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Old 09-18-2016, 01:29 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Beginnings. IDACAMPER concepts and an open Q&A

Hello Pirates

Id like to open up a discussion about custom campers, and IDACAMPER, the small business that I'm currently working to get off the ground here in north Idaho. I opened up shop a few months ago, and have a ton of interest, but no commitments just yet. The market it there, though I realize that dropping hard earned cash on such a camper with a new business with zero track record is quite a decision. I know Id have trouble making such a commitment.

Id like to discuss some of the possibilities of having your own custom camper built, what it entails, and how it all works. id also like as much input as you are willing to provide, for some of the concepts I've worked up over the past few months working with potential clients.

So please, any and all questions, lets hear them. And any and all comments, I want to hear those too More than anything, I'm on a fact finding mission, and would like to open things up to field any and all questions you might have.


**MODS, if this isn't the correct/proper place for this, please let me know. Thanks



The following are some of the concepts Ive worked up over the past few months. They can also be found on the new page I published today, called "Beginnings", a place to show some of the designs and concepts that are possible. BEGINNINGS – IDACAMPER.COM




Flatbed model.
Based upon the original prototype.
This unit is easily loaded and unloaded onto a flatbed pickup in order to keep the utility of the truck.
It is lightweight, fully insulated, and can be finished to your spec.




Portable Living Pod model.
Intended to be transported via flatbed truck or trailer, and unloaded on site.
Live in one while you build your home on that remote property, use it for a hunting cabin, etc.
Short term or long term use, the possible uses are nearly endless.



Soft sided pop-top model.
Super low profile when nested, full height when parked/camped.
Electric key-fob lift system, this type of roof can be integrated into
almost any camper configuration.



Insulated baja shell.
Super light weight, fully insulated, and completely empty.
Keep it modular or build it out yourself, you decide!
This concept is shown with a load rack, double doors, and
features a complete belly to remain water and weather tight.



Cab-chassis model,
intended for semi-permanent installation.
Are you pulling the plug and looking to spend some serious time on the road?
If so, this configuration might be for you.
Lightweight, fully insulated, and custom built for your application.



Shoe-box hardsided pop-top.
Full height when you need it, low profile when you dont.
Fully insulated, electric key-fob lift system, interior finished to your spec!
This concept shown on a military HD vehicle, but can be built to fit any configuration.



Fleetside pickup slide-in.
Similar to a traditional camper, this camper can be easily loaded and
unloaded onto your truck using the stock bed.
Fully insulated, finished to customer spec.



Hardsided pop-top camper,

shown on a Jeep. Low profile for traveling, full height when parked/camped.
Electric key-fob lift system, fully insulated, finished to your spec!

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Old 09-18-2016, 02:07 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Big fan of both pop tops and the baja shell thing. Do you have price points in mind?

I think someone could do very well making a tradesman aluminum utility shell with a westfalia-like pop top. A guy on expeditionportal did something similar with a modified aluminum top. I know people love the flippac setup, but the fact that its not truly waterproof would suck.

For me it comes down to:
Ease of use (better be easy as hell and quick to setup)
Waterproof
Price
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Old 09-18-2016, 02:12 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I like your camper and am happy you are doing the camper thing. Question- you say key fob mechanism on the pop tops. Have you done this yet?
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Old 09-18-2016, 02:45 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Big fan of both pop tops and the baja shell thing. Do you have price points in mind?
Being such a small operation, Im really trying my best to keep costs down, for both myself and the customer. So pricing has been a bit of an issue. Its super hard to simply toss a number out there, as EVERY unit will be custom.

I've thought about a "starting at" price scheme, but I fear that in order to make certain I cover my end of it, I may price the units too high, and scare off would be customers.

Amy suggestions?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1990GT50 View Post
I think someone could do very well making a tradesman aluminum utility shell with a westfalia-like pop top. A guy on expeditionportal did something similar with a modified aluminum top. I know people love the flippac setup, but the fact that its not truly waterproof would suck.
I agree that such a unit would be pretty popular. Would it cost effective to go into business making them? I dont know. Regardless, at this stage I'm intending to stick with a laminated/bonded wood/foam type construction.
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Old 09-18-2016, 02:51 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I like your camper and am happy you are doing the camper thing. Question- you say key fob mechanism on the pop tops. Have you done this yet?
Nope not yet. Currently zeroed in on rieco titan's lifted roof system. The remote/key fob setup I figure is based upon the system they use for their remote/key fob camper jacks.

