Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Ideas, advice, tips, and tricks regarding the building and creation of mutant vehicles in Black Rock City
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A-RockLeFrench
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Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby A-RockLeFrench » Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:36 am

I am in the early planning stages for the Mutant Vehicle I hope to build and bring to BRC in 2013. Soon I will be moving to another state and after this is done (Feburary) I will start acquiring everything I need. I should have a good idea of what my budget will be for this project around then. I've got my concept down and now I'm researching the best equipment to accomplish this.

I'm envisioning sort of a serpentine creature and that bends as it moves, like an articulated bus. I'm not so sure that an articulated bus is going to be that easy to come by,
but what is pretty easy to come by is a 1-ton work truck. So I'm thinking build the head over the truck and use a heavy duty (12,000-16,000 GVWR) goose neck trailer for the body. The body will most likely be framed with welded steel forming a rib-like enclosure around the passengers, with guard rails and access into the body through a small set of stairs. The steel frame will support an observation deck with guard rails and stairs leading up from the lower level. There will be lights and flame cannons. I'm thinking the DJ booth goes on the raised platform on the goose neck over the truck bed.

Now before I get any further and start drawing plans, I'd like a little feedback on the safety and the viability of building a 5th wheel into a MV, as in if the DMV would license a trailer built to hold passengers? I'm not too concerned about the safety of passengers on a 5th wheel traveling at 5mph, its even legal in some states to ride in a 5th wheel. The trailer will have its own brakes and there will be an intercom/walkie talkie contact point between the cab of the truck and crew in the body trailer. But I could be missing something, and I know if I am I can be sure the finely honed critical intellect of the e-playa collective won't miss anything.

I'm going to try to design this in such a way that both the truck and trailer remain street legal so we can drive them to/from BRC., Like welding clips and slots onto the truck and assemble the frame around it once we arrive.

What do you guys think so far?
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby TomServo » Thu Nov 01, 2012 6:23 am

The DMV WILL license your trailer seperately. One major safety feature you should include is making the 5th wheel and any pinch points inaccessible to passengers. Make sure you are very specific, when explaining your vision and design for the project, when applying. And if approved, make sure to stick to the proposed design as much as possible.
You'd be suprised how easily articulating busses can be obtained. At auction, we sold several dozen in one day. Going prices about $500 to $2000 each. If your prepared to take on one of these bad boys, and all the licensing headaches that will accompany it, its worth checking out. Would require a CDL (possibly class A?) with passenger and air brake endorsements. Maybe even a combo endorsement...but not totally sure.
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby Elliot » Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:24 am

Be advised articulated buses with the engine in the "trailer" have vicious handling characteristics because the trailer is pushing the main vehicle.
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby TomServo » Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:29 pm

I think the drive axel location varies on models. But, according to wiki, most articulated buses use the same engines as rigid non-articulating buses...thereby making them somewhat inefficient and prone to overheating and possible fires.
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby Major Krash » Thu Nov 01, 2012 2:56 pm

it is possible to create trailers that fit closely together, even when turning...and cover the small gap with carpet that is only attached to one side...

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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby A-RockLeFrench » Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:27 pm

I am not prepared for all the headaches that come with an articulated bus. I also don't want to be stuck with an articulated bus for 51 weeks. Work trucks and flatbed trailers are much more useful to me in my day to day life. I plan to design this MV so that the truck and trailer will be able to function as a truck and trailer for the rest of the year as well as the drive to/from BRC. Having safety barriers between the 5th wheel and pinch points will definitely factor into the design.

I have a couple questions around the idea of 'keeping your MV as close to the proposed idea as possible'. I read the same thing on the BM website. I'm wondering how strict I will have to follow it before I risk being turned away at DMV. My big fear is getting invited, and dropping thousands into this only to have to leave it parked all week. Now I'm not sure how soon you usually hear back from the DMV once you submit your plans, or if they wait until May to decide. I would much prefer to wait until after I've been approved to start spending, while at the same time maximizing the amount of time I have to work on it. There's no way for me to know exactly how long the trailer is going to be until I find it. I see flatbeds on Craigslist frequently for around $1-2k, which is what I can afford, but the length of available trailers always varies. I'd be happy to work with a trailer any where from 16 to 25 or even 30 feet long. But I don't want to buy a trailer before I know it's gonna be worth it. Any input on this would be awesomely appreciated. Anyone know what the soonest you can get your MV approved is? What if I submit a plan and it's based of off a 20 ft trailer and instead I get a screaming deal on one that's 25 ft long. The design itself wont differ much, same structure, shape, construction etc, but 5 feet longer/shorter. Is that permissible in the eyes of a Hottie?
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby BBadger » Fri Nov 02, 2012 1:00 am

