72 Dodge Travel Queen - Its coming alive

Finally.... found enough time & nerve to start a blog about this old gal. Took on this project in November 2012 and have not looked back since. First year rebuilt driver side of the camper (see our video - Camper Restoration PUBLIC_0001) and during the summer months finished three of the exterior sides. With a little fiberglass repair, sanding and 6 coats of marine based paint the verticle sides came to life. The original colors were an ivory base coat with a brown faux wood grain stripes. The sandstone base with burgandy  acccents (stripes and bumper, window eyebrow & fender) gives it a clean linear mimicking olde time flavor with an updated apperance. A little touch of jazz. After standing back to take a look at our work we realized that it darn near matches the house. We did not intentionally do this, it just happened - it works.

Spent hours stripping the curved part of the roof. The previous owners brush painted right over the nasty mold with no prep. It looked like crap. We found some really cool vinyl looking texture under all those layers of paint. Did some putty repair in the areas that needed it. Wiped everything down and gave it an industrial primer seal & finish coat of color matched sandstone gloss. Maybe this fall I put a new coat of white liquid roof on the center roof panels. Now that I completed the roof repairs; the drainage flows correctlly.

Just a quick shot of the original exterior with repair complete. Getting ready to paint

Here's a close up  of some of the cool texture we found under all those layers of paint. Small section in the upper right hand corner by the green tape.

We intalled a new escape hatch that is located towards the front cab. It was cracked, missing some of the seals & leaked. The original install was very creative yet flawed in design. All better now!!! The rear fiberglass storage compartment was all crazed and chalky from years of no maintenance. My better half did a great job of spraying a new layer of gelcoat (her first time). It was pretty tricky getting an exact color match to match the other two paint colors. Its not perfect but looks great. I think we'll leave it textured (no smooth gloss finish). It matches the upper section quite nicely. We are both pleased & the neighbors just get a kick out of it. No more white bread box.

Started working on the heavy mechanics during the winter of 2013 thru 2014. We are rebuilding the entire front end (almost done). Brakes, supension, steering, shocks, ball joints. All the rubber was dried out with a lot of free play in the steering. We found some rubbing on the chassis; come to find out that during its life time some mechanic installed the wrong tie rod on the passenger side. MMMMM.....Should float down the road with no more clunking and metal screaches. While we were waiting for parts to dry; we rebuilt the carburator. We gave the intake manifold and valve covers a new coat of high temp engine paint. Its not chrysler blue but I like the light blue color much better.

This is the orginal shot of the engine when we pulled it into our driveway. Not too bad...

This view is with the valve covers off. After degreasing to find the surfaces....

To this. Most everything removed, masked and painted. it shines

Then to this

Here's a quicky with the air filter on

This is going to be choppy in the sequence of events since we've been working on this for almost a 1 1/2 yrs. During the spring of 2013 we completely rebuilt the water system in the coach. It was quite on undertaking. Replaced the water pump, had an one inch crack in the hot water tank rewelded, all hot and copper cold water lines we ripped out and replaced.They were split and spewing ancient gooey antifreeze everywhere. What a mess!! The biggest improvement was adding two port holes to clean and maintain the main cold water tank. I found the information on line and decided to try it. Wow! what a difference. We would have died if we tried to drink the water in the H2O tank before we restored it. Nasty.  Painted and insulated both sides of the dinette seat compartments as well as under the sink.We ended up rebrazing and rebuilding the main valve to the bathroom since we most likely would never find a replacement part for the fold up toilet, sink & shower combination.

Down right nasty, scum inside. How to clean it out??

I added two 6" clear marine ports to get access to the interior of the tank. I am going to put together another blog in the future on the sequence how to do this upgrade. 

Tank is now cleaned, sanitized and installed in its newly painted insulated compartment

I found this in my archive folder. The new pump & insulated compartment. It took some time to prime, paint, water seal then insulate but I think our effort will be well worth it since we like to camp in cooler temperatures.

I got to thinking what was I doing last winter (2013) during the sub zero snowy months.

Ahhhh... TROPICAL.... wishing we was someplace warm, beaches, palm trees...

To satisfy my itch I sewed new roll up interior blinds out of exterior canvas for the windows. Something fun and bright that match the original color scheme. We upgraded all the interior lights in the coach with LED's and had new plastic lens covers made at out local plastic shop. They were all discolored & cracked from the heat of the old bulbs. LED's run much cooler and won't draw your battery down as quickly; some black pinstriping & voila!!!!

Old cover below. New cover above over the sink with the new blinds.

