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88 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)


I bought this 2008 Element new from the dealer in 2008. It served well as our family car for many years. Eventually we “upgraded” to a 2016 Honda Accord and then a 2018 Tesla Model 3. The Element was used occasionally but was somewhat neglected.

This past summer I went camping with some friends and family and they had 4x4 vans and I could barely keep up down some real tough roads with my stock Element and home-made sleeping platform.

I wanted more. I looked at some Sprinter van builds but couldn’t stomach paying $60k-$140k. Plus I liked my Element and it only has 76k miles! I dusted off my EOC account and started researching.

Inspired by you all, I’ve decided to build my Element into the microcamping rig it was meant to be.

  1. HRG “Ultimate” 3” lift kit with 1” subframe drop
  2. Falken Wildpeak 235/70R16 with full-size spare
  3. Skid Plate Guy engine skid plate
In Progress
  1. Skid Plate Guy fuel tank skid plate
  2. Fifth Element Camping microcamper system
  1. Gobi Ranger rack
  2. ARB awning
  3. Plastidip wheels black
  4. Wrap/plastidip/raptor liner body Toyota Quicksand color

88 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
As you can see in the picture in my first post, the fuel tank guard has the least clearance of anything on the bottom of the Element. It's the first thing to scrape on the rough roads I've been on.


I wanted to replace it with something more durable and higher clearance. I found Skid Plate Guy on Instagram and he has a nice fuel tank skid plate for the Element. I got around to installing it today.


It's not a super easy install as the brackets need some bending/coercing to get lined up with the plate. After much cursing I got it tightened up and looking good!


40 Posts
Wow, that's an absolutely beautiful element. I love the tank plate, and it should be more aerodynamic too
I agree...beautiful setup. Best looking lifted E I've seen and nice job on the protective plates.

88 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Thank you for your kind words :giggle:

I did a test drive while waiting for the four-wheel alignment (best guy in town is booked up and I'm willing to wait). The drive was fantastic, I was worried that the lift would change the driving dynamics too much. I think the 5mm wheel spacers I used to correct for the change in scrub radius do the trick perfectly. However on the way home I started hearing a clunking sound at low speeds/over bumps/not sure exactly the condition. Somewhere between re-torquing every bolt to spec and replacing front and rear sway bar bushings I think I've solved the clunk. It made no noise and drove like a charm on the last test drive.

I'm trying to figure out what to do with the full sized spare. My initial thought was to put it on top of a Gobi roof rack but now I am investigating other options. I like the Wilco Offroad Hitchgate Solo but I am concerned about too much load on the rear hitch because I normally have a bike rack and bike back there:


Pre-lift picture with Kuat NV 2.0 rack on Kuat Pivot swing-away arm.

I need a bike rack and I strongly prefer a swing away arm to let the bike rack get away from the tailgate and provide a seating area for a post-ride rest. The Hitchgate Solo does provide an additional mount point for a bike rack to essentially take the place of the Kuat Pivot. Then I could have both the full size spare and and bike on the back, likely meeting or slightly exceeding the rated tongue weight. Decisions, decisions.

Next steps
  1. Get four wheel alignment
  2. Receive and install Fifth Element microcamper system
  3. Figure out what to do with the full size spare

88 Posts
Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
I'm still waiting on the pièce de résistance, the Fifth Element microcamper system. Apparently the custom cushions are a little late. Early December is the estimate.

In the meantime I've gotten a number of little things done:
  1. Four-wheel alignment after lift kit install
  2. Ordered Gobi Ranger rack without sunroof cutout
  3. LED interior lights, some cheap ones from Amazon
  4. Installed SumoSprings on the rear to help with the saggy butt when I use my bike rack
  5. Installed OEM security system from Bernardi Honda
  6. Installed OEM fog light kit I hunted down off Reddit ($$$)
  7. Installed Harbor Freight light bar above license plate (temporary, this will go on the Gobi rack)
  8. Plasti dip test on full-sized spare, all wheels coming soon
0FCA97EC-A8D1-4F24-BB38-6588F03C744F.jpeg IMG_0299.jpeg IMG_0234.jpeg

I noticed that I have minor front-end damage when installing the fog lights. Apparently someone must have backed into me while parked at some point in the past. I ordered a new front bumper reinforcement and a new A/C condenser off Amazon (yikes). OEM is 3x the price so I'll roll the dice with non-OEM for now.