I always thought the real approval step on the playa was more to ensure that you didn't just overpromise on the MV and show up with some piece-of-shit that isn't worthy for approval. I doubt that smallish details such as 5ft off the length make much difference so long as the concept is still in place and the car is sufficiently mutated and well-lit (if you're driving at night).
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby Bob » Fri Nov 02, 2012 6:25 am

This has been done -- Draka the Dragon -- janky, dangerous, 100+ feet long, and it has a bar.

Currently in Texas, not sure how current the contact info is here:

http://www.drakaarts.org/draka_history.html

Artist is Lisa Nigro, here's her website:

http://lisanigro.com

DO NOT use it as an example of what the BRC-DMV might currently allow, though I'm sure if Lisa brought it back they'd grandfather it in.


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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby TomServo » Fri Nov 02, 2012 6:26 pm

I'm wondering how strict I will have to follow it before I risk being turned away at DMV. My big fear is getting invited, and dropping thousands into this only to have to leave it parked all week. 


As long as you stick to the basic theme of your vehicle, length shouldn't matter. Since it will be a multi-passenger MV, this will be taken into consideration in your favor. The whole idea behind that rule, is sometimes people Completely change the design that was originally approved. And in doing so, they basically disregard the initial approval process. If you have a theme in mind, stick with it. Minor variations and tweaks are totally fine. Especially when they're to make it functional and transportable. My suggestion is to submit an image with a single trailer, and the same image altered to show multiple trailers. Each trailer will be licensed seperately.
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby gyre » Fri Nov 02, 2012 6:32 pm

There are different hitch approaches.

http://www.mrtrailer.com/safetyhitch.htm

Axle Point hitch
http://www.pullrite.com/pullrite.htm

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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby gyre » Fri Nov 02, 2012 6:34 pm

You can vet your general idea ahead of time by writing the dmv.

It will not constitute approval, but could steer you away from bad ideas.

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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby gyre » Fri Nov 02, 2012 7:00 pm

Your ideas look good so far.
Minor length changes shouldn't be an issue in this case.

Articulated areas must be well lit.

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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby A-RockLeFrench » Sat Nov 17, 2012 1:51 pm

Thaks for the feedback folks!

At this point I'm feeling pretty set on the truck and 5th wheel option. There will just be one big trailer this year, but I definitely have the idea of adding another trailer next year as my creature grows.

Now for my next question(s): As I said earlier, I will be using the truck ad trailer as transportation to/from BRC. I need to design it in a way that will allow me to mutate it on playa that will sufficiently obscure the base vehicle. Like many, I am thinking of fabric stretched over a metal frame that attaches to the truck. I'm thinking of welding a permanent base frame around the truck, similar to a exo-cage, that I can build up on playa and stretch fabric over. I'm not sure what the best type of fabric and lighting combo would be. I'm going to apply for a night license. I have seen a couple threads that give the idea that sometimes it can be quite challenging to cover up the base vehicle once lights are shining through the fabric. I have seen several MV's where the base vehicle was pretty damn recognizable, yet also heard the stories of MV's parked at camp all week because it wasn't sufficiently obscured.

Is it better to have lights inside the fabric, projecting onto the interior of white fabric, or outside, projecting on the exterior? Will the factor of opaqueness of the fabric I use determine this? I've seen a few MV's where the fabric covers the entire vehicle, to the point you cant see a driver at all (the giant toilet last year as a example) Is there a lighting trick where the fabric will be lit up, but you can see out of it enough to safely drive your MV?
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby trilobyte » Sat Nov 17, 2012 4:56 pm

For something that's street legal, you'd want to weld what amounts to attachment points to the vehicle, and then weld a frame that connects securely to the attachment points. That way you can get creative and avoid falling into the oversize vehicle trap. Double check the CA and NV DMV sites see what their limits are. When I designed a big MV back in 2005, I think we found that we could go no more than 14' wide, 14' high, and had to be under 40' long (or something in that ballpark). For what we were trying to do (space pirate ship) that wasn't going to cut it, so we factored in that there would be a certain amount of on playa assembly.

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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby gyre » Sat Nov 17, 2012 5:28 pm

Re lighting, it depends on the fabric, and then lighting skill.

