2009 Chevy Medium Duty 4x4 Kodiak Ambulance conversion

Mattersnots

Adventurer
Hey guys.

Maybe you know how it is. You get to a certain point on the build where it works well enough and you're sick of working on it so off you go. I've been in the truck full time since the last post. Most of my time has been spent traveling and enjoying however I did take some time for a few projects. I want to keep this thread as the main build site so here we go with some updates.

By the way, I haven't been on here in a while and it's a real treat seeing new and old comments of encouragement. I thank you guys for that. I'm sure most know the time it takes to keep up on a thread like this.

Lets start with some steps.

Power Step Install

I went all winter with the steps installed but not wired up. You can see they have a well used look even though they weren’t. I thought I would tackle the job in Mexico but the two times I started it just seemed too daunting.


It was a big job which ultimately took me a couple of days. The steps include a couple of lights, door sensors, and an ignition connection.

Step switches

In the end they are one of my favorite additions to the camper. These are made by treadlight and I recommend them.
 

Mattersnots

Adventurer
Espar Heater Install

I put the espar under the dinette bench. There was some wasted space there that matched the loaf of bread sized heater. I wanted to make some changes to the dinette anyway so I ripped things apart.


I saw a blog once where some brilliant dude ran the heater through a metal tray which became a foot warmer while sitting. Since I wanted to raise the floor anyway it made sense to give this idea a go.


This is the metal box that the dinette attaches to. No, it’s not pretty. That’s because it’s not normally seen. It’s just there to be a solid mount for the table. Notice the 4 inch extension at the top. By running the heater hose through the box it heats up the table base. It works very well and I’m so glad I did it.


One of the more difficult parts of installing one of these heaters is the pickup for the fuel tank. My tank is 53 gallons so bulky even when empty. I was lucky in that the tank didn’t have to be removed all the way and also had an extra 1/2″ port just waiting to be used.

Trusty “creeper” on the ground.
Two extra options for adding fuel lines.

The controllers can be challenging with these heaters. Luckily I have a friend who is familiar with them. I did run into one problem. I wanted two controllers, one by the bed and another in the “living room.” Turns out the two in the above photo are not compatible. Or, they would have been if the square one had a purple wire.

Heater control going into a “don’t get out of bed to have heat” position.
Dad helping with another project.
 

Mattersnots

Adventurer
Table Version 2.0

Table 1.0 wasn’t the best. With opposing drawer glides the versatility was great but the stability wasn’t. I never liked the original top either. The wood didn’t match anything in the camper and the finish was sub par.


For the new one we tapped holes in an aluminum base for mounting both the new black top and one set of diagonal drawer glides.





The new table is much more stable and stylish.
 

Fatboyz

Observer
What a great idea with the Drawer slides! I want to put a U shaped Dinette in my truck but would mostly only be using the end seats for my wife and I. I want the ability to use the long side for the few times we have extra folks there but in order to have enough room the table needed to be really narrow. I like this idea, for the few times we want to use the long side of the U we can just slide the table out further into the Aisle.
 

Farrah’s_dad

New member
Really cool project. Tons of great ideas. I’ve been collecting parts for mine for the last 2 years. Your project has been a really good motivation for me to not give up on it. Thank you for taking the extra time to share it with us.
 

GivanNYC

New member
I guess it's time to come out of hiding. I've been postponing this write up for a while now.
View attachment 439808
The truck has been sitting in my Dad's back yard for a couple of months before I could get to it. It gave me plenty of time plan and then change plans, repeat.

A few words on why I ended up with this one. I've always thought an ambulance would make a great platform for a camper. Several years ago I climbed all over one and decided it wasn't worth raising the roof. It was about 4" shorter than I was and would have been a considerable amount of work to raise or cap. That combined with the lack of load capacity and relatively small space made me keep looking.

