Camper Shell experiment

We really liked the camping setup in Rocinante 1.0, so I started looking for a shell to fit the new truck right away. My main requirement was the high-rise top, which has a huge impact on comfort and usability in the sleeping area. Just a few inches of head room makes the all difference between slithering into your coffin each night or cozily propping up in bed with a book.

My local camper shell dealer quoted me $2000-$2700 for a brand new shell, and said he rarely sees used shells in the size I need. They’re certainly snapped up fast on craigslist for $500-$700, if they’re available at all. I decided to pick up a super cheap shell and try refurbishing it, because why spend $$$ to get something new and perfect when you can spend something more valuable (weekend hours) on something that will mostly kinda probably work? Project time!

Here she is, in all her $60, chipped-and-cracked, missing window glory. One point in her favor: we bought her during a rare downpour and she’s watertight. Plus, now I get to have a second camping-related toy on cinderblocks in my driveway.

Camper shell: before

The general plan for refurbishing:

  • Remove and repair the windows
  • Figure out replacements for the missing large side window and the rear door window
  • Repair the cracked fiberglass. Really nothing too horrible here.
  • Paint
  • Replace all the windows

Most of the windows are screwed in from the inside, so they came out with a small offering of time and knuckle skin. The existing large side window is held in with a locking gasket, and I’ve gone back and forth on whether to attempt removal and installation. As of now, I’m planning to just paint around it.

I’ve also sanded and patched the cracks with marine fiberglass filler, which is possibly the smelliest product produced by man. I used it outside with a fan blowing the fumes away, and it was still pungent like KAPOW. The filler went on easily though, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it sands down and takes paint.

Ready for paint