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Idaho Doug's Sunrader build


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So, I guess this is the right time to introduce myself and my project.  I'm 62, live in N. Idaho with my wife and kids, and we bought the Sunrader on almost a whim Memorial Day weekend 2023.  I saw an ad, looked up what a Sunrader is and thought "so THAT's what those all fiberglas Toyota campers are called."  We found it forlornly in the trees up on the side of a mountain with the ceiling wood hanging down, no cushions in the bed or dinette, and it clearly had simply been sitting for perhaps decades.  My wife and I couldn't make up our minds, and sat on the bare wood of the dinette talking.  Oddly, I am Mr. Car Project and I said no - it's much more work to tackle than I'd thought. My wife said maybe.  So we took it for a spin figuring that would be the deciding factor.  It drove great, but we told the owner we would pass.  He mentioned $1500 would take it as he turned to walk back to his door, we looked at each other in surprise and the rest is history.  

 

I am a former product planner for GM, as well as Lexus.  A big Toyota fan, we have 2 LandCruisers, just sold an 88 Supra I restored in 2022, and currently vacation all over British Columbia, Montana, Idaho, and Washington states in our restored 1988 Volkswagen Vanagon Wolfsburg Weekender.  We love getting away in a self contained capsule - stopping when and where we feel like it.  

 

I was forbidden to touch the Sunrader until I completed a home renovation project, which took all summer.  Finally, two weeks ago I finished that, and last week I turned to this project.  It has an incredible 32,326 miles on it and mechanically seems excellent.  The cab is pure time capsule - completely unmolested just as you'd expect from a vehicle owned by older folks.  First order of business was to locate a proper 1 Ton axle, which I did last week.  Hoping the salvage place calls me tomorrow as I've had the trailer hooked up for several days expecting to come pick it up. It came from a Dolphin with 45k on the clock, and I'll swap my third member into it to keep the proper diff flange, and of course to use a diff with only 32k on it (!).  They let me go out in the yard to laboriously disconnect the parking brake cables as I was afraid they'd cut them, and as it's a manual tranny model (yay!), I will want stellar parking brakes.  My Cruisers have full floater 1 ton axles, so I'm familiar with the seals and repack process though I understand there are a few differences I'll discover when I perform it.  I don't yet have a welder in mind to properly move the spring perches, but hope to figure out the proper location and bring it to a friend in Priest Lake who's a talented fabricator.  I believe this axle was a later recall installation as the black paint on the ends looks like new, so I suspect it got new recall axles and was parked soon after.  The axle even has cool covers over the protruding flanges that are embossed with "National".  I took those off it in the yard just in case whomever pulls the axles either accidentally breaks them, or leaves them behind.  I suspect they're a bit of a "collector" item among Toyota motorhome types as I've never seen these in all the research I have done.

 

What's the plan, you ask?  Well, I am going to make it into quite the little luxo-cruiser actually.  Many of our friends have bought larger RVs but we prefer to motor around and explore for our getaways where they prefer the set piece method of arriving at an RV camp and sitting in one place. We love that, like our VW, we can park the Sunrader in ordinary parking spots right in the little towns, trail heads, and hiking destinations we prefer.  So with a little pride in my heart for those times we're with those luxo-barges, I'm going to use my product development background to make this a bit of a show off build.  The kitchen will be either a composite or marble top, new appliances with a larger fridge, leather dinette, solar, huge electrical capacity, and a cool paint job all frame my intentions.  I'm going to reinforce the roof so we can sit up there, pull kayaks up, and of course have solar.  We are also boaters and I've been on some boating sites looking at the interior materials the marine industry uses.  I plan to use some of that in the interior, such as the walls and ceiling in the over cab bed.  

 

Sequentially, I'll completely gut it leaving only the bathroom (love it!), replace the sagging floor, lift, reinforce and re-arch the ceiling/roof, then build out the cabinets, kitchen and such then install the new dinette and appliances.  That should take most of the winter.  Then in the spring, I will remove and reseal the windows, and paint the exterior. Somewhere in there, the 1 ton axle will be swapped and I'd like to go to single wheels if I can find the right wheels.  Kinda bummed the fronts will then be 5 lug while the  rears will be 6 lug.  Oh well. I'm also a lighting fanatic, so it will receive high quality forward lighting as well as full perimeter lighting similar to the system I installed on the Vanagon.  One touch full perimeter lighting is great for peace of mind when you boondock and hear a bump in the night. We all it the "Zombie switch" as instantly you have full visibility for 50 meters into the dark woods in all directions. 