The pop top setup is a screw-motor system that lifts the roof, then retracts and the roof drops via gravity. Chatted with them more than a few times on the phone, it sounds like a great system. They originally designed it for Palomino's line of pop tops, but they are willing to sell them directly.


Id simply build the camper to occomodate the hardware.
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Old 09-18-2016, 08:36 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I like your camper and am happy you are doing the camper thing. Question- you say key fob mechanism on the pop tops. Have you done this yet?
LOTS of campers with electric jacks use a remote.


My biggest concern would be price. If the store bought cab overs are thrown together junk (by comparison) and cost $20k+ how much is a custom one going to cost for you to actually make money?

Obviously there is a market for high end campers, I truly hope you can find your way into it.

I would be cool to offer a trailer frame that they can drop into as well.
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Old 09-19-2016, 04:46 PM   #7 (permalink)
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What's the big dick for on the front bumper of the first truck?

Would SpaceKap shells be be a good starting point to build your campers into? I do realize they'd obviously be smaller than the flatbed camper you've already built. Too small?

These are what I'm referring to. I've always found your camper reminded me of them. Probably just because they're both white and sleek and I'm simple minded.

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Oh, and thanks for posting up all the stuff you do. Lots of us don't comment too much, but read everything.
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Old 09-19-2016, 05:01 PM   #8 (permalink)
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The space caps are nice, for what they are. They are a utility cap, nothing more.

An IDACAMPER is special, due to the construction and ability to build 100% custom campers.

Simply building out the interior of another shell pretty much defeats the purpose.

Side note.... those space caps are heavier than a similar IDACAMPER shell.
Nor are they insulated.
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Old 09-20-2016, 05:40 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IDASHO View Post
I opened up shop a few months ago, and have a ton of interest, but no commitments just yet. The market it there, though I realize that dropping hard earned cash on such a camper with a new business with zero track record is quite a decision. I know Id have trouble making such a commitment.
That’s the issue. About six years ago - and after twenty years in the industry - I decided to go out on my own. No matter what I had done at other firms, people wanted to see what I had done in my own firm. It took about four years to really break through that.

You’re really going to have to build a couple of them so that you can show people what you can do and that your first one wasn’t a one-time thing.

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What's the big dick for on the front bumper of the first truck?
It looks like a dinghy tow bar - for towing behind an RV? But that’s awfully big for something like that.
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Old 09-20-2016, 12:32 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I know it's not really something you can change, but the wood is a big turnoff for me. It screams high-maintenance and rot. If I was in the market for something in what I assume your price range is, I'd want metal or at least fiberglass. For comparison, my current expo-wannabe project is a 70s utility cap made of galvanized steel. It probably weighs 500lbs, but it's nice and sound 40 years later.

^Meant as constructive feedback. I like your designs and wish you luck with the business.
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Old 09-20-2016, 06:45 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Thanks for the feedback guys.

All is appreciated. This isn't an overnight success business, and we are still just getting the ball rolling, so I'm all ears. And appreciate it all.

Ive said before that if I do not secure a contract or two by the end of the year, Ill push to building another one. That is still in the plans.

As far as the wood-fear goes, Im well aware, and its a tough nut to crack.

Some people simply refuse to go wood. And that's fine, I wont try too hard to convince them otherwise. The rest are at least willing to realize or already know the incredible benefits, and are also aware that when done right, there is nothing to worry about.

Personally, I feel there is market enough to more than satisfy my handful of custom campers a year. Just have to break into that market.
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Old 09-20-2016, 10:45 PM   #12 (permalink)
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From the Promise section: " This starts wit the initial consultation, "

Slick website and design. Looks like NASA.

