This all started back in July 2012.

 

My folks started talking about sending their old motorhome off to the crusher seeing as it hadn't been used in years.

 

 

They bought this used rig just before my dad retired and they enjoyed it for 20+ years touring around Ireland and Western Europe. Unfortunately, the damp Irish weather wasn't kind to it and the rust demons finally caught up and did their thing. It seemed like every year, my dad was repairing rust on the cab. But in 2006, he noticed the firewall had rusted through quite badly and he became concerned with the safety of the rig, so it was moved to the bottom of the garden and was parked for good. From then on, it's primary function was for storage and it filled up pretty quick with all sortsa stuff.. So when they started talking about clearing it out and getting rid of it, I got a lump in my throat. I mean this camper has been in the family forever. We had such a great time in it, I can't even begin to think about it being broken up and scrapped. No sir.

 

When I expressed an interest in taking it away and fixing it up, my folks were delighted and told us that we could have it if that's what we wanted to do. They've moved onto other things now that they are in their later years and they've lost interest in the camping lifestyle. We, on the other hand, are very active campers. We get away as often as we can in our Outwell hartford family tent. So upgrading to an RV will be fantastic, especially considering the family history of our old coachmen. Consider it a new chapter in the life of the old girl! The only downside is that there is a LOT of sweat equity due on this camper before we put a tyre on the road!

 

My plan... Simply to repair the cab 100%, refurb the accommodation unit, and enjoy the camper with my own family and maybe feed some of my own nostalgia along the way... No other camper will do. I'm sure some of you know that story....

 

It wasn't in great shape. Here is what we saw when we pulled the tattered covers down off it.

 

It didn't look too bad on first inspection, but after pulling back some carpet & panels, and some probing with a pointy screwdriver, we uncovered LOTS of problems... Firewall, floors, doors, etc. all rotten.

 

The firewall and wiper well being the biggest problem -

 

Both doors were shot too.

 

Knowing this, we continued.

 

We started off by getting the engine running which took several weekends of cursing & swearing, but it eventually fired up - It hadn't run in several years prior to this so I was really happy it came to life and fired on all 8. :)
We had to move the camper to my workshop where the real teardown could begin. Even though it was now running and driving (just about) I had some concerns about the drivetrain and brakes, and figured it wasn't safe enough to drive the 40 miles to my home, so we decided to get a breakdown hauler to transport it for us on a flatbed.

 

On the 28th Oct 2012 I started stripping down the front end. The lions share of this overhaul is the sheet metal on the cab which has been eaten away by years of exposure in a salty, coastal environment.

Yes there is supposed to be a bulkhead under the windscreen. Mostly rust & cobwebs here... (yikes)

 

 

Cardboard bulkhead in progress ... :-)

 

 

Initially I had hoped to make repairs. Making cardboard templates, then transferring the patterns to steel. I intended to fabricate a bulkhead and other components which had rotted away. After a lot of weekends, beating, cutting and shaping sheet metal, I realised this was going to take YEARS to complete at the rate I was going. Also, I became uncomfortable with the thought of having a Frankenstein cab. Not good. My morale and ambition began to wain. I stopped all fabrication work on the cab around February 2013 and started working on plan B.

 


Plan B:
So long story short, I searched for a donor van that I could scrap and harvest the parts I needed. On July 2013 I bought the remains of a 1988 GMC G2500 van from a local van enthusiast. I stripped it down and took the parts I needed..

 

 

Chop Chop Chop!

 

 

 

 

I then rolled it into the shed to make modifications to the donor cab so that it would fit onto our motorhome. I  spent the next couple of months just working on the cab section alone. The donor cab is a 1988 G2500 which is NOT the same as our 1980 G35 so some extensive modification was required to make it work.

 

 

I had to do some work on rusty patches around the windshield frame. I was going to just de-rustify them and fill over with bondo, but I decided to do it right and cut out the rot and weld in new clean metal. Easier to do it now, than later when I have the cab fitted to the camper.

 

 

I pulled the engine and transmission out of the camper on the last week of October 2013 - 6.7 litre (400ci) V8,  TH400 trans.

