Category Archives: Fulltime RVing

Costs of Restoring An Old Class B

White with brown striped 1989 Dodge Class B camper van.
The original paint job. This was an EXACT MATCH to the photo I cut from a magazine and posted on my “Wish Board.” Never discount the power of a Wish Board.

What’s In A Year?  Quite a bit when it’s 2007 and you are looking at a 1989 Class B.  Having owned my share of older cars when I bought them, one even being a previously owned Class B, I knew it was a roll of the dice when it came to price versus future repairs and believing the salesman.

Sage green paint in two tones make for a very nice makeover on the camper.
The result of years of work is a real facelift.

 

Now that it’s been 10 years ownership and we are getting ready to sell her I had gathered all the auto receipts I could find and put the information in a spreadsheet.  When we purchased the camper we were assured of it’s great running condition and previous care.  We flew from CA to OR and spent the first night on the way home in the new camper waiting for AAA service to help us continue on our way.  Sigh.  He lied.

The Class B is a great choice for a camper as it doubles as an everyday car.  It fits in almost any parking space and there is room to make U-turns at 4-way stop signs.  Backing up is easy and there is plenty of room inside – you can even stand up in them.  Ours has bed, stove and tons of cupboards as well as a trunk area for storage.  A small bathroom and a dinette that doubles as a single bed all make for a comfortable cabin although small.

We chose this as our retirement vehicle for our extended vacation in the future and as my everyday car for work, etc.  So fixing it and restoring it were high priorities and we had plenty of time.  When it came to restoration projects it was important we had plenty of space as well so we were fortunate for long driveways and necessary tools. Due to a disability it took many, many years to bring the camper to its current appearance.  It is at the stage inside where decisions need to be made that would directly affect the owner and thus there are things we have left, such as the dinette, which we had planned on making into an office desk/sitting area.

As for the mechanical issues that took lots of time and money.  The spreadsheet was a real eye-opener.  I have receipts for $11k plus another about $2.5k from the previous owner.  Our goal was to complete the work and any problems before we set out for our very extended trip and we’ve done that the best we can.  We continued to do so even when we knew we were probably going to opt for something bigger after living in it for a month with 2 adults and two 50-pound dogs while looking for a new home after moving across states.  Once snow hit we knew we had to go bigger.

We had time before retirement to complete the project.  In late 2009 disabilities hit which kept the trips to minimum times and close distances.  My use of the car for travel was minimum which kept the mileage low that would have otherwise accrued in the past decade.  We continued to make the repairs because it was our second car and it needed to be reliable.  It was also our weekend or vacation camper.

1989 Class B Repair List Spreadsheet

Because you might be thinking of buying an old van and fixing it up we thought it would be helpful to see the possible road one can embark on when taking on a  journey similar to ours.  I give you below our repair list, note that this is primarily only the mechanical issues and does not list curtain and flooring materials nor paint, sealants, etc.  I did include the fantastic vent, new waterpump and bathroom sink but the remainder is mechanical and I did not keep the upholstery and other receipts.  One last note before I go, those carpet and upholstery repairs required a lot of TIME and SPACE to work on the project.  There remains work to be done.  Remember that if you think you want to take on a similar project.

We will be selling “As Is” with no claims attached or rights of buyer outside of clear emissions report (January 2018) and clean title.  We are waiting for our new tags before we actually list her.

 

