Phase I: Wiring and Insulation
In this project, I decided at the beginning that the camper needed to have an independent electrical system from that of the rest of the truck. My camping trips usually take me out to campsites where they do not offer any hookups, so anything technological I use will need to be able to run off the battery. Not wanting to get stuck in the middle of nowhere, I decided that an isolated battery was a must in additional to all the other work.
In todays modern campers, the camper itself is equipped with a battery box and breakers to house and manage the batteries, for this camper project, that wasn't a possibility, as the truck bed makes up part of the camper and it is unsafe to house a battery in the same space as people will be traveling.
To compensate, I went "old-school." Back in the 1980s, camper's didn't not house batteries on board traditionally, at least was the case with my parent's 10' Dynacruiser. Instead, the batteries are installed in the engine compartment of the vehicle hauling the camper. For my truck, this entailed transplanting the camper wiring system from my parent's 1979 Chevy into my 1990 Dodge. The good part was that the wiring and electronic components all were after-market add-ons that were installed by the dealership that sold my parents their camper, so fitting them to my newer vehicle was easy.
However, my truck did not come with a second battery stand or for that matter a place to put one. As I mentioned back at the beginning of this project, I had just wrecked my Plymouth Acclaim about a month prior to owning the truck, Chrysler/Dodge has some interchangable parts between
So, from my parent's truck, I also removed the old battery stand and spent about five hours trying to fit it onto the wheel well of my truck. In order for it to fit, I removed the stock wiper tank & pump and transplanted the smaller tank and identical pump from my Acclaim and created a support for it to hang on the side of the battery stand. The ending result was less wiper soultion, but a place for a second battery. Now in the picture on the right is a view of the engine compartment with the second battery installed and the new wiper tank. For those of you who are more RV-savy, you'll note that I'm using a starter battery as my second battery instead of a deep-cycle. This is only because the battery in question is from my Acclaim, and I didn't (still don't) have the spare cash to go out and buy a good deep cycle battery. The red wire used in the engine compartment is 6 Gauge stranded wire and is covered in a oil resistant jacket. The ends have heavy duty screw-on brackets attatched with the joints between them and the wire heat-shrink wrapped to prevent wire corrosion.
Once the engine compartment wiring was done, the next step was to go to the wiring of the camper shell itself. For the Pullman Mini-Camper, I decided to run wiring for stereo speakers in addition to the wiring for the 12volt eletrical system. Sadly, I didn't take a picture of the interior of the canopy before I started the project, my enthusiasm drove me to work on it the very night I got the materials and simply couldn't wait to complete it. In the picture on the left you can see the wiring bundle sticking out of the center of the wall just above the seats. In the later sections, the overhead cabinet will cover that space with the back stereo centered just in front of the wiring bundle. The camper is fed with a length of 8 guage wire running from the circuit breaker in the engine compartment to the 6-pin connector used in the truck bed to make it possible to remove the Pullman if necessary.
Once all the base wiring was run, the next step was to insulate the walls. The tubing making up the structure of the camper shell is 1" box tube, so it was easy to fit 1" thick, aluminum wrapped yellow foamboard by Johns Manville in between the pipes to fill in all the open space. I used Liquid Nails Industrial Adhesive that comes in the caulking tubes to attach the cut pieces of foam to the walls and then all the seams were duct-taped off to help reduce any heat leakage through the gaps between the foam and the aluminum tubing. This insulation job gives the camper shell an R-rating of around 7. To help the camper insulate better and reduce some of the vibration, I used injectable expansion foam around the curved sections of alumnium tubing to help fill the large gap that was left by the builders of the canopy. It also served to hold the wires for the speakers in place till the paneling was installed. The foam was also used around the tailgate window where there was pieces of sheet metal that had been installed to hold the framing in place. The foam was injected behind the plates and down the sides to fill in all the cracks and make the rear a nice solid piece.