Crawled out to breathe from another exiciting weekend of degreasing, acid etching and more painting. Note the tone of sarcasm. Yicks I don't think this will ever end. Seriously... we are coming along slowly between the bitter cold and snow; rebuilding the "Queen's" front end. Thank God for my mechanic friend Eric and his patience. With three pairs of eyes we have been succesful on locating all the parts, dismantling and reassembling so far. I am so glad that we decided to do a complete rebuild because we have discovered some disturbing things that past mechanics attemped to do. We would have had a hair raising experience trying to come down the mountains here in Colorado if we had not throughly gone through all the mechanical systems. Growing up in a family that owned a major transportaion company; my grandfathers and uncles distant advise rings in my mind still to this day. Make sure you can stop, steer and always have a good pair of sneakers (tires). We discovered that the passenger side had a wrong tie rod and two of the springs were broken, one spring was missing and the adjustment plate missing on the brakes. WOW!! That's a recipie for disaster. No wonder it was pulling to the right. My advise - take the time to check all brake and suspension components before any long trips. Be safe.

Rear plate, upper and lower arms not in too bad of shape. No major pitting or bending. Just yucky.

Starting to assemble painted components with new supension parts. It's just like christmas. A long awaited suprise.

We are not finished yet. Hopefully in the month of March or April we can drive it back into town and have an alignment done and a new exhaust system installed. It's all about flow!!

2015 - Almost to the date a year ago; I stopped chronicling. A lot has happened restoring the “Queen”. She has taken on her own persona; an entity in itself. Evil at times, beckons our time, demands our allegiance and graces us with her presence….. she grins as she glistens in the sunlight. There are stories within stories, slowly but surely the journey of rebuilding this olde gal twists and turns to her final glory……….

Back to reality!! I think this project is one of those on going saga’s that requires perpetual putzing. It’s certainly not a one year project.

Let’s start where I left off. While rebuilding the front end I was hopeful that the Queen would be back home by the early spring. That didn’t happen. It wasn’t until early June that she landed in the driveway.

Between the lack of ability with the folks in the part store to order the correct parts (my “fix it” friend insisted on using) and his procrastination to finish the front end, brakes, carb and 2 seals that we agreed on. It took longer than expected.

In the interim I was able to paint all the wheel rims, drain all the gas out of 3 tanks and pull both the auxiliary gas tanks for rehabilitation. The gas itself was the worst smelling crap I have ever encountered. I had them both boiled cleaned at a local radiator shop. One tank I have been able to restore with a new liner and a fresh coat of paint on the outside. No leaks. Hooked it up with new stainless steel distribution lines, rubber and shut off valve. Not too shabby.

Both fenders repaired and painted. Wheel rims nice and snazzy

The other tank is like swiss cheese. Worked on it for a bit then I set it aside to work on later. I am not sure if I will be to save it. The gas sat in the bottom of that one for too many years.

One more strap to attach and away we go

During this time the dinette cushions where being remade at the upholsterers. It took a month before they could begin our project but well worth the wait and money. We chose the densest and thickest foam that worked beautifully in that space. I wanted them to be covered in an auto vinyl to mimic cushions in a boat with the different colored beading, easy cleaning, and be super comfortable for seating/sleeping. We kept with light neutral colors to be similar to the original cushions.

Bring on the beach – here we come.

Cozy & Comfy

What broke the camels back? It was almost June and our friend can not get the brakes to work right. He says "I've done hundreds of brake jobs - it doesn't make sense. I just don't get what's wrong." Well.... enough is enough. Both sides were done with the arrangement. My better half says is it drivable to get it down the road. Yup. He drove it and parked it in our driveway. We squared up on the agreed price and parted our ways. All of us learned alot and really concentrated on some of the mechanicals and more cosmetics. It was a 75% a good experience but that 25% was really madenning, beyond frustrating. If I had to do it again. Yes, with some different approaches.

Why did the brakes not work right??? Mmm. I really did not want to learn about the brakes on this beast but we had to. We were not going anywhere even to drive it into town (12 miles down the road) to have a real mechanic repair these. So I crawled underneath and that is when I turned into raving maniac!!! My head started spinning around. I have not been that angry in years!!! What I found was unbelievable. There was a whole host of issues that we worked through in the months of June and July with 100 degree heat it just fried our brains. He bleed the brakes fluid all over my nicely painted wheel rims!! You got be kidding me. I found a pin hole in one of the rear brake lines that we did not replace at first. No wonder the brakes wouln't come to pressure unless they were pressed to the floor. Installed a new one. Replaced the brake master cylinder again with the RIGHT one. Now we have even pressure to each side of the brakes. What I couldn't grasp was the fact we left the original repair manual to fix these things. The repair manual itself is excellent with notes from previous mechanics. Anyways, the beat goes on. The springs on the shoes where put on the wrong side even though clearly stamped "L & R". Wow! Everything said and done and several scary test drives we took it as a good learning opportunity. We now know how to change our tires - had to purchase a good tire iron & made a cheater bar which we keep on board. Learned how to bench bleed a master cylinder correctly and bleed brake lines correctly without getting fluid all over freshly painted parts. And of coarse had to acquire a few more tools to add to our collection. We drove it into town - had 2 new matching front tires installed, a good spare tire, and had the alignment checked. Voila six months later and half the summer gone we have a clean bill of health.