 

I'm posting tonight because in the last few days I got to mess with her a bit, culminating in her first oil change.  I weighed her on a scale as this is as light as she'll ever be with empty tanks, missing dinette upholstery, empty cabinets and a quarter tank of fuel.  Scale says rear axle is 3120, front 1800 for an all up empty weight of 4920.   Honestly, the 22R and 4 speed manual move her along better than our Vanagon, so I am surprised and impressed with the powertrain.  Turns out our 22R is also the model they only made for 3 years with the double timing chain and all metal guides, so it's up to the task of our often mountainous journeys. 

 

I expect I'll add 250lbs with my remodel as there's no way I'm going to build an interior as light as this stuff.  It's really a marvel how they built these cabinets to reduce weight. 

 

So that's it, I guess. I've read everything i can find on this site and met many of the excellent folks who provide the great advice that makes for a nice forum environment.  Thanks for that nice welcome and advice so far - get ready for a ton of questions.  I'll be documenting the project in the weeks to come with pictures.  Here's one from the day we drove her home. It was not without drama as I stopped to fuel her up and dumped about 4 gallons onto the ground before discovering mice had chewed a hole in the rubber section of the fuel filler. That's replaced from Rock Auto. She's a rear dinette 21 foot model. Got lucky on that - didn't even know there were different floorplans until we got her home.  Several other vehicles will be keeping her company - extra points if anyone can figure out the vehicle next to her.

 

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Don't think sexy, think light.  Nida-core, Fiberglass/foam panels, if you use wood panels, router out the backs.

Reads. Bob the builder...

 

Sunrader slide in camper...https://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/f56/sunrader-70873.html

Lite cabinets... Poster bables a bit, but solid info.,,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5h8FdX0l6x8 

 

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Welcome IdahoDoug. Looks like you scored a really nice piece. Pls post plenty of pics as you go along. Projects are great to follow and you never know when you might inspire someone.

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So this evening, I went out into the 28 degree night with a light snow falling to work on the Sunrader.  Absolutely the first hours of working on it, and I was so excited! I took measurements of the existing layout, then set about removing the kitchen counter unit.  Incredible.  I had the stove out in 5 minutes laying in the snow, the sink out 30 minutes later.  Then I started respectfully unscrewing bits with my impact screw gun.  After about 10 minutes, I realized this was going to be inefficient on time so I brought in a medium sledge hammer.  15 minutes of hammer work and boot kicking got me this:

 

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Then I removed the door from the fridge, and some cabinet doors.  I should literally have all the cabinetry out by the weekend, which is terrific.  I can then pull the tanks out, pull up the carpet and see what I need to do for the floor.  

IMG_4917.jpeg

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Gotta start somewhere. I was lucky on mine, someone already cleaned it pretty much to the walls. On another note, I've been thinking about your mystery vehicle in your starting post. At first I was thinking a Lancer, but I'm thinking more like an 80's Dodge Daytona? The problem with getting old is so many pages in the mind to file through. Let me know if I'm close so it doesn't bug me for a week.

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Daytona is a good call, as I see the resemblance, also!!  But nope.  

 

Picked up my axle today.  They completely forgot the deal was to include the spring U bolts, and lower mounts as well.  Happily when I reminded them, I was able to walk back to the shop area and grab the bracketry and all the nuts, bolts and lock washers.  I am relieved as I am pretty sure the new axle's housing is slightly larger than the old.  So, sourcing new U bolts would have been a needless pain.  They used a forklift to put it on my trailer, but I don't have that at home, so I positioned the axle where I wanted it on the ground, tied it to a tree, and drove the trailer out from under it after ensuring the diff flange can't hit the ground.  Worked well.  

 

Here are the folks at the salvage yard sliding the axle forward a bit so I could wedge and strap it in place:

 

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Thanks for bringing us along on the build; looking forward to seeing what you do with the old girl. 
 

(I’m not a Porsche guy, per se, but is that a 944 back there?)

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Bingo - 1984 non Turbo, 5 speed.  Bought it from my father when he was about 85 and had to outbid my 5 car-loving siblings! He's 91 now and doing fine - still golfing! It's got 59k on it and I went through it to as new condition.  One of the vehicles that will keep the Sunrader company in the herd.

