Author Archive


May 18th, 2009

I went to Bamboo Hardwoods today to pick up some 1/2″ bamboo for the drawer fronts and some more 1/8″ for door and cabinet panels.     Here’s one of the front doors with bamboo panels and speakers mounted.


and an interior shot, taken later with the wire routing. interior insulation and speaker crossover visible.    I also wired up a red LED light which will illuminate when the door is opened.


The seals around the windows are kinda shot.    I have been ignoring the windows the whole project and now it is time to address them.


Another path

May 8th, 2009

I saw this the other day.    Not a bad idea — take a flatbed, strap on a shack and you are done.



Rollups now Flipouts

May 8th, 2009

I love the firetruck style rollup doors on Trog.   However, they don’t work at all with a camper layout as the rollup tracks would completely bisect the living area.    To fix this, yet retain the look, I have constrained the tambours using some aluminum U channel to make flipout flaps.    They are hinged at the top.



When open, they will allow a lot of cross-flow breeze.    I am debating whether or not to put an interior window of some sort on the forward flaps.     The drivers side rear flap opens to gain access to a storage area.    The passenger side rear flap will expose the exterior shower control and showerhead.

I think I will also repaint the flaps a different color.  I am considering a metallic silver — something that will look like bare aluminum or stainless.

The flaps will be supported by gas springs — they just arrived in the mail today so I’ll put them on soon.    I also need to figure out how they lock from the outside.



May 6th, 2009

With the roof flipped back over I installed the Solar Panels.    Two Kyocera KD-135 GX-LP panels to give up to 270 watts of electrical generation.    That should be enough to keep up with the refrigerator, heating fans, lights and other loads.


I considered mounting them like this:


which would have allowed room for a roof rack, but I decided on the end-to-end format because I would still have the ability to use the pole-chocks for long poles for desert or other camping structures.    It’ll also prevent me from adding a roof rack and loading the roof up with further weight.    It’s already much heavier than I’d like it to be.

The solar charge controllers is a Blue Sky 2512ix maximum power point tracking (MPPT) controller.     MPPT controllers are more efficient because they operate the solar panel at the voltage where it produces the most overall power.   Conventional chargers operate at battery charge voltage (typically 13-14V), while the MPPT controller has a DC to DC converter to convert the MPPT voltage to charge voltage.


The Kyoceras produce maxiumum power at 17.7V.   More info on MPPT controllers are available in this PDF.


Roof nearly done

April 28th, 2009

Today I mounted the bamboo cove panels on the roof.


Hopefully the bamboo won’t split lengthwise.   I put some Damplifier butyl rubber sound dampening material on the back, mostly to dampen rattles, but it also increases the strength a bit.


This is pretty much the last thing to be done to the roof in it’s turtled state.    As soon as I can get enough peeps in the shop to help flip the roof I can commence with mounting the solar panels.

I have decided to put bamboo panels in the doors as well.    Here’s a sample panel I temporarily set into the panel guides on one of the doors.




April 26th, 2009

I’ve had the roof turtled on my welding table for the past week or so.   It’s really getting in the way, making it difficult to proceed on the cabinets, or other fab jobs.    So, I’ve been working pretty much solely on the roof so I can call it done.   Here’s a shot with the roof rail that the roof sets upon.


The silver colored aluminum extrusion is the awning rail that holds the fabric for the tent.   Awning rail is also rivetted to the roof.    Awning rail insert is sewn to the canvas and then it is reeved into the rails.

I also replaced the existing hatch for the machine-gunner with a Lewmar Ocean 60 low profile hatch.    This required fabbing an aluminum frame and spacer since the new hatch is a a few inches narrower than the old hatch.




Insulation and wall panels

April 15th, 2009

Miguel finished with the insulation work as well as the wall panels.    The insulation is a foil lined polyisocyanurate panels, with the exposed edges wrapped in adhesive foil tape.       Its less flammable and less squeaky than polystyrene foam panels.     Any additional space was filled with 3/8″ thick Volara foam.


The wall panels are 5mm underlayment plywood called SuperPly.   SuperPly is nice stuff — it has a hardwood smooth face and is made with exterior grade glues.





Water tank in

April 11th, 2009

Miguel finished fabricating the water tank and installed it.    It’s 27gal and made of 316 stainless steel with all welds properly pickled to prevent corrosion.   Three internal baffles prevent sloshing and oil canning of the sides.    Two inspection ports allow cleanout.



Wiring nearly done

April 11th, 2009

Wow, that took way longer than I anticipated.    The new wiring harness is finally installed, with a few random wires still to be run.   I still need to zip tie the bundles and secure the split loom.

