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Old 05-26-2021, 10:58 PM   #1
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skoolie vs 6x4 box truck

After a recent week camping at Toquerville Falls in southern Utah, I really want to be able to live and travel in a rig that can go off road... at least handle some 18" boulders/drop offs, and rough dirt roads. I'm not expecting to go "Jeeping" but I also want more than what a road bound bus was designed for.

I've read about bus conversions to 4x4. I'm a computer nerd and designer, so I can design the rig and diy a bus build, but don't want to get into welding a whole box living quarters from scratch.

A box truck, say 24'-30' long with a diesel engine seems like a great starting point. Then I found some of them that have 6x4 drive train. Seems like this might be an interesting foundation for an expedition vehicle that is larger than an ambulance, larger than most $300k (ridiculously priced) expedition vehicles, yet have a "close to 4x4" traction. I don't expect it will plow through mud, but would like it to get me to waterfalls on a pretty rough dirt road.

But I would love to get any "gear heads" to chime in and tell me what an idiot I am for even thinking this is viable and confirm or argue with my thoughts as to how close to a 4x4 this rig would actually come.

Or what would you do if you wanted as close to a 4x4 as you could get with a 24' rig and reasonable budget. What's reasonable? Ok, let's say a budget that offers really good value.

I'm listening...

Thanks!

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Old 05-27-2021, 08:17 AM   #2
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The electric power grid industry as well as tree services use large 4X4 trucks to go offloading to do their work, you could find an older one and either use the undercarriage on a bus or box truck or swap frames to utilize the 4x4 option.
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Old 05-27-2021, 09:11 AM   #3
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Study a little on expeditionportal.com
18" holders and drop off are pretty serious. You would need very large tires and or portal axles.
At that kind of road circumstances you will need to be very short to make the turns and also not have any overhang with good departure angles.
I have done these with 4*4 van on for instance mengel pass when there still was a ledge at the barker ranch side. The extended van barely made it on some of the switch backs.. plenty of YouTube's on mengel pass to give you an idea.

Good luck
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Old 05-27-2021, 09:20 AM   #4
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Oh and I forgot. Go as lite as you can because. Unless you are with a group that can help you. Paying for help / recovery in a remote location for a 25000lbs truck can financially ruin you.

Good luck
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Old 05-27-2021, 09:38 AM   #5
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I am posting this for your reference. I own a digger derrick pole setting truck that is used to set utility poles for electric power, cable TV, pole barns and fence posts that is used on ranches, construction sites and building lots. It was originally purchased by a power company. It is a Ford F800 2 wheel drive 2 axle 30k GVW 7.8 diesel 6 speed with 4.77 rear gears with an Eaton no spin differential. At 20 foot long it is pretty nimble and maneuverable. It runs 11 r 22.5 tires and is quite harsh riding. It is not a Jeep but, the locking differential gives it good traction. Sand is a no go. 12” ledges aren’t a problem. It has been into and out of places that ¾ ton service trucks in 4x4 were getting stuck. But it is 8 foot wide and that could be a problem. It has a 12 foot bed now that could handle a 14 foot box very well. The only thing I wish it had was a 13 speed transmission for the lower first gear and the OD.
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Old 05-27-2021, 09:41 AM   #6
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Oh and I forgot. Go as lite as you can because. Unless you are with a group that can help you. Paying for help / recovery in a remote location for a 25000lbs truck can financially ruin you.

Good luck
Johan
Yes Johan! I havent had to pay yet because I won't go in unless they are there to assist with a large tractor.
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Old 05-27-2021, 10:38 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blade3d View Post
.... at least handle some 18" boulders/drop offs, and rough dirt roads. I'm not expecting to go "Jeeping" but I also want more than what a road bound bus was designed for.


A box truck, say 24'-30' long with a diesel engine seems like a great starting point.

Climbing over 18" boulders and ledges will require a custom-built suspension and drivetrain, and torque to all wheels, or tractor size tires. A good stock Jeep would have troubles. A long wheel-base will make it even harder, requiring a serious lift. A long body that extends beyond the wheelbase will require even more lift.


A big truck like that will be great in the desert in Utah, etc. Take it in the woods, and its size will greatly limit what old roads you can go down. Then again, the gov'ment has shut down most of those old roads in the last 20-25 years. They don't like people connecting with nature and then complaining about deforestation from logging or pollution.



Whatever, you are looking at a lot of fabrication. Seems to me your best bet would be a van-cutout, and then convert it to a 4×4. Parts would be readily available. Someone here has a bus like that, I forget who.



My experience with 4×4ing has shown that a locking rear end will get you more places than "4-wheel-drive" with open differentials. The best is a locking rear end with an open front diff or an "on-demand" front locking diff (Air-Locker brand for instance)
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Old 05-27-2021, 10:08 PM   #8
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Haha S2, I am not as wise as you are but sofar I have been very lucky. No doubt that will run out at the most inconvenient time.

Johan
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Old 05-27-2021, 11:05 PM   #9
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Haha S2, I am not as wise as you are but sofar I have been very lucky. No doubt that will run out at the most inconvenient time.

