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Old 09-18-2004, 08:31 AM   #1
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How to Convert an Overlander to a Motorhome?

I have a nice 1966 Overlander that I would like to convert to a self-powered motorhome. I am good with mechanics and sheet metal. With the monocoque construction this would seem to be a possible task.

I would think that a truck chassis/drivetrain would work. The question I see would be getting a chassis that would be low enough to the ground.

I really like the old style, aluminum look and think that this could be a fun though demanding project.

Has anyone done this? Any links or directions would be helpful.

Thanks
Bill marsh
Atlanta GA
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Old 09-18-2004, 09:02 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woolygums
I have a nice 1966 Overlander that I would like to convert to a self-powered motorhome........
Why reinvent the wheel? Prior to the arrival of the aluminum Airstream Motorhomes in 1979, I could have imagined the desire to create a unique MH like that . The amount of labor and materials required could easily afford you to buy an Airstream MH with all the build-in functionalities. All the conversions I have seen so far were, lets say nice, but all seemed to have lost their 'Airstream' flair.
Other than the major structural issues, I would be concerned about the lack of generator, water and wastewater tank sizes and resale value.
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Old 09-18-2004, 09:33 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by PeterH-79MH
Why reinvent the wheel?
Why? WHY? Because its there! Because it's creative and unique!

Sure, it's been done before, but each one will be different. GO FOR IT!
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Old 09-18-2004, 11:39 AM   #4
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I'd have to agree with Peter on this one. I see the occasional stripped and gutted old airstream, which would be a good candidate for a frankenstein-like experiment, but I'd hate to see a nice old vintage trailer get cut up for something that might not work out. I'd say sell it and buy a real AS motorhome. Or even sell it and look for a shell you can do the deed to. Then when you get it worked out you'll have the enjoyment of building a custom interior for it too.

I read once about a company locally that buys the city busses when the city upgrades, and they said they sell almost all of them to people wanting to build their own RVs, but because of the complications of adding waste and water tanks, generators, lighting, etc, they seldom complete the conversion. It sounds like a cool idea, but I have to admit I rarely see a homemade bus conversion on the road, so I know it's not easy.

As for Chassis, I'd look at the Econoline, they're pretty low to the ground, and plentiful. You can get a pretty big engine in them too. There were posts here previously of a conversion like that done on a Dodge Caravan, but I hated the Caravan we had - had the most trouble of any vehicle we've ever owned. I certainly wouldn't use one for a project like that!
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Old 09-18-2004, 05:28 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterH-79MH
Why reinvent the wheel? Prior to the arrival of the aluminum Airstream Motorhomes in 1979, I could have imagined the desire to create a unique MH like that . The amount of labor and materials required could easily afford you to buy an Airstream MH with all the build-in functionalities. All the conversions I have seen so far were, lets say nice, but all seemed to have lost their 'Airstream' flair.
Other than the major structural issues, I would be concerned about the lack of generator, water and wastewater tank sizes and resale value.
Thanks Peter,

I understand it would be a lot of work. I enjoy doing things like this and have done some custom cars and motorcycles. I also have access to a junkyard with both cars and trucks.

However I will take a look for AS Motorhomes. I have not seen any of the aluminum MH for sale, and I do love the amulinum look. Granted I have not really looked hard.

Maybe I could better acheive my results with a project Aluminum MH.

Will search the forums.
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Old 09-18-2004, 05:43 PM   #6
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Armagaddon

I have no interest in the conversions that look like a Cadillac stopped suddenly and got rear ended by an AS.

I can't seem to find an AS MH like I am thinking about building. The kind of MH that looks like a vintage AS coach.

The kind that were in the movie "Armagaddon." They used these to ferry the guys to the shuttle.

I am sorry, but the newer painted models don't excite me like the original all aluminum skin models.

Were these production AS? In the movie? Am I dreaming?

Come back
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Old 09-18-2004, 07:15 PM   #7
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Here's a photo of a "motorhome conversion" and my old '85 325.

Roger
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Old 09-18-2004, 09:25 PM   #8
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airstream motorhomes with the shiney aluminum skin were made from 1979 until 1996. From 1974-1979 they made Argosy motorhomes, Airstream with painted skin. If you found an old bread truck which is the same chassis airstream used, and pulled off the body, mounted your trailer on it, redid the cockpit, added a windshield, and tightened it up so it would not rattle too much you would have your own version.

It waould be easier to dig a little and find a project AS motorhome that you could customize any way you wanted to. Check Airstreamphotos our other site, and look at 74Argosy24MH s project. It is quite a custom job.
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Old 09-18-2004, 09:32 PM   #9
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There was another conversion, a famous old one, that involved a VW bus and a smaller trailer grafted on. At least it looked like a VW bus to me, the front end might have been custom as well. Anyone got a picture of that one?
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Old 09-18-2004, 09:34 PM   #10
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Front wheel drive?

