Author Topic: Topaz Expedition Camper  (Read 1903 times)

Offline Nomadic

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Topaz Expedition Camper
« on: March 12, 2018, 02:09:41 AM »

Well it’s still a dream and hopefully it won’t end in tears.
I now have a written off Topaz that I plan to use as the body for my truck based 4x4 camper. I have trawled the expedition camper build forums and found the construction is very similar to the Topaz so I thought ‘why not’? It already has a lot of appliances -even AC and I could never finish one off internally to the level of a Topaz.

The Topaz body will come off the existing chassis and go on a new sub frame. The plan is to use it on the existing truck tray but the subframe will be sized to mate up with the chassis using spring mounts if i wanted it to become a permanent fixture.

So today I started a bit of disassembly just to see how the panels were stuck together. I then fired up the air conditioner and sat in the Topaz with some cold beers to contemplate all the engineering issues that I’m sure are going to challenge me. Unfortunately I ran out of beer before I solved many.

This is what I’m starting with - the good side


And the bad side
Furiously working on our bucket list before time and money runs out.
Allan & Joan
1HD-FT 80 series  & Isuzu NPS 300
2010 Topaz - evolving into a expedition camper.

Offline RAR110

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Re: Topaz Expedition Camper
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2018, 10:52:46 AM »
Watching with interest. I’m sure the experience of the  Tvan restoration will help.

Offline Nomadic

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Re: Topaz Expedition Camper
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2018, 11:39:35 PM »
A little bit of progress this afternoon.
I dropped the water tanks away so I could get in and cut the glue from between the body and chassis. Learnt that it is very hard cutting the glue whilst it is in compression. Once I drilled out the rivets the multifunction tool cut through it quite easily. The trick is not to try and cut the glue but get the blade right on the interface between the ply floor and glue they have used. Still early days but it looks like it is going to come off the chassis OK. Once I have cut all the glue I will put the water tanks back in place and they can go with the chassis.








The front water tank cover was half full of red dirt and very heavy. I think Topaz owners should consider cutting big slots in the cover plate at the rear so the dirt can come out. A deflector shield on the leading edge would also be beneficial.
I also found a 50x10mm gap going up under the fridge area which would have let a lot of dust inside. The quality control was lacking on these early vans but structurally it’s sound.

I have a couple of major decisions to make;
Do I re-skin the right hand side which is a major job or just fill dents with body filler and repaint. I’m tempted to take the easy route and if the finish isn’t good enough I will vinyl wrap with a print. I am going to put new windows in which are  bigger so that will also cover some of the ‘gravel rash’.



The other decision is how I do the new front extension. I was going to frame it up but now I’m tempted to retain full monocoque construction. It will be a lot harder as I’m not a very good sheet metal worker but it would end up lighter.

Decisions - decisions. Any comments or advice appreciated.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2018, 02:26:34 PM by Nomadic »
Furiously working on our bucket list before time and money runs out.
Allan & Joan
1HD-FT 80 series  & Isuzu NPS 300
2010 Topaz - evolving into a expedition camper.

Offline Nomadic

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Re: Topaz Expedition Camper
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2018, 11:45:58 PM »
Pulled the mudguards /water filler bracket off and found another area where dirt accumulates. Not a problem as it was only red dirt but imagine what it could lead to if it spent time in a salt laden environment.

This wheel box will stay but have a new floor and side panel to close it off. A diesel heater will be mounted in this box.

Furiously working on our bucket list before time and money runs out.
Allan & Joan
1HD-FT 80 series  & Isuzu NPS 300
2010 Topaz - evolving into a expedition camper.

Offline Nomadic

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Re: Topaz Expedition Camper
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2018, 11:50:33 PM »
I have now completed the surgical separation of the Topaz body from the chassis. The good part is nothing went “twang” when finally released so there is no twists in either body or chassis. The body is remarkably rigid even without the chassis as I can jack up a corner and there is no sagging anywhere. 

There is a lot to be said for the glued and riveted monocoque construction but it doesn’t make dismantling easy.

I’m now ready to build the new subframe and front panel. Time to hone up on the welding skills.

Given the comments on the around the forums about the internal fridge performance I am looking at removing the raised floor under the fridge area. The existing floor and rear panel has no insulation at all and I think performance can be improved with insulation and positive ventilation. Has anyone else done this and found a bigger or better fridge?

