Saturday, 30 June 2007

First outing!

The first official outing of the Blue Whale was on the June 23rd weekend, at the Stoneham Campground.
We camp there every year, with the same bunch of relatives and friends: me (popup), my brother Eric (Airstream trailer), my brother Luc (popup), sister-in-law Roxanne (tent), cousin Jean-Luc (fifthwheel trailer), friend Gerry (Class A motorhome), cousin Roger (Class B motorhome), and of course my parents, with their "new" Travco 270. With the spouses and kids, we were about 25 people, installed on 8 campsites along a beautiful little river.

Most of the campers in our group showed up at the campground during the afternoon. Except the Travco, wich was still missing. Remembering in wich state the Travco was the last time I saw it 4 days earlier, I kept wondering how Dad would ever get the thing ready in time. Soon after I got to my campsite, I phoned Mom to enquire about the situation. She said that the front wheels were still off, but Dad, while filling the engine with coolant, said he was confident they would be in Stoneham before sunset. At the campground we were all waiting for the Travco to show up.

Around 8pm, as we were chatting in Gerry's motorhome, the Travco suddenly showed up. We all came out to welcome the Blue Whale.

Nobody really knew what to expect (in fact no one was sure they would even make it to the campground!), so most expected to see an old wreck of RV, with a smoking and rattling engine. But to everyone's surprise, what we were looking at was a very nice looking classic RV, with a very smooth running and almost silent engine. Everybody was impressed, to say the least.

In a few seconds the Blue Whale was parked, and all could finally get closer to the old-style motorhome. All could climb aboard and visit, in fact we actually spent most of the evening inside the Whale, talking restoration, what has been done, and what's left to do. That's where I learned that Dad woke up at 5am on that day, there was still so much to do to get her ready that he was working on it a 5:45 in the morning!

Once on it's way to Stoneham, everything was perfect. The engine ran smoothly, handling was good, good braking too. It also was Mom's first ride in the Travco, and she sure enjoyed the trip.

Good friend Gerry taking a closer look at the famous retractable step:

We all spent a fantastic weekend at Stoneham, and the trip back home was uneventful.

From now on, Dad is going to take it easier on the restoration work. Most urgent repairs have been completed. There are still a lot of things to fix, but nothing major. I'll keep the blog up to date with pictures of the restoration work as much as I can.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Ready to go camping?

Good news, the Class C has been sold!
The selling price had been set for a quick sale, and that's what happened. Dad was glad to get rid of it, he was sure he was going to get stuck with it, because there are a lot of similar motorhomes for sale on the used market.

A lady bought it, after having someone inspect it for her. The guy who came to inspect it said it was very neat, and was impressed by Dad's work on the Travco. The lady phoned back the following day just to tell how happy she was about her purchase, how good it ran, etc. It sure was a good deal for her, there was nothing to do on this motorhome, everything was in top shape, all you had to do is turn the key and drive off.

On the Travco, we are starting to see some interesting developpements.
First, the bathroom: the toilet, with its new fiberglass-reinforced base, has been reinstalled. Same for the repaired black water tank. Everything seems to be working fine. Note the new floor, and also the nice decorative painting made by Mom.

The black water tank was held up by two metal straps, one was badly rusted, so Dad replaced it with a heavy-duty nylon strap:

The famous hydraulic-operated retractable door step is now installed. All that's left do to is some electrical wiring (Dad didn't have an appropriate toggle switch yet). And this thing works beautifully! On the picture you can see the two small hydraulic actuators:

Also the water tank, now real clean after a good bleach soaking, is back in it's compartment. This allowed Dad to test the plumbing system. Everything works just fine (sink, toilet, shower, ect.) and there are no leaks.

Dad also checked the LP gas piping and appliances (heater, stove), everything works fine.

It might look unusual to check for basic things like plumbing and heating, one month after the motorhome purchase. In fact, very few of these systems have been checked before the purchase. After all, if something doesn't work, that's only one more thing to fix, and there is nothing that can't be fixed or replaced anyway. The seller said that just about everything was in working order, and so far he was honest.

So we tested a few more "untested" things. First, the air conditionning unit. It's a Coleman Mach III rooftop unit, that due to the cracked housing and missing vents, looks quite miserable. I plugged it in and turned it on and it worked right away, blowing a nice cool breeze. Now we need to get a new housing. Any source with a decent price appreciated, please leave a comment!

A another untested thing was the genset. It's an old and bulky 6000 watts Onan. The starting battery was missing, so we put one in and hit the Start button. After a few seconds of cranking the engine fired up, at everyone's surprise. Afterward the engine started up instantly. This old generator is far from silent, it is as noisy as an old snowblower and you can definitly feel the vibrations from inside the motorhome, but a tune-up and some soundproofing should quiet it out somewhat to a more acceptable level. At least, it works!

There is still a lot of work to do before this project will be over. Dad has already put a lot of time into this, but the Travco still doesn't look like it's about to go on a camping trip anytime soon. Yet they have campgroud reservations for the upcoming weekend... Looking at the Travco I wonder if it's going to be ready to hit the road. According to Dad, there is "still a lot of time ahead" (that's 4 days!) and it "looks worst that it actually is". Of course the entire restoration will not be completed for the next weekend (this is going to take at least the whole summer, plus a good part of next summer) but at least it has to be "usable" for it's first official camping trip next weekend.

