock.
As mentioned, the winch is incredibly noisy and will need to be boxed in and soundproofed but, all-in-all, the system seems to work well.
5 Feb 2000
We are getting serious now about selling up and have put GARP (Gray’s Asset Reduction Program) into motion. Actually this should be called GARP 2 as we had GARP 1 a few years ago when we moved from a 40 square, internal pool, sauna, gym, workshops etc house into a 12 square town house.
So what are we selling? Just about everything I guess. My car is on the market, I had it detailed (first time it’s been washed in the six years I’ve owned it) and I’m riding one of the motor bikes so it won’t get dirty. The bike is fun, at least in the nice weather we’re having, and it’s interesting to be less isolated from natural things such as the smell of pine, newly cut grass and rotten kangaroo corpses.
Both houses go on the market very soon as will my darkroom equipment.
Most of our furniture has already been sold including the washing machine, Chris figured that we won’t have one in the motor home so she may as well start hand washing now.
We spend so much time at the workshop now that it doesn’t really matter if we have anything at home, in fact it doesn’t really matter if we have a home. We’ve set up the workshop with a fridge and microwave and it has dunnies, a shower and a kitchenette so we can live there quite comfortably and probably will if the house sells quickly.
Three things I’m not selling are cameras, tools and our Jason recliners. We’ve been sitting in those recliners for 15 years, they’re just so comfortable there’s no way we’re leaving them behind so they’re going into the motor home.
10 Feb 2000
I talked before about the method of applying cladding using VHB tape and showed some drawings of how to hang the sheets from locating pins. Now here are some photos of the process, note that this is a small sheet that doesn’t require the pins as it can easily be rested on some magnetic squares placed on the bottom of the frame.
First clean the frame and apply the tape.
Then peel back the ends of each piece of tape’s backing and hold with masking tape. Note that I do both ends as a backup measure in case the backing tears as it is being removed (more about this later).
Here is a detail shot of the process.
Now place the sheet in position and clamp as necessary. Note that the clamp(s) should not be applied anywhere near a piece of tape that has has its backing removed. You now have all the time in the world to accurately position the sheet or even remove it for a last minute adjustment.
Now begin peeling the backing from behind the sheet. Press lightly in a few places to hold the sheet but don’t press too close to an edge that has not had its backing removed as this will make the removal difficult.
When all the backing has been removed press firmly on all taped areas then bash with a rubber mallet.
Now I said I’d talk about the backing tearing. There are two types of VHB designed for this application, 4951 and 4950. They are essentially the same except that 4951 can be applied at temperatures down to zero degrees. There is however one other difference I discovered, their backing material.
The 4951 has a clear, mylar-like backing that is very strong. The 4950 has a more paper-like backing that will tear with little or no provocation which is a real pain in the arse. For this reason I peeled back both ends so if the backing tore as I was removing it from one end I had a second chance from the other.
If the backing tears again as you are removing from the second end you are in trouble as this leaves a piece of backing still attached to the tape and of course there will be no adhesion to the sheet in that area. This has happened a few times but it’s not a total disaster as I found that I could usually extract the offending piece of backing with a knife and a pair of needle-nosed pliers.
15 Feb 2000
Well the cladding is mostly done and I’m starting to get a bit worried about the weight of the truck. I got some trade plates from the engineer who certified the body so I could go down to the weigh bridge. While I had the plates I decided it was time for some “sea trials” to see how the truck performs both on and off road.
Here we see the truck all twisted up on a spot we chose to give as much twist to the chassis as possible. Check out the difference between the front and rear axles.
Judging by the facial expressions it seemed that passing motorists could not believe their eyes. A ranger stopped to see if we needed any help, understandable I guess as it looked for the world like the truck was broken.
Chris and Bob peer under the body looking for problems.
Two wheels up…
And two wheels down…
No wonder the ranger stopped.
That’s ten degrees difference between the body and the chassis, the same as measured in trials I performed before building the body.
Everything worked well, there’s a couple of small things that need attention but by and large it’s working as designed.
The next day I went to weight my toy. It came in at 9.94 tonnes which was a bit more than I’d hoped for but not unexpected.
17 Feb 2000
While cleaning my office I moved a pile of magazines and there it was, flatter than a prize fighter’s nose, my wallet. No big deal about an old wallet I suppose it’s just that I no longer need one and seeing it drove my new lifestyle home a bit.
You see that wallet used to be so thick I could hardly sit down, not with money unfortunately, but with the day-to-day trapings of working, running a small business etc. Things like old business cards from people I can’t remember, membership cards for various organisations, a dozen or so chits from the ATM and a couple of receipts.
10 Mar 2000
We’ve been cleaning and fixing houses ready to put them on the market. After a long day I returned home exhausted with one thing in mind, a long hot shower and a relaxing evening (actually that’s two things). I reversed the car into it’s spot in front of the garage, got out, shuffled to the rear and opened the door, I just needed my jumper.
As the door started opening I remembered something I had told myself when I closed it but it was too late.
Slowly the jar of paint arched towards the driveway. The impending disaster galvanised me into action, my foot lashed out and just got under the jar in time to break its fall.
I tried to balance the jar but was not up to the task, it toppled from my boot, fell the remaining couple of inches to the concrete, and exploded. There was white oil-based paint everywhere.
Chris was at the shops and I we had no turps as I recently took all the chemicals to the workshop. The best course of action I could think of was to mechanically remove as much paint as possible then keep the rest wet until Chris returned and could be sent back to buy some turps.
I plugged the hose in but almost no water issued from the end because the tap washer was missing and most of the water was spewing from the connection, “There’s one in the back yard thought” and I bolted up the stairs almost running across the lounge room with my paint covered boots. I removed them and ran through the house to the back door, threw it open, disconnected the garden sprinkler system and removed the snap-on connector, just as I heard the door slam. It had locked behind me.
I placed the connector in my mouth, climbed the retaining wall and the back fence then ran around the outside to the disaster area, remembering just in time that there was glass everywhere and I was now in bare feet. Still at least I had water.
