All of us were horrified when we read about Sean Silvera’s 300-foot vehicle roll over and fall in the northern California mountains last year. Miraculously, Sean walked away from the accident without injury, but the same couldn’t be said for his truck camper rig. Sean’s rig, featuring a Ram 2500 mounted on 40-inch tires, an imported PCOR aluminum tray, and a Four Wheel Camper (FWC) Flatbed Hawk, was totaled. But Sean was able to salvage some parts and apply some valuable lessons in his next truck camper build. In this interview, Sean was kind enough to answer several questions about it.
TCA: Hi Sean, you’ve built yourself another rig since we published the story on your accident. What did you build?
Sean Silvera: Yes, I did! Well, it’s never quite finished, but I’m about 80 percent complete…. for now. This time I started with a Ram 3500 Laramie 4×4 with a 6.4L Hemi. I added a Norweld tray from Australia and a Four Wheel Camper Flatbed Hawk from the company’s factory in Woodland, California. Really, the Ram as it is was fully ready for adventure, but I like to build things and customize them to my liking, so I did some work on it.
TCA: Glad to see you went with another Four Wheel Camper Flatbed Hawk? How did you build it out?
Sean Silvera: The flatbed Hawk’s come fairly well-equipped and I went for most options just like before. Stovetop, sink, heat, hot water, indoor and outdoor shower, toilet and awesome lighting and awning. Kinda like to check every box on a build, “buy once, cry once,” idea.
Four Wheel Campers really took care of me. I was able to use some of my “still brand new items” that made it through my accident on the new build. They also were very open with moving things that didn’t work out great for me from the last build like the control pad to the Redarc Manager 30. I was originally going to custom color match the camper to the truck which they agreed to do for me, but I decided to go a different route. One of the things that makes the FWC so light is the aluminum skin. It also makes it easy to bang up if you’re going places that our rigs are capable of going! My last FWC even had a bird strike while parked and I was left with a funny dent of the crows head and beak dented in my rig! I decided to Raptor Coat the tray and the camper to color match the truck. It’s basically a truck bed liner material. It’s a huge thing in Australia and just catching on here in the states. It came out great, is super durable, and can take a 65 mph tree branch and bird strikes with no problems!
I built the camper similar to the last, with a few changes and alterations. I skipped the upper pull-out portion of the cabover bed that turns it into a larger bed. I don’t like having to pull-out the bed or keep the extra two cushions in the camper. My wife and I are fine with the east-west sleeping style and have plenty of room on just the regular cabover mattress. I did reuse my Froli bed springs from my last rig because they are amazing!
I reused my Redarc Manager 30, my two 100 amp hour lithium BattleBorn batteries AND the Overland Solar panels. I did add a slave control panel in the cab of the truck, so that I could monitor the camper’s batteries while on the road.
I installed a Xantrex 2,000 watt inverter with an transfer switch that automatically switches from shore power to battery power, and added an extra 110 volt AC outlet on the kitchen counter. I stuffed the inverter under the kitchen sink and used the built-in, switched refer fan to keep it cool when things get hot. I added a remote power switch, so I don’t need to reach way back in the cabinet under the sink to turn it on and off. The wife can use her hair dryer and I can plug in power tools and Espresso machines if need be.
Little things were done as well like adding a stainless tile backsplash, a black walnut bed trim edge, in-cabinet lighting, iPad mount for on the road Netflix and a WeBoost cell extender to boost some 5G data.
Outside lighting and motion detectors are added to the outside for urban camping to alert me of strangers or animals near my rig while camped. It’s a low-cost video system for now. I’ll upgrade when the market comes up with something that doesn’t need Wifi!
TCA: We love the military green look. Can you tell us about the suspension mods, wheels, and tires that you put on your Ram 3500?
Sean Silvera: I started with a Carli 2.5-inch Pintop suspension. I went with their full kit that has the King reservoir shocks and “add a pack’ leaves in the back. It’s an awesome kit. I also added Carli ball joints that replace the failure prone stock ones. The Carli long-travel airbags finish the kit. They are the absolute best cherry on top!!! They level the truck out and don’t feel like the bobby, bouncy airbags that I have felt on other rigs! I hate the rear sag that a lot of trucks have and this fixes that.
