Meet the Daddy of all selfbuilds !!! (1 Viewer)

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May 29, 2013
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Chausson best of Flash 10
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Several years now

A retired couple spent 5 years and $180k converting a dilapidated semitrailer into a 'monster' mobile home with a library, spiral staircase, and hot tub. Take a look inside.​


Nomad Monster Home

Clayton and Theresa Balabanov converted a semitruck into the "Nomad Monster Home."Clayton Balabanov
  • Clayton Balabanov spent $180k converting a dilapidated truck and a used trailer into a spacious RV.
  • It took five years to transform the semitruck, which he and his wife now live in full time.
  • The "Nomad Monster' includes a reading room, a hot tub, and a spiral staircase. Take a look inside.
Clayton Balabanov and his wife, Theresa, wanted to hit the road when they retired, but couldn't find a mobile home to buy that would fit their requirements.
Clayton and Theresa Balabanov

Clayton Balabanov
Clayton Balabanov was approaching retirement age and knew that he wanted to live out his dream of hitting the road. He envisaged spending his senior years with his wife, Theresa, cruising up and down the scenic highways of the US and Canada.
But, first, he needed to buy a mobile home.
Balabanov said he couldn't find anything on the market that was a good fit.


"I was not happy with the manufacturers' units," he said. "They just didn't seem like they would stand up to the year-round use, rather than just vacation use."

So the couple decided to build their own. Their plan was to convert a used semitruck into a spacious and sustainable home-on-wheels.
Trailer of semtruck

Clayton Balabanov
Balabanov wanted to transform a semitruck into a home that would be as comfortable as their house in Vancouver Island, Canada.
But there was another key requirement: it needed to be sustainable.
"We needed solar, recycling water, and things like that, which would leave a smaller carbon footprint, making up for the amount of fuel that the truck uses," he said.
Five years ago Balabanov bought a 'real mess' of a truck and started work on it. He also bought a trailer on eBay.
'Real mess' of a truck before conversion into a home

Clayton Balabanov
Balabanov said he couldn't afford to buy a brand-new truck. "So, I bought an older one and then spent the next year rebuilding it," he said. "Brakes and engine, and all that sort of stuff."
He also bought a used trailer on eBay, which was pretty much a blank canvas for his vision.
"It was empty, and I just decided to go at it," Balabanov said. "I planned things out on a whiteboard and kept making changes. As I built, things changed as well."
It took a great deal of time and effort to transform the semitrailer into a liveable space, not least because the couple did most of the work themselves.
Construction on semitruck trailer

Clayton Balabanov
Balabanov spent hours working on the conversion nearly every day for five years.
"Most of it I did myself," he said. He even sewed the curtains himself.
Balabanov said that given it was a unique build, it would have been too much work to find someone who understood his vision. "It would take longer to explain it than to actually do it."
Meanwhile, Theresa was responsible for procuring the materials, he said, which was particularly challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It also didn't come cheap. Balabanov estimates that it cost around $180,000.
Construction on trailer

Clayton Balabanov
Balabanov said he doesn't have an exact number for how much it cost to build, as he is yet to do a calculation and go through his many boxes of receipts.
But he gave a rough estimate — 250,000 Canadian dollars. That's $181,126 in US currency.
The couple started making the truck more homely by adding a seating area and kitchenette.
The truck's seating area.

Clayton Balabanov
The kitchenette has a microwave oven and a fridge, while above the seating area is a loft bed.
They then began work on the trailer, which involved building a space-saving spiral staircase.
Semitruck's spiral staircase

Clayton Balabanov
The trailer has several rooms, including an office, kitchen, garage, living room, bedroom, library, and bathroom.
It also has a grand-looking spiral staircase, which leads up to the second floor.
"It looks awesome and it takes up less space than if I put regular stairs in," Balabanov said.
The couple built a full kitchen because they're too old to survive on beans on toast, Balabanov joked.
The semitruck's kitchen and induction stoves.

