Last Updated 08/06/2010 17:21:56
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Chassis Swap

Essentially when we bought the current Moglet, the previous owners had written in her paperwork that they’d had her weighed in the States when she was fully laden and with full water tanks and she was coming in at a little under 7.5 tons.  We made a few modifications to Moglet when we first bought her, like added two extra diesel tanks and stepped the tyres up a size, but we also stripped out a few bits from inside, which we roughly worked out should have put us back to the kind of numbers the previous owners were talking about.


On more than one occasion in the UK we tried to get Moglet weighed, but its not as easy as you might think. Following road signs for a Public Weighbridge we arrived at one point at a VOSA testing centre and asked if we could be weighed, but were told no, they don’t do that?!  Trying to find a public weighbridge that was open when we were local proved to be impossible, and eventually it wasn’t until we were in France that we could get her weighed.  At which point we found out that she may have been under her maximum permissible weight of 7.5ton a couple of years ago when she was weighed in the US but in France, if we’d run with as much water, fuel and equipment as we could, she’d be overweight.  Not too much of an issue you might think, chances are there’s loads of vehicles on the road every day that are overweight.  But what we were worried about, as well as the legal implications or if we hit someone or something while we were overweight and if the authorities decided to weigh us and found out, is the ramifications on the machine itself.  If once or twice a year you run a trailer full of stuff on tarmac roads down to the local tip, and you’re pulling 850kg instead of the 750kg your licence might allow, then the car probably doesn’t mind too much.  But if you’re an overland truck with a chassis designed to carry a maximum of 7.5ton and you’re bumping along unmade rutted tracks carrying extra weight, then something, somewhere is far more likely to break. You can pretty much guarantee it’ll be a really hard to fix part that breaks in a really awkward location and a crappy time of the day. Part of the reasoning for going with a small truck rather than something Landy sized was the freedom the extra carrying capacity, and therefore range etc, it would give us.


So we faced a choice of either modifying our trip so that we didn’t need to carry so much gear/supplies etc (and probably not need a mog), or we radically modified Moglets house section to try and reduce the weight (kind of tricky when we don’t really know exactly how she’s been made and where precisely we could make some serious weight savings, or we changed the chassis.  After much (and I mean much!) deliberation, Jason decided to go with the chassis swap option, assuming the right chassis came along at the right price, and at the right time. This was mostly due to time (money!).  Shrinking the camping section is probably a better solution considering its a bit big in our opinion from a driving point of view, but since our trip had started we weren’t earning and the house is rented out, we had no extra dosh or a place to stay or to do the work. Swapping to something smaller would mean we would have to sell what we have, and the six or so expedition campers we know of currently for sale in the UK haven’t shifted for a while. That would also be passing a big camper with a too small payload onto someone else to sort out :(


And once we’d decided to see what fate would drop into our laps, would you Adam and Eve it, the right chassis turned up within days!  When Jason had a chat with the boys at AV about his concerns and what he thought about the next step needed to be, Simon said they’d just had what could be the exact thing we were after arrive in the yard.  It was a 1981 U1750 chassis, previously used by a council in Wales in a waste recycling plant of all places.  Naturally she was instantly christened ‘poo tanker’ by the Atkinson Vos team, and that’s how she’s been referred to for some time, which has morphed itself into Boglet by some too!  I’m sure Jason could add lots more about his deliberations and lots of technical chats involving numbers and ratios and things like that, but essentially the poo tanker chassis seemed to be a bit of a gift horse - we’d put together a wish list of everything the new chassis would need to be before we could consider any changes, and within days along comes poo tanker.  So we decided to go for it.


The very handy fixing method used on most Unimogs means that whatever gets plonked on the back of the chassis is essentially held in place at only four fixing points.  Theoretically this means that the camper body on the back of the chassis could have a few leads and pipes disconnected, and then it should be able to be lifted up from one chassis and put down on another, with minimal bother.  So the theory goes, anyway.


Once AV had the green light from Jason, there commenced a constant flurry of emails back and forth, with Jason asking for information or telling AV things that needed to be done, and they in return following suit.  Finally, finally the day arrived when a date was fixed for Moglet to return to the UK for her facelift, and Atkinson Vos could start stripping down poo tanker and getting her ready for her new camper body.

12th April 2010 was kick off day, and its amazing how quickly it came around.  Most of the first day was spent discussing ‘how to’ on a few key issues.  We were also reintroduced to Nathan, the lead mechanic on the work being done on Moglet and the poo tanker, or Boglet as he’s taken to calling the new chassis!  Much of what’s going to be done is either cut and dried in a ‘that’s how it has to be done’ fashion, or we have a specific requirement for something but we don’t mind how the boys go about it.  However, there were a few bits that AV couldn't really make a plan for until they had Moglets camper sitting in front of them.  Key of these issues was the placement of the spare tyres.  Currently there’s two spares sitting side by side, flat on the back and as low as they can be mounted on the back of the body without obscuring the lights.  The problem with the new chassis is the tyres are a bit bigger, and having them in the same configuration on the back would mean they’d protrude from the side.  Not a good idea.  And we cant simply move one of the up because we don’t know how the original wheel mounts were constructed and what they’re fixed to inside the body, nor do we know what weight they’re designed to carry.  The spares that have been on Moglet for the last year or so are already heavier than those which were on Moglet when we first bought her, so to step the size and weight up again without any idea what’s holding them on would be asking for trouble.  So a new way of holding the wheels on had to be devised.  After four men, an hour and a half and copious use of The Atkinson Vos Departure Angle Measurer™ (a plank of wood), a plan was formulated - last I heard, it involved the two spares being offset and the lower, heavier of the two (one is a wheel and type, one is just a tyre) having a supporting structure created for it, kind of like half an octagon, with the weight carried by the specially made bumper rather that the potentially dodgy camper body.  I look forward to seeing the creation!

On 13th April we had to pop back to AV to drop off a little car they’d lent us, and happened to arrive just as they were lifting the camper off the chassis.  Scary stuff!  We’d left our little camera with Simon so hopefully there’ll be lots of photos of that to add soon.  We were only there for about 10minutes before our taxi arrived and we had to leave, but it all looked like it was going to plan, and as we drove off we could see the truck chassis being driven out from under the camper body, which is going to sit on axle stands for a little while until the new chassis is ready for it.  Fingers crossed the ‘on’ will go as well as the ‘off’ appeared to...

I’d imagine this is going to be a section that Jason fills out more than I do, but in the meantime I thought a bit of an overview from me wouldn’t go amiss.