Link to the blog dedicated to the ExploreMoreMobile (ER2K).
This blog page is meant to be a long winded story and pictorial progression showing how the ER2K changed after I took possession. First a short story and some links explaining why this isn’t just another RV.
This is the prototype platform for which the EarthRoamer is based. It was originally conceived and built starting in 1998. Here is a link where Bill Swails shares his creation with us interwebbers.
A few blog posts done by Bill while traveling in the ER2K. Taken from the EarthRoamer site:
I was in Baja, Mexico when I first stumbled across the ER2K. I saw it advertised in the forum on Expedition Portal. I owned a Chinook Diesel at the time and was planning on converting it to 4×4 with single rear wheels. The logistics and limited post operative four wheeling capabilities were a huge concern so I was keeping my eyes open for an alternative. My first impression was that it was really cool, but also small. I spent the next couple of days getting more info and making mock ups to try and visualize the interior. Above is the first feeble attempt at a scale model of the inside.
The current owner was an architect and sent me enough information to make a sketchup model. Yep, it’s small and this floor plan just isn’t going to work for me.
One drawback for me with the chinook was the lack of a second bed. I came up with this design allowing for a couch/second bed. Combine that with the overhead bed that doesn’t have to be made daily and I’m getting seriously interested. Is it worth it to buy something that’s 16 years old, expensive, and will need extensive remodeling?
Simple answer, yes. I’ve been around the RV game long enough to realize when something special comes along. Now the difficult part. Getting from Baja to Ontario to have a look see. How cold could it be up there? Very cold for this guy who was born in Arizona and spends most of the winter in Baja.
I sent money to hold the vehicle and got a cheap flight out. If I didn’t buy this thing it was going to be a thousand dollar loss so I wasn’t about to use a lot of money on travel. Yep, I spent the night in the Detroit airport and was mostly warm. I wore three pairs of pants and 5 shirts at the same time and was still cold.
At first sight of the ER2K I was impressed. It did in fact appear to be what I was hoping for.
The truck has an awesome espar heater and lifeline battery……… neither of which worked. There were some issues, but the basics were all there and the quality was top notch.
It took a few days to check out the truck, negotiate a price, and transfer money. The previous owners were very kind and even put me up in their home.
Ok bear with me on this part. I have a lot of story to tell and no pictures to go with. I left the previous owners home with plenty of time to get across the border that afternoon. I was immediately sent into secondary inspection and soon sent across the road to the vehicle importing office. I need to go on a short rant here and try to describe just how incredibly rude the customs agents were. I was treated like a criminal. They are on a serious power trip and I was disgusted by their behavior. Apparently the truck could not be brought into the states and nobody was the slightest bit interested in telling me why. I had called three different times to that very border asking all kinds of questions about getting the truck back into the states. Every person told me it would be no problem. I went back to Canada and was flagged into their secondary. Oh boy, here we go again. The Canadians were incredibly nice and helpful. I finally found a lady who gave me some basic info as to how I should proceed. I drove with my tail between my legs to a motel in Niagara Falls. Now I was wondering if I’d made a huge mistake and wouldn’t be able to import this vehicle. After an evening filled with frantic calls to everyone I could think of I finally stumbled upon an auto broker in New York. The next day I was able to get the proper paperwork through email and was ready to give it another go. I went to another border as per the instructions of the importer. Once again, secondary, rude treatment, etc. After an hour of waiting (they wouldn’t tell me why) someone said I could go. As you might imagine my person was replaced by a black cloud of departing diesel smoke.
I had to drive straight to the importers building where two white stickers were put on the truck and I had to pay $629 dollars. Silly, but I would have paid more to get away from the customs agents. It turns out the previous owner didn’t properly export the vehicle from the US. I can’t say as I blame him. It would have meant driving back through to the American side just to fill out paperwork. I just wish he would have told me.
My plan was to put in some serious miles that day and into the night. At dusk I turned on the headlights and noticed the running lights weren’t on. I pulled off and checked it out. Bummer, I only had headlights and brake lights. Not finding anything obvious I camped here at Walmart for the night. A sad place to camp the first night in such a capable rig.
The next day I was off as soon as I could hit the road without lights. Once again the plan was to make serious miles and deal with the lights at my brothers house in Texas. Wrong, the weather closed in again so I pulled into this car wash to figure out the problem. After about an hour I was able to patch some wires and bypass the issue. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of what would be extensive troubleshooting during this revival.
In Tennessee I jumped onto the Natchez Trace Parkway. Wow, what a spectacular drive. I drove 250 miles without one stop sign, or stop light. Speed limit 45, just my speed. It was a very relaxing and scenic drive.
This was the only time I stopped in the 250 miles. A quick detour and the cruise was back on 45. Yes it took longer, but oh so peaceful.
