2009 Kodiak 5500 Duramax Crew Cab Ambulance Conversion Project

#1
Hey Everyone-

New to the Ambulance conversion world. I picked up a 2009 Chevy Kodiak C5500 Crew Cab (6.6l Duramax) Ambulance with 138K on it from a University in Virginia with the goal of converting it into an RV. I figured for what I paid for it and what I will put into it, I can get a luxury (as luxury as I'm able to get it) rv for a fraction of the price...lol
I found the ambulance at an online auction site and drive down to give it a general inspection, having basic mechanical skills but not really knowing what I was looking at. I've owned diesel trucks before and figured I know enough to be dangerous...and I was right. The batteries were dead so I couldn't start it up to inspect the rig but my gut was telling me it was good so I continued to bid under careful eye of my wife, who though it was as good of an idea as I've ever had( which is saying something). I won the auction, with a high bid of under 10K so I figured I was ahead of the game even if this blew up in my face. I headed to NAPA to get some batteries and fluids in the event I had to do some work in order to get it up and running to make the 2 hour ride back home to Northern Virginia.
Had one of the facilities guys help me out, hooked up the jumper cables and let it sit for about 20 minutes and...it fired right up. HUGE sigh of relief. It started and that was half the battle. The rig has sat since August and it was now December12th. I checked the fluids and everything looked ok. Refreshed the DPF and hit the road. Ran like a beast, had it up to 75mph without issue. With the wife following me home, we made it back with a grin from ear to ear and now the work starts
The general details
Its a PL Customs ambulance box
its a 4 door/crew cab with 4 individual air ride seats and a rear pass through to the back.
It has a on board 6.5 Stadco diesel generator tied into the 60 gallon fuel tank
A Vanner Bravo 1800 inverter.
Roof Top AC
Ducted rear heater in the box
Built in tire chains and air ride suspension
brand new tires all the way around.

Since I got it home I have going back and forth between using the existing cabinets or stripping everything out and starting fresh but I eventually decided to start from scratch and removed all of the cabinetry out pulled the insulation. I am going to spray foam the inside to seal it up nice once I get everything on the inside right.


trying to figure out how to get the pictures loaded the right way.

Anyhow any and all help is greatly appreciated. Going to do the full kit: shower, sink, cook top, cabinets and counter top, propane instant hot water heater, a big bed for mom and dad and a smaller bunk for the little one.
 

Cowpig

new guy + questions
#2
that's awesome, great rig - would love to have the extra space (mine's a regular cab) but then again I don't mind having a shorter wheelbase for offroad. for the pictures i had the same problem -turns out you have to open each .jpg and rotate it then save it to your computer.... then upload to this website. no clue why expeditionportal requires this as every other forum i'm on allows you to rotate the photos as needed ... anyway will be following your thread as i wrestle with my own kodiak build :D

btw, good call ripping everything out ... i had the same thought when I first got mine, but once i assessed it in real life it was readily apparent it would be way easier and a much better final result to just tear it all out and start new.
 
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#5
demo has begun

Made some progress on the inside. Been cold here, in the teens and 20s so nut as much as id like.
Question for the group:
Has anyone tied in solar panels into their existing inverter battery setup? If so, how hard was it?
I have 3 batteries in a tray under the pass side front and the inverter is run to the back drivers side box. Wanted to mount a few panels to the roof and tie it in somehow. Also, the remote for the vanner inverter was ripped out. ideas as to how to get that back in and connected?
what is are the thoughts on the light bar on the cab? keep or remove? thought about adding a cargo rack in that area with a led light bar
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#6
Thought that body looked familure. Mine is PL Customs body too. Think mine little longer though. 14.5 footer and no window.
 

Cowpig

new guy + questions
#7
solar - lots of options on how to do this, i decided against roof panels because I like the desert and as i was researching installing panels to the roof i read someone commenting about 'if you do that, then you have to park in the sun' ... oh, yeah, duh, lol .... i have goal zero briefcase panels that i'll use along with a yeti instead (so I can put the panels out in the sun, hopefully park in the shade, and either tie into the vehicle to charge/power it or recharge the yeti)

lightbar - i had thought about converting mine to clear led flood/spots for offroad use. it wouldn't be all that difficult and could be cool, but i also wanted to put one of those fiberglass 'nose cones' on my box where the bar was mounted and in any event it's overkill (I'll have lights in the grille and bumper).

have fun in the cold - i decided to rent a garage for this project, it would take too long trying to do it in the weather it's nice being in heat, concrete floor to roll around on, lighting, and no rain worries! oh.... don't do what I do and shop online for new parts because you'll keep finding other things you could do and the project will balloon $$$ :D . the rent sure motivates me to finish asap ... and of course I want it done so I can actually take a trip in it - so the ability to work quickly is worth the cost to me

* check your air cleaner box - I pulled mine yesterday and found the bottom had sort of burned/melted through! not sure if this is an issue with duramax diesels, or just peculiar to mine (see my build thread for pics). I thought about fixing it but went ahead and ponied up for a new one - ain't cheap though!
 
#8
solar - lots of options on how to do this, i decided against roof panels because I like the desert and as i was researching installing panels to the roof i read someone commenting about 'if you do that, then you have to park in the sun' ... oh, yeah, duh, lol .... ...!
It's the desert..... you think your going to find a tree large enough to park under??? don't think so.

