House truck build diary!

acecard

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Sep 8, 2019
Hi all,

Not been on here for a while as I've been frantically running around and working flat out, all just to get the truck through it's MOT! Not even made a dent in the build yet, but I can breathe out a bit as the old girl passed! Got a load of pics and a couple of stories to tell about the whole experience so reckon the best thing is to start a build diary so you guys can see my progress! Watch this space!!......
 

acecard

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Joined
Sep 8, 2019
So, at the end of September, and after much, much planning, we took the plunge and bought a 7.5t dropwell luton! The plan is to spend the next few months converting it (planned for 10 months in total), move in, and then rent out the bricks and mortar, essentially making the truck our home so that we can travel around the UK and Europe (I've been doing a lot of research to understand what we need to do in order to still be able to travel successfully around Europe once, or even if, Brexit happens!). We have 2 kids that will be school age and so we will be home-schooling them, and we feel that this will be a fantastic experience for them!

It's 30ft long, including the overcab, and is currently 12ft 3in tall (although the plan is to extend up 6in to make the sleeping areas a little more useable, rather than just being able to sleep in them!). I say them as this will essentially be a 3 bedroomed conversion! The wife thinks I'm a bit mad, but she'll be thanking me when the kids are trying to rip each other apart and we can simply shout "Go to your room!!" LOL!!! Other than the 3 bedrooms, there will of course be the usual shower, toilet, kitchen and living room, but one thing that is very important for us is to have a storage space for bikes; the dropwell gives the added height for this. I found a great little internet app to design the interior called Home.by.me. It's free and allows you to design in 3D! Did I mention that it's free?! Although it is a little buggy so this can be annoying at times. But it has been a life-saver! I am on iteration 15 of the design, and it is frozen now, so NO MORE CHANGES!!!

As you can see from the photos, the body looks a little beat up, but that didn't bother me as I was going to be beating that about anyway! The only issue that I saw at the time was the exhaust silencer box being corroded, a bit of corrosion on the dropwell frame (more on this later!) and an intermittent ABS light (more on this later!).
 

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acecard

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Sep 8, 2019
You may notice that this monstrosity is parked on the road outside my house!...........Yes, I am in fact converting this on the roadside! Can I really be doing that?! Well, thanks to some great neighbours whom I've gotten on well with for the last 5 years, the answer is YES! In fact, in exchange for supplies of beer and cider, the neighbour who lives closest to the truck has let me plug into his electric supply for use of power tools!!! Of course, I did ask most of the people it would affect before it was delivered. I've had no complaints thus far other than someone calling the police to say that the rig wasn't taxed or insured (it was!). The police were great, and even came back the very next day with more of their colleagues to chat to me about my project!!!! Couldn't have asked for more than that! Oh, and one more complaint because I had the grinder out at 10am one Sunday morning........to be expected really!!!
 

acecard

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Sep 8, 2019
Upon further inspection under the truck, I realised that the "bit of corrosion" of the dropwell frame was actually a LOT of corrosion! Knowing that this thing was going to be housing a decent amount of weight a foot traffic (not to mention the fact that it would have been an MOT failure in that condition), I decided to cut out the rusty bits and get it all re-welded. The cause of the rust was the box no longer being weather-tight due to it being knocked about at the rear end and the silicone seal no longer being in tact along most of it's length. So not only was there lots of rust underneath, but the floor was also rotten at the edges.
 

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acecard

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Sep 8, 2019
Queue the plunge saw! Floor needed to come up in order for me to get the frame welded, but also so that I could lay new flooring! Only issue was that the screws holding the floor down were so rusty that I couldn't unscrew them.......I had to cut around every one and twist them out with the wood in place! VERY time consuming! At this point, I should say that I had bought the truck with only 1 month's MOT on it, and in order to be able to keep it on the road, I needed to get it MOT worthy ASAP! So it was a race against the clock!
 

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acecard

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Sep 8, 2019
Rear roller door and ramp cut out, dropwell frame cut out and rebuilt (even managed to set myself alight in the process with all the metal cutting and grinding!), and the entire frame coated with Hammerite No. 1 Rust Beater..........never has there been a more boring task than painting a 24ft truck frame!!!!! Pleased with the look though! I spent about a week on the grinder, and noise was horrendous! I feel SO sorry for my neighbours but they were great! The only complaint I had was when I got the grinder out at 10am one Sunday morning!!! Eek!!! The next task was to fit the new floor, refit the rear lights that I had cut off, rewire them, and then get the back wall built, all within a few days!........
 

