Tucson tortoise

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Tucson tortoise

Postby noseoil » Sat Jun 28, 2014 12:35 am

Last weekend I found a trailer. It's a used flat-top which spent its early life hauling go-carts to and from a track. It came equipped with a front tool box, fuel storage tray, chrome rims, and an aluminum diamond plate deck. It's in very nice shape but is very "stout" with industrial-duty scantlings. It has a 2,000 pound axle rating. This evening after work I started stripping the deck. I'll use it to make side trim and rock guards, once I finish the build. At this point, I'm hoping to have things done in a year or two, just have to see how it goes with time & money. Here it is as purchased.

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Here's the frame with the deck removed. The sides are 4" x 1 1/2" channel, bent to a curve, instead of the more conventional rectangular box frame and "A" frame tongue. I'm going to keep an eye on weight, but the front tool box can serve as a battery box and general storage unit. If balance isn't right, I can always slice it off and do things differently. Just not sure how weight distribution will go. Before stripping the weight it's 110# front & 250# at each wheel, a tank.

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Everything's a compromise, the 13" rims are smaller than I would like and the frame is too heavy, but I couldn't pass up the price ($650), especially after looking at material costs to start from scratch. The frame has a widest-point dimension of 60 1/2" up at the curve, so the deck needs to be a hair wider than this :x . My target for a rolling weight is 1,200#, so the heavy frame starts me off at a disadvantage. The frame with aluminum diamond plate was 610# (a beast, but strong like buffalo). The aluminum weighs in at 65#, so right now I'm down to about 545#. The 1/8" diamond plate is selling now for $270 for a 4x10 sheet, so I guess I did OK on the purchase considering the strength.

I might take a few more pounds off, because some of the steel straps they used as "shim" stock on the build for a flat surface under the deck (the two center cross members in the above shot) are solid 1/2" x 2 1/2" steel. There are are 2 pieces 3' long each in the center, so that's 6' at 4.25 pounds per foot or about an extra 25# of weight I don't need for strength at that spot. Judging from the build, it must have come from a shipyard or heavy equipment manufacturer in Taiwan, where the ID plate shows it was made.

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I do have a question for anyone who knows springs. With the two leaves as shown in the picture below, what am I looking at for a weight capacity? Best guess does 2,000# sound about right? Springs are 24" long x 1 3/4" wide stock. There's only about 2 1/8" of clearance between the axle and frame now, with no weight on it.

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I'm getting a couple of stabilizer jacks next week, and will have a friend do a bit of welding prior to the build. The back deck (fantail) wasn't done properly, so that will be fixed when the jacks are installed. It looks like an after-thought, not the original build. LOA is 122", back of fantail to center line of axle is 52" or 42 percent, so I might need that extra weight up front.... Thanks for looking. :goodnight:

P.S. Decided on a name for the trailer, in honor of "Dude" our box tortoise. My build pace should hopefully keep up with dude on a hot summer day. Dude sleeps from October until it gets back to about 100 degrees (end of June or early July). He's well known here in the 'hood, likes cherries, BBQ chicken & hangs out with the cats waiting for a meal in the evening on our front porch. His table manners leave a bit to be desired when he gets excited. Here he is eating a cactus fruit with great gusto.

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Last edited by noseoil on Sat Jul 12, 2014 7:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New Benroy build, starting

Postby KCStudly » Sat Jun 28, 2014 7:04 am

Nice trailer, but you won't have to worry about adding ballast (a foamie beer reference). :lol:

2000 sounds about right for those springs, 1000 lbs each; just giving it the old eyeball check, not based on anything much other than gut, so take that for what it is worth.

Good luck, post pics, ask questions... build on! :thumbsup:
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Re: the "Tucson tortoise"

Postby noseoil » Sat Jul 12, 2014 7:34 pm

Finally, some progress today! Went to visit with my buddy the welder this morning. We chopped off the ugly old "fantail" and I couldn't convince him to re-use it. He made a new one out of 1/8" angle. Here's what it looks like now. The old one had five 1/2" bolts holding it to the frame & some nasty welds. It also had some 3/32" plate on top for "strength" so it was a 1' x 5' hunk of heavy plate with bad welds & extra bolts. This is much better, simpler & cleaner, to say nothing of the weight savings.
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We also did the stabilizer jacks with some 1/4" plate & some 1" flat stock to beef it up a bit. Should be plenty strong now.
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Here's a detail shot of the frame channel at the back, with the fantail angle welded to it. Kind of hard to tell, but this thing is ridiculously over-built. My buddy was pleased when he saw how it was made, because he was worried that the 1/8" x 2" tubing I was planning on using for a frame was too wimpy & light. :cry: The 4" x 1 1/2" "C" channel is much stronger.
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I still need to start work on the deck, but at least things are moving forward now. The long list begins! Thanks for looking.
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Basic design / finished

Postby noseoil » Wed Aug 06, 2014 12:08 am

Here's the finished plan (at least for now). Propane tank (10#) sits just behind the hitch, remove the fuel shelf completely, turn the tool box 180 degrees so it faces forward, footprint is now stretched out to 9'4" (with the shelf removed, waste of space up front). Rounding up parts still, but am enjoying other people's builds, ideas and information. This sketch is really just a schematic for the gas line, but it shows the basic shape in profile, the bulkhead locations, frame, spare tire, tool box (battery box) & gas bottle.