2007: The following is the original information from the seller’s ad:
Xplorer has a legendary reputation for their innovative and high quality construction methods, and this rig was all the envy when it rolled off the line in 1990. Its one-piece raised roof has two layers of fiberglass with structural foam injected in the middle to create an extremely solid and well-insulated unit that will never leak or rattle.
The floorplan makes maximum use of the vehicle’s 19-foot length to pack a full time down bed, bathroom, kitchen and dinette into a rig that its into a regular parking space. The chassis is a Dodge 350 Ram Van, so it’s plenty stout. The motor is the 360 cid V-8 with fuel injection. It has a fresh rebuilt 727 transmission with heavy duty transmission cooler. New tires all around and new ball joints up front. Lots of storage on board, including large basement. New linoleum floor and new ball joints up front. Lots of storage on board, including large basement. New linoleum floor and stainless steel backsplash in the kitchen. New batteries and many other extras. With under 90k miles on her, she’s got lots of years to go. This rig is truly unique, and shows the attention to detail that went into its construction. Besides that, she drives great!!! For two people who love to get away from it all, this rig is awesome! We figure we could last two weeks with provisions without over-stuffing the cupboards. Put your “Egg” in tow and have first class accomodations for two couples or a whole family.
The following receipts for work done were provided by the Oregon seller:
2004: (Van was owned by Vantastic Vans at this time)
Budget Master Rebuild by Transmission Masters, Alburquerque NM ($800.00)
2006 – Owner Peeks: (Oregon)
3/11/2006 New tires spin and balance ($834.36 Les Schwab, Albany, Oregon) $834.36
3/17/2006 Replace valve cover gaskets, replace vacuum lines needed, heater hose replaced, replace steering gear box and Idler arm, Replace upper ball joint, align, front end. (Continental Transmission Albany, OR $1261.04) $1,261.04 83,293
3/24/2006 New M.A.P. Sensor (Continental Transmission, Albany OR $187.52) $187.52 83,477
Totals for receipts provided before Logan ownership: $2,282.92
Current Owner – 2007 through Present:
7/4/2007 Shurflo Pump ($98.95), Table Legs ($29.95) plus misc. parts ($176.68 total Metro RV, Inc. Burbank, CA) $176.68
4/28/2007 Differential, Lube Oil & Filter, Transmission Flush, Smog Certificate and Inspection ($431.85 Alert Auto Repair Saugus, CA) $431.85
5/3/2007 Replace Ignition Coil ($223.88 Itech Auto Repair and Transmission) 223/88
5/15/2007 New water pump and belts ($397.47 Burbank Radiator Service Burbank CA) $397.47 88610
6/10/07 Starting System Check, Replace Ignition Coil, Tuneup, Replace Timing Belt,chain and gears, replace water pump gaskets ($2123.69 Jack Ellis Glendale Dodge) $2,123.69 89011
7/5/2007 2 new U-joints ($199.98 Big O Tires Jackson, CA) $199.98 89488
9/25/2007 2 Wheel Cyl plus misc. brake work ($620.59 Jack Ellis Glendale Dodge) $620.59 93406
August 2007 – All Repairs From Here On Were Done By Current Owner (In Colorado)
8/8/2007 Oil Change ($39.05 Grease Monkey Boulder CO) $39.05 92227
2008
2009
3/9/2009 Set Timing, Check Codes and Coolant Temp Sensor ($365.74 The Auto Shop Lakewood, CO) $365.74 97363
2010
2011
7/15/2011 New Car Battery ($69.95 Sears Lakewood) $69.95
9/3/2011 New Michelin LTX M/S tires, 60k miles, Lifetime Spin and repairs ($866.78 Discount Tire Lakewood CO) $866.78 104,219
12/15/2011 Brake System Inspection, Front Brake Service with Ceramic Disc Brake Pad Set, W/MFG Gull Warranty, Ceramic brake service, front labor, F Severe Duty Pads, replace F Disc Brake Caliper Hardware or Bushings, F Disc Brake Rotor, Rear Break Service w/ltd lifetime Warranty disc pads or brake shoes, Drum Brake combo kit, flush brake system, fluid ($675.91 Brakes Plus Lakewood, CO) $675.91 104,687
Note: Turned Over first time and 100,000 to below mileages
2012
2/18/2012 Remove and Replace Alternator Assembly ($158.67 PepBoys, Wheatridge, CO) $158.67 4,794
5/24/2012 Service and Oil change (40.71 Grease Monkey Lakewood) $40.71 5,041
2013
3/13/2013 Marine Battery 24DC-DL Duralast ($129.40 AutoZone Lakewood) $120.37
4/8/2013 R & R front and rear U-joints and 2 new U joints ($241.04 The Auto Shop Lakewood) $241.04 5,719
4/26/2013 New Transmission Mount ($526.72 The Auto Shop Lakewood) $526.72 5,835
2014 –
8/19/2014 Replace Front Windshield w/new bracket and weatherseal (313 Safelite AutoGlass Lakewood) $313.00
2015
3/6/2015 Install Quick Connect & Isolater, R&R Injectors, Fuel Pressure Rec, ISC Motor, Transmission Service, Coolant Temp Sensor and relay, oil change, etc. ($1,966.50 The Auto Shop Lakewood CO) $1,966.50 5,915
4/21/2015 Throttle POS. Sensor ($102.33 The Auto Shop Lakewood CO) $102.33 6,030
6/3/2015 Install Fantastic Vent Fan -Customer Supplied Product – Check Refrigerator, not repairable ($204 Nolan’s RV Denver CO) $204.00
Part: Dual-Speed Bi-Directional 12v RV Ceiling Fan $250.00
Replace Passenger Side Window Motor (302.28 Lakewood Auto Electric) $302.28 8,499
2016
2017
8/19/2017 Oil, filter and fulids. Safety Check. ($45.71 Grease Monkey Lakewood CO() $45.71 8,836
2018
1/19/2018 Transmission Service, fluid, filter and gasket. New Rear Output Yoke, Radiator ($768.45 Advanced Transmission Center Lakewood CO) $768.45 8,854
Totals for repair receipts available and paid by current owner 2007 through present (does not include restoration material such as paint, sealant, carpet, etc.) : $11,007.47
Receipts on file for work done prior to current owner: $2,282.92
 