 

So tonight I only had about 90 minutes to mess with the Sunrader.  Removed the upper cabinets all the way around, pulled the entire electrical panel/power supply/converter out (wow - surprisingly heavy - bet it's replacement will be 1/4 the weight!), pulled the fridge out of it's hole and tried to remove it.  Nope - won't fit out the door.  I've seen others cut it up, but um...I have to put a new slightly larger one in, so I'm going to try removing the passenger seat in the cab and getting it out the passenger door.  This will give me a sense of how much bigger of a fridge I can put in it. Hoping for 4.3 cubic feet/45" tall - any suggestions?  Looks like Norcold has abandoned this size segment but Dometic still makes them.

 

In the photo below, you'll see I have been carefully preserving the copper LP lines because I was thinking I'd be reusing them.  However, I just found a few minutes ago that time has passed copper by and now people are using black and yellow flex hose for LP.  A great relief for me, so next pic all the copper will be out and headed to sell at the scrap yard. 

 

I'm over "feeling bad" I started getting destructive and just smashing things out as that's not my style. But I'm realizing there is nothing for me here that will be reused in terms of cabinetry, window blinds, shelving - nothing.  When I get to the bathroom (tomorrow I expect) I will stop and be careful as I will be keeping that, though likely removing the cabinetry around it in favor of whatever I build in the rest of the living area.  I'll also need to move the bathroom unit around as I want to check the floor under it.  I really hope I'm correct that I can disconnect it and drag it around as I work on various floor sections, then drag it back into place and resecure it.  I will be bummed if I cannot do that without breaking it or tearing it up.  It's not that I'm afraid of tackling an all new bathroom, but in all my vehicle restorations, I like to have something from the past remain and I chose the bathroom enclosure.  

 

I am working by headlamp these days, and using a portable electric heater to take the edge off the 24 degree outside temps where I'm working on it among some trees on the side of the house. Was great using the original furnace, but now gas lines are disconnected and electrical as well, so that benefit is gone. So here it is this evening:

 

Fridge and closet doors off.

image.jpeg.44603e5815892e7bef518328fc229071.jpeg

 

DInette history

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Upper shelves coming down.  Another long term poster here was correct these do not provide any support to the roof.  A newer member claimed they do and is wrong.  These just hang off the roof and upper wall.

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Last shot for the night before I bailed to head to a dinner party with my wife. Had the fridge in the doorway jiggling it about, but had to drag it back there until I can do the passenger door trick.  Wish me luck on that, as if I cannot get the fridge out the cab, I'm kinda hosed and will be hoping I don't have to cut a  window opening bigger to get it out, or something else destructive to get the new one in.

image.jpeg.a60c2243cbca930577a9628fb85961f5.jpeg

 

Edited by IdahoDoug
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it will go out the pass. door. a while back someone was looking for the shelves for that fridg.

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Great news.  I will part out the Dometic fridge.  It's likely not been used much at 32k miles.  Unfortunately, it kept catching fire when I started it on propane, so that alerted me to the many downsides of having 40 year old appliances.  I'm not made of money but the camper remodel will include all new appliances to avoid problems and make using the Sunrader more pleasant.  I think the heater will stay, but not sure until I pull it out and have a look.  Worked flawlessly for many hours and would help satisfy my "something new and something old" penchant for restorations. Today, I am hoping to finish pulling the interior completely apart, including the ceiling to fiberglas.  I'm really looking forward to that part as I need to physically see if my plan to bow it upward and reinforce it will work.  Wish me luck today - big day.

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Well, I got everything else out of it except the bathroom, ceiling and wall paneling.  The fridge indeed fit out the passenger door - thanks.  Had to pull the driver's seat as well just to prevent snagging from the fridge's sharp edges, etc.  Here's where she sits as of now:

 

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The floor is wavy and it looks like the wheel wells have majestically risen up into the floor a half inch or more, so I'll be looking at what's going on there, and what it will take to correct that.  Won't be messing with the ceiling just yet.  Need a flat and strong floor to use my roof jacking strategy.

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These are some VERY general thoughts on the "Sunrader sag". The design of the floor is OK, but the frame support design is the weak point. The failure mode is there is minimal support from the chassis to the edge of the shell. Over time the foam in the floor fails and the weight of the shell causes the edge of the floor to sag.

To prevent the sag from coming back you need to add support from chassis to the edge of shell.

Here is ONE answer...https://toyotamotorhome.org/forums/index.php?/topic/11856-sunrader-floor-repair-gut-and-rebuild/ 

 

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OK, had some drama (see separate thread "Does anyone know how the Sunrader bathroom unit attaches to the floor?" getting the bathroom disconnected. Turns out the thick black hard plastic toilet base held in with 8 screws simply unscrews.  Mine was covered with silicone, which I cut expecting to simply pull it and the tube straight up out of the black water tank.  But no.