I'd personally like to see the construction advantages more prominent- epoxy paint, r-value vs a regular camper, weight savings, real wood vs particleboard, etc. But then, I'm just browsing. Maybe someone seriously shopping would get all that info consulting you.
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Old 09-22-2016, 03:22 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Looking at it from a business standpoint I would think you would need some examples of your proposed ideas. Perhaps you could build a couple different ones to take to shows. Better yet find a few people that you could offer a discounted (actual cost) unit to help break into the market.
I'm not sure on the "finished to your spec" idea. I would have a base line finish and modify from there. Have you thought of investors to help get started?
I think you need a product line for people to have a hands on experience.
I think the one you have done is awesome and the fact you want to build more of them is a great idea.
You will have to separate yourself from the mass produced units by example. We all know they are built as cheap as possible with crappy interior products. You are making rugged expedition type units.
camp on,
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Old 09-23-2016, 01:56 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Something to consider... ESPECIALLY for any box you build for folk with Cab Forward trucks and some other trucks (Plastic cab Unimog among them). Any cabs that crush easy.

Build into the first third or half of the box a solid roll cage. Don't put any travel seating in areas of box not under this cage. This will to some degree act like a ROP that the owner of truck should install anyway to protect their loved ones in box and cab. There has been too many deaths both civilian and military personnel to not to do this. There has also been many in a cab who survived similar large military truck rolls only cause the truck had a Command Box installed on back compared to same trucks rolled with troop bed. These boxes are sturdy and in effect acted a bit like a ROP for the cab.

Kill two birds with one stone. Well in this case..... save two birds with one stone. Cheaper alternative to those who want a box yet are wise enough to know that somehow they still have to incorporate a ROP into scheme of things.

This is the primary reason I will NOT use a typical camper box in my LMTV build.. I want that sturdy Comm box I choose to help save my and my friend or loved one's craniums and spines in case of a mishap.
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Old 09-25-2016, 12:40 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Thank you for the comments guys.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Subybaja View Post

I'd personally like to see the construction advantages more prominent- epoxy paint, r-value vs a regular camper, weight savings, real wood vs particleboard, etc. But then, I'm just browsing. Maybe someone seriously shopping would get all that info consulting you.
Copy that. Its something Ive been meaning to get around to. A comparison between construction methods I think is a valid point.


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Looking at it from a business standpoint I would think you would need some examples of your proposed ideas. Perhaps you could build a couple different ones to take to shows. Better yet find a few people that you could offer a discounted (actual cost) unit to help break into the market.
I'm not sure on the "finished to your spec" idea. I would have a base line finish and modify from there. Have you thought of investors to help get started?
I think you need a product line for people to have a hands on experience.
I think the one you have done is awesome and the fact you want to build more of them is a great idea.
You will have to separate yourself from the mass produced units by example. We all know they are built as cheap as possible with crappy interior products. You are making rugged expedition type units.
camp on,
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Im with you 100%.

I feel I do need more examples of my work, and intend to go that route this winter. Currently tossing around two ideas, either a fit-out and poptop conversion to a 4x4 van, or a trailer.

I have no intentions to build a big business, Im simply looking for a handful of customers per year that are interested in such custom units. So Im struggling to see the benefit of investors. What could I utilize them for?

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Something to consider... ESPECIALLY for any box you build for folk with Cab Forward trucks and some other trucks (Plastic cab Unimog among them). Any cabs that crush easy.

Build into the first third or half of the box a solid roll cage. Don't put any travel seating in areas of box not under this cage. This will to some degree act like a ROP that the owner of truck should install anyway to protect their loved ones in box and cab. There has been too many deaths both civilian and military personnel to not to do this. There has also been many in a cab who survived similar large military truck rolls only cause the truck had a Command Box installed on back compared to same trucks rolled with troop bed. These boxes are sturdy and in effect acted a bit like a ROP for the cab.

Kill two birds with one stone. Well in this case..... save two birds with one stone. Cheaper alternative to those who want a box yet are wise enough to know that somehow they still have to incorporate a ROP into scheme of things.

