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I'm working on a box vehicle conversion project, and I need to replace the main body. It looks like the original method was steel frame, plywood on top of that, and large sheets of galvanized steel glued (?) to that.

I've determined that I need to strip the vehicle to the steel frame, and replace the exterior walls. It looks like it would be pretty difficult to recover the existing galvanized steel. So, my question is: what material should I use to make the exterior of the box vehicle, and why? What are the safety, cost, and ease of use considerations?

  • You need to decide the operating parameters : a curtain side is possible, plastic sheet, wood, aluminium etc the "best" one will depend on what your goal is strength for off-road, lightness as there is a weight limit etc – Solar Mike Feb 12 '18 at 4:46
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It depends how much money you want to spend on your truck and how reliable it should be on/ off road. If your body is heavy, you will need a better suspension. Plastic would be cheaper than aluminum of course, but aluminum would be more reliable. However, you can use wood, carbon, aluminum, plastic, and steel. But steal is very expensive and heavy. Do not forget, if you use a metallic material, polish, wax, and lacquer it with an anti-corrosion paint. In my opinion, if you wanna get it cheap along use plastic, if you want it safer, use aluminum. Take carbon, which is light and robust, if you are not on a tight budget and use wood, which is heavy and not really safe, but it looks fancier.

  • Do you have specific examples of the materials that would work? – srlm Feb 24 '18 at 22:18
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The walls of box bodies are now commonly built out of GRP which is glass reinforced plastic bonded to structural plyboard. It has a very good strength to weight ratio with the benefit of being able to screw things to it on the inside such as lights, racks shelves etc. You can also get extruded or moulded corners for it so you don't have to worry about trying to build a frame work, you just cut corner lengths and bolt the to the wood.

Aluminium Corner Panels

As you can see in the above link you can build a frame out of 8 lengths, the board slides in the edge and you use a coach bolt every say 6-12 inches depending on the length. GRP also have the advantage of coming in massive sizes, its not uncommon to get panels 45x16ft in one piece!

Another option is to use corrugated aluminium sheets (not the big stuff used on roofs) each ridge may only be around 1/8 or 1/4", the ridges build in strength. You can then build a frame out aluminium 'top hat' section or box section and rivet the aluminium sheets to it with a small overlap between sheets.

There probably isn't much weight difference due to the extra frame work involved in the aluminium option. So there's pros and cons.

GRP panels and corner posts:

Pros: Cheap

Very Easy to build

Easy to attach things to

Cons: Difficult to transport the panels after you buy them

If the outer layer of GRP gets perforated the wood can rot if not sealed

Aluminium frame and sheets:

Pros Easy to get hold of everything needed

Will not rot

Cons: Difficult to attach things such as shelves and holding points to, as you can only attach things to the cross members and you can use coach(headless) bolts.

Difficult to weld

You need hundreds or thousands or rivets which each need a hole drilling.

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