Camper build (stealth)

jblc

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I've learned much from reading these forums -- thanks all :) I'll share back some of what I've learned as well.

This thread is about a build to make a versatile camper that looks as inconspicuous as possible. I had one with my '97 XLT, and have been working on additional changes to my '21 XLT FX2, since it arrived 4 weeks ago (it was a factory order)


Summary of vehicle: electrically expandable living space, 9x camera system, light offroad setup, additional lighting, custom wiring and electronics, long-duration living (solar, water, fuel, etc).
These are all done in as simple and robust way possible, avoiding complexity when possible.

Later I'll post external photos, but for now, I'll start with posts on some sub-smaller projects.

 
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Dave1899

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Okay you got my attention...
 
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jblc

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Project # 1

I added a camera system to view several angles useful for obstacle detection (rocks, etc), backing up, seeing vehicles in a broader ranger, etc.

1) The main camera module is the Rostra 250-8455. It has 5x RCA video inputs, and an HDMI input. A custom cable assembly cleanly routes video and power lines to cameras.

Installation and wiring:

Remove console
console out.jpeg


Add included main Rostra harness
adding rostra.jpeg


Unit mounted to back -- there's enough space for heat exchange / air flow.
(Some cables not yet attached)
rostra mounted.jpeg


Cables routed down the passenger side (top view looking down, glovebox is below the image)
routing cables.jpeg


Custom cable harness:
cable assembly.jpeg


app screen:
app screen.jpeg


2) I tested many cameras (~10). My priorities were low-light performance, wide FOV, reasonable resolution, and small size so they're not too obvious. I was okay with noise (graininess) in low light, if it meant a wider dynamic range.

I ended up with only these two cameras everywhere: camera 1 and camera 2.

If anyone finds a better camera, please let me know -- i may swap 1 or 2 of them.

The 8 extra cameras (doesn't include OEM backup cam) are located:
1. fwd facing on license plate
2. facing back towards the front wheels, mounted to skid plate
3. on top of back canopy window
4. under passenger compartment, facing towards read wheels and diff
5. inside the canopy ,looking into the bed
6. by the left front wheel facing backwards and out (eg blind spot, plus seeing terrain)
7. by the right front wheel facing backwards and out (eg blind spot, plus seeing terrain)
8. Above the canopy, looking forward and sideways (checking anything connected to the cargo rails, or watching the solar panel, etc)

The wiring is relatively clean, but i don't really care about some things not looking stock. As long as it's not obvious, i'm okay with effective but less-perfect solutions.
Removing the front skid plate requires disconnecting a camera, so i have a warning sticker next to a bolt.


camera skid plate.jpeg


camera wiring 1.jpeg


camera wiring 2.jpeg


Example mounting, two of the front cameras
camera wiring 4.jpeg
camera mounter.jpeg


3) I wanted additional cameras, so have a manual video switcher that activates an alternate set of 3x cameras. To stay in easy reach, this switcher is placed on the sloping console between the two cigarette lighters. It's barely visible due to the angle, and the wiring tucks cleanly away.
If there were a compact, reliable electronically controlled version, I'd use that; but I didn't find one (if you have a source, please let me know :) )

So, the first setting is the standard set of cameras, and the second switched setting includes the low side-pointing cameras.

All of the cables are run through the trim, so aren't very visible in the cab.

I hope this helps anyone else who's interested in adding a camera system.
 
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jblc

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Project #2

Adding wireless trigger system to trigger lights, radio, some canopy utils, etc.

I used a Six-Shooter, and put the controller in the overhead console. The six shooter is mounted to an insulating plexiglass sheet, that's mounted to the battery. I used thick removable zip ties so that it can be removed whenever needed, without needing to cut the ties. At some point i'll trim them shorter, once i'm sure this is the right location; i've had it there a few weeks and seems to be fine.