 

Back on track, the bathroom unit is held to the floor via the aforementioned 2 day delay, plus the window frame if yours has one.  Once that's loose, it's just friction with the sagging ceiling that prevents you simply dragging it away.  I recently learned it will fit in the over cab bunk, which is great news for getting it out of the way.  Right now I have a bunch of cabinet doors and things there, so I'll confirm that at some point.

 

With the bathroom moved from its corner, I tore down all the ceiling:

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Discovered a HUGE opening under the toilet the manufacturer erroneously cut and didn't bother to seal, allowing some good size creature (packrat?) to comfortably live under there for however long.  Whatever it was, it was not a mouse as there was no poop or pee there at all.  Almost a considerate houseguest and he had a nice nest there, but no food or evidence of eating!  Mice will pee and poop constantly wherever they sleep, walk or eat. Anyhow, I'll be sealing this up with the new floor:

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Here's where things stand as of tonight:

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Probably a few more hours of tearing out remaining bits of wiring and scraping the ceiling, but I'm going to clean out the front bed, wrestle the bath unit up there with an extra set of hands, and then tackle the floor.  Some foreshadowing that the ceiling is very floppy and I hope will prove responsive to my re-arching and reinforcing plan.  Almost scary how floppy now without the layer of foam and the left side cabinets and bathroom holding it up somewhat.

 

In this wide open state, it's really amazing how much room these rigs have.  I'm going to do a rough calculation with some measurements to see what the cubic feet is and see if it compares to a Sprinter or Ford Transit.  I suspect it will.

Edited by IdahoDoug
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If you haven't seen this, there may be some ideas to be found...https://www.boundfornowhere.com/blog/category/Sunrader+Build

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Thanks - yes, I saw that.  Was kinda surprised they had some kind of vague massive mechanical and handling issues, and then disappointed they ended up selling the Sunrader as well.  They were SO close to having a remarkable road trip machine!  I really liked what they did with the vehicle and it sure was nice that her Dad seemed quite an accomplished cabinet maker - THE skill needed on that project.

 

So as is typical of my projects, there are things I do along the way in driving it forward that others think odd.  Such is the case with my search to find a fridge. I want one that's larger than the one in mine, which is supposed to be a 4 cubic foot according to the 1984 literature, though perhaps my 1982 was smaller.  For a time, both Norcold and Dometic made a 4.5 cubic foot model which is exactly the size I want and both quit making this size.  New, they both stop at 3 cubic feet for 3 way models and the next up is 5-6 feet double doors, which is way too large for the Sunrader.  But I can't find them used, except a guy on eBay who's selling them for $950 plus $300 shipping for a grand total of over $1300 without a factory warranty.  

 

Many weeks of searching fruitlessly on FaceBook and Craigslist.  Then, a super cheap 3 cubic foot nice Dometic popped up right here in my town.  I snagged it this morning and it works great - makes ice cubes on both AC and propane (it's 2 way).  Hours later, someone I'd been trying to get to cut price a bit on a larger Norcold agreed to deal and I bought that one as well.  The catch?  I am making a banzai run to Butte, Montana tomorrow to pick it up.

 

So by tomorrow evening after weeks of fruitless search I will have not one, but TWO fridges.  Ah well.  The Dometic is in great shape and I should be able to sell it and get my money back.  The unknown is whether I can fit the larger fridge in via the passenger side of the cab with the seat out, which I needed to get the old fridge out.  Will be close, but soon we'll all know just how big of a fridge will fit into a Sunrader.  Stay tuned.

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Yup - Butte.  Just made the round trip in 8hrs, 1 minute including all stops and loading the fridge in the parking lot of the Best Western where I met the nice couple selling it.  He'd bought a 3 way Norcold and discovered how fast it drains the battery on 12V.  Never even hooked up gas.  I'm happy about the extra cubic feet.  BTW, not sure about the truth in advertising back then, but when I compare the "4 cu ft" fridge I removed with a 3 cu ft Dometic I bought, there is  only a 1" interior difference in a single dimension.  This 4.5 cu ft Norcold I just walked in the door with is huge by comparison.  I'm happy and my wife will be happy as it's large enough to really work with for us as we eat a lot of fresh produce, which is bulky compared to many people's packaged diets.  Bonus points for me.

