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Project Rhocaravan

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On the outside of the caravan we needed to fit a couple of finishers to the front panel. The first fitted horizontally underneath the windows and the second went vertically down the centre.

The finishers were cut from lengths on thin, moon shaped aluminium the same as we used on the side panels. Holes were drilled in them and through in to the body framework for stainless steel raised countersunk screws. The screw holes had a blob of mastic sealer put on them before the finishers were screwed on.

The knob on the jockey wheel handle kept falling off so in keeping with the 8 ball gearknob we’ve got on the kit, we adapted a blue and white stripe pool ball as the knob.




The centre strip is mostly hidden by the front box, and its main function is to protect the vinyl wrap when the lid of the storage box is removed.




The front box was bolted back on to the chassis. We had to re position it slightly rearwards of its original position (by about 20mm) to give a bit more clearance to the jockey wheel knob so your had didn’t hit the front box when you wind the handle.


On the far side of the box we still needed to sort out the piping and wiring for the water. We’d bought new inlet and outlet connections as the ones that came with the trailer tent were broken. They have a hinged cover that folds down over the pipe connections and the thin area of plastic that forms the hinge had broken and the covers were detached.



The new connectors were bolted to the underside of the A Frame rail and the fresh and waste water pipes to the caravan were fitted to the back of them and held in place with Jubilee clips.

Underneath the storage box we drilled a hole in the corner, so we could fit a connector for the water pump wiring. The submersible pump had a plug soldered on to the wire and the connector on the storage box has a removable waterproof cover that can be screwed on in place of the plug to keep water out.

The pump wiring from the caravan was fed through a grommet in the front panel, through the back of the box and then soldered to the pins on the back of the socket.




This wiring is in a vulnerable position as items stored in the box might damage it so we folded up a small aluminium cover that was screwed in place to offer some protection.



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We’d been putting off fitting the door and frame while we we’d still being doing jobs inside the caravan but a weekend at home and some decent weather provided the ideal opportunity to tick this job off the list. We’d recently rubbed down the door frame to take the bronze anodised finish back to bare aluminium but before we fitted the frame, we needed to refit the 2 halves of the door to it. The frame had been fitted to the caravan prior to putting the outer skin panels on and at this time it became apparent that without the door fitted to the frame, it wasn’t possible to ensure the frame was square and opened and closed.


The frame was initially fitted to the body with a self tapping screw at the top. We then tweaked the position of the frame in the aperture and when we were happy it was correct, we drilled the remaining holes, put a feint pencil line around the outside of the frame and then took the frame back out. A bead of mastic sealer was then applied just inside the pencil line.




The frame was then re-fitted and held in place with countersunk rivet. In common with the other fixings that go through the outer skin, mastic sealer was applied to the hole prior to putting the rivets in to ensure a watertight seal. Along the bottom edge of the frame, the fixings actually go in to the edge of the flooring, so we used short woodscrews in these positions.




On the inside of the door we fitted a new white louvred plastic vent.




And on the outside a brushed aluminium vent was fitted.




Around the outside of the frame you can seen the cream finisher strip that covers the fixings. This is the same stuff we used above the windows and on the body corner extrusions. On the door frame the dovetail channel seemed a bit narrower so the strip was harder to fit but after an hour of gentle persuasion, we managed to get it fitted.


The vents were bought from Toolstation for less than £2 each, a fraction of the B&Q price which showed the benefit of shopping around before buying stuff. General Toolstation is my first port of call for fixings as they’re cheap and there’s a branch just around the corner from where I work.

Edited by richyb66
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I should have posted these pictures earlier when I was writing up the section on the extractor fan. When it’s fitted to the ceiling the extractor is a closed box with fans in it, so the air needs to get outside. On the ceiling panel we marked out and cut a round hole about 50mm diameter through which we passed a flexible aluminium duct. The duct was sealed to the ceiling with a small bead of PU sealer.




Above the ceiling there’s a void that the duct passes through and we could bend it round 90 degrees so the end reached to the vertical part of the roof. We made an aluminium adaptor for the end of the duct to change from round to rectangular outlet which was attached with (unsurprisingly) aluminium duct tape.






