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Old 04-22-2014, 09:42 AM   #1
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Posts: 52
New to forums, restoring a 1977 Class C

Hi, I've been browsing this forum for information to help in my Class restoration project for a month now and decided I should join in.
I've a life long tent camper and backpacker but started enjoying the luxury of using a travel trailer 4 years ago with my then boyfriend. When we broke up 2 months ago he bought me out on our little 19' Road Runner and I realized I would really miss having all those conveniences for my road trips and kayak outings, especially since I have semi retired this year and plan to retire fully in 2015 and have so much time to work on my bucket list.

Since I would have been severely limited in trailer selection due to driving a Subaru, I decided to look for a Class C or B (both of which the ex and I had frequently rented on trips out West). I found a super-vintage 1977 Elkhart with less than 28,000 miles on it, built on a Ford E350 Chateau. The owner had made many upgrades in the 4 years he had it including a brand new large two door Dometic fridge, 6 new tires, 2 new deep cycle batteries and many tweaks and services (got an entire box of service records and reciepts going back to the 1955 pink slip.) Classic 1970's decor of burnt orange shag carpet, harvest gold bath and kitchen fixtures, floral wallcovering in the bath and lots of paneling. I plan to retain and enhance the retro look and it just needs a lava lamp to complete the ambiance. Runs like a champ. Of course there is always a rat in the woodpile somewhere and of course the issue here was the classic Class C demon, cabover leakage. The seller admitted it was "damp" in the bunk and I could smell some mildew, but he said he had sealed it the previous season. The price was so low I figured I would deal with it ($3,500) and we closed the deal.

As soon as it was warm enough to work on it I started tearing out the bunk area and discovered a real horror show. Someone had previously dealt with the soaked plywood by simply adding another sheet of plywood on top! I pulled that off, also cutting the warped and waterlogged MDF bunk slider shelf out and removing it. The original plywood below, which rested on the cab shell in the middle and had been screwed from below to the side wall framing to support the whole bunk, was 90% decayed to nothing but handfulls of wet blackened mulch. Removing the paneling from the walls revealed not just water rotted wood but that 40% of the 2 x 4 under the front window had been devoured by termites -- not my imagination as there was a pile of dead termites in the wall. I shudder to think of anyone sleeping up there as the smell of decay and the insects was disgusting.

But I'm a handy girl (have all my own tools and have worked in construction and completely remodeled my own homes for decades) and welcome a challenge, so I scooped and cut every bit of destroyed wood out. Weighed it before I set it out for the trash and there was over 250 lobs of decayed and waterlogged junk in there that was completely unsupported from the side walls, just resting on about 3' of the cab frame and mostly on the sheet metal, which of course had created gaps and tears at the seams on the corners of the exterior skin. Also saw while working in it during a rain storm that water was pouring in around the front window frame. I've been photo-documenting the demo and will eventually post a blow by blow of the rebuild.

The biggest challenge has been extracting the screws that held everything together Prior owners had used drywall screws through the skin to hold some added components in place so those of course had rusted to near oblivion. But what really bugged me is that the original factory build (by Elkhart) had used steel sheet metal screws with either hex drive or square drive and more than a third of them were so corroded that the heads no longer were usable for extraction. I had to use a bent tip needle-nosed pliers to grip the rusted blobs that remained and laboriously turn each screw, millimeters at a time, to get them removed from the sheet metal and what remained of the wood backing. i was appalled at the cheapness of the construction -- the framing looks like old shipping crate scrap, cobbled together with staples and rusted nails. And why the heck would a company use such water absorbing materials in an installation known to be vulnerable to moisture damage??

But now all the offending materials are out and I have the skin detached from the corner edge screw moldings and peeled loose from the seam over the windshield and up to the roof line. I have decided that the front window is just a liability for leakage and brings in too much solar heat. So, since I am not salvaging it and because all the edges of the outer skin wrapping from the roof to under the cab have holes and ragged edges from having all the rot laying on it for years, I plan to cut the sheet metal just below the roof line and have a sheet metal fab shop make me one big piece, with a 3" lip folded back under at the top and bottom.

Once I rebuild the side framing (using rot proof cedar framing reinforced with aluminum channel to cantilever the bunk weight from the strong upright framing behind the cab doors) I will use double faced Eternabond to seal the overlapping roof skin to the new sheet metal (the preformed lip should block water being driven under as well) and shoot stainless steel square drive screws through the seam for rigid connection. Then I will wrap the solid metal down under the cabover and seal it the same way. Then I will wrap the 90 degree skin seams between the side walls and wrapped skin with 4" Eternabond and reinstall the aluminum molding over the seams with more of the stainless screws, driving into the new wood inside. The new deck bed will be a welded mesh shelf like a trundle bed flat screen (also custom built by a fab shop) supported by aluminum channel on the sides and front with a center support of cedar 2 x 4. Before sealing up the walls and floor with solid foam insulation ( to replace the pink fiberglass fluff that was just a hotel for insects) I will spray the inside aluminum with truck bed coating for insulation, protection and sound deadening. Instead of wood paneling, I have solid PVC to cover the internal framing. Will also build a fabric padded headboard with sewn in pockets for tissues, glasses, etc.

I'm hoping all this will make a "better mousetrap".

Has anybody here had experience having a metal fabrication shop create replacement skin sections or other components for their rig?

Anyway, hi to everybody and I have already found some great information on here for getting my "old girl" on the road. Looking forward to learning more.

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Old 04-22-2014, 12:16 PM   #2
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Looking forward to your pictorial display.

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Old 04-22-2014, 08:15 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forum!
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Old 04-22-2014, 09:08 PM   #4
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Welcome aboard. Since you are handy and not afraid to tackle a project, I'm sure your "old girl" will be on the road not too far in the future. Enjoy the forum.
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Old 04-23-2014, 03:09 AM   #5
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Howdy and welcome aboard. Glad you joined us. Sounds like quite a project. Be sure to keep us up to date with the progress. Enjoy!
Steve & Sally / HiTee & Hudson Our Little Poms / Heidi & Houston Forever in our Hearts
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Old 04-23-2014, 04:02 AM   #6
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Old 04-23-2014, 06:23 AM   #7
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Welcome to the forum and good luck with your project....
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Old 04-23-2014, 06:35 AM   #8
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Welcome to the Forum. This looks like a wonderful project and be sure to post pictures. Best of luck. Wish I could give you some suggestions but what you are doing is beyond my knowledge.

Happy RV'ing
George and Brenda
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Old 04-23-2014, 07:21 AM   #9
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Welcome to IRV2! It's great to have you join the crew!

Have fun with the "old girl"! Enjoy the forum!

Good luck, happy trails, and God bless!
Joe & Annette

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Old 04-23-2014, 07:25 AM   #10
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Pictures please!
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Old 04-23-2014, 10:00 AM   #11
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The old girls (both of us!)

Here she is, the day I bought her and before the renovation began. Since this was taken I've peeled off the skin from below the roof marker lights to the seam over the windshield, shoveled 250 lbs of rotted wood and MDF out of the cabover, painted the wheels white to match and scraped off most of the faded decals. She'll get a new front skin, eliminating the front window, new cedar and aluminum internal framing and a re-engineering sleeping deck. And lots of Eternabond and stainless steel fasteners.

I've posted other photos over in a thread in the Class C forum (though somebody suggested i have the admin switch it to the "vintage" forum which I might do.)
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Old 04-23-2014, 10:22 AM   #12
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Looks like you are well under way on the renovations.

Keep us posted on your progress and post pics.
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Old 04-23-2014, 06:03 PM   #13
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Welcome and glad to meet you!

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