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So it fits!  Might be the largest fridge in any Sunrader once I build it in.  It's a Norcold 3 way 412.3UL and 4.5 cubic feet.   The cab seats are still out from pulling the old fridge and it really didn't take much juggling through the cab.  It's 36" tall and frankly someone could likely get one in that's another 6" tall by my guesstimate.  By removing the passenger door also, it would not surprise me someone could get a 6 cubic foot double door unit in that way.

 

The capacity difference from 3 to 4.5 is amazing. A full size half gallon fits in the door, as do 2-liter pop bottles.  A gallon of milk fits in the fridge, with a clever hinged section of shelf, and the freezer section is big enough for a LOT of ice cream, cubes, or Haagen Dazs dark chocolate fudgsicles.  This could be dangerous to my waistline next summer.

 

It's back stowed in the garage after the trial fit, and now I'm headed out to start tearing out the wall paneling, propane tanks and eyeballing the floor and ceiling.  A buddy reminded me I better change from the floor as priority to the ceiling as we'll have snow before long and the roof is now a floppy wet noodle.  He's right, so that's next.

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IdahoDoug! Watching your deconstruction very intently. You are wasting no time getting down to business. I still feel very lucky that my Sunrader was cleaned pretty much to the walls, although I would have probably benefited from seeing how everything was put together. I too am installing a larger fridge. I was fortunate & found a new Everchill 4.3cu/ft 12 volt "damaged in the carton" for $220. The only damage happened to be a small dent down on the bottom of the rear vent shield. Pulled it off and straightened with my body hammer. My brother has been running one of these for the last year in his toy hauler, so he was the guinea pig. I'm not running any propane so that's what I went with. I have the rear door so it will go right in.

     Just curious. Are you removing the paneling and other stuff all the way to the fiberglass walls? If so, a word of caution when you are pushing your roof up for your arches. Be aware of what shape your walls might take while doing this process. My side windows were removed, so of course I was missing that stability, but the walls change and can warp/bow/pull in or out with each roof arch or bow. You obviously need the same shape down the sides when you re-install the bath,etc. Just saying be aware of the possibilities.

     Thoroughly enjoying your posts. Keep it up.

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Bob,

 

Thanks.  Yes, I was studying that very thing today - how the sides bow a bit with the roof re-arching.  This caused me to take an extra step with the roof re-arch.  When you have only a small bow (I think it's about 2" in the center of about a 6 foot length), maintaining the bow with weight on it relies upon the strength of the wall where the bows meet the wall.  If the weight on the bow can push the wall out even a fraction of an inch - the bow can collapse.  So I'm going to install a thick aluminum plate full length for the bows to push against without moving that section of the wall.  So, thanks. Working on finding that plate material and have a sample already in my garage "spares" box from some other wacky project.  And yes - removing the paneling so I can start with bare fiberglas by adding insulation, then new paneling material (no ideas yet....).

 

So, did not mess with anything further today but the roof as I've got to get it arched, stable, and winter worthy asap.  Last week I bought 4 joist jacks which you place a length of wood atop and then can screw to force the ceiling up with.  Just to see what's possible, I placed 3 of them down the centerline and put only moderate pressure on the roof, actually lifting the post at about 70% of my max strength and bringing the jack up under it to hold it.  Not using mechanical advantage yet.  I ended up with 6'2" down the centerline, which I'm really pleased with.  So, I'm moving on to buying rectangular aluminum hollow stock for the roof beams, which will press against that thick aluminum plate.  I'll need to find a way to gently arch them - shopping for a wheel bender this evening.  I don't want a shop to arch them as I may need to change the arch a bit depending on how things go as I start at the rear and go forward and the last thing I want is to find the single arch shape is all I have.

 

I plan to bed the beams all the way across the roof with a thick bed of 2 part epoxy, essentially making them into a single bonded structure.  I'm looking for 3/4" by 2" stock.  Of course, I'll sand and prep the roof surface (that's going to suck overhead and I have to do the entire roof as I'm also glueing Owens Corning Foamular to the ceiling between the beams and need a good bond there for strength addition) before epoxying.  The foam will add strength between the beams for walking on as well. Still unsure about beam spacing, but I'm going to err on the close side - perhaps only a foot apart the entire roof length. 

 

I also ordered a two burner propane Magic Chef cooktop. Details later, but my plan is to shrink the length of the kitchen counter, but eliminate the cooktop.  So the cooktop will only appear when needed (what - .5% of the time when you're actually cooking?).  I'll reveal how I'm going to do that later but it's cool. So it's exciting to have the fridge and cooktop handled.  Next as we're eliminating the stove/oven unit, we'll be replacing it with a convection/microwave. Wow - expensive but I saved a bunch on the fridge so am still on budget.  

