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2003 Itasca Suncruiser 33V

Detailing the Custom Upgrades Done to Our First RV
Article Date: July, 2004


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Introduction

Our first RV was a 2003 Itasca Suncruiser 33V. It was the RV that we learned things on and got us hooked on RVing. It was 33' long and came on a Workhorse W20 chassis with the 8.1 liter Vortec V8 gasoline engine. It was silver/gray in color and did a decent job of matching our Jeep Grand Cherokee that we towed.

I installed a few extras to this RV. It originally came with two 12 volt house batteries. I built a custom battery shelf and mounted two more batteries on the driver's side of the coach. I then installed a Prosine 2500 watt true sine wave inverter to power the microwave and all of the 120 volt outlets in the RV. I added two 110 watt Siemens solar panels to the roof and added a few extra gauge to the dash as well as a Tire Sentry tire pressure monitoring system. I also added a SurgeGuard 50 amp surge protector to the shore power bay.

The First Big Trip

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This shot is taken at the West Summit of Beartooth Pass. US-212 crosses the Beartooth Mountains from Billings, MT and ends up in Yellowstone National Park. The section from Red Lodge, MT to Yellowstone is referred to as the Beartooth Highway and was described by Charles Kuralt as "America's most scenic highway". You'll climb some very steep switchbacks shortly after leaving Red Lodge. Eventually the pine forests give way to rocky terrain and later on to an alpine tundra landscape dotted with kettle lakes, glaciers, and permafrost. Winter comes early in this area and is severe. As you can see in the photo the marking sticks for the snow plows are pretty tall. The road generally opens around Memorial Day and is closed again by October due to heavy snow. This summit is at 10,947' It's an awesome feeling to be sitting in your motorhome and looking out (down actually) at snow covered mountaintops. And this is in the middle of June. It's one of our favorite drives but it can be taxing on large vehicles. For more information and pictures of the Beartooth Highway, be sure to check out my photos in the Photo Gallery section of this website.

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Once over the top of the West Summit the drive continues over the rolling tops of mountains. This shot was taken near a small kettle lake pull off area where we stopped for a photo break.

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After crossing mountaintops we decided to camp at the Top of the World Store. Top of the World is a small general store located in the middle of the Beartooths at around 10,000' of altitude. There was a rocky parking area that was made into camping spots next to the store where water and sewer hookups were found. No power was available because the entire store was run by a small diesel generator. There's definitely not going to be any power lines run to this location.

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Night of the Grizzly

This site was one of our more memorable stays. It gets pitch black at night up here and it's grizzly country. During the night we had "a visitor". We heard scratching and gnawing noises from underneath our bedroom. Thumping on the floor and various other techniques failed to drive it away. It turned out that a small grizzly was investigating our coach and had crawled under the back of it. Eventually we heard a boom and the grizzly ran off. At the same time out bedroom slide out went in. It turned out that the griz had chewed through our hydraulic hose that fed the bedroom slide. Because this hose was under pressure he got a face full of hydraulic oil as it squirted him. That finally drove him off. But, the slide would no longer extend and it would only squirt red hydraulic oil all over so the rest of that trip we had to live with a slide out that wouldn't go out. Further investigation revealed that Winnebago had lubricated the hoses before sliding them through the chassis loom. Rather than use a petroleum oil, which would eat away at the hose's rubber jacket, they used some kind of animal fat or whatever. The bear smelled the fat and decided it was edible.

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Our stay in Yellowstone was at Fishing Bridge. Fishing Bridge is best described as a large parking lot for RVs. But, it's the only campground with full hookups inside the park and it's a good location for wildlife viewing. The sites are short so your toad gets parked alongside. The person behind you backs his RV to your toad and his toad to your RV. There's not a whole lot of room here but the idea is that you are off seeing the park and only use it for sleeping anyway. If you want nice sites, go to Grizzly RV Park in West Yellowstone. Fishing Bridge does have location, location, location going for it though.

Electrical Mods

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I installed a Prosine 2500 watt inverter in this RV. There was no inverter as OEM and the only thing available was an optional 400 watt unit for the TV. I opted to install the Prosine 2500 in the driver's side storage compartment. I then ran it's output to a 4 breaker sub-panel that I located next to the main breaker panel. This sub-panel fed the microwave oven as well as the 3 receptacle circuits.

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I also added some extra gauges to monitor house battery voltage, transmission temperature, and fuel pressure. I installed these into the wood trim strip at the base of the dash, along with some rocker switches to control additional lighting and a Tire Sentry tire pressure monitoring system.

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The Suncruiser originally came with a cheesy VCR. To the left side of the TV was a CD changer and a space for the satellite receiver. This left no room for a DVD player. I replaced the original VCR with a DVD/VCR combo unit. This unit was wider than the original so I made a new shelf assembly to support it that was wider. I also installed the main switch for the KVH L3 in-motion satellite dome that I installed on the roof in that shelf assembly.

Solar Panels

My biggest mods were in adding even more boondocking capacity by adding solar panels and a charge controller. I installed two Shell SM-110 solar panels and a Solar Boost 50 amp charge controller. This gave me the ability to add more panels in the future but I never did until the next RV. I also didn't take any pictures of them until the next RV so if you want pictures look at the 2004 40DP webpage, which was our next motorhome.

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I also added a Norcold MRFT-60 freezer to the basement. This unit holds up to 100 lbs of food and runs on either 120 volt AC power or batteries and will automatically switch over as needed.

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I installed a SurgeGuard 50 amp surge protector in the basement compartment. This protected the coach's electrical system from any lightning spikes, power surges, or brownouts from low campground voltage.

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In order to facilitate getting to the valve stems for the Tire Sentry monitoring sensors I installed a pair of flexible stainless steel braided valve stem extensions. These were mounted to the center hub cap on the rear duals.

There were a few other mods done and more were on the list but after 18 months we upgraded to the 2004 Allegro Bus 40DP.


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