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Thread: Kodiak duramax 4x4 conversion...from medical attack vehicle to mild mannered 'cody'

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
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    Northwest Washington
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    Default Kodiak duramax 4x4 conversion...from medical attack vehicle to mild mannered 'cody'

    i didn't want to keep cluttering up other guys build threads so decided i'd start my own to collect my 'new guy' questions in one. I love road trips, have driven much of the USA, and recently was tent camping with my copilot (Brew - chow/retriever mix) all over idaho/utah and thinking once again about moving to a motorhome. I'd had a travel trailer a couple years ago ... towing that was about as much fun as i'd imagine dragging an aircraft carrier with a huge parachute attached to it so I sold it after one round trip across texas. I've been looking at RV's for years, but they're all boring or ridiculously extravagant imo, plus they pretty much disintegrate in a serious wreck (been to more than a few). So this september's road trip i started thinking back to my early days when life was fun...18 and driving fire engines ... and it occurred to me it could be fun owning one as an RV. That quickly led to searching for used heavy rescue units - but they weigh a LOT and fortunately I didn't complete the sale of a Spartan unit ... because I had no idea what a PITA getting insurance and registering such a vehicle would be. I love boondocking / dispersed camping (read: I loathe campgrounds) so I started noticing some 4x4 ambo conversions, and that led to finding the vehicle I now own which I believe I'll just call "Cody" for fairly obvious reasons (plus, Cody WY is a cool town and near my favorite place on earth YNP).

    I bought this 2008 Chevy c4500, 6.6l duramax, 4x4, 'wheeled coach' medical attack vehicle from GEV in PA - Shawn M. was awesome to work with. When I initially contacted him he was pretty honest about some of the pitfalls of buying as a non GOV entity, but was up for the game and did all he could to help. I was able to get a progressive commercial policy, and initially Washington DOL seemed like it was going to be the problem ... but then went in to their main office in my area and about 15 minutes later (and one huge sales tax check lighter) had it registered as an RV with plates! voila!

    My plans are to pretty much gut the box and add a composting toilet, shower, sink, range top, etc. I started the inside yesterday - other builders here aint kidding when they talk about the electrical in these rigs .... holy that's going to be interesting. I'm also planning to make it appear just as civilian/non-ambo as possible, meaning I want to remove all the emergency lights and do the body work to make them disappear as well as add some windows (time will tell once I get the interior ripped out so I can see what's what). Someone posted a helpful how-to on renovating ambo's and mentioned that trying to keep the interior while doing projects can be a real time delay - so far I agree, I can't really see how to do anything significant without removing everything first so you can see the bones (and more importantly the wiring!).

    anyway, hopefully I can add value to this site as well as glean knowledge from those who went before me ... i've only been thinking about this idea for about 2 months and already in it for a big pile of money so now it's time to get it into reality! I rented a huge heated garage for the project as it's the rainy season here in the PNW


    one quick question for anyone who knows - this rig has a hoseline hvac, the type where the condenser is installed beneath the body. As a boondocking 4x4 that's not a really great place to have delicate equipment ... plus in starting the demo the interior part is in a bad place for my plans and takes up a pile of real estate. There are all sorts of hoses coming from this thing, and I gather that it draws heat from the engine when heating the box ... but I"ve thus far been unable to find any literature on how these work or installation instructions. I'm seriously considering removing this system in favor of a future roof mount style A/C and a traditional LP heater - has anyone else removed theirs, and if so how did the engine coolant lines get 'capped' etc?
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    Last edited by Cowpig; 11-19-2017 at 05:27 PM. Reason: Information

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    Phoenix AZ
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    1,648
    Congratulations on the purchase and welcome to the asylum.

    Hoseline AC/heater. I just removed mine completely. It took up too much space inside (which for me will house all my electrical plus the microwave and 2 coffee machines). As we will be running a diesel generator we figured if we really need AC in the module while running down the road we would just start the generator and run the 110v one. But I also removed the rooftop AC as it is big and heavy (plus not very efficient). Replaced that with a Maxairre fan.

    The plan is to install a mini split system with heat pump that is has the inverter drive.

    Coolant lines on mine had 1/4 turn ball valves in them that were turned off anyway (Florida vehicle). Getting rid of these lines and the AC hose sure freed up a lot of space in the chase up the front wall of the module.

    For heat while not running the engine we will be using an AquaHot system with a couple of small radiators. This is also diesel powered so minimizing the fuel requirements.
    2007 Freightliner Dualcab Ambulance conversion. Check it out here
    FJ75 Landcruiser 6 wheeler (Converting to an AmboCamper)
    1963 BMW /2 with a Ural Sidecar.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Northwest Washington
    Posts
    55
    awesome thank you - i was pretty sure I was going to take it out, but being new to this wasn't sure if there were unseen advantages to such a big system designed for patient care rather than rv'ers. i had also seen some threads on the mini split systems and will look into those as well, but i'm also considering just 'roughing it' (hah) without A/C in the back since nobody will be riding back there, and I still like to camp. I will check my lines today for ball valves and see if it's that easy which seems logical, guess they'd need them for service work etc.

    this rig also had a smaller a/c voltage foot heater below the attendants seat, i may explore re-using that to at least keep the box warm when winter camping to prime that area while driving before engine shut down - have to see again what the btu's of that were (took that seat out yesterday, along with the heavy steel box riser it was on)

    the decals....oh the decals.... that is the current priority project so i can actually drive it around a bit
    Jim