 

So, the roof is my current focus.  Here's how it looked before I touched it:

image.jpeg.1f9c8e849633d61fc588f01f3f1fd05f.jpeg

 

Here it is now with just quickly putting up the 3 poles.  The roof has a nice arch and the fore and aft ridgeline is nearly straight.  Yes folks, that's my work area for the winter up here 90 miles from the Canadian border. And that's our current "weekend escape capsule" - our restored 1988 VW Vanagon:

image.jpeg.a5b6b7fb541622fe5012a2b94623a64e.jpeg

 

And here's an interior shot with the 3 jack/beams just pushed up by hand (no cranking yet).  

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Getting the wood out of the corner up where the roof and walls meet was a pain.  The left side wood piece yielded to simple prying and popped out in several lengths to bare fiberglas.  The right one must have been installed by the better worker as he was liberal with the resin and I needed to use my hatchet being pounded with a hammer to essentially chop it away from the fiberglas to make room for the thick aluminum beam.  That beam will also do double duty as a strong base to mount an awning to later.  I'll try to leave access to it so i can drill through it and use real fasteners (stainless nuts, bolts, washers) to attach the awning.  Possibly also a roof rack will attach there.  

 

 

Edited by IdahoDoug
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Just ordered $400 worth of aluminum 1X1, and thick 10 foot by 4" plates for the sides of the roof.  Gotta buy some plywood and build two rams I can push up against the roof with curved tops to get the shape I want.  Getting exciting!  

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Took about 90 minutes of carefully trimming a piece of 6 foot wide cardboard to the curve of the roof held up with 3 rams to get a nice shape I'd like to duplicate the whole length of the roof.  I then transferred the curve to 3/4" plywood and tomorrow will make the two roof rams.  Aluminum is supposed to be here Thursday.  Once I've got the curved beams, it will be a painful few hours sanding the roof to remove glue residue and some bits of resined on wood. I need not just the lines across prepped where I'll epoxy the beams, but 100% of the roof prepped as I'm also glueing up new foam after the beams go up.  Planning to use Owens Corning Foamulator, and this will also add strength to the roof between beams.  I will need to use a respirator and one of those disposable hazmat-like suits. Yeesh - not looking forward to the sanding.  Anyone have tips on what tool to use to sand the roof?

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i have a pole sander with a vacuum attachment that works well. not too expensive on amazon. 

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Ended up using a rotary disc sander with 80 grit.  Did a nice job prepping the ceiling for epoxy and ribs, as well as the side wall tops where the side plates will go. Mostly done:

image.jpeg.3f51ee7e901aca210eaf0872998dcd02.jpeg

 

And done:

image.jpeg.99d568f63d1c9be6b632105dbfa7005b.jpeg

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Man your going to itch for a week, just less with a hazmat suit

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I expected a little of it - sounds like you've been around boats, also? Surprisingly, not a single fiberglas splinter, and the sleeves kept riding up and exposing my wrists, a couple times I forgot to put the hood on, etc.  I had to take a break about every 5 minutes as my military dust goggles kept fogging up. I think it's because the sanding turned long fibers into a super fine dust that choked my new shop vac's filter, and these were not long or sharp to penetrate.  I absolutely *hate* few things in life more than getting fiberglas splinters as my skin is super sensitive to touch and things like that make me crazy.  

 

The hazmat suit, as a result, was overkill.  I finally even stopped using the breathing filter as my shop vac was hooked to the sander (nice design) and it only spit out a few larger bits that overcame the suction with their mass and spun out - stuff I wasn't as concerned about breathing.  I did this (foolish, I know) because of the fogging issue from the breather.  Drove me crazy to strip off ear protection, headlamp, breather mask, and finally the goggles to defog them every 5 minutes.

 

Today, I spent time up on top pulling the vents as their screws were preventing me from grinding the areas right around the openings.  Every screw head had to be picked clean before the square drive fit into it.  I'll tell you, this roof re-arch is turning into quite a project, but honestly I don't know how you'd fully enjoy a Sunrader with the hallway headroom of 5'10 or so.  Anyone who strips it like I did would definitely want to include this in their plans. 

