Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

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Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby polyomino » Thu Sep 13, 2012 1:14 pm

Hi!

So, last week I made a bit of an impulse purchase. Got a 1994 former fedex truck, a step van.

http://polyomino.livejournal.com/pics/catalog/373/2372

I got tired of carefully packing and securingmy open pickup truck with everything -- bins and pvc and art projects. It's especially challenging on the return trip, when we're tired, and it seems likce twice as much stuff! And also me and my wife are starting to need a more ergonomic arrangement than the floor of a tent, for sleeping.

So... anyone have thoughts or guidance or resources on how to best utilize a beast like this for camping at burning man?

Details for anyone interested -- paid 7900 for good condition, passed smog, good tires, drove 200 miles home just fine. I should have checked first... but my insurance will go up $250/year for it. 11000lb gross vehicle weight (maximum laden weight) makes it a "commercial vehicle" so higher insurance, not covering vehicle itself. Fortunately (again, ha ha, should have checked first!) found parking for it, $60/month a couple blocks from my house on the Santa Cruz West Side.

Maybe it's a bad idea and we should just get a used camper... but this beast is so hilarious I want to give it a go. Baseline is transportation and a built-in bed.
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby junglesmacks » Thu Sep 13, 2012 1:16 pm

I (heart) box trucks.


If I owned one, I would pop a 5000 BTU AC in the side of it and build a whole camper unit back there. Shelving on the sides. Platform for mattress. Permanent LED lighting strips down the side.

I could go on and on after exclusively box trucking it at the burn for the past X amount of years..
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby maladroit » Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:07 pm

That looks ideal. I'd weld on anchor points for a shade structure surrounding the whole thing. A door in the side that flips down into kitchen table with sink and fridge/cooler. I don't know if you'd really want to sleep in it...rather than spend a lot of money turning it into an RV, I'd turn it into a camp center hub thing. Mount solar panels on the roof. Basically set it up so all the heavy stuff like food, water, and power stay with the truck and are easily accessible.
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby junglesmacks » Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:21 pm

maladroit wrote:I'd weld on anchor points for a shade structure surrounding the whole thing.



YES!!


Mal.. these things make the perfect campers. Totally wind and dust proof with tons of space inside. They're like an economy RV that you can sweep out after. The downside is the sheet metal roof which heats up like a SOB. This year, I finally used a 19' x 24' silver tarp for shade and it worked awesome. I tossed empty water jug boxes on the roof to create a nice gap, then stretched the tarp over and rebarred it to the playa. Perfect. Saved us from the noon sun. The only drawback is lack of flow through ventilation. You can get plenty in, but nothing flowing through it. Hence the AC unit. Although.. I suppose that you could also put in some venting grates that would be sealable..
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby FIGJAM » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:00 pm

I would try to design the interior so that it could be parked on an incline and hosed out after the burn.

Short pipes at the corners to slide EMT or fence rail through to support a shade structure.

A roof rack to haul the long poles and use in the shade design.

Add a couple of windows for ventilation and a swamp cooler. 8)
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby illy dilly » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:08 pm

polyomino wrote: but my insurance will go up $250/year for it. 11000lb gross vehicle weight (maximum laden weight) makes it a "commercial vehicle" so higher insurance, not covering vehicle itself. Fortunately (again, ha ha, should have checked first!) found parking for it, $60/month a couple blocks from my house on the Santa Cruz West Side.

Have you talked to your insurance company about only insuring it for a few months a year?
We only insure our RV from June - September. Though, its pretty common with RV's because they are recreational vehicles, where as a step van might be considered a work truck.

A couple of questions:
1. How many miles? And do you happen to have the service record?

2. Have you tried driving it over 60mph?
Many of those types of delivery vehicles are designed to be driven around a city, not really over the open road at high speeds for 8 hours or more.
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby Jackass » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:40 pm

junglesmacks wrote:
maladroit wrote:I'd weld on anchor points for a shade structure surrounding the whole thing.


The downside is the sheet metal roof which heats up like a SOB. This year, I finally used a 19' x 24' silver tarp for shade and it worked awesome. I tossed empty water jug boxes on the roof to create a nice gap, then stretched the tarp over and rebarred it to the playa. Perfect. Saved us from the noon sun. The only drawback is lack of flow through ventilation. You can get plenty in, but nothing flowing through it. Hence the AC unit. Although.. I suppose that you could also put in some venting grates that would be sealable..


I'd line the ceiling with 2" Rmax, build a removable wall about 2ft in from the roll up door complete with door and window, and use a box fan or cut an a/c unit in to your new wall. Build a box for a matress, or put a real bed in there with small table, a couch, a small dresser or closet rod for hanging clothes and a recliner or massage chair. Skies the limit with those. If you have a lift gate you can leave it at deck height to add space to your previous 2ft porch and build some wooden stairs or a ladder to get up there. Attach multiple receiver points for EMT conduit around the sides for your shade structure, the list goes on and on. A guy could really tweak out on one of these trucks.

