Friday, July 29, 2011

Project: Dually Conversion on the Pickup—Completed

Well, I can officially say that the dually conversion is completed!

In a marathon effort, I drilled, mounted, and wired in the marker lights on the fenders and in the center of the rear of the truck, coated the underside of the fenders and the enclosed sides of the truck bed with Rustoleum Automotive Undercoating Spray, and sanded and painted the ends of the axle tubes where they are visible in the center of the wheels.

So, where to begin…..

Let’s go with the order in which I did them Smile.

Clearance Lights

Perhaps the most tiring part of the job, given that I didn’t wrap it all up till 4am this morning, the marker lights I used are Parker Sealed LED marker light sold for $6.99 each at our local Stuart’s Auto Supply.

Since the D300 the fenders came off of had no marker lights, I had to make the wiring loom from scratch, taping into the feed wires from the tail lights on each respective side of the truck.

Passenger Side FenderDriver's Side FenderP1110146P1110147P1110155P1110156P1110151

I had originally planned to use a wider, more square marker light in my original plans, but changed course when I found the smaller, but similarly illuminated (Each marker light has two bright LEDs in them, in both the ones I used and the ones I had originally planned to use) that had a far more attractive shape and backing plate (Chrome wins over flat black plastic any day of the week Smile with tongue out).

I positioned the marker lights on the fenders by first marking the height down from the body crease based on the measurement of the distance between the crease and the front corner marker lights that were already on the truck.

Next, I calculated the change in height along the bottom lip of the fender to figure the distance up from the bottom to get a perfectly level line across the fender and made a mark.

Finally, I traced a using a piece of stiffer cardboard that I could bend to the contour of the fender to trace my positioning line.

The next part involved a little fiddling to see where the light fit best in the curve of the fender and as far out towards the outer edge of the fender as possible while keeping that fit. Once I was satisfied, I marked the drill holes from the base of one of the lights and replicated the placement for the other three marker lights.

Once the drill holes were marked and drilled, I made a larger center hole for the wires to pass through to the underside of the fender where I assembled the wiring loom and secured it inside plastic chaff guard to the underside edge of the fender with cable clamps.

After each fender was wired up, I tested the lights to make sure they functioned correctly before taping and papering off the fender to seal everything up in Rustoleum Automotive Undercoater.

The very last clearance light installed was the three red light bar, which I ended up securing to the lip on the top of the bumper, as there was enough clearance for the tailgate to function properly and saved the hassle of having to cut a notch out of the bumper.

Undercoating the Fenders and Painting the Axle Tube ends

Undercoating was a fairly easy, the most challenging part was laying under the fender and applying the spray without getting rained on by the overspray.

To protect the fiberglass fenders and the side of the truck bed enclosed by the fiberglass fenders, I used Rustoleum Automotive Undercoater.


This product comes in two versions, Regular, which costs around $4 and has a dry time of roughly an hour and “Professional Grade”, which is a little thicker, has a faster drying time, and costs $8 a can.

I used regular, mostly due to cash restraints.

Once the fenders were finished with their wiring and undercoating, I sanded the ends of the axle tube (The section of the hub that you tires go over when you mount them) to remove the mixture of rust and old white paint that was on there, then coated them with gloss black VMF Self-Priming Epoxy Paint.


For the time being, I’ve left the lug nuts alone. I don’t know if cleaning and repainting them will simply cause me problems later on trying to reinstall the lug nuts, or not, so for the time being I’m going to leave them alone.


The dually conversion of my truck has turned as extremely well in the end. There’s still a few minor details to wrap up, caulking the fender gap, installing appropriately redneck dually mud flaps, but all the major details are completed.

Sadly, it’ll be a while before I can really test the truck and camper out to see how it performs with the extra tires in back, so there will likely be a follow up post at some later date detailing how the truck handled.

Thanks to everyone that’s cheered me on and kept up with me during this major undertaking Smile.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Project: Dually Conversion on the Pickup—Cab Clearance Lights Installed

Well, another day, another little update. Managed to figure out a method of getting my measurements right so I could properly position my clearance lights on the cab of the truck.

I had a pleasant surprise when I unpacked the clearance lights to do the job today. Figuring that they were like RV Lights with a recess in the back to pack the butyl tape, I originally had planned I would need to caulk the bases to get them seal to the cab.

Upon unpacking them, I discovered the lights actually came with a nice thick rubber gasket on the bottom that clamps down firmly to the roof of the vehicle to seal it in place across the entire base of each light, so no extra sealant was necessary.

Getting the lights in place and marked with my pencil was actually easiest part of the project. The wire snaking project that came next was a test of my patience and ingenuity.

After several failed attempts at free-feeding the thin wire for the lights and having it go every way but where I wanted it to, I ended up having to use an old section of 8-gauge THNN as a wire snake to feed the section of 12 gauge wire for the positive leads from the lights (They were designed from the factory to ground to the sheet metal) through all five holes and down into the cab.