Most fabrics are lit from inside.

Best way to make an MV night legal is lighting the entire shape, not light points around it.

Some mvs have a visible interior at night but are permitted.

Lighting options for color-
Low pressure sodium only in monochromatic amber/ highest efficacy possible
Metal halide color lamps / limited colors / cheap / high efficacy
Neon
Elwire / Efficacy can be hard to determine / No directional control with optics
LED / Raw / Optics / Side diffused fibre optics - similar to elwire, more colors
Fluorescent
Quartz filtered / Very low efficacy and color purity.

Don't forget the option of bouncing bright light off the playa.
You need high efficacy for this or lots of power.

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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby Elliot » Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:16 pm

trilobyte wrote:For something that's street legal, you'd want to weld what amounts to attachment points to the vehicle, and then weld a frame that connects securely to the attachment points. That way you can get creative and avoid falling into the oversize vehicle trap. Double check the CA and NV DMV sites see what their limits are. When I designed a big MV back in 2005, I think we found that we could go no more than 14' wide, 14' high, and had to be under 40' long (or something in that ballpark). For what we were trying to do (space pirate ship) that wasn't going to cut it, so we factored in that there would be a certain amount of on playa assembly.

14 feet wide would require an Oversize Load trip permit for each state you travel thru. And they don't sell those permits lightly. Normal maximum width is 8 feet 6 inches (102 inches), except that mirrors and some other safety items may stick out a bit further.
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby Snow » Wed Nov 21, 2012 10:13 pm

just so no one misses it!!!!!

Elliot wrote:14 feet wide would require an Oversize Load trip permit for each state you travel thru. And they don't sell those permits lightly. Normal maximum width is 8 feet 6 inches (102 inches), except that mirrors and some other safety items may stick out a bit further.
:D
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby trilobyte » Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:27 pm

Entirely possible, Elliot, I'm thinking back anecdotally on a project from 7 years ago. My point was we looked up the guidelines online and factored that into our plans, since we needed it to be street legal.

Another tip, especially since you're looking to make a street legal MV - make sure your base vehicle is solid and has a good engine and transmission. All too many MV's start with a car or truck that's either seen much better days or is on its last legs, and then after it's been transformed into a mutant masterpiece it breaks down.

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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby Elliot » Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:14 pm

:D
I definitely second the notion of starting with a mechanically-sound vehicle!

Now, about width.
WARNING: Long technical answer:

"Legal width" is a complicated matter, because there are so many variations of "legal". They moved a complete Space Shuttle on public roads recently -- legally.

Up to 80” (6’ 8”) wide, all you need is normal passenger car equipment and off you go to Grandma’s house.

Over 80” wide, you need additional lights, primarily the short row of three lights in the middle of front and back. This set is called Identification Lights and serves to notify motorists that the vehicle is wider than a regular car. Most people of course have no idea about this, but truckers definitely pay attention to those little groups of three lights on narrow roads in the dark.

Then we get to 102” (8’ 6”). That’s the widest you may be if you want to just get in and drive anywhere and anytime you want. Any wider, and you have to apply in advance for an Oversize Permit from the state Department of Transportation or whatever agency is currently handling this in the state. And you need such a permit for each state you drive thru.
The permit tells you what day you may drive, what roads, and other restrictions. Many cities prohibit Oversize loads during rush hours. Generally, you may drive only in daylight.
When I hauled such loads, the company made the arrangements and I picked up the permits via fax at truck-stops. Things may have changed.
And you must have a big yellow Oversize Load or Wide Load sign on each end, and red flags at the corners.

Next, 10’. Now my knowledge gets a bit rusty, but some states let you run at night up to 10’ wide, provided you install lights on the widest points of the load. (I ran such a load down I-5 once – a gazillion-dollar adapter-ring for a satellite to be launched from a Space Shuttle. Those folks paid quite close attention to how I installed those extra lights and everything else!)

The next step I’m aware of is 14’. That’s the common width of those “manufactured homes” that consist of two or three sections. In this range of 10’ to 14’ you may need a Pilot Car or two – more so on narrower roads. On nasty roads you may even need Highway Patrol escorts, all of which you must pay for at overtime rates.

The “manufactured homes” industry has tried selling 16’ wide single units, but I hear that this proved impractical.

But the darndest huge wide things sometimes need to be moved; usually industrial machinery or ships. Or that Space Shuttle. You don’t even want to think about the logistics for this.