This is the primary reason I will NOT use a typical camper box in my LMTV build.. I want that sturdy Comm box I choose to help save my and my friend or loved one's craniums and spines in case of a mishap.

So to make sure Im understanding you....

You want ROL protection for the cabin, that shouldnt have people in it when traveling? Most cab forward units cannot have a pass-thru, due to engine placement.

Am I missing something??
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Old 09-25-2016, 01:07 PM   #16 (permalink)
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And anther thought- that Jeep popup is pretty unique, and the JK crowd spend stupid money... I could see a magazine spread on it pulling in a lot of interest.
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Old 09-25-2016, 04:52 PM   #17 (permalink)
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And anther thought- that Jeep popup is pretty unique, and the JK crowd spend stupid money... I could see a magazine spread on it pulling in a lot of interest.
Bingo. I think that's your silver bullet.
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Old 09-25-2016, 05:02 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Its settled then...

Which one of you want to lend me your jeep for a build?

Pricing will be EXCELLENT
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Old 09-25-2016, 10:26 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Its settled then...

Which one of you want to lend me your jeep for a build?

Pricing will be EXCELLENT
Talk to Fred. He wanted to put a pop up camper on his cummins jk.
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Old 09-30-2016, 01:30 PM   #20 (permalink)
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I know you're not a RV builder per se, but all these guys on here in the tow rig section slapping together crawler haulers where they put a box on the front of their goosenecks...maybe try to build something for that crowd. They're obviously a less spendy set of people, but if you were able to keep your overall box construction the same, but make the interiors far more spartan you might have a niche there.

Unfortunately, your stuff is too small and spendy for my needs, but I like browsing it for ideas and you do solid work.
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Old 10-02-2016, 11:06 PM   #21 (permalink)
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.... So to make sure Im understanding you....

You want ROL protection for the cabin, that shouldnt have people in it when traveling? Most cab forward units cannot have a pass-thru, due to engine placement.

Am I missing something??
Sorta lol . I was not referring to the trailer versions. They would Not have riders in them... my point is about the boxes that sit on chassis behind the cab. Having some ROP protection at the front end of those. Having that feature will reduce a trucks cab crush (not camper cabin).... In particular vehicles that need the addition of a ROP anyway cause the cabs are notorious for barely passing legal highway safety regs much less things that can happen offroad in a roll.... such as mentioned cab over styles.

Having more than just a front end ROP you might consider too. Check the regulations?? 100% of famlies I know in the RV world assume a person can travel in the camper portion of the box if it is one that sits on the chassis behind the cab. Actually, I thought that was required by law to have the camper cabin pass certain level of safety feature for riders in the Camper Cabin. Would assume Expedition rig would be classified as a motorhome and thus must be built to certain safety guidelines. Travel trailers did not have to pass same safety features as a motorhome cause no one rides in them and thusly its even illegal to travel inside them cause they lack those safety features.

When you think about it....... even if there is not legal regulations for on chassis camper cabins..... know dang well the kids are going to sit in the cabin during travel and not the cab. That's the typical RV way. And for you would be a huge selling feature. Folk with several kids would not have to get a large cab truck chassis to fit everyone. Reduces cost of truck chassis to be purchased. You might could make that a sale feature of one of your product lines.
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Old 10-18-2016, 05:17 PM   #22 (permalink)
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My $0.02 from a business perspective, not particular to campers:

If you're going to stick with plywood, I would look at marine ply and "stitch and glue" epoxy composite methods. Describe that it is the same construction as ultra high end sportfishing boats, is light and strong, and won't rot. They can also be repaired by anyone that works on boats if you hit a tree limb, tip over, etc.

If you want to build one every other year as a hobby, the full custom route is fine. If you want to make some money at it, you need to offer production models that will be your "bread and butter", and take full custom projects as they come as a perk.

I would offer models that fit short and long full size truck beds that will also drop onto a 4x8 or 5x10 utility trailer or even a gooseneck, which some guys on here might buy. Add a model that fits 4-door JK's if the demand is there.

Once you've got templates, solved all the design and fab issues, etc, you could crank out campers in 1/4 or less of the time than a full custom build.

