Carcamel 8 Years and 200,000 km Down the Track

Well it is now 8 years since I built the CARCAMEL and it has proved to be a very versatile and reliable machine far exceeding my expectations of a “homebuilt” vehicle.

It has been used for carrying all manner of things.

SOME VERY HEAVY

The Remnants of a 26 meter Pine Tree

The Remnants of a 26 meter Pine Tree

 

A pair of 12" x 12" Steel Beams and a Cable

A pair of 12″ x 12″ Steel Beams and a Cable for a Winch Job

 

A Load of Oak Logs

A Load of Oak Logs

 SOME VERY LONG

4 Trips to St John NF 6000 Km Round Trip
Hauling a Mini Racer on its Trailer

 

 SOME VERY BULKY

32 Packs of Insulation Try getting that in an F150

32 Packs of Insulation
Try getting that in an F150

A load of of Wine Barrels Wedding Decorations

A load of of Wine Barrels
Wedding Decorations

 

SOME VERY BIG

A New Hoist for the Garage at the Cottage

A New Hoist for the Garage at the Cottage

 

A Pickup Trick Cab for Techno Strip

A Pickup Truck Cab for Techno Strip

 

SOME DIFFICULT TO LOAD AND UNLOAD BY MYSELF

My BusyBee Lathe to The Cottage Garage

My BusyBee Lathe to The Cottage Garage

 

SOME THAT WOULD OTHERWISE REQUIRE A LARGE TRUCK

A load of Beams For the Cottage Porch

A load of Beams For the Cottage Porch

Since the conversion I have driven the CARCAMEL over 200,000 km .

That old Dodge 3.3 liter V6 still runs strong and doesn’t burn any oil, it hasn’t been touched since it was built in 1994.

As expected some things have caused problems but all have been satisfactorily resolved. The following are the ones I remember
CV SHAFTS

The CV shafts of the van both failed within the first 100,000 km. I originally thought that the modifications to the vehicle may have been a contributing factor but the real problem proved to be poor quality replacement parts. It wasn’t until I took the failed shafts to a rebuilder in person that I found out aftermarket replacement shafts had been installed before I got the van and their poor quality was the cause of the problems.
The rebuilder pointed out that the heat treating of the aftermarket shafts was totally inadequate and sold me a pair of remanufactured originals which have been in ever since with no problems what so ever.

PNEUMATIC VALVES

Originally I installed some valves that I found on eBay which were intended for industrial machines. Unfortunately they didn’t much like this application and became a bit unreliable.

The Suspension Control System Uses 4 of These Solenoid Valves

The Suspension Control System
Uses 4 of These Solenoid Valves

I purchased the above as replacements from Princess Auto and moved them into boxes mounted between the rear wheels which completely resolved the problems.

FUEL TANK AND PUMP

The original EFI fuel pump failed at about 225,000km. When I pulled the tank to replace it I found that the top of the tank was badly rusted so I installed a new replacement and a new pump. Unfortunately the fuel tank is the lowest part of the vehicle so it is inclined to take a bit of a beating if I forget to raise the rear suspension when passing over high crests. So far that hasn’t created any serious problems but in a MK II version I would try to prevent the tank hanging so low.

AIR COMPRESSOR

Originally I used the suspension compressor from an Oldsmobile 88 to provide the pressure for the rear air spring suspension. This proved to be of too small a capacity so I have now installed one used to level motor homes which, although just adequate has proved to be reliable.

 

Although it is a Llttle noisy this Viair 450 C seems to be holding up well

Although it is a little noisy this Viair 450 C seems to be holding up well

REAR WHEEL BEARINGS

This one took a while to solve. Every time I drove for a prolonged period in rain the rear wheel bearings would get noisy a few weeks afterward. When I pulled them apart the bearings were rusty and damaged as a result of having water get into them. The rear stub axles were from 94 era Dodge Caravans but the 4 bolt hubs (required to allow me to use 13″ wheels with the correct offset) were from the very first model 1983. After some judicious measuring I determined that the later stub axles were 1/4″ longer and the hub seal was not running on its seal face. Some little spacers, machined up on my lathe, solved that one.

CRUISE CONTROL FAILURE

Another one that I struggled with for a while. Eventually solved by changing the cruise module.

IN CONCLUSION

Most or these problems are to be expected in a 19 year old 380,000 km vehicle and none have been close to being show stoppers.

 

Overall the fuel consumption, combination of loaded and unloaded highway and city has averaged 10.8 litres / 100km (26.1 Miles / Imperial Gallon) (21.8 Miles / US gallon).

I don’t drive the CARCAMEL in winter because salt damage would finish it off very quickly.

This vehicle has saved my friends, my relatives and myself thousands of dollars in transportation costs and allowed us to easily and conveniently transport goods and vehicles for large distances very safely.

 THE FUTURE

My buddy bought a new Dodge Caravan in 2011, when it is time for him to replace it we are going to “abbreviate” it the same way we did the ’94 and the rear deck will have a new life and the CARCAMEL will live on.

About Michael

Who is this guy? Born in New Zealand some time back. Went to Maori Hill Primary School then Kaikorai Valley High before joining the RNZAF and an Airman Cadet in 1968. Graduated 1972 with an NZCE in Aeronautical Engineering. Then embarked on the typical Kiwis "Big Trip Overseas". Got to see quite a few places, and spent a while in the U.K. "home" as it was refered to by many New Zealanders in those days, before travelling on to New York and then to Canada by bus!! This trip is presently on hold (has been for the last 34 years). Met my dear wife Judy not long after arriving in Ontario and we have been happily married since 1976. After travelling around New Zealand and the pacific in 1979 I started Precision Sportscar andfor the next 23 years grew the business and helped raise 2 boys Drew and Robin.
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