This strange little box off to the right hand side of the steering column is a cruise control. We both looked at each other and decided this thing has to go. Neither one of us would have been willing to drive long distances with that thing. It was half disconnected and didn't work anyways. Out the window it goes. I did use the knob on it for the Frankenstien electrical panel. In its place we put a tach meter on the column to help us tune the carburetor. Thank god we did this. It wasn't running quite right when we got her home. We threw on a timing light - adjusted that. Tweaked the carb by ear and with the visual RPM meter we got her purring like a kitten.

My goal was to do a couple of dry camping runs in the fall. That never happened. The first item that needed attention was the old single stage converter/single stage battery charger got replaced with a smarter multi stage charger. I really did not want to cook my new house battery.

Saved a few bucks by reusing the distibution board that was a part of the old converter. I installed it on the side wall by the converter and made a safety cover to protect the board (not shown). It works great!!

Bought a single simple 12 volt deep cycle battery. Might rebuild compartment in the future a little larger with a slide tray for easy access for maintenace.

Here is some really scary fiberglass roof repair to fix a leak and to take out a buckle in the roof that was causing puddling. I felt like a surgeon cutting open a chest cavity.

While I was playing surgeon I had to install a new emergency exit vent. The original was all cracked and leaking. By increasing the height with a slight modification to the original fiberglass flange it is now water tight.

Lower panel primed and painted with base color. Masking layout its ready for the burgandy stripes.

We decided to be safe on our first maiden voyage.; kept close to home to try out all the hook ups, appliances and widget gagets. We went to our local KOA that is about 12 miles away. Not far. My 80 year old mother was visiting from Connecticut and was game for taking her out with us on our first adventure. Truly a maiden voyage. We strapped her in the front passenger seat, closed the door. She says "Aren't you coming". My reply "No I am going to follow with the car; just in case" She panicked and wants to drive with me. I was insistent that she be the co pilot: I followed right behind. We had a great time. Three adults in that little rig really worked great. She was amazed how cozy yet roomy, she could stand up in the cabin and how everything worked. She said “This is certainly not like our boats we grew up in. I hated cooking in that galley when you were kids. This kitchen is really nice. You got everything" I remember those moments as a kid. What fun we had. It was all the food preparation she did working out of ice coolers. The cramped quarters she had to maneuver in just to heat water for a cup of coffee. Doing dishes in a bucket of water. This was like a castle. We did find a couple of things that still needed attention. Over all we were happy.

The kitchen needed to be outfitted more to our liking and suggestions from Mom. I made a small magnetic knife holder (left side wall above the back of stove), added two small spice racks (back wall of stove) and a custom undercabinet wine glass holder (upper right).

Painted the polar white entrance and battery door. Tones them down so they don't stand out as much. I pushed myself to installed the last eyebow over the entrance door and painted the roof vent covers before the first snow.The furnace burners were thoughly cleaned and work beautifully. Quickly added a insect screen over the furnace opening to keep the little critters out.  Now I am ready for the snow.

One of the major projects I wanted to get done was the coach electrical gadgetry. We wanted a small entertainment center towards the back dinette. This was a little pricey between the cost of the TV, articulating arm and antenna. We occasionally like to watch a video, catch the weather station, listen to a lot of music and  to be able to sync up our other electronic gadgets. We chose a Majestic 12 volt 21" TV. Great choice. It has everything we were looking for; other than Bluetooth. It has such a low amp draw (1.6 amps) we run it all day long without having to charge the battery. Well built. The Australians have it together when it comes to 12 volt technology.

Here's a photo of it almost completely installed.

Measured, drilled some holes and cut an opening in the refigerator ventalation area. Ran the cables and wires through this open access area. 

Made a custom cover plate. It took three different plates but I finally got the layout I was looking for. A 12 volt outlet, antenna connection and a power switch to turn the ciruit on or off. The switch eliminates the phantom load when we are not using it.