The parkway put me behind on time so I ended up spending the night at this boat launch somewhere around the Louisiana/Texas border. Getting better with my camping. Sure beats Walmart.
I made it to Houston and my brothers house. It didn’t take long for the first project to start. The roof of the ER2K leaks like crazy. It took hours to clean out the old caulking and reseal. Here the roof is covered to give the new caulk a chance to dry.
The sticker glue was next on the list. I learned that the orange citrus stuff works well after soaking for a few minutes.
I put a lot of thought into tires. I gambled and drove the old tires from Canada to Houston. They were 37″ mud tires and I considered them both too big and too aggressive. I wanted to put 34″ Toyo AT’s on the truck but now I’m glad they weren’t available. I don’t think they would have looked good or performed well offroad.
I ended up with these general grabbers. I love the look of them and so far they seem to perform very well. They are still aggressive and soft for road use but I now know that the Toyo AT’s would have been like neutering this beast.
That’s about as clean as it’s going to get for now. While at my brothers I had time to really take stock in the systems and see what worked and what didn’t. I was able to rebuild the compressor and bring it back to life. When it was running I was able to confirm that the lockers were getting air. After cleaning and coaxing the espar heater started working. Even the lifeline battery was showing signs of life after not being frozen and getting a decent charge.
Back in Arizona now I had to know if this truck would work for mountain bike traveling. Although the box leaked and the locks were crap, I was very pleased to find that my 26″ wheel fit nicely in the back box.
The bike fits in the passenger space even with the wheels on. With the rear seat folded up and wheels off, two bikes will easily fit in this secure space. Nice to have the bikes inside for a change.
While driving down a very bumpy road I heard a crash in the back. I continued on to my camp site and found this when I opened the back door. Surprise! There isn’t anything holding the fridge in the cabinet. It never opened or even stopped running. I just pushed it back and put in a few screws to keep it there. No need for more since it was coming out soon anyway.
Soon after the fridge came out the upper cabinet was hanging down. Luckily I caught this one before it came off. I used gorilla glue to put the side board back up and also glued a new piece of wood to the roof. I also added the aluminum brackets to the bottom.
The first major project came up right away. After filling the tank I saw a lot of water dripping under the truck. Bummer, the factory fitting was cracked. I made an attempt at gluing another in, but it didn’t hold.
Ok, lets make some lemonade from these lemons. Since the seat was going anyway I was able to double the capacity of the existing water tank. I now have just over 50 gallons of water on board.
The truck has an 18 gallon auxiliary tank which supplies the diesel appliances and can also be transferred to the main tank when needed. On the same trip where the fridge fell out I kept noticing a diesel fuel smell. After pulling the tank I found the vent line cracked and leaking.
I also found this spot where the exhaust has been rubbing on the plastic fuel tank. A little JB weld and some persuasion with a hammer should keep the contact down to a minimum now.
Not a good picture, but a funny story. I didn’t have anything to protect the aux tank from the metal hanging straps. I decided I didn’t really like my current bicycle tire that much anyway. I pulled it off the rim, removed all the thorns, cut it in half and had two ugly rubber strips for my aux tank that will last for many moons.
While under the truck I re-routed the drain hose for the grey water tank. I can now reach in behind the left rear wheel to open/close the valve. I have since purchased an electric valve which I’ll install with a switch in the cab. When I get to a suitable area for draining shower water, or someone is tailgating me I can just push a button.
I installed an alpine head unit with bluetooth and ipod integration. I also purchased speakers but sent them back when I realized I had MB Quart throughout. With the very powerful amp and subwoofer I supplied, the truck rocks out pretty good now.
See that black knob with the brass T connected. Turns out that is a temperature regulator for the hot water heater. It was the reason I couldn’t get hot water to the sink consistently.
It took a while to figure out the problem and even longer to solve the puzzle. It came down to a small O-ring that got cut inside.
The good news is that behind this cover I found an electric heating element. This means I now have three ways of heating my water. This is a 1500 watt element that runs on 120 volts. I’ll change out the element for a 12 volt 600 watt one. I’ll use it to take the chill off the water on cold days when I have plenty of battery and I don’t want to fire up the diesel heater which sounds like a small helicopter spooling up outside. I love these pleasant surprises I keep finding.
Time to tackle one of the big ones. Take a look at this lovely green formica and stainless sink. Nice huh. How about the abundance of counter space. Not even enough room to put the gallon jug of water on the counter.
Counter top gone. Getting a good look at the two stage water filter system.
Insert a hundred dollar piece of corian found on craigslist and it’s already looking better. Just checking for fit and how to reinforce for now.
Smoke coming from my ears now. Trying to figure out how to install the appendages using the least amount of space.
