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Consider MDT for truck camper + vehicle tow? (long post)


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#1 urbex

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 09:41 AM

I've been mulling over getting a newer truck to replace my current 1965 F250 tow rig, and still not real sure which way to go. I have neither the budget nor desire to drop 50K on a new loaded 1 ton dually. I'm hoping to stay under 20K, preferably under 15K (that said, if I'm nuts, feel free to say so, I won't be offended :D).
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My setup is a approx 3,000lb slide in truck camper, plus an approx 4,000lb '64 International Scout being towed behind the truck on a flatbed trailer. While the truck gets the job done, it also leaves a lot to be desired. My biggest beef current is just the lack of interior space in the cab. Any more than a couple hours in the thing is just plain miserable. The second biggest issue is cruising speed. Between the lack of an overdrive, and the 4.56 gears, top reasonable speed is about 55mph (not that I'd really want to be hauling that weight down the freeway at 80 with four wheel drum brakes anyways, lol). I could easily put a modern drivetrain under the truck, and solve a lot of problems that way, but frankly I just don't feel the overwhelming desire to put that amount of work into the truck..I have enough projects as it is.

I've pretty much settled on a 99-02 F350 diesel dually 4x4, although I've been wondering if I might be better off stepping up into a 450 or 550 given the weight I'm dealing with. I know plenty of people do just fine with the 1 tons, but it seems that a good number of them are also overweight by the stated GVWR when doing this camper+trailer setup (usually by ignoring the GVWR, and focusing on the axle capacitys). I'd like 4x4 as this will also be a tow rig for my rockcrawler, and I've yet to come across a trail that didn't require the tow rig to go off the pavement to get to the drop off area. That said, my current 250 is a 2WD hasn't had an issue yet, but I've passed on several trails, and never go out into snow country with it because I don't want to be "that guy" stuck in the lot or campground :P

I've been looking at a bunch of trucks, and I've found several MDT trucks in the my budget. However, since I have zero experience with them outside of occasionally driving them for work, I don't know if I'm going way overkill for my application. My two biggest concerns are operating costs, and lack of 4x4. While I know I can get 4x4 in some of them, I think it would be WELL outside of my budget to do so. As far as operating costs - obviously anyything bigger is going to be more expensive on the maintenance side, as far as oil, filters, etc go, and I expect that. But are there other things to consider that I wouldn't be dealing with on a 1 ton diesel? Fuel mileage? Would be it be unreasonable to expect 12-15mpg from them loaded, or is closer to the class 8 where I'd be looking at 5mpg? We have a couple Freightliner M2s at work that get around 14mpg, but that's also a new 100K truck, vs the 15 year old stuff I'm looking at.

So yeah...I thought I was all set on what I wanted, and now I feel like I'm back at square one agian, lol.

Thoughts?

#2 Sasha and Laura

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 11:38 AM

We bought our current 99 7.3 F450 for 19K and change about 17 months ago. It only had 63K on the clock on the time and was an Arizona truck. No rust and it looked darn near new. Very capable TV for us. It's a 2x4 though.......

If I were you, I'd be looking a flatbed F450 or F550 and put in storage boxes on the sides in lieu of a pickup bed, which, IMO, wastes tons of space.
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#3 Stanley P. Miller

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 11:45 AM

I'm not sure what you are seeing in the way of MDTs at your price range, you may be looking at commercial trucks that aren't very suitable to RV use. Post the links to a couple you are looking at and get some feedback from others here. I'd think you are going to want 275 or more horsepower, six speed auto or more gears in a manual, air rear axle at a minimum.

A camper works really well on an MDT over a custom bed that can give you some good sized holding tanks and a lot of storage, the only issue is the additional height over a pickup. Getting a low-profile frame but keeping the more desirable 22.5 wheels can save you four inches or so.

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#4 urbex

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 12:27 PM

I'm not sure what you are seeing in the way of MDTs at your price range, you may be looking at commercial trucks that aren't very suitable to RV use. Post the links to a couple you are looking at and get some feedback from others here. I'd think you are going to want 275 or more horsepower, six speed auto or more gears in a manual, air rear axle at a minimum.

A camper works really well on an MDT over a custom bed that can give you some good sized holding tanks and a lot of storage, the only issue is the additional height over a pickup. Getting a low-profile frame but keeping the more desirable 22.5 wheels can save you four inches or so.


My link - flat bed is way long on this one, but that would give me plenty of room to load up both the camper and the Scout _on_ the truck without a trailer. Of course, something like this would likely keep me out of most campgrounds, and tight trail head access could be an issue.