On the outside we fitted a small louvre vent which is held with self tapping screws in to the duct adaptor and sandwiches the roof panel in between. Time will tell if the louvre is sufficient to keep the rain out but we’re hoping it will.




Back inside, the fitted extractor looks like this. The rectangular panel to the right of it is just temporary to block off the void in the ceiling. We’ve started to make some storage pockets to fit in this space but as we are running out of time and they’re not essential, a cover panel will do for now.



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Elsewhere inside the caravan, we needed to cut holes in the vertical ceiling panels to align with the roof windows. The panel was marked out in pencil with oval holes that were cut out with a jigsaw.




Once the holes were cut out, rectangles of 2mm clear polycarbonate sheet were fitted to the back of the panel. The sheet was attached with a screw at each end through the trim panel and in to the plastic. The screw also held a press stud which we will use to attach small rectangular curtains over the windows.




The final ceiling panels to be fitted were the two narrow panel either side. These need to curve at one end to a S shape to follow the contour of the roof. We’re using 3mm white hardboard which isn’t the ideal choice but as we just want to get the ceiling in so the caravan is useable, I’ll do for now. We actually had to use a router to reduce the thickness down to about 1.5mm to allow it to bend to the required shape. We’ll replace the panels with something more suitable later.

Directly above these panels, we fitted some quilted foil insulation which was held in place with more aluminium duct tape.




This is the panel in position. The edge nearest the side panel is retained with small panel pins in to wooden battens. This corner will eventually have a small quadrant fitted to it. The edge nearest the centre of the caravan is held up with small countersunk screws which are hidden behind an angled plastic corner trim.




The corner trim also needs to follow the contour of the roof and this was achieved by heating the trim with a hot air gun and then gently shaping it by hand. It was held in place with double sided tape to avoid having visible fixings. Again, this will be replaced when we swap the ceiling panels but for now, we just want something to cover the edge to tidy it up.




The last few jobs we needed to finish off were outside. We needed a fog and a reverse lamp and these led units fitted the bill perfectly. They’re E marked so should be OK for IVA and fitting them just entailed drilling through the aluminium rear panel and chassis and screwing them on. The wiring underneath needed an additional hole drilling through the chassis longitudinal and once it had a grommet fitted to it, we could complete the wiring.






The final light to be fitted was the outside light by the door. We hunted around for something suitable and found this cast aluminium led number plate light.




It wasn’t cheap, but it looks perfect to the cost was well worth it. The light spread is surprisingly good, not that this picture really shows it. Below the light you can see the catch that holds the door open against the side panel.



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Well it’s been almost 3 months since our last post in September when the pressure was on to get the caravan useable for the End of Season Bash. If you’ve been getting the magazine, you’ll know that we finished just in time (about an hour before we were due to leave).

The caravan towed fine and we had a couple of nights to try things out and see if we needed to change anything around to make it more useable. Apart from some heavy rain on the Friday evening when we arrived, the weather for the rest of the weekend was dry and we had a great weekend.





We had one small water leak on one of the roof windows but apart from that it seems to be watertight. Interior space is obviously a bit cramped and setting the bed up for sleeping will take bit of getting used to, but we managed.

After the EOSB we decided to have a complete break from doing jobs on the caravan as we really needed a rest from spending all our spare time working on it. The last couple of months have been spend just doing bit and pieces as and when we felt like it. The first job we wanted to do was to replace the ceiling panels. We’d use white hardboard for the panels which probably wasn’t the best material choice as it’s heavy, marks easily and wasn’t easy to bend where it needed to on the curved part of the ceiling.

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Above the cooker and sink, we’d just fitted a temporary cover panel to close off the roof void. The roof curved down behind this, but we figured it would be possible to add a couple of small storage pockets in this space.


We made some cardboard templates to determine how big we could make the pockets and to also check that they could be fitted once we’d assembled them. With the template transferred on to some 1mm aluminium, we cut the parts out, made the necessary folds and rivetted them together to make these.