    2008 Chevy C4500 4x4 Duramax, former Wheeled Coach "medical attack vehicle" ... transformation underway
    2015 Grand Cherokee 3.0 diesel ORA-II with doodads and stuff added

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Reno, NV
    Posts
    1,557
    Glad to see someone on here bought that rig. I called on it and you bought an amazing rig. Can't wait to see your build out.
    .
    Jack
    2007 2500hd, Max/Alli, Hawk FWC (the new explorer)
    Build thread: http://www.expeditionportal.com/foru...07-Chevy-Build
    2006 Jeep LJ Rubicon-Sold
    1985 4Runner 22rte-Project...
    KE7NCK

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Rochester, NY
    Posts
    71
    Quote Originally Posted by Cowpig View Post
    awesome thank you - i was pretty sure I was going to take it out, but being new to this wasn't sure if there were unseen advantages to such a big system designed for patient care rather than rv'ers. i had also seen some threads on the mini split systems and will look into those as well, but i'm also considering just 'roughing it' (hah) without A/C in the back since nobody will be riding back there, and I still like to camp. I will check my lines today for ball valves and see if it's that easy which seems logical, guess they'd need them for service work etc.

    this rig also had a smaller a/c voltage foot heater below the attendants seat, i may explore re-using that to at least keep the box warm when winter camping to prime that area while driving before engine shut down - have to see again what the btu's of that were (took that seat out yesterday, along with the heavy steel box riser it was on)

    the decals....oh the decals.... that is the current priority project so i can actually drive it around a bit
    Based on my experience here in the northeaster US, I'd be surprised if that AC heater under the airway seat actually works. All our city trucks came with them, but they were operable only when the truck was plugged into a 110v shore line which never happened. Mostly those heaters collected salt, dirt and occasional biohazardous material and never got run so they self-destructed from all the crap that collected in them. Depending on where the truck you bought was used previously (county vs. city agency) your experience with that heater may or may not be better than mine.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Northwest Washington
    Posts
    55
    Quote Originally Posted by locrwln View Post
    Glad to see someone on here bought that rig. I called on it and you bought an amazing rig. Can't wait to see your build out.
    .
    Jack
    thanks, it sure wasn't cheap but it seems so far to be a good decision time will tell. I found the sharps container to still be filled with used needles ... sort of a surprise gift from GEV I guess. that said i'm surprised I haven't found more medical waste etc ... been in a few ambo's with patients leaking and projecting fluids in every direction so glad i haven't found any small body parts

    Quote Originally Posted by ambulancemonkee View Post
    Based on my experience here in the northeaster US, I'd be surprised if that AC heater under the airway seat actually works. All our city trucks came with them, but they were operable only when the truck was plugged into a 110v shore line which never happened. Mostly those heaters collected salt, dirt and occasional biohazardous material and never got run so they self-destructed from all the crap that collected in them. Depending on where the truck you bought was used previously (county vs. city agency) your experience with that heater may or may not be better than mine.
    good to know - forgot to check what the btu's are when i was there today, too busy ripping off the miles and miles of decals and also spent a couple hours removing interior bits and pieces. this rig only has 20k on it and the heater unit in question appears to be in very good condition, it should work but i'll only bother if it is rated high enough to bother with (or maybe I'll put it under the drivers seat for my feet while rolling )


    for the decal removal, the blue parts are coming off mostly clean with no residue ... but of course all the reflective decals are leaving all their adhesive behind and that stuff is no joke. i am using some spray on goof off stuff, letting it sit and it's working on it but i'm going to get some spray on goo gone gel and use that.
    Jim

    2008 Chevy C4500 4x4 Duramax, former Wheeled Coach "medical attack vehicle" ... transformation underway
    2015 Grand Cherokee 3.0 diesel ORA-II with doodads and stuff added

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Seattle WA
    Posts
    3,529
    Look for an "Adhesive Eraser Wheel" I know the guys around here have a favorite one, but 3M makes one also. Supposed to work really well on those decals.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Flagstaff, Arizona
    Posts
    387
    Decals... oh, fun.

    Some have had theirs come right off, with a heat gun and some peeling. Others, like me, had to use a bunch of Whizzy Wheels to get our off. It seems to have something to do with age and sun baking. Where our decals and stripes were covered, with light housings and such, they peeled right off intact. But, all the exposed parts were a bear to remove. I tried plastic scrapers and thinner, but that went nowhere fast. If you look at our thread, you'll see photos of how much striping ours had for comparison to yours. We ended up using 6 Whizzy Wheels.

    Welcome to the medium duty ambo conversion club!

    Ross
    "KETO 1" - A 1999 Freightliner FL60 medium duty American LaFrance Medic Master ambulance, being converted into an RV and roving Ketosis Support Vehicle

    The KETO 1 build thread http://www.expeditionportal.com/foru...to-RV-we-hope!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Northwest Washington
    Posts
    55
    Slow progress, I probably should've waited and tried the whizzy wheel - still have the adhesive to deal with
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Jim

    2008 Chevy C4500 4x4 Duramax, former Wheeled Coach "medical attack vehicle" ... transformation underway
    2015 Grand Cherokee 3.0 diesel ORA-II with doodads and stuff added

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Seattle WA
    Posts
    3,529
    Wizzy wheel takes the adhesive off!

    Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk

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