Vistabule-inspired build in MI

...ask your questions in the appropriate forums BUT document your build here...preferably in a single thread...dates for updates, are appreciated....

Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby AdamEckhardt » Mon Feb 12, 2024 1:06 am

Hello, I started a Vistabule-inspired build, (really just a shameless copy), in late 2022. I didn't intend to thoroughly document the build, but put up some pictures on Instagram every couple months, and made a few posts on the Facebook group "DIY Teardrop Campers Community" (https://www.facebook.com/groups/212103619347835/)

I didn't know of anyone else making a DIY Vistabule-style build, until I ran into Hannah (memberlist.php?mode=viewprofile&u=32582) on IG.

I'd known about tnttt.com for a while, but hadn't spent much time here until I was poking around for some reason, and ran across John's Cape Build Journal just about a week ago. (viewtopic.php?p=1277269#p1277269). Holey Moley!!! I was shocked at the build quality, and the number of commonalities with my own build.

So, this seems to be THE PLACE TO BE for teardrop builds, and has already answered a few other open questions I had. Therefore, I figured I'd document my build here as well, as it keeps everything in one thread (a bit better than Facebook), and allows for better question/answers and details than IG. Bear with me as I experiment a bit with embedded links, attaching photos, etc.

CONTEXT and GOALS of my build
1) I wanted something that could 'most likely' be towed by my existing small hatchback or possibly a slightly-larger upgraded tow vehicle
2) While I'll initially use it for traditional weekend and weeks-long vacations, I aspire to possibly work from this teardrop while traveling for many-weeks, or months at a time (I'm a software engineer, currently working fully remotely)
3) My goal was to have a final all-up weight of less than 1000 lbs, with a stretch goal of ~750 lbs.
4) Therefore, many of the build choices were driven by this goal.

Building the TRAILER frame
So, with weight in mind, I decided to build an aluminum frame. I spent somewhere around 6-7 months learning to TIG weld aluminum. I had a mentor, my father's friend, who is a retired master welder, give me some instruction, inspecting my work, and giving design suggestions. I practiced on test joints, and destructively tested them, until they would reliably not fail at the weld, but along the parent material. Then I began welding the actual trailer frame.

-Adam

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Re: Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby AdamEckhardt » Mon Feb 12, 2024 1:33 am

Oh, I practiced welding from about March 2022 through about Sep 2022.
I worked on welding the trailer frame from Sep 2022, through late Jan 2023. Spent about 80 hrs doing so, and the frame itself (no suspension, coupler, tounge jack,etc) comes in at just over 66 lbs.

Building the Cabin FLOOR
In order to minimize weight, I intend to build the cabin with the following properties:
1) Walls, ceiling, floor using 1.5" XPS foam
2) Where internal wall 'structure' is required (for screws, extra stiffness, or compression strength), I'll use solid basswood instead of plywood
3) Skins will be 2.1mm okoume plywood
4) Walls, etc., will be laminated with epoxy

I started with the floor. Which is ALL basswood framework (no foam):
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The "natural sitting position" of the Vistabule design really appealed to me, as perhaps being useful/helpful for working out of my teardrop.
To that end, the large footwell bins seemed pretty important to me. I made mine 11" deep, instead of 9" deep (I believe) for the original Vistabule.
These were made with 1" foam, not 1.5".
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I trimmed off the corners, and reinforced these with oak strips, before fiberglass/epoxy:
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I worked on this floor/cubby component from Mar 2022 through late May, and spent somewhere around ~50 hrs.
It weighs ~110 lbs.
Total trailer (66 lbs) + running gear (axles, tires, etc.; 176 lbs) + floor (110 lbs) = 352 lbs.

I'm further along than this, but will post more this coming week.
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Re: Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby Pmullen503 » Mon Feb 12, 2024 8:37 am

Beautiful work!

What weight of fiberglass did you use on the inside and outside?
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Re: Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby Onajourney » Mon Feb 12, 2024 12:05 pm

There is only one place to checkout and that's here. I consider it the best build on this site. https://www.tnttt.com/viewtopic.php?f=50&t=73779
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Re: Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby AdamEckhardt » Mon Feb 12, 2024 12:31 pm

Pmullen503 wrote:Beautiful work!
What weight of fiberglass did you use on the inside and outside?


Thanks, Pmullen503! I used 4oz cloth on the interior floor, and 6oz cloth on the exterior.
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Re: Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby AdamEckhardt » Mon Feb 12, 2024 12:55 pm

Next were the walls.

Some of my thoughts here were to eliminate the interior door stop piece. This would look cleaner, and would eliminate an obstruction that the folding bench/bed had to get past (perhaps not much of a problem). Therefore, I intended to make the 'door jamb' integral to the wall. This took more effort, but is a bit less 'cluttered'. I used the same idea for the porthole window (and also the door window). There are insets there on the outside (for the 1/4" thick window itself), and insets on the inside for a bug screen frame.

Wall framework, and internal wiring conduit
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Due to the fact that I experienced some 'bubbles' in the floor-storage-bins when I laminated that panel, I decided to use vacuum-bagging for the remainder of the panel laminations. I purchased a used vacuum pump off e-bay and used plastic sheeting and butyl tape from Menards. This method of creating a laminated panel is AMAZING! I haven't seen a single void o any kind using this method.
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Each wall came out to just over ~60 lbs.
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Re: Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby AdamEckhardt » Mon Feb 12, 2024 1:21 pm

After spending a bit of time building the interior back wall, I was able to put it all together for the first time!

