Home » This Fiberglass Truck Camper Is Built Like A Tough Service Body Because That’s Exactly What It Is

This Fiberglass Truck Camper Is Built Like A Tough Service Body Because That’s Exactly What It Is

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When you drive through a city, you’re bound to encounter the backbone of many service fleets, the service truck. These trucks will often have a service body of some kind on them and sometimes if you squint, some of these service bodies look like they would make a cool camper. If you’re one of those people, you aren’t the only one to think this. Ohio-based startup Grumpy Bear Campers is taking fiberglass service bodies from Spacekap and is turning them into the Koda camper, a truck camper that’s equal parts sleek and beefy.

An interesting corner of the RV world is the utility vehicle conversion. Recently, I showed you one of the many cargo trailers I’ve seen to get converted into a camper. Ambulances and box trucks are also pretty popular platforms to make campers out of. Less often, I see service body toppers for contractors turned into campers. There have been a number of custom builds out there using Spacekap Diablo service bodies. Normally a walk-in mobile workshop for tradespeople, now you can get one of these service bodies as a camper and you don’t have to build it yourself. First reported by Truck Camper Magazine, the 2023 Grumpy Bear Koda is a service body camper right from the factory.

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Serving Trades For A Century

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Knapheide

The service body has a special place in automotive history. What is a service body? The simple answer is that a service body is a box that sits behind the cab of a truck, enabling the truck to serve a role for a trade. You’ll see trucks with service bodies carrying generators, welders, and cranes. Trucks with service bodies work as mobile workshops or as the base of operations for someone conducting repairs. Service bodies can be found on trucks working for telecommunications, construction, power generation, and many more fields.

As Motor Trend writes, it’s hard to pinpoint the very beginning of the concept of the service body. Indeed, there have been custom trucks for about as long as the truck itself has been around.

Barth5parry
Martin-Parry via eBay

Motor Trend notes one early example of a service body came from the Martin-Parry Corp. Formed in 1919, the company was the result of the merger of two coachbuilders, Martin Truck & Body Corp. of York, Pennsylvania and Parry Manufacturing Company of Indianapolis, Indiana. Martin had been producing bodies for Dodge Bros trucks since 1916 and in the early 1920s, the merged companies advertised “Multi-Service Bodies” for Ford Model Ts and TTs. Other advertisements claimed “A Size for Every Truck A Style for Every Need” while showing off a variety of different service bed attachments.

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A cabinet body type of service truck appeared in the 2003 book, Standard Catalog of Light-Duty Ford Trucks by John Gunnell. In the book’s entries of trucks for 1937 was the Ford Model 79 Series 810 cab and chassis. Attached to the truck were two banks of steel cabinets, connected by a ladder rack and with a bed accessible from a steel step. Gunnell’s book continues that service trucks found themselves on the battlefield in World War II and after the war, the concept of having specialized trucks really took off.

Fiberglass Service Bodies

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Spacekap

Spacekap (a brand of Fibrobec) arrived on the scene in Canada in 1972 with a fiberglass service body. Back in those days, fiberglass took off as an innovative way to build a durable, yet lightweight camper. The fantastic Boler was built in Canada only four years prior and Scamp was just about being born around this time as well. Fiberglass truck slide-ins were being built during this era, too.

Spacekap wasn’t the only company offering fiberglass service bodies. Stahl sold service bodies for a huge variety of trucks, including the Chevy S-10 and Ford Ranger. The company also sold a fiberglass service body for a full-size truck that weighed at most 840 pounds.

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Spacekap

In 1992, Spacekap introduced the Diablo. The Spacekap Diablo is a fiberglass box that weighs 725 pounds in 6-foot form or 825 pounds in 8-foot form. When attached to a full-size truck, it turns that truck into a sort of van. Spacekap says it’s the first service body to specifically meet the needs of electricians, plumbers, and contractors. The company also says that other industries buy these including those working with fiber optic splicing.

The advantage of buying one of these, Spacekap says, is the fact that it’s universal and transferable. So, if you decide to upgrade to a new truck, you can move the Diablo to your new mobile office. Also, since these are mounted onto the backs of trucks, you can have a more capable off-road vehicle overall than just rolling around in a Chevy Express.

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The 2023 Grumpy Bear Koda

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Grumpy Bear Campers

Grumpy Bear Campers is a new face in the RV space. The company was founded by William Zantopulos and Andrew Rohr. William brings experience working at Little Guy Worldwide and worked with the company when it transitioned to Liberty Outdoors. Meanwhile, Andrew is a mechanical engineer with two decades of experience working with composites. He spent over a decade working with fiberglass truck cap manufacturers including ten years at ARE and Liberty Outdoors.

According to Truck Camper Magazine, the pair wanted to build a lightweight and affordable fiberglass truck camper. Originally, this was supposed to be a camper of their own design, but William and Andrew realized that Spacekap already had already been making a spacious and durable fiberglass shell for two decades. The guys decided to use the Diablo as their base shell. If you didn’t know any better from reading this, the Grumpy Bear Koda looks like it was designed to be a sleek and futuristic camper right from the jump, and I love that. The rounded shapes and sort of funky front windows are still a welcoming sight when so many RVs are still boring boxes.

