Project GRUMLINER More WORK accomplished !

Ugh. I feel like I have worked on this truck every possible moment I could, and I still have a LOT of work to do. The interior is still at the same point it was at my last installment,,,, still no upholstered walls or ceiling, still no finished flooring, but I have spent a bit of time shoring up much of the temporary wiring here and there, some additional mechanical work. I finally got around to replacing ALL the exterior markers with new LED's. I did not do it specifically for LED technology, but rather than the old lights weeped water in on a few of them. So, all new lights and stainless hardware. The truck went thru a hail storm since too, and the roof got its share of dents in it. I've settled with the insurance company and stuck the settlement money right back into the truck. Once all the roof modifications are done, it will probably get a good layer of Kool-Seal.

One of the things I finally got to do was mount my Honda EU2000 under the hood. Its a bit of a wedge fit, but it does fit with plenty of clearance. I used 4 flexible rubber "studs" that protrude up into the factory rubber feet to give it a mount that was nice and flexible, and they also limit noise and vibration. I also lined that side of the hood with some additional sound deadening material for added measure, and I have to say, its very quiet inside the truck when running.

Oh, and I have converted the hood to have an inside release to minimize the theft of the Honda.... I also locked the honda with a cable. Paranoid ? Well, I've read of many people who's Honda walked away when they were not looking !

You'll note above, that I have to reach over the top of the generator to get at the choke and switch, but its not bad. I put the whole unit on an angle so that it was easier to grab the starter rope. The good thing is that these things start easily.... but some day, I will be able run the choke and switch remotely, and rope start it from inside the truck. The large tube in front of the generator provides fresh air from the front of the truck rather than have the generator pull air randomly from under the hood. I've checked the temps under the hood after the engine is shut down and it runs well over 100 degrees. This tube allows the generator to get cooler air if I happen to need to run the generator when the trucks engine is still hot. Still to do is tap into my trucks main fuel line. I will "T" into the steel line and run another steel line over to the area of the generator. It will have its own small electric fuel pump and a manual valve and hose on the end of it. I will be able to refuel the generator from the main tank of the truck by holding a button in that will run the pump. Better than having to carry a gas can !

In the photo above and as the photo below shows, I had to cut a vent hole in the driver side fender to match the one in the passenger side. I dont have the correct "grille" material in there yet but will when I can find a grumman in the scrap yard I can get the grille off of. Nonetheless, I have a computer fan mounted behind the generator to be the "extractor" of heat coming out of the generators cooling system. It works very well. I checked temperatures under the hood with it closed and the generator running at both the fan area and air in the the intake tube. The generator always gets cooler free air and the under hood temps run no higher than what it does with the truck engine at temp.

In order to get a decent match to the passenger side vent hole, I used my CNC Router to create a thin wood template to match the passenger side holes dimensions. I located the template in the right spot, then taped it to the truck. I used a hole saw to knock out the bulk of the material, then just used a typical wood router with a pattern bit to finish it up. Other than the wrong grille material and temporary stainless button heads instead of rivets, it turned out perfect. Like I mentioned, someday I will find matching material and rivet it in proper.


Below, you might be able to make out my temporary Generator muffler. Its the one temporarily strapped on with hose clamps. After running the exhaust thru the 3/4" flexible stainless gas line you can see in the first photo, the generator whistled terribly without something. So, I used 1/2" conduit with holes drilled all over the place in it, slipped inside 3/4" conduit and capped in all the right spots so all the exhaust has to go thru the small holes. Works well to silence the whistle, but temporary. I'll come up with a better plan at some point. The OTHER muffle behind this one is the one I made for my Espar diesel heater. That one is made from two stainless steel milking machine teat cups end to end with another stainless tube thru the middle. Now before anyone points out that I could get bad fumes under the truck, understand that I attach simple aluminum tubes to these muffler ends when I am going to run them with any chance of accumulation of fumes. The tubes go up thru my mirror bracket and exhaust above the roof. ALL of the exhaust is sized larger than necessary and there are no leaks. Still, the truck will have CO detector on board.

