Ohh No, ...another (l-o-n-g) U-Haul Toterhome Conversion thread! :( - Pirate4x4.Com : 4x4 and Off-Road Forum
 
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Old 08-09-2012, 04:21 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Ohh No, ...another (l-o-n-g) U-Haul Toter Conversion thread! :(

I have lurked here for awhile now and decided I should officially join today, ...and to also say Thank You. I wanted to be real brief in showing my U-Haul rig that we built to use transporting antique cars, that has now been commandeered by my son to transport his race car however that idea of being brief didn't quite work out!!

My story starts about 4 years ago when U-Haul announced they would sell their '89 IH/Navistar 'TH' 26 foot trucks. Since I live just outside of Bristol, TN, I called the local U-Haul store where they told me they had one on the lot for sale. Once I arrived at the lot and gave it a quick walk-around, I immediately got back in my car and left as it was WAY rougher than what I wanted to purchase. I then drove to Asheville, NC the following week because they had 4 advertised. Again, a quick inspection of those 4 made a short stay at that dealer too. After waiting a couple of weeks, I contacted the U-Haul repair station in Knoxville and told them how displeased I was with the selection I had seen. The explained they also had everything from "Fixer-uppers" to ones still being used that they could sell, and that I should come look as they had about 20 trucks on the lot for sale. The next day I took one of my employees with me and we traveled to Knoxville to have a look. When we arrived I introduced myself and then told the manager I wanted to see his best 2 trucks he had for sale. We looked at, -and test drove two trucks that were WAY better than anything I had seen. Both had records (books) in the cab and both were a toss-up as far as mechanical conditions go. The one we decided to puchase was missing the rear walk ramp, had an axle flange gasket leaking, and was missing a clearance lamp lens. By this time it was about 2:00 in the afternoon and we had not eaten any lunch yet. I was starving and wanted to get out of town before rush-hour traffic started, so I told my employee to offer them $5,000.00 and if they will take anything less than $6k, let's pay them and get out of town providing they throw in a ramp and a lens.

We went inside to the counter to talk with the manager again, and as I decided to go to the bathroom to wash my hands, I heard my employee say "We'll give you 3 for it." I about busted out laughing as I was walking because I just knew what that manager's reply would be, but the manager said "I will need to call the home office in Phoenix and tell them." By the time the manager had reached someone one the other end and given him the truck id number, I was back at the counter eavesdropping on the manager's conversation. I heard the manager say "Let me put you on hold for one minute" and he looked at both of us and said "Phoenix says they need to get $3,500.00 for the truck." Again, I am about to bust out laughing (because this is 2 grand less than what I was already willing to pay) when Larry (my employee) says "Nope, three thousand is all we got!" The manager gets back on the phone and tells them what Larry just said and I hear the manager saying " Yes sir, ...Yes sir, ...Ok, I will tell them." and then "Thank you" as he hangs up the telephone receiver. Again I am thinking the guy on the other end is saying Boys, its $3500 or nothing! Instead, the manager said "They accepted your $3,000 offer however they insist that you pay a $49 processing fee. Well, needless to say we agreed and I immediately gave them a credit card to pay for the truck along with the "processing fee". While the manager went outside to find a ramp, I turned to Larry and asked him do you think this thing will even make it home? He said I hope so, -Why? I said what do they know that would make them go from $7995 price to $3000 in less than one hour! Anyway, the truck did make it home without a glitch, and we then drove it on several trips as-is before we started the renovations.

Now if you are still with me, I'll be brief(er). Like others, then engine was maxed out at 63mph by a GPS and it was extremely noisy in the cab. I started looking for affordable transmissions that would have an overdrive too but I never found exactly what I was looking for until one day I passed a local junk yard that had several 2003 Ford E-450 ambulances outside that were being scrapped. I asked how much they would take for an automatic transmission (a 4R100) and they said $1,000 for the transmission or $1,000 for the entire ambulance hull which still had all the 7.3 mechanicals. Their reasoning was that the state of North Carolina has a law that when an ambulance is 5 years old (no matter the mileage), it must be decommissioned. They were scrapping them out for the aluminum so I gave them the price they initially paid for the entire vehicle. Needless to say, we then decided to also install the 7.3 Powerstroke engine, the transmission, all 3 computers, the steering column, the controls, and even the instrument panel assembly.

