Eco-Roamer - F650 based Expedition Vehicle

The Fun Stuff

Just because you're environmentally friendly, doesn't mean you have to be boring...


One of the other things we did over the past couple of months was to design and configure the audio/video system for the vehicle. We're going to be spending a LOT of time in this truck, so we wanted to make sure that we had a way of taking all our tunes, and our toons with us. (two small kids!)

I started by thinking about where we would want to listen / watch our content, and then worked backwards from there. I knew we didn't want to carry around hundreds of CD's / DVD's with us, so a Hard-Drive media vault became obvious. Then, once we had that central storage concept, the question started to be about where should that be and how do we interconnect everything.

In the end, we came up with a pretty cool solution. Although we rarely talk electronics on ExPo, I thought it would be worth detailing for those interested.

We started with an InFill T3 in-dash PC. This takes the place of 2 DIN spots in the dash (same as my factory Ford radio) but manages to squeeze in a Windows XP PC, with a 40GB shock mounted hard drive and DVD drive. They are made in Korea and look like this:



Connected to this is a 1 Terrabyte (Yippee!) Western Digital USB Hard Drive mounted in foam in the centre console. I can't believe how cheap these are now. I got mine at Best Buy for about $230. We're in the process of ripping all our DVD's and MP3's to the drive. We'll never fill it...

The PC also has built in WiFi and we'll hook up my Cingular unlimited Data GSM card, and just get pre-paid SIM's as we travel around.

Then I found this amazing deal on HUGE 10.5" headrest monitors, with built in DVD/SD-card players from "GoodDeals18.com" - I was nervous ordering them as I'd never heard of the shop before, but they arrived exactly as promised and they're amazing. An F-650 is probably the only truck they wouldn't look huge in though!



The system is prewired to take inputs from our laptop on the Jotto Desk in the passenger seat if we want to play music from there too...

BUT... we're going to be spending most of our evenings back in the camper, so we also pre-wired the system to feed audio/video signals back to the LCD TV in the camper, and allow for a possible second one in the outdoor kitchen cabinet at some point in the future if we want to. These can be controlled by the RF Wireless keyboard and mouse from inside the camper.

The whole system then looks like this:


I'm a bit of a geek still at heart, so designing this part of the truck has been great fun. It's a lot of technology in an off-road rig, and we'll see how well it all holds up to the dust & vibrations on the trip - but I think it should be ok.

It is certainly a lot of complexity / money to invest in music / TV / Connectivity, but I justify by remembering that we're going to be spending 2 years in this thing with kids. We're certainly going to appreciate nature and sit around the campfire, etc, etc, but at some point the family is going to also want to cuddle up in front of a good movie, etc.

Any suggestions or feedback are always welcome. I have my PPT of the schematic and part numbers available if anybody wants. I'll let you know how it all works once we actually start travelling.

Lastly, I'd just like to thank the guys at Car Toys in Tulsa, OK. They definitely know their stuff and were a big help in building / installing the system really professionally.

Cheers,
Jay.
 
(Not-so) Dynamic Body Mount

Hi Again,

One of the more hotly contested topics on this thread (and ExPo in general it seems) is how to mount the camper body to the chassis. You want to ensure structural integrity (i.e. - it should come flying off with the wind resistance on the highway), but at the same time have enough 'give' built in to the mounting to allow the chassis to flex without cracking the camper box and everything within it.

Not an easy task.

I asked advice on this topic in this thread (see page 5) and got some great suggestions. Various people recommended:

  • Diamond shape - 4 point - a la Unicat & Robthebrit
  • Three Point - Pivot in front - a la Earthroamer
  • Three Point - Pivot in rear - a la Doug Hackney and Rob Gray
  • Suspension Air Bags to float the whole thing - nice idea, never seen it done
  • EZ-Ride rubber suspension - Mounted upside down - Still like this but unproven
  • Good old fashioned U-Bolts to the frame

One of the best suggestions though, came from Joaquim Suave who said:

Joaquin Suave said:
Call me daft...

But wouldn't it be wise to get your body mods finished & 4x4 driveline in, then....

Test just how far your frame flexes, then...

Design the box mounting system???

That way you will be able to accurately determine:

* The sweep of the cab-over part of the box, over the cab.
* The flexable "pass-through" connection between cab & box
* The most cost effective mounting system THAT WEIGHS THE LEAST.

I wonder how many "expedition" vehicles there are out there with elaborate mounting systems....Just so that the owner can say "NO! THIS IS NOT AN RV! SEE! I'VE GOT A 3 POINT MOUNTED BOX!"

