Ye' Olde Site By Joby

Camper shell refurb project

I spent a long time wishing I had a camper shell. Even with the short bed, it's viable for camping in, if I sleep with the tailgate down. I may also either buy or build a tent/awning to rain/bug-proof the open end for sleeping in.

It's also long been a peeve of mine that when I go on SAR missions I need to cram anything I'm not using into the cab. It'll be really nice to be able to secure all my unused gear in the bed at incident base, and will save me a ton of time and frustration.

Build log

2-21-2020: Bought for $100

So last week on FB Marketplace I found a very good deal on a slightly haggard camper shell. It came off a 90s Ranger, and since Ford has been kind enough to keep the beds and rear cabs of Rangers exactly the same shape since 1993, it fits perfectly.

It's got some cosmetic issues, and the front glass between it and the cab is broken. I figure I'll just replace the front glass with a piece of acrylic though, and plan on doing a full cosmetic refurbish on the thing. In the meantime it's at least some shade of blue, so it doesn't look completely ridiculous on my truck as I gather supplies and plans for the overhaul.

The state the camper was in when I bought it

Currently the plan is:

  • Take all the glass out
    • Lubricate, clean, repaint all the window trim
    • Replace the screens
  • Repaint the interior
  • Sand and prime the exterior
  • Paint the roof white
  • Sticker bomb and clearcoat the sides, before reinstalling the glass and rubber trim so it looks very pro
  • Install red LED strip lights inside, wired to the door opening
  • Maybe eventually put a solar panel on top and wire up an inverter and battery in some sort of enclosure in the bed

2-25-2020: Sanding

The camper after a round of sanding

The glass is all out, and the door and frame are removed. Today I got to work and sanded things down fairly thoroughly. I didn't have to be too thorough on the sides, it just needs to be smooth-ish and ready for stickers to adhere. The top I spent a bit more work on, and will probably need to do some more sanding once I get a coat of primer on.

I probably could have gotten some primer on, but it was cold and I figured it wouldn't dry before dark so I decided to just take a shower and call it for the day. While I was back in the garage I also lubed the tracks of the slider windows with silicone, and now they work like champs.

2-26-2020: Priming, painting, stickers

Today I primed everywhere that needed it, painted as much as I could with one can of gloss automotive enamel, and started on the stickers. I'm kind of just filling the edges with some stickers I have around at the moment, I should get several hundred more stickers Friday. I also got the black trim on most of the windows repainted, and started working on the door, which is going to maybe need a new hinge. Hurricane hinges are expensive though, so I'm not relishing the thought. I also need to go buy some more rivets before I can put the door entirely back together.

The noteworthy decisions I made are probably to not have a solid line at the top of the stickers. I think it'll look nicer and more organic that way. It's also easier. I also decided to do the front where it faces the cab of the truck in black, to cut down on glare at night. The roof could have definitely used more sanding, and maybe a little filler, but I'm not going for "show truck" here.

I feel like I'm really executing a pretty specific aesthetic here.

2-27-2020: More painting, inside and out

Today I mostly spent time painting the inside. It took an entire can of Kilz, but it looks quite nice now, and feels bigger like white does. I also finished painting the white top, and did a bit more black trim.

Some parts also came in the mail, but it's not time for any of them just yet.

I also kind of semi-decided to replace the hinge, even though doing so will be kind of expensive. I might save it for last though, because I can do it fairly easily at any time, even once everything is put back together.

2-2-2020: Nearly complete

The camper in a nearly complete state

Today and yesterday I did a lot of work, but kept finishing after dark so I don't have a lot of photos. I finished stickering all the way around every opening, and reinstalled the windows and door with fresh butyl seals so everything should be very watertight now.

I didn't actually replace the hinge on the door. I got the door side of the hurricane hinge reattached to the door frame in a reliable fashion in the places it was broken, just by putting in a few new rivets. This camper is over 20 years old, so if these rivets last half as long as the originals I've got 10-15 years until I need to think about this again.

I also installed fresh foam seals around the bottom, and really worked at getting it into its final, perfectly-placed position before I tightened down the clamps for what should be the last time.

Then I repainted the door inside and out, installed new handles on the door, and used up all the stickers I had at the moment that weren't completely terrible. This whole project is now insanely close to being done!

All I need to do now is more stickers when they come in probably Monday, and a bit of trim around the bottom whenever I get around to buying such a thing. Then it'll be on to the detail work, like interior lights, getting the brake light wired up, and sorting out some kind of sane connector for hooking it all up to the truck's wiring.

3-21-2020: Exterior pretty finished

Since the last update I didn't do anything too fancy. The sticker bombing is done, and the trim is applied to the bottom edge. The trim in particular went a super long way toward making the whole thing look finished.

Next up is the interior platform, some wiring stuff, and all that jazz. I'm probably not going to get it done any time super soon though, just because it's already super useful as it is.

I also vinyl-cut my signature "Fix Shit Up" illustration (actually drawn by your truly), and put it on the back along with my NM Mountain Club sticker.