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I do have some photos. I should explain what I am doing to the interior. I kept the bathroom where it was. Took out all the propane appliances. New fridge will be 12 volt only. Eventually I will have solar with an AGM house battery(s) but that has to wait until next year. My new stovetop runs on diesel, just a small tank under the coutertop. It is also the furnace to provide heat. Scandanavian design normally used in boats. I am an artist/craftswoman and I make various kinds of miniatures and model making projects. I don't need the normal sleep and feed a bunch of people on a camping trip setup. I do need storage for tools and materials and lots of workbench space. Plus a place under the workbench for a vacuum and knee space for a chair. I also have a lousy back and need to rest it in a reclining position now and again and do my computer work on a laptop sitting like that. So out went the old cabinets and in came my personal version. This photo is my design concept, I did not create a detailed model for it that shows exactly how it will look when finished as that takes more time than I needed to spend. So you won't see realistic cabinety with lovely wood frames, etc in this model. It was just for space planning purposes.



The Sunraders are built with interesting design principles. It is a two piece fiberglass shell made in molds. There is 2 degrees of draft on the sides and 4 degrees on the back wall and the roof has a slight curve to it. At the top of the walls is a Z shape that creates a longitudinal beam for strength. There is no internal framing, instead that upper Z shape, the large radiused vertical corners and the molded in frame around the door are the primaty support structure for most of the shell except for the roof. The wall structure does curve under in a radius and that is fiberglassed to the sandwich of materials that forms the floor.  The roof was made into a SIP (structural insulated panel) before they took it out of the mold. That was done by adding a layer of foam insulation that was bonded to the fiberglass, then a layer of scrim and resin which bonded the foam to a layer of plywood covered with vinyl to form the ceiling surface. This SIP approach means if you ever decided to remodel one of these motorhomes be advised that you need to resist any overwhelming urge to tear down the ceiling and insulation or you will have a sagging fiberglass shell over your head. You will never achieve as good of a support that weighs as little as the original design was engineered to provide. So hands off on that, go ahead and strip the ceiling vinyl if you don't like it but leave the plywood layer and insulation alone.


The interior walls of the Sunraders were built up on the factory floor. They used 1/8" plywood with a vinyl printed surface. On the back of those panels they adhered 5/8" thick particle board blocking at the floor, around the openings where the windows went, around the vent openings, at the bottom and along any vertical edges as well as where the top of the lower cabinets located and the bottom of the upper cabinets met the wall. They filled in the rest of the space with 1/2" thick rigid foam insulation. The interior walls are only held in position by a few screws though the blocking at the floor and by being clamped against the shell by the window frames. Those walls are therefore not a substantial part of the structure, they essentially almost float against the shell. Tear them out in the remodel if you want to but stick to the same thickness of wall because the window frames they used will only work with that particular thickness. One of the task I needed to do for my setup is epoxy in some blocking to the shell help support the weight of my workbench. Also I put some blocking into the rear wall to support the cleat I wanted to rest my back reclining bench on and I also added blocking adhered to the wall at the location where the upper cabinets will screw to the wall. Blocking should not have any sharp corner edges against the fiberglass, soften them with a small radius to reduce the stress on the shell. Do note that the shell varies in its surface, it is not always the same depth away from the wall so that has to be accounted for in any blocking you install. This is why the designers floated the wall paneling, it was all about labor savings that could be gained by creating the wall panels assemblies while they were flat on the factory work tables. They eliminated the need to customize individual pieces of blocking to match the shell's variation of surfaces. The average persons inclination would be to think...that is stupid and flimsy when actually it was a brilliant solution to a manufacturing problem and it did hold up very well except for the particle board material which gets oversized holes where screws bit into it due to the movement of a vehicle on the road.


At the join line of the two halves of the fiberlass shell they are well bonded together. However the company added an aluminum extrusion to cover the rough edges of the join. It is unfortunate but some of the screws for that trim penetrated all the way through the shell. Then over the years some of them rusted out despite being stainless steel thereby creating a lot of small leaks.  This is something anyone who buy Sunrader motorhomes should know about. Many times they blame the leaks on the windows and take them out and put them in with new butyl rubber only to discover they still have leaks. If you see that don't despair as those screw holes in the trim are the probable source of those pesky minor unresolved leaks. As part of my remodel I  trimmed off the excess length of any screws I found that were protruding and put a couple of layers of fiberglass tape and resin over that join line on the interior. Photos of that stuff such as blocking and covering screw holes are boring so I won't post them. But I did want to pass on the knowledge of it.


