This has been a long time in the making. When we bought our Avion C11 truck camper, we knew that the full bed aligned east-west would not work for our full time intent. Initially, we struggled to conceive of a method to form a queen sized bed simply by altering the interior arrangement of the camper. While we could introduce sliding or folding out bed extensions, we could not agree on a solution that wouldn't require us to regularly make and break down a bed or block the interior windows. And so, we reluctantly agreed, we would be extending the cabover.
Today, we will be removing a panel from the exterior of the camper. To do this, we will have to remove a lot of rivets: buck rivets. After a year of experience, we have a favorite method of tackling rows of rivets which we will share with you today!
Timelines are an exercise in wishful thinking. I remember this lesson from my former life as a code monkey. But it's never been more obvious than when renovating a camper.
We have a departure date set and it is coming up fast. But little things keep pushing back our progress.⠀Six months ago, I thought we would have a working kitchen and bathroom by now. Two months ago, I thought we would have rebuilt the bed by now. At this point, I'd be happy to just have the pan of the camper resting firmly and securely on the truck bed.
Most of the Avion's exterior is aluminum. But, the very base of the camper, hanging off the truck bed, is made of fiberglass. It wedges in between the interior flooring and the exterior aluminum pan and holds the back water tank. In replacing the floor, we also had to remove this pan to remount it to the new floor.
Towing a trailer or large load requires special safety concerns when on the road. While specific requirements may vary by state, the requirements for lighting is pretty consistent: brake, clearance, and license plate lights. These are all connected to the truck or other vehicle to control the lights.
The State of the Floor Address
Ladies and gentlemen, the floor of the truck camper is not pretty. After years of patches and general neglect, it is literally falling apart. Try jumping on it. The experience is not unlike that of a trampoline. The concern is for the day that it does not bounce.
No, when I say "wings" there aren't any feathers involved. The wings of a truck camper form the portion of the camper that fits around the walls of the truck bed. These are the points by which the truck is lifted and lowered and the anchor points for tying down the camper. They are incredibly important for the day-to-day use of a truck camper and ours were terribly rotted out. Before we can confidently raise, lower, and move the camper again, it is time to replace the wings.
Do you have a vintage Airstream, Avion, Spartan, or other aluminum bodied camper? Ever noticed screw heads covered in rust or pitting in aluminum around a steel screw? You my friend, are the victim of galvanic corrosion. And if you don't want to make it worse, you'll want to know a thing or two about how this happens and how to avoid it.
When renovating a truck camper (or any camper) weight is key. Sure, wood and other classic materials are aesthetically pleasing, reassuring, and seem environmentally friendly. Yet, every extra pound means more gas consumed per mile. We would rather use that gas to travel long distances than to move heavy weights. That (and a lot of rot) is why we decided to replace all the wood in our camper with a fiberglas composite material. Not only is it lighter than plywood, it is also resistant to damp, mold, and fire. All good things! That means that we learned a lot about fiberglas, resins, and other lightweight materials.
We settle into a new kind of normal around the Avion Ultra truck camper. Each morning, we wake up and discuss the day's priorities over breakfast. We work through the cool morning and early afternoon. If it gets too hot, we will break from heavy work in the heat of the afternoon to run errants: pick up tools and materials and make runs to the dump. We return to work in the evening, and clean the worksite at dusk. Over dinner, we discuss lessons learned from the day's work and tomorrow's goals. Before bed, we research tools, techniques, and inspiration for coming challenges.