So if everything goes well, my parent will go on their first camping trip with he Travco on friday June 22nd, to June 25th. They won't be alone, we are a group of 8 families, made up of relatives and friends (we got our 8 sites side by side). Destination is the Stoneham Campground, about 45 min north of Quebec City. I'm sure the Travco will get a lot of attention next weekend!

Sunday, 10 June 2007


This week, while checking the "springy" bathroom floor, Dad found that the pipes going to the black water tank seemed somewhat loose. So he decided to look into this and he took the tank out, and as you may guess, a few surprises were awaiting him..

Travcos don't have grey water tanks. There is only a single black water tank. This tank is located right under the bathroom floor (the toilet is just above it). There are 4 different pipes going into this tank. There are cracks on the tank where all those pipes enter the tank. This explains why the pipes felt "loose". The previous owners had apparently tried to fix it a few times, with various sealants or glues.

Dad first removed the old sealants and glues. The top of the tank, where the toilet fitting is attached, was reinforced with a sheet of metal, and the rest was fixed with fiberglass putty. Some metal bracket were added to secure and prevent any movement of the pipes.

Most RVs have a plastic toilet. I guess plastic toilets were not invented yet in 1975 because the Travco toilet is made of ceramic, just like a real home toilet. It has an "old" style to it, being smaller and round instead of oval. The toilet is mounted on a rather narrow plastic base, considering the shape and the weight of the toilet. The plastic base, wich contains the flush valve, is cracked. Dad tought about simply buying a new modern RV plastic toilet and replace the whole thing, but he finally decided to try to fix it. He figured this vintage toilet is part of the "Travco Experience", and deserved restoration like the rest of the motorhome!

Dad usually not only fix things, but improves them as well. The improvement is usually to eliminate the initial cause of the failure so the thing won't break again. The same goes for the toilet: the narrow plastic base has been mounted on a wider plywood base, wich has been covered with fiberglass. A stainless steel brace will be added the back to help stabilize the toilet and relief stess on the plastic base so it won't break again.

As for the bathroom floor itself, the plywood floor is slightly out of shape wich causes the springy feeling, but otherwise is in good condition. Dad simply put a new layer of plywood on top if it.

The front end floor also got its new plywood.

And for those intererested, the Class C has officially been put up for sale:

Monday, 4 June 2007

Slowly but surely

There is a limit to the amount of work a man can accomplish in a single day. Or even a week. Work doesn't always seem to go as quickly as one wishes. I know dad works from sunrise to sunset on his motorhome. It's just that sometimes nothing shows. At the end of the day, he looks back and it's like he hasn't done anything. But the restoration goes on:

Plywood pieces for the floor have been cut and treated with wood preservative. The cutting job took some time, as there are curves and holes that have to be at the right place, and also there are a few notches on the back of the plywood to allow for the thicker welds seams on the metal underfloor.

Mom bought the carpet, wich will be installed soon. Good thing SHE picked the color. Dad is good at fixing things, but frankly color picking is not his best talent to say the least!
I'll eventually get photos of the carpet. Also I know Mom is working on something for the rear window, something that will look good and that will hide the damaged window frame. I'll provide details on this later.

As you've seen on previous pictures, the outside of the rear window has been painted over when the motorhome was repainted. Dad never liked the look of that window, it looks like a window they forgot to mask when they painted the motorhome. Since the paint cannot be easily stripped (It' just a tiny plexiglas) Dad decided to repaint it over with a darker paint, almost black. Now at least it looks more like a window.

Last week I wrote that the floor under where the water tank lies was in good shape. Well, Dad finally found some slightly damaged wood, that he figured was caused by a leaky water fitting at the tank outlet hose. But spraying the back of the motohome with a garden hose, he found that water leaked inside from somewhere along the rear wall and above the floor level. Looks like water is coming from the letters of the TRAVCO emblem, wich are installed outside on the fiberglass shell. A bit of sealant should fix that easily. The floor is not badly damaged, and a simple wood preservative treatement should be ok.

Speaking of the water tank, it is now undergoing cleaning and disinfection.

Dad also got the toilet out. The floor inside the lavatory seems to be in good shape, however it kind of flexes when we put some weight on it. This will have to be investigated.

The transmission filter has been replaced and the pan bolted back on. All driveshaft joints have been checked and greased, everything looks good. Next on the list will be the differential, rear brakes and bearings. The front end has been inspected, everything is in top shape.

The door step

When Dad worked on the floor repairs near the entrance door a few days ago, he took the retractable step out. It's a just a regular retractable metal step, like found on many RVs. Looking at this step, Dad figured he could make some improvements of its own. First, some reinforcements. Dad likes it big and strong. Dad welded a couple metal tubings to make it stronger and stiffer. Then another idea came up his mind...

Years ago, on a old car wreck (I don't know the exact car model but is was a convertible) Dad found two small hydraulic cylinders powered by a small 12V pump. These actuators were powering the top of the convertible. They are about 8 inches long, and the pump is about the size of an engine starter. They are surprisingly powerful, one of them can lift a man of the ground easily. Dad picked them up, thinking that one day he'll do someting with them. Well that day has arrived, and the "something" will be an hydraulic powered retractable step for the Travco. So Dad completely redesigned the original step's sliding tracks. This project is not completed yet, but the following pictures will give you an idea. Here's the step itself:

Here you can see the hydraulic actuator that will be used and the small pump. Stay tuned!

Finally, I'd like you to take a few minutes and visit Lathaniel's 1971 Travco restoration blog. He did an amazing job. I added his blog in my links on the top right of this page. Check it out!