Tuesday, 17 June 2008

2008's first projects

Here are the jobs Dad started this spring on the Travco.
First, Dad dropped the fuel tank to inspect it, along with the fuel line that runs from the tank to the engine. Dad feared rust damage, but it turned out that there was only some light surface rust on it, the tank is in very good shape. So Dad simply sprayed it with a good coat of antirust paint.

The fuel line was also in good shape, no significant rust, wich is rather surprising since all the brake lines had to be replaced last year due to rust. Dad used a wire brush on the metal line and painted it with antirust paint.

Freshly repainted fuel line let to dry under the sun:

The 60 gallons (272 liters) fuel tank is attached under the Blue Whale with metal straps bolted on the frame. Here an impact wrench is used to remove the old rusted straps.

Dad made new straps to replace the old ones:

Travcos have an outside storage compartment in the left rear, abeam the fuel tank. The bottom of this storage compartment was rusted out and required some repairs.

Access to the rusted part was made easier with the fuel tank removed. So before installing the tank back he fixed the storage compartment. Some metal sheet cutting, a bit of sealant and a lot of metal screws. A good cleanup and some antirust paint, and another repair will be done.

Also before putting the fuel tank back, Dad repainted the rear underside of the vehicle with antirust paint (the front part was done last fall). An air coating gun was used to spray the paint.

Dad finally reinstalled the tank and the fuel lines, wich wasn't as easy as it sounds since the fuel tank wasn't completely empty and was quite heavy.

Inside the vehicle Dad begun working on the dashboard.
The top of the dashboard was made with a piece of thick plywood, covered with foam and "faux leather". Since the vehicle has been plagued with water leaks for a long time, all that water was sucked up by the foam and the plywood was totally rotten out.

Also the small air vents on top for windshield defrost where broken.

Dad cut a new plywood piece, preserved with a good wood stain, and stapled on a new foam. The broken vents will be replaced with new larger ones that Dad found on a GM van at the junkyard. All is left is to cut and install the new "leatherette", wich will be gray, to match the new seats, armrests and carpet.

On the curb side, the dashboard was in pretty bad shape. Dad cut, stained and varnished a piece of thin oak finish plywood, that should look pretty good once installed.

On the driver's side, the dashboard, wich is made of two panels, is made of a black plastic trim that has all the opennings for the various gauges and switches. Over time the plastic trim broke and cracked. Dad managed to reglue the parts and save the plastic trim.

When I took the pictures, everything was ready to reinstall.

Dad will have a lot of work to do over the next few days to get the Blue Whale ready for the first camping trip of 2008. Just like last June, we have a family camp out in Stoneham, a few kilometers north of Quebec City. We should be a group of 7 families, relatives and friends, camping together from June 21st to 25th.

Dad has to reinstall the dashboard and all that has been dismantled in the front of the Whale (seats, armrests, doghouse, etc), change the engine oil, take off the winter shelter in wich the motorhome still sits, perform a general check of the various systems, get it out of the driveway (the compacted gravel driveway I was talking about last week is not done yet) and finally load the camping stuff. It's probably going to be a race against the clock to get the Whale ready, just like last year!

Next week I should be able to post a few pictures of the repaired dashboard and of the Whale in Stoneham.

Friday, 6 June 2008

We're back!

We're back!

2008 winter has been long and harsh, the Blue Whale got buried under the 17ft+ of snow that we got this winter, an all-time snowfall record for the Quebec City area. But the Whale survived: well sheltered inside it's tarp cocoon, the motohome stayed dry and clean and wintered without any issue.

At some point during winter, Santa drove by and left something under the tree that in 1975, when the Whale was built, was in the realm of science-fiction: a shiny new Garmin Nuvi 650 GPS receiver.

With all that snow, spring came late, and the last bit of snow finally melted off completely from my parents backyard only on May 14th!

This spring, before beginning to work on the Travco itself, Dad began by working on what will eventually be the Whale's own driveway and parking spot.

Back when my parents owned their small Class C motorhome, parking the vehicle in the back of their yard for winter wasn't much of a problem. In the fall, with the ground frozen hard, the little motorhome easily made its way among the trees to its parking spot for the winter. In the spring, the vehicle was easily driven out on the grass as soon as the ground was relatively dry. During the summer, the motorhome sat in the driveway along with Dad's en Mom's cars, as it didn't take much space than a big car.

This can't be done with the Whale. Last fall, driving the beast around the trees to the backyard has been quite challenging. The frozen ground did support the weight of the vehicle, but it was very tight around the trees. This spring, altough the ground is relatively well drained, driving the Whale out of there is out of question. With a weight of something like 14000lbs, it would simply sink to the axles and get stuck. We knew that already last fall, and the plan was for this spring to do something about it.

So Dad begun by widening the passage and turn it into an adequate parking spot for the Whale when at home, because the Whale is too large to spend the summer with the cars in the driveway. The major obstacle was a maple tree. For some reason, Dad could not resolve himself to get the chainsaw and simply cut it down. He felt that this tree was important and deserved to be saved, like if it was the only tree left in his yard (the place is actually enclosed with trees!). His plan was to "simply" move the tree 2 or 3 feet, just enough for the Whale to pass safely.

So began long days of hard work, simply to save a tree (now who said that owners of 9 mpg gas-guzzlers don't have any environemental values?)

According to Dad's initial plans, moving a tree a few feet is quite simple. All you need to do is dig a small circular trench around the tree, cutting off roots, than slide a steel cable under the tree and the roots to slice it off the ground. Then all what's left is to dig a hole at the new spot and slide the tree in, with it's roots. Simple enough, right?

Well, no!
Once he dug a trench around the tree base, Dad slid a steel cable under the roots, and pulled with a 2000lbs capacity electric winch. The winch quickly showed its limits, so with a few pulleys Dad rigged a hoist that provided at least 5000lbs of pull on the steel wire. The wire started to cut horizontally under the tree, but about halfway through, everything jammed hard. Then the wire failed, so dad installed a stronger one, but nothing moved.

The neighbors came one after the other, watching the show, each giving his opinion and predicting the outcome of such enterprise. The situation slowly turned into a Dad VS Maple Tree battle, and I believe that the reason why Dad ultimately won the battle is simply because the tree is not as stubborn as he is!

Hoists, winches, hand pullers, pulling with the van, he did everything. Finally he won the war with a 3-ton hydraulic jack under a heavy piece of 6 X 6 timber. Trees are tough!
As for myself, the chainsaw woud have been my first choice!
The next picture shows the tree in its new spot (click to enlarge).

Today the tree still stands like nothing ever happened, about 3ft away from were it used to grow, and now Dad will have to pave the Whale's driveway with compacted gravel, so it can support the weight.
As seen in the previous photo, the Whale is still wrapped in its winter shelter, Dad figured there's no reason to take it off for now, as the vehicule stays clean and dry, and he want to get a couple jobs done before heading out. The tarp helps keep the ground dry, wich is a good thing since Dad began to work under the vehicle on the fuel system (fuel tank and lines). Inside the Whale, Dad also worked on the dashboard, these will be the subjects of my next posts.