 

And started cutting away at what was left of the cab.

 

 

It's been slow progress... I've had some pretty serious corrosion issues on my front cross member so I had to deal with that. Unfortunately this involved stripping the front suspension right down to it's component parts (which was no harm, but wasn't on the master plan). I was able to use the cross member from my donor van, so it was a matter of doing a parts-swop from one to another. The original member was too badly rusted through to consider re-using. That diversion added a few weeks to the project. I also discovered some pretty serious pitting on the kerb-side lower control arm, so for safety sake, I decided to buy a new one from rockauto.

 

So for the past few weeks I've only been able to refurb the front suspension components and finish painting the chassis. I got the components sandblasted locally. I also did some work on the top capping on the chassis rails. They were a bit thin in places so I replaced them while I was able to get at them.
I finished all that off with 3 coats of rustbullet 'automotive' (silver) and 2 coats of rustbullet 'blackshell'. So with any luck, I won't have any more rust issues under there! I still might give it all a coat of some sort of rubberised bed-liner or some sort of heavy stone chip, just to protect it...   still need to make my mind up on that.

Last weekend I got around to fitting the donor cab to the front of the camper so that's a pretty significant milestone for me... :cool:

A few photos -

 

Bad corrosion on the back of the cross member.

Out with the old (bottom), in with the new'ish [ (top) -
I got all of the parts sandblasted then painted them with Rustbullet paint.

I had repainted this control arm, but decided not to use it in the end. The pitting was a bit too bad for my liking.

I made up a make-shift engine stand for the V8 from a few bits of scrap 40mm & 20mm box. It'll make the engine clean up a little easier.

Replaced the top capping on both chassis rails -

 

Fitted the cab :-)

Once I have the cab refurb complete we'll be switching focus to the habitation unit -

Its in relatively good order considering it's age. It's just a little tired. Everything works and we've scrubbed the heck out of it, so its good enough to sleep & live-in right now. It just needs to be brought into the 21st century.  There are no significant signs of leaks or rot in the ceilings, walls or floors apart from one small area in the ceiling in the overcab which needs to be sorted. We'll be giving it a sympathetic modernisation, nothing too mad. Replacing fabrics & floor coverings and upgrading the electrics. The shag pile carpets have seen their day so laminate wood flooring is probably on the list.

I had a play with the coleman furnace which promptly fired up after finding an electrical fault in the wall thermostat. :-)

 

So.... that's where we are right now in February 2014.

 

I'm doing all of this work in my spare time.

Unfortunately, I only have time on the weekends as what I do for a living involves long days at the office followed by long commute to & from work. So wrenching on the camper is my weekend therapy.

 

You'll notice that progress is generally pretty slow.

 

I have a rebuild thread going over on Motorhomecraic if you want to read the full story... http://www.motorhomecraic.com/forum/topic.php?t=2063&page=1

 

More updates to follow.

 

 

 

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Comment by Dale and Lynne Park on June 24, 2014 at 11:10am

I bow to you sir!!  Never in a million years would we have the skill or nerve to take on such a project.  It will be so grand to know every inch of your rig inside and out, know you fashioned it and know the history as well.  Thanks for sharing.  Great floorplan too, one of my favorites. 

Comment by Dereks Amazing Circus on June 24, 2014 at 11:00am
Kevin,kudos to you! You have done an amazing job, not sure I would have had the patients to do what you have under taken. If you find yourself needing parts,let us know. I live here in Texas and I'm always checking out junk yards for this or that.
Comment by Kevin Crowley on June 24, 2014 at 3:31am

I guess an update is due!

I decided to clean up the engine and give it a lick of paint. Spent a nice weekend just de-rusting the engine and painting it with a good quality paint. Decided on Black as I wanted it to be understated.

Well I painted it up nice and figured, before I put it back onto the chassis, I may as well drop the pan and replace the oil pump. That's when things got interesting.... While I was cleaning some sludge from the pan, I noticed a few dreaded pieces of metal. It took a while to figure out what they were, but they turned out to be pieces of an oil scraper ring from Piston #1. Not good.