Total Receipts On File for repairs: $13,290.39

It might be interesting to note the mileage as the repairs progressed.  I’ll be adding restoration photos in upcoming blogs such as how I got the carpet to fit tight to the wall by painting the edges, how I insulated the engine dog house cover, the making of the screen door, etc.  Ya all come back ya heer?

Bear Camp Video

Sunday’s video tells our bear camp story in video.  It’s another short one coming in under 4 minutes of your time.

The filmora learning continues.  The dreaded splice and cut has finally been figured out so here it is:

With the black paddle in the position you want the video split, click the scissors to make the cut.  You now have the choice of deleting the right side or the left side by highlighting your choice and then clicking delete.  I was able to also find the audio editor and extend the audio duration for the story boards.  And finally, I split and then deleted the music score at the end of the video so it didn’t continue to play.  I have a few more items to figure out (it would have been nice to have faded the river sound for this bear story video) and then I will be making an introductory video tutorial for the filmora editing software.

Downsizing: Chameleon Bookshelf Tool

Step into my world … the continual changing of the items held in the physical space of my home.  It’s part of the Journey To Getting There and the “there” is fulltime RVing.

2 Bookshelf Downsizing Sorting Space

Bookshelves for sorting to downsize.
Sorting shelves for condensing and dispensing.

Above is my normal bedroom mess and ongoing downsizing project.  I’ll be doing a video shortly and even if that video is taken tomorrow you will likely see a significant change in the appearance of the above.  It is continually changing as  items are dealt with.   What goes on the shelf primarily represents items I would like to bring if I have the space, but it also holds items which I am in the process of disposing of.  For example, the top shelf holds a box of photos and slides I want to scan as well as a CD collection I am transferring to flash drives.

Bins Versus Bags

On the left next to one bookshelf you’ll notice some plastic bins which are currently holding clothing .  I discovered that flexible  cloth or vinyl bags will hold so much more than ridgid stackable bins.  And the best bags I found for holding large amounts – such as every top a woman owns in one bag, are called weekender bags.

Weekemder Bag and In-line luggage photo.
Pink weekender bag next to in-line tier luggage on couch.

