PHOTO: Ben Gavelda
PHOTO: Ben Gavelda

DIY Vehicle: Mike Basich’s Latest Mobile Living Endeavor

Originally ran in the October 2017 issue of TransWorld SNOWboarding. Check out more here!

Mike Basich has been experimenting with trucks, cabins, and cameras for some time. A love for snowboarding has always been at the root of his pursuits in self-documentation, vehicles, and homes. Both chasing storms and waiting them out are challenges he's sought to overcome by creating livable vehicles that allow him to be closer to the mountains. Maximized spacial efficiency, environmentally conscious building methods, and artistic hints have led the design. Building is Basich's creative outlet, and he's become widely recognized for it. Mikey recently sold his popular custom Dodge Ram pop-up and tow-behind tiny home to embark on a new build. This one started out as a Mitsubishi flatbed truck and has evolved into a mind-blowing mini-home on wheels. In the photographs you see, it's about halfway complete. We can't wait to see the final build. – Ben Gavelda

PHOTO: Ben Gavelda

Vehicle

It's a 2012 Mitsubishi Fuso Canter FG4x4. I got this one off Craigslist in Seattle. There are not a lot out there for sale, usually four or five at a time. Most of them are in New York, as snowplows, and I wouldn't recommend them. They have low miles, but hard miles, pushing and pulling. I got lucky; this guy just had this sitting around for a while. You can buy them new for about $45,000. Used, if you're lucky, you can get them around $32,000. This one has 30,000-miles; it's a pretty nice car. The 2010s and newer have the automatic transmissions and transfer cases. This thing's got six speeds, so first gear is pretty low. It's suitable for the snow travel and long-distance driving I do. It goes 75 miles per hour no problem and gets around seventeen miles per gallon. It's a four-cylinder BlueTec diesel, 4.5 ton. It's got the DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) additive, which I'm pretty stoked on. The additive is kind of a pain in the ass, but it's worth it to have a more environmentally friendly motor.

PHOTO: Ben Gavelda

Philosophy

Being able to park and maneuver in small spaces was something I began to miss over the years. Like right now I'm in the parking lot at the bottom of the tram in Jackson, and I can act like any other car. The more compact feel is what I'm really excited about. I'm a bit nerdy on tight, small spaces. This is a combination of everything I've learned from my other vehicles. I've had three setups: The first one was a Sportsmobile van conversion, the second was my Dodge truck pop up, and the third was my tow-behind tiny home. After experiencing how hard it can be to travel with a trailer, I wanted to narrow my setup down. Going to Japan and seeing all these cool, weird campers, I thought I could find or create something like that. I tried to figure out what that vehicle could be for a while. That ended up being the Fuso, which is shorter than my truck.

PHOTO: Ben Gavelda

Process

It stated out as a conversation. I wasn't sure If I was going to sell the tiny house or not. It grew into a discussion about how much I needed for this new project. So the interested buyer bought the tiny house because he wanted to help me do my new project and ended up buying the truck too because he needed something to tow it with. Overall, the biggest challenge was trying to compact everything and not waste any space. The welding part takes time. Initially, the back had nothing on it, so the rear end was lifted pretty high, but I needed to calculate how much weight it would take to push it down so that when it's fully built it sits level. The mechanics of how the walls fold down and slide out were brand new to me; you can't exactly buy a kit. That was some calculating. Crawling in from the cab to the back is a huge plus for me, so I'm going to cut out the back of the truck cab. That's the point of no return, cutting into a brand new car.

 

PHOTO: Ben Gavelda

Amenities

The slide-out is new for me, so I'm excited to have that option. I didn't know how to weld the floor plan until I got the actual bathtub. It's a trap door where the floor will open up, and you'll get to sit in the tub, and the wall will fold down next to it. Can you imagine being at the beach or the mountain taking a bath and looking out infinity pool level style? It's only 12 inches deep, but enough to get in. I'm so excited to get it going because if I'm next to a creek I can just siphon water into it. I got my fireplace working already. It's got a cooktop on it. I made the fireplace swing out, so you can have an outdoor fireplace on the deck if you're cooking something smoky. I have a propane heater too. The unique thing that came about in the build that I haven't finished yet is the slide-out that will have walls. I'm going to make those out of plexiglass, so it should be well lit.

PHOTO: Ben Gavelda

Living

The living space on the back is 7 by 13 feet. The one downfall, or more of a challenge, is the floor starting at about three feet off the ground. So to stand up inside with a vaulted ceiling and not hit your head means it's pretty tall--11 feet, 8 inches from ground to ceiling. That's low considering what I had before, but I wouldn't go any higher than that with how top-heavy it could be. One of the hardest parts for me was figuring out where to put the front door. You can imagine if you park in a normal parking spot there might be a car next to you, so you can't have it on the side. I chose the back, but on the side, so if I'm parallel parked I'm on the street side. There's also a step up to the door. I'm excited not to have the bed lofted because I also like using it as a chair, couch, or chill area.

PHOTO: Ben Gavelda

Future

I'm going to mill some olive wood that's been sitting for 20 years to make my countertop. I'll also have a fridge. I don't think I'm putting a toilet in it. I'm going to build some drawers on the outside to utilize all the dead space underneath the car. I'll probably put a winch and a different bumper up front. Under the bed, there will be some slide-out drawers--and a couple trapdoors here and there, places to stock some firewood.

What about the rumor you're going to put tracks on it?

Yeah, so that's been my big dream of mine. I want to push my backcountry experiences. I've gone snow camping and slept in tents and snowmobiled or splitboarded to remote places. The technology is there to put tracks on this vehicle and head out into the woods. And one of my favorite places to ride is Alaska. I'd love to put the tracks on this thing and head out to places where I can have my house at the bottom of AK spines. That just blows my mind. It's on the bucket list for sure.

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