Now we need to get back to a basic point we skipped over earlier. A fundamental rule for getting an Oversize Permit is that it must not be possible to make the load smaller. If there is any reasonable way you can make the load smaller, no permit. (There is an exception for stacks of roof trusses.)

That leaves us with the question of whether the permit-issuing agency would try to judge how necessary your move is. And I have no idea. I did this sort of thing only commercially. Any oversize load is a traffic hazard, so I imagine they might not want “frivolous” hazards on the roads. If anybody could research this….

Oh.... One more thing. You have been talking about vehicles, and I have been talking about cargo. But so far as I know, the same rules apply. There are "heavy-haul" trailers out there that are 10' or more wide. They need a Permit just to drive empty.

As always, I'm not perfect, and neither is my knowledge. So I don't charge much. :lol:

Oh, still one more thing. Next time a portable carnival comes to town, study that equipment. Even their biggest Ferris wheels and carousels and haunted houses fold up to 8' 6" wide. :D
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby A-RockLeFrench » Fri Nov 23, 2012 2:55 pm

trilobyte wrote:make sure your base vehicle is solid and has a good engine and transmission. All too many MV's start with a car or truck that's either seen much better days or is on its last legs, and then after it's been transformed into a mutant masterpiece it breaks down.


Noted. One of the ways I can justify spending what I'm planing on spending is buying a base vehicle which will be a useful vehicle all year round, a healthy power train is a high priority for this one. Right now I'm thinking an 8th or 9th generation diesel f350. They're cheap, strong trucks and there's a million of them, making replacement parts easy to track down.

The standard width of an 8th or 9th gen f-series truck is 79 inches. Not leaving any room to add any frame components/mounts on the sides without having to add extra lights. Couldn't find any info on the New Mexico DOT website about width regulations and light requirements. Guess I'll be making some phone calls come Monday...
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby Captain Goddammit » Fri Nov 23, 2012 4:52 pm

You'll be OK welding attachment points onto a Ford pickup, if they are reasonable and pretty tight to the body it's highly unlikely you'll ever be hassled. But it's a non-issue because an F-350 will already have the cab and tailgate I.D. lights anyway. I don't think I've ever seen even a single-rear-wheel F-350 that didn't have them. And if you can fabricate the rig you're talking about, adding a few lights to a pickup if it doesn't have 'em should be zero big deal.
The 1960 Ford was possibly the widest regular passenger car ever at 81 1/2 inches... technically it needs I.D. lights! '59 and '60 Cadillacs are a bit over 80" too.
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby A-RockLeFrench » Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:58 am

Plans have changed drastically, as they often do. I am still planning on building a large art car and bringing it to BRC. However, the base vehicle and concept will be changing. The budget has been reduced and now I cannot justifiably spend what it will take to procure a decent work truck and heavy duty trailer. So now I will be using my old school bus as a base vehicle. I am not ready to announce the plans and concept for the vehicle.

I have one more question, I have noticed in the MV section on the website it clearly states that the base vehicle must not be recognizable, but I remember seeing lots of MV's around that we're built on/out of school busses and were very clearly identifiable as a bus, sometimes just a decorated platform on the top. Is the DMV more lenient when licensing MV's built out of busses?

Here is a photo of the bus. It is a 1966 ford short bus. I am not willing to start cutting apart or dismantling such a sweet classic, I would like to build a frame around and a platform on top. It will be awesome, yet still recognizable as a bus.
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby Elliot » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:08 pm

That bus is maximum 8 feet wide.
Around 25 years ago the legal width (nationwide) went up to 8' 6". So you have 6 inches to play with. You could bolt steel posts to the side of the bus, up to 3" wide on each side. I would suggest 2", which leaves you an inch for plywood with painted decorations or whatnot.

Run these sturdy steel posts a little above the roof and bolt the dance floor to them. And bolt on the plywood, which I suggest you run up above the bus roof to form a non-bus roof line. Make sure you are safely under 13' 6". All this you can drive on the road.

Now build railings and shade-framing out of lighter material and in manageable sections and attach to the posts so they can be quickly and easily taken on and off. This stuff travels inside the bus.