Target online has been carrying a good selection of women’s weekender bags.   For the men I found some good-size duffle bags on Amazon that show promise.  Aside from clothing I am using a weekender bag for my sheets and a Trader Joe’s Bag for dish towels and such.  Insulated lunch bags are good for small electronics .  The variety of patterns of bags makes it easy to find what one is searching for.  Learning where things are now is much easier then learning on the road.  Some things will be transferred to cupboards but the change of seasonal clothing is still likely to be stored in the RV bin until needed. The ability to fold the  bag material down to conserve storage space is a plus.

Why am I packing so far in advance of going?

The two largest pieces of furniture we own are a long maple dresser and a two-piece maple hutch with glass shelves on the top portion.  These two items can hold a boatload of items and clothing.  Things that would stay hidden and not dealt with.  Things one isn’t even sure of what one has because it is hidden or just sitting on a shelf  or in a drawer and forgotten.

By removing these two items now (1) we have plenty of time to sell the pieces instead of giving them away on moving day and (2) we are forced to deal with every single item now and get it over with.  I’ll be doing videos showing various ways I have packed items to make it easy to function with now and to make take-off time a piece of cake.

In the meantime, my best advice to you if you are on the same journey, is to save boxes, bags, etc.  to use as you downsize.  One single item might end up in 5 different places as you find it fits better elsewhere then where you put it last week.  Dealing with your stuff over and over makes you realize :

  • if you need it or not
  • if it is convenient to get to
  • if it is in a place you will find it later

And finally, the number one reason to deal with your stuff well before your trip is to realize how much you are willing to give up or not.  You might have your eye on the low price tag of that single-axle cute red and white trailer but find you need more than 800 pounds of cargo weight and a bit more storage and start shopping for a dual axle that will accommodate you. and what you want to bring besides food, water and clothes.   Then you will know if your tow vehicle is adequate.

Journey To Getting There: CDs and DVDs

Saving space with CDs by trashing the plastic cases.
Trashing the cases and condensing the music.

Entertainment on the road is helpful, especially when weather outside is not user friendly, and if you are like me music is a frequent friend even in good weather.  Being now in our 60’s, our album collection was long ago disposed of but our CD collection is pretty good size.  While playlists are fine and great there are times I want a CD either to play from start to finish or put it on the song I want to hear.  Part of the Journey To Getting there has been digitalizing our music so it is one of the things on the list that periodically I pick up the project and work on it.

Probably most of the younger generation already have the majority of their music digitalized as they likely bought it that way.  Not knowing when I will finish my project the first thing I did was cut the music collection down to a size that fits in a bin I can cover and measures about 12′ x 17″ and about 8″ high.  I did this by removing all plastic, folding the paper album cover and content info that comes with, and placing in quart zip baggies.  Not one baggy per CD but pretty much A through Z with the CD’s placed alphabetically.  There are a few bands that get their own labeled bag such as, say Boz Scaggs or The Beatles who have several CDs.  So one bag with 5 CDs takes up about as much width as one CD plastic case.  Thus I quickly downsized my collection to  at least 1/4th of it’s original size.

Should I not finish my project before we are ready to pack and leave, the collection is ready to come with us.  Continuing the project would be one of those things to do when it’s raining outside and we are inside and bored.  Ideally, I would digitalize all the albums before we leave and give our collection to someone we love because we are going to travel without a storage unit to return to.

DVD cases are even larger but our movie collection is handled in the same way.  Knowing that we were going to be taking this trip we have been collecting movies that we like for some time, taking advantage of those $5 and $7 finds in the WalMart bins and ordering others we cannot find online through Amazon (where else can one find “Enemy Mine” or the documentary “The Afterlife Investigations, The Scole Experiments” if not through Amazon resources – our bookstore only stocks what they think we want to buy and their thinking kind of sucks.

I looked for a couple of years for a portable stereo to bring with.  I know the trailer will likely come with a bluetooth/mp3 player but I want it all and settled on a Samsung GIGA with remote that plays it all, including CDs, radio, bluetooth, mps, has dual flash drive inputs.  It is one of the items that I should not bring with because of the room it takes up but it is one of the items that I will find a way.  Wayne is going to build me something that keeps all 3 pieces together so I can easily move it and I’m going to make a waterproof cover for it.