With the hose working I tried to blast the paint from the concrete, it was working but I felt that a scouring pad would help so I ran back inside to get one from under the kitchen sink. I opened the cupboard door and saw them, two bottles of mineral turps.
With the turps in hand the panic was over, it was just a matter of spending the required time to clean the mess. An hour or so later I finally got my shower and relaxed in the recliner.
20 Mar 2000
Not much to report I’m afraid. I seem to have hit a bit of an emotional brick wall (actually just a really steep hill I suppose) and have not achieved much on the truck. In my defence though we have been preparing houses for sale etc and that has taken some of my time.
Mostly I’ve been working on the cladding and I’m happy to say that it’s nearly finished.
It seems that every time Chris asks me what I’ve been doing the answer is “Working on the pop-top”. The pop-top has turned out to be quite complex but it’s almost finished now. It probably deserves a complete section on its own but for the time being here are a couple of photos.
The first one shows battens in place for the tropical roof which will sit above the main roof, separated by an air gap. The framework in the foreground allows the tropical roof to continue past the main body of the pop top thus providing more protection from the weather and also completely shielding the hinges. Waterproofing the hinges is a major problem with this type of articulated roof and providing a second roof over the entire thing is the best way to fix the problem.
As the truck needs a tropical roof anyway to help keep it cool this can perform both functions.
The only problem is maintaining the air flow between the two roof sections while, at the same time, making it completely water proof. I came up with a method that allows the roof to breath from a skirting on the sides. Here we see small battens onto which the skirting will be fixed. The gaps between the battens will allow airflow. As always there’s more to it than this but a full description will have to wait until I get time.
One more photo just for fun, this one shows the back end of the truck with the main shutters opened
7 Apr 2000
It’s done, the houses are sold, so all going well we will be homeless in a couple of weeks. They actually sold a bit quickly (3 days for one, a week for the other, did we ask to low a price? I don’t think so, that’s just the way it is in Canberra at the moment) and the buyers want quick settlements so we’ve been caught a bit short. I haven’t worked on the truck for days and won’t get back to it until the dust settles from moving.
There’s a couple of shots of the houses, firstly the one we rented,
and next the one we lived in.
Of course the truck isn’t finished yet so we still need somewhere to live. Chris suggested that we build some kind of shelter in the workshop. It seemed like a good idea to me as we don’t want to be paying rent so I bought the building materials for our new home. Two tarps and some two-by-threes.
I used the timber to make some plates on opposite walls and along the rear. I slung two ropes between the walls then draped the tarps over the ropes and fixed them to the timber plates. Here we see the finished shelter before we moved in.
Note the mezzanine floor, I had to build this as the area was not big enough to hold a bed as well.
Here we see the shelter from the outside. This should do for us but we still need another undercover area for our stuff because the everything in the workshop gets covered in crap and we need to protect some items, so I built an annex to store the things we didn’t want to get too dirty.
Above is an aerial shot from the top of the truck showing the annex and some of the junk as it gets brought across from the house. My very own shanty town.
10 Apr 2000
Everything’s moved to the workshop now with the exception of the item that forms the core of our existence, the TV I packed it into my car and took it to the workshop, once there we have officially moved. I felt like an admiral transferring his flag between battleships.
The workshop is looking like something from Steptoe & Son. I just managed to leave a path between the piles of junk for us to access the rear of the shed.
11 Apr 2000
Ahhh, I just love living under canvas, the gentle ripple of a breeze on the fabric, the faint aroma of diesel and the rhythmic thump of compressors from next door…hmmm somehow it’s just not the same when the canvas you’re living under is in turn under a steel workshop roof in an industrial area. Still, with a little imagination…
It’s not that bad, quite cozy really, there’s a shower, dunny and kitchenette. There’s a reasonable amount of room left for our Jason recliners, TV and computer. It’s pretty small but then we are about to live permanently in a truck!
Anyway we’re finally living-the-life in a small way. We have very few possessions, don’t work and are living with a motorhome (that’s WITH, not IN). Now if I could just get the bloody thing finished we could hit the road for real.
28 May 2000
As I write this it’s snowing outside. Big fluffy crystals of frozen water are swirling, driven by the wind, in a sky that was supposed to be blue and far too warm for snow.
You see last winter was supposed to be just that, our “last winter” however the truck is nowhere near finished. Apart from moving house and a couple of weeks of total motivation atrophy I have done the following…
Finished the cladding (well almost)
Installed the stair raising/lowering buttons and relays
Mounted the hot water system (not connected)
Installed the slide rails for the TV
Built the main frame for the deck
That’s something I suppose but in general I’ve been a while getting back up to speed.
15 June 2000
Brrrrrr, minus 6 last night and with all the hype about GST I’ve thought of some expansions of the acronym more appropriate for me.
Although it’s not as fast as I’d like the motor home project is Getting Slowly There.
I’m really Getting Stuckin Toit now though.
As soon as it’s finished I’ll Get Seriously Tanked.
Then hit the road and Goto Sunny Townsville.
For the past week or so I’ve been working on the deck. “A deck!” you say. Yep, after a very wet Roma rally where we saw most motor homers with sodden under-awning areas and one with a lovely dry deck we decided that’s for us.
Fig 1. The basic configuration.
Figure 1 shows the basic configuration where the deck stores vertically at the rear of the rig, is hinged at the bottom and folds down. Naturally this has to be lowered somehow and my first impulse was to use gas struts in the usual manner something like this…
Fig 2. Using a gas strut in the usual way.
The problem here is that the strut would hit the body when the deck is raised so an extension would be required.
Fig 3. Adding an extension to clear the body.
Trouble is this creates a protrusion that people will bash their head on and that may be damaged when exiting a steep creek crossing.
My next thought was to use a winch, this would probably have been the easiest method but they’re expensive and really noisy. Similarly hydraulics are expensive, noisy and a little hard to install.
So I returned to gas struts.