If I were considering such a project I think I would take a close look at some vehicle with a reasonably large engine and front wheel drive. If you could keep all the motorized stuff up front it seems like you could keep the rear axles of the trailer and the trailer frame pretty much as is. I could picture putting the engine, drivetrain, steering and front wheels in the front of the living room. The problem might be that it and the drivers seat might take up a lot of the living room space. You would probably want to put the front seats above the engine if you could find the space so that they would be close enough to the front. The challenge then would be to find an appropriate windshield that would fit the contour of the AS. I also don't know if there would be any issues with needing to have a drivers door right at the front or not.

It does seem like a lot of work but it also does seem feasible if you have the skills and energy to tackle it. Please keep us posted on what you decide to do.

Malcolm
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Old 09-19-2004, 04:35 AM   #11
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THIS IS A GREAT IDEA! Perhaps a Caddy Eldorado front wheel drive assembly. Could get a 300hp 4.6L, more HP probably with some tweaking, maybe a semi-tractor cab windshield.....

Meeting with "59Toaster" today to take a look at my inherited 1966 Caravel and the 1968 26 foot Overlander. See what it will take to get them to my warehouse.

Both were in good condition when Dad went in the nursing home about 5 years ago. I really like the little Caravel and will be doing some camping in it while working on the Overlander.

I know a guy that has a junkyard for semis......

This will take a while, but it REALLY sounds like fun! Gotta figure a little weight distrubution to be sure it would ride right. Might need to relocate the water tanks and add a fuel tank somewhere.

Right! Off to the drawing board and do a little engineering. A plan is beginning. Will keep you all advised.

Any ideas appreciated!
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Old 09-19-2004, 07:09 AM   #12
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Glad to hear some local guys are hooking up. I had seen an Overlander for sale in Marietta not too long ago but hesitated and missed out. My MH keeps me busy with tinkering anyway,though.Great fall weather for whatever outside work is needed.
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Old 09-19-2004, 08:09 AM   #13
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The GMC motor homes used the Toronado front wheel drive, stick with the first generation if you decide to go this way. The main reason they went out of production was when the vehicle line was down sized the drive train was no longer strong enough for the application. I wouldn' t count on using much else from the suspension, the weight of the mh will probably be twice the donor car so a frame will be needed. If you can find a scrap GMC mh it wouldn't be too hard to shorten the frame and you will get some cool rear tandem axles.

The easiest way to do the windshield will be pick the glass and make the body fit. The classic mh and Argosy would be a good start, the Argosy is narrower and will probably be easier.

John
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Old 09-19-2004, 08:28 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefrobrts
There was another conversion, a famous old one, that involved a VW bus and a smaller trailer grafted on. At least it looked like a VW bus to me, the front end might have been custom as well. Anyone got a picture of that one?
Here ya go Stef:

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Old 09-22-2004, 08:25 AM   #15
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Weight might be OK...

I have been thinking some about this idea. It occurred to me that the way an AS is balanced that most of the weight is carried by the axles. This being the case it might be just fine to use the entire front end suspension, steering and etc. from some donor vehicle like an early model Toronado. My thinking is that the amount of the original trailer weight that would end up being supported by the front suspension would be something in the range of the tounge weight of the AS before modifications. The main amount of weight that the front suspension would have to support would actually be the new stuff being added such as the engine and transmission. I think the tounge weight on my 31' is in the general range of 700 lbs which is only 10% of the total GVW of 7100 lbs. What would an engine and transmission weigh? Would it be as much as 1000 lbs? This strikes me as being within the general range of what a Toronado front end would have been designed to handle. What I don't know is if a Toronado front end is wide enough to place the wheels in a good position. Some compensation could be made using deep dish wheels I suppose.

Probably the biggest challenge would be to get the frame rails from the Toronado to attach to the frame rails of the AS. My AS frame rails measure 61.5 inches to the outside of the c-channel. I am guessing that the frame rails of a Toronado would be narrower but I don't know. Does anyone reading this have access to an older Toronado or something similar that they could slap a tape measure on?

Malcolm
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Old 09-25-2004, 03:48 PM   #16
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There was a trailor/motorhome conversion on ebay less than two years ago. It used an airstream trailor and a Toronado front wheel drive train. The ad also said oem panels and windshield, etc., were used to build it. Pictures looked much like an OEM motorhome. Opening bid was $5000 and it did not sell.

Question is: Would it still be an airstream after so much modification?
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Old 02-21-2006, 01:23 AM   #17
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Malconium took words right out of my mouth. I was driving north from Florida in the 80's and came up on a house trailer and something looked strange nothing pulling it.........as I came up beside it there up front was someone in a strange position driving and the FRONT END of an old olds toronado was sticking out from under the ront of the unit......... and strangley with some metal fab work it could have looked real good.... it certainly looked unique...Rod
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