Glad I didn't rush into this as there are too many good ideas out there to miss by hurrying. Thanks for all the great ideas & pictures people!

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Re: Basic design / finished

Postby KCStudly » Wed Aug 06, 2014 4:54 pm

noseoil wrote:Glad I didn't rush into this as there are too many good ideas out there to miss by hurrying. Thanks for all the great ideas & pictures people!

Exactly!!! I feel so sorry for those who rush in and only start posting their progress after they are almost done; sometimes they make it really hard for themselves when there are so many lessons learned here to, well, learn from.

Build on! :thumbsup:
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Re: Tucson tortoise

Postby citylights » Wed Aug 06, 2014 5:47 pm

In your sketch, your wheel position looks too centered in the profile. This may conflict with your door position. It may also throw off the trailer balance. Teardrops are typically 2/3 in front on axel and 1/3 behind for balance.

Not saying it is wrong or right. Just pointing it out so that you can think and decide what you want.
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Re: Tucson tortoise

Postby Sheddie » Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:38 pm

I have been thinking similar thoughts to citylights. My other concern would be how close the tool boxes is to the hitch. Are you able to extend the tongue out further? This could otherwise be a bit restricting when maneuvering. As far as weight goes, what do you plan to tow it with? A little bit of extra weight to work the springs goes a long way to make them tow smoother. Ours is 500-600kg (1100-1300lbs) depending on what we are taking with us, and we have done most of the towing with a 1500cc (91cu in) 52 year old car.
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Re: Tucson tortoise

Postby noseoil » Wed Aug 06, 2014 8:03 pm

John & KC, thanks for your comments.

About balance & the door... With the axle location where it is now, I ran the spreadsheet for tongue weight & balance & was surprised to find that with the battery, tool box, propane & air conditioner located up front, it was too heavy on the tongue. I'm having to re-think the tool box & front battery position, and may just have to move the battery to the rear in the galley. I want the AC & propane up front, but the tool box is 16 gauge steel & weighs about 50# empty, best guess. Add a group 27 battery, wiring etc. and a "few" tools & odds & ends and it's getting a bit porky in the nose. Still thinking about this one, but I may decide to do a mock-up with weights and see where I end up before the actual building. I don't want to spend too long in the moaning chair while self-medicating with adult beverages...

At times I feel like the proverbial "Whiffle Bird" with this stuff. If you aren't familiar with this critter, it's a small bird that flies in decreasing concentric circles. The smaller the circle, the faster it flies, until it eventually catches up with its own "backside" and disappears in a small puff of feathers with a small popping noise.

The door location will be as far aft as possible, very close to the fender. It will layout around the mattress height and have curved corners. This should allow me to pivot from a sleeping position and scoot out to answer the call of the wild at night. As usual, everything's a compromise, but I do appreciate the comments & input.

Propane bottle arrived today (decided on the 10#, not the 11#) & bracket. 8 7/8" diameter, 17 1/2" tall. Empty weight with bracket is 16 1/2#.

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Re: Tucson tortoise

Postby citylights » Wed Aug 06, 2014 8:43 pm

Mine has a big tongue box and a heavy nose. My tongue weight is about 15% of the trailer weight or 280 lb out of 1800. It levels out my FJ nicely when attached. (FJ max tongue weight is 500 lb, max tow capacity 5000 lb.)

I have an AC unit and 20 lb propane bottle on the tongue. I moved the battery back to the galley though. My spare tire is in an under bed storage just forward of the axle, I am thinking about moving it to under the galley to lighten the tongue a little.

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Re: Tucson tortoise

Postby noseoil » Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:19 pm

Sheddie, it's a 2007 Nissan Frontier with a 2.4L 4 cylinder & 5 speed manual transmission. Should be fine for towing & gets good gas mileage. This is at Bonneville a few years ago. Met some nice folks from the land of Kiwi who were next door.

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Yep, thinking of moving things around a little at this point due to weight concerns. The spare can move back some, which would help. Still thinking about this stuff. Haste makes waste....
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Re: Tucson tortoise

Postby Sheddie » Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:28 pm

Having built my own frame I was able to leave attaching the axle until we were a fair way through the build. We then clamped the axle under the frame and put the bathroom scales under the tongue. We loaded the TD front and rear to approximate the weight, then moved the axle to suit. You could probably do something similar by not finally attaching the body to the frame so that you can make minor adjustments later on. We have a battery and a smaller alloy tool box on the tongue with a 10lb gas bottle and a bit of other lightweight stuff in it. Tongue weight is 50-60kg (110-130lbs). The Nissan won't even know it is there. Alternately we tow ours with an X-trail 2.5 with a CVT.
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Re: Tucson tortoise