But having read a post that mentioned that too as well... got me thinking of two things.. one two layers.. maybe three. Top layer permanent fix, Bottom of two layers slides out and tilt.. AKA creating an awning. If third layer; it instead would be bottom most layer and could slide out Fore and Aft. Ultimate would be ability to tilt any of these a bit using say a design like is done with AG 3 way tilt beds. Second thought is Flexible Solar panels.. if it ever gets flexible enough..... make it into an awning.

Granted that is Dream set up for me. will keep it in mind in my build though.
 
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#10
There is shade in desert areas , it's not all flat sand and dunes ya know
Actually I don't know lol. Only been in Nevada open areas. Not really Desert-ish I don't think. Up north Near Reno. Also in AZ hills four wheeling. Shade was not tree's per say but in tucking behind hill and dale? Is that what you refer too? If so .. that grey of a shade you compensate for by how much solar you mount. Mount enough solar to work for you in some shade instead of only enough to work for you in bright sunlight?

Guess best is a balance? Mount some semi permanent.... and have some you can run out under the sun with a good wire back to the Expo. Rig ?
 

Cowpig

new guy + questions
#12
I took my hoseline ac out.... too much space and too robust for my needs

But

It was a lot more involved than I originally thought - I had to replace ac lines, coolant hoses, repair where it was spliced in to the factory loom harness etc. I'm still glad to be rid of it but just fair warning that if your truck has the ac/dc system and was factory optioned for the rear aux hvac it'll be more than just unhook and remove the parts in the box.

If you end up going the route of removal and need diagrams I found wholesalegmpartsonline to be invaluable - it still took me a bit of comparing the diagram to what my truck had before I figured out which diagram to refer to and what hoses to buy. Looks like you have a top mounted hoseline compressor ( plus the roof ac) so I'm not sure if the hoseline system is the same as mine - I had 5 lines running from the pax front box corner under the pax rocker to the engine ... 2 were coolant for box heat and 3 were refrigerant lines . Mine was 12v and 110 ac for both heat and cooling so it apparently used the vehicles grille condenser for while driving and then a bottom mounted compressor when stationary. I've never worked on any hvac so it was a bit of a puzzle as a noob

edit - forgot to add, that when you look for the diagrams on that website you have to use GMC ... the options for these trucks aren't listed in the dropdown for Chevy
 
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#13
fun, fun, fun

Not much progress, but down and out and it's been super cold here lately. Lots of time sketching out ideas for the interior and scouring the interweb for build list items and general cool stuff to add. The electrical is something that I am not looking forward to. In my rush to build I forgot to just take a minute and go through all of the switches and equipment to make sure things like the heat and ac worked, the inverter functions properly and all that. It was disconnected in an attempt to remove but they never go that far. I hooked the main battery wires back up and it showed some life. There is a remote that was stripped out and tossed aside. Not sure what the pros and cons of it are. In my haste I demoed the interior and the smart one of the group (wife) asked how the stuff on the inside works...hmmm, good question. I will plug in the shore power today after buying a 15 to 30amp plug adapter and see what happens from there. I removed all of the 6 halogen interior flood lights and the wiring and will replace the 4 florescent lights with some leds and a set of led trim lights for around the box interior. Should be plenty of light. I am worried about the hear and ac in the box so I will check on that.
Question- Does the truck need to be running for the hoseline to function? Dumb question but I am super new to the ambo conversion world.
The generator works as it should, just need to do some maint. on it. Oil and and filters along with fluids for the rig itself.
I purchased an ASME propane tank to mount that will feed my ecotemp instant hotwater heater for the shower and supply the 2 burner stove. I have a 33 gal fresh water and a 20 gallon gray for the shower and sink with a direct dump option since I'll ne using natural soap products. Have a cassette toilet already in addition to a portable solar panel kit for set up and positioning to keep the batts topped off. The rig has 3 size 31 batteries and I have 2 additional agm 31 batts that I will set up in box two where the inverter and all of the electrical 120 wiring is and somehow tie it in to the system with a diode and possible solar panels on the roof with an mppt controller and all that.

I am planning on putting a full size bed in across the back with, blocking the rear doors in essence as many have done in the sprinter van conversions with storage underneath and some pull out drawers. Has anyone had any experience with mounting a bed in such a way? Pros/cons of blocking the back door?
My plan as it stands now is to sort out the electrical needs and issues then rough in the plumbing and remaining 12 and 120v plugs. From there it will be some spray foam insulation and then cover it all up, add cabinets and ... (It all sounds so easy in my head).

Any tips, tricks, ideas are greatly appreciated.
My goal is to have this all buttoned up and ready to use by spring, fingers crossed.
 

Cowpig

new guy + questions
#14
For the hoseline system - is yours ac/dc or ? They have a parts manual on their website That can help you figure which one you have but the website is poor and hard to navigate

Only reasons I don't want to block my rear doors: useful to go to the lumber store, useful to even carry a motorcycle inside, tons of fresh air if weather is nice, and can see out the back while driving/rearview
 
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#15
Jambulance - I just got a very similar rig. Did you pull the insulation out in those pics or was it not insulated between the aluminum walls? Man I hope you simply pulled it out before photographing.
 
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