The insides of the pockets were lined with offcuts of vinyl flooring that was glued in place and the corners were sealed with silicone sealer. The vinyl flooring seemed a good option as it’s hard wearing, slightly grippy and with sealed corners, if the pockets got wet inside for any reason, we could easily wipe them out.


The pockets fitted like this. The bottom and top edges were drilled through in to the aluminium box structure of the roof and they were held in place with small countersunk screws. We try to make as many parts removeable as we can just in case they need to come out to fit something else.


The small gap between the 2 pockets was spanned with a strip of aluminium with a rivnut in it that we would use for holding the trim panel on.

A new front panel was cut from a piece of caravan trip board. On the left hand side above the cooker we decided to extend the panel all the way across to the side of the roof. The meant we had to move the fan and light switches from the cooker hood and put them in the front panel, then trim the excess area off the cooker hood. This meant a bit of cutting and soldering of the wiring but the finished job looks much better than before.


The open edges of the pockets were finished off with some 15x15x1 white plastic trim that was mitred at the corners and held in place with double sided foam tape. The pockets aren’t huge but they’re some useful extra storage space and the lower surface slopes down at the front meaning things won’t fall out easily, even if they’re left there in transit.

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The main roof panels were taken down and we used them as templates to mark out the new ones. The material we used was 3mm sign board which is a light, solid material that comes with a clear protective film on one side (the side that sign makers normally laser print on) and it can be cut with a sharp knife and also drilled.

Being plastic, it’s impervious to water so if it does get condensation on the back, it won’t fall to bits like hardboard would.


As well as the horizontal panels, we also replaced the vertical ones with the roof window openings. We had to remove this panel one side to re-seal the leaky window and when we did, we had to remove that plastic angle moldind we’d used on the corners. Unfortunately, the double-sided tape we used was a bit aggressive and it pulled the decorative trim of the caravan trim panels to the parts were scrap anyway.

The new ones were easy to cut out as we had a template and the clear window panels on them were unscrewed and swapped over.The new panels were a simple swap and in place of the 15x15x1 plastic angle on the external corners, we used 15x3x1 with the log leg horizontal and the short leg vertical. The mean that the trim would easily conform to the curved part of the ceiling without needed to be heated up and formed.

Once again the corner moldings were held in place with double sided tape – but a slightly weaker version. This is the finished ceiling, nice and bright and lighter and more durable than the hardboard.











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Next major job is to make some more outside space but adding an awning. While we were at the EOSB we were talking to Graham and Annette Jackson (Graham385) who have been following the build thread.

They have very kindly given us the awning off their previous caravan and we are hoping to modify it and use parts of it to make our awning. It’s come complete with the lightweight fibreglass frame and should provide more that enough parts for what we need.

We’re going to have to do quite a lot of sewing so we’ve decided to upgrade to a heavier dity sewing machine and so we recently bought this beauty.



It’s basic on the controls but it’ll sew through pretty much anything and as it’s build in to a nice sturdy table, it won’t be moving around as we’re dragging heavy material through it.



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I bought my wife a pfaff industrial machine last year. The clutch control takes a little getting used to with the motor running all the time but it is very quiet. At full speed it is unbelievably fast. I am hoping to get a surrey top made this year so it will come in handy

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Before the awning could be fitted, we needed to attach the awning rail to the side of the caravan. As with the corner extrusions, it was a case of carefully bending the extrusion by hand before attaching it to the side panels. At this stage we fixed it with small self-tapping screws that we will replace with rivets eventually.

At the front, awning rail sits just inside the corner extrusion and then runs horizontally along the lower level of the roof and aver the door before following the corner extrusion again down the back of the side panel. The awning rail is a C channel section and the awning was a round beading sewn in to the edge of it so it can be slid into the rail from one end.


The rail comes in 2.5-metre lengths so there’s a join in the horizontal area just above the outside light. We tried to butt the ends of the rail as close together as possible to minimise the chance of water leaks.

