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M820 Trailer Project - Advice Needed

JohnCH

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I am looking at purchasing an older M820 Expanding Box Trailer from a friend and I waned some advice on the condition and potential issues with the project. This trailer was used as storage for years but recently but my friend wants to get rid of it. She lives about 4 hours south of me and I have a 5th wheel truck but this is too big for me to tow so I want to know if this is something worth looking at.

Currently her price is $1,500 but I might ask for $1,000 if its fair.

I want to keep it on the trailer for now while I work on it but eventually I might put it on the FMTV series as an overlander. In reality I will use it as an office or something on the property. This would be my second military container renovation, my first was a 1987 one-sided expanding military shelter that needed a ton of work. I patched hundreds of holes, replaced over 100 rivets, completely reworked the wiring, replaced the busted florescent lighting with conduit and smart lights, applied epoxy to the floors and as soon as the dry season begins I will finish the exterior. I like these things and it adds floorspace to my tiny country house.

I have attached photos of both my current shelter and the trailer I am considering.

Thanks for the advice. I have read info on this forum for nearly a decade but am just now getting involved.
 

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Mullaney

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I am looking at purchasing an older M820 Expanding Box Trailer from a friend and I waned some advice on the condition and potential issues with the project. This trailer was used as storage for years but recently but my friend wants to get rid of it. She lives about 4 hours south of me and I have a 5th wheel truck but this is too big for me to tow so I want to know if this is something worth looking at.

Currently her price is $1,500 but I might ask for $1,000 if its fair.

I want to keep it on the trailer for now while I work on it but eventually I might put it on the FMTV series as an overlander. In reality I will use it as an office or something on the property. This would be my second military container renovation, my first was a 1987 one-sided expanding military shelter that needed a ton of work. I patched hundreds of holes, replaced over 100 rivets, completely reworked the wiring, replaced the busted florescent lighting with conduit and smart lights, applied epoxy to the floors and as soon as the dry season begins I will finish the exterior. I like these things and it adds floorspace to my tiny country house.

I have attached photos of both my current shelter and the trailer I am considering.

Thanks for the advice. I have read info on this forum for nearly a decade but am just now getting involved.
.
Well... I don't think you could hurt yourself at $1000 or even $1500 for some fairly water tight storage space. And if it isn't watertight, it seems that you have already solved that problem in days gone by. Not sure what you could do with the trailer - but you might be able to sell that eventually.
 

JohnCH

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Well... I don't think you could hurt yourself at $1000 or even $1500 for some fairly water tight storage space. And if it isn't watertight, it seems that you have already solved that problem in days gone by. Not sure what you could do with the trailer - but you might be able to sell that eventually.
Thanks for the advice, that’s kind of what I was thinking, but I don’t know much about the framing of this box as opposed to the one I currently have. I didn’t know how much of this was and could be rotted. If The wood has potential to be replaced with sheets of aluminum and rivets. I would probably go that way in the project, but if the whole box is likely to fall apart in Transportation, I’d rather not touch it.
 

Mullaney

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Thanks for the advice, that’s kind of what I was thinking, but I don’t know much about the framing of this box as opposed to the one I currently have. I didn’t know how much of this was and could be rotted. If The wood has potential to be replaced with sheets of aluminum and rivets. I would probably go that way in the project, but if the whole box is likely to fall apart in Transportation, I’d rather not touch it.
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Well, the M820 is a truck body on a trailer - unless I miss my guess. I would expect to see possible deterioration on top and in the seams around the top of the box. Then again too, it my be surprisingly tight since it is on a trailer... It won't be "racked" left and right tearing out the rivets. The only way to know is roll out there and take a look. I would imagine you would have "that smell" if it is leaky...
 

Guyfang

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I spent a lot of time in one of these.

The roof is prone to leak. Fixable. but its a lot of work.

There is supposed to be curtains to enclose it when the doors are open on both sides.

When you open the sides, there is a canvas "seal" between the sides and doors to keep the water from dripping into the van. Its often rotten.

The vents where the hot air used to be blown into the van body, probably has asbestos in it. You need to look.

You need to see if the walls are full of water.
 

JohnCH

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I spent a lot of time in one of these.

The roof is prone to leak. Fixable. but its a lot of work.

There is supposed to be curtains to enclose it when the doors are open on both sides.

When you open the sides, there is a canvas "seal" between the sides and doors to keep the water from dripping into the van. Its often rotten.

The vents where the hot air used to be blown into the van body, probably has asbestos in it. You need to look.

You need to see if the walls are full of water.
Does the roof itself have punctures or is it the hinges?

What parts of the box are metal and what parts are wood?

Do you know the TM for this type of box?

I have seen models that can be opened by one person and others that require 4, how can you tell the difference?
 

NDT

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I do believe that is a M313 trailer from the Viet Nam era. It does look kinda rotten. Those do not age well. I would go over it with a fine tooth comb before buying it. I am looking for the van body as well to put on a M292A2 deuce chassis and have passed on dozens of these that are too far gone. As you are aware, you can easily sink weeks of work into fixing these.
 

JohnCH

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Nashville, TN
I do believe that is a M313 trailer from the Viet Nam era. It does look kinda rotten. Those do not age well. I would go over it with a fine tooth comb before buying it. I am looking for the van body as well to put on a M292A2 deuce chassis and have passed on dozens of these that are too far gone. As you are aware, you can easily sink weeks of work into fixing these.
There is a YouTube guy who has the most modern version of these expanding shelters, I think it’s called “Bantha”. Obviously I like his, but I think he spent something like $150,000 or more on the project. I have some cash but I’m not looking to put that much money into it right now.

If I was going to choose this project, I would like to replace the wood with PVC plywood or frame it up for sheets of aluminum and use spray insulation to make the entire box rot-proof

What are the other models of expanding truck bodies that are worth looking for?
 

NDT

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All the 17 ft expansible vans are variants of the M4 body. The design changed over the years but fundamentally they all do the same thing.
 

JohnCH

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All the 17 ft expansible vans are variants of the M4 body. The design changed over the years but fundamentally they all do the same thing.
I looked it up, it's a FMTV M1087 that I want. I've been looking at these rigs since I was 20, now I'm 30 and if I ever get a m1087, I will probably be 50.
 

msgjd

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Thanks for the advice, that’s kind of what I was thinking, but I don’t know much about the framing of this box as opposed to the one I currently have. I didn’t know how much of this was and could be rotted. If The wood has potential to be replaced with sheets of aluminum and rivets.
I own a 1967 M750 expandable vehicular parts trailer , sits on a chassis much like yours .. The only issue I ever have is water and maintaining the roof seams... There seems to be plywood sandwiched between the inner and outer sheets of the main "fixed" roof section but am not 100% sure.. On occasion I get flakes of wood falling down through any open ceiling areas, such as where a light had been or where a receptacle box had been .. I don't believe there's any wood inside the upper halves of the fold-outs, though. The wood in mine is the interior paneling and rivited, it might be a Luan paneling, not sure.. There's none in the lower sections, nor the floor
 
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