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acecard

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Sep 8, 2019
So......the floor! The rotten floor I cut out was 18mm phenolic coated plywood, which is EXPENSIVE (proper truck stuff is like £60 per 2.4 x 1.2 board of 18mm!). I went through various stages of trying to find cheaper options (e.g. buying normal plywood and fibreglassing it, buying thinner stuff, using cheaper OSB rather than plywood etc.). I finally accepted that I would have to spend a bit more as all these options seemed like a false economy, especially considering the time (or lack thereof!) and the fact that I wanted it to be robust enough to support the weight! I found some 18mm phenolic plywood used for concrete shuttering @ £33 per board......BARGAIN! Ordered it and threw it down! A few things kind of bothered me about this, but I didn't really have the luxury to make too much of a big deal about it. One, the phenolic finish of the boards wasn't very good; clearly cheap because of the quality, however I thought that it wouldn't matter as the base floor wasn't going to be visible. Two, the internal width of the truck is 2.5m and these boards came as 2.4s..........annoying, but again, as this wasn't going to be seen I thought it would be ok to just fill the edges with expanding foam (BODGE!!!). Finally, as I was in a rush to get the floor down in time for the MOT, my cutting was rough.....very rough! But again, this floor wasn't going to be seen! It would do, I suppose!

Note the weird slatted hole in the floor......these are strips I had welded in to accommodate the extra seats in order to make the truck a four seater!
 

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acecard

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Sep 8, 2019
It was clear I wasn't going to get the rear wall built, but I found out that I could get it MOT'd as an open back truck! Great!

The day before the MOT I spent fitting the lights and rewiring them. Rushing around, I ended up drilling the light holes in the wrong place on my freshly welded rear end! DAMN IT!! Something to sort out when I'm not in a mad rush! Metal filler maybe?!
 

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acecard

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Sep 8, 2019
31st October was Judgement Day! The reason I was getting so worked up about this MOT was that MOTs for vehicles still registered as commercial are a PAIN IN THE ARSE! For starters, only DVSA agents can do them. Secondly, they are only once a week at my local place and get booked up quickly. Thirdly, if it fails you can be issued with a form that won't allow you to take the thing back on the road. Fourthly, I have nowhere to store it other than on the road, and finally, if it were to fail, I would be looking at 2 weeks before I could get a retest!!! So quite important for it to pass!!!! LOL!

Test was booked for 11am, and at 9.30am I was still wiring up lights! Then, on the way there (my old man drove it as I still don't have the licence!) the intermittent ABS light that hadn't shown it's face for a month suddenly popped up!!! Instant failure looming! We got to the test centre and I had a word with the garage owner (not affiliated with the DVSA) what could be done and he told me that as long as it didn't come on during test, I'd be ok!! He advised me to turn the thing on and back off again and low and behold, the light was gone!!! Off and on again fixes everything in life!!! Truck sailed through and I now have a years ticket on it!!!

Oh, and the front and rear brake test gave a weight of 4770 kgs, so now I know what I have to work with! Stopped by another weighbridge on the way home which confirmed this.
 

acecard

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Sep 8, 2019
With the MOT out the way the next thing was to get the rear door on, but before that, I had to pick up some patio doors that I had bought from Facebook Market place and arranged to pick up that following Saturday. The only problem was that the frame for the doors was glued as one piece and I didn't fancy cutting it up to get into a smaller van. "I know, I have a 7.5t removal truck.......lets drive that down there!". One of life's stupid mistakes, although a bit of a blessing in disguise!

The weather was horrendous! Torrential rain and high winds....not fun in a high-side, unladen truck on the motorway! Plus, I still had an open back, and for some stupid reason, I thought that the rain wouldn't get into the back too much. Oh how I was wrong! £70 of fuel later, with a swimming pools worth of water in the back, I had some patio doors for the truck, but the floor didn't hold up so well! The water caused a load of delamination of the ply layers and flaking of the phenolic resin! I was seriously pi**ed off, but on the bright side, I learnt something, which was better discovered now as opposed to later. That was that the cheap boards I had bought to do the floor because I didn't want to spend the extra on the proper stuff was ABSOLUTE JUNK!!! It shouldn't have fallen apart like that!!! Thought I'd chance my luck at a full refund for the boards, which I somehow blagged!!!! I then choked up the extra and bought some really good quality truck flooring from Aalco for an extra £200 in total. Well worth it. Not only is the quality phenomenally better, but the boards also ship in 2.5m lenghts, meaning I could have them go all the way across the truck width without having to worry about bodging the edges with expand foam! Moral of the story.....cheaper is NOT better!

A week later, I resold the patio doors on Facebook (to a couple who live up the road from where I picked them up from!!!) because I couldn't be bothered with all the paint stripping that was needed! LOL!!! Bought some oak doors to replace them!
 

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acecard

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Sep 8, 2019
I lost a weeks worth of time ripping up the junk floor and refitting the new one (gave the old boards to my neighbour for a project of his), but the difference is incredible! Not that anyone will ever see it though! But I will know it was done properly! I then sealed the joins with silicone to stop water ingress as the roof is still leaky, but some water has gotten on these boards and they hold up perfectly!

Notice the little desk in the truck?! This is for my 8 year-old daughter who we home-school. She helps me on the truck project for a couple of hours 3 days a week, which is an amazing source of educational material (maths, science, practical skills etc)! She is loving it, although she's not so impressed of late being that it was well below 0 degrees this week!
 

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