The Sunraders ALL have saggy floors. The floor is also a SIP but in front of the bathroom and kitchen where you walk back and forth all the time the SIP was not strong enough and it has too much flex;  there was not enough support from the steel framing of the truck's structure. That caused the center foam layer to compress and the adhesive to let go which caused this issue. They are not leaky and they will hold you up but they develop a sag and are way bouncy feeling. Most of the people who own Sunraders end up putting in another layer of plywood over the top. I did that too. I took 1/2" marine plywood and applied fiberglass to the upper and lower surface. I drilled and countersunk clearance screw holes in that new floor panel. The clearance holes allow the screws to freely draw the original plywood on up against the new subfloor. But take it easy when driving those screws as the original plywood is not all that thick and the screws can loose their grip in it. Sneak up on it, do not ever power blast your impact screw driver on this particular task.  I also painted epoxy resin on the original floor surface to seal it before I put in my new subfloor layer. Then I spread thickened epoxy (I used wood flour and some milled fiber to thicken it) with a notched trowel. Use a slow setting epoxy for this work or you will run out of time before the epoxy kicks off. This is not a job for polyester resin as it kicks off too fast.

Photo of the new sub floor panel before it was installed. The large holes in it are there to clear the bolts that mount the floor to the steel frame underneath. those are just in case one should ever need to detach the shell from the truck so you will be able to get at those bolts without destroying the floor.



For my tool and materials storage I built a tall cabinet next to the bathroom. On the sides of the cabinet I used plywood with three upright 1 x 2 made from Doug Fir  for the sides. The uprights are well glued to the paneling and were put under weights during the drying time. This is a stress skin panel technique, the sum of the parts is very strong but also light in weight. That solid glued surface is what makes it work. The three uprights are transferring the contents of the storage drawers down to the floor. For drawers I used Cambro ttranslucent food pans, they are made to slide into runners. This is not the thin plastic found in rubbermaid clear plastic boxes, it is much thicker and quite durable. My slides were made from the PVC rails that cover the ends of PVC lattice fencing. I cut them slightly narrower to match the edge width on the drawer sides. It works very nicely, no noise or rattle and the weight of the drawers and slides is minimal compared to wood drawers with metal slides. The cost of construction is also very reasonable. Photo is of the closet sides before installation.


Here is the storage closet in place with some of the drawers in it.




My cabinets and the rear bench have a subframe of aluminum. I was originally going to do all wood framed cabinets but decided this was a stronger option that was light in weight. It also was easier to put together and install it nice and square. The outside shell varies because of being fiberglass and because of the slope of the walls and the floor level is a bit unreliable so its a one stick at a time and adust to suit the immediate location when you subframe the cabinets for a Sunrader. You can't fit big cabinets through the door so you build or assemble in place. On the workbench side and across the back bench a wood cleat is at the top. I had started off thinking wood structure then changed my mind. But no point to replacing those wood pieces with alluminum as they are still functional in the subframe. Photos are of some of my sub framing.



So now that the subframing is all installed I have put on the workbench top which is jointed pine, 5/8" thick and put down a piece of 3/8" plywood on the kitchen cabinet side. Those are now functional workbenches I can use while creating the wood faces and doors for the finished cabinetry. You can see that setup with tools on it in this photo that I took earlier before I had finished the subframing work. I was trying things out before I committed to cutting the aluminum angle. My workbench chair is a drummer's throne with a back. It comes apart for storage in the cabinet. Small and sturdy with adjustable height and works outside on uneven ground because of having only 3 legs. Bonus...its comfortable!


Another photo showing the relationship of the tall cabinet to the 6' long workbench.



So a long ways to go yet. Upper cabinets to build plus making the wood doors and frames for the lower cabinets. But this week I am working on the cab area, painting door panels, new flooring and headliner too. I am changing it from a brown interior to a black and grey color scheme. My original plastic interior parts had pretty bad UV damage and some of the pieces were broken. I salvaged the best stuff and am replacing the rest.  I used to do aircraft interiors for Boeing and a couple of other companies so its work I am familiar with along with having done structural work and bench fabrication and building wire bundles. I am also a woodworker, have done a lot of house remodeling plus CNC machining and 3D CAD design models.  But I am not an engine or transmission mechanic or remotely likely to become one. I can only do so much bending in a day so the work goes very slowly but I am getting there piece by piece. Its fun work most of the time but I am looking forward to sitting in a nicely finished space and working on something besides renovation but most of all traveiing or simply hanging out and relaxing.


Of course we do need  before photos, I really was not into faux grained plywood and particle board cabinets, rusted, nonfuctioning appliances and shag carpet on the ceiling with smelly 35 year old upholstery but I did love those big windows that make the space feel wide open instead of cramped.



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  • 1 year later...

Hate to bump such an old thread but this just got road worthy... 
1978 Datsun 620 Chinook Car House. 80k original miles, L20B 4 speed, 15x10 -57 Rear, 15x8.5 -50 Front, Interior fully re-done, 





















It's maiden Voyage to a Camping Spot near us... 