Now I have a truck that will run 85 mph if I can afford the fuel for it at those speeds. The only thing I have regretted this far is the truck originally came with a 4.56 rear gear and I decided to switch it out for a 4:33 ratio thinking it would increase the mileage slightly. My fuel mileage actually decreased by a small amount (less than a gallon) but I lost a small amount of low-end acceleration too that I really do not like. Not enough that it is an issue but for the trouble and expense we went through making the change, I was hoping for better. The truth is I can get 10mpg loaded if I drive 60mph. If I drive 70mph I get about 8mpg, ...and 75mph drops me back in the 6-7mpg range. I was hoping for 10mpg driving in the 70+/- range. Oh well, enough chatter so here's what I got:



Like everyone else, we painted the cab PPG Concept Strong White to "lose" the Orange.




It looked much better in fresh white paint:


This was a rendering of the initial plans which included a side door:


I purchased some RV windows off of eBay and we began the cutting in the sidewall of the box:




...and after with the windows finally installed:

Last edited by Simplex78; 07-22-2015 at 11:35 AM.
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Old 08-09-2012, 04:22 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Next we cut an opening in the front of the van body wall to access the backside of the truck cab:








Next I press-broke a piece of 16 gauge sheetmetal, and layed it inside to form the first mount. If you notice in the next picture we drilled holes into the door jamb lip. We plug welded the 16 gauge metal through those holes which made it really strong.:





Last edited by Simplex78; 07-22-2015 at 11:43 AM.
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Old 08-09-2012, 04:23 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Here is what it looked like once it had been trimmed some:





This is what we fabricated to make the upper connector.:


Next we drilled " holes through the van body and the sheetmetal on 6" centers around the perimeter and bolted the van wall to the sheetmetal. Then the nuts on the inside were tack welded to the sheetmetal in the event the van body ever needs to be detached. Next we sheared another piece to cover up the outside and this was welded to a lip on the inner 16 gauge, and to the side of the cab. A little body filler floated in the waves and covered our mistakes!!




After the cab was attached to the van body giving us a walk-thru, we used some 18 gauge sheetmetal and made side skirts with a 2" Ri on the bottom for the exterior. (also at that time we took that 'hideous' rear bumper off and just fabbed a receiver hitch for the back)

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Old 08-09-2012, 04:24 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Now back to the inside. We needed 17 feet of space for cars so that left us with 5 feet in the front of the box. The wall is 2x4 construction where the lower plate was glued to the aluminum decking with Liquid Nails. The side plates were glued to the FRP using the construction adhesive too. While some may not approve, we "tested" it after a car got loose in the back and rolled into the wall. Nothing moved so even with all the flexing the box makes, the adhesive seems to have done it's job!


For runners, I used 2"x2" angle iron and fabbed 24" wide runners that are 60" in front of the wheel wells,


...and runners that extend from just inside the back door up to the wheel boxes. The aluminum loading ramps were custom fabricated by us too and are 96" long.


Here are the aluminum ramps with the suspension bags lowered. (note this was taken prior to the rear bumper being removed!)



Last edited by Simplex78; 07-22-2015 at 11:53 AM.
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Old 08-09-2012, 04:24 PM   #5 (permalink)
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NOW comes the good part. This is the ambulance that we pirated the running gear out of.


First we removed the IDI 7.3:


...and the Spicer 5 speed:



...then we set the 7.3 Powerstroke in the rails where we could fabricate some engine mounts.




...and the fabricated brackets for the motor mounts (we used Ford E-350 O.E. rubber mounts)


Next came the time of sorting out all of the electrical from the donor vehicle. We actually used most of the electrical components from the van and interfaced them with the IHC wiring.:


Because we used all of the wiring, it seemed like a natural to use the O.E. Ford Van instrument panel too. First it was installed and then a faceplate was made to make it look like it belonged there.


Next came the time when everything was insulated (to cut down on noise & heat) and the new wiring installed. Notice we used the steering column out of the Van too which allowed us to use the ignition switch, the cruise control, a wiper switch, and even tilt wheel! Also the throttle assembly was used since this engine is "drive by wire" controlled.


This is the rear cabin area (for perspective, the diet Pepsi can is sitting on the driver's seat pedestal). We used 2x6 lumber for floor joists and glued them directly to the floor with Liquid Nails construction adhesive. Sound deadener panel board and foam insulation filled up the voids between the "floor joists" and is under the plywood decking. We used flexible plastic conduit to run the wiring under the floor, and I used extension cords of different colors to run the 120v and 12v power in the back so that it would be stranded wiring. The cut-out in the floor is for the auxillary air conditioner which mounts under a 78" RV couch that converts to a bed.


