Sunday, March 20, 2016


Retro needs a lot of work in different areas.   He has good bones, which makes it worthwhile to do the work that is needed - it is likely that if the various problem areas are properly addressed he will be a fine coach to travel and camp in.

By taking stock of Retro's condition and listing all the areas that need work I can plan the work so that where part of a system in one area affects a different area that I may not be working on yet  I can perhaps do a few extras that make the later work easier.

So here is a first draft of the things that need to be addressed in Retro - broken down by driving issues and living issues.

Driving Issues:

1.  Radiator needs to be cleaned.  When under high load like going up mountains,  Retro overheats.  this is mainly (probably) due to the radiator being clogged up.   The radiator needs to be removed and taken to a specialty shop and rodded out (rods pushed through the tubing to clean out gunk).

2. Brake lights don't work.   I think the hydraulic brakelight switch is bad.  There is electricity in the wire going to the switch, but not coming out.  The switch was replaced with the master cylinder rebuild so this kind of bugs me.  Some things I have read seem to indicate that these switches fail when used with the newer silicon based brake fluid.  I need to check into this.  There are mechanical replacement switches,  I might check those out.

3. No emergency brake.   This is a big deal.   There is a brake that is supposed to be installed on the back of the transmission and to the driveline.  It was removed by a previous owner for rebuild and the shop lost the pieces and so now Retro has no emergency and parking brake.   I think I can buy an old transmission that has the parts or maybe get a newer design that will fit Retro.

4. Gas tanks.  The two gas tanks are almost certainly rusty inside.  I can remove them and take them to a shop that will clean and then coat the inside.  

5. Radiator fans.    Retro has electric radiator fans.  The two fans do not cover all of the radiator.  I may be able to redesign the system with 4 fans and cover the whole thing better.

6.  Redo 12 Volt electrical system.    Right now,  Retro has 1 starting battery for starting the engine as well as running all the 12 volt items in the house part of the coach - lights,  water pump, refrigerator etc.    I want to split the system so that the house stuff has 2 or 4  deep-cycle batteries (how ever much fits physically) and the starting battery is used for starting the motor,  starting the generator  and for things like headlights / marker lights / brakelights / windshield wipers / turn signals etc.

7.  Redo  instrument panel - make beautiful and add a few instruments - gas gauge for each tank instead of switching one gauge between tanks,  fix transmission temp gauge, add brakelight indicator lamp etc.

Livability issues:

1.  Water damaged wood.    There have been water leaks over the years that have affected Retro's interior wood.   There are spots in the bedroom and living room and possibly more that I have not found yet.    I am going to remove the paneling in the bedroom,  remove most of the furring (the wood behind the wall that is screwed to Retro's steel frame and to which the paneling is nailed) and replace with new wood.     The living room has some problems of this type also, and I will do the same work there.

2.  Replace sofa & loveseat.    Retro was infested with rodents at one point so all the textiles in the bus are going to be replaced.  All the foam too.    

3.  Replace old window style air-conditioners with RV rooftop units.    This will also include removing the "boxes" that hang off of Retro's back and side and replacing them with smooth new steel panels painted to match the existing scheme.

4.  Replace lighting.   I am certainly going to LED lighting.   I may switch to all 12 Volt lighting. Right now the lighting is a combination of 120VAC fluorescent lights  and  12 volt lights in the same fixtures.  I could just replace the 12V bulbs with LEDs,  though I think I want to use LED strip lighting.   The fluorescents could be replaced with regular  120VAC lamp sockets with LED bulbs in them.  Put 2 or 3  in each existing fluorescent fixture and it should work fine.  But perhaps just having a 12 volt lighting system is good enough ? When I am plugged into power  the electricity would come from 120VAC  through the converter keeping the batteries charged.   I will think about this.   The 120 Volt circuits are already there and may be a good backup if something goes wrong with the 12 volt systems.

5. Convert two twin beds to one queen bed.

6. Add microwave / convection oven  (perhaps over stove as fan hood?)

7. Replace old fanless propane heaters with modern  RV  forced-air heaters, suplimented with 120VAC heaters - perhaps oil-filled radiant baseboard heaters ?

8. Redo coach plumbing with PEX pipe / fittings   and new faucets.   Maybe add outside shower.

9. Maybe replace current electric / motorheat only water heater with a modern  RV  propane / electric / motorheat water heater.   The current one works, but I am concerned about needing to have electricity when boondocking  to have hot water.   I don't want to have to run the generator for hot water.

There are lots of other small issues,  I will work on all of them over time.   When I first looked at Retro it seemed like I was looking at a 2-3 year project.  That still seems to be the case, however I want to try to work in a way that lets me use the coach even while the project is going on.  There will be times when things are pretty torn up and we can not go camping, but there should be time between the phases of work when we can use the coach and evaluate our work so far as well as how the original equipment that we have not gotten to yet is working.

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