Recently, when I decided the Firstroamer wasn't big enough the search was on again. The leading contenders were the large European expedition trucks and the Fuso. I was leaning towards the Fuso when we had to get towed in my friends sprinter van. The driver showed up in a Medium duty Chevy C4500. We rode in the back of the crew cab and were duly impressed. The size scared me until I realized they have many different wheel bases. First I started looking at putting a total composites box onto the back of the chevy. It didn't take long to stumble upon the C4500 ambulance. And when I say stumble I mean about a hundred hours of sitting in a dark corner staring at a screen.

It took another couple months for the right one to come along. I had a list of about 20 used ambulance sites to peruse daily. When I found this one it only took two hours before I had money down on it.

Now onto some specifics. Rather than talk about why I chose this over another platform I'd rather just list some features. The truck was originally purchased by Yellowstone National Park. It currently has 15,000 miles on it and is like new. It has a duramax engine that puts out 300hp, allison 6 speed automatic transmission, 4 wheel disc brakes, power windows, door locks, and mirrors. Heated mirrors, cruise control, exhaust brake (turbo vanes), air ride seats and is actually quiet inside. It's four wheel drive with great gearing and at least one limited slip axle. It has locking hubs which is both good and bad. Good because it helps with the fuel mileage (11.81 from Houston to Tucson) and bad because I use 4x4 a lot and don't want to get out all the time to lock them in/out. The truck is powerful and comfortable to drive. The transmission is a wonder. I especially like how it slowly downshifts when I let off the gas coming up to a light. You barely need to touch the brakes. Now onto the box. It has a pass through that can be done while keeping your feet on the floor. It's only about 4 feet tall, but sure beats a crawl through. Most of you already know how well the ambulances are made, very high quality and the wiring is top notch. Built in storage everywhere. Some of it will be used for systems like the electronics which will all be located in the front drivers compartment. There is rear heat and a/c, an inverter, powered vent, fan, lights everywhere, and plenty of built in cabinetry if one wants to use it. There are many other options like back up camera, 50 gallon fuel tank, rear air suspension, but I can see myself starting to ramble so lets move on.

Back in the day I had a custom shell built and mounted it onto the back of my chevy blazer. I ended up with an underpowered, poor handling, strange looking creation. And I loved every bit of building and using it.
View attachment 439809
View attachment 439810
I've always wanted to build another. Not rebuild, but do the whole inside exactly how I want. That time has finally come. I find myself in the position of having both time and budget.

I'm planning a higher end build with all electric except for an espar heater. The layout will be raised bed in the back, corner dinette, 4' counter, shower and toilet in the pass through.
View attachment 439811
I've only been at it for a week now. Many pictures to post, just don't want to spend too much time on the computer rather than in the truck. I've learned so much from this forum. I hope that continues and maybe, just maybe someone else can use an idea or two of mine. Looking forward to the comments and suggestions. Much more to come but for now more pictures then time to get back out there.
View attachment 439812
View attachment 439813
View attachment 439814
View attachment 439815
View attachment 439816
That's a shot of what started it all. It's from orangework.de If I can make mine look anything like that I'll be a happy camper. :)
Wow congrats. Can you help me with the list of sites you did your research before you made a decision to buy your ambulance? Thank you Godbless.👍
 

GivanNYC

New member
I guess it's time to come out of hiding. I've been postponing this write up for a while now.
View attachment 439808
The truck has been sitting in my Dad's back yard for a couple of months before I could get to it. It gave me plenty of time plan and then change plans, repeat.

A few words on why I ended up with this one. I've always thought an ambulance would make a great platform for a camper. Several years ago I climbed all over one and decided it wasn't worth raising the roof. It was about 4" shorter than I was and would have been a considerable amount of work to raise or cap. That combined with the lack of load capacity and relatively small space made me keep looking.

Recently, when I decided the Firstroamer wasn't big enough the search was on again. The leading contenders were the large European expedition trucks and the Fuso. I was leaning towards the Fuso when we had to get towed in my friends sprinter van. The driver showed up in a Medium duty Chevy C4500. We rode in the back of the crew cab and were duly impressed. The size scared me until I realized they have many different wheel bases. First I started looking at putting a total composites box onto the back of the chevy. It didn't take long to stumble upon the C4500 ambulance. And when I say stumble I mean about a hundred hours of sitting in a dark corner staring at a screen.