Here’s the American Autowire HiWay 22 panel.   It is installed behind the drivers seat, in the rear cabin.


I elected to run separate grounds, using American Autowire’s vehicle ground kit.   The black box below the fuse block is a terminal for grounds to be attached.   It has always bothered me that vehicles use the chassis/body metal as the ground return.   Firstly, steel isn’t that great of a conductor (though there is a large cross-sectional area), and secondly corrosion can degrade connections to the steel body.    This seems a better, more reliable way.   It also will help eliminate possible ground loops.    There’s a ground terminal block at the rear, this one near the fuse block, behind the guage panel and near the old fuse panel in front of the passenger seat.    6 gauge wire connects the 4 nodes.

The new dash rear.



I ended up using the old harness for the somewhat complicated windshield wiper logic which uses 4 relays and quite a few connections to the switches.

At the top is a tachometer I added.    It’s a VDO 6K tach that mostly matches the existing VDO instruments.


The new glove compartment area:


vs the old:


Overall, I liked the American Autowire Hiway harness kit.    Each wire is run individually, which adds a lot of flexibility, but greatly adds to the time required to wire.   I really should have preplanned where each wire went and made my own bundles to route as a group.    The long wires included in the kit meant that I only had to splice some of the wires which ran to the rear taillights.

Some things I didn’t like about the harness kit included the lack of a reverse light circuit(!), it assumed the stop/run lights are run with a single wire,  and it assumed a GM column for turn/brake/hazard logic.    I had to emulate the GM logic, mapping it to the Volvos system and placement of switches.


Pulling the Steering Wheel

March 29th, 2009

I spent the day rewiring the electrical system.   In the process, I have put an ignition switch on the instrument panel.     To keep things tidy, I decided to remove the old ignition switch and cowling.   This involved removing the steering wheel.   What I thought was a simple task ended up taking a few hours.    The service manual indicates to use a special Volvo tool.


This tool pulls the wheel without damaging the plastic.    Not having that tool, I tried making my own.    As you can imagine from the bodgy welds, this version took many iterations, all failing, from bending the clamp to cracked welds.


Ok, something simpler.

I made up an aluminum ring with a conical interior profile to match the steel turn signal cancel ring.


Using that and a gear puller and it came off, still with a fair amount of effort.


I’m thinking of installing the wheel in the foreground as the new wheel:


It’s 20″ in diam, vs 17″ for the stock wheel.   So I’ll have to make it mount a little higher for leg clearance.

I’d love to tilt the steering column forward a little bit as well, but doing so would require fabbing a new bracket down near the steering box.

Camper, Trog

Cabinet Frames

March 23rd, 2009

Miguel has been helping me with welding up the stainless steel cabinet frames.     Here’s the left and right frames in place in Trog:

Looking aft:


and from the rear:


On the right is the kitchen, at 35″ from the floor.   The kitchen has a refrigerator aft, and a stove/sink above.    The 9″x10″x65″ area between the cabinet front and the right wheel well will be a 27 gallon freshwater tank made of 316 stainless.    On the left, the cabinets are 43″ high.   They feature a  hanging closet and an exterior accessible storage area via the old roll-top doors which I will convert into flip-out hatches.

The cabinets will be “skinned” by some 1/4″ to 3/8″ bamboo plywood inset a bit from the frame.    The ply is fastened to the frames by button head screws so any panel can be removed for access to wiring or plumbing behind.    The cabinets themselves are also bolted to the floor/sides so they could potentially be removed and modified  for reconfiguration.

I still haven’t figured out what the cabinet top material will be.    I’d love to get my hands on a granite on honeycomb composite, but I’ve only found them available in the theoretical from China (There’s many many hits to the search “granite laminate honeycomb”, but all of them are from Chinese firms.   I suspect that none of these firms actually make the product but will if there is a customer).

Working in the shop with Miguel has been fun.   He taught me a bunch of metal working many years ago.    With his help, we’ve been able to make the frames square to 1/32″ of an inch — something that isn’t too easy with stainless which loves to heat-warp.


Next up is the seats forward of the cabinets.


CNS ripped out

March 23rd, 2009

On Saturday, Marshall helped me rip out the old Trog wiring.


The old wiring mess.    Most of the ugliness is due to Tollarp, the company who half-hazardly installed the firetruck system wiring.   Lots of thirty year old electrical tape at every junction.


The bounty.



Nice clean dash.   The remaining wires are from the new electic fan and headlight circuits.


I should have done this earlier.    Now I have great access to hoses and other mechanical parts such as the brakes, clutch, heater and stearing.


