Finishing Our Fuel Tank Restoration (Part Three)



“I mean,” Andy paused, “did we fix it?”

For the past four months, my husband Andy and I been working on our 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome, mostly restoring the 40-gallon fuel tank and then trying to get our RV to start afterwards.

I confess, we have played a game with our retro relic since we first got it, and this game is figuring out why it won’t start … again.

One would believe if a vehicle runs before taking a fuel tank out, once the tank was reinstalled, the vehicle would run again. After all, not a single part of the engine was touched and the only alteration was pulling one fuel line off the fuel tank. This means (for those not strong in mechanics, such as myself, though I am learning) that when a fuel tank is reinstalled, all that needs to be done is attaching the fuel line to the tank. Easy.

Or so we thought.

Turns out, Cortez Logic would prove it’s been more than awhile since we heard our steel beast run so taking it for a drive — well, that seems a distant memory right now as I type to you, admittedly between snoozes on this massive steering wheel and as Andy intermittently wakes me to have me turn the key in the ignition again … and again … and again.

“This is b*******,” he says right now after telling me he has to do a bit more reading to determine why our motorhome seemingly hates us and refuses to take journeys with us.

“We want to love you and adventure with you!” I tell it telepathically as I rub my hands over the steering wheel, imaging its past owners encouraging the vehicle onward in the same manner.

Our Cortez is obstinate though as it sputters and dies once again … but I’m getting ahead of myself.

This post is supposed to be about how we got to this point — the very point after our fuel tank restoration. To tell that story, we have to go back …

You may remember Andy combated a range of problems after removing the tank, which lead him to call in our friend and welder. With that extra help, we could finally move to our last stage of this saga …

Part One of our trilogy explains more, but essentially due to various fluids (PB Blaster, WD-40, and brake cleaner) and due to various emotions (anger, frustration with more anger and frustration), the bedliner paint Andy brushed on our tank had either dissolved, scratched, or chipped when it came time to reinstall it.

You can see the lack of protective bedliner paint here …

This means Andy’s earlier work on the outside of our tank was essentially for naught. (Again, our Cortez continues to find ways to humble us.) Because of this, we were determined to work together in a last-ditch-effort type of restoration.

Filling our tank with water and rinsing it out once more, the plan was to first flush out the fine chips of metal, which are called swarf … or is the plural form ‘swarfs‘ because Google reports it is but Andy refuses this information and claims his engineering colleagues will ridicule him if I use this word … however, on further thought, the plural of ‘swarf’ should certainly be ‘swarves.’ Therefore, we were removing the swarves with water. (Also, hi, engineering colleagues — Thanks for the support reading! Don’t forget to subscribe!)

With the tank rinsed out, next came the sad job of using the angle grinder’s stripping wheels to remove Andy’s previous labors …

With our black bedliner paint removed, we used panel wipe to clean the metal …

then prepared for painting with our personal protective equipment.

First, a grey etching primer was sprayed on.

I’ll note our bedliner paint said an etching primer is not necessary; however, given how easily it pulled away from the metal previously, we knew the primer would only help.

With the primer dry, we could reapply bedliner paint, which took care of the outside.

Focusing our attention to the last part of our tank restoration, we also needed to repeat steps to reseal the inside.

This was due to our welding work leaving both bare metal exposed and pinholes between welds –both of which are natural during the welding process.

Here is a look at one of the areas that was just welded …

Use the slider arrows in the middle to compare before and after fuel tank inside restoration

Therefore, the sealer would not only protect the metal but also seal the little pinholes.

This meant we were done with our restoration …

I’ll pause here to say a massive thank you to my aunt and uncle who kindly let us keep our Cortez on their farm. The overhaul of our steel beast truly would not have been possible without them, and we are reminded of our gratitude and the beauty of their farm in many ways but one peeked its head through the fence to watch us work …

Mary the Cow ventured to investigate what Andy and I were doing so, of course, I immediately paused in our work to live out a childhood dream of hand-feeding and scratching her.

You should know my aunt and uncle have several cows on their farm, but their cows aren’t the type to nuzzle for love so the fact that I could actually achieve what I have cried over and longed for since being a little girl — well, here’s how I felt …

Mary seemed pleased with both the delicious grass I provided from the other side of her fence and the itches so that she soon sauntered off happily to join her herd. I’ll mention too she must have viewed our interaction positively because she has since approached many times for more grass, scratches, and an occasional apple if I have one with me.

Back to our tank restoration: We installed our fuel level sender and bungs for electronic fuel injection and drain plug …

so it was (finally) time to install the tank back to the underside of our antique, which was patiently waiting for some type of progress in the shed …

Our Cortez would soon move onto ramps to give Andy and I more space to work underneath, and let’s just say we got our RV moving by devising a temporary fueling solution.

Crawling underneath, the area was quickly cleaned before new foam strips were applied to the straps holding up the tank. Sliding our 60-pound tank under with a tarp, we battled getting it into place …

and just so you get the feeling of our close quarters, I’ll include various pictures taken from our YouTube video

I can assure you we became much closer in our relationship too, and highlights of this can be seen when Andy accidentally shoved the tank into my head, I mistakenly kicked him in an area he undoubtedly would have not want to have been kicked, he became more creative and colorful in his cussing, and then there was this …

“I farted — Sorry,” Andy announced. “I — I didn’t know if you could hear it or not so I had to tell you the truth.”

It’s only fitting you know the real us since you have traveled down this winding Cortez road with by our sides for so long.

The good news though is after our struggle and closeness, the sound of a ratchet spanner confirmed our tank was bolted under our Cortez.

The last step was replacing brittle fuel lines (my job courtesy smaller hands) and connecting the fuel filler neck to the tank (Andy’s job courtesy more muscle) …

then we were ready to pour in gasoline.

As the gasoline glug, glug, glugged in, I was on leak-watch duty and more than happy to report not a drop was seen.

This lead us to the long-waited moment of starting our antique …

We’ve written before how fuel can sometimes struggle to come from the back of the Cortez (where the fuel tank is located) to the front of the vehicle (where the engine is located) so to combat this, Andy pulled out an electric fuel pump and wired it to our battery to expedite the process.

Or so we theorized.

For whatever reason, our electric fuel pump ticked … and ticked … and ticked but not even one drop of fuel was brought forward.

This lead Andy to check how far the fuel had traveled.

Using an electric pump (which would help the fuel move from the tank up), he first checked if gasoline had reached the engine. The answer: It hadn’t. He then checked if fuel had reached the mechanical pump. The second answer: It also hadn’t.

With the worry that the fuel was negatively affected because our Cortez was on ramps, we knew we needed to get our RV back on the ground. The only problem was we had just poured all gasoline from our temporary fueling solution into the tank. Left with no other choice, Andy shoved our steel beast backwards while I sat in the driver’s seat and prepared to stomp on the brakes.

Crises averted in the shove, our Cortez stood on concrete, which is where we then worked to determine how far — or even if — the fuel was leaving the tank. To check this, Andy headed to the back of our RV and pulled the fuel line from the tank.

Gasoline should have gushed out of the fuel line, but what we found was that the line was dry.

“Well, we still don’t have any leaks,” Andy huffed.

“I mean,” I told him not wanting to be technical but, “we want one type of leak right now.”

No matter where we tested and how we tried this day, our fuel refused to leave the tank.

“This is b*******,” Andy announced, which takes us back to the beginning of this post and to when we went home to investigate what mechanical ailment our steel beast now had. That answer though is our next story …


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.

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