Our Underseal Hell and Major Accidents Continue (Part Two)



Underseal removal is not for the faint of heart, and if you survived my overly long first post on this job (titled accurately Underseal Hell: Yes, We are Gluttons for Punishment) then you may know a slim amount about the dedication, frustration, and love Andy and I foolishly have for our 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome.

This is only the beginning.

After spending 13 days with an angle grinder in our hands and underseal covering our bodies, we celebrated that 90% of the underseal and rust were removed from our metal panels.

However, we still had underseal left in cracks and crevices that our grinders could not reach.

Enter Underseal Removal Part Two, which started with Andy deciding he wanted a rematch with his angle grinder’s knotted wire wheel after it nearly blinded him earlier.

For those kind enough to drop in now without reading my Part One writings, when this first incident happened, I described his knotted-wire beast in this way: “If Freddy Krueger and Jaws had a baby, the knotted wire wheel would be the spawn. It is one evil beast.” It is also Andy’s arch nemesis.

Determined to get his knotted wire wheel to fit into the too-tiny crevices of our Cortez, his grinder again got the best of him.

Out of control, the angle grinder ate through his glove and continued to tear into his right palm.

To be honest, the cut was bad — enough to make us stop work and go an urgent care center. There, a kind doctor squirted saline into and around the laceration until it was clean enough for this picture and bandage wrap. If you’re worried too, yep, a tetanus vaccine was given.

Past this, my warrior popped a dose of pain relief medicine suggested when going to sleep so that a mere 15 minutes later, he looked like this …

Sleep well, solider. You fought fiercely.

The next day, Andy was (no surprise) ready to wage war so off to the Cortez we went! By now, we had formulated a plan: We were going to use a wire wheel attached to our drill to get into those tight spaces. Yet, that wasn’t abrasive enough for the underseal, so we turned to a wire brush. This also let us down, so we moved to a grinding stone. However, as work on our Cortez often goes, this too did not work.

Irritation mounted, and this is when we returned to chemicals.

Sliding multiple sets of gloves on and popping off our paint and epoxy lid, we poured the chemicals into a cup, dipped our brushes inside, and began. This time we slathered the chemicals on thicker, left them on longer, and followed up a with a “Screw you — This will work” by covering the chemicals in cling wrap to guarantee they did not dry out.

Then it was a moment of truth: We picked up our paint scrapers …

With minimal force, the top layer of underseal scraped off. Andy and I stood speechless, but looking back now we should have known not to put all of our aspirations in one test patch. Still, we were foolish — as I pointed out earlier — so it was here we firmly felt this must work, which is why we slathered an entire panel in the chemicals and waited with fingers crossed and hope in our eyes.

Then it was a second moment of truth and, cutting short what happened, I can simply say the chemicals did not work. Trust me — We understand how a test patch proved success of some value moments before; however, we did retry and retry, and every time disappointment swelled.

I wish we could make sense of what happened, but so often work on our Cortez does not make sense so that — in theory — this actually does make the situation logical … in some weird, warped Cortez way.

Still, there Andy and I stood and even though we were side-by-side we could have been miles apart as — I fully admit — I broke down.

“I value my life a hell-of-a-lot more than doing this,” I told him, literally throwing my arms up and in the air.

Maybe I was burnt out.

Maybe I was questioning our sanity.

Or maybe it was larger:

I began to realize my heart was not on the massive job of restoring an antique motorhome because when I said “this,” I meant the entire purchase of our RV.

“The whole thing is not worth it!” I exclaimed over and over and over again.

The thought of not having a Cortez made me analyze why we got the Cortez, and that in turn made me think deeply about what lead us here — to that very moment of standing yet again in our Cortez in the middle of summer in 100-degree Virginia heat.

“Why did we continue?!” I asked Andy, primarily since I had asked myself this question, oh, a zillion times and could not come up with an answer.

“You said you wanted to make every panel perfectly clean.” I heard him say then and thinking about it even now there must have been a communication breakdown because the last desire I wanted was to make every RV panel perfectly clean — In fact, every panel could be covered in the worst life had to offer, and I would have had little cares.

In the end, we decided every panel did not need to be perfect or clean, and that we had put in a grand amount of work to get as much underseal off as we had thus far. Therefore, moving forward we put down our scrapers, picked back up our hope, and headed out of our steel war zone, silently wishing that one day we would make overhaul-gains so large we would feel achievement.

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. Hello,
    I was initially wondering why you were removing the underseal until I saw the pictures from Part 1. It look like someone replaced the insulation once already and used some kind of adhesive on top of the black tar (original sealant was under body undercoat) which kept the ungalvanized steel from rusting. This were built the same as airplanes of similar years. The roof panels (2) were run through a seam welder so as to use thinner sheets of steel (hand welding doesn’t give as thin and nice a seam).
    You will have to coat everything again (possibly rust converter) to keep the condensation from cooking and breathing (even while you sleep) from causing rust again. I have thought of filling the channel in the ceiling supports with foam so the condensation can’t collect and run down.
    The pics don’t show much rust so the roof was repaired at sometime. Did you find any rust at the base of the wall supports?
    I’m just starting to work on my 1964 Cortez, but right now my priority is getting it running again. Then I will start on the inside.
    I’m starting to read through the retro rides forum posts, so I’m sure I’ll be writing you there.
    If you come across a good source for the bathroom faucet or replacement parts please let me know.
    Good luck,
    Carol Lopp
    P. S.
    My parents bought ours used in 1965. Our first major trip was to Mazatlan with the Cortez Viajeros. We continued on to Mexico City and Puebla on our own.

    1. Hi Carol,
      Nice to hear from you and happy to hear your have a Cortez too.

      To provide more details on ours, our insulation showed no sign of being replaced, and there was no adhesive on top of the underseal. Our next plan for the inside is to protect it from rust and then paint it. Since Cortezes are made of steel, you are right that the rust will always continue so I suppose it is a battle that we will have to keep waging but getting out the heavy amount of rust we have thus far is at least an improvement. The roof was definitely rusty — Under that one AC unit, it was our worst area for rust, and the metal corroded heavily there. Our base supports were another horrible area — The bottoms had corroded and were no longer holding up our roof. Talking about ceiling supports, Andy mentioned considering not using foam but instead using cavity wax — If foam traps moisture (which it will with even the smallest gap), it will rust. Just a thought to consider!

      Andy says you found his RetroRides posts — Thank you for reading there and writing! You also mentioned replacement parts — We don’t have information on the bathroom faucet but do have many parts listed on our website (https://soulofaseeker.com/vintage-rv-restoration/) — This page breaks down mechanical, bodywork, electrical, etc. where you can find part information and links.

      PS–That’s interesting about the seam welder and build being the same as airplanes! Also, that’s wonderful that your parents bought the Cortez in 1965! I love the story about you all traveling! Please do share more on your adventures in the past and present as you work on it!
      L (and Andy)

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