Another thing I’d like to do is replace the fixed side window next to the sink with an opening type. I’m trying to find some definitive rules for the minimum distance from the gas water heater exhaust to any opening windows. I see some references to 500mm for small appliances and 1000mm for larger appliances. I have 800mm vertical separation. Anyone in the know the rules for caravans & motorhome?
Furiously working on our bucket list before time and money runs out.
Allan & Joan
1HD-FT 80 series  & Isuzu NPS 300
2010 Topaz - evolving into a expedition camper.

Offline Daunted

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Re: Topaz Expedition Camper
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2018, 10:15:34 PM »
The info I have is the flue terminal is not to be within 300mm of an openable window.  That’s from my 3 year old standards.

You should be able to do a search for the appliance installation instructions which should tell you all the separation distances.

Offline Nomadic

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Re: Topaz Expedition Camper
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2018, 02:17:53 AM »
The info I have is the flue terminal is not to be within 300mm of an openable window.  That’s from my 3 year old standards.

You should be able to do a search for the appliance installation instructions which should tell you all the separation distances.

Thanks Daunted,
The manual says;
“The cowl must be placed in such a way that the exhaust gas cannot find its way into the vehicle interior. For this reason, choose a location where there are no opening windows, sky- lights or ventilation openings directly above the cowl or within 50 cm on either side. If this is not possible, a warning plate must be placed on the inside of the window (or skylight) stating that it must be kept closed while the heater is operating.”

Not hard and fast rule and I’d be happy to install a sign on the window but elsewhere it says it has to comply with all applicable codes and standards.


My window would be 800mm directly above the exhaust but even if it wasnt,  the poptop canvas has openings anyway.

At the caravan show show today I asked the heater manufacturer and they didn’t know but referred  me to their gas installer.  The gas installer didn’t have his rule book with him but he  is going to get back to me with a definitive dimension based on MJ input.

I then tried a few caravan salesmen at the show (you know the ones that are experts in everything caravan and camping:-) and none could give me a straight answer either.  If mine will be non-compliant then there are some canvas top campers in the same category. Most caravans I saw didn’t have opening windows within 1.0 m of the exhaust vent.

It’s been a fun day stealing ideas for my camper build.
Furiously working on our bucket list before time and money runs out.
Allan & Joan
1HD-FT 80 series  & Isuzu NPS 300
2010 Topaz - evolving into a expedition camper.

Offline Daunted

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Re: Topaz Expedition Camper
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2018, 10:14:11 AM »
This is the whole chapter on flueing straight out of the gas standards for caravans.  I haven’t put the table in because cut and paste isn’t working well.  Hope this helps.

8.1 FLUE CONSTRUCTION AND CLEARANCES
Unless the flue is designed to prevent adjacent combustible materials exceeding 50°C above ambient where a flue passes through a wall or a roof, it shall be fitted with a protective sleeve of fire resistant material, and be adequately secured. Where the structure includes combustible material, a minimum clearance of 25 mm shall be provided between the flue and the combustible material. The effective internal cross-sectional area of the flue shall be not less than the outlet of the gas appliance. Flues shall not be fitted with dampers.

8.2 PROTECTION FROM ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS
Every flue shall be fitted with a suitable ‘effective cowl’ which prevents the ingress of rain. Flues shall be constructed of materials that are suitable to withstand the effects of the
environment.

8.3 DISTURBANCES
Flues shall be secured to withstand vehicle movement and weather conditions.

8.4 LOCATION OF FLUE TERMINAL

8.4.1 General
Flue terminals shall not be located within 300 mm of a ventilator, opening port, hatch or window, or within 500 mm of a refuelling point or fuel tank vent outlet.
There shall be at least 50 mm clearance between the lowest opening of a flue cowl and the roof of a caravan.

8.4.2 Termination of a flue under a cover
Where the flue terminal of a balanced flue appliance, room-sealed appliance, a fan-assisted appliance or the flue terminal of an appliance designed for outdoor installation is to be installed under a covered area, where combustion products might not readily disperse or a nuisance could occur, either—
(a) the covered area shall be open on at least two sides and the terminal shall be located to ensure a free flow of air across it is achieved; or
(b) in the case of a fan-assisted flue appliance only, when one side is open, the terminal shall be within 500 mm of the opening, discharging in the direction of the opening and there shall be no openings into the caravan or boat along the wall within that distance and the terminal shall be located to ensure that a free flow of air across it is achieved.