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Re: Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby Pmullen503 » Mon Feb 12, 2024 2:57 pm

Just a tip, from experience.

Make sure the bottom sills for the doors and windows have bulletproof waterproofing. Some water will sit on that sill (or wet the seals) and keep it wet for a long time. I have flush doors and even with angled sills to help drain, I had rot after 8 or 9 years.

I'd be tempted to double the glass on the corners of your floor boxes, especially outside, just in case. It's a place that could easily be missed on a cursory inspection.

Beautiful work otherwise.
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Re: Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby tony.latham » Mon Feb 12, 2024 4:02 pm

Looks great, but I'm wondering about the open floor in the rear?

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Re: Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby AdamEckhardt » Mon Feb 12, 2024 5:55 pm

Pmullen503 wrote:Just a tip, from experience.
Make sure the bottom sills for the doors and windows have bulletproof waterproofing. Some water will sit on that sill (or wet the seals) and keep it wet for a long time. I have flush doors and even with angled sills to help drain, I had rot after 8 or 9 years.
I'd be tempted to double the glass on the corners of your floor boxes, especially outside, just in case. It's a place that could easily be missed on a cursory inspection.
Beautiful work otherwise.


Thanks, Pmullen503. I see what you mean. I do have fiberglass (for abrasion resistance) and 3 coats of epoxy on the bottoms of the door sills. No fiberglass but 3 coats of epoxy on the window sills.

...I have flush doors...


That was one other question I was wondering about. Some teardrops have an "eyebrow" above the door....others, including in Tony Latham's book, do not.
What is the purpose of this?

Just to move rainwater away from the door jamb, while parked?
Or to change the airflow over that gap in highway speed winds?
Or both?
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Re: Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby AdamEckhardt » Mon Feb 12, 2024 6:07 pm

tony.latham wrote:Looks great, but I'm wondering about the open floor in the rear?
Tony


Tony, that is for the galley. I didn't want to extend the trailer frame past that wall, because I needed that space to fit my 12V refrigerated cooler. I specifically designed the frame and galley around that cooler, and the stove I chose.

It's a bit easier to see in these photos of my further progress on the galley

The Galley
As mentioned above, the focus of this was around my 12V refrigerated cooler, which I purchased in 2021, in anticipation of this build.
All the walls in the galley are covered in fiberglass/epoxy for additional protection.

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Re: Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby AdamEckhardt » Mon Feb 12, 2024 6:18 pm

DOORS
Here's some progress photos of the doors.

Since my walls/doors are 1 11/16" thick, this opened the possibility to use standard, residential door hardware.
I'd appreciate any thoughts on the pros/cons of this.

I was thinking the pros: increased security and appearance
I couldn't think of any cons.
In light of that plan, I adjusted the door jamb around the door handle, so it could accommodate a traditional residential handle/strike-plate. I'll have to make a custom strike-plate, but the door should function/latch like any standard door.

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Re: Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby Pmullen503 » Mon Feb 12, 2024 7:35 pm

AdamEckhardt wrote:
I was thinking the pros: increased security and appearance
I couldn't think of any cons.
In light of that plan, I adjusted the door jamb around the door handle, so it could accommodate a traditional residential handle/strike-plate. I'll have to make a custom strike-plate, but the door should function/latch like any standard ....


I used a strike plate and mortise for the bolt. Turned out to be a source of water intrusion over the years and eventual rot. You must remember that driving in a rainstorm is kinda like being in a hurricane for your trailer. Water is forced into all kinds of places. Like I said before, your waterproofing has to be bulletproof. Also, think about how any water that gets somewhere enclosed will drain/dry out.

The gutter above the door probably keeps the top of the door opening drier if it rains when parked. And who wants drops of water running down your neck when you exit the trailer after a rainy night? Looks nice too but I doubt it helps much when driving in rain.
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Re: Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby tony.latham » Mon Feb 12, 2024 10:28 pm

I was thinking the pros: increased security ...


It's my belief that the last thing you want to do is lock the doors. It'll take any two-bit thief maybe three minutes to jam a big screwdriver in the doorjamb and force it open.

In twenty years of teardropping, we've never had a theft issue, but I don't want to fix that kind of damage. If they want to steal our Kindles, so be it.

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There's a guy by the name of Jerry Writght that built a Benroy using my book. It was stolen and recovered. He suffered significant damage to one door because of this issue.

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Re: Vistabule-inspired build in MI

Postby AdamEckhardt » Tue Feb 13, 2024 12:30 pm

I used a strike plate and mortise for the bolt. Turned out to be a source of water intrusion...


Good point. I should think more about this I suppose. I figured I'd seal the strike plate mortise with epoxy before attaching the strike plate. And the way I have the door designed, the seal will be between the outside gap and the latching hardware. But...you have a good point. I'll consider my options a bit more with this in mind.

It's my belief that the last thing you want to do is lock the doors.


Thanks for raising this point, Tony. In all honest, I've never really been concerned about security in the past. My tent was never 'locked', and I would generally not even lock my car doors, because if I wanted to get into my car in the middle of the night, I didn't want it to be making lock/unlock beeps. I've also never had anything stolen. In my future camping with this teardrop, I imagine I'll probably lock any high $$$ valuables out of sight in my car when away from camp, and just leave the camper unlocked.
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