Plywood Shack Pickup Camper




Introduction: Plywood Shack Pickup Camper

About: Retired Tool Maker ( 1980 ) Retired Mechanical Engineer ( 2009 ) Full time Tinkerer

Hi Gang:

Back in 2004 a friend and I decided to go to the major Toy Train Meet in York PA. No hotel rooms available so I said lets camp! Jim was over 60 then and didn't think a tent would do. So I said how about a camper? I had loads of scrap wood and a pickup truck so I said lets see what we can build.

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Step 1: Humble Beginnings

So I'm sorry I don't have more photos of the construction, but we were busy since we went from bare truck to camper in three days. We left the fourth day and the paint was still damp. Here are the important steps that we followed:

1) We used 1/2" "J" bolts to hold everything to the edge of the truck bed.

2) Everything else was held together with 1/4" bolts and "T" nuts for wood. ( See the second photo )

3) I did have the central roof left over from another trailer so that did help the project along.

4) All the parts were built one at a time and assembled in place. This way we were sure they fit.

5) Using the bolts and "T:" nuts allowed all the parts to be disassembled after each trip. Any where two panels are joined we drilled a 5/16" hole through both. This was the mounting size for the "T" nut and a nice clearance hole for the bolt. Pan Head bolts are good, Truss Head bolts are nicer.

6) In this picture you can see the base: Plywood and Hollow Core Doors bolted with the "J" bolts to the truck bed. There also is a filler at the tailgate.

Step 2: First Trip 2004!

So this is how she looked on the first trip. All white paint inside and out. The four Plexiglas side windows slide in grooves and are held shut with shoe laces. Jim's Wife made us railroad theme curtains that gave us some privacy. They were hung with simple cords tied to the various screws. We cut a scrap of carpet to cover the floor. Under the bed there was space for suitcases, food and even an ice chest. I was lucky to have some mattresses that fit and sleeping bags. For light we had two desk lamps plugged in to an outlet that we could power at campgrounds. All the roof sections were plywood with frames of 1x4 pine, or plywood. The center section had 1/2" plywood, but that was over kill and the other sections had 1/4" plywood. The front wall was 1/4" , the sides 3/8" and the back 1/2". Mostly because that is what I had on hand. We did buy the paint, tail lights and mirrors, but that was about it. We had a great time, and the roof didn't leak much on my side. We tried to divert the flow on Jim's side away from his head when he was sleeping. I found a coat of "Cool Seal" roof coating would seal most leaks so I would coat the joints each time the roof was assembled.

Step 3: Smaller Arrangement Camper

So I thought I could reduced the air drag by making the camper smaller. I used the same walls and roof to a new base, back and roof parts. It was nice but didn't help much with gas mileage.

Step 4: Adding Front Angle Panels

When I was driving was really tough to see around with the square corners at the front of the camper. So we cut the parts to add two angled panels. To dress it up we put "stain glass" windows in. Really Plexiglas with stain glass paint. We didn't miss the space inside and it might have improved gas mileage 0.02% !!

Step 5: Red Trim and Sun Rise Window

Each time we put the camper together we found little ways to improve the looks. Red paint on the trim looked nice and we cut another "stain glass" window in the front in the shape of a sunrise. We also added the names and sheilds of our model train layouts: Carolina & Eastern RR for Jim's and Misery & Short Life RR for mine. Tired of bugs we also added screens over the side windows.

Step 6: The End of the Story

In 10 years the Plywood Shack was assempled and taken apart over three dozen times and each time it seem magical as the Camper arose from a stack of panels. We traveled almost 24,000 miles and slept 160 nights in this little box on the back of a Toyota Pickup. We had great fun and now have passed it on to a friend to enjoy.

Hope you find some insperation to build you own dream.

Good luck, Carl.

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    5 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Awesome and inspiring! Love that you passed it along for others to enjoy.


    3 years ago

    Thanks for the inspiration.


    3 years ago

    Hey Carl5blum -- Very nice, love the design touches!


    3 years ago

    Holy moly that is a well done truck camper!


    3 years ago

    Pretty awesome for how quickly you guys threw it together. I'd love to do something like this off the back of my Ranger. Thanks for the ideas!