Sell them at various stages of finish/features. A Level 1 would be a bare shell for the guys that want a dry place to roll out a sleeping pad and bag and use a Coleman stove and water jug, or guys who want to build out their own interior. If you could offer that for a full size pickup in the $5k range I think they would sell like hot cakes.

Level 2 could add a basic kitchen/bathroom, storage, and sleeping arrangements from a choice of 3 or so layouts depending on number of people and needs. I'd try to keep this one around $9k

Level 3 would be for people more or less wanting a typical RV with fancy cabinet doors, curtains, real furniture and the whole 9 yards. Sub $20k would be reasonable for this IMO.

I would attempt to use standard parts from Home Depot, Advance Auto, and West Marine stores as much as possible. Not only will it make it easier for people to repair on the road, but it will go a long way to ease worries about lack of dealers, the company going out of business, etc.

For price point and getting that first sale, you really need to build one and then list it for sale. This will also cut down on wait times, as a lot of people will want one now when they see it, not in a year or 2. It is easy to get significantly back logged in hurry as a 1 man operation with big projects.

Materials cost what they cost, you need to know the total amount so you aren't losing money or even worse, having to ask for more. You probably won't be able to produce an affordable product using an hourly labor rate, even if it was minimum wage on a completely custom job of that scale. This is why you need to develop patterns, templates, and systems to maximize efficiency. The first one is likely to be a zero-profit advertising investment, and you will make more and more money in the future as you turn them out more quickly.

For a Level 1, if you have $3k in materials and can turn one out in 2 weeks, you'd make $1,500 per week at $5k selling price. Same weekly profit for a Level 2 with $4,500 in materials in 3 weeks for $9k.

Selling plans for $75-$100 would also be a good stream of income. The guys who will buy plans and build it themselves aren't the same guys that will buy a complete camper from you, so you aren't losing out on potential sales. I also wouldn't price them a whole lot more than that, as you will probably sell 10 sets that will never be built for every 1 that will. Price them at $200-$300 and only the really serious guys will buy them. A copyright and licensing agreement will keep people from stealing them or building them for profit. It's common in the boat building industry.

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Old 10-28-2016, 10:34 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Thanks for the response Gator

All appreciated.


Not sure if you missed it, or if I simply havnt made it clear, but the entire plywood shell is 6mm marine ply, utilizing glass and aero-marine epoxy

I have no interest in going into large scale production. Plenty of other MFGs doing that, and I see zero benefit in simply reinventing the wheel. There are a few MFGs out there that do "custom" units, but they more or less optioned out base models. I'm offering the ability to build 100% custom units. Simple as that.

The interest is there, I've punched out another dozen quotes just this week. All were requests for truly custom units, that are not offered anywhere else in the industry in one way or another.

Im already plenty on track with costs, no fears there. Plenty of spreadsheets that Ive generated to not only calc costs, but also weights, and labor times. I have the numbers dialed in.

FYI, for "expedition" type or simply RV "specialty" type vehicles and campers, it is not unheard of to have YEARS of waiting lists. So far, potential clients have been 100% aware of this. That said, those are builders that take on more projects than they can manage. I'm only looking to build a couple a year.


Thanks again for the post
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Old 10-28-2016, 10:43 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Here are a few recent concepts that potential clients have had me work up...


70 series Landcruiser Ute Cab-Chassis


This one was spec'd out as an empty shell.






Hard-side pop top in a slide-in configuration


Spec'd out pretty simple. Interior completely finished out, but just the basics.






1-ton Crew-Cab Cab-Chassis Model


All the bells and whistles on this one, complete with diesel fired hydronic heat/water heat, stove, as well as full solar, 12Vdc fridge, wet bath, and composting toilet.



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Old 12-12-2016, 12:55 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Bump!

I might be looking to move the guts of my Fleedwood Angler to a new carcass. Do you have a ballpark price for a shell? The one I have now is for both a 6 foot and 8 foot bed and I'd like to keep that feature. I can get dimensions and other requirements if needed. I've reframed most of this camper already but don't really think it will last. Would be nice to swap everything to a clam shell design.

Great work!
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