Johan
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Old 05-28-2021, 05:14 AM   #10
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My experience with 4×4ing has shown that a locking rear end will get you more places than "4-wheel-drive" with open differentials. The best is a locking rear end with an open front diff or an "on-demand" front locking diff (Air-Locker brand for instance)
I second this. I've offroaded Jeep Wranglers for longer than I can remember and while the open diff 4x4 was capable enough there was just no substitute for locking differential to get you where you have to go. Of course a Wrangler is no 4x4 skoolie and lockers are a poor substitute for wisdom and experience. Anything pushed past it's limits is going to break down and that threshold is lower when the rig is 10x the size and weight. A pricey expedition rig is cool but it's usually money thrown at a lack of experience so the builders take that into account and overbuild it and/or attempt to make it idiot-proof.

All that to say if you do 4x4 a skoolie there will simply be no substitute for knowing your rig intimately and proving it's capabilities thoroughly under controlled circumstances in order to know what it can do but more importantly what it CANNOT do when you're far off the grid and away from rescue. Out there's it's just you and the unforgiving wilderness which is not the time to learn from experience.
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Old 05-28-2021, 08:24 AM   #11
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To be honest I have been quite impressed at some of the bad road / lack of road conditions I have been able to navigate with that old Ford. With 45 to 1 overall ratio and the Eaton locker and the fact that the rear axle weighs about 12,000 pounds I have a lot of traction. My bucket truck a 1600 loadstar with an open differential has been stuck and pulled out numerous times. I think that if you used a short bus with 22.5 rubber and added a locking differential and raised it a bit you would have a pretty nice set up. Carry a cell phone with a good booster a TW 200 Yamaha on the back and a LARGE credit card and you will be fine. Sometimes local farmers or ranchers will pull you out just for the laugh. So be humble.
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Old 05-28-2021, 12:30 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by s2mikon View Post
To be honest I have been quite impressed at some of the bad road / lack of road conditions I have been able to navigate with that old Ford. With 45 to 1 overall ratio and the Eaton locker and the fact that the rear axle weighs about 12,000 pounds I have a lot of traction. My bucket truck a 1600 loadstar with an open differential has been stuck and pulled out numerous times. I think that if you used a short bus with 22.5 rubber and added a locking differential and raised it a bit you would have a pretty nice set up. Carry a cell phone with a good booster a TW 200 Yamaha on the back and a LARGE credit card and you will be fine. Sometimes local farmers or ranchers will pull you out just for the laugh. So be humble.
S2, thanks for the input. I'll start looking for that booster and Yamaha. I might need some help finding the large credit card though.
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Old 05-28-2021, 12:33 PM   #13
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Climbing over 18" boulders and ledges will require a custom-built suspension and drivetrain, and torque to all wheels, or tractor size tires. A good stock Jeep would have troubles. A long wheel-base will make it even harder, requiring a serious lift. A long body that extends beyond the wheelbase will require even more lift.


A big truck like that will be great in the desert in Utah, etc. Take it in the woods, and its size will greatly limit what old roads you can go down. Then again, the gov'ment has shut down most of those old roads in the last 20-25 years. They don't like people connecting with nature and then complaining about deforestation from logging or pollution.



Whatever, you are looking at a lot of fabrication. Seems to me your best bet would be a van-cutout, and then convert it to a 4×4. Parts would be readily available. Someone here has a bus like that, I forget who.



My experience with 4×4ing has shown that a locking rear end will get you more places than "4-wheel-drive" with open differentials. The best is a locking rear end with an open front diff or an "on-demand" front locking diff (Air-Locker brand for instance)
Mountain, thanks. Agree on the locking rear end. If only my FJ Cruiser was 20' long, I'd be set.
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Old 06-06-2021, 05:47 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Blade3d View Post
After a recent week camping at Toquerville Falls in southern Utah, I really want to be able to live and travel in a rig that can go off road... at least handle some 18" boulders/drop offs, and rough dirt roads. I'm not expecting to go "Jeeping" but I also want more than what a road bound bus was designed for.

I've read about bus conversions to 4x4. I'm a computer nerd and designer, so I can design the rig and diy a bus build, but don't want to get into welding a whole box living quarters from scratch.

A box truck, say 24'-30' long with a diesel engine seems like a great starting point. Then I found some of them that have 6x4 drive train. Seems like this might be an interesting foundation for an expedition vehicle that is larger than an ambulance, larger than most $300k (ridiculously priced) expedition vehicles, yet have a "close to 4x4" traction. I don't expect it will plow through mud, but would like it to get me to waterfalls on a pretty rough dirt road.

But I would love to get any "gear heads" to chime in and tell me what an idiot I am for even thinking this is viable and confirm or argue with my thoughts as to how close to a 4x4 this rig would actually come.

Or what would you do if you wanted as close to a 4x4 as you could get with a 24' rig and reasonable budget. What's reasonable? Ok, let's say a budget that offers really good value.

I'm listening...

Thanks!
We used shorty buses for crummys in the woods years ago and you would be amazed at the places that we were able to go if you just don't give damn about damage, and amazingly we never got them stuck or damaged enough not to be able to just drive home.
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