 

Speaking of the re-arch.  Here's the plan.  Using 1/8" thick walled 1X1 6063 aluminum square tubing, with 1/4" thick 6061 aluminum plates 4" wide and the entire length of the top of the walls - that first portion that drops directly off the ceiling.  The plates will prevent the point loading of a roof beam from being able to "spread" its ends and collapse and each beam end will press against these tightly. The beams will be bedded their full length in 2 part JB Weld slow cure epoxy what adheres equally well to aluminum and to fiberglas. My engineering buddies and I *believe* I will be able to stand on a single beam with a kayak, etc - over 200lbs of point load.  The spaces in between will have Owens Corning Foamulator fully glued directly to the fiberglas with a glue yet to be determined (even Owens-Corning's engineers refused to specify a glue by name while brightly saying "any glue that's compatible with it will work, grrrr). As from the factory, the foam will provide significant strength and the Foamulator is both a better insulator than other board insulators, and has the highest strength of them all.  I was already planning to use it in the walls, so finding that it's also perfect for the roof strength was an unexpected bonus. 

 

I've now realized that the roof beams will not all be the same shape, due to variations in each Sunrader's structure, but also as you go forward there's less arch.  So, no point in having a shop bend these. Also, I've reversed my earlier plan of starting at the rear just by thinking through the bending procedure.  I'll bend it a little, go out and test fit, bend it a little more, test again.  Inevitably, some will be bent too far as you estimate the rebound after removing bending pressure to see what you've got.  If I start at the front, beams I bend too much will fit farther back where they need to be bent more.  Hope that plays out. 

 

I have a buddy who's a talented welder and shop owner and he has a roller bender which is what I found through research is the right tool.  So, Sunday I'm driving the Sunrader in all its floppy glory over to his place 90 minutes away to spend the entire day bending and test fitting. I'll number them and come home to start fitting them at home as each one will take a day to cure.  I might be able to do 2 in one day - not sure yet. When each is fitted and bedded into epoxy, the ends will be trimmed to fit as tightly as I can, and be secured with both epoxy and a screwed on bracket into the thick side plate I'll make that will also be epoxied.  Last thing I want is 10,000 miles of vibration from now to hear a bolt fall off a beam and break my heart!

 

Hopefully there will be enough epoxy.  I bought $170 worth, but there's a lot of surface area here.  Fortunately, it's available all over town if I run out.  Speaking of money, by the time this roof re-arch is done I will probably have spent about $750 on it, though I would have done SOMETHING to re-arch it no matter what and strong enough to handle feet of Idaho snow.  My higher strength goal of walking on it, adding rooftop A/C, and possibly even mounting a small lifting device to help pull kayaks up is driving what I sincerely hope will be a VERY solid structure and doubled what I might have invested.  Frankly, it's all theory at this point, and I have nothing to go on but a rudimentary background in engineering and materials science.  Wish me luck, I'm in uncharted waters and keenly aware that things could go badly..... 

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All is looking/sounding good from here. At what point in this process will you add wiring for, say, a vent fan, roof AC, and/or lights?

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Ctgriffi,

 

Good question, and I'm not sure yet.  I'm trying to beat the weather and get the roof arched and supported, then put something over the vent openings for winter.  I need a reasonable temp for the epoxy to cure.  I plan to put a quality vent/fan in the rear hole, and something cheaper (regular vent) in the front hole.  We may add A/C to the front hole, so before the ceiling is sealed off by the current work, both holes will have heavy wiring run to them.

 

WME - thanks.  Will take a look later this evening!

 

So, an initial impression on the aluminum I bought.  I took a beam, rested the extreme tips on a couple books, and stood on the center.  I have a few extras and I kind of thought I might ruin it with a sudden collapse. To my delight, it flexed, but held my 180lbs without collapsing - a full 6 foot unsupported straight span.  It has a slight bend to it, which is fine as it will be bent further into a beam.  So when arched it will have more strength yet, and when epoxied to the roof more strength yet and supported by the foam glued to the ceiling next to it - a bit more strength.  So I think I'm going to accomplish what I wanted - a walkable roof.  

 

This evening, I finished sanding the inside of the ceiling.  My 6 month old shop vac died with 30 minutes of work left, so that last part sucked.  I'll return it at Home Depot tomorrow.

 

Also tomorrow, the "rams" to push the roof up into shape need to be assembled against Sunday's plan to use them and custom bend each beam in turn. Then I'll clean up the mess, secure the bathroom window for driving, brace the floppy ceiling, and put the driver's seat back in, then check over the vehicle for a 150 mile round trip.  With the old axle under her. Oh, and I need to resecure the black water tank. I hope to have time to run by the scale, so we'll all know how much the entire interior weighed as now it's an empty shell save the wall paneling and bathroom unit. Crap - I have no tail lights either with all the wiring stripped out.  Hmmm.  They sell those temp tail lights at Harbor Freight you hang on the back with magnets.  Ack! Gotta make this happen....Rain forecast Saturday, too...