8.5 FLUE MATERIALS
Materials for a flue shall comply with Table 8.1.

8.6 Proprietary flueing systems shall be suitable for the application and installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Offline Nomadic

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Re: Topaz Expedition Camper
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2018, 01:14:20 AM »
Thanks again Daunted.
Based on those industry standards my window should be OK but the local gas fitter I contacted said that industry standards (pt2 of AS5601) are minimum requirements and each state can impose additional requirements. WA has the ‘Gas Act WA’. He still hasn’t got back to me to confirm I can do it.
As an aside I’m also finding discrepancies between the NHVR (supposedly national standard) and WA state requirements. Why can’t we have common standards across the country?

I also need to do some surgery to the gas bottle storage area (and its remote vent hose) so will get the gas fitter out to make sure I can legally do what I have planned. I’ll also clarify the awning ventilation requirements.

Will let you know how I get on.
Furiously working on our bucket list before time and money runs out.
Allan & Joan
1HD-FT 80 series  & Isuzu NPS 300
2010 Topaz - evolving into a expedition camper.

Offline Nomadic

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Re: Topaz Expedition Camper
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2018, 02:13:09 AM »
I now have the old front panels ready to come off. It is cut free but I’m just waiting for a bit wet weather to pass before I remove completely. The hardest part was removing the front panel from the poptop roof frame extrusion.







I have also started with the new front. The new front will add 415mm in length so the bed will now run north-south without losing seating space.



I won’t be doing too much more until I get the new subframe installed.

While the Topaz construction is an amazing bit of engineering, I think Track have more work to do on quality control and rust prevention. I found another area where rust had started on the front panel (from the inside)



For those interested in the Topaz construction;
The main side body panels are 18mm thick foam sandwiched between two sheets of aluminium. The outer skin is 1.2mm and the inner skin is 0.8mm thick giving a total panel thickness of 20mm. The bottom two sections of the front panel are 1.2mm carbon steel as are the storage compartments which provides its amazing strength.

I have not been able to salvage one panel during disassembly. A lot of rivets are no longer accessible so panels have to be cut. It literally has to be torn apart because it’s that well stuck together.
Furiously working on our bucket list before time and money runs out.
Allan & Joan
1HD-FT 80 series  & Isuzu NPS 300
2010 Topaz - evolving into a expedition camper.

Offline Nomadic

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Re: Topaz Expedition Camper
« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2018, 01:48:48 AM »
A lot of people who see my project ask why I didn’t just repair the caravan as the damage wasn’t too bad. I have to explain it is a statutory write-off and it can never be re-registered (not as a Topaz with the same VIN anyway).
I then have to explain what my goals are with the truck based camper. I thought I would list them here in case others are wondering the same thing.

* The vehicle has to be a capable off-road 4WD vehicle. We are not into hard core rock crawling or deep muddy river crossings but it needs to be strong enough for hours of driving on dirt roads with ruts, potholes, and corrugations. I prefer to have the capability and not need it than need it and not have it.
* It has to be compact. I’d like to be able to park in a single bay, not too high so I can get up tight overgrown tracks and be able to turn around at end of them.
* It needs to have most of the comforts of a normal caravan or motor home. I can ‘rough it’ but if I want my wife to join me it has to be better appointed than our previous campers. We want to be able to live in it - not live beside it.
* It has to be usable in all seasons. We are not talking about Siberia  in the winter but comfortable below freezing and up to at least 40c. That means reasonable insulation of the walls, roof, and floor and good ventilation.
* It has to be ‘off grid‘ and as independent as possible. Caravan parks are a last resort for water and perhaps a BLS (bloody long shower) We want to be able to go 7 days without shore power/water or engine run.
* The vehicle has to have a good network of dealers and be common enough to be able to get new or second hand parts. It also needs to be easy and comfortable to drive with good visibility.
* Finally, it needs to fit my budget which is a lot less than the price of a new 4WD and caravan.

So this is the Isuzu truck that the Topaz will be fitted on.


Here is the Topaz waiting for new subframe then re-cladding can begin. 400mm has been added to the bed so it will now run  north/south without losing seating space.


Furiously working on our bucket list before time and money runs out.
Allan & Joan
1HD-FT 80 series  & Isuzu NPS 300
2010 Topaz - evolving into a expedition camper.

