February 21, 2022
BY BEAU BECRAFT
Kit Steimle has always described himself as having a creative mind, often building things out of “stuff that really wasn’t made for it.”
As a result, when he’s not enjoying the outdoors and nature, Steimle can often be found tinkering on various projects, including working on old Toyota Land Cruisers and International Scouts. But, the project he’s gained the most notoriety for is an old Knapheide Service Body he found on social media.
“I found [this Service Body] on Facebook Marketplace up in Loveland, Colorado,” Steimle says of his most creative project yet. “The gentleman who sold it to me told me that this was one of the first set of utility boxes that Knapheide made back around 1967 and they offered it at Chevy dealerships as an add-on for Chevy trucks. It was in pretty bad shape. But, my creative mind got to work, and I immediately knew that I could make a really cool off-road, pop-up camper out of this old truck bed.”
The first step in breathing new life into this project was for Steimle to have the trailer frame and boxes sandblasted and prepped for additional structural and cosmetic work. After that, the boxes were coated with Raptor Liner and the frame was painted.
New steel supports were welded so the body could sit atop the military trailer frame. Then, new shocks, tires, rims, and wheel adapters were added so Steimle could pull it with his 1987 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60 and also have a spare tire if needed.
As Steimle continues to expand and refine his skills when it comes to projects like this, he notes that this build was a collaborative effort.
“I’ve just recently started learning how to weld and do some mechanical work,” he offers. “Thankfully, my buddy who is a welder/fabricator helped with the frame and my amazing girlfriend did a lot of the electrical work for me and wiring.”
Once everything was squared away from a mobility and functionality standpoint, the process of accessorizing and outfitting began.
And, as far as camping gear and luxuries are concerned, if you can think of it, chances are that it’s already on Kit’s camper.
“Well, I have a 4.5 gallon water tank with 12V pump and hose bib for fresh water, a full 160W solar system, lithium ion 12V battery, 110V with 1000w inverter, Bluetooth audio system, 55-quart fridge with icemaker, and slide-out powered cooler by Dometic,” informs Steimle of the multitude of amenities on his camper. “The stove and cutting board slide out as well. I’ve also got a propane instant hot water heater with a shower and full enclosure, full-service bar, gear storage, Tepui rooftop tent, four LED ditch lights, off-road articulating trailer hitch, off-road shocks, 35-inch mud tires, LED cabinet lighting, and plenty of secure storage thanks to Knapheide’s amazing utility boxes!”
So, with all of those on-board accoutrements, which does Steimle enjoy the most?
“The bar, of course,” Steimle says with a laugh. “But really, all of the storage available to put so many different things in it that are useful. These boxes are amazing and it’s really proven to be the perfect setup to build the perfect camper!”
Not only does this unique Knapheide body garner a lot of use, it has also proven to be quite the conversation piece, with several fellow campers and outdoor enthusiasts offering Steimle big money to purchase his creation.
“It’s funny. Everyone wants to buy it,” Steimle says of the reactions he gets when traveling. “You can’t find a commercially-made camper with this much stuff and storage on it as well as being super cool and very practical. Everyone says this looks commercially made. They’re always surprised to learn that I built this myself. That’s a huge compliment.”
Practicality is one of the biggest selling points not only for those interested in having it for themselves, but for Steimle as well, who spends a lot of time toting his DIY camper across the US.
“This thing is great for weekend camping and off-roading,” he notes of the camper’s versatility.
“We can unhook it, put a lock on it, and take our off-road vehicle out on the trails and have this readily accessible for us all weekend. It can also go on many trails that most campers cannot because of its capability off-road.”
Steimle says he’d love the opportunity to build more of these for fellow outdoor enthusiasts or to see Knapheide enter a potentially untapped market and offer Service Body campers someday. In the meantime, he’s proud to own one of the most unique campers in use today.
“This turned out exactly how I envisioned it,” Steimle says. “In all, not working full time, this project took me about four months to complete. It has everything that I, or anyone else for that matter, would ever need for off-road use and camping. I enjoyed every single minute of this build and want to thank Knapheide so much for making such amazing products. I hope to see more of these with my signature on the trails and campgrounds!”