To keep it planted to the ground I put on 35-inch Toyo MT’s on Method 17-inch NV HD’s. An ARB twin air compressor takes care of tire inflation and operating the front and rear lockers. I have not been able to re-gear yet because Ram redesigned the rear end and the aftermarket has not caught up yet.
I’ve worked hard to keep this build a bit low key with out a lot of success. I’m using the stock steel front bumper that has room for the Warn Ram Power Wagon winch hidden behind it. I’ve recessed one narrow, 10-inch auxiliary light bar inside the bumper so that I don’t come off as a Baja racer. I’m using Rigid Midnight edition lighting, which are really narrow and hide in my Prinsu rack front and sides, but light up the night when I need them. I also installed Rigid Scene lights for lighting up everything on the sides of the cab. I’ve also got a set of Rigid rear lights as well. The truck doesn’t have an aftermarket snorkel available yey nor would I buy one, but the stock air pick up is right at the top of the hood, so I should be fine with out any big fording mistakes. I’m keeping the stock fenders up front and trying not to load too much overland gear on racks and such. I even ordered Black Maxtrax, so that they blend into my Prinsu rack. As of now my 35-inch spare fits in the spare tire area under the tray, so I don’t need to build up an exterior rack unless I need that space for a rear winch or extra fuel tank.
One very stock thing that I had to get rid of was the exhaust. It had a huge muffler and an additional resonator that I would have smashed off-road quickly. I put on a Catback type MBRP exhaust that made it sound like it should.
It’s a beefy, proven platform to travel in with over 4,000 pounds payload for camper, gear and passengers. More then I hope to ever need. The Carli kit keeps the truck’s stock payload.
TCA: Is it true you added a secondary battery to your truck to handle the camper’s battery charging?
Sean Silvera: I did and it wasn’t fun. I had to move the trucks CPU/brain and stuff a battery box off the 2020 diesel that doesn’t exactly fit. I did some nip and tuck and got it to fit and remounted the CPU on the inside edge of the battery box. With the Ram built-in auxiliary switches it doesn’t really make sense adding a SwitchPod or SwitchPro. The truck comes with one. The challenge with the stock auxiliary switches are that I don’t have the option (that I know of) to use a secondary battery for my lights and such. My solution is now to keep the batteries connected as simply a bigger battery bank versus a DC-DC charging/isolation set up. The camper’s power system is doing most of the heavy lifting power needs anyway.
TCA: Interesting. Can you tell us about your solar power system and Redarc Manager?
Sean Silvera: The Redarc Manager 30 is such a great system! It’s the brain of the power system. It will first pull “green power” off two 160 watt Overland solar panels on the roof, even if I’m driving and the truck can charge them up it might share the charge between the panels and the alternator. The control pad is simple to use and gives real time information on usage, and power supply. I’ve never run out of battery power. I love having a second slave control pad in the cab to know what’s going on when I’m driving too!
TCA: The Redarc system sounds great. What are the specs of the camper? (weight, tanks sizes, batteries, etc.)
Sean Silvera: The Four Wheel Camper Flatbed Hawk is about 1,450 pounds. I have a 20 gallon water tank in the camper and an additional 30 gallons in the tray. I have two, 10-pound propane tanks in the camper and carry up to two more on outside racks for cold weather trips. The two 100 amp hour BattleBorn batteries are also the new models that keep themselves warm because lithium batteries don’t like temperatures below 32 degrees. I have a cassette toilet and my grey water is tankless, meaning I catch it or if I’m in a place that I can put it on the ground I do that. I have the big 130L Isotherm DC compressor refridgerator because life is way too short to drink warm beer! It’s a really good package for me to easily stay out 10 days.
The camper will sleep three in comfort and four if needed. The camper has a two-burner matchless stovetop, a 6-gallon hot water heater, two showers—one inside one out—and an inside toilet. It has a ton of storage, even if most of us want 2 tons!
TCA: So are you over or under your Ram 3500’s GVWR?
Sean Silvera: This is a really important question, and one we all need to look at. My last build was a Ram 2500 3/4-ton and looking back I’m not sure I was under GVWR? I chose a 3500 one-ton truck this time to make sure I would never go over my GVWR.
TCA: Good move! What else did you do differently with this build compared to your other FWC build? Any lessons learned?