Currently the movies are in an insulated Trader Joe’s bag for easy moving around and keeping it probably 10 degrees cooler.  I’ll either add reflex insulation to my CD box or transfer the CDs to a similar insulated bag.  As we don’t yet have the RV we will be traveling in we’ll wait and see what works best for the situation.

Flash Drive Filing System
Character flash drives provide a great filing system. Marvin Martian on top stores rock out Rock N Roll while little snowman on the bottom keeps our Christmas music.

I love those characters that are molded around flash drives.  I currently have Snoopy, a green singing frog, Batman, Batwoman, an Owl and Marvin Martian.  These are great for sorting what you are looking for.  For example, the frog has books on tape (he also has a microphone).  Snoopy is most of my music.  Marvin Martian is rock out Rock & Roll, a snowman keeps our Christmas music. What is nice is that the pickup has flash drive input for the stereo.

 

Journey To Getting There: Downsizing

The stuffed animal is 2″ high, the flowers 3″ and the doll 6″ Wayne gave me the dolll after I gave up two beautiful porcelin native american lifesize babydolls. I gave him the miniture stuffed animal and tiny crystal like flowers when he had surgery. All 3 items together are likely smaller than one glass flower vace would be to store.

Although we had been quiet for a long time between September 2016 and present time we have been quite busy working on the goal.  Both of us have known since the late 1970’s that one day we would retire and take off and we’ve known since the late 1980’s that we would do that together.  Too bad we didn’t know about downsizing back then as we continued to gather and accumulate for both personal and business lives.  We started to get serious about it in 2007 and find it surprising how long it can take if one is environmentally conscious instead of calling in a dumpster.  We’ve had several businesses along the way which accumulated left over inventory so along with things gathered through age we had some best left in a storage locker.

Gradually our thinking changed and we cut way back on the buying knowing we would likely have to let it go down the line.  We thought more about purchases than we ever did before.  Sometimes even little things were converted to the cause like a hospital stay gift of a 3″ stuff animal in lieu of the usual pillow size square inch hog of stuffing.

After a move across state lines we thought we had given away everything except what we might need but that was a lie.  Sometimes creative people surround themselves with tools to work with and in our case it was lots and lots of toys with a variety of subject matter to flit from project to project instead of diving seriously into one or two things.

As the time to retire comes closer and closer we tend to make quicker decisions about what will go and what will not.  And our plan is to experience true freedom by not being tied to a storage unit which will require returning to now and then and moving at least once down the line.  This summer will see the letting go of maple dressors and living out of suitcases for a year.  Bigger items will be let go of than the those of past.  And our pile for October’s Earth Day continues to grow as do the donation boxes.  Soon the garage will be cleared out for Garage Sale Day and hopefully the Class B will be out of the driveway with a new owner.

The Journey series will be comentary on our journey towards our take off day.  We continue to put in place our web links and information so that we will have them handy when we are on the road.  A lot of them will be handy for many of you so enjoy!  (And subscribe!)

Independence Coming: July 2017

In 2007 we purchased a 1989 Class B High-top Camper Van which required not just mechanical aid but decorative help. It was to be our vehicle for country viewing years down the line when we retired and took a one-year camping and exploring adventure. 

The restoration portion was a challenge both inside and out. Three years ago I pulled into an auto paint shop and the guy came walking out saying, “Oh hell no!”

It caught me off guard because the body work wasn’t all that bad she was just big. And old. True, the beast required a lot of prep work. We got to talking and the end of it was it was a task he was not willing to take on (he was older than I was) and he said, “just roll some paint over it and some fisherman is going to be real happy to take that up to his cabin every year.”

Having for a short while been a member of Sisters On The Fly  paintbrush + vehicle of any sort was nothing to shy away from.

So there it was, it was up to me. And thus began the lengthy period of time when my brain sometimes hurt from trying to figure out how to solve some part of the beautifcation of Jelly Bean. That was the name given to it by the previous owner in Oregon. The Class B was built on a Dodge 350 engine and a great design. There are a lot of options inside and pretty good storage. It’s 19 feet in length and you can stand up in it, sleep in it and cook in it.  We installed a 2-way 2-speed Fantastic Fan in it to cool things off that will work off the house battery (Optima Blue Top) and we can plug the camper in at a campsite with electricity using the attached cord.  There are outlets inside.

