But first, apologies if this isn't the best forum for this topic but I didn't think any others really applied. So mods, if you have a better place you know what to do.
Some here recall we're outliers, we want the vintage look but with a floorplan that suits us. After searching for a couple years and not finding anything that really ticked all the boxes, we started to look into a custom built unit. Most custom builders seem to be more custom decorators than builders, the others are way out of budget. So we looked at what it takes to build our own and stumbled across this fine site. The bug bit hard.
Research here indicated that while time consuming, the actual construction isn't that complicated. Indeed, there's many members who've completed frame up rebuilds even with no prior experience.
Of course one cannot camp in a sketch on paper. It must be built to be useable. To that end I made a list of what a core camper or donor unit should have in order to have something to build from. The basics are a good sturdy frame, tandem axles, minimum 16 foot floor, appliances in working condition (mostly anyway) , and cheap.
I almost bought a wrecked 2011 Jayco with a 24 foot floor from a coworker, but they decided to have it repaired instead. Oh well we kept looking. And found this...
Its a 1991 Dutchmen 180. It ticked most of the boxes for a core camper except the floor is only 15 feet. The other big problem with reconciling our original plan is the wheel wells take up more room than originally thought. I'll have to add to the rear of the frame to compensate for those factors. We'd also like to have more windows as there are only 3 on this donor that we intend to keep, the big dinette window just doesn't look right.
BTW anyone notice something missing on the street side of the camper? The fairing for the wheel well is missing. Probably related to this.
dutchman pics 009 by Andy Malycky, on Flickr Yes that is the stove shoved in next to the toilet, it's unclear wether the kitchen counter broke loose during the blowout of was ripped out by the PO. Mo matter, we won't be using the sink or stove in this build (if anyone wants them they are up for grabs, same for the dinette window)
Any idea what the random loose bolt is for in the last pic? Snicker snicker...
You mentioned adding to the rear frame, make certain that if you extend to the rear that you don't subtract to much tongue weight making it tow unsafe. You might want to consider moving wheels back or extending frame front and rear to maintain proper weight distribution. Just a thought. Have fun in your build.
Post by ruderunner on Aug 12, 2018 11:03:01 GMT -8
Oh I'm definitely keeping tongue weight in mind. Looks like I'll have to add a little over a foot to the rear. I'm thinking though that moving the fridge forward will help not to mention batteries, spare tire and propane tanks up on the tongue.
I'll have a better idea after disassembling the camper and weighing the components.
So I did follow up on the Craigslist ad for windows and found that they are indeed a match for the Herr windows in my Dutchmen core. In fact one window is the same size, this gives me a total of 6 to install, all have functioning mechanisms and intact screens. I also grabbed a fresh water tank (28 gal) and pump to replace the missing parts. All for $50.
Also started on disassembly of the Dutchmen, roof vents, and ac are off, windows and door are off. Took out the Hot water tank and furnace yesterday. Got the fridge loose but need an assistant to help lift it out. Cabinet doors and hardware are out. So far most of the accessory parts seem to be inservicible condition though the awning material needs replaced and I'm worried the water heater may leak. I was planning on reusing the microwave but holy cow it's heavy, may look for a newer lighter one.
And it seems that the poor Dutchmen has had a very hard life. Rot galore all over the place, indeed it seems the silicone was doing more to hold the windows in than the screws. I believe this unit was originally built with a rubber roof that has since been replaced with sheet aluminum. Poorly. Some of the holes for the roof vents didn't line up well especially the fridge vent, off by several inches and a patch piece was gooped into place. The paneling and flooring in the front 5' is replacement and while the old paneling was removed before new was installed, they just laid laminate floor over the rotten plywood, and wow rotten it is.
Once I get the fridge out, maybe tonight or tomorrow, it will be time to pull the skins. Then perhaps a sawzall or chainsaw to disassemble the framing. Or a stiff wind...
IN the meantime I've been trying to get momma bear to think about decor. She's spent a few hours (ok days) looking at pics of vintage units for inspiration of paint scheme and interior decor. She's a little hesitant to do the inside completely in wood and is thinking of painting at least the bathroom. Though in her searches she found an interior picture and asked if we could make ours look like that. I recognized the photo, It was the $250,000 Holiday House Geographic! At least she doesn't want to go totally fru fru and glampy.