Brakes again…Picture explains some things

March 19th, 2009

One of the brake fluid reservoirs keeps emptying, and I’ve been scratching my head trying to figure out where the brake fluid goes.   It does soak into the concrete and evaporate, so a slow leak could go unnoticed.

However….this pic shows where the mystery fluid went.


That’s the upper brake servo.    Upon opening it 1 liter of brake fluid came gushing out!    Ooops.

Alternating brake fluid colors between blue and yellow lets you know when you have completely bled the system when replacing all the brake fluid.


I suspect moisture in the brake fluid caused the slave cylinder walls to corrode, allowing brake fluid to sneak past the cup seal and into the vacuum chamber on the right.   Fluid could have also slipped by the reaction piston as well.  Surprisingly the rubber bellows and seals seemed to be in great condition.

Here’s a pic of a more modern slave and reaction piston.


Slave piston on top, reaction on bottom.    The reaction piston in Trog only had 1 O ring seal – a failure point addressed with the double seal in later revisiion….so that could be the culprit.   (Pic stolen from the website linked below)

Here’s a page on a rebuild of the servos

I could have possibly had the cylinder sleaved with chromed inserts, but given that the whole unit is 30 years old and it is an essential safety feature, I think replacement is prudent.

The new replacements from SNG Barrat USA have a higher boost ratio as well at 4.25:1 vs 3:1 of the old servos (I’m not 100% sure the old ones are 3:1).  This means the braking power will be increased.

Will the brake saga end here?    There is a 30 year old master cylinder that I haven’t dug into yet….

UPDATE (3/11/2010):   The old boost ratio is “approx 4x” according to the service manual. A reader pointed out that the vacuum shell, slave and reaction cylinder diameters are the same on the LR18230 as on the stock servo (8″, 5/8″ and 3/8″ respectively).   So it makes sense the boost ratio would be the same.


Speaker Pods

March 12th, 2009

A while back I picked up some Alpine SPR-13S speakers, intending to make some mounting pods above the front window.    In the end, I decided to mount them in the door.    The doors are only about 1.5″ thick — not enough for the woofers.     So I had to make extension pods.    I found some 6″ round tube at a local industrial supply place.   The front of the pods was cut on the lathe using a faceplate, a live center to keep the plate on the faceplate and a set screw thru the steel into the faceplate to act as a lathe dog.


The just painted doors had to be ground down so the pods could be welded in place.    Note the sound dampening Damplifier and Spectrum Sludge in the cavity.   This helps dampen any resonance and or rattles of the metal door.


There are a couple “ports” in the door — hopefully they won’t create weird sound artifacts. Trog is so loud that I’m not really shooting for audiophile sound anyway.

Finished and painted with the (plastic…) grills set in place.


Look for a post sometime soon where I break the plastic grills and have to fab up something out of stainless steel.


Guillotining your family is bad, mkay.

March 12th, 2009

So the Thern 472 winch that I was  using to lift the camper top has an unfortunate bug.    The winch is a worm drive winch.    Typically worm drives don’t (or are very difficult) to drive from the output shaft.    This acts as a natural brake.    When lowering the roof,  if the drill slips off the drive nut, the roof can continue to fall at an alarming rate.    If someone happened to be inside standing up, they would certainly suffer spinal injuries.   And if they had a head one of the windows in the canvas it would sever said head.    Not good.

Thern makes winches that are good for lifting that have a brake to prevent run-away drops.    The 4622-PB winch:


This is a smaller winch and the winch drum is a too small for the ropes to fit in one wrap.     So I disassembled it and extended the drum with some pipe turned on the lathe and welded in a new section to the frame.



I could have removed the brake and mounted that on the old winch, but it was secured to the input shaft with a set-pin that I could not for the life of me punch out.    Also there are a few clearance issues with the lift poles that I would have had to figure out as well.

Once the roof is raised, I will have some Kwik-Lok pins which will pin thru holes in the lift poles and guide tubes to secure the roof and prevent it from falling in the unlikely event of a rope or pulley breaking.



New Wiring Harness

March 11th, 2009

Longingly gazing at the dash area, trying to find a place for the stereo, my attention went to the “glove compartment” area in front of the passenger.   If I move the fuse panel and relays out of there, it could go there. Not ideal for the driver to manage the stereo, but still possible, i think. The tangle of wire in Trog has always bugged me, and I’ve spent some time cleaning it up. However, Tollarp, the folks who did the firetruck conversion did a really bodgy job. Plus the 30 year old connectors are starting to fail. Finally, I’ll never have Trog so opened up to make wiring easy, so I might as well do it.