Postby working on it » Wed Aug 06, 2014 10:13 pm

noseoil wrote:...About balance & the door... With the axle location where it is now, I ran the spreadsheet for tongue weight & balance & was surprised to find that with the battery, tool box, propane & air conditioner located up front, it was too heavy on the tongue. I'm having to re-think the tool box & front battery position, and may just have to move the battery to the rear in the galley. I want the AC & propane up front, but the tool box is 16 gauge steel & weighs about 50# empty, best guess. Add a group 27 battery, wiring etc. and a "few" tools & odds & ends and it's getting a bit porky in the nose. Still thinking about this one, but I may decide to do a mock-up with weights and see where I end up before the actual building....The door location will be as far aft as possible, very close to the fender. It will layout around the mattress height and have curved corners. This should allow me to pivot from a sleeping position and scoot out to answer the call of the wild....
The trailer balance spreadsheet was my constant companion for two+ years. Day in, day out, I theoretically moved items around until I found a spot that seemed best. Until I changed my plans and added or subtracted an item entirely. When I finally reached the "finished" stage (ha,ha, mine is never "finished"), I found that the theoretical (with estimated weights of components) balance was within a few lbs of actuality. Mine was near zero tongue weight without camping gear loaded, as guesstimated, but I knew how much weight and where to add it to get the balance I had in mind. From the start, I knew I had to have cargo in the front cabin (I have e-track on the front wall, and multiple tie-down points for that reason), as a counterweight for the large area (45% of cabin length) behind the wheels. This excessive deviation from the standard 35%-40% rear overhang was due to the size of storage area my onboard generator and rear/inside-mounted A/C needed (the generator was the determinator). The forward position of the wheels also limited the available space for the doors. To get the size and shape of doors I wanted, in the limited space allotted, and still have the profile I wanted ( a design feature from the start), I saw that the standard way to sit-and-pivot to enter or exit the cabin was not needed...just crawl in and step out...no pivoting was necessary. It all works as planned, with modifications being ongoing to make it more user-friendly. Instead of loading lots of cargo in the cabin, to gain balance, then having to unload all at camp, or vice-versa to de-camp, I re-engineered the balance by using a larger/heavier tonguebox, and removed some cargo from the trailer entirely. In all steps, I depend on the trailer balance spreadsheet!
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Weight & Balance

Postby noseoil » Thu Aug 07, 2014 8:00 am

The reason my axle is so far from a "standard" location is thanks to the person I bought from. At some point, they had added a foot to the length at the rear to carry a bit more stuff. Since I had originally wanted to do a 5' X 10' Benroy, the added length just seems to work, so I decided to keep it, rather than saw it off. The plan is for a 9' 4" Benroy.

As it stands now, if I keep the tongue box & spare tire, move the battery into the galley and leave the rest alone, the balance and weight will all come back into the "OK" range, or about 10% tongue weight as calculated. That's actually a bit light up front, but I figure the added space in the tool box (33" wide, 18" front to back & 22" tall) will acquire more things as I'm traveling and getting ready to leave, so that's where any extra stuff will go at the time of departure.

Now I just need to redesign the galley, the platform (wasn't planning on the load from the battery on the floor frame) and a few other things and get started. I'm glad I have a 2 year "due date" on this thing...

Here's the working design drawing, plus a bit of progress, finally.... My welder's out of town this weekend, so I'm not able to do the propane install yet, but there is some work getting done now, albeit slowly. Using 4/4 poplar for the deck framing & slats. Light, cheap & easy to work. I'll use 3/8" dowels for the deck frame fastenings, 1/8" baltic birch on the bottom and 1/4" underlayment for the top. 3/4" pink insulation goes inside the sandwich. Blocking is for the penetrations like wiring & pipe holes.

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Thanks again folks, tim
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Frame is done!

Postby noseoil » Sun Aug 17, 2014 7:05 pm

Finished up on the frame today. Franklin, the welder, cut everything off & turned the tool box around so the lock is in front & the hinge is in the back. Added a shelf for the propane tank in front, moved the spare tire, added the gas line clamps & located the line (it should be in the galley & not in the bed, hopefully). Real progress today and the build will finally begin soon....

Cutting all the old stuff off, tool box, shelf, spare, frame for fuel tray, etc.
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New spare location
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Gas line run
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Front tank bracket & gas line rough-in
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Tank in bracket, some primer for rust (it actually rained here this morning, go figure on that one)
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Still 100 degrees today. Fall begins in mid-october, more or less. Thanks for looking, tim
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Re: Tucson tortoise

Postby Adventure Time » Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:41 am

The extra diamond plate is a nice gift. Why do you want bigger rims? For the look or does it perform better? I have 12" rims and I think it looks anemic. So I am considering bigger. The only issue I have is I don't want the TD higher off the ground. The top of the TD is 6' from the ground. I am worried about wind resistance. Another trailer I have has 1/8" steel tredplate. I looked up the specs on it. The 4'6" x 8 trailer has 200 lbs of tredplate sitting on top of it!
Do you tow anything now that weighs as much as the projected weight of your TD?
I also saw you had a 2 year time frame? I had a month time frame and now I am looking at more like 2 months. But I don't have a real job and work on this thing every day. I will say, I enjoy building things just as much if not more than using them. Most people don't understand that.
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