I've also decided that the full-sized spare is going on top of the Gobi rack for now so I ordered the tire mount kit for that instead of trying to mount it on the back.

Next steps
  1. Repair front end damage
  2. Plasti dip all wheels matte black
  3. Receive and install Fifth Element microcamper system
  4. Receive and install Gobi Ranger rack

95 Posts
I went down with my E, but it has made me want a second “beater” one I could go up with like you’ve done. I really like how you are approaching it. Nice clean, thoughtful, purposeful upgrades.

88 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
The day has arrived! The Fifth Element system is here!

First, I would like to say that this system is one of the most thoughtfully designed and clever systems I’ve seen. Most of the videos and pictures online are of earlier versions and the design has only gotten more refined since.

Second, Nick at Fifth Element Camping is a gentleman and provides great customer service. I had a few hiccups but he was quick to respond and went above and beyond.

Lastly, it’s apparent that Nick cares about protecting the effort and work that he’s put into the design of the system. For that reason I’m unwilling to help anyone rip off the design. I’m happy the share my experience but not specific measurements.

Without further ado!


Shipping box fits nicely in the back of the Element. I had to pick it up from my local FedEx Freight hub.

Unpacking the box. It was extremely well packed with high quality moving blankets.


Making sure the platform is level when fully deployed.

Ready to go adventuring!

I’m blown away at the attention to detail. Everything is included: socket and screwdriver set, water jug for the sink, bungies. There is liberal use of magnetic catches to secure pieces to each other. I’m super happy with the system and I feel it’s worth every penny.

88 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
With my prior camping arrangement I would enter and exit from the driver's side doors. After installing the Fifth Element camping system I've determined that the rear hatch is highly superior for ingress/egress. I set out to add a rear door latch over this past weekend. My requirements were:
  1. Safe. Must have a mechanical unlock in case of a fire.
  2. Look good.
  3. Easy.
I started with this thread and decided to base mine off cursh's mechanical solution with a few simplifications.

Parts list:
  1. Dorman Interior Door Handle (P/N 79540), $11 from Amazon
  2. Dorman Door Rod Clip (P/N 75452), $3 from Amazon
  3. 3/16" steel rod, $3 from Home Depot
  4. L bracket $0 from the spare parts pile
  5. Bike brake cable $0 from the spare parts pile
  6. Wire clamp $0 from the spare parts pile
Firstly, I didn't want to build a huge bracket setup to position the handle in the right spot; I'm lazy. I determined that the existing cross "beam" was the perfect distance from the plastic panel to attach the handle to. I measured where exactly the handle should go in the plastic panel and cut out the hole with a Dremel:


If you get the dimensions snug then the handle is quite secure. I then installed the panel and marked where the hole in the handle should go and drilled a hole. Then I could temporarily mount the handle while I made the lock rod:


Using the 3/16" steel rod, I fashioned a rod (hammer and vise) that connected the handle lock mechanism with the door lock mechanism. I used the door rod clip to attach the rod to the door lock:


After some adjustment and testing it locked and unlocked perfectly. Lastly I needed to connect the handle lever to the latch. I ended up doing it the simplest way I could think of: pass the cable sheath through a single L bracket and use a wire clamp to attach the cable to a small piece of the 3/16" steel rod, which is attached to the handle lever:



Put everything back together and it works great!

Watch a short video of locking/unlocking with the key fob and then opening the latch.
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