Oliver Factory Tour - Page 2 - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-19-2007, 09:22 AM   #15
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I'm interested in the body mount too. How about the sub-floor, what material is it made out of plywood, pressboard? Is it encapsulated in fiberlgass like casita, or bolt on top of the frame like most stick built trailers?

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Anders - Did you happen to notice if the mounts attaching the body to the frame rails were through bolted?
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Old 10-19-2007, 09:41 AM   #16
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I'm interested in the body mount too. How about the sub-floor, what material is it made out of plywood, pressboard? Is it encapsulated in fiberlgass like casita, or bolt on top of the frame like most stick built trailers?
I can probably answer this one, at least in part. Jim Oliver said the floor and underbelly is a fiberglass encapsulated material. I don't recall the name of it but it's not plywood or any other wood product, some kind of honeycomb glass material that won't rot. Maybe someone can expand on this. Also, does anyone know if there are any openings to allow water to drain between the shells?
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Old 10-19-2007, 10:19 AM   #17
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Interesting thanks for the reply. That seems to be a negative with casita. Dry-rot inside the encapsulated chipboard, you canít see. Iím sure you have seen photos of the huge job it is to replace the floor. My understanding is that escape trailer flooring is encapsulated too, but has drain holes for any water intrusion. A non wood synthetic material sounds like an interesting Oliver design. I'm still curious how the body mounts tho.
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Old 10-19-2007, 10:28 AM   #18
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That seems to be a negative with casita. Dry-rot inside the encapsulated chipboard, you canít see.
This is a maintenance issue only. It doesn't matter if the floor is encapsulated or completely open, if an owner doesn't take care to be on the look out for leaks ANY floor, whether open or bottom sealed is going to rot. If not wood, then metal rusts, etc. A honeycomb-plastic-type floor may "cure" the floor rot problem, but then does it cause a false sense of security for the owner that it's acceptable to NOT be cognizant of leakage??
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Old 10-19-2007, 01:36 PM   #19
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I see now why maybe the leaf spring setup was in part chosen over the conventional torsion axle...
The leaf spring suspension mounts at two points per side; the rubber torsion axles mount with one bracket per side. If the bracket is long enough, the stress concentration with the rubber torsion axle brackets would be lower... and since they can't be welded on anyway, the obvious design would be to bolt the axle's brackets to long (load-distributing) flanges on the frame rails.

I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with the Oliver design, only that the aluminum frame does not - to me - lead to a leaf spring suspension. They seem to have chosen it for other reasons.
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Old 10-19-2007, 01:43 PM   #20
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...I understand the desire to save weight, but I really do wonder if the aluminum girders are can withstand the stresses that steel can---???
Just about any structural material will work if appropriately sized and configured; you could build a steel-reinforced concrete trailer frame if you could stand the weight.

Building in aluminum with the same outside dimensions would require very thick box section walls, partially (or entirely, depending on alloy) offsetting the weight advantage of the less dense aluminum. Proper aluminum stock selection - size, shape, alloy, and heat treatment - can allow comparable strength at less weight... but higher cost for both material and fabrication. For examples, see almost any aircraft - they do the same things in aluminum that are normally done in steel on road vehicles (beams, structural skins, brackets, etc), because aircraft are more sensitive to weight and less sensitive to cost than cars or trucks.
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Old 10-19-2007, 01:59 PM   #21
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Just about any structural material will work if appropriately sized and configured; you could build a steel-reinforced concrete trailer frame if you could stand the weight.

Building in aluminum with the same outside dimensions would require very thick box section walls, partially (or entirely, depending on alloy) offsetting the weight advantage of the less dense aluminum. Proper aluminum stock selection - size, shape, alloy, and heat treatment - can allow comparable strength at less weight... but higher cost for both material and fabrication. For examples, see almost any aircraft - they do the same things in aluminum that are normally done in steel on road vehicles (beams, structural skins, brackets, etc), because aircraft are more sensitive to weight and less sensitive to cost than cars or trucks.
Brian,

Sure, I understand that aluminum can be used virtually anywhere. For instance, a torsion box construction would be very strong---but still not as strong as steel in any given application if the amount of material in each is the same. So---not knowing anything about trailer design, what I am asking is whether an aluminum design here is more practical and safer than steel?

Car frames and bodies at one time were steel, now they are aluminum and plastic. Whether they were safer than current vehicles, with the airbags, ABS, etc, I don't really know. I'll have to leave that to the automotive engineers.

BTW, if anyone is interested, there is a lot of discussion on the Casita Club Forum about the Oliver. Unfortunately, it seems to have degenerated into a dog and cat fight as so many of their threads do, but even that is kinda' funny.

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Old 10-19-2007, 04:09 PM   #22
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The leaf spring suspension mounts at two points per side; the rubber torsion axles mount with one bracket per side. If the bracket is long enough, the stress concentration with the rubber torsion axle brackets would be lower... and since they can't be welded on anyway, the obvious design would be to bolt the axle's brackets to long (load-distributing) flanges on the frame rails.

