Julie Greenwood and Ernie Buchanan have what might be the biggest truck camper rig on planet Earth. This is the story of how, and why, they built a Peterbilt semi truck camper.
From the moment we arrived at the North-East Truck Camping Jamboree in Gettysburg last September, folks were telling us, “Have you seen the big rig truck camper that’s here? You have to do a story on them!” This went on for literally two days before we walked over to see the rig everyone was buzzing about. When I finally saw it, I instantly said to Angela, “They’re right! We have to do a story on them.”
After the initial shock of seeing the rig in person, two questions were burning a hole in my cerebrum. First, how the heck did they do that? And second, why the heck did they do that? It’s one of those, “Wow! What? Why?” moments in life that intrepid journalists like ourselves live and die for.
Above: Ernie and Julie with their Peterbilt-Lance 1181 rig
Perhaps what’s most amazing is the rather rational answers Julie Greenwood and Ernie Buchanan had to our questions. Believe it or not, they have really good reasons that explain exactly why they built this seemingly insane rig. I bet any one of us in their position would have done exactly the same. Sound impossible? Well, that’s what makes this so much more than a monster truck camper story.
Above: The Peterbilt-Lance 1181 rig at the Gettysburg Campground for the North-East Truck Camping Jamboree – click to enlarge
TCM: Where did you get the idea to put together a Peterbilt-Lance rig?
Ernie: When we bought the Lance 1181 in 2010, it was about two years old. The previous owner had used the camper for only one trip.
Unfortunately, the camper had been in an accident. A pickup truck had hit the back of the camper impacting the sewer hose area. The original owner was a fabricator and repaired the camper with aluminum plating. We got a heck of a deal on the camper.
Above: The new rear bumper on the 2007 Lance 1181
At the time we had a one-ton single rear wheel truck. We originally thought we would go around the United States and Canada with that single rear wheel truck and the Lance.
Well, driving that truck and camper combination was miserable. The Lance 1181 was way too heavy for our single rear wheel truck. On one of our first adventures out, I told Julie, “This is the last trip with this truck. It’s dangerous and an accident waiting to happen.”
We returned home from that trip and started looking for a Ford F-550 dually. Before taxes, a nicely equipped Ford F-550 was $80,000 CAD ($70,000 US), bloody expensive and way out of our budget.
Above: The Peterbilt before modifications were made
That’s when we looked at our old Peterbilt truck sitting in our backyard, doing nothing. I didn’t want to sell it because it wasn’t worth much. That’s when I started thinking about a Peterbilt-Lance rig and thought, “Why not?”
Above: Peterbilt emblems – click to enlarge