Me, I'm actually thinking that I like the wood and splashes of accent color to match the paint and seats though I can tolerate some paint. I'm trying to get her to understand that it would be easier to stain everything first and paint if we don't like it rather than paint first and try to strip and stain if we don't like it. She's not quite following that and is having difficulty understanding how you only put these together once, not like a house where you can strip it to the walls and redo everything. Yeah she's one of those who watches home remodel shows and Tiny House. I admit, I watch them too but I recognize the difference between a house and camper. And also why we can't have moveable furniture, she loves to rearrange the house furniture. It gets a bit frustrating at times.
The most recent discussion was about the bed. The original plan was for a bed with the head against the front wall and walk around sides. She pointed out we can save space mounting it sideways and in the corner. True but who is going to climb over who if one needs to use the bathroom at night? Then she suggests ok not in the corner but sideways still. To which I respond, then we lose the pass through storage for planks and fishing rods. She's bummed but learning that everything has a tradeoff unless we wan't a 40' camper. Which we don't!
That's not to say she hasn't had good ideas. We've been struggling with what to do for a sitting area to eat at and play cards etc. We both agree that a regular dinette isn't what we want, we don't need the extra bed it can fold down to and most are pretty uncomfortable to actually sit in. Then out of the blue she come up with "how about captains chairs?" Hey now! They're comfy, recline, swivel and bolt to the floor. This will allow a small triangle shaped table to be hinged to the wall for eating and allow the seats to swivel so we can both see a tv mounted on a wall. I thought it was brilliant.
One of this morning's errands is to stop by a local wrecking yard to see what may be lurking in the conversion vans he has.
I'll post pics once I get the skins off, and perhaps new sketches of an overall shape based on what I have to work with. I'll be out of town next weekend so not likely to make much progress soon but after that we;re planning one last trip in October and my weekends will free up considerably. Can't wait to get to a bare frame and start laying out an actual floor to see how things fit.
Last Edit: Sept 8, 2018 3:15:52 GMT -8 by ruderunner
Post by ruderunner on Sept 14, 2018 2:19:09 GMT -8
Another no news update. Last weekend was a washout, literally. We got 6" of rain between Saturday morning and Monday morning!
The junkyard trip was a bit of a bust as well, there was only one van with swivel base captains chairs. Very late 80's looking too in shape and color (mauve)
A little good news though is that the rain has forced us to cancel our camping trip this weekend, everything will be a mud pit so we decided not to go. That gives me time to progress with teardown.
Plans today are to hit the swap meet as a spectator and see what odds and ends I might be able to find for the camper project. You never know what will show up there anymore,, it has changed from strictly auto parts to a bit of a flea market. Maybe captains chairs, maybe vintage marker lights, maybe some stylish wheels
Post by ruderunner on Sept 14, 2018 2:25:39 GMT -8
A side note on construction, I noticed that all the cabinets in the Dutchmen overhang the main frame rails. Not surprising since they hold up the walls. Something to keep in mind if you're removing, adding or relocating cabinets in your project.
Post by ruderunner on Sept 30, 2018 9:35:07 GMT -8
A belated update with plenty of pics. Went to the swap meet and found a few sets of vintage looking clearance lights and a really cool cast iron 2 burner cooktop. Small and portable. Then started pulling the skins off to reveal this
Post by ruderunner on Sept 30, 2018 9:41:14 GMT -8
Yikes thats some pretty serious rot. The sills are completely mush. In fact I was able to rip the lower half of the walls off by hand. Once that was done it was fairly easy to start rocking the camper to get the body to start to fall off. A couple smakcs with a sledge hammer at the base of the refridgerator cabinet and a well placed prybar u at the base of the curbside bathroom wall lead to this...
This weekend I realized its almost October so I started getting winter vehicles ready and a final mow of the yard before the leaves fall. Bad news is the oil pan on the "welfare truck" rotted out, spent some time pulling that apart yesterday. Waiting for new parts to arrive so I can put it back together next weekend. Also need to do rear brakes and oil change on my friends dually, then check the soft brakes on my Wagoneer, change it's oil and get new tires.