What was needed was a way to use the struts on the top of the deck but this would mean they have to pull up, and that’s not the way they’re designed. So how about using a cable to pull on the struts as follows?
Fig 4. Using two struts and a cable.
In this configuration two struts are ganged, attached to a cable which runs over a sheave (pulley) to an attachment point on the deck. This provides a lifting affect at a point about 200mm from the deck’s pivot point. As the deck in about 1800mm long the force required is about nine times the deck’s weight. As it happens this is about 500kgs so I duplicated this setup on the other side of the rig giving me a total of four struts, each of 130kgs force.
So far so good, but the trouble is that the force applied by the struts is more-or-less linear but the force required is not. As the deck is raised less force is needed to hold its weight.
Fig 5. Less force need as the deck is raised.
As the deck approaches the point shown in Fig 5 you are pulling against 500kgs of gas strut (the deck is raised and lowered from the ground below the rear of the truck). Naturally you would loose and the whole lot would slam against the rear of the truck when closing and be impossible to open in the first place.
One answer is to design the cable to be of a length that allows the struts to be fully extended when the deck is at around the position shown above. At this point you don’t really need any help so it’s a simple matter to go inside the rig and pull the deck closed.
So we have a lowering deck but what’s going to keep it level and strong enough to hold people?
My first thought was legs. A couple of adjustable legs positioned near the outer corners would do the trick but I didn’t want any obstruction under the deck and there’s also the fact that the legs would have to be stored somewhere. I wanted the deck to be self-supporting. Enter the handrails.
As you have to have handrails anyway why not make them structural?
Fig 7. The handrail becomes a structural member.
Here we see the handrail in place. It is hinged to the deck at the bottom (blue line) and attached to the motor home body (red arrow). This creates an effective steel beam 700mm in height, more than strong enough to support a couple of people.
There is a rear handrail as well but this has no real structural value. It just ties the two side rails together and stops us from falling off.
To stop the deck at the correct level I have added to high-tensile chains as follows.
Fig 8. High tensile chains added.
This deck is two metres from the ground, not far to jump on purpose but a long way to fall by accident. As mentioned elsewhere I’m a firm believer in redundant systems where there is a backup in place for the primary device. With the deck this translates to,
The strut/cable arrangement holds the weight as the deck is being lowered or raised. There are four struts organised in two assemblies each with a steel cable. If any part of either assembly fails the other will not hold entirely but will slow the rate of fall to an acceptable rate.
When the deck is deployed the main stress is taken by the handrails. There are two rails and each one can easily hold if the other fails.
There are two high-tensile chains that backup the handrails. As before each would hold the entire weight if both handrails and one chain fails (well you never know). The chains are welded to different locations than the handrails on both the body and the deck, no point having a backup assembly dependant on the same thing as the primary.
Fig 9. Top shot of the deck
2 July 2000
Every now and again something happens that shows you just how tenuous your current lifestyle (or life itself) can be.
The other day, while working on the truck I heard a crunch followed by the sound of a high-reving motor. I rushed to the street to see a truck from a business on the high side of the steet embedded in the fence of the building nextdoor. Some workers from the business were running across the road so I joined them.
There was no-one in the truck, apparently it had just started itself and taken off. Now I’ve experienced sponaneous combustion before, but sponaneous internal combustion? The owner was visibly distressed and someone suggested that a mechanic sould look into the problem. “Forget the mechanic” I said, “you need a bloody exorcist!”. Everybody laughed and the mood lightened a little.
This is a very busy road but by sheer luck nobody was driving past at the time. The point of all this is that, in the words of the classics, shit happens, and it can happen to you at any time. No matter how warm and comfortable you are, with a great partner, a couple of cars, a nice house and 2.3 kids, this can all be taken from you in an instant by a possessed truck.
I reckon you should “reinvent” yourself a few times during the course your life, so if you’re bored going through the motions and thinking about changing things, then do it, and do it soon.
25 July 2000
I’ve been preparing the bedroom for lining. This involves applying batterns to the walls and installing the conduit for wiring behind the batterns.
The above photo shows the floor and two walls of the bedroom, both have been painted with Barrier 2000 insulating paint and battens have been screwed to the floor.
Some time later the beds, conduit and most of the battens have been installed.
It’s not obvious here but in the foreground are two single beds that are mounted on rails so the configuration can be changed. Note also that the walls have been lined between the steel braces with 20mm closed-cell foam for insulation.
In general you should try to reduce the number of junction boxes (j-boxes) used when wiring by “looping” connections at places where the wires would be cut anyway, eg. a light switch. Sometimes however it’s necessary and above we see the bedroom corner, with wiring coming into the corner from two GPOs (sockets) and the 12v bus, and branching to positions behind the beds. Note the double conduit, one for 240v and one for 12v wiring.
Fig 4. Open slotted trunking duct
Almost all wiring in the motor home runs in two ducts that run around most of the vehicle. These ducts hold the high (240v AC) and low (12-24v DC plus video, control etc) voltage wires and segregate the two types of wires.
The duct I’ve used is called “Open slotted trunking” duct and it allows wires to be brought out at any point through the slots.
7 Aug 2000
When I first installed the batteries and saw the size of the cables I realised that there was some serious power at play. I had various fuses throughout the system to protect the wiring but thought that a fuse directly on the battery terminal would be a good idea. I decided that it wasn’t important enough to do for a while. That was until today.
I was head down and bum up installing some freshly cut plywood in a cabinet when I smelt something strange. At first I though it was just the newly cut timber but then realised it was something different.
On extracting myself from the cabinet I immediately spotted the problem. I had been using two jumper leads to connect one of the winches to the 12v battery, it was a temporary measure that I had disconnected from the winch a few hours before. As a “safety” technique I usually clip one of the leads to the handle of the other so the metal jaws of the two cannot touch. I’ve been doing this for years but this time the jaws slowly pressed though the insulation and the two leads shorted.
The insulation was dripping from the hot wire and smoke was wafting to the ceiling.
Somehow I managed to unclamp the leads and relaxed thinking I had fixed the problem. A bit premature as it turned out.
