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“Let’s see what horrors await us,” Andy said as we drove to the farm to work on our 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome. Based on that sentence, it was clear he did not share the same sentiment I had for our new job and that was happiness because we would finally be working inside of our RV versus outside of it. Up until this point, we had worked hard the past eight months squeezed beneath our RV (working on the starter motor, breaks, alternator, suspension bushings and bearings, anti-roll bar bushings, transmission, and more) so the fact that I could stand straight and not get covered in oil and grime while we worked — let’s just say I was taking small victories whenever our antique lass gave them.
“Well, I’m terrified to see the condition of the metal,” Andy kept telling me, and this was a concern of mine too. In fact, we were starting our next job due to these concerns, which came after finding multiple water leaks … which lead to finding water damage in the form of rusted metal panels. The full extent of that water damage though was unknown, which is why we went shopping earlier for the latest personal-protective-equipment fashion wear …
Once parked at the farm, we slid into these safety outfits — suits, goggles, respirators, and gloves — and this decision is important to note because when we replaced the transmission oil, I managed to spray brake cleaner into my eye so I learned the hard lesson that protective wear is my friend.
Suited up, we were ready to begin our job of removing our Cortez’s insulation.
Starting at the back and moving forward, the insulation crunched as we pulled it back from the walls and ceiling. For the most part the insulation itself was in a good condition, though there were portions that no longer appeared yellow and fluffy but instead were caked in 55-year-old dirt and dust so much so that our insulation was instead a grey color.
“OH MY GOD!” Andy screamed, jumping backward as we removed insulation from a wall. An old mouse house and new one were revealed, along with a tiny grey mouse who scampered across our feet and narrowly escaped as we rolled and removed its insulated home.
“It’s just a mouse — It’s just a mouse,” I told him and so we set to work again, moments later finding a mouse skeleton.
Among the list of removed were several old mud dauber nests, though I must tell you even the combination of rodent houses, rodent, rodent skeleton, and wasp were not the worst news.
With the insulation out of the way, the thick, black underseal was now visible; and for the most part, it served its job of protecting our metal panels well. However, as we began to pull insulation from the ceiling, that changed.
In several places the underseal had bubbled up and pulled away from the metal so that — instead of protecting the metal — it created a moisture pocket between underseal and metal.
The moisture was so evident too that water — trapped in the insulation — streamed out when the insulation was pulled down. Further, because the underseal had pulled away from the metal, the underseal now clung to our insulation too …
Not only this, but parts of the underseal that did not remain stuck to the insulation were easy to break off due to how the brittle and bubbled the underseal had gotten. What was left behind in these places was not what we wanted to see and what we feared …
While some areas of metal had surface rust, others showed significant damage. These areas were predominantly where holes had been cut into our ceiling — for the vents, fan, and air conditioning unit — and the rust was so significant there that it had eaten through the metal. This was the case around the air conditioning unit where multiple pinholes created a constellation of sky.
From bad to really bad, our situation became worse.
“L, look at this,” I heard Andy say. Then I heard crunching. Standing up and moving towards Andy, I saw him lift and lower a metal rib along our ceiling — up and down, up and down.
This is when I learned the bottom of the ribs had been eaten away by rust so severely that they were no longer supporting our roof.
This raised awareness in two different ways:
First, based on the extent of water and rust damage, there was no way our Cortez was garage-kept, as our seller claimed.
Second, instead of continuing our mechanical overhaul, we needed to simultaneously jump to the interior restoration.
With a deep exhale and slouched shoulders, I pulled out the last of the insulation only to find these pieces were soaking wet and dripping with water.
If we had any doubts up until now about gutting our RV and removing the insulation — Let’s just say this sopping wet sponge solidified the need for exactly what we did.
Then, we stepped back to look at our progress — and you can see that progress too by moving the slider below to the right and left to witness our before and after pictures …
Looking back, this is the start of our RV Build phase where our plan from here is to remove the plumbing, gas, and heating components. After that, we need to determine the best steps to resolve our rust issues — Some places will require welding and others, rust and metal treatment but either way we need to clean metal for these jobs, which means removing the underseal.
Big steps surely are ahead, which begs this question: Can we see dreams coming true inside of our antique lass?
For me, not quite yet, but I did confess to Andy that moment when we have no rust, have cleaned the interior metal, and are looking at freshly painted walls — that’s when I’ll know we have reached my first major milestone. That’s when I’ll look at him and say, “It’s this moment I needed — to see this space, to know what we’ve done and how far we’ve come, to realize we are so close to achieving our dreams.”
Then again, maybe I am not so far from this moment …