The yellow wire goes to the passenger compartment, a tap onto fuse 37 (ignition controlled). I like zip ties and use them whenever possible :p since they're fast, versatile, and forgiving, eg you can see them mounting the controller to the plexiglass plate (instead of nylon screws).
battery.jpeg



Make sure the remote is low enough, that pressing the top of a switch doesn't pivot the remote -- so hence placing the remote as low as possible. This required cutting some, so that fingers would fit.

To make the trigger fit, i masked off a section to indicate where to cut.
To remove this part from the console, you'll need to pull the black gears off.
Watch out -- the springs will go flying unless you control them.
After that, the part tips/slides out. Mark the gears with a marker before removing them, so you know what angles to reinstall at.

masking.jpeg


Controller inside, before cutting. Masking tape marks the cut line.
masking w contr.jpeg


Here's an image after cutting, of residual debris on protective tape i placed to protect the felt. I wasn't sure it'd matter, but I'm glad I did since otherwise plastic dust would be caught in it; with the tape, just peeling it off removes all the residue, and the console is clean.
To cut the sunglasses holder, I used a die grinder and cutoff wheel; a dremel or hacksaw would work. It's just soft plastic :)

why to cover felt.jpeg


Here's an image of the console, once everything is in place. The red wire is a quick disconnect to an ignition-switched 12V line. I ran that wire down through the A pillar, very carefully tucked in to not interfere with the airbag.
The ground wire is soldered to the PCB, under the black plastic cover. Some hex screws hold that in place, and i found the ground pin (the pin closest to center). Since that's already attached, only 1 additional wire needs to be connected besides the stock connector.
Note: sadly, there is no *reliable* switched 12V ignition-source signal on the PCB. If there were, no external wire would be needed. I thought there was one, but it seemed to sometimes be 12V, sometimes <1V, so it's something else.

A small notch needs to be cut in the vertical baffle (passenger side) built into the vehicle, so that the cable loop can neatly stay tucked in and rotate , but still give slack, as the console is opened.
inside.jpeg


Opened, Closed.
I used two small screws to hold the console in place (i don't mind having that be visible)
installed open.jpeg
installed.jpeg
 
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Live4FW

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I've learned much from reading these forums -- thanks all :) I'll share back some of what I've learned as well.

This thread is about a build to make a versatile camper that looks as inconspicuous as possible. I had one with my '97 XLT, and have been working on additional changes to my Cactus Grey '21 XLT FX2, since it arrived 4 weeks ago (it was a factory order)


Summary of vehicle: electrically expandable living space, 9x camera system, light offroad setup, additional lighting, custom wiring and electronics, long-duration living (solar, water, fuel, etc).
These are all done in as simple and robust way possible, avoiding complexity when possible.

Later I'll post external photos, but for now, I'll start with posts on some sub-smaller projects.
What’s the progress?
 
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jblc

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Thanks for asking -- it's essentially completed, so I'm planning the next 2 posts in the next week or so.
 

FloggingBishop

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Project #2

Adding wireless trigger system to trigger lights, radio, some canopy utils, etc.

I used a Six-Shooter, and put the controller in the overhead console. The six shooter is mounted to an insulating plexiglass sheet, that's mounted to the battery. I used thick removable zip ties so that it can be removed whenever needed, without needing to cut the ties. At some point i'll trim them shorter, once i'm sure this is the right location; i've had it there a few weeks and seems to be fine.

The yellow wire goes to the passenger compartment, a tap onto fuse 37 (ignition controlled). I like zip ties and use them whenever possible :p since they're fast, versatile, and forgiving, eg you can see them mounting the controller to the plexiglass plate (instead of nylon screws).
battery.jpeg



Make sure the remote is low enough, that pressing the top of a switch doesn't pivot the remote -- so hence placing the remote as low as possible. This required cutting some, so that fingers would fit.

