Above: The Mitsubishi Fuso with the old steel flatbed and tool boxes
I bought the truck and drove it back to Oregon. Let me tell you that an empty Fuso is not fun to drive. It’s built for 14,000 pounds (GVWR), so it really lets you know if it doesn’t have any weight on it.
Once I got home, I stripped the Fuso down to the frame. I cleaned buckets of rocks, dirt, and grime out of it but no rust. Then, I started looking for new bed for it.
TCM: Last year you told us you had spent more time building the truck than you had camped in it. Tell us how the build up went from that point.
Dick: My wife, Robin, said that the project really began when I finished building my shop and it continues to be an endless project. I now have a separate building I can work in. My dad was a shop teacher, so I’ve been around construction and building things my whole life. I have a degree in Construction Engineering Management from Oregon State. I have also worked for thirty years in commercial construction working on schools, libraries, hotels, and high rises. I can weld, do metal work, carpentry, and whatever. That’s the good news. I’ve got the tools, equipment, and background to do it so I have been able to do most of it myself – it just takes awhile.
Above: The aluminum bed and storage boxes installed. The camper still comes off and Dick still uses the truck as a flatbed. He moved his daughter back from school in the pouring rain and hoped that this chair would fall off the truck. It didn’t. He was towing a U-Haul trailer as well.
I found an aluminum bed on sale at a local trailer sales company. It was sitting on the corner of their lot. Actually, that’s a funny story.
I talked to the sales guy about buying the aluminum bed. It was the end of the month and he wanted to sell it. I told him that if he could help me take off the steel bed, then I’d buy the aluminum bed. He said to wait a minute. Then his boss left and he said, “Yeah, we’ll help you take it off.”
As soon as the boss left, he took the forklift and took the steel flatbed off. I kept some of the subframe because it was hard bolted on to the chassis.
It took four to five hours to get the steel bed off and the aluminum bed on. I got home and took it off again and took it apart. Then I started building the subframe from there.
Above: Dick built a subframe that is isolated from the chassis by six springs. It is fixed at the rear of the chassis using the old bumper assembly from the old steel bed. Note the oak cushion between the chassis and subframe. The load is evenly distributed to full length of the lower portion of the truck frame.
The subframe is the secret sauce. I have read everything I could find on chassis mounting and frames. I ended up with a spring mount. The design is out of Australia. The spring mount system was developed for Australian tanker trucks. Just like we don’t want to twist a camper, they don’t want to twist a tank, so they spring isolate them. The concept is right out of the regulation book from Australia.
Above: Springs installed and partially flexed. Load is resting full length on the other side of the frame. The frame rail on the high side drops out from under the subframe. Bolts and springs as well as the rear attachment keep it all lined up.
The subframe is isolated from the chassis by six springs and fixed at the rear of the chassis using the old bumper assembly from the old steel bed. In the photographs, note the oak cushion between the chassis and subframe. This provides a cushion between the subframe and the chassis.
I installed the sub-frame and bolted on the flatbed then mounted the camper. Then I jacked the truck at opposite corners to fully flex the chassis and measured the deflection at the spring locations so I could size the springs. I also measured the height under the overhang of the camper so I could size the cross bed aluminum box. When the truck was going through the mogul field at the Overland Expo the overhang looked like it was hitting but it never did.
Above: Measuring spring length