My appreciation for house trucks has grown immensely over the years. It’s not easy building a structure that is both light, strong, and wind-resistant. Caravans, house trucks, and RVs have to undergo the rigors of hurricane weather every time they hit the road and still be light enough to be pulled. If you are willing to get RV-type mileage from your vehicle you can convert an older RV, large truck, fire engine, or bus into a fine living platform. Starting from a link on Lloyd’ Blog I began looking at some very cool house truck conversions. These have been around all my life and I’m surprised I haven’t started one yet.
These Bedford Fire Engines make beautiful platforms.
I wouldn’t want to drive these in high winds but the interior spaces are great. Visit his Flikr page to see more interesting work. They look very practical and I appreciate the low-maintenance exteriors.
And finally, one of the most beautiful art car builds I have ever seen… The Decoliner. While on his website, its worth looking at his other projects as well, especiall the 1800 cubic inch, 1000 h.p. tank motor turned art/race car.
Take the chassis from an old RV, add a classic truck cab and a lot of beautiful design work and this is what can happen. This is my new dream car. Time to peruse Craig’s List to start looking for a chassis.
Over the weekend I had time to add a few, more recent, photos of the wagon to the Vardo page. There are many requests and I assume there are quite a few people out there building their own. Good luck to you all.
This was a quick and dirty build we were talked into a couple of weeks ago. I don’t like to rush these things but the builder’s time constraints meant this was the only week to get this done before the winter. It does show that the basic build can be completed in a very short time. The basic dimensions are 5′ x 10′ at the floor and just over 7′ wide at the ledges.
I think it came out alright in the end.
Here is a small gallery of images showing the build. My daughter and I will try to put up an Instructable in the near future describing the process such as it is. Enjoy the photos.
Tail light moved to rear and jack stand welded in place
I recently added two new exterior storage boxes, a solar ventilator, painted most of the exterior, and added several new and handy things to the interior of the wagon in preparation for the next voyage. Although I don’t feel like the Snail has really traveled much yet, my recent tally of the trips over the past 17 months totaled 7776 miles. This is an under-estimate as it was calculated using Yahoo maps and doesn’t include any side trips or time lost looking for restaurants, campgrounds, and the like. Photos and descriptions of the changes are on the way.
Several people have asked for a detailed “how to” for building a vardo. My suggestions are this. Decide on your basic design wants. Traditional or modern construction? Consider size and weight (I went for the minimum of both). Consider materials. This will determine construction technique. As for traditional or modern? Go look at some used RVs for sale and see how flimsy they are built; not to mention probable issues from toxins in the plywood, pressboard, adhesives, plastic veneers, etc.
Drink in as many details as possible about other wagons. Are they for show or can they handle the hammering of bad roads? How do you think they will hold together in a wreck? What kind of long-term maintenance are you prepared to perform? This is why modern RVs are covered in sheet metal or plastic. If you convince yourself that you want to use materials others don’t, then ask yourself why. Are you building an RV that looks “old fashioned” or are you deciding to build with traditional techniques? (Neither is bad, but it may not be practical to mix and match).
This is the written plan I used to create the Vardo. This is obviously not exactly how it turned out as changes were made based upon availability of materials and constant reconsidering of different options. The essentials didn’t change. This is how the arc of the roof was calculated and overall dimensions worked out. I chose to use traditional techniques and plywood only in the ceiling (for ease of building and stiffening the structure). Although glue is used in some areas, the structure depends upon screws and bolts in all critical areas. I decided I was willing to maintain my wagon so the exterior finish is simple oil paint over wood.
The second sheet of the plan was mostly used as a way to gauge sizes, raw materials, and habitable space. I didn’t really build from the sheet.
This is just one of many sketches used to figure out space and arrangements. I looked at Irish Open Lots, Vardos, Bow Tops, and Sheepherder wagons. With so much experience out there, the best arrangements have been worked out many times over. Here’s the link to the rest of the photos from the build: https://paleotool.wordpress.com/plans-projects-and-patterns/the-vardo/
Study and read as much as you can about what you want to build. Make many sketches and plans. Cut out little scale paper dolls to measure out spaces if it helps. Take a deep breath. Dive in.