Sunrader slide-in (from scratch). - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-17-2020, 05:46 PM   #1
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Post Sunrader slide-in (from scratch).

Greetings everyone,

First-time poster here. I found this Sunrader slide-in camper on Kijiji and paid $120 for it. At the time, I didn't know anything about the Sunrader fandom and was just interested in a fibreglass body camper because my last (non-fibreglass) camper had several leaks. I also liked that the back of this one lifts up like a hatchback. If you look at the photos you'll see that it is pretty much a complete ground-up rebuild, so I'm not going to prioritize keeping or finding original components. I feel kind of like a hermit crab that's found a neat old shell to make its own.

To start, an introduction: I am Shawn. I'm based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I am a Red Seal journeyman carpenter and fourth-year business student. This summer I will be taking a handful of classes online, after which I will graduate. In my off time, I will be working on the Sunrader, finishing some renovations on my house, playing a bit of kendama, and socially distancing apparently.

On to the camper. For my $120, I received: the camper, a fibreglass shell mounted on a plywood base; a furnace that may or may not work; a stovetop that definitely does not work; a very old propane tank; blinds that do not fit any of the camper windows; and a rusty old truck box-cum-trailer to haul the thing home in. I intend to sell the trailer eventually, probably for scrap.

The camper is in okay-ish shape. The fibreglass needs a little work, it has stress cracks and several chips and one of the corners will need a whole bunch of love (fibreglass-specific photos coming in a later post). The curved cabover window panes are fine, they just need new gaskets. The two larger windows in the sides might need replacing, however. One is quite bent and both need to have their seals replaced. The overhead vent definitely needs replacing (and I'm considering putting another above the cabover bed area). The piano hinge that held the hatchback door on has rusted away and the whole back panel/door has come off completely.

As for the plywood base (some people call it a tub or bucket), I think I have to replace it entirely. Most of the ply has delaminated, and there is a bit of rot starting as well. At first I thought about replacing only the worst parts or key areas, but I think the water penetration has been too pervasive and just about all of it has been compromised. Since I'm going to rebuild the entire base, I am also going to make it a few inches taller. As it is, the top of the fibreglass shell is just tall enough for me to stand up straight, so I want to give it a few extra inches of headroom to allow for my height, a ceiling panel, and finish floor.

Originally, I had hoped to get the renovations done over the spring/summer so that the unit would be road trip ready by the fall. Given the recent COVID situation and accompanying worldwide shutdown, my partner and I have moved our road trip plans into next spring, which is fine because it affords me more time to do the work. My budget for this project is modest, but realistic. I am hoping to complete the build for under $3000. In the interest of transparency and accountability, I will post updated running totals of expenses/budget stuff.

I will be doing just about all of the work myself, including rebuilding the base, repairing the fibreglass, painting, plumbing, building the cabinets, etc. I will also be relying on some help from Simple Switch Wiring when it comes to the electrical work. The owner is a family friend and fellow camper renovator and I reach out to him a lot. I'm sure he's going to want to change his number by the end of the summer, ha!

I have a lot of plans, I'll try to share them before I take action because it's always nice to field ideas and get some feedback. I've learned a lot from perusing the forums on this site, so wanted to contribute a little by sharing my build. If anyone has any ideas or questions, feel free to shout 'em out! I'll be taking lots of photos and I'll try my best to post regularly and keep this thread updated.

Happy camping!
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Old 04-18-2020, 09:48 PM   #2
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Thumbs down Key Problem Areas

Here are two of my biggest concerns regarding this camper: the windows are in rough shape; and, some rusty hardware bolted through the roof has delaminated the fibreglass. The first should be relatively easy to address, I'm having new windows quoted out at a nearby(ish) manufacturer and I'm keeping my eye open for used ones that might work in the mean time. The rust/fibreglass issue will be a little bit more of a handful. As someone with little-to-no experience working with fibreglass, I welcome all suggestions, tips, pointers, or advice.

I have put a few hours into picking the unit apart this week. I will update with another post soon and more photos soon.

Happy camping!
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Old 04-19-2020, 06:23 AM   #3
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Sunrader slide-in (from scratch).

Welcome, Shawn!