I got tired of not having a permanently mounted Antenna, so I hee'd and haw'd over which one to buy for a few days. I liked the concept of the new JACK antennas but was not thrilled with them having stick out so high all the time on a truck that will not have anything else that high typical to motor homes (like roof AC units). I settled on the Antennacraft UFO style and built a parallel mount for it. I made the mount such that the antenna can sit as low as possible to the roof when down. Still a bit higher than I hoped for, but the solar addition and future plans will hide it a bit more in the future. So, below you can see it lowered. Much of it is made from one of my favorite building materials, 80/20 aluminum extrusion. I've built tons of stuff with this material, including an awesome cab for one of my garden tractors. Its so neat, 80/20 company even put it in one of thier little booklets ! (You can find a link to that cab project somewhere on this page:

And below, you can see it in the up position. I hope to convert it to a powered lift someday, but for now, at least I have an antenna ! It does work in the down position pretty well, buut they advise that if you permanent mount it, it must be at least 8 inches above something like a metal plane (roof). So, if trying to be a bit stealthy, I can leave it down and rotate the internal rotor for best reception and live with it. If stealth is not an issue, then I can open the back door, step up on the wheel well box and raise it. The thru roof box is temporary as I finally found some better thru roof boxes made for solar panels....

With all the electrical requirements, it was time to add a second battery and get things wired for the solar installation. Whether I need more battery down the road is yet to be determined. With it all up and running, I thing I am holding my own (more on that later). I am running two of Walmarts Marine Deep cycle group 29's for the house batts (some love them, some hate them) and the interstate for the engine. There was a whole lot of time making it all fit in such a small area, especially with running the heavy cables thru the firewall directly into the Xantrex Inverter mounted in the Grumman "pizza oven" storage cabinet. You have to have adequate fusing, but then there is the Shunt for the battery monitor and all its wires, the battery temp sensor, the battery voltage wires for the solar charge controller and the solenoid used to tie all the batteries together in an emergency, or when you absolutely need the engine alternator to charge the house batteries. It took some planning to make it all accessable, and frankly, the only bad thing really, is that I can not take out the battery on the right without first removing the one on the left. I also planned for a single battery failure, making sure I had an easy way to disconnect one battery from the array temporarily if necessary. YES, the stuff still looks messy and unpainted, but I figured it would be a waste to paint and detail anything until everything was in its final place.

Well, onto the solar installation. I went with the Tristar non MPPT 45 amp control. Seemed the best bang for the buck given its warranty and reviews. Its mounted up on the passenger side overhead console, nice and close to the panels, and within 10 wire feet of the battery bank. The wires come in from the solar panels very near that red colored fuse holder seen on the upper left thru a very nice thru roof box capable of holding #6 wires. It's killed my to put so many holes thru my once holeless roof, but what can you do ? Eventually, this side of the overhead console is going to have a swing out shelf system that holds the DVD/Surround system, antenna rotor control and a CD changer. It will swing out in order to be able to get at any cables/wires behind them.

I went with the Trimetric Battery monitor also because of rave reviews and great warranty. This unit is located above the passenger entry door in a cabinet. Its been great fun to watch how much current things draw, how much amperage I am putting back into the batteries from the sun. Most people say you will watch it like a TV for the first few months, but eventually when yo get to know your system, you will only stop to glance at it occassionally to double check your status.... thus the reason I put it behind a cabinet door. I still have plenty of wire "cleanup" to dop as seen in the photo !