I tapped it into one of the front running lights to power them (just physically could not reach the head light switch, took half the dash apart in the attempt and tore up my hands good, but finally gave up and tapped into easier to access wire in the engine compartment.


P1110138After all was said and done, I decided to gas up the truck (buy dumping the generator fuel I’d been keeping in the tank), take a chance and drive her in tonight to get online.

My main motivation on driving the truck in was having to jump start myself off my secondary battery, left the passenger door open a little too long with the starter battery already being low from sitting for long periods of time with the radio slowly consuming its reserves.

After that little escapade, it was obvious to me that the battery needed charging and driving the truck was about the only way I was going to get it done (I don’t have a free standing battery charger, yet).

Once I procure the 5 additional clearance lights I need (4 for the fenders, 2 amber, 2 red, and one 3 light strip for the center of the rear), I will have completed all of the major work in the dually conversion.

If some how I can managed to round up some gas money in August (provided work doesn’t come through with a contract for me), I’ll load up the camper and take her out to the Columbia River Gorge to ride a trail that was made from an old section of the Historic Highway 30 that was recovered a while back.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Project: Dually Conversion on the Pickup—Fenders Primed, Painted and done

Well, the fenders are finally white!

My luck, being what is, its been raining on and off and down in the 60s since my last entry, preventing any painting work on the fenders, until today, that is.

Today, the weather was clear, the wind was calm and the temperature was 75, ideal painting conditions!

So, after slathering myself in SPF 50 sunblock and 40% deet bug repellent, I papered up the sides of the truck, pulled 50 gallon garbage sacks over the tires and got those fenders, primed, painted and clear coated.

The direct sun and warm temperatures sped the drying process of the paint, coupled with fast-drying Rustoleum Automotive Primer, I had the fenders finished in under three hours.


Here’s the finished product from the passenger side. I managed to get the tape off from around the fender on this side today, but decided to let the paint harden more before I attempted to take the tape off the drivers side.

The white will never be a perfect match to the existing paint job, shy of going to a professional paint shop where they can age-match the paint, one has to just settle for close-enough when working with a rattle can.

P1110131Looks good to me, and that’s really what’s important Smile with tongue out.

I still need to get the tube of white automotive sealant out to lay a bead along the edge between the fender and the truck bed, as while they’re a perfect contour match now, they’re not glued together, so a bead of sealant will be needed to keep road spray from coming up between the truck bed and dually fender.

As I was saying, driver’s side still needs me to come along with my sharp razor knife to clean cut the edge along the truck bed and remove the last of the painters tape so that it’ll look as nice as the passenger side.


Last, but not least, a nice from-the-front shot of my “new” dually Smile with tongue out.


Next up, adding all those extra pesky clearance lights! Well, that and finding those oh-so redneck appropriate rear mud-flaps.

Technically, if I’m reading the DOT laws correctly, I don’t need the extra marker lights, my truck is only 94” wide and the extra marker lights are supposedly not needed unless your 102” or wider, but given that I seem to have the worst luck when it comes to LEOs, I’ll just spend the time adding the extra clearance lights Winking smile.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Project: Dually Conversion on the Pickup—Fenders sanded and ready for primer and paint

Well, small update today Smile. I am thankful to God for putting as good a neighbors as I have right now at the RV park in site 4.

So, today, I went about sanding the fenders. I started out working on the passenger side fender using what I had available for sanding tools, a foam hand sanding block and a package of pre-cut pieces of 60 Grit sand paper.

Lemme tell you what, hand sanding down glass bondo sucks.

I ate through most of my sand paper hand sanding the passenger side fender and it was looking like I wasn’t going to get much further today.

As I was sitting in the screen room patio giving my wrists a rest, my neighbors came home from their daily outing. We exchanged friendly greetings and waylaid them with the woes of my undertaking.

A few minutes later, as I was adding a fresh coat of 40% deet bug repellent to the interesting cake of fiberglass dust, dirt, sweat, sun block and the last coating of deet, my neighbor came back out and dug around in his motorhomes storage compartments until he produced a Dewalt oscillating sander and an extra package of 3M “Sandblaster” 60 grit sand paper.

With many thanks for the loan, I finished sanding both fenders down in under an hour and a half, doing both the coarse and fine sanding the glass surface needed to ready it for primer and paint.

The fenders are now a nice even surface with only the mismatched colors of the bondo-glass and the old fiberglass fenders showing where the fenders had been worked, I still haven’t worked out what the devil the original paint color was before somebody repainted that poor old donor truck purple.

Driver's Side FenderPassenger Side Fender

Providing the weather holds out tomorrow, it’s been threatening to rain all day today, I will have the fenders primed, and ready for their color coat of paint (which will have to wait another day till the next unemployment check shows up so I can buy the can of white rustoleum I need and some timber to do another beefing-up project to the camper’s tub (I already have a can of Rustoleum Automotive primer and the clear coat, just no regular white).