You have landed on a molded fiberglass trailer forum, so you wonít find many slide-in owners here. Even so, Iíll bet youíll find interest and good help with your project. Other than chassis, the issues youíre going to encounter are very similar to a gut-and-rebuild of a vintage fiberglass trailer. Iím interested!

Just want to clarify one thing. You said itís on a plywood platform, but later you said ďbucketĒ and ďtub.Ē I assume that means it has a fully molded fiberglass tub floor with plywood inside for structural support. That about right?

Looking at your photo of the delaminating section, it appears to me like additional material was added there after the original molding. It may be a trick of the light, but I wonder what others think. Shouldnít be difficult to scrape and grind it smooth. Not sure if youíll need to add some new fiberglass back or not. It may depend in part what you plan to put on the roof.

Do check the integrity of all the wood reinforcements inside the shell, especially the one that supports the hinged rear panel. Now is the time to cut out any bad pieces and fiberglass in replacements. Consider whether theyíre in the right place to attach the cabinets you want. You can cut out the ones you donít want and add new ones easily while itís gutted.

This is also the time to check the integrity of the belly band, where the upper and lower shell pieces are joined. If itís not already fiberglassed together from the inside, do it now.

The windows need attention for sure. New ones might come with sticker shock. If that doesnít work out, remove and clean them up, replace seals that have dried out and shrunk, reinstall with fresh butyl. I am wondering about the wrap-around windows in the loft. Iím not a fan of windows in cabover beds- leak prone and always too cold or too hot. These look cool though, and theyíre a Sunrader trademark. Perhaps someone with Sunrader experience will have a better idea of how to deal with them.

You need to think about what youíre going to line the inside of the shell with. Thatís usually done early- after fiberglass work, tabbing, and wiring, but before you install cabinets- so it runs continuously over the walls and ceiling.

Last thought is your budget. I can easily see this project going well over that amount. A lot depends on how much you are going to include in this build. If you just want a simple sleeping shell with some storage cabinets, you might make it. If you want a stove, fridge, furnace, sink with plumbing and holding tanks, 12V system with battery and solar... Well, you see. You can always do it in stages, provided you plan ahead in the beginning for the hidden stuff like wiring and plumbing.

Even though itís not a trailer, I for one will watch your progress with interest. Itís a nice-looking unit, and the Sunrader name has lasting value, worth saving. Best wishes!
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Old 04-19-2020, 10:41 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
Welcome, Shawn!

You have landed on a molded fiberglass trailer forum, so you wonít find many slide-in owners here. Even so, Iíll bet youíll find interest and good help with your project. Other than chassis, the issues youíre going to encounter are very similar to a gut-and-rebuild of a vintage fiberglass trailer. Iím interested!

Just want to clarify one thing...
Hey Jon, thank you for your interest and encouragement. I've been working on the Sunrader a bit this weekend, so will have a new post and new photos going up soon. For now, I'll try to address your concerns in order ó I really appreciate the input.

The camper does not have a fibreglass floor, no. When I said "tub" and "bucket" I was just listing some synonyms to give people an idea of what I was talking about, I didn't realize some of them were FG-specific. As it is, the existing base (the term I'll use henceforth) is just 1/2" plywood. The floor also has a layer of 1-1/2" styrofoam sandwiched in there. That said, I plan to FG the outside of my new plywood base (well, sort of.. but more on that later), so it will closer approximate a real tub when I'm done.

Thanks again for all of the great advice ó I can't tell if the discolouration of the FG in the roof is from rusty water penetrating or from additional material being added. Either way, I plan to scrape it away and hopefully it doesn't need too much new FG (I don't plan to use the roof for heavy storage). The wood backing and reinforcements will all be removed before I glass in some of the now-redundant holes in the shell. I'll re-do the belly band around this time, too. A couple of the rivets have popped out, and for some reason there are a few random screw holes through it (no screws, though).

My main concern with the the windows is that one of the frames is pretty badly bent, so it doesn't sit flush against the camper anymore. Also, one of them is missing the interior trim piece that clamps the window in place. I've pretty much decided to replace them, I just have to figure out how. There is an RV scrap yard not too far from me, I'll pay them a visit soon. As for the cabover windows, the gasket seals are toast. They have to be replaced, so the panes have to come out, unfortunately.