Good place to get info, and to buy some of these harnesses

They have a pretty comprehensive FAQ about wiring harnesses.

Most all feature wire that is unique in color for every circuit, and labeled every few inches. That alone is worth getting the kits vs doing it myself with just a few colors of wire that I would purchase.

Most manufacturers make harnesses with 15 or 22 circuits. Though the 15 would be enough for Trog I wanted the extra expandability, say if I add power door locks.

KwikWire KW22

Good quality, made in USA, back of panel is soldered, not crimped. Not a lot of extras, decent price.

Engine ignition disconnect switch at panel (for theft security)

No online manual available.

$90: extender kit to mount the harness behind the passenger seat.
$35: Instrument panel disconnect
$229: KW22 22 ckt harness
Total: $334


KeepItKlean EZ22
Cheapest, all crimped, made in China.   Publishes it’s install manual online.
$90: trunk kit (have to use Kwikwires, so wire colors and numbers won’t match…)
$35: instrument disconnect
$159: EZ22 22 ckt harness
Total: $284


American Autowire HiWay22
Highest quality. Lots of extra wire. Great instructions (I found some scans on the web), though they should publish their manual online.
Lots of extras, some that I don’t need, like a dimmer switch and headlight knob and ignition switch
Lots of useful extras, like grommets, alternator diode, big master maxi fuse,
Can run wire from center of their run, with connectors at the fuse box.   (using proprietary Hooke’s law technology.   Heh.   Hilarious.   — Hooke was a 17th century scientist who described the properties of springs.  It’s marketing-sprechen for it uses sprung metal to hold the wires in place.
All power wires are 12ga..
Wires are extra length so no need for trunk kit.
Instrument disconnect included.
$384 (ebay): HiWay22 harness
Total: $384


Ron Francis: Express

Looks like a good kit. I just refuse to buy anything that uses Hot-Dog font (Comic Sans Serif is another one that kills sales for me)

No specs on wire sizes (just proper size)

No online manual.

$429: XP-66
Total: $429


CentecWire: K20-B
Didn’t look too closely at this one. Their website doesn’t give much info.
$349: K20
Total $349+?


Painless: 10220 18 ckt trunk harness

Crap install manual, no circuit diagram, TXL wires, will need to buy grommets, has maxi fuse.  Overpriced, overhyped.

$88 : 30301 Instrument Panel disconnect
$444 (ebay): 10220 harness
Total $532

TXL vs GXL vs SXL vs SGX wiring

There are a few others as well, but I ruled them out for various reasons.

I ended up going with the American Autowire Hiway 22. It’s a bit more spendy, but in the end it’ll save me at least 2 trips to the store for grommets or whatnot. If I were to keep the right front dash compartment placement, I’d probably go with the Kwikwire kit — it is compact and looks well built.

Finally, a note to wiring manufacturers if they happen to stumble upon this blog.   Please please please publish more information about your harnesses!   Post your online manual.  Post the type, guages and lengths of each wire.   Post a wiring diagram.   All of these would have made evaluating their kits way easier.    I’m not sure why the manufacturers are so obtuse?   It’s not like a competitor will steal your info — they could buy a harness and clone it if they wanted to.   All harnesses are somewhat similiar, so a customer could use your clearer instructions when installing a competitors wire.    But does that really hurt you?   Because of your superior manual, that person will likely become a customer of yours when he rewires his next car.    Who knows, maybe I could have gotten over the Ron Francis Hot Dog font and bought yours, Mr Francis if you had provided more info.

Kudos to the EZ2Wire folks for publishing their install manual and ckt diagram and good info on various brands kits.


Propane Installed

March 6th, 2009

The hot-dog propane tank finally mounted:


Feeds go to the heater, stove and a rear bumper mounted quick release fitting for an external BBQ that’ll mount on the rear bumper.   The tank is 10″ in diameter — it ends up reducing ground clearance a bit…not much more than the existing drivetrain.

The Precision Temp Junior heater installed.   I still have to plumb and hook up the electrical.


It sure would have been good to use that volume for a tank or something.


Seat Saga

February 28th, 2009

I’ve been soliciting local trim and upholstery shops to do the interior door panels, headliners, settees and reupholstery of the existing Volvo front seats.    The front seats are surprisingly ok, for such a simple design.


Unfortunately, 30 years of swedish flatulence has taken it’s toll on the foam as well as the rest of the seat.    Getting them re-upholstered is going to cost about $800 for the pair.    This set me on looking at various aftermarket seats.