Offline weonatvan

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Re: Topaz Expedition Camper
« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2018, 07:34:20 AM »
Yes, I got it from the start of your project.
I also understand stat write-offs as I’ve been there, done that when I purchased a SW-O Amarok with 12,500kms on the clock (4 months old, $60k new for $4,800) a  few years ago. I managed to fully update my old rok to a newer model with far more bells-n-whistles including going from manual to auto and keeping my manual diffs which returned my gearing to standard running 33” rubber.

Took me 4 weeks of Xmas holidays to fully do the conversion which included lifting the cab off and completely stripping it out as the whole wiring loom from front to back needed to be changed over. I was able to sell my old engine and gearbox, tub with new canopy off the SW-O, plus many other bits and pieces and easily broke even financially at the end of the day. I was never in a financial position to update conventionally.

Even though I had a few hiccups during my journey (it would have been far more difficult if it wasn’t for the helpful guys on the forum) as there was no information to look up as it had never been done anywhere else in the world to my knowledge but all said and done I have not regretted for a second doing it.

Back to your project; are you planning on removing the tray from your truck and bolting your sub frame directly to the chassis?
 Definitely watching with interest so keep up with the posting and pics. It may even surprise you that someone may post an idea/technique from left field that you hadn’t even thought of. [emoji848]


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
MK III 2012 Murranji,  MY14 auto rok (VW Amarok)

"You don't know, what you don't know"

Cheers dave

Offline Nomadic

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Re: Topaz Expedition Camper
« Reply #12 on: April 01, 2018, 10:42:51 AM »
Thanks Dave, I bet you know the Amorok  better than anybody else now. I’d love to take on a project like that one day but the electronic controls on the modern vehicles scare me.
While I was waiting for the Topaz to come up at auction I contacted a couple of other forum members (Reidy and Claws) who have been through similar challenges with a wrecked Topaz. Reidy even sent me photos of his magnificent rebuild. The information and advice received was invaluable. I knew what I was in for.

As for the truck I am keeping the tray on initially. It’s been so handy having it around  as a ute in the family and I love driving it.
Im building the new Topaz subframe to mount directly to the Isuzu chassis so having to take into consideration torsional rigidity of the body and flexing issues with the truck.
To start with I will mount the body on the existing tray just like a normal slide-on camper. I’ll try it out with some short prospecting trips in the outback. When I’m ready for some serious expeditions I’ll consider doing do a permanent  swap.

A direct chassis install will save me 150mm in height but then I lose the versatility of having a truck in the family. It’s going to be a ‘suck it and see’.

The hard part is designing the modifications to cater for both options. You wouldn’t believe how many ‘cut and paste’ drawings I have played with.
Furiously working on our bucket list before time and money runs out.
Allan & Joan
1HD-FT 80 series  & Isuzu NPS 300
2010 Topaz - evolving into a expedition camper.

Offline Nomadic

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Re: Topaz Expedition Camper
« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2018, 09:55:35 PM »
New aluminium panels should be all bent up by the end of next week. I was going to powder coat before installation but now I’m hearing mixed messages. Powder coating is tough but when it gets scratched it is harder to touch up.
It’s going to be a bit of a patchwork quilt anyway because I will have to paint 2/3 of one side. Even against the good panels it will be hard to match colour with powder coat.

What are people’s thoughts on the different coating systems? Is it worth powder coating if I have to do a normal paint touch up anyway. Also what is the Topaz colour - surf mist satin?
Furiously working on our bucket list before time and money runs out.
Allan & Joan
1HD-FT 80 series  & Isuzu NPS 300
2010 Topaz - evolving into a expedition camper.

Offline Auscgu

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Re: Topaz Expedition Camper
« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2018, 01:58:07 PM »
Topaz Paint Colours

I checked the colours of my MK 111 Canning.

Dark Gray - Interpon Sable Bass Matt ( Code GA297A)
White sides etc  - Interpon Surf Mist Matt  ( Code GA236A) Previously known as Vivica Surf Mist Matt.
Red Stripe Dulux Plain Red ( this is what Track trailer told me, previously Craig said Flame Red, but neither are on Dulux's web site)
I believe the orange is
Dulux Orange X15

The website for colour information for Interpon is http://www.specifyinterpon.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Industrial_colourcard.pdf

Topaz colours are the same as MkIII Tvan.

Correct on the colours, the Red on the old Tvans was call flame red (but could now be Signal Red). The Dark grey used to be called Vivica Bass. The orange is indeed X15.

These colours came from a Tvan thread on this site so I created a copy of the info for my reference
Cheers Ausc