The interior of the shell will be insulated and lined with 3/16" ply, kind of like a fancy theatre flat. Once I get closer to the finishing stages I'll start to post some of my sketches and ideas to get feedback. I'm a scenic/finishing carpenter, so that's the part I'm looking forward to the most.

Budget wise, I think I can do it. Well, close, at least. I'm pretty thrifty, and since I bought the camper mid-winter I've had a lot of time to sift and find discounted materials and things. I'm not in a huge rush to get it built, either, so I can take my time and wait for good opportunities to arise. That RV scrap yard place is also a great resource for used parts and equipment (stove, furnace, water tank, windows). I found 20 gallons of FG resin for $100 on Kijiji, and all the butyl tape I'll need for $40 at a liquidation centre. I found a cheap sink, as well, but that's a whole story and will be featured in another post. Anyways, I know it's a modest budget, but it's a passion project so I'm willing to put in the time to sniff out good deals or clean up/restore used equipment, so I think I can keep the cost down in a lot of small ways.

Thank you again for reaching out and following along. I'll have a progress post up in the next day or two.

Happy camping!
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Old 04-20-2020, 05:29 AM   #5
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Looking at your 10th (next to last) photo, it almost looks like the entire lower box, the part that sits inside the pickup bed, is a plywood sandwich. Could that be right? Only the superstructure is fiberglass?
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Old 04-20-2020, 11:42 PM   #6
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Looking at your 10th (next to last) photo, it almost looks like the entire lower box, the part that sits inside the pickup bed, is a plywood sandwich. Could that be right? Only the superstructure is fiberglass?
Hey Jon,

Only the floor of the existing base is a plywood/foam sandwich. The walls are just plywood. You're right about the superstructure, though ó the camper is only FG from the knees up. I've been rebuilding the base from scratch this weekend and have made a few modifications to the design. One of those modifications will include a FG coating on the outside. Once that part is done I'll make a post about it, but in the mean time here's a photo of the work-in-progress.

Happy camping!
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Old 04-21-2020, 04:15 AM   #7
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I will be following. I love to follow threads where someone takes junk and makes it a jewel. If you are on Facebook, there is a thread that is a Bigfoot forum that has become a little heavier focused on Bigfoot truck campers than trailers. I think they would be interested in your rebuild too: https://www.facebook.com/groups/108876309153853/


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Old 04-21-2020, 09:35 AM   #8
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I will be following. I love to follow threads where someone takes junk and makes it a jewel. If you are on Facebook, there is a thread that is a Bigfoot forum that has become a little heavier focused on Bigfoot truck campers than trailers. I think they would be interested in your rebuild too: https://www.facebook.com/groups/108876309153853/


CindyL
Thanks for following along, Cindy!

My family thinks I'm a little crazy for working so hard just to salvage the FG shell, but I think it could have a lot of life left in it with a little love and attention. There's so much value in these things, it just needs some (read: several months' worth) of polishing.

I'm not on Facebook, but I've been thinking about joining so that I can have access to the Facebook Marketplace. It seems like a lot of people prefer it to Kijiji ó and I don't want to miss out on the good stuff! I'll look into this Bigfoot group, thank you for sharing the resource.

Happy camping!
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Old 04-21-2020, 01:31 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Shawn Marcus View Post
Thanks for following along, Cindy!

My family thinks I'm a little crazy for working so hard just to salvage the FG shell, but I think it could have a lot of life left in it with a little love and attention. There's so much value in these things, it just needs some (read: several months' worth) of polishing.

I'm not on Facebook, but I've been thinking about joining so that I can have access to the Facebook Marketplace. It seems like a lot of people prefer it to Kijiji ó and I don't want to miss out on the good stuff! I'll look into this Bigfoot group, thank you for sharing the resource.

Happy camping!

Fixed up, the camper is likely to outlive you, LOL!

Be careful buying through Facebook. We just purchased something on Facebook that turned out to be a scam.

If you join, I am a member there also.