It took another couple months for the right one to come along. I had a list of about 20 used ambulance sites to peruse daily. When I found this one it only took two hours before I had money down on it.

Now onto some specifics. Rather than talk about why I chose this over another platform I'd rather just list some features. The truck was originally purchased by Yellowstone National Park. It currently has 15,000 miles on it and is like new. It has a duramax engine that puts out 300hp, allison 6 speed automatic transmission, 4 wheel disc brakes, power windows, door locks, and mirrors. Heated mirrors, cruise control, exhaust brake (turbo vanes), air ride seats and is actually quiet inside. It's four wheel drive with great gearing and at least one limited slip axle. It has locking hubs which is both good and bad. Good because it helps with the fuel mileage (11.81 from Houston to Tucson) and bad because I use 4x4 a lot and don't want to get out all the time to lock them in/out. The truck is powerful and comfortable to drive. The transmission is a wonder. I especially like how it slowly downshifts when I let off the gas coming up to a light. You barely need to touch the brakes. Now onto the box. It has a pass through that can be done while keeping your feet on the floor. It's only about 4 feet tall, but sure beats a crawl through. Most of you already know how well the ambulances are made, very high quality and the wiring is top notch. Built in storage everywhere. Some of it will be used for systems like the electronics which will all be located in the front drivers compartment. There is rear heat and a/c, an inverter, powered vent, fan, lights everywhere, and plenty of built in cabinetry if one wants to use it. There are many other options like back up camera, 50 gallon fuel tank, rear air suspension, but I can see myself starting to ramble so lets move on.

Back in the day I had a custom shell built and mounted it onto the back of my chevy blazer. I ended up with an underpowered, poor handling, strange looking creation. And I loved every bit of building and using it.
View attachment 439809
View attachment 439810
I've always wanted to build another. Not rebuild, but do the whole inside exactly how I want. That time has finally come. I find myself in the position of having both time and budget.

I'm planning a higher end build with all electric except for an espar heater. The layout will be raised bed in the back, corner dinette, 4' counter, shower and toilet in the pass through.
View attachment 439811
I've only been at it for a week now. Many pictures to post, just don't want to spend too much time on the computer rather than in the truck. I've learned so much from this forum. I hope that continues and maybe, just maybe someone else can use an idea or two of mine. Looking forward to the comments and suggestions. Much more to come but for now more pictures then time to get back out there.
View attachment 439812
View attachment 439813
View attachment 439814
View attachment 439815
View attachment 439816
That's a shot of what started it all. It's from orangework.de If I can make mine look anything like that I'll be a happy camper. :)
Wow nice Job. Few questions. I will start looking For a used ambulance. Which one is better c4500 or c5500? What’s the difference? I want a 4x4 preferable because I want to go to South America and Central America. You have lots of valuable information. Thanks and Godbless.😉
 

Mattersnots

Adventurer
Just type used ambulance into Google. I don't have a list anymore. A little research and you'll be on your way. I'm not familiar with the 5500 other than it has a higher weight rating. Good luck with the project.
 

mog

Mammutbändiger
Which one is better c4500 or c5500? What’s the difference? I want a 4x4 preferable because I want to go to South America and Central America. 😉
They are 90%+ 'the same'. Same drivetrain options (engine/trans), same bodies and same frame/PSI. The C5500 has an increased GVWR due to higher 'rated axles' (I think the same axles, with just a higher rating) and springs.
A.jpg
The 2x4 C5500 got the same wheel that the 4x4 had

B.jpg

So uprated weight for the axle.
C.jpg
For reference my '09 C4500 4x4 has
Front - Dana 70 - HD, High Pinion, 5.13, 8,000-lb, (10.5 ring,1550 U-joints, reverse cut) 34.5-mm stabilizer bar (BTW it is no problem getting ARB air-lockers for theses)
Rear - Dana S110 (S14-110L), Full floating, LSD (Truetrac), 5.13, 13,500-lb, (12.25 ring,) 44.5-mm stabilizer bar