To make the trigger fit, i masked off a section to indicate where to cut.
To remove this part from the console, you'll need to pull the black gears off.
Watch out -- the springs will go flying unless you control them.
After that, the part tips/slides out. Mark the gears with a marker before removing them, so you know what angles to reinstall at.

masking.jpeg


Controller inside, before cutting. Masking tape marks the cut line.
masking w contr.jpeg


Here's an image after cutting, of residual debris on protective tape i placed to protect the felt. I wasn't sure it'd matter, but I'm glad I did since otherwise plastic dust would be caught in it; with the tape, just peeling it off removes all the residue, and the console is clean.
To cut the sunglasses holder, I used a die grinder and cutoff wheel; a dremel or hacksaw would work. It's just soft plastic :)

why to cover felt.jpeg


Here's an image of the console, once everything is in place. The red wire is a quick disconnect to an ignition-switched 12V line. I ran that wire down through the A pillar, very carefully tucked in to not interfere with the airbag.
The ground wire is soldered to the PCB, under the black plastic cover. Some hex screws hold that in place, and i found the ground pin (the pin closest to center). Since that's already attached, only 1 additional wire needs to be connected besides the stock connector.
Note: sadly, there is no *reliable* switched 12V ignition-source signal on the PCB. If there were, no external wire would be needed. I thought there was one, but it seemed to sometimes be 12V, sometimes <1V, so it's something else.

A small notch needs to be cut in the vertical baffle (passenger side) built into the vehicle, so that the cable loop can neatly stay tucked in and rotate , but still give slack, as the console is opened.
inside.jpeg


Opened, Closed.
I used two small screws to hold the console in place (i don't mind having that be visible)
installed open.jpeg
installed.jpeg
Great switch placement!!
 

DblStuffed

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for your yellow wire; im assuming you just spliced extra wire from the trigger yellow and went through the firewall to get into passenger fuse panel? i have been trying to avoid having to go through firewall but it seems like I. may have to. So I just need to know what gauge wire I should be connecting with the yellow to tap in. pics appreciated!
 
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jblc

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for your yellow wire; im assuming you just spliced extra wire from the trigger yellow and went through the firewall to get into passenger fuse panel? i have been trying to avoid having to go through firewall but it seems like I. may have to. So I just need to know what gauge wire I should be connecting with the yellow to tap in. pics appreciated!
Yes, that's exactly right on the yellow wire.
There is another option to go a longer way around, without the firewall: under the driver's side carpet, there's a rubber removable gasket (you can punch a hole in it). You could thread the wire down through the engine compartment, and up through that gasket as well. To get under the carpet requires removing the side trim.

With a gasket wire insertion tool, the firewall gasket was an easy path, though. It took about 1 minute. Without a wire insertion tool, it would have been challenging and probably frustrating, and likely I would have gone the floor gasket route!


The gauge is unimportant, in terms of power delivery. Anything 18 ga and above should be fine over that distance. The main constraint is actually matching the stock trigger wire, since most butt crimp connectors have a working fixed range that's the same on both ends. So, I went to the lowest gauge that supported both the stock wire, and sized my additional wire based on that connector.
 
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DblStuffed

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Yes, that's exactly right on the yellow wire.
There is another option to go a longer way around, without the firewall: under the driver's side carpet, there's a rubber removable gasket (you can punch a hole in it). You could thread the wire down through the engine compartment, and up through that gasket as well. To get under the carpet requires removing the side trim.

With a gasket wire insertion tool, the firewall gasket was an easy path, though. It took about 1 minute. Without a wire insertion tool, it would have been challenging and probably frustrating, and likely I would have gone the floor gasket route!


The gauge is unimportant, in terms of power delivery. Anything 18 ga and above should be fine over that distance. The main constraint is actually matching the stock trigger wire, since most butt crimp connectors have a working fixed range that's the same on both ends. So, I went to the lowest gauge that supported both the stock wire, and sized my additional wire based on that connector.
that makes sense about trying to route it through the gasket. I can look into that.

WIth that being said; what wire did you use to "match" the stock trigger wire. I have minimum knowledge when it comes to this stuff. I got this system for simplicity but since my thought of doing a fuse tap in the engine fuse box is no longer viable, im forced to add wiring. which I have no knowledge on
 
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jblc

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that makes sense about trying to route it through the gasket. I can look into that.