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Old 04-22-2020, 01:44 AM   #10
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Post Budget Breakdown: My Two Cents

Earlier this week, user Jon in AZ noted that my budget seems insufficient for a project of this magnitude. Some of my friends have similarly called into question whether my budget is modest and frugal or just downright unrealistic. I've been ruminating on these considerations a lot, because I think they are very valid concerns, and so I've decided to make a post dedicated to my budget. I'll explain a little about how I plan to make it work, where I hope to see the biggest cost savings or value-adding, and give a bit of a breakdown of where I expect the money to go.

Why $3000?

Actually, now it's $4000! I received a small windfall yesterday when I received a scholarship in the mail. Since I've already paid my tuition for my final semester, I figure I can put the money towards something just as important as my formal education — my Sunrader restoration!

First, I think I should start by explaining how I came up with the dollar amount. Arbitrarily, and because it's a nice round number, I wanted to spend $5000 renovating this camper (just the build). My partner said that was too much. She pointed out that we'll have to spend money outfitting this rig — we need curtains, bedding, pots and pans, a dust buster, cutlery, etc. Moreover, we'll have to pay for a tune up and modifications to the truck (air bags, tie down anchors, front hitch, bike rack, dash/backup cam) before we can take it on the big trip we've been planning. Anyways, we went back and forth a bit and finally decided that we can afford to budget $5000 for the entire project.

We split that $5000 into four parts: the build, the truck, the outfitting, and the reserve/contingency fund. The build was allotted the largest sum, at $3000 (now $4000). The truck gets $1000, prioritizing the tune up and installation of the tie down anchors, of course. The outfitting gets $500 because although we can use some stuff from home we need a mattress and they seem pricey. And, lastly, the reserve/contingency fund gets $500 because Murphy's Law is real.

Side Note: Record Keeping

Since we have agreed on such a slim budget, we're trying to be consistent with our record keeping so that we can stay on top of it and plan our next steps as the kitty shrinks. It should be noted, however, that the way we calculate what we've spent on the project is not perfectly meticulous and has some inaccuracies. We only count things that we spend money on explicitly for the camper — that is to say, anything that we already own or have doesn't really get counted. Neither do things that we buy for another purpose and then also use for the project (like some dish sponges that I destroyed toying with silicone removal methods). Accordingly, our running total is an underrepresentation of the true costs. O well.

I'm a carpenter, so a whole bunch of the materials are likely to come from my personal hoard. One significant example of this will be seen in the finishing stages — I have a big slab of douglas fir from a friend's mill that will become a lot of my finishing features. I plan to use it for trim, cabinet doors, drawer faces, etc. The slab would retail for a few hundred dollars, but it won't come up in my budget tracking because I already own it (sunk costs). This is also the case for the smaller consumables like screws and nails and things. If I buy any of those assets just for the camper, though, I count them. So, when building the base this weekend, I didn't count the screws because I had them on hand but I did count the k-staples that I bought specifically to build the base (I'll give a budget/cost breakdown of the base in a coming progress post).

Where is the Money Going?

I have a pretty loose idea of how I'm going to complete the entire rebuild (in a way that we're both happy and comfortable with) for under $4000. I figure I'll spend about:
  • $380 in lumber (plywood base, 'framing', plywood wall panels, etc);
  • $800 in paint and paint supplies (marine/autobody exterior and regular interior);
  • $600 in used kitchen utilities and new connections and stuff (fridge, stove, range hood, water tank/pump);
  • $800 in electrical utilities (flex solar panel, used batteries, controllers, inverter, etc);
  • $280 in FG repair materials (resin, mat, bondo, brushes, etc);
  • $150 for gas struts (pneumatic lift assist for the 'hatchback');
  • $300 for two roof vent/fans;
  • $200 for a skylight (potentially — my partner really wants one, I could take it or leave it);
  • $300 on used windows;
  • And the rest on the rest (lights, hardware, fixtures, etc).

I welcome any questions, comments, concerns or critiques regarding the above list. I also welcome any cost-saving tips or reliable sources of inexpensive components, which leads me to my next thought...