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Grumpy Bear Campers

The shells come to Grumpy Bear as they would for a truck, but with fiberglassed plywood ribs with fiberglass and closed-cell foam insulation inside. Grumpy Bear then builds on those ribs. The team adds jacks, side windows, and builds out the interior. When all is said and done, the finished camper doubles the Diablo’s weight to 1,650 pounds. Fully loaded, the Koda weighs 1,830 pounds. That’s a lot of weight for a camper meant for a half-ton truck camper, but we’ll get back to that shortly.

Opening the door to the camper reveals an interior that seems like a cozy place to sleep.

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Grumpy Bear Campers

There’s a Wilsonart Thinscape composite table and countertop while the cabinets are laminated plywood. The cabinets were designed in SolidWorks and CNC cut. Grumpy Bear’s founders say that by using CNC, they were able to use every bit of space afforded by the shell.

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The features are pretty neat, too. In the overhang, you get a bed that’s almost queen-size. Equipment includes a Suburban 16,000 BTU furnace, a Dometic refrigerator, a CAN sink and stove combo, a 10-speed roof vent, and 2,000-pound jackstands.

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Grumpy Bear Campers

 

In terms of power, you’re getting a 100 Ah Battle Born lithium battery and a 30-Amp WFCO converter. Holding tanks include 15 gallons for fresh water and 8 gallons for the sink. There isn’t a bathroom onboard, but there is a Thetford Porta Potti 2.6 gallon portable toilet, a tankless water heater, and an outdoor shower with privacy curtain.

Options include custom interior and exterior colors as well as electric jacks, an 8,000 BTU air-conditioner, 200 Watts of Renogy solar panels, a second 100 Ah battery, and a 3,000 Watt inverter.

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Grumpy Bear Campers

Awesome, But Heavy

The 2023 Grumpy Bear Koda is made for short bed trucks. It has an interior floor 90 inches long and a ceiling 6 feet, 2 inches high. Add that pretty full features list to the design and I think Grumpy Bear has a winner on its hands. This is the kind of camper that, when I see one in a campground, I’ll want to chat with the owner.

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The part I start spinning my wheels on is the weight. Fiberglass camper builds are supposed to be pretty light. Yet, this is smaller than my U-Haul CT13 while weighing 500 pounds more, and 700 pounds more when loaded with options. This is a camper that’s supposed to be hauled by half-ton trucks, but at 1,830 pounds, don’t think that you can slide this into any half-ton.

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Grumpy Bear Campers

 

Truck campers eat up your payload capacity. Payload is what your truck can safely carry; that’s your camper, your gear, your occupants, and the tongue weight of any trailer you stick onto the back. Using the 2023 Ford F-150 as an example, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost maxes out at 1,445 pounds, not even enough to carry the camper before you even hop in. The 5.2-liter supercharged V8 is even worse with a max payload of 1,400 pounds. The 3.3-liter V6 F-150 could technically do it with a max payload of 1,955 pounds, but then you realize that adding a driver and a full water tank will nudge you to the limit.

Optioning your truck with the 5.0-liter V8 nets you up to a 3,315-pound payload, but that’s for a single cab, long bed truck. Adding on different cabs and options changes your payload, too. The best a 2023 RAM 1500 can do is 2,300 pounds and the 2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 hits 2,260 pounds. Mind you, that Chevy is the 2.7 turbo four with a regular cab. The crew cab maxes out at 2,030 pounds.

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Grumpy Bear Campers

What I’m getting at here is that this is a half-ton camper, but only if you have a really specific truck or won’t be carrying anything.

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Prices start at $36,000 for the standard version and rise to $42,000 after checking every option box (save for custom colors). For comparison, a completely empty Spacekap Diablo runs about $13,000. Currently, Grumpy Bear is building one camper a month but wants to target one camper a week by the end of this year. Still, if you have a truck with enough payload, the Grumpy Bear Koda seems like a pretty cool choice. Being built out of a service body should mean a camper that might even outlast your truck, and I like that. If only it weren’t so heavy.

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bmw325_num99
bmw325_num99
10 months ago

Thank you for posting about this!! I have been looking into a Space Kap, Marada, CTS or Sterling brand slide in capsule option as well lately. Good stuff

 
https://compositetruckbody.com/composite-body/model-335-6-5-truck-bed/

https://spacekap.com/

https://sterlingfleetoutfitters.com/products/6-cab-height-compact-truck-cap/

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
10 months ago

The trick to the half-ton towable campers and the half-town towable 5th wheels is the Heavy Duty Payload Package on the F150. It’s super hard to find and only available on certain years and with certain package combinations. I shopped for a lightly used one a few years ago and eventually just gave up. I swear they make a couple dozen a year just so they can advertise the high payload numbers without affecting average MPG numbers. The HDPP basically turns it into a 3/4-ton and will get it into the 2200-2900lb range. That’s the half-ton they’re talking about, not half-tons in general.