WIth that being said; what wire did you use to "match" the stock trigger wire. I have minimum knowledge when it comes to this stuff. I got this system for simplicity but since my thought of doing a fuse tap in the engine fuse box is no longer viable, im forced to add wiring. which I have no knowledge on
I used a 16 gauge stranded wire (do not pick solid core wire). This is pretty standard wire, so nothing fancy :) It should be available at any online or hardware store. If routing anywhere, eg under the vehicle or through the firewall using the firewall tool (~$10), then be sure to use cable ties (zip ties) to secure the wire to noncritical components. That will keep the wire from flopping around and possibly fatiguing over time, getting caught in anything (moving engine parts, the branch under the vehicle), and so on. Good luck! :)
 

DblStuffed

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I used a 16 gauge stranded wire (do not pick solid core wire). This is pretty standard wire, so nothing fancy :) It should be available at any online or hardware store. If routing anywhere, eg under the vehicle or through the firewall using the firewall tool (~$10), then be sure to use cable ties (zip ties) to secure the wire to noncritical components. That will keep the wire from flopping around and possibly fatiguing over time, getting caught in anything (moving engine parts, the branch under the vehicle), and so on. Good luck! :)
another dumb question. But what wire exactly should I use? I keep finding “speaker” wire. And I know that is not proper to use foe this type of electrical. So what’s the technical term I need to find.
 
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jblc

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another dumb question. But what wire exactly should I use? I keep finding “speaker” wire. And I know that is not proper to use foe this type of electrical. So what’s the technical term I need to find.
You're right, speaker wire is not the right thing.
Usually, it's called something like "hookup wire". Silicon insulation is nicer than nylon, but not necessary. Here's a random example link -- it's totally random example, so I'm not specifically advocating for this particular product, even though it seems a reasonable item :D
 
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jblc

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Project # 3: Adjustable Bed

This is a wood bed that expands sideways and lengthwise, depending on use.
Each side is made up of 3x panels normally, or an optional 4th detachable section to make the bed about 7 feet long.

All the following images show the canopy raised ~20"off the vehicles's bed-rails; the bed rails are at the height of the wood bed surface.

full bed tall top half only.jpg


Optional 4th panel on the right side, which folds up, and stays closed with magnetic latches.
full bed tall.jpg


The panels are removable, so that there's sitting space (or walking space if the canopy is up: that will be covered in the Project #4 post), or to carry taller items. Ignore the mess on the left; pending project parts.

The outside covering isn't shown here, so the tailgate is just out in the open in this image :D
half bed tall.jpg


Each section can be removed easily by just removing the associated interlocked beams. The beams are stored to the side when unused.

wood storage.jpg



The panels are also removable, to help get things deep in the bed while being on top of the bed, without having to exit the vehicle and reach from the end -- something I learned from the first version of this I built in my '97 longbed Ranger.

The bed supports do not touch the bed floor, with the exception of the center ends; this makes it easier to wash down, and gives a very tiny bit more floor space. They're mounted to the sides via tiedown hook bolt attachment points, and similar.

There's a fire extinguisher on one end.
fire.jpg



A set of quiet fans circulate air from using onboard power, or the solar panel (probably in a future Project #5 post).
fan.jpg


The fan can be removed and stored along one edge of the bed. It attaches via velcro strips.
fan storage.jpg


I won't yet show an outside view of the whole thing, since that'll be a future Project #4 post. In the meantime, here's an image closed: nothing visible.
outside closed.jpg
 
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Espo78

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We are on the same mission. Love your progress so far! I haven't built out my platform yet as I'm still trying to decide what will work best. I want to make the "living area" somewhat convertible so it can become a couch/lounge area if needed. I have some ideas but nothing concrete. I also have the topperlift installed. I need to update my build thread actually lol.
 

 
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