Bargain Hunting

Here's where I think I will save the most, or add the most value for the fewest dollars:
  • I already have (most, if not) all of the tools that I'll need to complete the project, and I'm willing to put in plenty of time;
  • I buy most of what I need second-hand or on sale, and have a long enough timeline that I can wait for the good deals;
  • I have a friend that works at a metal fabrication shop who has offered to help whip up any parts or pieces that I might need as a favour;
  • I already had a couple sheets of plywood lying around, so used them in the base;
  • I'm salvaging the trailer that the camper is on by selling it for $100;
  • As mentioned in an earlier post, I snagged 10 gallons of FG resin for $100 — I'll resell the excess once I'm done with the rebuild;
  • I picked up a big roll of foil-backed fibreglass insulation for $30 on Kijiji — it's also way more than I need so I'll resell whatever's left when I'm done with it (not a significant amount of salvage value, but worth noting);
  • The existing furnace works after all (tested this weekend);
  • I have a good source for some cheap LED lights and 12V wiring components (a contractor friend who buys bulk);
  • A lot of the finishing material will come from that aforementioned douglas fir slab (thanks to Sych Bros Sawmill in Clearwater, BC);
  • And lastly, there is a liquidation centre in the city that seems to specialize in tools, automotive components, and trailer hardware. As with most liquidation centres, they have a rotating menu of nonstop crazy deals. Not a guarantee, but a good resource to keep tabs on.
Like I said, if anyone has cost saving tips that they'd like to share (or any opinions on my ballpark budgeting), please chime in. For now, I'm going to leave it at that because this post is becoming long and starting to meander. I'll be working on the Sunrader a little more tomorrow and should have the new base finished and waterproofed by the end of the week. I was hoping to finish that step this weekend, but Murphy's Law is real.

A big thank you to everyone for following along.

Happy camping!
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Old 04-22-2020, 06:47 AM   #11
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You have clearly though this through, and I hope I have to eat my words! My only counsel at this point would be to try to stick to your original budget and hold the $1000 windfall in reserve. Things happen.
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Old 04-25-2020, 10:21 AM   #12
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I'm not on Facebook, but I've been thinking about joining so that I can have access to the Facebook Marketplace. It seems like a lot of people prefer it to Kijiji
Getting on Facebook marketplace you might find out like myself that IF you thought dealing with sellers/buyers on Kijiji and Craigslist was a PITA dealing with the sellers and people on Facebook Marketplace will give you a COMPLETE NEW APPRECIATION for the buyers and sellers Kijiji and Craigslist!
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Old 04-25-2020, 10:57 AM   #13
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Interesting project. Escape trailers posted a video to YouTube a long while back, showing details of the steps they take in building their trailers. We have an Escape 15 and an older 13í Little BigFoot. The build quality of the Escape is so much better and solid. The FG is thicker. The two shells were FG together while still in the mold. Our Escape has dual pane window that are tinted. Iíd seggest watching that video for ideas, since you are starting bare shell. As people on this site, what features they like or donít like. What appliances do they like or donít like. Itís exciting to get a new project, but important to get the foundation right as the start. Do you like to boon dock or stay in campgrounds with full hook ups? If boondocking, youíll want to figure out a solar system. If you donít have the budget now, maybe at least install the wiring or plastic conduit to make it easier to fish wiring later. See if there is anyone in you area who has a fiberglass trailer you can look at for ideas.
I can tell you one thing, this is not likely to be the last one you own. Itís very common to get ďtwo-footitisĒ. Itís a thinking that, if only it had two feet more, it would be perfect.
Iíd also say, I like the newer all electric refrigerators better than the older 3way. I like the idea of any appliance not having access doors or vents cut through the side of the camper. Such a cutting is a possible leak point and a hole in the thermal insulation. So, look at Truck Fridge or Domectic electric fridges. The VW Vanagon Camper guys use a British heater that exhausts and intakes, out the bottom of a camper, so again, no hole through the side. Some have been using a Chinese knockoff of a Webestos heater with good results. Inexpensive and exhausts out bottom.
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Old 04-25-2020, 11:03 AM   #14
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Another thing I’d mention, there are building codes for RVs. One to pay attention to, is the plumbing for any propane lines. The types of joints and where the joints are, is important. Vibrations of an RV can losen some types of connections, so the logic is, put your tees outside the living space, use flared, forged connectors. Not olive compression with soft brass.
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Old 04-25-2020, 01:46 PM   #15
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You've obviously put a lot of thought into this, I'm sure you will end up with a great camper because of it!
In Ontario, we have a facebook group for buying and selling RV parts. You might find one near you too. Another reason to join the awful thing.
I have always had a problem with cooking inside of a camper, perhaps because I have always camped in bear country. The last thing I want is to have the attractive smell of food in the curtains and cushions, and a layer of grease on the walls. If I was building an interior from scratch, I wouldn't bother with the stove. I prefer to cook outside with the Coleman stove and wash dishes there too. It would leave more space inside for storage or counter space. Something to consider.
I feel the same way about plumbing too. I used my parents' travel trailer a few times with full bathroom and water tanks. I found the emptying of the black water tank to be heinous. There was no way to not get splashed upon (perhaps the newer systems are better). Then we got our new-to-us Scamp last year with no tanks and no built-in toilet. There is a closet with a porta potty in it which we can easily empty without fuss (I say "we" but it's actually "me" as he would never do that). True, it needs emptying more often, but again it saves space and makes the trailer a lot lighter to tow. We have a kitchen sink that will take input from a hose or we can pump water into it from a portable water jug.
That's just me...I prefer simplicity. It's easy to get caught up in all the gadgets and features, but just think about what you really want and what you will really use. The new RVs are always packed with the latest greatest, because they have to beat the competition. But what are your needs?
Can't wait to see your plans for the interior.
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Old 04-25-2020, 02:27 PM   #16
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I found the emptying of the black water tank to be heinous. There was no way to not get splashed upon (perhaps the newer systems are better).