The leads were overlaying each other in several places and the heat had caused the insulation to melt through so, by now, they were shorting at several places. The only thing to do was remove the leads from the battery, that’s the battery in a difficult-to-get-at location under the truck and the leads are extremely hot, to hot to touch.
Eventually I found a rag and managed to clamber between the chassis and body to remove one lead, but what if I had not been there or the battery housing had been finished and therefore enclosed and even more difficult to get to.
A fuse is required and it should be located as near as possible to the actual battery, right on the terminal if possible.
Unable to find an on-terminal fuse holder thingy I made my own by bolting a fuse directly to one of those battery connectors with a wingnut design for attaching a lug.
18 Aug 2000
I’ve been spending most of my time on fit-out lately, here’s a couple of shots from the lounge room, through the kitchen and down towards the bath and bedrooms.
Fig 2. Righthand side of the kitchen.
2 Sep 2000
The system I described in diary entry #26 worked well but the was some noticable fraying of the cables at the spot where they ran over the pulleys. When one actually broke I decided to revert to plan A.
In the beginning I intended to use a winch to raise and lower the deck but decided to go for a lower-tech method. I could have looked into the derating factor of the cables when run over a pulley and gone for a stronger cable but I do like my toys so the die was cast. I bough a winch.
Below we see the winch installed and temporarily connected to a battery to test the system.
And here we see the wiring of the four relays required to give foward/reverse control from some small pushbuttons inside the lounge room.
It’s not as bad as it looks. The two thick 12v feed wires on the right are the power supply for both the winch and the relays. This is 8-guage wire which is a little thin as I get a three volt drop when the winch is lifting the deck but it still does the job so I’ll probably leave it at that.
15 Sep 2000
And speaking of fuses (well we were in entry #28) Figure 3 shows a thin gauge wire tap on the main 12v circuit. Note that every time you reduce the size of a wire you must re-fuse to protect the circuit downstream from the reduction (assuming that the existing upstream fuse was sized for the thicker wire).
In my system have a main 12v circuit of 8-guage wire which should be good for about 40 amps. The heaviest current draw I have on the circuit are some winches (at about 20 amps) so I protect the circuit with a 25A circuit breaker. So if a short occurs in the main circuit the wires will try to draw more than 25A and the breaker will trip.
HOWEVER, if you have a smaller wire connected to the main circuit (such as a feed to a light) and a short occurs in the smaller wire then there is a good chance that the wire’s resistance will be such that less than 25A is drawn from the circuit.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is that the small wire will still draw heaps of current, not enough to trip the breaker but easily enough to heat the wire to a point that the insulation melts, the wire becomes red hot etc etc…
Try it for yourself, pick any two 12v wires in your motorhome and short them together. Go right to the end of a wire, for example remove a light bulb and stick a piece of wire into the terminals. Does a fuse or breaker trip or do the wires just get hot?
If the wires get hot you have a problem.
At each location I take a low-current feed from the main circuit I place a fuse in series with the positive wire as shown in the following photo.
Note that this fuse must be placed as close as possible to the high-current source, ie. the thick wires. There is no point placing at the end of two metres of thin wire, if you do then there’s nothing protecting the two metres of wire between the souce and the fuse.
While on the subject of fuses here’s a shot of the main circuit breakers.
8 Nov 2000
The roof of the pop-top, another bloody engineering marvel
The entire motorhome roof is covered by a tropical roof and the pop-top is no exception. Here we see the inner roof, and the white battens which will support the outer roof. A lot of battens are required because the roof must be able to support someone walking on it so their spacing must be fairly close.
In the following photo we see the construction of the battens. Because the underlying steel bowed at some time during welding (and I didn’t notice until it was too much trouble to fix it) I needed to provide a flat surface for the outer roof.
Therefore each batten is hand planed and levelled with its neighbours with a straight edge. Another example of a small error turning into a big job.
Of course the air gap between the two roofs needs to breath or there’s not much point. There are over 300 holes drilled around the roof edge and the hatch edge. Air can enter from the side of the roof, pass through the outer holes, cross between the two roofs, and exit via the holes in the hatch surround.
The entire roof is now finished, well almost. Here’s a shot from the front of the pop-top looking to the rear…
Note the hole in the foreground, this is a hatch for access to the roof.
Note the four solar panels in the foreground, four more will be placed in the centre part of the roof (the white parts). There is a walkway between the panels in the centre of the roof.
The walkway is elevated about 75mm over the roof, as are the panels, to create the tropical roof.
11 Nov 2000
I’ve been working on the plumbing. Not the taps and sinks etc but the business end, the pumps.
First I prepared the areas in the left-hand bins, here we see the bins after undercoating.
Fig 6. The LHS storage bins after undercoating.
Not all this space is for plumbing but there’s no point only spraying part of the bins then having to re-mask and setup again to do the rest at a later date.
Several days later the bins have had their final coat (silver hammertone) and the plumbing has been installed. In the photo above we see the following (left to right)
Whale outside shower.
two pressure gauges, one for drinking water and one for the main system.
three filling points, one each for the fresh water and two drinking water tanks.
the pumps, accumulators and filters.
five control valves
large hole for the hot water system
The grey and first fresh water tanks can also be seen below the body at the left.
The following schematic shows the final plumbing setup. I won’t describe everything here.
Fig 9. Plumbing schematic.
19 Nov 2000
Waterproofing has been the name of the game for the last week or so. We need to have some work done on the truck in Goulburn and to get it there it must be waterproof in case it rains during the trip.
Also it’s been months since the truck has been on the road and I get nervous doing so much work with no on-road testing, so, using some trade plates from my friendly engineer I hit the road.
I filled up and headed down the highway before turning off onto a dirt road.
After a few miles on the dirt pulled over for a photo op then continued to Angle Crossing, a low-level river crossing.
When I got there I found that it was closed because of the recent rains, it was then that I realised one of the benefits of having an off-road motorhome. No I didn’t cross the river, there was a locked gate, but I did have more choices than the average motorhome driver.
