Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What if: Keeping it under control

(Two posts in one day!! That's either a record or an obsession. . .)

This might seem like an odd step in the design process, but I'm easily distracted and tend to wander off on tangents (If you could see me hiking you'd know the truth of that.) and find it helpful at the beginning of a project to define the objectives then periodically check back and make sure the track I'm on still matches my objectives. The project managers out there know this as defining the scope so that definition can then be used to prevent, or at least manage, scope creep as the project progresses.

But since, in my experience, project managers are always the first to go during budget cuts and it would be humiliating to be escorted out the door of my own shop by HR, I just call this step my reality check.

Recap and review so far:

OK, so back to the beginning: the drivers for a Ford pickup based slide-in camper solution if I ever have to replace the van are:

The affordability of pickups:

Affordability is relative. Compared to the cost of a small car pickups might seem expensive, but then again they can perform functions a car, small or large, can’t. And if I need to push it farther, there are plenty of lightly used pickups out there to choose from.

To take the affordability aspect even farther it would be nice if the camper could be sized for the affordable F150 platform, which might be a tall order. According to Ford spec’s the supercab (More on that later.) with 8’ bed (Pretty much a given that I’m going to want a real pickup bed to work with and not one of the stylized ‘short’ beds that might look cool, right up until you try carrying a real load in it.) has a payload of around 1900 lbs. Conservatively speaking, allowing for me, a full tank of gas and a full load of supplies, that leaves about 1100 lbs for the camper.

It’s too soon yet to tell if I’m going to be able to do that. But the good news is that the F250 uses the same bed as the F150 and the 250 supercab has a payload of around 3500 lbs. The bad news is the F250 is more expensive and has a big honking 6.7L engine in it where I can get a 5.0 in the 150.

The common availability of pickups and access to service:

I don’t think anyone can argue that pickups are readily available, in fact around here, out in the country as we are, it’s difficult to buy anything off the Ford lot that isn’t a pickup! Which also means there’s lots of them that need to be worked on so, combine all those trained and experienced mechanics with the plethora of Ford dealerships dotted around the country and ready serviceability is a given.

The ability to move the camper from pickup to pickup:

There might be slight variations in pickup bed dimensions, but in the Fords, over the past fourteen years we’re talking tenths of inches. As long as I don’t try to get too fancy or model-specific with the dimensions of the slide-in shell, in other words, as long as I keep it generic, it should be no problem to move it from one pickup to another.

The ability to utilize the pickup as independent transportation when on the road:

As mentioned earlier, I have owned a few slide-ins in my day and know from experience they aren’t always easy to get on and off the truck, which raises questions about the realities of the ‘drop and go’ aspect of the slide-in. But by leaving sufficient clearances between the slide-in shell and the pickup bed I should be able to ease the hassle of lining the truck up and backing it under the camper.

That still leaves the issue of jacks and tie-downs. I’ll get into more detail later but for now I’m looking at the Stable Lift system to simplify this part of the process.

The ability to utilize the pickup as a pickup when not on the road:

With the van I can always hook up the cargo trailer when I need to haul something large, but that’s the point; I always have to hook up the trailer to haul anything large.

If I had a pickup available I could leave the trailer home quite often and avoid the extra hassle and expense of dragging it along.

The ability to end up with a camper that fits me and my on-the-road lifestyle:

Building something from scratch can be daunting but I've got plenty of experience at it. I don't know how much help I was, but at the age of 10 I helped Dad build a garage on our brand new house, along the way learning how to cut a straight line with a handsaw and properly drive a framing nail home with a tap and three blows. I've been designing and building things ever since, everything from backyard birdhouses to 10 million dollar data centers.

With my experience on the road and camping I've got a pretty good idea what works for me and what doesn't, at least at this point in my life. By staying focused I'm confident I can design a camper tailor made for me and then, if need be, build it.

Next stop: Dimensions


  1. See if those Project Engineers and your own office were government ... they nor you would be escorted by HR ... they would just find a different project for you and them, then give you a pay raise. :)

    Different project is a different color of money and available balance.

  2. I did the government thing back at the tail-end of the Vietnam era. (Back when government claimed ‘We no longer have a significant military presence in the country’, which I would be inclined to refute if I wasn’t worried about the black SUV’s turning up in the driveway.) I decided I didn’t like that world too much and got out.