I'd sure hate to see you throw good money after bad.
...and at the end of the day, I think he was right. (congrats JS you win the prize - a free bottle of Tequila) The F-650 chassis is already pretty rigid, much more so than a Mog I believe. The we went and 'sleeved' the frame with another L-bracket of serious steel, which has made it even stiffer. Like this:



So, at the end of the day - when I lifted up the truck 3ft in the air using a chain block attached to just one rear frame rail, the deflection between the two rails was only 1.75" at the end, and .75" at the front. Not a whole lot of flex. Admitedly, that's without a camper on the rear, but still - pretty stiff.

I worked it through a dozen times with our engineer Jeff Kuhl (who is fantastic, btw!) and we decided on a wholly unorthodox mount, but I think it could really work.

It looks like this:




We custom built tabs on the side of each frame rail. Then, attached to these tabs a long piece of bar aluminum, using Ford Upfitter standard rubber pucks both above and below the tabs to allow the bolts/bar some flex by compressing the rubber in either direction.

Then, we put another set of pucks, between the first row, and used these to space to a second aluminum bar that will fasten on the camper body itself. By spacing the pucks like this, the bars act like a leaf spring and have the ability to bow slightly under jounce giving additional play.

This is Jeff's design, based on some work he used to do at Grumman. I've never seen it before, but the theory seems good and I think it could really work.

There is very little fore/aft movement (compared to the diamond) but then the frame is very stiff in that direction, so I'm less concerned.

What I like the most about this design is that it's very simple & easy to engineer. We're going to build the camper box frame separately and then attach and test it. If we're not happy with how this mount performs, we can easily take it off and all we've really lost is about 3 days in the shop. Then we can start exploring substantially more complex mounts if we have to.

The total height raised from the frame rails to the camper box (as compared to just sitting it on top of the chassis) is less than 4", so C.O.G. shouldn't be too badly affected.

Anyhow, that's our solution. As always I'm open to your suggestions/questions/feedback on it.

Cheers,
Jay.
 
Embarassing Mistake

Hi Again,

In my past few posts, I've included lots of updates on all the elements that are going really well. I thought I might as well share a recent but very embarassing mistake in the hope that it will help some others down the road...

"ALWAYS CHECK THE OBVIOUS"

One of the design specifications for the vehicle was to be at most 96" at it's widest point, so that we could load it onto a shipping pallet and then on to a container ship.

Of course there are RoRo ships throughout the world, but the schedules are more sporadic, the locations less remote, and any shipping nightmare stories I've read always seem to revolve around RoRo's. (theft, loading damage, etc)

So Jeff and I have been struggling to keep everything within the 96". This affects the floorplan, the walls, the awning, etc. You even start thinking about the rain gutters and bar locks, looking for more flush options in order to retain every inch of inside living space.

Then Jeff calls me last week... "You do realize that those Meritor axles you put on the front are 102" wide right!?" ...DOH!

Even the (grudgingly removable) steps on the fuel tanks come out to a full 105"

We were done, before we'd even started... There was no way we were going to make the 96" limit due to a silly oversight on my part on one of the hundreds of components / decisions. But of course it is too late to change that now.

So, now we're back to the drawing board and stretching the camper out to 102". I'm sure the extra few inches inside will help in a number of areas, but I sure do feel silly.

Anybody have any recommendations for a good RoRo line?

Jay.
 

haven

Expedition Leader
Here's a reminder of what the die-spring-and-ubolt setup Joaquin Suave is talking about looks like



Is it true that in an off-camber situation like this:



Jay's truck would have either the left front or right rear wheel off the ground
because the truck chassis is now so stiff that it doesn't twist?

Chip Haven
 

Lynn

Expedition Leader
haven said:
Is it true that in an off-camber situation like this:



Jay's truck would have either the left front or right rear wheel off the ground
because the truck chassis is now so stiff that it doesn't twist?

Chip Haven
Unless Jay's suspension is more compliant than Rob's?
 
Body Mount

Thanks as always for your feedback, this time on the body mount.

A couple of comments:

- We have built it using 6061 Aluminum.

- In my pictures you might be able to make out that under the frame rail tabs there are much thicker / softer rubber pucks with thick washers below, to do the equivalent of JS's springs. Now they don't have JS's recommended 3" of travel, far from it, but we'll try it out and I'm open to replacing those (cheap and easy) if it turns out they don't give enough play.