Chevy/GMC has a slightly less-rare Max Trailering package that’s not nearly as dramatic and will get it to something like 1800-2100lbs. Basically just a beefier rear axle without the heavier frame.

As far as I know, nobody else has an equivalent and the rest of the half-tons tend to fall into the 1300-1700lb range unless you get the base trim with the lightest engine in a standard cab. Even then, I’m not entirely convinced it’s possible to order one that hits the brochure max payload.

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
10 months ago

Not going to lie I always look at the small fiberglass Verizon service trailers and go ” can i fit a bed in it and make it a camper”

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
10 months ago

The shell starts at 800 lbs. It is scary easy to double that number unless you are going for bare minimum aesthetic. Making a camper build look “nice” is frivolous

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
10 months ago
Reply to  TheHairyNug

Not just the aesthetics but the utility as well. Fresh/grey/black tanks, propane, batteries, converter, plumbing, water heater, refrigerator, furnace, etc all add quite a bit of weight. As do basic camper features like beds and shelves.

Last edited 10 months ago by Defenestrator
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
10 months ago

$36,000 to camp like a tool? Nah

Last edited 10 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Joon Choi
Joon Choi
10 months ago

Selling people something that, if used as intended, will void the warranty for their $70-100k truck and probably cause some kind of suspension or drivetrain damage seems really dumb and highly unethical.

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
10 months ago

Is SpaceKap relatively new to the US market? I first noticed these in southern Vermont & New Hampshire early last year – they’re distinctive enough that they stand out, and my very first thought was “hey, that looks like it would make a decent DIY camper conversion”. There are a half dozen tradesmen & assorted contractors I see on a regular basis who have added these to their fleets in the last year.

Last edited 10 months ago by Dead Elvis, Inc.
OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
10 months ago

(sigh) The right idea but the wrong materials. Love the idea of starting with what appears to be a one-piece fiberglass shell. Great base.

They go off the rails with closed-cell foam insulation. There are different types of CC foam, and the cheaper ones lose insulating ability at cold temperatures. A better, lighter insulation choice would be Thinsulate.

They go further off the rails using plywood to build the cabinetry. Plywood is suited for some applications, but not for cabinetry in weight-sensitive RV builds. Well, any RV build now that I think about it. The only advantage of plywood here is it’s relatively cheap, quick and easy to cut and assemble.

A better cabinetry material would be aluminum, which would cost more but might drop the overall build weight enough to make this an ethical sell to half-ton truck owners.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
10 months ago

Aluminum’s not going to get this one into weight envelope; it’s not enough cabinetry to find the weight savings. Thinsulate vs. closed cell, you’re quibbling over fractions of fractions there, at a VERY high cost. Thinsulate’s $180+ per lf, and a nightmare to cut and glue for a complex shape like this. Closed cell foam, they’re probably under $180 for the whole thing.
No, the only way they’re making weight on this one is deleting things. Because they’re talking empty weight on a basic config too. Just the power system’s over 55lbs. The furnace is over 30lbs. The refrigerator’s 50lbs. (And you wanna add 100lbs of solar panels to that? Ho-ho-holy crap.)

What’s terrifying is that people will just go “oh it fits” and shove it in, then go “oh my suspension’s not bottomed out I’m fine.” (See also: 18000lbs dry on a 17500lbs chassis.)

Clark B
Clark B
10 months ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

I see a disturbing number of clearly overloaded trucks with campers on the highways, more so since people started buying campers like mad during the pandemic.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
10 months ago

You forgot… it’s…. THIRTY SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS.

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
10 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

That was the biggest WTF for me.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
10 months ago

Right? Maybe buy a cabin someplace instead.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
10 months ago

It’s a neat little camper, and not a bad price for the build quality. As far as weight goes, Grumpy Bear knows perfectly well that people are going to buy these things and fit them on trucks that can’t safely handle the weight. They see it as an end user problem when someone with a showboat half-ton damages their truck or gets into an accident.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
10 months ago

I like the concept of building on something so sturdy. You’re right though…thats a lot of mass. I mean, people won’t care and will just get heavier springs or bags and they will probably be fine, but yeah. This would be great for a PowerWagon though.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
10 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

Unfortunately (and much-complained about in the Power Wagon community). The Power Wagon package only has a payload of 1,560lbs…and the PW is specifically not rated for a slide in camper, so if you broke something and had it brought to the dealer with the camper still in the bed… they could not warranty the item. Not a huge risk on that but still a risk if the dealer is an asshole about it.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
10 months ago

Can’t you get the Power Wagon as a tradesman?
On their configurator it looks like you can get up to 3000 lbs payload on the PW

Last edited 10 months ago by Pat Rich
Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
10 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

Yes you can, but if you select the power wagon package on a tradesman, it still lowers the GVWR and payload to (i think) the same level, unfortch… maybe just get the more stripped down version and you’d be good.

Last edited 10 months ago by Bizness Comma Nunya
Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
10 months ago

You gotta spring for the helium-filled tire option there.

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