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Hate to bump such an old thread but this just got road worthy... 1978 Datsun 620 Chinook Car House. 80k original miles, L20B 4 speed, 15x10 -57 Rear, 15x8.5 -50 Front, Interior fully re-done, Before...78%20Datsun%20620%20Chinook_zpsb2je4blg.After...  20160806_202722_zpshdd1zntr.jpg 20160806_190608_zps1vzaddre.jpg 20160806_190516_zpszn0lbxkj.jpg 20160806_171049_zpsbbokys9q.jpg 20160806_173231_zpsvnqqbtig.jpg 20160818_102559_zpsuwhs86gr.jpg 20160807_143327_zpsjkkxvwxf.jpg 20160807_134951_zpsdusvzi6d.jpg   It's maiden Voyage to a Camping Spot near us...  20160818_193031_zpszkbz9uzl.jpg 20160818_150242_zpseye7k2hu.jpg 20160818_193328_zpspirrclxf.jpg 20160818_193412_zpslhptpi7g.jpg 20160818_193059_zpsejngosig.jpg

Totally BadAss!!!
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  • 2 weeks later...

I have owned a 1979 Galavan built on a HD Datsun 620 for 15 years now.  I bought it off ebay and had to tow it home from Flint Mich.  Over the intervening years I have totally gutted it and replaced the interior walls, floor, repaired the steel cage for the coach, new cabinets, tossed the furnace and electrical inlet, and generally built a new rig.  I also had to replace the whole bottom of the cab because the previous owner had left it parked in the grass probably for over a decade and it rotted completely away.  Now it is rust free and about 300 lbs lighter.  I am currently finishing up fixing the important mechanical stuff like the park brake.  I would have had all of these things done years ago, but when I felt that it was road worthy, I took off in it and haven't stopped yet.  These 16 ft motorhomes are so convenient, comfortable, and cheap to use that it is hard to leave it alone.  The 620 really is a stout little truck, but  it doesn't have any power .  I would like to tow my boat with it, but as it is, she won't pull a wheelbarrow.  I can car top a canoe though, which is really all that I need anyway,  I am so new to this forum that I can't post any pics yet, but it turns out that pictures of my rig can be googled under galavan motorhome.  I don't know how those pics ended up on the interwebs, but there they are.  The wife likes to use it too, but every time she does she brings it home on the back of a tow truck.  I think she has given up now.  I have taken some longer trips in it and climbed to 10,000 feet with it, but that time wasn't too pretty.  I wish campers like this were still being made.



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ka swap it

While short and straight to the point, this is a great way to increase power, maintain some reliability, and have good parts availability.


The swap isn't terribly difficult. Redeye, a member here, sells a swap kit for the KA engine. Icehouse, another member, sells a wiring box that makes wiring the fuel injected KA engine relatively easy.


The swap into 620s is pretty well covered on here, if you want to look in to it.

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Yup, that's my rig.  I took that pic shortly after I got it home.  There are also some pics of the interior in the same image collection.   Since then I have done a fairly amateurish body work job on it, but have stopped the rust dead in its tracks.  That is the most important thing.  I think if I get it painted, it will look a lot better. 


I have considered an engine swap to increase the power of my poor little rig, but after some lengthy reflection, I have decided against it.  I only have 100 K on it now and it is nowhere near ready for a drastic re-do.  Also, I get an average of 25 mpg on trips, and I don't want to mess with that.  Maybe I am being naïve, but I trust the original Japanese engineering that brought about the truck.  So far I have been working to bring it back to original specs in an attempt to recover that ideal.  Every time I restore a component or system to original specs, the truck runs better.  For example, I recently bought an original Japanese carburator, and now she runs pretty much like a new truck.  Now all the pollution control components also work like they are supposed to, and I couldn't be happier.  Also, the part about my wife not wanting to use it anymore kind of makes me happy.  I don't have to worry about what kind of shape she will bring it back to me in. 


I belong to a forum that is for Toyota campers, and the consensus there is that they aren't locomotives.  You have to pick your battles with these babies.  In that light, I have developed some driving strategies that work for me when I am on a trip and have to use the freeways.  For example, I like to drive about 55 or just a little less.  Therefore, I stick to the right hand lane like a barnacle and let the faster traffic go around me naturally.  So far no one has seemed to be annoyed by that.  When I am on a two lane road, I will pull off if I get a train backed up behind me and let them all go.  Usually people who are in a hurry can easily get around me so they don't lose too much.  If I, god forbid, find myself on a freeway in a city, I pick up the pace to get along with the traffic because it is only for a little while.  I want to keep my little home away from home for a long time, and this kind of driving puts no strain on the engine or any other system so I can end the day relaxed.  So far, it has only bugged the people that are riding with me.


Originally I was looking for a Chinook on a Toyota chassis, but now after 15 years I am kind of glad that I ended up with a Datsun 620.  Like I said, it is a stout little truck. 



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