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It's a great time for RV modifications

We've all got a lot more free time on our hands right now. So, it's a great time to make some renovations and/or modifications to your RV. We recently spoke with Boondockers Welcome host and guest, Acme71, about the extensive modifications he's made to his two rigs. Get ready, this is a post for all you gear-heads!

What sort of modifications have you made to your rig and why?

We have two rigs that we currently use. The modifications for our 36' Gulfstream EnduraMax Toyhauler include -

  • We installed two more water tanks (total capacity of 240 gallons).
  • Installed a C-Head compost toilet (tried Nature's Head first) and took out the blackwater system.
  • Added a similar greywater recycling system as in our primary coach (see below).
  • Took out the gasoline Generac generator, added 1200watts of solar and a Volta Power System with its second high volt/amp alternator driven from the coach engine, and 1200 amp Li-Ion batteries. Now if running the AC the coach engine auto starts up to 6 times in a row (after that you have to press reset) to run everything while it recharges the batteries. If we don't need AC then the solar panels seem to be enough.
  • We also installed three high bunks on both walls of the garage area that fold when we have motorcycles in. So, together with the king-size bed over the cab, the dinette/bed and sofa/bed we can easily sleep 12 with the garage area empty.

So this one is kind of our family party coach. But it still has the original propane furnace and cook-top everything else is now electric.

A more interesting project was our 1978 GMC Classic Class A motorhome, except for the body nothing is left original. Modifications include -

  • I started by taking the body off and then building a new heavier gauge custom frame.
  • I added a 4 bag air ride system on the rear and an air over torsion bar on the front. This makes it so no step is needed. At road height it's just 14" from ground to the floor, but then in 2 seconds it kneels to park mode and the floor is 9" off the ground.
  • The floorplan is now a toyhauler where we can carry up to 5 motorcycles in the garage area.
  • I took out the Oldsmobile 403cid engine and installed a new GMC 8100 engine purchased from Mercury Marine. I added twin turbos that can run at full boost over 750HP but at lower boost (510HP) the modern fuel-injected engine gets about 2mpg, better than before so I average 13mpg.
  • I installed another steering wheel and controls on the "passenger side" so it's easy to change drivers, one just walks away.
  • All modern electronic system ideas were pulled from Tesla and from high-end yachts. So, all our instrumentation is handled by a centrally located 22" monitor. That coupled with two other touch screens around the coach not only handles all the vehicle gauges but also solar panels, battery levels water tanks and all.
  • The framing for the bed, dinette, bathroom walls, cabinets, counter-tops, and overhead storage cabinets are made from a structural motor-racing roll cage material making the coach probably the safest in the world. It would easily survive most rollovers and makes it much more crash resistant for impacts from the side or any direction.
  • All windows are double-paned with 1.5" gap for super insulation levels, and added an extra 3" of polyurethane foam insulation to the roof covered in one piece of fiberglass, then marine walk-on solar panels glued to that.
  • We have a custom (I borrowed design features from several types) made compost toilet and recycling greywater recycling system. March 2018 the three of us did a 27 day off the grid boondock trip, our water meter showed we used 1700 gallons of water for shower, laundry (marine combo washer/condenser dryer), and washing up, but our tanks only dropped 35 gallons. So that means our grey water was recycled about 40 times. During that same time, we also consumed about 30 gallons of drinking/cooking water from separate tanks. I pulled 3 water samples, sent them to a lab and found them to test at better quality than our purchased drinking water. So, it works very well but we still keep drinking water separate in the case of some problem.
  • Then for power, this coach has 2400 watts of solar, 1200 watts of marine walk-on panels to the roof and 1200 more on 4 foot slide out awnings on each side when parked. We have 1/3 of a Tesla automobile battery pack about 30kwh 360v storage that runs through two 3,000 watt and one 1,500 watt true sine inverters.
  • We have a Truma in-floor heat system that is also the instant on-demand water heater. This coach is all electric even our BBQ grill is a Weber Q Electric.

How have these modifications helped you camp the way you want to?

It's great to never hookup to electric, have no black water system, and only dump our greywater for storing the rigs. But I think the biggest way is that before the recycling greywater, to keep family peace, we needed to go to a regular campground with hookups or a motel every 10 days or so as my wife really wants her long showers. Now she can shower as long as she wants and not have to think about water but it's actually our 9-year-old son who is often found in the shower for 45 minutes at a time playing.

What are the must-have gadgets needed to modify and/or repair your rig for boondocking?

  • A compost toilet
  • Lots of wheel travel on the air ride suspension for stable comfortable ride and road safety.
  • Room to carry a wide variety and lots of toys

Any advice you want to give to fellow RVers?

  • First, get rid of the smelly pain in the you know what black water system and install a compost toilet. After using several I recommend the C-head.
  • Then I think a Volta Power System or similar. I wouldn't bother with solar again as these systems work so well and we like to park in the shade as much as possible.
  • Endless hot showers are a big plus too.

I know you are both a host and a guest, how has being a member of Boondockers Welcome enhanced your RV life?

Being a host has been fun especially when we happen to be in the U.S. and near our Texas property. I have really enjoyed meeting guests hearing their stories and repairing, or helping, them modify their RVs. We haven't gotten to use the guest part yet but we are moving to the U.S. this summer and plan to be on the road 6 months or more and have already looked at some interesting host sites.

These are such great ideas of how you can customize your rig. Do you have other tips or modifications you would like to share? We'd love to hear from you!

Comments

  • Poopsie

    Poopsie  

    Wow! What you've done is amazing. Thank you for sharing this.
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