The highest-rated C5500s (19,000) had slightly different brakes. Here is the official description:
All C4500 and C5500 trucks use standard four-piston front caliper brake design and Hydro-Max brake systems to optimize performance for their particular GVWR requirements. Reduced stopping distances, low pedal effort and quieter, longer-life operation are the benefits of this robust brake design. Heavier GVWR C5500 and C6500/C7500 models, meanwhile, feature low-drag, four-piston opposed piston, fixed-caliper brake design with diameters sized to particular GVWR load requirements. Premium, high-capacity 70-mm, four-piston brake systems are standard on both the front and rear.

A.jpg
 

GivanNYC

New member
They are 90%+ 'the same'. Same drivetrain options (engine/trans), same bodies and same frame/PSI. The C5500 has an increased GVWR due to higher 'rated axles' (I think the same axles, with just a higher rating) and springs.
View attachment 576863
The 2x4 C5500 got the same wheel that the 4x4 had

View attachment 576865

So uprated weight for the axle.
View attachment 576866
For reference my '09 C4500 4x4 has
Front - Dana 70 - HD, High Pinion, 5.13, 8,000-lb, (10.5 ring,1550 U-joints, reverse cut) 34.5-mm stabilizer bar (BTW it is no problem getting ARB air-lockers for theses)
Rear - Dana S110 (S14-110L), Full floating, LSD (Truetrac), 5.13, 13,500-lb, (12.25 ring,) 44.5-mm stabilizer bar

The highest-rated C5500s (19,000) had slightly different brakes. Here is the official description:
All C4500 and C5500 trucks use standard four-piston front caliper brake design and Hydro-Max brake systems to optimize performance for their particular GVWR requirements. Reduced stopping distances, low pedal effort and quieter, longer-life operation are the benefits of this robust brake design. Heavier GVWR C5500 and C6500/C7500 models, meanwhile, feature low-drag, four-piston opposed piston, fixed-caliper brake design with diameters sized to particular GVWR load requirements. Premium, high-capacity 70-mm, four-piston brake systems are standard on both the front and rear.

View attachment 576863
thanks good info. So more or less the same for an RV purpose? Just heavier 👍😉
 

GivanNYC

New member
Just type used ambulance into Google. I don't have a list anymore. A little research and you'll be on your way. I'm not familiar with the 5500 other than it has a higher weight rating. Good luck with the project.
Thanks. Knowing what you know NOW to convert an ambulance to an RV will you do it all over again? Or just buy a used RV?
 

mog

Mammutbändiger
thanks good info. So more or less the same for an RV purpose? Just heavier
Curb (unloaded) weight for a C4500 and C5500 'outfitted the same' would be the same weight. Nothing is 'added' to the C5500, just different GVWR ratings.
For reference, my C4500, 4x4, Crewcab, 42"x15" tires on 22.5 Alcoas, steel flatbed, is 11,400 pounds (weight on a commercial scale)

Knowing what you know NOW to convert an ambulance to an RV will you do it all over again? Or just buy a used RV?
A HUGE plus of the ambulances is the strength/roll-over protection. Watch videos of ambulance rolling over, and RVs, that will be 'enlightening'. An 'Ambo-box' is not going to shake apart on rough roads, like a particle-board commercial 'RV'. Composite panel campers (like Total Composite in Canada) are also very strong.
 

eporter

Adventurer
A HUGE plus of the ambulances is the strength/roll-over protection. Watch videos of ambulance rolling over, and RVs, that will be 'enlightening'. An 'Ambo-box' is not going to shake apart on rough roads, like a particle-board commercial 'RV'. Composite panel campers (like Total Composite in Canada) are also very strong.
I’ve seen some shuttle buses/limos based on larger/heavier duty platforms. They might offer a nice compromise between the overbuilt ambo box and the under built RV shell. School buses are built to offer side impact and some rollover protection. Some shuttle buses are built with similar reinforcements.

 
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