Monday, January 30, 2012

Meet the New LMIC

Sadly, the time finally came when we outgrew the old LMIC – it was a wonderful trailer, but its lack of ground clearance limited us when we traveled on rough rocky roads, and the small black and gray holding tanks were also a constraint. So we bit the bullet and purchased a new 2012 Shadow Cruiser Fund Finder X–139, with a virtually identical floor plan to our old trailer. We ordered a heavy-duty axle and had the axle "flipped," i.e., the axle placed under the leaf spring rather than over it. We also added shock absorbers and had the plumbing re-routed, in order to create extra storage room under the sink.

It was a sad day when we sold the old LMIC, but it went to a good home – Felice waved to it as it went off down the street toward new adventures:

The new LMIC is an upgrade in some ways, but not in others. The fiberglass exterior is somewhat more durable, but it will show scratches more than the aluminum exterior did on the old unit. (And we do get scratches when we drag it down dirt roads overgrown by bushes and trees on the sides.) The bathroom is much bigger, which is not really a plus, since the bathroom encroaches on the storage space in the cabin. (However, I can now stand up in the bathroom, which can be very handy when taking a shower.)

Surprisingly, even with the much higher center of gravity, we discovered that it was very easy to tow, probably due to the upgraded springs and shock absorbers. The new LMIC is very nimble on potholes and rough pavement, and we have tremendous clearance on driveways at gas stations:

The bad news is that the trailer is so high off the ground that we have to tote around extra wooden blocks for the stabilizer jacks and the tongue jack wheel. During our first camping trip, even though the weather was pretty chilly (into the mid-to-high 30s every night), we were amazingly comfortable – this new unit has terrific insulation on all four sides, the roof, and the underbelly.

We really enjoyed the upgraded lighting; our older son, Ben, installed 12 volt LED fixtures throughout, instead of the stock incandescent bulbs. The new bulbs burn virtually no electricity. There were a few "maiden voyage" glitches, of course. For example, since the fancy new water heater doesn't have a pilot light, the water cools off during the night and then the water heater kicks on (audibly) once or twice in the middle of the night. We may have to turn it off at night.

Also, the refrigerator was too cold and froze some of the vegetables. Although the brochure for the fridge said that the temperature wasn't adjustable, it turns out that if you move the "thermistor" on the cooling fins, you can adjust the temperature, so that problem was solved.

To compensate for the larger bathroom (which reduces the storage space), I revamped much of the stock cabinetry. The unit came with a very clunky "vanity" across the entire back of the trailer, with rather chopped up storage spaces, all constructed from thick and heavy MDF doors covered by vinyl, with thick plywood shelving.

To begin with, I demolished the entire rear storage unit. I then milled and installed three-quarter inch by three quarter-inch furring strips, fastening them into the luan-and-foam composite wall with plastic spiral molly anchors:

Using quarter-inch Baltic birch plywood, I cut the shelves to fit so that they would "float" on top of the furring strips, at roughly 8 inch intervals – the shelves aren't fastened down, so that we can lift them up slightly if we need to shove our belongings onto the shelves:

In an effort to maximize the storage, there are virtually no interruptions in the shelves – they extend full length across the back:

The doors are also quarter-inch reinforced Baltic birch plywood, reinforced by a double ply inside the exterior perimeter of each door:

That picture shows the storage cabinet in its unfinished state – I'm going to finish it with wipe-on polyurethane, but I doubt that I will add a stain. The goal is to make the interior of the LMIC as light and airy as possible.

We did a lot of other modifications, mostly having to do with increased storage space. We reengineered the under-seat storage areas, removing various partitions by reinforcing the structural members with supports at the edges, rather than in the middle.

The modifications were essentially finished on January 1, 2012, and we celebrated with Starbucks drinks:


Unknown said...

Dan, your step by step re-do of the cargo and wheel wells is great reading!
(I'm catching up on MY reading during a little Christmas break!)
Peace! KyDan

Liz W said...

Great job as usual!