P.S. Porch can serve as kitchen area, and wire the inside for 110v with a sub panel so that you plug in to your panel and everything (circuits within) is protected, just like at home. No fires!
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby polyomino » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:22 pm

Wow! These are all great ideas & inventions. Some of them were already in mind, but a couple great ones that I'd missed were

==> Design so that it can be hosed out. Brilliant, @Figjam! Yes, I'll arrange the partitions and such so that it can drain out the back, at a slope, when emptied and pressure washed inside after the burn. Excellent.

==> Exterior tie points... right. Right, can't have enough of those.

@Illy Dilly -- 150k, I have the "auto chek" VIN number tracking. One worry is that it has a pattern of not-passing-emissions, and then passing on the 2nd try. I guess it's gonna be one of *those*. Fingers crossed.

Still have a call in with my insurance for estimated usage pattern & mileage. Think it'll need to be covered for the year, as I'll have to move it around a little as part of the refurb project.) Drove it 200 miles @60-65. Occasionally up to 70. The speedometer only goes to 80. :D It's four speed automatic with OD. Temperatures and voltage were rock-steady the whole way, from Hot hot Sacramento to Cool cool Santa Cruz.

More to come.
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby Elliot » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:51 pm

You should be able to register it as an RV / motor home -- "house car" in California DMV-speak -- by installing basic camping facilities like beds, toilet, and kitchen. That's what many of us do with school buses. Registration and liability insurance are dirt cheap that way.

For shade, I put some "roll bars" on the roof and I strap a tarp over that. This way the vehicle is shaded with an air gap, which is what you need.

:D
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby polyomino » Sat May 11, 2013 9:59 pm

I've been documenting the build here: http://d.omino.com/sunriseline/blog/
Not very much action so far. Have ripped out most of the unwanted shelving, and sheathed the walls in plywood & insulation. More to come! It's going to be some intensely busy months tinkering on the driveway, til TTITD.

Still deciding whether to attempt building a head into it. Chemical toilet maybe? Would be nice to avoid the long midnight potty walks. Would be real nice not to stink inside. Anyone have advice on building rv or other offgrid toilets?
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby maladroit » Sat May 11, 2013 10:44 pm

Looks good. I would sleep in that so hard.

Do you really have any major issue with the porta-potties? If you choose your evacuation times wisely, they are remarkably clean and stink-free compared to the more bro-heavy festivals.

I supposed I should phrase that as a balancing of discomforts; on one hand, you are free to do your thing on a throne of your own. On the other hand, the charm wears off when you have to wrangle your still-warm bagged feces into proper containment, and there are very few containment methods acceptable for use within three feet of your bed and kitchen.
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby Captain Goddammit » Sat May 11, 2013 11:01 pm

I wouldn't weld anchor points for shade to it, I'd bolt them. That van is aluminum, right?
I would NOT cut a hole in the side for a 5k BTU home style A/C. Fuck that's "hack job"! If you want A/C then just use an RV style roof air unit. It won't tear out the wall, leak, or look horrible - and they have heater elements in them too. I have a 5K BTU window A/C that I use as an emergency spare in my camper and it isn't powerful enough anyway. RV roof units are usually 9k to 13k BTU.

Always give consideration to what Figjam says, he has a way of thinking in practical terms and building shit that actually works.

I'd look for a truck camper or travel trailer that's rotted or otherwise damaged and scavenge it for everything you want, like the roof A/C, windows, electrical stuff, water pump, water tank, maybe even the grey and/or black tank and water heater, the sink, stove, etc. They usually even have a modular small shower stall with a sink and toilet that you could install.
I've got a camper with all that stuff I'd give you free if you lived close, the crappy stick & staple frame is shot.
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby Savannah » Mon May 13, 2013 11:52 pm

polyomino wrote:Maybe it's a bad idea and we should just get a used camper... but this beast is so hilarious I want to give it a go.


I still enjoy this the most about your venture. :D

(There's a very real danger that I will do something very similar some day.)
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby Captain Goddammit » Tue May 14, 2013 5:13 am

Savannah wrote:
polyomino wrote:Maybe it's a bad idea and we should just get a used camper... but this beast is so hilarious I want to give it a go.


I still enjoy this the most about your venture. :D

(There's a very real danger that I will do something very similar some day.)


I like that too !

But seriously, it's not a bad idea. Campers are built like crap, they inevitably leak and rot.
That van is built like an aircraft. It will last indefinitely. That's the reason people convert school or coach busses instead of buying motorhomes.
You've got a nice well-built van!
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby CornMan » Tue May 14, 2013 6:11 am

I'd contact the Good Sam Club to get some roadside insurance in case you break down.
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby polyomino » Sun May 26, 2013 6:43 pm

This is all super useful ideas!
AAA or Good Sam Rv roadside assistance... Oy, yes, we'd better do that.
Definitley will bolt some kind of bars on top to hold a shade just off the roof, and for tie point usage.

