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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
a conventional teardrop wasn't what I wanted.

A story still in motion...

I enjoy packing up and heading out into the wilds to live off the land, camp under the stars and trek around on motorcycles. Well, that was the idea. The reality became grabbing fast food, pitching a tent (or worse, staying in hotels) and riding way too many highways and byways for an adventure bike with knobby tires. So I pitched it all. Sold the motorcycles, decided I was fatter than I should be and set a new course. 6'0" & 215lbs, November 2008.

Bought a mountainbike (the pedal style) in December 2008 and began riding. I was awful. Hadn't ridden a bike for fun since I was 15 years old and that was 25 years ago. Stuck with it and the skills came around as I pushed that lactic threshold to something almost resembling athleticism.

"Hey, I thought you were talking about a teardrop, or not?"
I'm getting there. You deserve some background.

So the love of motorcycles (10 years of roadracing/motocross/adventure riding) has been replaced by a 29'er and black diamond trails. We have some challenging trails in Florida, you wouldn't think it because there's no mountains in sight but they're here, trust me. But the love that hasn't been replaced is the wanderlust to get out there and camp and ride and see touch and taste the dirt so I resolved to do a Moab trip next year, North Carolina this fall and an adventure race in about a month. These things would require a base of operations, a home away from home.

When I bought the Elements I needed to change my trailer solution, the large steel trailers or 20' travel trailer weren't going to play nice with an Element. I shopped for months until I found a nice 5x8 aluminum trailer that would hold everything I might require for nearly any need, but now I had a new mission, a new adventure to plan for so I needed something different.

One day I had a flash (brilliance? insanity? - you decide) and thought, I should put a camper shell on that trailer. Months of watching craigslist led me to a nearly perfect shell, I bought it for $50.00. I say nearly perfect because while the length was right the width was not, it was too wide.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
flashback to old custom car madmen of a time when I was in diapers. What did they do to cars that were too wide? They channeled them. So would I.

The shell had a taper toward the rear, it was meant for a early 90's Dodge Dakota not a perfect 5x8 rectangle. With string in hand I made the measurements and laid out the channel lines and plugged in the zaw saw and made that first cut.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I marched on with the saw, somewhat fearlessly because I was only $50.00 into the project at this point. I could throw away $50.00 in an hour at my favorite watering hole so no worries cutting some fiberglass. Though my wife did say, "You're passing the point of no return!"
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
did you know they use a cardboard core inside these things? Well I didn't and was surprised to find a damp corrugated mess inside there.

It was time to trial fit on the trailer to see if this had any chance of success.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Must admit, I was amazed. Not that's it's rocket science or anything just reassuring to know I hadn't screwed the pooch yet.

It was time to head to Home Depot. There were two problems to solve.
1. This was meant for a truck, with bed rails, how exactly shall you attach it?
2. You have a structurally unsound shell sitting on a trailer, might want to fix that, eh?

The first answer wasn't tough. The trail has movable tie downs. Six ubolts and six turnbuckles answered that problem. The second answer was obvious, it needs to be fiberglassed. Since I plan on mounting a bicycle rack atop the shell it seemed fitting to add some rigidity also. I chose to do a full fiberglass seam repair and also add a plywood sandwich (one sheet on top and one sheet on the ceiling) epoxied on both sides, screwed together and finished with more fiberglass.

Also seemed like a good idea to recycle that channeled strip for the edges.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
And that's how she sits right this moment in the garage. Well, I did sand everything before calling it a day. So far I have about 15 hours into the project moving at a snail's pace. Next step is to source the fiberglass and epoxy materials and spend a weeknight "gluing" it all together.

Of course I could do some more work on it Labor Day Monday, but hey... I'm going riding. :)

more to come...
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks!

I'll provide updates as it moves along. So far it's been great fun and made the last two days fly by. I need to come up with a name for this thing, my daughter said it looks like a dingy...

maybe dingE
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks everyone, I appreciate the encouragement.

Yes I went for my ride this morning. I got about 20 miles before splitting two trees a little too close a little too fast and sacrificed my right shoulder. No worries though, couple days and it'll be right as rain. I came home to find the maid hard at work so I went to the garage and got to work.

I've surpassed the $100.00 mark. I neglected to mention the budget, all projects should have a budget methinks and I set this one ridiculously low just to see if I could do it. woot.com keeps throwing up so much cool stuff that my fun money is evaporating! :) anyway, I'm looking toward some alternatives to fiberglass, everything from laminate glue to JB Weld has come to mind but can't say I've chosen a direction just yet. Strength is the chief concern.

Today was the day to sand some more and channel the front window to fit in the narrower opening. A few measurements and a hacksaw made quick work of it. I also found (in one of my junk boxes) a roll of 95% reduction window tint, I'll make good use of that in a couple weeks.

Here's today's progress. Slightly ashamed to say I'm taking the rest of the day off and just going to lounge. I could benefit from a nap but then again, who couldn't? :D
 

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hind-sight

Today was the day to sand some more and channel the front window to fit in the narrower opening. A few measurements and a hacksaw made quick work of it.
I like what you are doing and it is progressing well.

As for the window, looking at your work I was thinking.... You could have taken a section out of the right side on top, and from the left side on the bottom. That would have provided a run of aluminum across the cut in the shell.

Although, it matters not... your work looks real good thus far!! :cool:
 

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Great job so far! Not to be picky but what you did, back in the day would be consider a sectioning. A channel was when we cut the floors out and welded them higher up in the body. Channeling is easier than what you did, again nice job. Drew
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
"Sectioning." Got it, thank you. I appreciate the correction.

Rainy weekends are great for sanding, no pictures to share but it's almost ready for the fiberglass mesh and resins which will arrive this week. I'll grab an hour or so during the week to do the final fitting and lock it down in place, then grind out a channel on the seam to start the fiberglass application next weekend.

My thoughts are turning to paint. Watched a video on youtube showing a gentleman painting a boat hull with a roll & tip technique. I very much like this approach for a number of reasons such as I can do it myself, it covers well and overspray / overwhelming spray fumes aren't an issue. But I'm not yet committed to trying to achieve a smooth glossy finish, some texture would definitely help conceal any imperfections in my methods.

More to come next weekend. I'm getting excited now. :)
 

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Excellent Build!!

I've got a 5x10 utility trailer that I'd love to build a slide in/out living space for.... there is a camper company called Wazat that does this. (i think that what they are called) I need to visit a dealer & take some pics for ideas.....


Keep up the great progress!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Made some good progress today. The plywood has been laid. I applied resin on the camper shell and the plywood and sandwiched them all together. It is glued and screwed and stiffer now than when new.

In the second picture you can see the screws, they've each been cut flush now and all the aluminum edges were hit with a wire brush wheel. The interior is now ready for a fresh coat of white paint but figured I'd let everything set overnight before introducing moisture from the paint.

Last picture is a shot from the front.

Next I'll remove the side windows and give them a thorough scrubbing, rattle can the aluminum, tint the windows and replace the screen mesh. They wont be reinstalled until final shell paint is finished.
 

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I wondered where you found the trailer, its really nice. Ihad thought about doing something similar,but with a pickup bed and cap, but I really like your trailer.
 
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