I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with the Oliver design, only that the aluminum frame does not - to me - lead to a leaf spring suspension. They seem to have chosen it for other reasons.
The Oliver uses a separate bracket (one continuous piece from front to back spring mounts) to receive the spring mounts and shock absorbers. The brackets on the Casita Torflex axle are about 10" long. The brackets on the Oliver look to be at least 3 times in length. The load at the frame is therefore definitely distributed over a much larger area on the Oliver. Take a look at the manufacturer's website for photos on the setup.
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Old 10-19-2007, 06:00 PM   #23
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...For instance, a torsion box construction would be very strong---but still not as strong as steel in any given application if the amount of material in each is the same. So---not knowing anything about trailer design, what I am asking is whether an aluminum design here is more practical and safer than steel?...
The amount of material will be greater with aluminum - if anyone tries to render a design intended for steel in the same volume and arrangment (e.g. box of particular dimensions) of aluminum, it will be inadequate, so more material (by volume) should be a given.

I don't think any material can be relied upon to lead to the most practical and safest result, so there is no simple answer to Art's question. There are a couple of relevant facts proven by existing mass production trailer (and motor vehicles) structures:
  • aluminum is both practical and safe when properly used
  • steel is cheaper and easier to build to the same strength
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Old 10-19-2007, 06:22 PM   #24
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The Oliver uses a separate bracket (one continuous piece from front to back spring mounts) to receive the spring mounts and shock absorbers. The brackets on the Casita Torflex axle are about 10" long. The brackets on the Oliver look to be at least 3 times in length. The load at the frame is therefore definitely distributed over a much larger area on the Oliver. Take a look at the manufacturer's website for photos on the setup.
Here's one of those photos:

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The aluminum bracket which incorporates the spring mounts is clearly visible, with the rounded fasteners (presumably the heads of carriage bolts) through it; it could be an angle but I think from other photos that it is a channel (opening upwards). The upper shock mounts are also part of the same bracket.

It appears to be about 2" longer than the spring eye-to-eye length, which is probably about 26" (standard Dexter spring lengths for their D35 3500 lb axles are 21", 24" and 26"), so that's likely 28" overall. The corresponding #10 Torflex brackets are 8" between mounting holes, and thus agree they're about 10" overall - the Legacy bracket is about three times the Torflex length.

Exactly the same approach could be used with a Torflex: the same length of bracket (say, 28") could be fabricated with mounting holes to match the Torflex bracket, and carry load to the same area of the frame through the same bolts; it would extend both forward and backward beyond the Torflex bracket.

Again, I think the Oliver construction is fine... I just don't see any real structural benefit to the leaf springs.
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Old 10-19-2007, 06:54 PM   #25
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The bolts, nuts, washers and larger square washers are thru bolted alright. I asked about the heavy plating on them, it gave them a slightly different color, I think he said they were cadium plated. When we were in the area where they cut the structural members for the frame, I noted that they must get their aluminum tubing by the container load, because of the way it was bundled and stacked.
They had the largest band saws that I have ever seen ! Most home owner band saws aren't very true cutting, but the frame jig and welds told me that theirs must be very true. I saw the alloy numbers on the bundles of tubing, but they had no particular meaning for me.
I guess that the welding on the frame components was the thing that caught my eye because it seemed to be nearly flawless.
As to the floor, the inner bottom shell had the floor recessed to contain one foot square ceramic tile squares, there was a choice of designs in the order sheet I saw. When walking on the floor, even on a partially assembled Oliver, there was no give. It added to the feeling of sturdiness one gets when inside.
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Old 10-19-2007, 07:42 PM   #26
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... One of the modifications that I asked about was a way to put a reciever hitch at the rear. The rear bumper folds down and cannot be used for a reciever mounting location. Strength and weight bearing capability was the main part of that particular conversation. Their answers to my questions and my own personal observations, reasured me that the frame was more than sufficient for the job.
So, how would the rear receiver be constructed?
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Old 10-19-2007, 08:07 PM   #27
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...Again, I think the Oliver construction is fine... I just don't see any real structural benefit to the leaf springs.
Maybe not but it makes sense why they chose the longer bracket design. I agree that they could've done something similar with a Torflex axle. In fact, a fairly new Casita that I recently saw had small square tubing running along the frame between the Torflex axle bracket. It was a little longer than the bracket.

Jim Oliver, or maybe it was their sales manager, mentioned that they did extensive testing with both the Torflex and conventional spring/shock axles and the later performed the best in their opinion. I would be curious to know what led them to that conclusion.

I don't know if this is related but most of the serious off-road trailers use a conventional spring/shock axle setup. The Canadian M101 that I have is no different. It's virtually indestructible.
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Old 10-20-2007, 07:00 AM   #28
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So, how would the rear receiver be constructed?
It would be mounted directly to the frame, not the bumper. The bumper would swing up and down in the regular way. There would be a shallow notch in the bumper, so it could surround the reciever, without being attached to it. The compartment behind the bumper would not be effected by the reciever. The clean look of the rear of the coach would not be effected. The reciever would be under the fiberglass spare tire cover and at the top of the bumper. The bumper is the same 2" X 5" material as the frame. Or it seems to be. I didn't ask. This was something that hasn't been tried before and would be subject to approval by the staff engineer.
The sole purpose of this reciever would be to carry less than 200 pounds of weight, cargo rack and all. It would never be used to tow anything.
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