So there was nothing for it but to tear down the engine and give it a proper inspection see just how bad things were. Result of the inspection was scoring on #1 from the damaged rings and rust corrosion on cylinders #3 and #5 as a result of head or head gasket issues and some coolant had found it's way into the cylinders. :-(

So after some research, I decided the cheapest option was to get the cylinders bored out to .20thou and rebuild the engine. So that's where I'm at now with that. I'm going to give the engine a full restoration while I have it torn down this far, I may as well go the whole 9 yards and replace bearings, frost plugs, guides etc etc...

Mmmm, nice new pistons...

I'm hoping to have the engine finished in the next few weeks and then I can continue with the rest of the camper rebuild.

I'm still working on the cab in between. Making sure the panels are straight and everything looks right.. My target right now is to have the surface prep finished and cab painted by October/November all going well. Then proceed with bolting on all of the running gear and get on with the rather substantial snag list.

I managed score a replacement blower housing recently which was a big plus for me. Most vans I've seen so far are fitted with huge plastic AC housings, but our original was without AC and had a very tidy blower housing. Quite difficult to find. I've been on the lookout for the last 12 months and it was looking like I'd have to fabricate a new one. but luckily I was in TX last week on business and found a junkyard that had a couple of chevys and one of them was without AC. Score!

Comment by Kevin Crowley on March 3, 2014 at 4:36am

I hope so Lakota. 

Comment by Lakota Wolf on March 1, 2014 at 3:59pm

A good trans flush will do it good.. You went beyond safe on the trans. I dont fore-see you having any problems. ALL transmissions accumilate some condensation and usually burn it off when trans warms up.

Ive done what Jim Stoltz has done, disconnect a trans line to empty into a bucket and other trans line to suck in fresh.  Your doing an amazing job with your *Serious restore. Kudo's to you.

Comment by Jim Stoltz on February 28, 2014 at 10:27am

Wow! I need to learn how to weld. You've done some truly amazing work.

I wouldn't sweat the water in the transmission. I restored an '01 Cadillac DTS that was submerged in a flood. I'm familiar with the pink milkshake. I unhooked a trans line while it was running and let the pump expel the bad stuff as it drew in new fluid. Despite all of the naysayers, the transmission (and the rest of the car) worked perfectly post-restoration. I didn't touch the drivetrain at all except to replace the fluids.

Comment by Kevin Crowley on February 28, 2014 at 6:31am

I got busy with the transmission recently. While the camper was laid up, a small amount of rain water found its way into the transmission case. As soon as I discovered that the transmission fluid changed colour from clear ruby red to "milkshake" pink colour, I dropped the pan and drained it immediately. I recon I didn't drive the camper more than 100 yards before discovering this, so I'm hoping the clutch packs are ok and weren't affected by the contaminated ATF.

I stripped the belly of the trans last weekend and decontaminated the galleries and valve body. There were small traces of grey sludge in the pan and in a few corners of the galleries, but I read that this can be fairly normal for auto transmissions... I also spent a considerable amount of time draining the torque converter. Not the easiest job in the workd, but I did makage to remove +3 litres from it by twisting & turning it A LOT and letting the fluid run out of the centre tube!... I even resorted to siphoning out a lot with a large syringe and a long tube... I'm satisfied that I have most of the fluid out of it now.

I know I'm taking a gamble, but I'm trying to restore  the camper on a very tight budget so it's a gamble worth taking...

Grey sludge -

Comment by Jimco_W001 on February 15, 2014 at 11:34pm

I helped replace a roof on a class c Coachmen once and there was a lot of time involved in that project.Good to see that you stuck with it.Enjoy your Chevy!

Comment by Lakota Wolf on February 12, 2014 at 8:56pm

All I can say is WOW.. Very superb job. Excellent story line with the photo's. Your doing an awesome job.

Comment by P. Vallerie on February 12, 2014 at 5:37pm
Positively awesome! That is some serious body work that you have done. The pictures are fantastic - gives a glimps into the real nitty gritty. The amount of work that you have put in will pay off for years of enjoyment. Thanks for sharing your restore story with all of us.

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