One of several custom additions to this 1989 Dodge 350 Class B Van

It took me a long time to figure out how to reach the top to clean for painting as well as to paint. Those are stories in itself. Things like resealing windows and replacing curtains, carpets and engine dog house covers kept me thinking late at night.

 Weather plays a great deal in what you can and cannot do to a vehicle that sits outside because it is too tall for any garage or carport. Rain and snow are down times. Wind about the same as is the heat or cold which shows up at mile high level. And hail cannot only stop you from working it can give you more work – and cost you. The “storm shield” currently pictured on an opening blog was created after a hail storm cost us over $300 for a new front window. That same shield recently saved us $300 on a new window during a recent Colorado hail storm. A small section shows tears where a strong burst would have likely cracked it like it did so many around Denver a few months back.

Painting required a very tall ladder and decent weather. It took 3  years to complete as work arounds were made during heat, cold, rain, snow, wind. The inside was begun two years ago and yesterday was a major celebration as the last two puzzels for how to accomplish a job was finally figured out and the end of the project is now in sight.

Along the way I took photos and videos of how to’s because I spent a lot of time trying to figure out “how to” for so many of the projects within this project. Some things took years to figure out. Yes, years.

Yesterday I laid down a large piece of carpet in the cab that I had just finished cutting. As I stood back and saw the transformation and knew I would soon have this job completed it dawned on me that I was really and truly within sight of the end of this project. Jelly Bean is clean and beautiful and what restoration will remain after me are really decisions needed to be made by the new owner.

Matching interior fabric included for customized new owner projects.

Yesterday morning I began an extensive camera review of an inexpensive HausBell video camera I bought on Amazon. I wanted to catch various lighting conditions throughout the day and since I was in the middle of a restoration job on the carpet I decided to film that as it would give me an idea of how well the camera worked for such a project. I also took a particular scenic shot throughout the day and in various lighting conditions. I ended up filming almost everything except the inside of the outer bins which I will do today. The camera review video needs to be edited and I need to add night time shots after reading up on how to do that as this was the first time using the camera. As I filmed the camper van I ended up explaining all the areas and choices I made as well as the decisions that were to be made by the new owner. I showed some of the materials that will be included that match the colors of the van and can be used as desired by the new owner for making pillows or whatever.

Many things happen over the years and our plans changed. Our list of places to travel has extended our adventure to two years and thus we opted for a vehicle with an engine warranty while we will be on the road. Our second car became a truck and a future trailer will sit in our driveway. Jelly Bean was/is still my every day car and our summer camping fun.  I would not put Jelly Bean up for sale until I finished projects to a point so I had continued to work.   As I looked at the remodel yesterday after I figured out the final details of how to finish the front curtains I knew my project was finally near the end stages and would be leaving me. I have been saying goodbye to Jelly Bean since spring hit and I knew I would be finished with my part sometime in summer. I made it a priority and yesterday I realized I have but a week to go before the for sale sign comes up.

Already as I drive into parking spots conversation is spontaneous when people are near by. I like the comments and it makes me feel good. I gave an impromptu inside tour outside a Big Lots store last week with a promise to put up photos and a link to this website.

Our future trip is nearing and it is time to go from two cars to one so that a trailer can fit in the driveway. Now it is nearing time for me to make a trailer my own and I want the time to do that while I am still not mobile. So I celebrated Independence Day knowing my long time project with Jelly Bean is over in a week.

Video and photos coming soon.  A new YouTube Channel is in the works about our journey to our trip date in which will include the Class B restoration video, tips on our downsizing efforts, our trailer research and decisions, etc.  With the restoration project nearly complete there will be time to keep this blog updated a few times a week and we’ve been working on a new logo as well.  So subscribe to keep up with the new activity!