The Truck

We had a choice on this trip - we could try it in a 1996 Toyota with 110,000 miles or get a new truck.   (If you want an amazing deal on Ford trucks contact bubba@colonialtruck.com ).  We went with a 2003 F-250 Super Duty pick up.  For fuel economy we opted for the 6.0 liter Diesel engine which is almost as quiet as the gas engines (on the highway that is) and has great acceleration.  We added four wheel drive because we know that gravel is considered a luxury on many roads in Alaska.  Of course, to truly travel in comfort we had to make a few minor modifications.  .  .

One of the “down sides” of camping is that you have to carry all your gear around.  You’ve got a tent, sleeping bags, cookware, a stove, a grill, lanterns, propane, a couple coolers full of food, and all kinds of other stuff to carry around.  Sure, it all fits in your car (or truck), but you have to carry it all from the car to the campsite and sometimes that can be a long way.  We’ve used creative packing to consolidate things but we’ve found that it still takes around ten trips to carry everything.  With the number of times we’re going to be setting up and taking down, we had to find a better way to move our gear and with some very creative engineering we arrived at a rather unorthodox solution.  Since the kayaks were going to need a custom made carrying rack on top of the truck anyway, we decided to remove the pickup body from the truck and use a custom made body that would carry everything.  The unique twist of the custom body is that it consists of two large side cabinets (8 feet long, 3 feet high) that are removable so that we can roll all our gear to the campsite in just 2 trips!  One of the cabinets is the “cooking unit” and has two built in bear proof cooler holders, storage for canned goods, cookware, the stove and the grill.  The other unit carries the tent, rain canopies, sleeping bags, lanterns and everything else.  It was a great idea, but due to his work schedule Dave only had 10 days to make the conversion.

 

Step one, the truck gets lighter  . . .

            Funny thing about the Ford motor company, you can order a new pick up truck without the “box” on it and they’ll take $600 off the sticker price (by the you finish haggling you’ve probably only saved $500).  But, when you do a box delete they also take away the rear bumper, the spare tire, the trailer wiring connectors and a few other things.  So we ordered the truck with a box and hoped that we could sell it  to a used parts dealer.  We called around and found a place that was eager to pay us $600 for the box and lights and we kept everything else.

 

Step two, the great frame up . . .

            The new body started with an independent steel frame which would support everything that we added.  The whole system uses a modular design, that way in the future the cabinets and kayak rack can be removed and the truck can be used as a regular flatbed.  The “bumper of death” was a late addition to the plan.  The truck lives in a neighborhood where you have to parallel park and since the old Toyota’s bumpers were all dinged up by neighbors who can’t park we decided to go with something a little more butch.  As you can see from the picture it got out of hand.  The bumper weighs over 150 pounds and we’re told that if we back into a fire hydrant the hydrant will lose.  (and we found a used parts dealer who gave us $100 for the original bumper!)

 

Step three, hit the deck . . .

            The frame was then covered with aluminum diamond plate (you can never have too much diamond plate).  The deck has hinges running its length that allow the edges (or wings) to fold up allow the cabinets to slide on from the sides.  The beginnings of the kayak rack are also visible.

 

 

Step four, the rack . . .

            The rack was designed to be multi purpose serving as either a kayak carrier or a traditional rack for lumber.  The kayaks are supported by several bars which are bolted to the rack.  Since the tension from straps and ropes can warp the kayaks (they are made of a high strength plastic but when in the hot sun they will get flexible), they are held in place by flexible foam covered bars which gently keep them in place.

 

 

 

Step five, the cabinets . . .

            The cabinets are described in detail on their own page (Moving the  Cabinets), because let’s face it this page took long enough to load as it is.