- I'm hoping that with my air-bag suspension, and each (rear) wheel having an independent leveller valve - that I should have significantly better wheel articulation that Rob Gray does with his 6x6 with leaf suspension. This should prevent the "wheel hanging up in the air" for most situations, but also reduce the amount of twist that gets absorbed in the frame (and camper) as opposed to the suspension.

- The top rail that you see in the picture will be welded directly to the camper cross-members. The bolts through the pucks joining the two rails together will come from the bottom, so that theoretically with a couple of wrenches (and a couple of forklifts), and the camper should lift right off the chassis.

Ultimately though, we're going into this a little blind and are going to test the heck out of it first. We're building the floor this week, will attach it to the body mounts and strap down some serious weight onto it. Then we're going to go drive it around a local rock quarry and see how it all flexes. Then we'll know if we need to go back to the drawing board or move on...

I'll definitely let you know!

Cheers,
Jay.
 

Lynn

Expedition Leader
Jay,

I really appreciate this thread. Your design philosophy is very similar to my own arm chair design philosophy, so I anxiously await news (and photos) of your tests.
 
Yippeeeeeeeee!!

Just had to share this with all of you...



After 3 years, I finally actually have a floor! It's so beautiful to see it not on a CAD file...

There's obviously a ton of work still to be done, but it is amazingly exciting to see it actually starting to take shape!

Here's another view:


Thanks to all whose opinions and advice have helped us get to this 'ground breaking' moment.

Cheers,
Jay.
 

Lynn

Expedition Leader
Prrreeeettttty!

I say you take the axle off of a camp trailer, throw it up there with some ratchet straps, and go camping to celebrate the occasion. Also to road test the cab section.

Shoot, you could probably haul my house on there. ;)
 
Jay congratulations on the big milestone.

What are the dimensions of the floor? What (if anything) will be mounted underneath the floor? What are the larger gaps aft of the rear tires for?

I can’t wait to see the flex test results with a bed and weight on that monster. Go play in the dirt!

Bob
 
Dimensions

boblynch said:
Jay congratulations on the big milestone.

What are the dimensions of the floor? What (if anything) will be mounted underneath the floor? What are the larger gaps aft of the rear tires for?
Bob
Hi again,

The main camper body will be 17 ft long. Then at the rear there is an additional 18" of "vestibule" where we will store our spare tire, bikes, etc. The vestibule is closed in with a toy-hauler style ramp door that lowers down 90 degrees, and then has a Fiamma awning and privacy room that can enclose it in to make a separate kids play room. There is a door leading into the camper from there.

So in total it is 18.5' - When it was at 17ft we were aiming for about 33 degress departure angle. With the new 18" on the back, we're slightly below 30 degrees. However, given the size of the truck, I suspect we'll hit my limit far before we hit the truck's limit. (I have a Jeep Wrangler for my offroad thrills, I don't need to drive my house through the Moab trails)

The gap behind the axle is where the cutout for the 2 steps down are going to be. The guys felt it was better to build it as a single unit, and then chop those out, rather than build it with the notch in the first place.

The finished unit will look something like this:



Stay tuned for results of the stress test...

Cheers,
Jay.
 

egn

Adventurer
jayshapiro said:
- We have built it using 6061 Aluminum.
I hope the thickness of the material is large enough to cover the longterm stress on this structure. Al 6061 has a strength that is only half of standard steel.
 
6061 Strength

egn said:
I hope the thickness of the material is large enough to cover the longterm stress on this structure. Al 6061 has a strength that is only half of standard steel.
Thanks,

I think we should be pretty good. The floor crossmembers are made from 3/16" c-Channels, and the external frame is made from 3/8" wall 2"x3" Tubes. Of course the entire structure will act as a truss as well, reinforcing the overall strength, but all you can see is the floor so far.



btw, We're planning on doing the mount stress tests in the next couple of days...

Cheers,
Jay.
 

Lynn

Expedition Leader
jayshapiro said:
btw, We're planning on doing the mount stress tests in the next couple of days...
Pictures! Lots of Pictures! I'm tired of seeing those same old pix when we talk about tensional frame flex! :) I think there are only three: the one of Rob Gray's, one on Darrin Fink's page, and one on Lonno Offroad Yachts' site. :) :)

I've always suspected that it might be better to soften the suspension and stiffen the frame, rather that have the frame act as a part of the suspension (but I'm willing to admit that most of the appeal is that it makes the design of a pass-through a lot more feasible). I'm anxiously waiting for you to prove me right.

Also, I'm curious if your pop-up section is going to be soft-sided, hard-sided, or a combination? But I'm kind of getting ahead of things, aren't I?
 
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