Finally, my panels and mount methods. The panels are from DMSolar. These are the 145 watt panels Amazon was selling for under $300 a pair with free shipping. I searched quite a bit for better panels, but the shipping was always a killer as most wanted to send gthem on a pallet. In any event, most of the reviews for these was that they were a bargain, so I bought them. They are about 28" wide and 60" long each. You'll notice that I built an aluminum frame to mount them in. I did this for a handful of reasons. One is that there are less holes required in the roof, with only 4 brackets required for the two panels rather than 8. Second reason was that if they were mounted as one unit, they could be tilted as one unit from side to side. While I did not find time yet to actually build the supports necessary to tip these, everything has been designed to allow for it when I get there. Right now, they are bolted (all with stainless fasteners of course) to the brackets, but eventually will have some form of hand knobs. The two panels are suspended in an aluminum frame by using larger aluminum piano hinges... one in the middle, parts of hinges on each end. The main frame is made out of 1-1/2" x 3" aluminum tubing.

The little white pokers you see sticking up on the ends are handles that allow you to pull back against a spring, and then lift the panel up to tilt it toward the sun the opposite way, or even lay the panel completely on top of the other panel. Not sure why I might do this other than to get at the connectors, but hey... I can do it. The goal here is that I would be able to tip one or the other panel towards the sun the LONG way if necessary. You can't tilt both the long way because they are connected in the middle. You wouldnt want to tip two anyway in this arrangement because one would just cast a shadow, and shadows are BAD !

That whole aluminum frame work is held off the roof nby the mounts 1-1/4". This is to allow PLENTY of air movement under the panels as they do get hot in the sun and I do not need any extra heat penetrating the interior in the summer. Solar panels drop output as they increase in heat, so air movement has got to help. Now, rather than have the framework stick up like a sore thumb in the wind up front, I built a hinged "ramped" cover as a leading edge. It also serves to cover the wire entry. It also serves to slow down a would be theif as you will need to open this cover (and a future rear one) to access the tilting bolts. Having my own vinyl cutter is always a handy thing as you can see the quick sticker I made for anyone who ends up on the roof...... and at some point, it WILL have switches tied to the alarm system.

I mentioned that there will be a "cover" in the back someday.... If you can imagine, I intend to run the same aluminum frame material along side the rear hatch and all the way back and around the antenna mount in order to keep the look of the additional roof components uniform from side view. It will also have a hinged aluminum panel over the top with proper cut outs for the rear hatch and antenna. Doing so will allow that antenna to "blend in" and look a bit less choppy from a side view, with only its upper dome smoothly peering above the rails. From the side then, no one will really see what is up there exept of course it they are up much higher.

So how does the solar work ? So far I am impressed ! I left the truck to survive off of the solar panels for 4 days and every day its charged up to 100% by noon time. And, its not like I had perfectly clear skies each day. I did not tilt the panels at all. I had my dorm fridge running.... Lights and TV for a few hours each day, Inverter running 4 days straight, stereo playing.... microwaving 2 meals a day..... no charging from the alternator either. Lowest I saw the batteries drop to was 88%. I still have MUCH to learn though about the whole Solar thing in general. I did a lot of reading and think I have most of it figured out, but its an exciting part of the truck now. I've got two events coming up and that will be the real test. I always have the Honda to rely on !

I dont have a great picture, but you have to back up quite a ways to actually see the menagerie on the roof.

Finally, a few comments on the trucks look overall. For the most part, only the wheels give away that the truck isn't just a delivery truck... my future chrome bumpers probably wont help that much either. However, it sure fooled the insurance adjuster who did not get under or inside the truck when they were looking at the hail damage. Nothing hangs below the side skirts to reveal whats underneath. Even my "Shore power" is hidden from view. Now you see it........

Now you dont !

My old Sansui shown below finally quit on me. So, I had to drag out my slightly newer Sansui G8000. The G8 pulls nearly double the power from the batteries as this old 8080 did, but boy oh boy, the G8 sure lights up the truck ! I did not get a photo of it,... not yet anyway. I have on top of it an equally vintage Sansui EQ now.... Some songs are meant for a good cranking, and those old Sansui's can not be beat !

Until next time,.......

Thanks for looking !

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