Because there were deep drains on each side of the track, followed by steep banks, a three-point turn would be out of the question for most motorhomes. The only other option would be to reverse a kilometre or so up a narrow winding track.
Now we’re not talking the Canning Stock Route here but still no normal motorhome would have been able to turn around because of their low clearances and long overhangs.
I simply drove over one drain/bank, reversed over the other one and carried on my merry way. The following photo shows this, I know it doesn’t look much but the other side was worse and, believe me, either were enough to stump any normal bus/Winnebago.
Of course you don’t need a hardcore off-road vehicle to do this, it’s really just a matter of having reasonable clearances. Most motorhomes have enormous overhangs and very low clearances to the point that just getting into a service station can be a drama.
Naturally if you aren’t interested exploring narrow dirt tracks then it doesn’t matter.
On returning to the highway I stopped at a service station for a drink. While I was sitting in the shade admiring my creation an elderly local emerged from the shop, looked at the truck and said, “What the hell is that?”. “A motorhome” I replied. The light was such that the joins in the cladding were nearly invisible, the body looked seamless. “How do they breath?”, she asked. We chatted about the motorhome for a while then she left saying that in the forty years she’d lived in the district she’d never seen anything like it.
I guess I’ll have to get used to this.
20 Nov 2000
Today we take the truck up to Goulburn. Shortly after my return from yesterday’s jaunt it rained heavily so I drove the truck outside to test it’s waterproofness. It passed fairly well but there were a few leaks so this morning I brought it outside again and raised the pop-top to air things out.
Fig 12. The truck with raised pop-top outside the workshop.
Here we see the truck with raised pop-top and our Suzuki Sierra in the foreground. We actually bought the Suzi specifically to A-frame behind the motorhome but decided against it and purchased two motor bikes. The Suzi is now for sale if you’re interested.
27 Dec 2000
Boy have we been busy bees lately. In an effort to get the truck ready for it’s first shakedown trip we’ve been trying to get the fundamentals working. I haven’t watched any TV for a week or more.
Some of the things we now have working are,
We now have a fully functioning shower and kitchen sinks. In the photo below you can see hoses and pipes behind the control valves. The hole we are looking though is where the hot water system sits.
The shower is installed and working and I have to say that it produces a great shower with plenty of room to move. The whole lot folds away to increase the kitchen size.
The grey water tank is connected and functional with a manual release valve which requires me to get under the truck and turn the valve then retreat as fast as possible to avoid being drenched.
The solar panels are connected to the regulator which in turn is connected to the batteries. This all seems to work well.
The shunts and DC circuit breakers have been installed and connected. Almost all of the DC wiring is complete, just a number of gauges to be fitted.
I have constructed and installed a black water tank and installed a Sealand dunny on top of it. We use a 3″ hose to decant the contents into a “wheely bin” which is then dumped into a public toilet.
The gas lines have been installed and appliances connected. A temporary location has been set up for a 9kg bottle.
An Atwood storage HWS has been installed and works well.
After much ado the kitchen bench has been finished and installed. This is not as straight forward as most (so what else is new?) as part of the bench lifts up to reveal the cook top, and another part lifts to become the shower wall.
28 Dec 2000
Friends of ours, Adrian and Carrol, turned up today. They camped outside the workshop, then on the following day we took both trucks down to the lake for our first “camp out”.
2 Jan 2001
Well here we go, our first real trip. We have some relatives over from England (Anna & Mike, Chris’ sister and brother-in-law) for a while so we decided to combine the first shakedown trip with showing “the poms” a bit more of Aus.
I worked frantically to get the rig in order for the trip as many temporary things had to be constructed, ie. a rear door and a futon bed to make the rig a four berth.
Eventually, at about 5pm we set off. I drove ’till 2am next morning finally crashing (oops, bad choice of words) in Robertson, at the top of the notorious Macquarie pass.
3 Jan 2001
Macquarie pass, the very name will send a shiver down a motorhomers spine. Apart from the fact that it’s extremely steep there’s a switchback that I’ve never heard of anyone getting around in one go.
We edge down the pass in second with the exhaust brake on. Chris is following in the Suzi with her hazard lights on and I pull over every now and again to let the traffic pass. I hit the switchback and found myself without time to get a good line on the corner. I had to reverse four times to get around, thank god we don’t have a trailer.
Half an hour later, just as I was congratulating myself on doing the pass without using my brakes, there’s a small noise and I find myself freewheeling towards a rock face.
This is why you have exhaust brakes, if you use your normal brakes constantly they can overheat (hydraulic brakes that is) and fade so when the time comes that you really need them, they don’t work.
Fortunately, as I said, I hadn’t been using my brakes so I stopped easily. We thought of all sorts of worst case scenarios, including a broken clutch, but I got Chris to look under the truck while I let the clutch out. The tailshaft from the gearbox turned so it must be something in the transfer case.
I tried six-wheel-drive and the truck moved so I figured something was broken in the transfer case, at least we could drive on the front axle.
For the rest of the trip we drove in six-wheel-drive thinking we were running on the front axle. I was burnt out on working and could not face crawling under the truck to work on the transfer case, I just wanted to relax, do absolutely nothing, and leave the worry until I got home. As it happens, when I finally looked into the problem I discovered that the transfer case had simply jumped into neutral.
I’ve had this happen to me before so should have twigged but I guess I was expecting problems on this first trip and so immediately assumed the worst.
Looking back it’s interesting to think that we did several hundred k’s on bitumen roads in six-wheel-drive with no apparent wind up of the axles.
5 Jan 2001
We’d heard that Honeymoon Bay was a nice spot so I booked in a week or so ago. It’s a ballot system over the Xmas holidays but I guess there was a cancellation because we got straight into what must have been the best spot in the park.
I had told the ranger how big the truck was when I booked but I guess some people have to see it. When we arrived at the ranger station they nearly had a heart attack. Eventually they escorted us to the camping area and we fitted in with room to spare.