Once the fenders are painted, I can lay down a nice bead of sealant along the edge of the fender and the truck bed, the fenders are a perfect contour match, but not water tight.

I will need to wait till I can head back down south to visit family with the truck to spray on the rubber undercoater (Also made by Rustoleum) to the underside of the fenders and the truck bed, that and I want to get the marker lights wired in and the wires epoxied in place before I coat everything in undercoater.

Some have asked about her first trip. Sadly, I doubt she’ll be on the road with the camper aboard until September at the earliest, possibly October for the 2011 Fall Colors Rally.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Project: Dually Conversion on the Pickup—Swing Out Brackets on the Camper & Fenders bondo-ed

Well, its been a little over a month since I’ve been able to make any headway on my dually conversion project.

When I left off, the fenders had just been bolted on and the truck was driven home after a couple test drives to confirm that the brake shoes in the rear were at the exactly correct position.

Since then, the truck really hasn’t moved other than to be moved out of the way to mow the grass.

Now, that has changed Smile.

Over the last couple days, I finished a couple tasks on this project.

First, I got some old Hi-Jacker swing out brackets off of craigslist for $100. Took them over to Terry’s, had him beef up them up a bit, painted them white and then bolted them on the camper.

Discovered that the stock swing out brackets only gave me 3/4” between the jack and the dually fender to load and unload (Truck is 94" wide, Camper with the stock swing-out brackets was 95 1/2" between the jacks). I’d much rather not have to perform a NASA grade maneuver every time I go to load, so a few weeks later, over the fourth of July weekend to be exact, I returned down south and had Terry cut me two 3” wide x 14”tall x 3/16” thick hunks of plate steel, which I drilled, painted and then bolted onto the swing out brackets and onto which I bolted the jacks.

I now have an 1 1/2” of additional clearance on each side to squeeze my truck through. I’ll still need to watch, but the tolerances are nowhere near as tight Winking smile.

Now, all I need to do is call Jay over at Torklift and get the parts I need to make those Wobbl-stopprs hinged at the jack mount point, and I should be able to slide under the camper as smooth as greased lightning Smile with tongue out.


The next thing I did was used the majority of a can of Bondo-Glass to fill in any gaps and imperfections in the fenders so that they are now perfectly matched to the truck’s body. The bondo was still tacky when I left to write this blog entry, so I’ll wait till tomorrow before attempting to sand the fiberglass down smooth.

Passenger Side FenderDriver's Side Fender

I also took this full truck view picture as I realized there wasn’t really a good set back view of the truck with the fenders installed.


Please forgive the smudge in the center of the lense, had no clue it was there until I went to upload the pictures!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bud Mitchell, a Truck Camper Legend Passes…..

In Memory of Bud (Charles) Mitchell, one of the true Pioneers of the Truck Camper Industry…

Clattertruck's 1968 MitchellFor those that have been around the Truck Camper scene long enough, will remember the Mitchell & Sons Truck Camper company.

The name of the company, Mitchell and Sons, comes from the company starting as a joint endeavor, headed by Harry Mitchell Sr., when started by building a small camper for himself. Other people soon wanted Harry to build one for them.

The operation grew and in 1961 the company moved from Henderson CO to a larger facility on 64th Ave in Commerce City in 1961.

The sons came to manage the business. Mick (Harry B.) was the CEO and Bud (Charles R.) ran the marketing/ sales. Mitchell and Sons, Inc. built excellent campers and the firm was the largest in the area. They sold factory direct to the customer. Their line up started with Truck campers and eventually came to include chassis-mount motor homes, 5th wheels and a small trailer with slide out beds, being perhaps the first with slides.

The company survived the oil embargo of 1973. By 1976 they had sales outlets in Albuquerque, Pueblo, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, and Commerce City. They were the largest RV manufacturer in the US to sell factory direct to the customer. Things were looking good for the business, but disaster struck on March 15th, 1976 when fire broke out at the factory. The damage was severe. They were able to continue on a more limited basis for a while.

Shortly after the fire, the 1978 oil problems brought huge fuel costs and the market went down hill. They left the RV business about 1980.

The company is now run by Bud Mitchell's nephews, Steve and Dave Mitchell, and producing mobile-home patios.

Bud (Charles) passed away on July 1st, in addition to his wife, daughter and brother, Mitchell is survived by sons Carl Mitchell of Arvada and Craig Mitchell of Brighton; daughters Carol Prater of Westminster, Cheri SaBell and Cindy Bittner, both of Lakewood, Cayttie Heister of Minot, N.D., and Chloe Hodges of Lakewood; 30 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.

Bud Mitchell Obituary from the Denver Post

History Synopsis of the Mitchell & Sons Camper company and picture of 1968 10ft Mitchell Truck Camper from Clattertruck on