 

I moved my roof support lifts forward to see how much the roof beams will change shape.  To my surprise, they will actually be MUCH more similar at least as far as the front vent, so the bending task may be simpler/faster than I thought.  Definitely the front couple will be flatter though.  We'll see.  

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Got the ceiling vent holes all plugged with plastic against tomorrow's rain. Driver's seat back in, taillights fixed.  Sunday morning I'll get up early to secure that black water tank, and check tires, etc.   In the meantime, I also built the "ceiling rams" that will push up the fiberglas to the shape I want.  They'll be set a foot apart, giving me room to test the beams I'll bend Sunday, and later for install, they'll hold the ceiling up while I epoxy and secure the ends to the side plate.

 

Here are the ceiling rams. It doesn't look like much of an arc, but from the roof hanging down 2", to the roof arced up 2" is like a night and day difference when you're standing in the living area:

 

image.jpeg.670da4d6e5448d91079ae100de48dcd1.jpeg

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Ha!  Great screen name!!!

 

So, I just rolled in from 150 mile roundtrip run in the Sunrader.  Perhaps it's first trip of note in decades.  I went to my buddy's shop up near Priest Lake, Idaho where he has a nice bending machine for the roof beams.  I wanted to use a manual one to carefully control the bends, stop and check them on the roof, bend some more, etc.  The machine was perfect for this and I got 11 nice beams to use.  They'll be 10" apart except for the 14" spacing on the two vent holes.  Here's a video of me doing one of 3 trips through the bender each required:

 

 

The drive was a riot.  The tires are old and were flat spotted when we bought it and have not improved.  After about 50 miles they did round out some, but a random curve would cause a couple to be in sync for a bit and it was like being on a horse.  No blinkers. No license plates.  No heat (dash fan not working - I haven't even looked at it), and with all the holes back in the living area it was like driving an old leaky church organ with all the various frequencies of wind howl.  I brought ear plugs, expecting this, so I was relaxed.  Ran like a champ, and I loaded the fuel up with SeaFoam to help clean anything up awry in the fuel system.  It did seem to have more power on the trip home.  38 degrees in the cab with cold drafts whipping around me. I brought proof of insurance and the title in case I got pulled over, and have never been irresponsible with license plates like that, but I totally spaced registering it as I was planning for it to sit at the house while I gutted and rebuilt it.  By the time I realized it on Friday, DMV was totally booked for the day.  

 

At a gas stop, not one, but TWO people came over to look at it.  The guy had a Toyota pickup same year back in the day as his first vehicle, and the lady had a family friend with a Toyota motorhome when she was a kid.  

 

So here's an interesting Sunrader data point.  Ever wonder just how much the furniture, fridge, etc weighs?  Well I found out today.  I weighed it before I took anything out and the entire vehicle weighed 4920lbs with empty tanks, zero gear, and missing the dinette cushions and table.  Rear axle weight was 3120.  Today, with nothing left inside the living area except the wall panels and the empty bathroom stall, it weighed 4200 and rear axle was 2360. That's a whopping 720lbs!  

 

I'm sure I will add at least 850lbs back into it with the furniture I'll build not made quite as lightly, plus a larger fridge, heavy kitchen counter, adding a microwave, the heavier 1 ton rear axle, etc.  But wow - had no idea that pile I tossed out the door as I tore out the interior weighed that much.  Onward and upward.

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I'm trying to get something done each day, but yesterday was a bust as I couldn't settle on an adhesive till too late to work on it.  This evening, I just hung the first of the two thick aluminum wall plates the cross beams will rest against.  It needs 24 hours to cure, so tomorrow I'll do the other side.  I've got metal beams just holding it up, and 4 cross beams shoving the plates hard against the wall. Heaters running all night and I'm looking at the temp feed from the van out there and it's barely holding 48 against a 38 actual temp.  So during the night it will dip to the upper 30s, but the glue specs are good down to a remarkable 10F:

image.jpeg.a2fd125744387fb26d0a0b1298387976.jpeg

 

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2nd side plate up and curing. I used Loctite's PL MAXX - a new generation construction adhesive that looks to be perfect for this application:

 image.jpeg.e3f7abe01b8a7ee27b9d5ec347936d7b.jpeg

image.jpeg.8f2980e8122b828259000cc8724ac49a.jpeg

 

Extra points if you see the secret message.

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