Then, you weren't taught how to do it correctly.
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Old 04-25-2020, 07:56 PM   #17
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I would suggest that you also join groups.io and then join the minitruckcampers groups ( https://groups.io/g/minitruckcampers ). There are a ton of sunrader owners on there and they can tell you where to buy parts (some may even hunt them down for you), how to deal with the window (in fact there was just a discussion with someone else what to do because she had a bent front sundrader window frame like you do), etc. Those folks are very generous with their know how and time. A number of them have rebuilt their campers either restoring them or doing something else with them.
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Old 04-25-2020, 10:04 PM   #18
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Alberta
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Reply to Kevin Dawson

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Originally Posted by Kevin Dawson View Post
Another thing Iíd mention, there are building codes for RVs. One to pay attention to, is the plumbing for any propane lines. The types of joints and where the joints are, is important. Vibrations of an RV can losen some types of connections, so the logic is, put your tees outside the living space, use flared, forged connectors. Not olive compression with soft brass.
Thank you for all of the ideas, Kevin, especially the one about the propane plumbing ó a timely reminder to refer to codes and standards as I'm currently mapping out where I'm going to relocate the propane tank.

I agree with you when it comes to the electric fridge. Originally, I'd wanted to build an icebox, but my partner convinced me that a fridge would be less hassle considering we were already planning for solar. New fridges aren't cheap, though, and older fridges aren't very efficient, so we'll have to see what we can find and adjust our system accordingly.

Once again, appreciate the advice. Thanks for following along.

Happy camping!
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Old 04-25-2020, 10:11 PM   #19
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Reply to Scamper Linda

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You've obviously put a lot of thought into this, I'm sure you will end up with a great camper because of it!
Thanks for following along, Linda!

I have discovered that I can browse FB Marketplace without an account, but I can't message anyone. I have about a half dozen tabs open on my computer but I'm still being a little stubborn about it. Thankfully, my partner has been a patient and willing go-between. But, yeah, one of these days I'll suck it up and join the new millennium.

The outside stove is an interesting idea. This camper has the whole hatchback roof thing, too, so maybe I could rebuild the tent that I've seen some Sunraders have and kind of do an indoor-outdoor kitchen thing. Definitely something to think about!

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 04-25-2020, 10:12 PM   #20
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Reply to kidsandliz

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Originally Posted by kidsandliz View Post
I would suggest that you also join groups.io and then join the minitruckcampers groups ( https://groups.io/g/minitruckcampers ). There are a ton of sunrader owners on there and they can tell you where to buy parts (some may even hunt them down for you), how to deal with the window (in fact there was just a discussion with someone else what to do because she had a bent front sundrader window frame like you do), etc. Those folks are very generous with their know how and time. A number of them have rebuilt their campers either restoring them or doing something else with them.
This is a great resource, thank you!
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