Sean Silvera: Yes, lots of lessons! Forty-inch tires look so good on your truck but FOR ME they are not for Overland vehicles. The 40-inch tires eat away at your drivetrain and suspension on these platforms. An Iveco or Unimog world traveler are made for those. Not so much a standard American pickup truck. I went with 35-inch tires this time and feel confident with the traction and clearance they have. I built my rig from parts I loved and have been proven vs. buying a packaged rig that was “Upfitted” from a up fitter, with all of their parts. Its the idea that there are some things a company can do really well and other things maybe not so well but you buy the whole package. On this one I liked that I could pick what I thought was the best manufacture for each part versus one company.
I went with a 6.4L Gasoline Hemi and not the Cummins 6.7L diesel this time. My last “amazing” diesel was three trucks ago, a 2007 pre-DEF Silverado. It was an absolute tractor, got good mileage, and was bulletproof. I’ve had two newer diesels since then, that have not been as reliable for me that had fault codes and “limp mode” issues. My last Ram 6.7L Cummins was strong and free of faults, but wasn’t as powerful as my old 2007. The other issue is lack of ULSD to run our new modern diesels outside of North America. I was about to do a DEF-DPF-EGR delete and reprogram on my last diesel, just to drive to Baja because the places where I wanted to go there are a bit further off the beaten path and don’t always have ULSD. The Hemi is not as great on mileage or power, but I can drive it globally right now without issues.
The other thing that is still yet to prove is that my last rig was an eye-catcher. I could not get out of a parking lot or gas station without questions about the rig. It was really fun at first, but it started taking up a ton of time talking about the truck or forced me to put my head down and not talk to anyone while walking to and from the truck. I have been trying to build this one out a bit low’er key, so that it didn’t have the flashy look as the last one. No huge front bumper and lights standing out. No huge fenders and gigantic tires, I’ve not been completely successful with this attempt. The truck, tray and camper just look so unique that people want to know about it, take pictures and ask how much it costs.
The last big difference is the tray. This one is a Norweld, the one Four Wheel Campers uses, my last one was a PCOR. I absolutely loved PCOR’s tray and the people involved around it that helped me get one of the first ones in the United States. It just rounded off the look of the last build. It consisted of an AEV Prospector XL, a PCOR tray and a FWC Hawk. It was the only build like that, that I know of! Clay Croft of Xoverland has a similar build, but his is a 3500 and not an XL. You can see his rig in action on his Xoverland Solo series show, we collaborated on a rear spare tire rack because our campers came off the FWC production line just days apart! We were twinning until I rolled mine! Norweld and FWC are partners and they both helped get me a new Norweld Prototype/first of its kind on this new build. The Norweld is 100 percent form follows function and it suits this new build perfectly. It’s ultra utility and feels like it can take a few rocks or tree stumps without complaint! It’s modular below the tray and easy to remove boxes to get to things. It’s simple, strong and adaptable. The list of players in the Norweld partnerships and ambassadors puts me in awe of being part of their family. Really grateful for them to step up and allow me to show off their goods!
TCA: Where have you taken your rig now that you’ve completed building it?
Sean Silvera: Mostly Northern California camping with one trip up to Oregon. It only has 6,000 miles on it with COVID-19 asking us to stay home.
TCA: What kind of mileage are you getting with your setup?
Sean Silvera: I was looking for the barfing guy emoji with this question. I’m not entirely sure yet because there are no tuners that can change my new tire size, that are available on the market and the dealership won’t do it for me. Also, I’m still not geared correct for the larger then stock tires, so my shift points are not correct. I’m guessing 10-13’ish. New gearing should be available first part of 2021, so things will get better.
TCA: What kind of places are you planning to visit in the future.
Sean Silvera: Snow camping and Snowboarding in Tahoe through the next few months and Baja in March. We had plans for the Arctic Circle, but COVID has delayed our plans on that. The Pan American is on the list in the next five years as well. I gotta break this thing in!
TCA: Have you been on the road and to the scene where your accident took place?
Sean Silvera: Yes, it’s not far from my cabin in Mendocino. I go back and climb down every so often. There are still a lot of things I never recovered. Mostly tools and recovery gear that flew out of my tray boxes and got covered with soil that came down the hill during my accident. I keep thinking the rains will wash some of the soil out of the way and I’ll find some more of my gear. So far no real luck!