My link

My link - frame looks a bit short on this one, might have to extend for camper use, and likely would pass altogether on it.

My link - also a bit long.

I think a 12 foot flat bed would be ideal. That would put the camper completely on the flatbed, without trying to fit the cabover section over the cab of the bigger truck. It would also give me the room to put the Scout directly on the truck for local day trips that won't involve the camper.

I also saw quite a few class 8 (or at least what I assume to be a class 8...they look like what one would associate with the typical "18 wheeler semi tractor"), but I'm thinking that's WAY overkill for me, and something I likely wouldn't be able to do much maintenance wise in my driveway for.

Edited by urbex, 18 June 2012 - 12:31 PM.


#5 Stanley P. Miller

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 01:46 PM

The first link doesn't have enough information to tell if it would work or not. The 330 horsepower and a 9 speed standard sound good though.

The second link (click the photo) has more info but it is not good news. This 175 hp; 172,135 mi; Diesel; 5 Spd; Spring Suspension; is going to be slow and the lack of gears aggravating, the springs a big problem.

The fourth link doesn't have any useful info.

A spring suspension will beat your camper to pieces, it is going to be a lot lighter than the suspension is rated for and will get bounced a lot, you will get bounced too making driving less than fun. Trying to fix the springs might improve things but air would be far better.

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#6 urbex

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 02:25 PM

It's not so much that I was giving those four particular trucks a serious look, rather more that I'm wondering if I'm better off going with that type of truck instead of a 1 ton pickup. I was just providing those as a reference of the type of truck I was looking at.

From what I've been reading, pretty much anything in that class with a CAT engine is going to be a pass for my uses, and honestly, I hadn't thought of the spring pack being so heavy. I knew it would be a rough ride, but then so is my '65 when it's empty or lightly loaded. That said, with the 3,000lbs of camper in the bed, it does ride quite nicely.

I did do a quick Craigslist search for trucks with air suspension, and the only things I'm finding are the 10 wheelers (which I'm assuming are more in the HDT catagory), which I think will be way more than I need (although I admit it would look awfully nice parked in my driveway :D). I suspect that even venturing out of Craigslist will only result in finding trucks that are out of my budget. There's also the concern of operating costs of a truck that large.

I think I'm back to the 1 ton trucks at this point.

#7 Stanley P. Miller

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 11:41 PM

My MDT service costs ran about the same as my F250 for the same number of miles. Some things cost more but they were usually needed less often so things evened out. I also planned my MDT repairs a bit ahead and got them done in lower cost areas saving a nice bit of change.

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#8 Star Dreamer

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 07:01 AM

I think the F350 dually will be more than adequate for what you want. You do need to not only verify the GVWR rating of the truck you buy but also the GCVWR rating which will tell you how much you can pull. Using the chart on the link below, the payload on a 1999 F350 dually with the noted specs is 5000# which exceeds your 3000# camper. You have to add the tounge weight to this for your bumper pull trailer plus any other items you carry then add the combined weight of your vehicle you are towing plus the trailer. The GCVWR minus the GVWR rating is 8800# which would be teh amount you can tow minus your tongue weight. You do need to verify what is the maximun bumper pull weight the F350 can handle but it should be more than the 8800# above.

http://pages.swcp.co...ord-towing.html

Note that the gear ratio changes for the F450 & F550 to a 4:88, this will hurt your fuel mileage for the same setup. You will find that MDT's do the same, changing the rear end ratio to get more capacity to compensate for a low HP/Torque engine & lack of gears, at the expense of fuel mileage and top speed.


An HDT will have a better gear ratio because it has the HP & Torque and more gears to pull the larger loads. Their Bobtail fuel mileage suffers because you are still pushing a big box through the air that has a greater base weight.

You don't mention what mileage you get with your current set up. I would guess if it is a gas motor you are probably getting around 6-8 mpg fully loaded, depending on how high your camper is above the truck. You will probably get better but even 15 MPG would be pushing it with a F350 (probably closer to the 11-12 mark) and I doubt an F450 with the 4:88 gears would get to the 12 mark. But it all depends on how you drive, if you do 80 down the highway expect the MPG's to drop off a lot and let us know where you are at so we can avoid the area! (We would only be crusing at 65 max. so we would be in your way)

We have heard that the 7.3l is the best ford Diesel motor to look for, the later years with the other diesel motors do not have very good reviews.
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#9 J.Roddick

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 09:14 PM

My Fuso will pull a pretty good load but it's only 175 HP.

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