Now that the Ford F-250 is off to a new home, what’s next?

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Tom
Update by Tom Suddard to the Ford F-250 project car
Aug 9, 2023 | Ford, F-250, Ford F-250

We had a vision: A big truck, with a comfy camper on top, towing an enclosed trailer with our race car inside. In theory it would be the perfect setup: a trackside villa that we could take anywhere, making racing cheaper, easier, and more pleasant.

Over the past four years we made that vision come true, and did it on a shoestring budget: Our Ford F-250 with a slide-in camper visited tracks all over the southeast and racked up tens of thousands of miles, all for a total investment of less than $10,000. That’s a small fraction of what our paddock neighbors spent on their $200,000 RVs.

Now, though, the truck and the camper are gone, so it’s time to reflect on what went right—and wrong—with our F-250 project. Because while the truck and camper are headed onto new adventures, there’s lots we learned in the process. 

What Worked

So what went well? We were immensely satisfied with the fact that the plan worked at all—every time we managed to assemble the rig and cruise down the highway, we spent a decent bit of time marveling at the fact that it was really happening—with so many moving parts and so much weight, it felt like an achievement just making it to the destination. And we did always make it.

The truck had a few minor problems over the years (a belt tensioner here, a flat tire there), but the truck/camper/trailer combination never failed to get us where we needed to go. And once there, we always had a dry, comfortable place to sleep, and a trailer full of our car and tools.

That’s in stark contrast to our experience with RVs, which always seem to be exploding in new and exciting ways. Our truck was regularly driven between events, while RVs tend to sit for months at a time.

We believe that regular use was the key to keeping our rig mechanically reliable. Bonus points for skipping the additional registration, insurance, and maintenance a separate RV would require.

What Didn’t Work

So what went wrong? Rather than a single reason for divesting from this project, it was a few that came together and urged us to move on.

First, loading and unloading the camper, and then the trailer, was generally a pain in the rear. We got pretty good at attaching the slide-in, but it was still a sweaty, dangerous process. And after attaching it, we’d then have to attach the trailer and adjust the weight-distributing hitch for whatever we were towing. Not a huge deal, but annoying when you’re regularly loading up at 10 p.m.

When not in use, the camper took up tons of indoor storage space, and couldn’t easily be moved out of the way without attaching it to the truck. 

Next, the camper wasn’t that great to live in. Don’t get us wrong: It was a huge upgrade from sleeping in a tent or a trailer. But compared to a real RV, space was tight and holding tanks were small. It was plenty comfortable for one person, but the more we found ourselves traveling with two or three people, the less useful it became. 

Pushing the limits of our truck was also starting to seem like a bad idea. We never had a serious problem, but did blow a rear tire at one point, which we believe was the result of a slipped weight-distributing hitch overloading the rear of the truck. The whole rig was remarkably stable even after the catastrophic blowout, but that was a wake-up call that we were pushing the limits of what our truck could handle.

Despite being undersized for our towing duties, the F-250 was oversized for everything else: It was just too big and too thirsty to drive around town regularly, and we came to dread every trip where it wasn’t fully loaded. We’ve had an empty welding gas cylinder for six months because driving the F-250 across town would beat our kidneys and cost a second mortgage in gas.

Finally, we got tired of being camper maintenance technicians. Ask any RV owner: Every single trip generates a day of maintenance, as stuff breaks, leaks begin, and parts fail every single time you use your camper. With a busy schedule, we just didn’t want to be working on our old camper before every weekend. 

What’s Next

We learned a lot from this project: About old trucks, about campers, and about towing at your truck’s absolute limit. The old saying rang true: A jack of all trades is a master of none. Our F-250 could do everything, but it was a bit too small to really be our trackside villa, and a bit too big to be a normal truck. 

So where do we go from here? Well, we saw two paths: Get a bigger truck and a bigger camper, or downsize and go back to renting our accommodations.

After much soul-searching, we made our decision: We’re back to towing with a half-ton truck and staying in hotel rooms or in rented RVs at the track. This isn’t the end of GRM Camper Sports, but it’s the end for now.

Maybe we’ll forget these lessons and buy a toter home or something in a few years….

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Comments
Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
8/10/23 1:55 a.m.

Jack of all trades and master of none.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
8/10/23 8:06 a.m.

Yeah, not sure what happened there--fixed. 

Rodan
Rodan UltraDork
8/10/23 8:10 a.m.

Probably 8 out of 10 slide in campers on the road don't have enough truck under them.

They do work  if you need to tow a trailer, want to carry your hotel room with you, and use your truck as a truck when it's not pretending to be an RV.  And you can use it for actual camping in the boonies.  It's a compromise, but a pretty good one.

Hotel rooms suck.  So does towing an enclosed trailer with a half ton truck.

Time to step it up to the next level... wink

 

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
8/10/23 1:55 p.m.
Tom Suddard said:

Yeah, not sure what happened there--fixed. 

Did you write the story on your phone?

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
8/10/23 4:29 p.m.
Jerry From LA said:
Tom Suddard said:

Yeah, not sure what happened there--fixed. 

Did you write the story on your phone?

I think so, actually. Damn you autocorrect!!

Daniel Wise
Daniel Wise GRM+ Memberand New Reader
8/10/23 5:07 p.m.

I don't think it matters much if the rig is a truck camper, classs A or C, motorhome.  I keep looking over the ads for a good tow rig/RV to go to the races.  They look like so much work and hassle.

Last month at the track, I was in my friend's class A diesel rig as we were setting up our paddock.  He looked around muttered under his breath, "I wonder what will take a crap on me this weekend..."

I think you helped me decide to just give up on an RV.

Tom1200
Tom1200 PowerDork
8/10/23 5:13 p.m.

In reply to Daniel Wise :

I have a 1990 Ford E250 Campervan / Class B RV; it's basically a custom van with a shower and a stove, as it has fewer bits so there is less to go wrong.   We previously had a Class C..............lots of stuff to go wrong there.

I still actually get a room when I go to out of town races but the van is a nice place to change and eat my lunch plus it store all the stuff. 

mikerunt
mikerunt GRM+ Memberand New Reader
8/10/23 6:41 p.m.

We've been using a Mercedes Sprinter to tow an M4 on an aluminum trailer and it does surprisingly well. The interior of the Sprinter is mildly built (wall panels, bed platform, and Yeti 3000x power station. 
 

in the cabin we bring fuel, light spares, tires, light tools, race ramps, camp stuff. 
 

on the trailer we have the car and floor jack. 
 

we're right at the GVWR and towing capacity of the van, and it handles very well. No sag in the rear, relatively stable, and moves good enough to not get frustrated. We go from LA to Buttonwillow and Willow Springs at least once a month and pulls up the grapevine at about 45-50mph (slower than I'd like). It's a great base camp setup. 
 

in the future, we'd get a HO sprinter with DRW. Likely in a year or so we'll upgrade to that. 
 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
8/10/23 9:50 p.m.

That reminds me of my van build--in hindsight maybe I shouldn't have sold the van. 
https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/project-cars/2006-ford-e-250/

Tom1200
Tom1200 PowerDork
8/10/23 11:06 p.m.

This my rig; I really like having a van

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