I also added a pressure regulator and gauge I purchased from Lowes and placed it in-line going to the rear air bags. Before it was set to fill the bags to 90PSI -which was bone jarring! If I am unloaded on a straight Interstate, I will run the air pressure at about 30-35 PSI, and increase it to about 40PSI if I am loaded, -or am on a curvy backroad. The twist style regulator is mounted under the driver's seat and is easily accessible going down the road. I mounted a 12 volt compressor underneath to supply the air for the bags. The compressor is like the ones kids use on their bagged mini-trucks.

I also installed a 120v power inverter under the couch so the kids can play games, watch DVDs, or use their laptops going down the road. I also installed a 3300 watt diesel APU generator removed from a 'salvaged' Freighliner class 8 truck that had burned for 120 volt power. It uses a 8hp Kuboto engine so it is pretty frugal on fuel. The cargo area has flourescent lights inside, and two 400w Quartz lights now mounted on the rear at the top. Two belly boxes from Tractor Supply and a 15 gallon air compressor are soon to be added along with an 8'x8' observation deck to be used at the race track.

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Old 08-09-2012, 04:25 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I could go on-and-on I suppose, but all in all, it does a great job for what I wanted. I will avoid any more boredom than you have already endured reading this thread, however I just say thanks again for all those who have freely given ideas and inspiration from previous postings about their toterhome builds.








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Old 08-09-2012, 04:46 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Impressive to say the least!
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Old 08-09-2012, 04:58 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Wow, that's nice! Do you have any pictures of the inside seating area finished out? Also, how has the auto held up when you're fully loaded? What do you weigh at your heaviest? Again, great looking truck!
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Old 08-09-2012, 05:36 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Love it.The skirting makes the truck..
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Old 08-09-2012, 06:24 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Cool beans!
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Old 08-09-2012, 06:27 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Old 08-09-2012, 06:41 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Awesome build, would love to see more pictures of the pass through.
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Old 08-09-2012, 06:54 PM   #13 (permalink)
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[SIZE="3"]I could go on-and-on I suppose, but all in all, it does a great job for what I wanted. I will avoid any more boredom than you have already endured reading this thread,
NO, no, please do go on and on! I am not bored at all!

The skirting looks fantastic.
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Old 08-09-2012, 07:04 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I can't even begin to tell you how much I love you right now.

Please do not hesitate to bore me some more with answering so many questions I have had as you did with your first posts.

The pass through and that skirting are amazing. I love what you did with cannibalizing that ambo. Now I have even more ideas than I originally had.

Using that steering column, I've been wanting a smaller steering wheel with tilt since the first day I bought mine. Hmmm, Powerstroke and a 13 speed?

A bunch of stuff blew up in my face today. I needed your thread. I'd also like to know what's the heaviest weight you've hauled.

Just WOW!!
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Old 08-09-2012, 07:11 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Very nice work.
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Old 08-09-2012, 07:19 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Impressive, the only down side is now I'm looking at U-hauls again.(I don't need another project.)

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Old 08-09-2012, 07:33 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Not boring at all...and I agree, the skirting makes the truck. It would be nice to the inside finished.

Then we can move on to all the toys!
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Old 08-09-2012, 07:45 PM   #18 (permalink)
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great build, and exactly what I had pictured in my head before I started my project. Interesting to see exactly what I had envisioned built by someone else, without ever having seen it.
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Old 08-09-2012, 07:47 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Can you tell me which style windows you used...this is on my list for mine.
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Old 08-09-2012, 08:04 PM   #20 (permalink)
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I'd like to see more pictures of the interior ramps if you have time, specifically the under sides of them. It looks like you haul much less weight than I am anticipating, but in all honesty, my design was way overkill in case I chose to haul something very heavy from time to time. I think yours would not only cost less, but would work just as good.
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Old 08-09-2012, 08:08 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Awesome build! not boring at all,please tell us more.
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Old 08-09-2012, 09:19 PM   #22 (permalink)
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I want one exactly like this!

Just need to find one!
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Old 08-09-2012, 09:37 PM   #23 (permalink)
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awww ... another one of them evil MDT U-hauls ... metard2 will definitely throw a fit

cool build... cool cars

bolting the cab solid to the box is a brave move ... but i guess if your staying mostly on paved roads it is not really a issue
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Old 08-10-2012, 03:39 AM   #24 (permalink)
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bolting the cab solid to the box is a brave move ... but i guess if your staying mostly on paved roads it is not really a issue
This was my initial reaction when I saw the pass thru area. How has it held up? Any noticeable issues?
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Old 08-10-2012, 03:58 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Nice Job

The skirting makes it look soooooo much better, nice score on the 7.3L Powerstroke, too.

Are all the old cars your too? That's quite the collection. Very cool.
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