This is a picture of the awning given to us by Graham and Annette. It’s big, so big in fact that the grey roof area is long enough to reach all the way around the awning rail and down to the floor each end – with some to spare so we’ve got plenty of material wo work with.


The awning is supported by fibreglass poles which have interlocking ends and adjustable sections. The poles are too long, but we can cut them down to the lengths we need.



For the attachment at the side of the caravan, there’s brackets that the poles hook in to. The flat area on the left has a rubber pad that sits against the side of the caravan and the channel at the top clamps around a tadpole plastic beading that is sewn in to the inside of the awning. This means that the frame is then extended in tension inside the awning and pulls it tight against the awning rail.


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We decided to make the awning around 1500mm wide which would make it the same width as the caravan, effectively doubling the floor space. It could have been made wider, but we didn’t want it to be disproportionately large.

In order to mock up the frame, we needed to fix the end bracket against the side panel without having the awning fitted. This was achieved by bending up some strips of aluminium that slid in to the awning rail and the brackets were clamped on the opposite end.


After cutting down a few poles, we started to assemble a basic frame and noticed a problem almost immediately. The joining piece at the top of the central leg is designed so there’s a peak on the roof which means the frame ends up like this.


The angle helps water drain off the roof but as headroom is at a bit of a premium, we need the roof as flat as possible and we will make it angle down from the side of the caravan. This is the joining piece which is a glass filled nylon material which can’t really be heated up and tweaked.


The solution was to cut off the attachments either side and drill right through the plastic from one side to the other and insert a metal tube that the side poles could be slid on to. With that done, the frame was assembled like this.


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The front side window comes very close to the awning rail, so the support bracket needed to be positioned above the window top rail, some distance away from the curve in the awning rail. This may not be the ideal position for the awning and we may have to move it forwards and down, on to the more vertical part of the rail.


The next thing is the end legs are too widely spaced relative to the side profile of the caravan and need to be more vertical in the bottom half.


Luckily the end legs were just the right size for a piece of 22mm copper pipe to slide inside so we used a pipe bender to make a couple of joining pieces around 200mm long that were drilled and rivetted in to the legs.


This make the basic frame look like this, a lot closer to what we wanted.


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With the basic frame assembled, we could measure the overall sizes which will give a starting point for planning out the awning. The overall height at the awning rail is 1650mm which slopes down to 1600mm at the side frame. It’s only 50mm fall on the roof but hopefully this will be enough to shed any rain. If we make the fall bigger, it will reduce the internal height too much.

The floor area is 1250mm x 2450mm, so pretty well doubles the footprint of the caravan body.

We did a test fit of the current awning roof part to the awning rail. It didn’t prove much other than it fits the rail and it’s far too big. The grey material that’s visible is the existing roof, more than long enough to go the entire length of the awning rail. To make it a bit more manageable, we cut it down in the length and width but made sure we left a generous allowance of material just in case we needed it.


This is one of the existing end panels laid out on the floor. It zips in to the main roof part all around the outside with a single zip.


And here’s one of the two front panels. To give an idea of the size of the awning we’re making, it’s front panel will be a bit smaller than this.


The plan is to use what we can from the original awning. We will be using the zips, windows and some of the red fabric, together with the grey vinyl skirt at the bottom that tucks inside the awning and goes under the groundsheet.

We carefully unpicked the stitching from the zips. They will be too long but look like they can be shortened fairly easily.


When we reuse the white fabric, we don’t want to use areas that have previously been sewn through as this will leave holes where water may get in. Instead we will cut out the panels close to the existing stitching to keep them as big as possible.


With the white fabric removed, we decided to give it a run through the washing machine. Although the awning was very clean, there were a few marks on the white and it made sense to try and remove them now, rather than later when the whole thing was sewn together. Also, while the fabric was still damp from washing, we gave it a quick iron to remove the bigger creases which will make it easier to work with later.


We will use new blue fabric as well on the awning, but the old red material won’t be wasted. We will carefully cut it out to usable pieces and keep it for possible use on other projects.

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Great job Richie I wish the zero had a tow bar I have plans for a rear drop caravan. 

Can’t wait to see it at next show. 

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