Ordering the Granby
The Grandby model from Four Wheel Campers is a specialty rough-terrain, compact pop-up truck camper. It is designed and built specifically for outdoorsmen (and women) who want to be able to camp in places that are not safely accessible to other types of vehicle-based RVs.
This post outlines the options I chose and some of the planned modifications to make the Grandby better suited to become a more workable habitat for an indoor-oriented oldster. Sometimes, plans benefit from change once you start working with a rig, and the Grandby will likely be no exception.
Firstly, buying a Four Wheel camper is a bigger deal than it should be. Considering that Four Wheel serves a tiny niche market, finding used examples poses two difficulties. The first is that my own needs are model and floorplan-specific. Any model other than an 8-foot Grandby with a front dinette floor-plan will compromise usability – for me. Same for not carrying options that I need, or boosting the cost by being option-heavy. Being outdoors-oriented campers at heart, most customers opt for the minimalist approach, which doesn’t do me much good. Grandbys in particular are relatively scarce. The second difficulty is that, for a tiny niche market, used Four Wheel examples are in comparatively high demand, which boosts prices on the used market. The same proclivities for durability and construction quality that inspire a healthy brand loyalty among users also carries over into the used market. That, and the blessings of economic inflation mean that the annual drops in price for them year for year are much less than for pop-up truck campers in general. Buy a real oldie in great shape, and it’s quite possible that you’ll pay more for it than the guy who bought it new did. The above, plus the practical limitations that I have in locating, restoring and modifying a suitable unit within a very tight time frame in the field prompted me to bite the bullet and do serious damage to my savings account. Ow.
On a dollar per square foot basis, truck campers are not a great deal at all. For their size, they are expensive. If all you want is living space, there are much better choices to be had. Four Wheel’s models, aside from their stripped shell models, are particular offenders in this regard. You have to need their toughness, durability, small weight and profile to do what you want to do, or the value just isn’t there. If you do need it, there are few other options to be had without spending even more money. That’s what a niche is all about.
Since they are a tiny niche, Four Wheel campers are made to order. Therefore, they are sold at list price. Although they have a dealer network, their dealers do not stock up on them, since their buyers do not tend to load up on option packages as other markets do. Some want skinned-to-the-bone models, some want middle-of-the-road, and others load up. Between the various bed sizes, floor-plans and options, it’s a more difficult market to try to inventory for, and they can’t afford to try. It is possible to find a floor model or show ex-demo for sale here and there, and the odd last year’s model crops up every now and then, but you have to be flexible in what you want and, most likely, be willing to drive very long distances to get it.
That leaves ordering a camper to be built, either from the factory in California or via a dealer locally. Except for any delivery charges to a dealer, the costs are the same. Depending on the time of year, the build lead time varies from 8 to 22 weeks. I happened to order toward the very bottom of the slope, right where 12-13 weeks finished dropping to 8-9 weeks – which is almost a problem. That gives me very little time to clear the Ford’s bed of the Tankmin, seal off its bed holes, and sell the Ford’s step-up tailgate, which is actually worth real money these days. I also need to end my association with the macerator and at least three of the four big solar panels. I’d been counting on 12-13 weeks delivery! Much to do, and not much time to do it.
At any rate, here are the specs. The Grandby already includes a 20-gallon freshwater tank (same as the Defiant), sink, electric on-demand water pump, a 12V outlet, outside-vented propane tank compartment, solar wiring from roof to battery compartment, a 30A shore power system, and various interior furnishings. The standard build assumes that you will operate devices off your vehicle starting battery, and that any solar system will replenish same. This is plenty good enough for minimalist camping. The options I chose are:
- Front dinette floor plan
- Forced-air propane furnace with digital thermostat. (Once I cross over about 7,000 feet elevation, my Mr. Heater catalytic portable has problems firing and staying lit, which has proven a concern after some 35-degree nights at higher elevations.)
- 65-liter 12VDC/120VAC compressor fridge/freezer. (No more obsessing about level campsites.)
- Fan-Tastic power roof vent fan. (Ventilation can be an issue when that flexible wall section starts radiating summer sun heat.)
- Second roof vent. (Ditto.)
- Battery prep. (Wiring and battery separator. Keeps me from blowing out the Ford’s starting batteries by being naughty with the solar power system.)
- Thermal Pack. (A removable poly liner inside the flexible wall section that creates a dead air space to improve insulation somewhat.)
- External gas strut roof lift assists. (Not as young as I used to be, eh sonny?)
- Camper jack mounting plates. (In case the camper must ever be removed from the truck bed, God forbid. I’d have to add the jacks themselves, but not now. May also prove useful as device mounting points during modding.)
You may notice that I ordered no toilet, propane water heater, outside shower, or inside shower. On the face of it, this is not a flattering indicator of my personal habits, since all of these options are available. These items posed issues with the use of interior space, and/or exceeded my available resources. That, plus the lack of waste holding tanks and storage space got me to brainstorming about workarounds. What’s a lazy suburbanite to do? Fake it.