We’re Gutted: Our Demolition Begins

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It was raining — a heavy type of rain that is not only hard to overlook … but illustrates problems that are hard to overlook. Our problem: leaks and there were tons of them.

From water puddling onto our dash to water streaming in at the top of door seals all the way down — Our cab had only a small portion of our leak problems.

Behind the cab, the water poured in — Ceiling panels were buckling under the weight of the water, wood was stained, seats and carpet were soaked and also stained, and counters and sinks had puddles. There was even water dripping from our heater and air conditioner units.

Andy and I starred for awhile in shock. If the rain continued, our ceiling would cave in. “I guess this means we know what our next job will be,” he said and he was right. After fabricating our 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome’s air intake system, instead of moving to our next mechanical overhaul plans, we now needed to investigate our leaks.

The unfortunate news is this is when our scope creep started: Instead of mechanical work, we were investigating leaks … which turned into removing one buckling ceiling panel to find water-logged insulation … and then buying goggles and respirators to remove that insulation to find where the roof holes were…

… and that’s when we discovered the rust …

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For now, this is how our demolition started — We needed to remove as much as possible inside due to both water damage and due to avoiding water damage.

We began at the location of the largest leak, which was the seal around the roof-mounted air conditioner unit directly behind the cab. To analyze that seal though, we needed to remove ceiling panels, which gave us a good look at the damage — The insulation was drenched so much so that it was dripping.

I stood back and wondered if — in an alternate reality — I could ring the insulation out as if it were a sponge, then let it dry and place it back.

But of course that does not work and, even if it did, there were other problems: Layers of dust and dirt had built up, making the insulation no longer visible. The combination of water and filth confirmed our insulation was no longer effective and it would need replacing.

“Well, that’s not good,” Andy sighed so together we rolled the dripping, dirty clumps of insulation into a trash bag.

It almost would have been okay if the damage stopped there, but instead the problems morphed to a scale we hadn’t even considered: The black tar-like underseal (directly under the insulation) had bubbled off the metal so the thick coating that was once designed to protect the panels was, in fact, doing the opposite. The underseal now held pockets of moisture and that meant rust — rust so bad that it had eaten through our metal roof.

“What does this mean?” I asked Andy as we looked up at the constellation of sky and sun beaming into our motorhome.

“It means we have to follow the rust,” he told me, and his voice weighed of disappointment more than frustration. After all, our motorhome was sold as garage-kept its entire life, but the extent of rust showed this was a corrosion-battle that had waged for many, many years.

Ceiling panel after ceiling panel were pulled and the same damage results were rendered. I looked around us, suddenly overwhelmed — There was no way to know the extent of rust without removing everything from the inside of our antique RV.

“This is going to take days –” I told him before correcting myself “– or weeks! It will be tons of work.”

“No, no” and Andy waved his hand at my words to dismiss them. “It will take a day — one day.”

That’s how we began, though one day magnified to three but that was based on a decision we chose. Here was that thought process:

Realizing we had to remove the interior of our steel beast allowed us the opportunity to consider a different build in the future. For instance, did we want the original twin sofa or/and twin hanging bed? Did we need nearly all of the length on one side to be solely kitchen cabinets with a countertop? Did we want a massive closet? Did we want a permanent bathroom? Determining there were flaws in the original Cortez lay-out, we realized we did not have to build our interior back the same way. Instead, we could improve and customize; and once that realization hit us, a world of opportunities opened.

Still, we didn’t want to trash our Cortez innards that were in good condition because we figured other Cortez owners might have been interested in buying or receiving parts for their own restorations. However, that meant we had to remove pieces carefully … and that took more time. Therefore, instead of hammering, ripping, and pulling our way through the gutting, hand tools and power tools were used to meticiulously extract screws and remove rivets before delicately lifting parts out and placing them down.

In the end, we felt good about this decision — and I am still glad we took the time we did because it honored our unique vehicle and its history. Yet, saying that, our preserved pieces (that were free) sadly got no takers either due to people unwilling to drive to Virginia for pick up or due to the high price of shipping heavy or/and massive items.

At the time though, we did not know that so eye protection and respirators went on as we moved from front to back, starting in the kitchen.

Cabinets, wood walls and ceiling panels, fridge, and curtains were all pulled until the moon rose and darkness set in. Day One ended with our interior appearing as if it had barely been touched, though the two piles created at the rear of our door did justify hard work.

For Day Two, we returned to our mini bomb site and removed our kitchen sink, fridge, inverter, closet, bathroom walls (which you best believe the mirror was taken out with painstaking care as we both want to avoid a risk of seven years of bad luck), toilet, and storage walls.

We worked again until darkness arrived — a country darkness so black that we could no longer see each other’s faces.

On Day Three, the massive kitchen counter was removed, which gave us the most space we have had thus far inside the Cortez (which absolutely meant pausing in our removal to use the room to dance — and you can see those expertise dance moves on our YouTube video).

Past this though, our fresh water tank, additional wall panels, and fifty-five year old disgusting carpet all made their way out the back door.

Overall, the gutting held a jumble of emotions — It suddenly became a reality that we were, in fact, destroying a historic, antique vehicle. I know I have written before about how Andy drove vintage cars and how he spent too many hours to count maintaining their meticulous condition. Meanwhile, my father has always fallen for classic vehicles so his passion was instilled in me since being a child. Because of this, Andy and I both relished the idea of restoring our antique RV to factory. At the same time though, I would be lying if I ignored the fact that we had thought about a demolition in the sense of having the freedom to create a lay-out that fit us and how we wanted to live. We felt at a cross between two roads … until we began our gutting.

It is true our demolition solidified what we should do: Beyond the insulation holding water like a sponge and beyond the metal panels rusting through, Andy and I found (which we later learned was more than likely) asbestos around the water heater, along with a cluster of dead maggots, four dead mice, and six mouse houses filled with such a significant amount of mouse droppings that I could spend time describing the smell but I’ll do you the favor and spare you.

Essentially, we learned that our Cortez was not in a state that was safe or healthy to live in so with the move of old out, it was a great time to bring new in.

Andy and I have the ability to give our Cortez a new life, and for us that means moving forward with customizing and modernizing the interior so that our rusty relic can live again on the open road.

All in all, we finished — what we call — Phase One of our demolition.

This means our next plans focus on removing the insulation then plumbing and gas lines and electrics — which is where the latter spotlighted a different problem because wires were coming in and out of various places, wires were cut without covered ends, and wires were connected to other wires that did not make any sense. It was a mess, let alone a fire hazard.

However, both are for another day — For now, small victories for major steps moving us forward!

Author: L

Hi there! I am the impulsive do-er, the jumper, the one tugging to move past comfort zones to embrace a life of sheer surprise. I am a writer -- a pursuer of stories -- because I believe in the destination over the journey. I am a chaser of sunrises and sunsets and cherisher of the moments between. I have an overwhelming curiosity, an insatiable desire travel, and an obsessive yearn to turn dreams into realities. For all of these reasons, the word that best summarizes who I am is "seeker" -- I am forever a seeker.

2 thoughts

    1. haha I cannot tell if I should be happy about this comment or if I should respond that you totally get it — Our steel beast definitely does need more work than we thought, but Andy and I are both extremely stubborn so we will prevail… at some point! haha
      Thanks for reading and writing! Means a lot!
      L (and Andy)

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