Clayton Balabanov
The modern kitchen has all standard domestic appliances, including induction stoves that run on solar power.
"[It's] a full kitchen, bigger than you'd find in most apartments, because we want to spend the rest of our life in here and we want to be comfortable," Balabanov said.
"At 75, I'm not going to cram myself into a little tiny kitchen trying to make beans on toast," he added.
Balabanov also built a 'movie theatre' inside the trailer. The couple uses Starlink to access streaming services.
Movie theatre

Clayton Balabanov
The snug space has a 75-inch 4K TV and a surround sound system.
Starlink, the satellite internet service launched by Elon Musk's SpaceX, allows the couple to watch Netflix and Amazon Prime content even in out-of-the-way areas.
"It's so we can relax in the evening and have a nice movie for entertainment," said Balabanov.
Theresa Balabanov spends a lot of time reading in the library room.
Library room in semitruck

Clayton Balabanov
The onboard reading room consists of a chair and bookshelf near the top of the staircase, which Theresa has already made good use of: she's read 42 books since they moved into their semitrailer home in late September 2022.
"Theresa likes books, she decided that that's going to be her main entertainment," said Balabanov.
The semitrailer also has a hot tub installed.
Semitruck's hot tub

Clayton Balabanov
In a sunken section of the bathroom sits a jetted tub.
"For the tub, it made sense to buy one with jets," said Balabanov. "It's not that big a [price] difference, so we might as well put it in."
The couple have cooked for friends and hosted them in their dining room.
Dining room of semitruck

Clayton Balabanov
The dining room isn't particularly spacious, but it does the job, Balabanov said.
"We had people over for tea... I think three people were sitting there, and I normally just sit on the stairs, which is right next to the dining room table, so I'm in the conversation," he said.
Hosting people for dinner is a "nice community thing" and a great way to meet other nomads, Balabanov added.
But it's not all been plain sailing, with many things going wrong on their maiden voyage.
Upper radiator hose blew


The couple has experienced leaks in the roof, problems with the solar battery, and melting wires.
In a YouTube video from late October, the couple documented how an upper radiator hose burst while they were in Nebraska.
"This is our maiden voyage, where everything breaks," said Balabanov. "So we'll change things that didn't work, and enhance things that did work, and polish up."
"And then we're off to go across Canada," he said.
Balabanov said he maybe regrets spending so much time working on the truck.
Clayton Balabanov


Reflecting on the process, Balabanov said he maybe regrets spending so much time building it.
"That was five years out of my life that I could have just gone out and bought something smaller and less able, and then gone out and spent that five years on the road," he said.
"But on the other hand, I really enjoyed doing it."
He would advise anyone thinking of doing the same to be less ambitious than he was.
Nomad Monster Home

Clayton Balabanov
Balabanov's main advice to those hoping to transform a semitruck into a home: "Start small and grow."
He said he'd only advise those who are "exceptionally skilled" and in possession of lots of equipment to build their own.
"It just takes a lot of time out of your life," he said.
But the couple says they are thrilled to be traveling the continent in their 'Nomad Monster' home.
Balabanovs with friends outside the Nomad Monster home

Nomad Monster/YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaGOGRCLe2s
The Balabanovs have sold their family home and taxi business, meaning they have long-term plans to stay in their semitruck home.
They plan to make the most of their senior years living in it, driving across the US and Canada, while taking their motorcycles out for rides in scenic spots.
"You only live so long," Balabanov said. "It's absolutely guaranteed you're going to die so make the most of living between now and then. That's what we're doing."
 