We spent several days here, it’s a magic spot (on the Beecroft peninsular, near Nowra). Our only problem being that it was a nice shady spot, and we rely on solar for power. After about three days of shade, overcast weather and two fridges constantly being opened, we relented and drove into town to buy a generator.
We had always planned to get a small Honda as a backup for just such occasions but didn’t really want to spend the money on this trip. Not to worry, we’ve got it now.
8 Jan 2001
After Honeymoon Bay we drove to Kiama, a quaint little fishing town on the coast below Wollongong. For the first time in years I got to spend some time early in the mornings just ambling around with a camera. Below are some of the results, nothing special but OK for holiday snaps.
We didn’t realize when we set up camp that the road in front of the truck was actually the return road from the main local tourist attraction, the Blowhole. At times we caused traffic chaos as people spotted the truck and screeched to a halt causing those following to give them a blast or swerve around.
Here’s some shots of the truck with everything open in the Kiama caravan park.
Fig 3. The truck set up in the caravan park.
This is such a great spot. You can see the view from the lounge room in the photo below. The jetties are directly in front of the park and the town’s main street only about five minutes walk away.
On the day we checked out we had to wait a few hours to put Anna & Mike on the train so I moved the truck onto the breakwater.
12 Jan 2001
After leaving Kiama we drove north to Wollongong then up Mt Ousley to the Hume highway. We then left the highway and detoured to Bundanoon as I remembered that the Morton National Park there was a nice place.
On entering the park we drove straight past the information board and down the dirt track. We came to a fork in the road with a sign indicating that there was a picnic area 850m down the left-hand fork.
Reasoning that a picnic area would probably be nice and open I followed that route.
The track got narrower and more overgrown. We seemed to have driven for ever when we reached a sharp left-hand corner with a lookout and a 1000ft drop on the right. I managed to heave the truck around the corner and considered stopping but the adjacent car park was barely large enough for the following Suzuki, let alone the truck.
Another sign said that the picnic area was now 1.6k away ???
The track got even narrower and even more overgrown.
After much getting out to check tree height, and scraping sounds from the roof, we finally reached the picnic area…RIGHT AT THE PARK ENTRANCE. We had driven straight past it over an hour ago.
I got onto the roof to survey any damage. We had picked up some largish tree boughs, and sustained some collateral damage, but all-in-all we came out of it quite well.
Fig 6. Debris on the roof after a narrow fire trail.
These roof panels are actually the tropical roof and walkway, they are designed to be sacrificial and in no way affect the waterproofness of the real roof underneath.
We had lunch then headed for Canberra.
Overall we were very happy with the performance of the truck, both on the road and as a home, especially as there were four of us living in it on this trip and there will usually be only two.
10 Feb 2001
The local CMCA chapter had a rally at Wee Jasper just north of Canberra. It’s an annual event and a really great spot.
There are a few camping spots at Wee Jasper but I think the best is Micalong Creek. There’s a large grassy camping area running along the creek, plenty of shade, clean dunnies, and good swimming.
We intended staying for Saturday night but then thought we’d hang around for another day.
This is such a nice place I thought it deserved a larger than usual photo.
Another local chapter outing, this time down near Lake Burley Griffin. Originally this was to participate in the Canberra Festival on Sunday but this was canceled. We went down anyway and parked in front of the Questacon building overlooking the lake and, as it turned out, the Centenary of Federation concert stage.
Fig 2. Overlooking the lake and concert stage.
We listened to sound tests all day and well into the night.
11 Mar 2001
One of the main reasons for choosing this spot to camp was that it was right next to the balloon launching area. We went to bed in an empty car park and woke surrounded by hundreds of cars. This was my cue to join the crowd and get some photos of the balloons.
Fig 4. Some of the balloons.
All morning we listened to live practice with the artists going through their paces.
By early afternoon, just as I was getting a bit sick of hearing the same thing over and over, a beaurocrat said that we were parked in what was going to be the VIP car park and that we couldn’t stay over night.
I was almost relieved to pack up and go home for some peace and quite.
Well it was a lot quieter at home but also a lot messier. In November last year I took the truck to Goulburn for rego. In the week it was away the area it occupied in the workshop gradually filled with stuff.
The truck never did get back inside, I think the following photos show why.
Fig 5. The tip we call a workshop.
Yes folks, this is the dung heap we call a workshop, fortunately we now live in the motorhome but I still have to work amongst this lot. Is it any wonder I spend half my time looking for things? I console myself by reciting my mantra, “Not long now, not long now…”.
15 Mar 2001
Andrew and Judy Marnie (with their daughters Pippa and Eloise) have been staying with us on-and-off for the past week while performing some repairs on their bus and doing some capital sightseeing.
On their last day we had a BBQ with hardware and cooking supplied by Jurgen (my neighbour). Most retired early but Andrew, Jurgen and myself chatted ’till late over a bottle of Tia Maria.
20 Mar 2001
Well the truck finally has a name and, as it happens, I think that deciding on it was the hardest part of the project. So what is the name?, I’ll get to that in a second but first let’s go over some of the options we considered.
The Armadillo, still a favourite of mine, after all it is armor plated and sort of ‘folds up’ to protect itself.
Interesting, well it is an International, we plan to do a lot of resting and I guess it’s interesting.
Cecil, at one point I got fed up with trying to think of names.
GrayNomad, that’s grAy, not grEy.
WinneGrayGo, clever but nobody outside the motor homing fraternity would get it. Anyway I don’t want people thinking that it was built by Winnebago, come to think of it neither would they I suspect
Just the other day I remembered a story about someone, who looked very unusual, and thought he was Jesus Christ because that’s what everyone said when they saw him.
I followed this path and thought about what people say when they first see the truck. Then it hit me, the motor home’s name would be,
Of course there are variations on this theme but this is the most printable.
So after all that we didn’t name the truck at all, everyone else did.
23 Mar 2001
Not long now untill we leave for the Griffith rally. I’m busy painting so the rig will look mostly finished.
Before painting the dunny/vanity I remembered that I wanted to run some extra wires, fortunately most panels in the truck are removable for this very purpose.