[img]http://d.omino.com/sunriseline/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/IMG_2413.jpg[/img]

The door on the left is at least a closet, maybe a shower or privy in the future. On the right is a work surface and a few shelves, for kitchen-like use. Though our camp has a better kitchen outside as well.

The partitions are arranged with 1/4" clearance on the ground, allowing scrub-down and hose-out for slightly easier cleaning.

Probably going with star fleet slate & orange tones for the bulkhead.

Bit by bit!
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby trilobyte » Mon May 27, 2013 11:40 pm

Rather than just doing a ghetto RV, turn the box truck into a mutant vehicle. Unlike most people building MV's on old passenger cars or pickup truck bases, you'd have a base vehicle that's actually designed to carry the kind of load you'd get from a fully decked out art car full of dancing passengers. That's gold right there.
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby bm_cricket » Thu May 30, 2013 10:44 pm

As a fellow Santa Cruz Burner, "hello!"

Best of luck on your project. How is it coming along?
)'(
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby MacGlenver » Fri May 31, 2013 3:33 pm

Freakin awesome. I see you found a spot to park it for rent... I wonder what people in San Francisco do with Mutant vehicles/trailers... Storage unit, I suppose? Hopefully not too much of a thread creep.

As Savannah said... this type of thing seriously tempts me. If I get my job in SF, I might just do it :). Fingers crossed for an offer on Monday!
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby bm_cricket » Fri May 31, 2013 5:05 pm

Best of luck on that job too!
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby polyomino » Sun Jul 28, 2013 7:27 pm

Ghetto RV coming right along.

[img]http://d.omino.com/sunriseline/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/IMG_3168.jpg[/img]

You know how it is. Things get real (real accelerated) these last few weekends. :-)
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby BoyScoutGirl » Sun Jul 28, 2013 11:42 pm

polyomino wrote:Image


Thanks for sharing the progress. Good luck getting it finished in time - you can do it!
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby polyomino » Sun Aug 11, 2013 9:58 pm

:D :D :D :D :D
[img]http://d.omino.com/sunriseline/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/IMG_3236.jpg[/img]
seating, tiny kitchen/work area, and privy!
(Thetford chemical toilet.)

:D :D :D yikes!

P.S. How do make a picture show up inline in this forum?
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby TomServo » Sun Aug 11, 2013 10:17 pm

AWESOME!! FYI..if you plan on creating a fleet, PG&E auctions off box trucks with Booms attached. Less room inside, but you get a side patio and a killer view!
anything worth doing..is worth overdoing

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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby Eric » Sun Aug 11, 2013 10:18 pm

polyomino wrote::D :D :D :D :D
Image
seating, tiny kitchen/work area, and privy!
(Thetford chemical toilet.)

:D :D :D yikes!

P.S. How do make a picture show up inline in this forum?


When you upload your attachment, the is a "place inline" option after you upload the image. Also, make sure your "BBCode" is enabled - it should be by default, but you never know.
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby polyomino » Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:30 pm

So this truck, like many, has an exposed transmission under the vehicle. Has a couple of universal joints along it.
Will the dust absolutely destroy it? Should it be immediately cleaned after returning, or ... ?

Just thought of that.
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby polyomino » Mon Sep 02, 2013 10:31 pm

Mission successful!

It delivered us and our art project ("Sunrise Line" in the deep playa, hospital-themed box thing) successfully and housed us for the week.

Took it home, hosed it out (thanks Figjam for the excellent advice of having bulkheads clear the floor for cleaning) and ready for next year. Already planning. As we all are.

Shalom all!
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby gyre » Tue Sep 03, 2013 6:47 pm

They make covers for universal joints.
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby oly14 » Mon Dec 02, 2013 4:43 pm

Like polyomino, I pulled the trigger on a box truck purchase yesterday. It wasn't really an impulse buy because have been thinking about it for a while. It's a 14' x 8' x 7' box on a '97 GMC cutaway chassis with a 5.7L gas engine, automatic transmission, good tires and low miles. Unlike many box trucks, there's access from the cab into the box.

Last year I 'van camped' in a cargo van I borrowed from a friend. It seemed really large when I looked at it empty but I either brought too much stuff or my eyes saw what they wanted. Whenever I wanted to get myself in to sleep, I had to unload/shuffle things. This year it was either going to be the cargo van and a tent, or a box truck. I don't know that I'm going to trick my box truck out as much as polyomino but there are indeed lots of ideas floating in my head (i.e. back wall with door, window and swamp cooler, back deck, bed platform, shading ...). I'll have to figure out what else I need to do to qualify as a "house car" with my insurance. Looks like there's much work, and reading, in future.
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Re: Advice & Resources for Owning a Box Truck?

Postby GreyCoyote » Mon Dec 02, 2013 4:48 pm

Congrats, Oly!

It must be something in the air because I have been oogling school bus auctions (with masterful input from Sir Elliot of Millicent fame!) all day.

Tis the season! :mrgreen:
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