Nanniemate

LIFE MEMBER
Oct 1, 2019
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Still dropping clangers and making it up as I go along
not got problem with the concept but so little light inside and very low ceilings but I have seen similar done in the UK and it was stunning full patio doors at the back with patio
 

busbuddy

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Oct 2, 2018
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leicestershire
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swift suntor 630G
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since 1994
Any lorry driver knows how much the trailers flex unless you really go overboard bracing them....not for me

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Coolcats

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Jan 24, 2019
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They could have been advised to invest in a N&B, more style, more comfort

It looks like they are living in a cave

We stayed in a lodge in Northern California which is made from Dark wood in the Sequoia forest, fabulous place to visit but that Dark Lodge felt a little depressing as it was also shaded within the forest and felt a little like being in Cave so its a thumbs down from me for that build.
 
Jul 12, 2022
159
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On Order.Carado V337
Looks more like a "self Bodge" than a self build.....
 
Jul 12, 2022
159
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On Order.Carado V337
@ $180K I'd have expected something a little more....:unsure:

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Sep 10, 2012
2,154
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worcester
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Sunliving van
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2012
Good for him!
He did what he wanted and got a result he is happy with.
How many of us could have devoted 5 years of their life to such a project and why would anyone want to.
Not sure how much an RV is in the states but I think I would prefer using something particularly at his age.
 
Jun 26, 2018
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North West
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Florium Wincester
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Europe & USA since April '21
Each to their own and if they enjoy it good luck to them. However, it would not fit in any of the RV sites we stopped at in California.
 

Mikey RV

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Mar 7, 2010
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Fair play to them, but not my cup of tea it looks like living in a cave.
 
Feb 18, 2017
4,377
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Greenwich, London, UK
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Hymer MLT 570
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1986
I saw inside a much nicer version in the UK.

Built into a 10m lorry chassis, which started life as a furniture removal wagon.
Massive underfloor storage, a kids 'bedroom' over the cab, fully fitted kitchen, proper living room with patio doors on one side and rear bedroom with en suite.
Outside it had a full length awning that must have come from a shopfront, with full lighting.

It was built by a guy from Peckham, it had taken him 18 months (as he had a full time job), and cost about the same amount as the Canadian Monster, but it looked a lot nicer and could be parked in most decent sized campsites and you could just about get it down a Cornish lane.
 
Oct 28, 2022
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Rapido
Well done them, great to hear of a happy story, sure they will live their dream….
 
Jun 26, 2018
1,014
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Florium Wincester
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Depends what floats your boat or Jagganaut in their case. Wild camping is a bit different in the USA with all of the space. That rig has got some turning circle so getting off road on some of the minor roads might be a struggle. But I can only compare it with what I've seen around California.

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Nov 14, 2020
325
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S.Yorks
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77,809
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Adria Compact SP
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20 yr
.
Imagine that monster in the rear view mirror . . . .


then you realise the bloke driving it is approaching 80 yrs of age ??
_
 
Feb 6, 2019
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Santa Maria de Palautordera, Barcelona, Spain
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LMC Liberty 560 1992
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Since 2017
I'm reminded of that American series about minihomes on wheels where they take a heavy chassis and put on a crazy heavy two floor wooden structure with proper windows and roof, fit it out with reclaimed this and that, pull out patios and full scale appliances and fittings and want to take it to wherever...

I know they tow these things with 6 or 7-litre engine pickups but the sheer weight must have them down to a crawl sometimes.

I think it's quite funny that they always go on about how everything has to be multipurpose and keep on showing how under-couch storage, fold down tables and boxes under the stairs is seemingly a revolutionary use of space...
 
Aug 12, 2021
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Funster No
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chausson
And how long can he keep his HGV equivalent driving license. The police have even forced Dick Van Dyke to do a retest (98yrs old!)
 
Mar 6, 2019
398
821
Funster No
58,909
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A Class
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Since 1987
I sometimes wonder about the size of our van when we are winding around hairpins in Switzerland then remember the local bin men get up to the villages and they use small trucks so I press on. It might’ve fun in this ‘big daddy’ rig though. As long as you don’t meet the post bus on the tight bits!
 

Nanniemate

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Oct 1, 2019
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Still dropping clangers and making it up as I go along
If you want to go somewhere a tight just drop the trailer and you have a big estate car

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