Cut some holes, install the sink, check the fit again.
Add a spider web of plumbing, buy some incredibly expensive Maple wood for a backsplash aaaaaand!
One completed counter sink and stove top. I added the outside/inside shower head and mixer that came with the ER2K but were never installed. Being the semi skilled mostly patient person that I am, this one project took me a week. But look now, I can put 8 gallon jugs of water on the counter if I wanted.
I’ve always wanted an undermount sink. The chrome fixtures are (from bottom to top) shower head, shower mixer, soap dispenser, filtered water, and main faucet.
Now for the fridge. I put a piece of 3/4 inch plywood across with supports on three sides to hold up the fridge. I couldn’t use a front or middle support because of the future slide out table. I’m also working on the cabinet door in this shot.
Fridge ventilation holes drilled. I also added an optional vent fan to the back of the fridge. Under the main fridge platform you can see how I boxed in the plumbing and wiring underneath so I can stuff items in there without worry.
Move a couple wires and insert one fridge. It scared me initially to see how big it looked there. I had to switch the door hinge to the other side. Because of rusted and stripped hardware it took half a day to machine and install the parts. I’ll have a finished picture of the fridge later in the process.
On a side note keep in mind that this truck is my summer home. Handy to eat at your work space, but sometimes a pain to pick up all the time. The bed platform is the perfect place to store tools and supplies while you work. Works great until time to hit the hay.
Turning my attention to the left side of the vehicle. Now the real work begins.
I was happy with how the original “control center” was set up and didn’t want to re-wire the whole truck. My plan was to try and keep most of the electrical in tact and just move it to a new location. I spent hours staring, measuring, and agonizing over how to best accomplish this. In the end it was just pull out the sawsall and cut almost everything except wires.
I started in the left rear corner because I had definite plans for the space. At this point I still hadn’t decided where the control panel would be. I decided to start the demo and hope it would come to me. There was extensive water damage to deal with in the back. Luckily the sub floor is fiberglass and in fine condition.
Don’t be scared, keep an open mind. Think of the water one could save by using a composting toilet. After extensive research I decided it was worth a try. How could I resist making my own Tompost.
As you can see above, the toilet didn’t fit. I had to pull the fuel fill lines off to remove these fill necks. Then simply cut.
Then twist and re-weld or solder. I have to admit I wasn’t up to the task of putting these back together. It took some delicate welding and soldering by my father to get them back in shape. Just moving these lines took 2 days.
I got a good look at the materials used to make my camper. Fiberglass at my thumb plastic honeycomb then fiberglass again with an aluminum skin. Light, very tough, and good R value.
When finished there’s just enough room for a composting toilet to fit in the new space.
I found some suspicious wiring at the back wall. Looks like a ground wire got cut somewhere along the way so some creative wiring was needed to keep everything lit up in the back. It’s satisfying to find and fix these little snafus. This was part of the reason I didn’t have lights on the way back from Canada.
It’s July in southern Arizona. This was really starting to slow me down. I finally had to do something about it.
Some skateboard wheels on the ladder. A couple of struts welded to the truck body and I can take this baby on the road. Only temporary I promise. I eventually ended up mounting it in the crawl space and opening the front windows to exhaust the heat. Works well, but difficult taking it in and out to drive to the store. I’m thinking about a permanent mounting in another black box on the back of the truck. Still trying to decide if it’s worth it.
Moving forward. Where’s that sawsall.
Looks daunting at this point, but now I know where every wire goes and what it does.
The left bench seat gets cut down but stays in. These (both sides) were built very well and because of the electrical system/battery on the left and espar heater on the right were not worth moving.
I was also able to salvage the upper left cabinets by carefully cutting the bottom away.
Charger and inverter mounted in their new location. Wires getting back under control. I’ll keep the inverter wires long for now until I’m sure it doesn’t get moved again.
More wire organization and plywood glued to the ceiling for mounting cabinets. The switch panel seems to have found a home too. You can also see the composting toilet vent coming through the roof above the switches.
I was very proud of the venting system I came up with. Stainless steel, screws to the ceiling, clamshell vent keeps the rain out and should even pull a draft while moving.
Another difficult task coming up. Turning this wire mess into a proper control center.
Using the old panel as a template.
Getting there. Still need the second upper cabinet, stereo, stain, and finish trims. I moved the espar heater control closer to the bed so it’s no longer necessary to get out of bed to turn on the heater.
What about that toilet you ask. No worries, it’s as easy as ONE.
Uhhh, FOUR!!!! or one and two…………. never mind.
Control center looks worse, but it’s getting better. Stereo has arrived, just wiring it all up at this point.
They were a pain to install because of the roof construction. I ended up using an air powered die grinder and made a huge mess.
