Saturday, March 5, 2016

I May Be On To Something

I've always loved buildings, I've always loved wheels. I've never thought about it in this way exactly, but I have also had a special fascination with homes that go. Building and designing compact, movable living quarters such as campers and mobile homes require clever packaging and often times modular, multi-purpose fixtures, all of which are things that I strangely take pleasure in figuring out. More often in the case of RVs, people can hire designers and builders to specially construct a vehicle to their needs on top of an existing chassis. This process is called coach building, a practice more common decades ago for personal cars but mostly reserved today for larger vehicles. More on this at the end of the post.

My earlier attempts at "not-quite coach built custom bodies" from nearly eight years ago might not have turned out to be very elegant but alas, I have made some improvements to my craft:

New cover photo for the blog? I think so. 

One day early in the school year, maybe around September, I found myself at my studio desk in the architecture school surrounded by my tools and supplies, but with little to do. I decided to throw together something quick just for fun. Now, I have a history of disassembling and reassembling toy cars just for the heck of it. I had previously ordered a few AMT dealer promo 1:24 Ford F-150 models from 1992 and 1993 because that was what I wanted to purchase one to be my next motor vehicle (except for possibly buying the box truck I drive off the company I work for and turning that into a camper!). I Sharpied in the logos, headlight indicators (which I did wrong, by the way) and the inside of the grille. Naturally, I then took them all the way apart.

On a related note, it has been my dream for a while to one day own a 1965 F-250 camper special. Having pieces of basswood available at the store downstairs, I thought it wouldn't be such a bad idea to build a slide-in camper to go with the long-bed F-150 I had lying in pieces on my desk. Better yet, why not just build a full camper? So that's what I did.

At this point, I was still considering carving out an engine for the truck

It helped that the bed and cab were two different castings. As I was cutting, measuring, and gluing, I realized I hadn't thought of a way to stick the camper to the chassis because I had been figuring things out as I went. I still wanted it to be removable, too. It was just my luck that the width of the camper exceeded the width of the chassis by exactly 3/4", so I stuck 3/8" blocks along the bottom of the camper and it snapped right together. For the doors, I made a hinge by sort of sandwiching wood (as a spacer) and piano wire between more wood and gluing it to the door. I made the doors and frame as one assembly and slid it in place. It looks very weak, and I'm sure it is, but so far it has stood up to being opened and closed on a regular basis. I thought for sure the door would just fall right off the wire since there's nothing but glue closing the inner edge of the hinge.

I ended up returning the black truck to its stock configuration and moved the camper to the blue truck. I also found out that all of the trucks' different parts, aside from the windshield and tail lights, were cast from the same color plastic. The frames were body-color so I painted the red and blue ones with black primer. Even corners where the chrome had rubbed away showed body-color plastic underneath. Interesting!


This is one of the more useless vehicles on my desk because it's not large or open enough to hold anything important.  I still keep it here because I like looking at it. Also, the truck looks like it's bowing down in the middle because it is. It was sadly damaged during shipping.

Yes, I do have a random Sturmey-Archer AW hub rolling around here at the moment. It happened to be in the frame. 

And look, the bed fits right inside the camper and over the wheel wells! Another accidental victory.


That truck came together in a couple hours, distractions included. The next one took a little more planning and a little more time.


I built a stake truck out of the red one, which is much more useful to have on my desk. Notching the sticks properly without a jig is what took up most of the time. I made a sanding block out of another stick of the same size to ensure the notches were the right depth and size after gouging them out. The stake bed is elevated off the chassis by more sticks laying flat. I drilled holes in the undercarriage so I could install piano wire hooks to act as hinges. The bed flips up like a dump truck would.


The stake truck usually holds rubber bands and now plastic dinosaurs (scale figures for my projects, I swear!) but I previously used it to hold scraps from projects to ensure they didn't mix with the actual pieces I needed. Most of that was just for fun, of course.


I do also have a '93 Ranger of the same scale and I usually set my keys in it every day. Again, kind of unnecessary but it's all in good fun. There's another related project that's on hold at the moment but I will be showing it here when it's done.


For things that was relatively quick and un-planned, I am pretty satisfied with these little trucks. They're fun.

Now, the true revelation I had while putting these together was that since I so loved cars, trucks houses, campers, building things, driving, and everything else related that was mentioned at the beginning of this post, something I might like to do in the future would be designing and building campers for a small group of clients and transporting them across the state or country myself. It could be small company with a few workers. I know this a long shot because it takes a lot of effort and perseverance to start and maintain such a business with a limited clientele. The idea is appealing but I'd probably get distracted along the way and lose my track. I don't want to label myself before I find out, but I also don't think I'm the "manager" type, anyway. I don't want to talk myself out of anything, either. There are several things that I would be happy to dedicate my time to. We'll see how things develop from now.