Nicer than an Airstream...7x12 Cargo Conversion

Converting Cargo Trailers into TTTs

Nicer than an Airstream...7x12 Cargo Conversion

Postby Kerry8620 » Tue May 14, 2024 4:21 pm

For a short while, I thought about purchasing a used Airstream trailer. The prices were ridiculous and Airstream is not a Mercedes Benz. They are just priced like a Mercedes. I analyzed Airstream designs and floor plans. I searched Craig's List and Facebook for old and used Airstream trailers. Many Covid ere trailers were for sale and in like new condition. Used just once or twice the ads claimed. On the other end of the spectrum were 50 and 60-year-old Airstream trailers. All were projects. Some were only shells.

I then searched online for photos of Airstream trailers that had the misfortune of an accident. I saw several with crushed roofs; they were hit by snow sliding off a house or garage roof. The dents were 12 to 18 inches deep. I saw another that got rear-ended. The rear window was destroyed and the entire trailer body twisted on the frame. It listed to one side by 15 degrees! Now I started to understand what happens when you replace steel sidewall studs with panoramic view windows.


Several years ago I converted a 5x10 Mirage cargo trailer to a camper. The cost was minimal and I loved creating a custom camper. The work was educational and enjoyable. When I was finished I had EXACTLY what I wanted. And when I wanted to modify it more, I could and did. Three years ago I wanted to convert another cargo trailer to a camper. I wanted to install a shower, a toilet, a twin bed, a cooktop, a double sink, a fridge with a separate freezer, and a few amenities to enhance creature comfort. AC, heat, etc. So I searched Craig's List for about 6 months until I found a barely used Haulmark Kodiak 2001 7x12 double-axle cargo trailer. I purchased it for $5,000.00.


The Haulmark Kodiak is an amazing trailer. It was designed for landscaping folks and can carry up to 4,800 pounds of equipment. The box girders are beefy 2x6 beams. Curb weight empty is 2,180 pounds. It has tandem 3,500-pound capacity (each) axles. Tongue weight is just 210 pounds. The wheels are outside of the cargo box and are topped with tough aluminum fenders that I can stand on. The interior of the cargo box is 6 feet 8 inches wide by 12 feet 5 inches long. Twin barn doors open in the rear and a man door is on the right or passenger side. Beefy, 3-inch wide steel sidewall studs were placed 16 inches on center! The ceiling and front wall studs were just as beefy but placed 24 inches on center. The roof was one piece of aluminum. Sides were .030 aluminum sheets, 48 inches wide and 7 feet tall. The flooring was 3/4 plywood and the walls were 3/8 rough plywood. The sole owner bought it in 2001 to haul his motorcycle to the Sturgis South Dakota rally. A rally bumper sticker with the year 2002 was still inside. So was the stench from a large oil and gas spot where his motorcycle fell over. The tire sidewall dates were 2001. The tread depth on the new spare was only 1/32 of an inch more than the running tires. The trailer had very few miles on it and appeared in excellent shape despite its age.


I brought the trailer home and gave it a good cleaning. I tossed the oil-soaked carpet, washed the inside and out, and thoroughly inspected everything. Later that summer I painted the roof with Henry's white roof coating. Three coats. It went on great and reflected a lot of sunlight. Two years later it is still fine; no bubbles, cracks, or peeling. Like new. The trailer no longer gets hot on sunny days. For the rest of the summer, I dreamed about outfitting the trailer. I made a floorplan on graph paper. Then I created paper cutouts of counters, a bed, a sink, a table, a fridge, and other stuff I wanted to put inside the trailer. All were accurately sized to my drawing so I could rearrange them into different floor plans. I could not decide what worked best though. So I just decided on what items I wanted and left the arrangement to later.


My favorite camping is at a spacious RV park in the Arizona desert. I live in my camper for the winter. Electricity, water, and sewer are provided. So my new trailer will be built to make the most of that camping style and will be designed just for me. I do not need a queen bed or a dinette that seats 4 and converts to another bed.

The next year I watched Craig's List every day. Construction materials left over from new or remodeled homes are plentiful on Craig's List and often free. I picked up a beautiful corner shower that was never used, several laminated countertops, a small RV folding table, three stainless steel sinks, foam board insulation, 3/4 inch finished plywood, an RV ceramic toilet, vinyl flooring, lights, and much more. I even found a super comfortable Sealy Posturepedic twin mattress in like new condition for $50.00. It was owned by an RN who kept it covered and in perfect condition. Met a lot of nice people and had a lot of wonderful conversations with them. It was a summer pastime and I stuffed everything into the trailer where it sat until this spring.

In April I emptied the trailer of my Craig's List booty. Then I started to disassemble one plywood wall. The wood was rough but the wall was solid. It even had tie-down plates that were bolted to 1/4 steel sheets welded to the steel studs. Those were fun to remove...Took about an hour to get each one out. Below are photos of the work I have done so far.

My study of Airstream trailers helped considerably in laying out the inside of the trailer. Airstream engineers did my design work for me. Now I knew where to put the shower, kitchen sink, and toilet. The plumbing made perfect sense. Their kitchen layout seems perfect too. It has a nice L shape that allows almost effortless access to the fridge, sink, and range. Airstream beds are fixed in place. My bed will be a Murphy-style fold-against-the-wall type. That will provide me with several extra square feet of daytime use floor space. Which means I can sit in my fold-up rocking chair and read a good book or watch an exciting movie.

As my build story progresses I will post it here with photos. I hope you find it interesting and useful. Comments are welcome as they can make the story even more tantalizing. Enjoy!
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Re: Nicer than an Airstream...7x12 Cargo Conversion

Postby Grummy » Thu May 16, 2024 2:09 pm

As my build story progresses I will post it here with photos.

We all appreciate build progress, especially in photos ! I'm always looking for new design ideas. It's fun to see stuff you never saw before as well as new ways to pull off old concepts. Can't wait.
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