Next I wanted to monitor our house battery from inside the cabin vs running around with hand held meters. It was a little tricky, it drove me crazy that I started out with a defective Amp meter. There is an Amp meter, Volt meter, Power switch for the Volt meter, Fuse holder for the meter lights, switch for the meter lights and an additional switch for the refrigerator exhaust fans (fans and thermo switch are not installed yet). It all got done and are working fantastic.

The little meter panel reminds me of the huge laboratory panels in a 1930 Frankenstein monster movie. Or is it a lopsided raggie anne doll? One square button and one round button for the eyes. 

While doing some of this electrical work I came across a really scary upgrade that one of the past owners did. They used lamp wire, no in line fuse, non insulated terminals that are all frayed and were touching the side of the chewed out access hole. Please take the time and inspect your wiring. Fix it right. Be safe.

I am pleased with our cluster of widget gadets.

Here are a few things that I learned; being a rookie to all this. The following are things that I did that made me laugh at myself that I am willing to share.

1. Remove the new drain hose from the dump valve before moving the vehicle. Even if it only 6 inches. I smooched the hose flat.

2. Always have a water regulator on the garden hose that is attached to the city water fitting while testing the water system. The pressure blew the fitting off an interior hose and filled the inside with water. Did not know what was happening until the water came gushing out the bottom of the rig.

3. Do not put your face in front of the little access hole on the furnace while blowing the burners with compressed air. I went into the house and my entire face was cover with crap. Thank god I were glasses. When I took those off to see. I realized I looked like little black sambo.

4. Always wear a belt while standing on a ladder and your hands are full of paint. My pants had fallen down to the point my crack was showing itself with paint all over my ass. The neighbor lady is knocking on her window pointing and laughing to pull my pants up.

My point is always "crack a smile" when things are not going your way.

I'm gonna finish this blog and start an new one next year.

To continue with the adventures "The Queen"

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Tags: Dodge Travel Queen Restoration, How to P:aint Your RV, RV Water Lines and Tank Repair, RV Water tank Restoration


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Comment by Rich Thomas on February 26, 2015 at 5:03pm

Really liked reading your blog. Laughed at the dropping trousers. back when I was a young man I was riding a motorcycle through a field next to a road. I had successfully jumped a large ditch and was ripping it up for close to an hour. little did I know that when I jumped the ditch I split my pants from crotch to belt loops and had continued to put on a show for all who traveled up that road.

Comment by Jimco_W001 on February 23, 2015 at 9:21pm

I really admire your work.Thanks for sharing it with us.Looking forward to your next blog.

Comment by Russell E Johnson on February 23, 2015 at 1:51am

Just got done reading your blog, and I am very impressed with the work you have done.  That MH looks great, it is simple yet has a stunning look to it.  I am greatly anticipating your next posting and the enclosed pictures.  

Comment by P. Vallerie on March 16, 2014 at 8:34pm
Annette.This olde 72 dodge is 20feet bumber to bumper. Fits in a standard parking space. I'll have to take some full interior shots. There are some interior shots on my video. The original paneling good shape with a nice patina. The 70's lime green scream's beach party! Thanks for checking us out. This project has been so much fun. P.
Comment by annette phillips on March 15, 2014 at 10:08pm

Wow, what a uniquely designed RV. I've never seen anything like this, I'll have to do a search, I would love to see a full view of the inside. The back is really unique as well, so I wonder what that part looks like inside. What is the length on this?

Anyways, that IS a very nice paint job, and ha, ha, that is so funny that subconsciously you liked those colors on your home, so it's not surprising that the RV colors ended up that way too. 

I love that is a 76, I was nervous buying a 1988, wondering if it was too old. This is our very first one. I love seeing others having our year and earlier, it gives me hope that there is indeed still life in these older babies.

Wonderful Job, and I have to show this to my husband, all the engine stuff, he will find it very interesting.

Comment by Betty-Shea Hoffman on February 22, 2014 at 1:22pm
Hi ! Wow....what amazing work of love! Those ol'Dodges are great and worth the work....I have a 76 Dodge Sportsman ....with a Chinook M/H body.
Where will you go camping on the first trip? Keep on havin' fun!!!
Comment by Dale and Lynne Park on February 21, 2014 at 4:22pm

Really AWESOME!!  You guys are so talented.  It looks great, can't wait to see the finished QUEEN!

Comment by marcel lemieux on February 18, 2014 at 9:33am

What a great looking rig..great work done..congratulation its awesome

Comment by Lakota Wolf on February 2, 2014 at 7:33pm

Now that is a very nice restore... I like the pictures as you explain in the story line.. I like the paint scheme, and I had to double look,and yes, it does match the house color. You have done an amazing job. Thanks for sharing.. Hope to see and read more as you progress..



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