I had a visit from a couple of ambulance paramedics today. It seems they just had to have a look (I hope there was no-one in the back).
During the conversation one of them said that they were driving passed when he looked out the window and blurted “What the hell is that?” to his mate.
What I’d like to know is, how on earth did he know the rig’s name??
30 Mar 2001
We’ve been frantically trying to get the truck looking as finished as possible for the Griffith rally.
Below are some shots of the nearly finished interior. Astute viewers may notice that the photos were actually taken at the rally, this was due to lack of time beforehand.
The colour scheme is basically all white to reflect the light and make things look less cramped, a problem with many motor homes. The kitchen/shower wall is green Mini-Orb (corrugated iron) with the window sills and other trim in matching green.
The nearest part of the bench top lifts to reveal the three-burner cook top. The furthest section (below the clock) lifts to become the shower wall, and the far wall (with the clock) opens to create the shower door.
When not showering (the other 23 hours and 55 minutes of the day) the whole lot folds away to give about four metres of bench space.
Above we see the other side of the kitchen. At the right there is a large cupboard for computers etc., this also holds the beer fridge at present. Following this is the pullout pantry and a nook which holds the jug, toaster and bread maker.
The 240 litre fridge is next followed by the hall. The photo below shows the skylight which forms the slope between the rear and middle roof levels.
Below we see the shower in it’s open form. All tap fittings are Greens flickmaster style. As far as I know Greens are the only brand that work properly in low-pressure systems.
The shower door at the right is actually the wall that holds the clock as seen in the above kitchen photos. It is shown in the open position to enter the shower.
There is a skylight above the shower which will probably hold an extractor fan before long.
The vanity is mounted on the rear of the dunny door. When the door is closed the cabinet is placed over the dunny thus using as much of the space as possible.
This arrangement means that the plumbing to the vanity must all be flexible.
The vanity bowl is a $7 general purpose bowl with a waste hole cut in the bottom while the bench top is 1mm galvanised sheet folded over the edges.
Fig 5. The dunny and vanity.
This motor home is built for two but we made one allowance for visitors. The entry hatch folds out to become a small settee. To the right of this can be seen the doorway to the deck.
Here we see the lounge room with our two Jason rocker-recliners and a photo by a well known Australian landscape photographer
In the foreground can be seen the entry hatch in its closed position. When not used as a settee it can simply be a bench seat.
There are two massive (2.7 x 1.2 metres) windows spanning the entire length of the lounge room. These allow maximum ventilation and give an incredible outdoors feeling to the motor home (fly screens coming soon for all those worried that we’d be eaten alive by mossies).
The bedroom is large and airy. Here we see it with the roof raised but it can also be used with the roof down, important for one-night stays or other times when it’s not worth putting the roof up.
The beds run on rollers in the floor and can be combined to a double bed or moved to allow access to the sides when making.
There are large windows at bed level so any breeze wafts straight across us (yes we do occasionally lose pillows out these windows, the fly screens should fix this problem).
There is a bedside shelf for reading material etc. which can be split and placed on both sides when the beds are in the double configuration.
On the rear wall of the bedroom are two doors for more ventilation and access to the roof. At the top of the photo can be seen a hatch which allows access to the roof when the pop-top is lowered.
2 Apr 2001
We planned to leave early but, as always, found more jobs to do and finally drove out at about 6pm.
As we approached Yass we were passed by an ambulance, he pulled in front of us and turned on his flashing lights. “Maybe he thinks we’re and accident waiting to happen” I thought.
The driver alighted, walked up to my door and told me that he could see some arcing under the chassis and maybe we had an electrical fault. I thanked him and we moved the truck to a safer spot off the road.
It was pitch black by now and we couldn’t see anything, reasoning that it only happened while driving Chris volunteered to run behind the truck while I drove. It must have looked pretty funny but we still had no luck so we drove on into the night.
We looked again at the Yass truck stop without success but soon after Chris had an idea. The floor panels in the house can be lifted to access storage bins and, in turn, the floors of these bins can also be removed to access the batteries, drive train etc. Chris decided to lift the panels and look through the floor as we drove.
After a couple of minutes she came forward to the cab…
“I think I’ve found it”
“You know you’ve got the two rows of batteries”
“And in between them there’s a cylindrical thing”
“And there’s a big red wire”
“Well every now and again the big red wire touches the cylindrical thing and there’s a flash”
The above is motor home talk for “a battery lead is shorting out on the tail shaft”.
There are two battery banks and, as luck would have it, the one shorting was the one that was NOT fused (another “I’ll do that later” project).
The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived at the rally late Tuesday afternoon.
5 Apr 2001
“Wothehellizat” makes it’s TV debut. Paul Clitheroe and his team from the “Money” show arrived and interviewed us about our impending life on the road.
When channel Nine first approached me about appearing I said “What’s the gist of the show, how to blow your life savings on a motor home?”. They assured me that it would be about the lifestyle and the fact that we had dropped careers, houses and just about everything else to hit the road in our mid forties.
Paul seemed impressed with the open look of the motor home, commenting that if he was blindfolded and lead to the lounge room he would think he was in a beach house.
Right from day one Chris said that she didn’t want the truck to look or feel like a normal motor home. I guess we succeeded in that respect
The crew filmed for over two hours while we opened and closed everything and chatted with Paul. When I said that the whole lot opens in a couple of minutes they decided to show this but I don’t think they really believed me, saying that if I opened the shutters and raised the pop-top they would do a time lapse to speed it up.
The pop-top went up so fast that they said a time lapse would not be required.
We spent rest of the rally as we usually do, catching up with old friends and making new ones. While having a chat with Laurie (the CMCA webmistress) and others we noticed the council was removing the porta-loos.
Someone commented that they had better not have any occupants and before we’d finished laughing Roger Risk was inside one with his pants at half mast pretending to be in the aforementioned unfortunate position.
