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It was supposed to be a quick job …
Then again, aren’t they always supposed to be?
The amount of times Andy has said, “This will be a quick job” … or I had hoped “This will be a quick job” … or we have thought, This will be a quick job — Let’s simply say our entire 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome restoration would be finished if these words held the weight of beautiful dreams.
However, I’m slowly learning some projects cannot be completed with a dedicated continuous push. Some projects take time and require numerous pauses and breaks — and these respites are not only natural but okay. This is a difficult lesson for me though, but oh how I learned this when it came to our next job …
We have to backtrack to November 2020: When our Cortez was not starting, Andy decided to use his time wisely and tackle a job that did not require our vintage vehicle to move. This job was restoring our fuel tank.
Our 40-gallon steel tank showed its age — The paint had come off, and rust had taken over both outside and inside.
Therefore, Andy figured he would use the last of his vacation days and venture to the farm solo to complete this “quick” job.
Turns out, our Cortez had a different idea as it bestowed upon him a saga of what can go wrong, will …
↠ PROBLEM COUNT ↞
The first task was draining the fuel from the tank so that the tank would be safer, lighter, and easier to remove.
Unfortunately, our drain plug bolt had seized so it rounded off when Andy attempted to loosen it.
This left him with no other option than to lower the 134-pound tank (about 60-pound fuel tank with 94-pounds of gasoline [also note: It was not even full]). Amazingly, he muscled through this task by himself and drained the gasoline from the filler neck.
After that, it was time to remove the outlet fitting and fuel level sender (or sensor that measures the level of gasoline) …
↠ PROBLEM COUNT ↞
Starting with the fuel level sender, he learned why our fuel gauge only shows our tank is empty …
The sender no longer had a float attached to the end.
With a new sender ordered, the process to seal the inside of the tank commenced: Andy rinsed the tank many times with water to remove the debris and make the tank as un-explosive as possible.
Next, he poured hot water mixed with a cleaner-degreaser inside the tank then rotated and flipped the tank, moving it in every direction possible to fully slosh the fluid.
The last step on the clean: He rinsed the liquid out before letting the tank dry.
Returning the next day, a metal prep (which de-rusts and etches the metal) was poured inside before the tank soon found itself rotated and flipped on all sides again to ensure coating.
Despite sounding counterintuitive, the directions point out the need to rinse and dry, which is exactly what was done (because if there is one fact about the British [or at least my Brit], they like to follow the rules).
Returning to the farm later, sealer was the last step, but this would wait a moment while the outside restoration was tackled …
Wire brushing off the old paint and rust …
he brushed on rust neutralizer then soaked paper towels to ensure the metal was covered.
After half an hour, he rinsed the tank then repeated the process on the other side.
After another quick scuff and a wipe with panel wipe …
it was time to paint!
We opted for a bedliner paint, which is supposed to be highly durable since the fuel tank is located under our RV and between the rear tires.
After one side was painted and dry, Andy returned to finish off the inside restoration by pouring in sealer to protect the metal.
With another rotation and flip, the inside restoration was complete so that when the sealer dried, it went from this to this …
With the tank flipped, bedliner paint continued to be applied to the other side, which would also finish off this part of the restoration.
Once the outside of the tank dried, it was time to install a new fuel level sender.
I’ll note also that beyond the two hiccups earlier, for the most part, the restoration had gone smoothly and painlessly.
Now welcome to the actual Cortez saga …
↠ PROBLEM COUNT ↞
The majority of our problems started with Andy nearly dropped the heavy fuel tank on himself when re-installing it.
To give him credit though, installing a 60-pound tank would be hard for any one person. To combat the difficulty, he ingeniously propped the tank up using a large bin and other equipment before starting so that if this very incident did by chance happen, the tank would fall on the equipment and not wound him. Smart man.
↠ PROBLEM COUNT ↞
After installing the fuel tank, it was time to tighten the brass outlet fitting on the end of the fuel line.
However, once the spanner started tightening the fitting, it sheared.
Grabbing an extractor, Andy hoped the tool would — well, extract the fitting … but, of course, if restoring an antique vehicle was that easy, everyone would be doing it …
↠ PROBLEM COUNT ↞
As our Cortez Luck would have it, the extractor also sheared inside the fitting.
This break made the situation worse for several reasons, but here are three: One, the extractor was made of carbide, and carbide is one of the hardest materials in the world so extracting it would take a miracle. Two, not only did we now need to extract the extractor … but we also still needed to extract the fitting. Three, in order to do that, we needed to drop the tank again.
“Oh no,” Andy moaned before dropping his head and arms onto the cement floor under the RV. Silence surrounded us.
By now, I was at the farm beside Andy so we could take the tank out and tackle the problem together …
and here is a look at our problem …
Emptying out the Cortez, we strew every tool to (first focus) remove the carbide extractor. We attempted various methods with various tools at various angles, including (but not limited to) pliers, a drill with different sized bits, a chisel and hammer (which actually chipped the chisel), a punch … and none rendered success.
By now, this was how excited I was to be walking back and forth to the garage for additional tools and to continue work on the Cortez …
Returning back to our Cortez, Andy developed a plan …
He would drill little holes in the brass fitting to make it weaker then use a punch to knock the fitting out.
Cue angels singing, too, because when doing this our extractor dropped into the tank — and I know, this is unfortunate but we felt there was nothing else to do. The rest of the brass fitting was able to be pulled free.
Second focus: to install a new brass outlet fitting. To do this, we planned to re-drill and re-tap the hole.
“Hopefully that will put our fuel tank saga to bed,” Andy assured me before delivering this warning: We needed to be sure we did not drill so deep that we accidentally damage a pipe inside the tank. For this, he had an ingenious way to ensure success so much so that this was his rather smug facial expression …
I remember wishing I could absorb even half of his confidence.
True to his word, we did not damage the pipe as we carried on drilling then tapping the fuel tank …
The result of our hard work was these stunning threads …
Finally, our new fitting could be threaded on.
With this problem corrected, we returned to the rounded drain plug bolt (Problem Number One), and it was drilled out so that a new one could go in.
Did I say the angels sang before? If that’s the case, there was now a large chorus of angels harmoniously applauding us with their vocal chords.
Yet, it was true that while we solved our problems, we had still several steps ahead to finish off our fuel tank restoration, but this is a story for another time.
“Thank you,” Andy turned to me.
“For what?” I asked.
“For recharging me. I’ve been feeling a bit down about the Cortez recently but accomplishing what we did today with you being there — Thank you. Today was exactly what I needed.”
I cast a smile his way before squeezing his hand. I didn’t know why, but I felt the exact same way.