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Thread: Flatbed and composite panel build on Dodge 2500

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    Default Flatbed and composite panel build on Dodge 2500

    So a few years ago, I built a nice Ford F-650 to comfortably haul 4 people and sleep up to 6 for our families travels, we race cross country and hare scrambles plus do a lot of off road riding. In the past we used your typical RV but after killing 2 motorhomes, 2 travel trailers, and having the family space requirements exceed the limitations of our Bigfoot camper on our F-450 (the ONLY camper that had no issues after 2 years of good use) the F-650 was born. We are running it for the 4th consecutive year, with no issues, 50% of our travel is on rough unimproved gravel roads. It is light for its size, roomy, safe, warm, lots of water and power, we are able to run extended periods without issue, it has travelled through 2 provinces and 6 states in the name of fun.

    Recently my son and I have been starting to do a lot more day trips, which is usually 300-500 km's of driving plus a full day of hard riding, it would be nice to shoot out the night before, and be there for the crack of dawn, but I don't like driving the big rig out with the trailer for one nights sleep for just the 2 of us. It is always stocked and ready to go for the whole family which is usually a minimum of 3 days supplies, plus she burns diesel at 9 MPG so in this circumstance it's a little bit of a job to use it. My F-650 has proven itself, and I have got a lot of positive feedback from the racing community, a lot of people deal with the same issues we used to. So after a lot of inquiries I decided to investigate the possibilities of building a platform that would service our sport as well as survive the kind of travelling we do, like a lot of people on this forum do.

    The build is a 2004 Dodge 2500 crew cab long box diesel, it's my truck, with only 150 000 KM's on the odometer, and in mint well maintained condition. It's been a great truck and if I replace it, I want to be able to unbolt everything and drop it on to a new chassis. The deck will be aluminum, the build will be extremely focused on the limitations within the factory chassis and vehicle capacities, keep unnecessary weight out, and keep function number 1 and aesthetics right behind. The camper will follow the same philosophies, I have been working with composite panels for a few years in some very harsh environments, and I have designed a line of extrusions that will make the build relatively straight forward, and extremely strong with a little bit of flexibility built into the entire structure.

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    Default First step

    Weigh it! What can it haul?

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    Front and rear axle weights stock with box and a Trail Ready rear bumper. 2110 KG front (4650 lb) and 1260 KG rear (2777 lb), total 3370 KG (7427 lb). Heavy truck! That is with a Trail Ready front bumper, 4" Fabtech lift, and 35" Generals on aluminum wheels.

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    Default How flexible is it?

    I considered a 3 point mounting system, everybody need that right? Well why don't we find out what we are dealing with. It's not like the old days when the box of the old Chevy would beat the required clearance into the cab in the rough stuff, truck chassis suspension has evolved a bit. I took a forklift and lifted the right rear tire until the left rear tire just left the ground, with a couple straight edges across the box I snapped a few different pics to illustrate the amount of frame flex we are dealing with, not much, 5/8 - 11/16" from what I could physically measure. You can see the top of the rear tire is pretty close to flush with the top of the frame, you can see daylight on the other side, the trite was 22" off the ground before any other tire lifted, the front suspension reaction was equally balanced.
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    A couple angles on the amount of flex transmitted through the box.
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    After establishing a few basic parameters, I stripped off the box and rear bumper, I want to find out what they weigh and the effect on axle weights, all weights were with a half tank of fuel, and no occupants.

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    Front axle 2150 KG (4740 lb) 40 KG or 88 lb HEAVIER! Rear axle 950 KB (2094 lb) 310 KG or (727 lb) lighter. The weight increase on the front axle is due to the weight removed from behind the rear axle being more than the weight being removed from in front of the rear axle, the whole truck weighs 270 KG (593 lb) lighter. I didn't expect the box to weigh as much as it did, the Trail Ready bumper is really not that heavy, its just a 3/16" steel "shell".

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    Default How much flex does the box have to deal with?

    With the box and bumper off, I decided to see how much flex the box took out of the chassis.

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    As you can see the box stiffens the chassis a little, I expected to see a little more but I measured 3/4" - 7/8" of flex, so roughly 1/8" - 3/16" of overall flex over a 10'2" span (measured diagonally). Not really a whole bunch. I decided not to utilize a 3 point of flexible mounting system, but rather put a little of stiffness back into the chassis, just like the box did, just like the factory accommodated.

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    Looking forward to following your build.
    1992 FORD F-350 Crew 4X4. 460 gas, Manual 5-speed. Sky's Offroad Design shackle reversal, Atlas Spring spring packs, Falken 37x12.5-17 Wildpeaks Trailready 17x8.5 beadlocks, Warn Winches front&rear, Odyssey AGM Batteries, Power Master. Centramatic Dynamic Wheel Balancers. Pressure Pro TPMS. Maxima Racing Fluids, Vision-X, JE Reel, Crap Ind.
    Build thread

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    I designed a mounting sill to fit the factory mounts, I wanted to keep the floor of the deck as close to the factory box floor as I could, the sills are 3/16 50W steel with windows cut for shock and frame component clearance, all windows are capped. With a 3" crossmember and enough vertical wall in the sill to retain integrity, we are within an inch of the factory floor height. I also took the time to CAD a rear bumper that incorporated the hitch. I have designed a few certified class 5 hitches, so I basically robbed the design, but with the skinny rear frame of the Dodge I used 2 shear plates per side out of 3/16 rather than 1 out of 3/8 which is typical on the heavier builds. This grabs the rear of the frame the way the factory hitch does.

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    Here is the deck, 2x6 C channel perimeter, 3" C channel cross members, all 1/4" 6061 T6. The deck is covered with 3/16 aluminum diamond plate, 5052, all welded with a Miller 350P welder.

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    A good steam cleaning, removed some of the flaky stuff with the wire wheel, and a quick shot of chassis black made it look like new. I was surprised at the condition of the original paint, especially with our corrosive winters. A new set of pro Comp adjustable shocks will help tune the ride in.

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