A good seat for Trog must posess a a couple characteristics which greatly narrow down the choices.   A Trog seat must/should be:

  • Low profile in the seat — I’m tall, so the ass-level can’t be any higher than the stock seats
  • Low side bolsters — getting in and out of Trog is a sliding affair off the edge of a seat.   Bolsters would make ingress/egress even more difficult.

Corbeau makes a couple seats which could work.    First is the LG1


It is also available in all black.   Sitting in it was a dream — at least for my butt.    Unfortunately, the wings at the shoulder level pinched.

While trying out the LG1, I sat in a Recaro Expert M:


Amazing, but not $1000 each amazing.

Finally, I’ve settled on some Corbeau Moabs which are designed as direct replacement for Jeep seats:


Which is ok.    Build and fabrics aren’t quite as nice as the others, but it seems to be good enough, and at about $250 each they are about 1/2 what reupholstering the old ones would cost..

However, I think I really deserve this Recaro Magnifico:


Crafted from your choice of wood, leather and carbon fiber, this top of the line seat is exclusively designed for the larger framed individual in mind.

Definitely worth $7900 each, not to mention the burlwood accents will match the burlwood I’m putting in on the dash.



February 17th, 2009

It’s finally time to paint the interior.    I had picked a burgandy color for the exposed metal of the rear cabin area.    Unfortunately what looked like burgandy on the paint chip ended up looking distinctly magenta (which isn’t a “real” color, btw), see bottom of this post for more on magenta.

The doors got a coat of red on the interior edges.   The red is the same color as used on the Acura NSX, btw.   R77 paint code.   I used  single stage Omni MTX paint vs the 3 stage PPG paint that yields a deeper red with a lot more gloss.


The color isn’t an exact match with the existing red even though it is the same R77 code paint.   Red fades quite a bit in the sun.   Also the new paint has a higher gloss than the existing paint.   A quick wipe with a very fine scotch brite pad blends it quite well.


Masking the front cabin was incredibly tedious.    I could have done a better job b/c there was a fair amt of overspray I had to clean up.


Rear cabin got a coat, mostly on the floor (which will be covered up with flooring).

The new color, a yellowish white,  looks more white in person than it does in this pic.

Unfortunately, the guy at WesCo paints thought it wise to use a lot of flattening agent in the paint.    So much that the finish is like a chalkboard.   Flat paints are standard on say the underhood area because they cover up defects and require less care in painting.   Unfortunately,   every bit of dirt and oil that touches it will instantly bind and be virtually uncleanable.    So, back to Wesco to get a gloss version of the same paint.  I’ll mix in some of the flat to tone down the gloss.

And now magenta, the “fake” color:


Liz Elliott of  “magenta ain’t a color.”

[W]hat does the brain do when our eyes detect wavelengths from both ends of the light spectrum at once (i.e. red and violet light)? Generally speaking, it has two options for interpreting the input data:

a) Sum the input responses to produce a colour halfway between red and violet in the spectrum (which would in this case produce green – not a very representative colour of a red and violet mix)

b) Invent a new colour halfway between red and violet

Magenta is the evidence that the brain takes option b – it has apparently constructed a colour to bridge the gap between red and violet, because such a colour does not exist in the light spectrum. Magenta has no wavelength attributed to it, unlike all the other spectrum colours.

A book on a similar topic:   “Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green.


Sketchup Model of Camper Layout

January 31st, 2009

I’ve been playing around with various layouts in Google Sketchup.    Here’s what I like best.



Click on the images for a larger version.

This layout maximizes interior space usage, as well as allowing for a fair mount of storage space.

Things to note:   The rear roll ups will become rigid flip-out awnings, allowing for airflow to the kitchen starboard rear.   On the port side rear is a storage area that is accessible from the exterior of Trog.   I’ll put recovery gear, tools and other dirty stuff there.   Next to it is a hanging closet, and forward to that is a Vitrifrigo drawer style refrigerator.     Finally in front of that is the main rear passenger seat.    Additional passengers can sit facing rear across from that.      Access is from the rear door as well as the port side door.    The starboard rear door will be pinned shut, or possibly used as an access hatch for stuff stored under the settee.   House batteries are placed at the very rear of Trog.   Hopefully all that weight at the ends won’t impact ride (hobby horsing).   Trog is rated for 6 tons, and has pretty stiff springs in the back so I should be ok.      The bed hoists up to the ceiling when we are using the lounge/kitchen area.    It is lowered to rails at 4 ft high for sleeping.

The Sketchup file is here trog-front-living-room-no-top1.    Not all dimensions are completely accurate.   I’d say it’s approx +/- 1″, and up to +/- 2″.   Also the slope inward that occurs 1/2 way up the wall isn’t shown (it’s about 5″ narrower at the top vs bottom).