You might wind up with something along the lines of the famous KazBus:

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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby A-RockLeFrench » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:28 pm

Yup. That bus is serving as inspiration. It will be along those same lines design wise, the concept will be much different. I'm thinking the most expensive aspect of this will be the steel posts for the frame, guard rails, staircase and shade structure. And the lights... And the new drive train for the bus. The original inline six gas engine and four speed transmission won't cut it for the long trek to BRC once a thousand or so pounds of steel and wood are added. Pus all the supplies the bus will be carrying on the inside.
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby BBadger » Tue Feb 26, 2013 2:04 pm

I think the vehicle recognition standard is that it can't just look like a hippie van with some bottlecaps glued to the surface or something. You could always fix some fabric to a frame to give it a different shape or something. How it appears at night probably factors into it as well.
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby A-RockLeFrench » Sun Feb 28, 2016 6:04 pm

So,

Three years later and we are considering giving it another go... Art car dream is resurrected so is this thread. Feasibility is currently being assessed, decision will be made based upon professional inspection of the old bus posted above. The bus has mostly sat (fired up and moved every few months) for the last 3 years and it's time for something to happen.

Many things have changed in our approach: we are no longer planning on keeping this thing highway legal. We plan on having it hauled to BRC on a flatbed. Now that isn't street legal we are considering chopping it up. I want to leave enough of the bus to retain it's classic charm as well maintaining structural integrity, the arched bus frame is bearing most of the load of my current design.

I'm thinking about removing all (or most) of the glass and cutting away sections of the sheet metal skin to give it a more 'mutated' look. The front-end, hood and fenders will probably stay where they are and be covered by layers of mutation. Obviously this would open up the interior and I would be losing the ability to have a (mostly) sealed environment inside the belly of the vehicle.

My new question to the greats minds of eplaya: who's got anything to say about sealed vs. open MV interiors?

I'm aware of glare sometimes being an issue when driving MV's with windshields at night, but OTOH seems like not having wind and dust in the drivers face all the time might be nice.
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby Captain Goddammit » Sun Feb 28, 2016 6:47 pm

Windshields kind of suck on the playa, they are always dirty. I drive right out front in the open, and the visibility can't be beat. When its bad enough out to be a problem, you're not supposed to be driving anyway. When it's marginal, goggles.
I have an interior that's open at the rear and somewhat on the sides (toward the rear). When I get caught in a dust storm, if I just point into the wind it provides pretty good shelter. If you give yourself at least one good "wall", or have plywood, a canvas, whatever, to seal up one end and point that to the wind when you get caught, it should work. I don't think I'd want to seal an MV up completely. In a dark random-stoned-pedestrian place I think not being right out there is dangerous.
Not having to be street legal is a big asset. Now you can do whatever you want. I believe the max width allowed on BRC streets is 13', so you might want to keep that in mind or you'll be relegated to open playa only.
It shouldn't look like a bus at all when it's done. I'm not speaking officially, but from the way I understand it, years ago busses USED to get more leniency due to the number of burners who would get to ride on them but I believe that is no longer the case. Now there are busses all over the playa, and they are held to the same standard as all MVs. If I can look at it and say "Oh, that's a '60s Ford bus", ..... fail. There used to be cars that looked like cars too.
Registration for MVs is open now, so you'll want to get on it.
If it's a plan rather than an existing MV, be really clear and specific on exactly what you intend to build. They can't license vague ideas.
It's all about the application. Don't just speak glowingly about how great it will be, communicate clearly WHAT it's gonna be.
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby Jackass » Sun Feb 28, 2016 7:08 pm

Most MVs have the windshield cut out for this very reason. You may be able to pull out the weather stripping and window along with it, save the glass for later re-installation. I know later model buses have kick-out windows, to make for an easier escape in case of an accident...
Sooner or later, it will get real strange...

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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby A-RockLeFrench » Tue Mar 01, 2016 12:27 pm

Thanks guys. Looks like the windshields coming out..


Next Question: Blocking the suspension. This bus is pretty bouncy, I think blocking the suspension will need to happen. What would work best? Cast-iron or aluminum blocks like the ones used in 4x4 lift kits, air bags, or the cheap-o option: wood.

Would wooden blocks even work? I see 4x4 and bigger chunks used as dunnage in shipping with all kinds of heavy equipment on it...
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Re: Seeking advice and input for designing MV

Postby Jackass » Tue Mar 01, 2016 2:01 pm

On the 1 ton dodge chassis that my camp's MV sits on, we used some thick walled metal pipe cut to length between the axle and frame (on the perches not the axle tubes themselves). Kinda depends on the suspension and frame configuration.
Sooner or later, it will get real strange...

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