After much thought I decided to mount a small TV above the sink. I couldn’t find a good swivel mount so decided to make my own.
The creative part of me really enjoys such projects.
I’m very happy with where and how the TV came out. It swings out and swivels for perfect viewing anywhere on the couch, while cooking, or in bed.
Got the drawers installed under the couch. Luckily was able to find the same hardware on ebay so everything matches.
Working on the cabinetry under the fridge. I decided on a simple exposed chrome hinge which matches the other hardware and gives the truck a utilitarian look.
Huge shallow drawer under the fridge. Gotta use every inch in such a small platform.
Matching up the drawer faces grain and texture. I had a heck of a time figuring out how to get the latches installed in such a small space.
I ended up cutting into the bottom of the drawer and top of the table to make it work.
My neighbor who happens to be a cabinet maker threw some scraps together for me to make a table top.
I’m still working out the shower issues. Right now a copper tube clamps to the roof and holds up the curtain. Works well, but needs a faster mount for the top. I’m currently searching for the perfect clips.
I was completely overwhelmed at the fabric store looking for couch cushions. With the help of the owners wife we came up with a good combination.
Custom seat cushions installed. They have velcro sewn in and come out with a tug. Don’t judge on the back cushions. They are gone now, the new ones aren’t much better. I’ll work it out eventually.
The roof panels were loose so I siliconed them up and slapped some wood together to hold everything in place until it was dry.
The old fluorescent lights used a lot of power and were way too bright for most applications.
I pulled them out an installed an LED light strip.
This light strip is 3 meters long, waterproof, has 7 colors, and has self adhesive backing. They cost 20 bucks on ebay and are one of my favorite parts of the rebuild. I had to splice and rewire them for my application.
This is a big one. Luckily I don’t have many pictures because I didn’t do the work. I had the gears changed from 3.73 to 4.56. Yes I know, a big jump. I’m a slow driver and really like to doodle along in 4 low. I can now ponder my way down the road at 55mph at around 1750 rpm. I think my mileage actually went up because I used to be in the 1400s at that speed and it was too low for the cummins.
So, that one gauge I thought didn’t work. Turned out to be the rear axle temp. Perfect, I kept a close eye on my new gears breaking in. While on a road trip they got warm so I got some ice and took a nap.
It started getting warm again near Beatty, NV so I stopped at this stream for a cool down.
I went in for an alignment and left with a new steering box. The guy proved to me that the play was in the box so I sprung for a new one. 600 bucks well worth it. So much tighter steering now.
This fix was really cool. The larger alternator fan was cutting into the radiator overflow bottle. I was able to use a heat gun to “weld” up the hole and also reshape the bottle for clearance.
A bigger project than I thought. I upgraded the 120 volt system with a transfer switch (inverter/shore), installed a breaker box, two outlets, and wired up the electric water heater element with a switch.
Got rid of that extra wire for the inverter and luckily had room for the transfer switch below the inverter and 120v charger.
The worst part was disassembling the fridge area to install an outlet above the counter.
One more major upgrade and it’s time to head south for the winter. My solar capacity just wasn’t cutting it so I added another panel. I had a heck of a time removing the old nut inserts in the roof.
New panel is lighter and more powerful than the originals. It wasn’t easy finding something that fit the space requirements.
Ok, this is the latest and last fix for a while. This is from the trip down Baja. That pesky aux tank is rearing up again. This is the third time I’ve had to deal with it. First was the cracked vent pipe, second the fuel gauge sender wire came loose, now third one of the mounting straps broke. I almost lost the tank and will be replacing those soon.
The ER2K is currently parked at my place in Mexico. Below are some pictures of the finished interior.
Yes I do in fact like the Gillie suit carpet.
My other mother made the tv cover for me. See the little 120v outlet in the rear left. Handy and a real PITA to install.
Fuzzy picture of storage under the front of the couch.
My latest version of back cushions. Check out that LED light strip. They even bounce with the music if you so desire.
The couch and finished control panel.
The back wall as seen from the bed.
A good shot of the speakers on the right side. Notice how the TV can be seen from all angles.
I’m now finished with this page for the most part. I may add to it from time to time with specific repairs. For instance, this picture is from when I figured out the 4×4 wasn’t engaging properly. When the guy changed my gearing he didn’t get the shift forks aligned properly which meant I went all summer with 2×4 when I thought I had 4×4. The cool thing is that my front locker worked and when engaged it gave me 3×4. The even better part is that you should have seen the places I took this thing in both 2×4 and 3×4.
Glad you are bringing the rig back to life and using it how it was intended!
You don’t miss much do you Tony.
Pingback: The Knee and the RV. | The Happenings on the Hill
Pingback: Going to Mexico 2014 | The Happenings on the Hill