The majority of the rally site were the usual middle-of-a-showground type but some areas were nicer. This coaster had a lovely canal-side spot…
Fig 3. Probably the best spot at the rally.
While many rigs were parked on a small rise that afforded views over the commoners. This was quickly named “Nob Hill”.
Meanwhile over at the rear of the showground, among the sheds, were the three WORTs (Weird Off Road Trucks), named Baby Bear, Moma Bear and Papa bear by Adrian (owner of Moma Bear, in the middle).
It was certainly great that we three could park together and we chatted ’till the wee hours about off-road truck things and living full-time on the road.
Baby Bear (Steve and Jill’s Bedford in the front of the above photo) was up for sale and actually sold to Andy and Heather who had flown/driven all the way from Carnarvon in WA. Welcome to our small WORT fraternity Andy and Heather.
Our rig (Papa Bear, aka Wothehellizat) was parked right next to a shed and when standing on the deck we actually looked down on its roof.
7 Apr 2001
Open day. On the Saturday of these rallies the public is let in to view those rigs that are open and generally talk to CMCA members about motor homing.
It was utter bedlam around the WORTs with queues lined up outside ours and probably the others for all I know, I was too busy.
We must have shown hundreds of people around the rig and at 2:30 Chris closed the door so we could have lunch. Unfortunately our open plan design worked against us as people could see us in the lounge room and still ask questions, so we moved across the road and sat with our fellow WORT owners, pretending the truck wasn’t ours.
For the record…
Yes I built it myself
It took about three years
It was an Army truck then fire brigade
The motor is a Perkins 6354 turbo
I stretched the chassis
There, that should nip most of the questions in the bud. Not that I’m complaining, actually I enjoy it, you don’t build something like this if you aren’t willing to handle the attention. I thoroughly enjoyed the day but was ready for a few beers when the crowd dwindled at about 6pm.
Later a friend told me that he overheard some people talking about the “weird purple thing over the other side”, apparently the owner is a pretty rough looking fellow but his wife is nothing like him, quite nice. There must have been another purple motor home at the rally, guess I missed it.
We both really enjoyed the rally and, as always, found it a little sad when the rigs started moving out.
10 Apr 2001
We leave the showground and drive to Lake Wyangan, just north of Griffith. This was used as a staging area before and after the rally and when we arrived there must have been 20 rigs parked in the camping area. I decide it will be too much trouble to do a hard right and join them so we drive straight ahead to the picnic area and park on the lake side.
Fig 1. Parked on the shores of Lake Wyangan.
For a while we had some peace but as I was taking the above photo, with my camera on the ground and bum in the air, I heard “What’s he doing”, then “Taking a photo I think”.
I stood up and faced two men who were by now looking at the truck. “Did you build it yourself?” they asked. We chatted for a while then they left.
I took some more photos then noticed a swarm of women heading my way. It seems they were artists and, when they heard I was a photographer, had to come over and check things out. “Did you build it yourself?”, “How long did it take”?, “What kind of photography do you do?”, “Just travelling around eh? I’d love to do that”.
Eventually they left and I retreated to the lounge room, collapsing into my trusty recliner. I raised the footrest and closed my eyes.
Fig 2. Relaxing in the lounge room.
It was such a peaceful place, delightfully warm with a slight breeze and the sound of water gently lapping on the shore. Perfect for an afternoon nap. I started to nod off…
There was a scrunching of feet on gravel, then…
“Did you build it yourself?”
11 Apr 2001
We stay with Steve and Jill in Ardlethan on the way home, they are the current owners of the Bedford we were parked with at the rally. Arriving just in time for dinner we cracked open some of Steve’s home brew, had a nice meal, then settled in to watch some videos showing their exploits in the truck.
Steve and Jill have owned the Bedford for 25 years and it’s been a proven performer. Some of the video footage will make your hair curl as the 9-tonne beast is bogged on sandhills in the Simpson Desert, gets it’s mirrors, lights and just about everything else ripped off on the Anne Beadel Track and slides violently in the mud on a rain soaked Corner Country plane.
Chris is looking at me as if to say “We’re not going to do that are we?”.
Well the answer is “Probably not” as our truck is larger than the Bedford and it’s also our only major possession so we have to be more careful.
Next morning I rise just before the sun and climb onto the roof to get a shot of Steve’s two WORTs, the old and the new.
Fig 3. Part of Steve and Jill’s back yard.
Steve has already “knocked up” an A-frame for the Suzuki (a quickie but better than most jobs I’ve seen) and they will be delivering the Bedford to its new owners then returning in the Suzi. The exchange is in Geraldton, 4000ks away. That’s an 8000k (5000 miles) round trip with no sightseeing, just driving. Rather them than me.
They are selling the Bedford because Steve is finding it too hard to drive and Jill doesn’t drive it at all. The replacement can be seen in the above two photos, a Bedford chassis with an Austin bus body.
Obviously there is still a long way to go with this project but it will get done and should be a serious piece of gear. Because it’s smaller and has amazing approach and departure angles it should really be able to go anywhere. Probably more important is the power steering which means Jill can share the driving.
We were parked in Steve and Jill’s ample back yard, along with their two trucks, a house boat, two caravans, a gantry and assorted chassis, VW kombi bodies, sheds etc.
It drove home to me something I originally thought of a couple of years ago, that is that visiting friends is going to be different from now on. Normally, when travelling, you drop in on your friends, park in the driveway and stay in a spare bedroom.
When you travel in a 14-tonne truck you don’t just park in someone’s driveway, you have to find somewhere that can handle such a vehicle, a nearby vacant lot or maybe a caravan park. The whole dynamics of the visit has changed, now one of you has to commute to the other.
So instead of being able to sit up ’till 3am with a few beers then stumble into bed, somebody has to drive home. Instead of the girls retiring early and the boys sitting up for hours (or vice versa) getting tipsy and telling lies, you have to drive home together.
I hope most of my friends can accommodate the truck, if not in their driveway, at least within walking distance.
Stay tuned for Part-3 (Coming soon)
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WOTHAHELLIZAT MK1 – Plans: