Tom: A typical pickup truck has a lot of space consumed by the wheel wells and the body of the truck bed. With a flatbed, you have a big open flat space allowing for more interior space and more storage. The additional space also allows us to shift the center of gravity all the way forward.
Another benefit to a flatbed truck is that you can add storage under the flatbed. For example, storage boxes, propane tanks, spare tires, and even additional batteries can all be custom fit under the sides of a truck flatbed. This is something that most folks research and develop on their own.
TCM: Given how different the floor plan is for the Four Wheel Camper flatbed, were there any design challenges along the way?
Tom: Yes, there were huge challenges in designing this particular camper. Our typical camper is a simple layout, with the galley on one side and the dinette on the other. With the flatbed, we have the side door concept which meant we had to re-design the venting for the refrigerator, the furnace, and the water heater.
To accomplish that, we put the weight forward, and moved the heavy components to the front wall. Then we started working with the appliances and designed it out.
We knew we wanted the dinette in the back for weight and window space advantages.
It was an exercise on how to fit everything into a small space to fit the smaller domestic trucks like the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, or Dodge Dakota. This same design will also work on trucks all over the world including the Toyota Hilux, Nissan Navara, Mazda BT-50, VW Amarok, Mitsubishi Triton, and international Ford Ranger. We have dealers in South America, South Africa, and soon we will have one in Australia. Fitting the new model to trucks in those countries was a priority.
TCM: The flatbed we saw at the Overland Expo was called a Four Wheel Camper Fleet. It’s not the exact same footprint as the standard Fleet, so why is it called a Fleet?
Tom: We name campers after the size truck they will fit on. Typically, a Fleet camper will fit a short bed, mid-size truck, like the Toyota Tacoma. That’s the way we do our model organization. The Fleet flatbed is primarily designed to go on a Tacoma flatbed.
TCM: Which Four Wheel Camper models are available in a flatbed version?
Tom: The Fleet, Hawk, and Grandby are available in flatbed versions. Those three models cover short bed mid-size trucks, short bed full-size trucks, and long bed full-size trucks. Again, the Fleet is for short bed mid-size trucks, the Hawk is for short bed full-size trucks, and the Grandby is for long bed full-size trucks.
TCM: Why not offer flatbed designs for all Four Wheel Camper models?
Tom: We looked at building flatbed models for our smaller campers, but there’s just isn’t enough length or width to make it work. You need at least a short bed mid-size truck like the current Tacoma.
Above: The under bed storage in the Fleet flatbed camper
TCM: Let’s focus on the flatbed Fleet since that was the model at the show. What is special about that model in its flatbed version.
Tom: The way the concept developed makes it unique in a variety of ways. The three windows wrapping around the rear booth dinette give the camper a lot of daylight at the back. Another unique feature is the under bed storage. The overcab bed rises up on gas struts revealing a large storage area.
We are able to do that because of the height of the flatbed.