Project Vintage Thunder

The latest on Project Vintage Thunder, by Airstream Life magazine. Sponsored by George M Sutton RV, Reese hitch, Dometic USA, PPG Paint, Axis Products, GSM Vehicles, and Zip-Dee. Vintage Thunder is an "honest" RV refurbishment and travelogue. We tell you what really happens ...

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Easter Work Session, Day Two

OK, now we're getting somewhere. Working from 8 a.m. to about 11 p.m., with breaks for meals and two runs to the hardware store, we actually accomplished a few things. It's starting to feel like last month when we were hustling to get ready for the Florida State Rally.

Today were expecting rain, so we worked fast on the outside stuff ... and of course it never rained. Brett carefully replaced loose rivets and re-sealed the refrigerator vent in hopes of solving that leak once and for all. He also did some miscellaneous caulking by windows and seams with Par-Bond. I have confidence we are now watertight, but we'll find out for sure in the next rainstorm.

Brett also got the TV antenna on (see picture), and installed our four new Polk speakers and wired up our receiver/amplifier. Now we have tunes indoors, and wow -- does it sound terrific! We're going to put in a 12v outlet nearby for an iPod or the XM satellite radio too.

Brett also installed the bedroom curtain, and got started on installing the catalytic heater. We'll need one more parts run before that item is done. Finally, he put a bead of silicone caulk along the newly installed range and the edge of the countertop. The kitchen is looking good, although in this picture it's messed up with our tools.

Brett also installed rubber isolator feet in an attempt to quiet our "virtually silent" Sureflo Smart Sensor water pump. The thing is much noisier than it should be, even with the new feet. We are considering returning it -- it may have some defect that accounts for the noise.

I started off today by replacing the door lock (a relatively easy thing). I had a spare lock from another project. So now we can lock the door, and the old lock will get cleaned up and sold on eBay. I also spent an hour on my back re-attaching a section of belly pan that didn't stay put during our trip to Ft Myers Beach. I had used the wrong pop rivets when I originally installed it (1/8" instead of the large 3/16" rivets normally used on belly pans) and one-by-one they failed.

I spent much of the day trying to kill a residual odor in the bath and bedroom closets. I sanded the floor and painted it with BIN, which is a shellac designed for stain and odor encapsulation. I also made new flashing to seal up pipes that come up through the floor (to eliminate a possible path for rodents). Unfortunately, at the end of this process the smell remained. I finally realized the smell was emanating from the only section of floor I could not reach with my paint brush -- directly below the battery box, which sits in the bedroom closet. The box, which is cracked and needs complete replacement anyway, is sitting on something left by our friend the rat...

To get the box out, we need to drill out the entire exterior battery compartment door! So for now I've taped that area up to keep the rat urine smell from permeating the closets, and I'll renovate that area after the next trip. Frustrating, but without a new battery box (which must be ordered through an Airstream dealer), I can't even begin the job.

I made good progress in the pantry. We now have a set of custom-made shelves, laminated and trimmed with aluminum edges. This should make life quite a bit more organized. And I gave the hitch a second coat of paint.

Tomorrow we've got a long list of picky little fixes to tackle. We may not get to them all since we are expecting the Easter Bunny to visit for a while, and we've got dinner to look forward to, but it should still be a pretty productive day. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Easter Work Session, Day One

The big work session has begun! We're working off our punch list of about 25 items, or at least as many as we can get to.

I started last night with a trip to the hardware store, just to pick up a few preliminary items like luan and laminate for shelving, paint, and some miscellaneous organizers. This morning, Brett and I got started -- a bit slowly perhaps -- and by late afternoon, the Amana range had been installed, Brett had installed all the new LED clearance lights and replaced some rivets on the roof (fixing one of our two leaks), I'd done some interior and exterior painting touchups, and we'd bought parts to resolve a turn signal problem on the tow vehicle.

Rainstorms have been coming and going all day, but they were actually helpful in a sense, because we were able to determine that the refrigerator-area leak still exists. We've got some ideas of where to look tomorrow morning, to solve that one. We also bought four new Polk speakers to replace the 70's vintage junkers. Those will get installed tomorrow.

We're expecting rain again tomorrow, but since most of the work is inside, it should be not much of a problem. We'll hit the roof leaks early -- hopefully before the rain starts -- and then we can see if we finally solved them. More painting is on the schedule, as well as shelf building for the pantry and closets, installing the catalytic heater, and replacing the door lock with one that actually locks.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

This Way To The Beach

The second phase of testing Vintage Thunder was to see if the new laminate floors could take the abrasion of sand. So we towed it to Ft Myers Beach and parked at the Red Coconut RV Resort, on the beach for three nights. See what we're willing to do to complete our mission?

I must say that if the Red Coconut were located anywhere but on one of the most beautiful white-sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, I would never had stayed there. Late-night traffic noise, miniscule campsites, and expensive! But that's the price of being on the beach. With Ft Myers Beach traffic the way it is, you have no choice other than staying on the main drag (Estero Blvd) or sitting in traffic for an hour to get to and from the beach.

It was hot enough to run the A/C for the first time. The classic Armstrong A/C we salvaged worked flawlessly, but boy is that thing noisy when it starts up. Brett says it will be more tolerant of low voltage power (less likely to burn out) and we'll be happier with it in the long run. Hmmmm... I think at night we'll stick with the Fantastic Vents. They're a lot quieter.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Land Yachts at Sea

Day One of our testing session went very well. After three hours in I-4 traffic, we finally arrived on the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier in Tampa Bay, and set up for the night with our friend “Sneaky Barry” (and his 1972 Overlander).

Now, it’s a little known secret that one of the best boondocking sites in Florida is right here on the South Pier. For $14.91, three of us and an Argosy parked overnight about a mile offshore and fifty feet above the waves.

I hate to say too much in favor of this spot, because it’s beautiful on a sunny day and waking up to the ocean breeze, the sound of seagulls, and the waves lapping on the pylons is magical. If everyone finds out you can park your Airstream up here, it might get crowded. So let me say instead that it’s not a good spot for small children, there’s the occasional whiff of fresh bait, sometimes there’s you get an obnoxious person disturbing the peace, and if the wind blows the wrong way the traffic noise from the Skyway Bridge can be annoying. So don’t come over.

So far V.T. has performed wonderfully. We had a taillight issue but testing revealed it to be a fault of the tow vehicle. We still don’t have an oven but a Coleman stove will serve until the work session next weekend. We definitely have the ugliest vehicle on the South Pier, but the fishermen don’t seem to care. Boondocking above the water is fun! We’ll be sorry to leave today, but the next stop should be excellent as well.