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From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Value of '85 Winnebago
Date: Sat, 26 May 2001 00:17:44 -0400 wrote:

> My wife and I are thinking of making an offer on a nice 1985, class A,
> 22', Winnebago Chieftan, with a 454 GM motor, that a dealer here just
> took in trade. It shows under 30,000 miles, with onan generator,
> dash/roof air, full length awning, air bladder front suspension, newer
> all season tires, and it seems to run well. The dealer is asking $25,000
> Cdn for it.
>  My questions this a fair price (if not, what would be more
> reasonable), and how well do these models stand up.....any problems
> pertinent to this particular model that we should be looking for ?

I bought my 82 Itasca 22 foot class C 2.5 years ago for $6000.  It
had less than 20k miles on it.  It had been stored in a closed
garage custom built for it.  The owner had recently replaced all the
fabrics and carpet on the inside.  He had also painted the van clip.

The generator would not start (worn brushes).  Other than that, I
could find nothing wrong with the rig.  I slowly worked my way from
one end to the other, replacing things that are damaged by age
(rubber hoses, tires, water pump, toilet valve, etc).  Between that
and upgrades, I've probably spent $2k on the rig.  Other than the
pukey 80s color scheme (soon to be fixed as well), this rig looks
like it came off the show room floor.  Mine has everything you
mentioned except the awning and air bladder suspension (which it
doesn't need).

Itasca is the upscale Winnebago brand.  The price guides said that I
paid the top end of market value.  Needless to say, I think that
dealer is trying to stick it in and break it off.  Even taking the
near worthless canuck dollar into account.

I'm quite fond of Winnebago and Itasca.  Winnebago is the Buick of
RVs - a good, solid conventionally built rig without a lot of fluff.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Value of '85 Winnebago
Date: Sat, 26 May 2001 00:22:40 -0400

GBinNC wrote:

> Caution flag: This vehicle has been driven less than 2000 miles per
> year on average, meaning that it sat idle for long periods between
> trips.
> Lots of things -- on both the chassis and the "house" -- can cause
> problems after sitting for long periods. These problems (mostly
> involving cracked and leaking seals and other "soft" parts) may not
> show up until after you've driven it for a while.
> Low mileage in a vehicle like this is NOT a benefit -- it's a
> liability. In general, you'd be better off buying an RV with average
> or higher mileage (10,000 per year or so) and service records, because
> it more than likely would have been maintained properly and kept
> thoroughly lubricated by regular use. Probably much less trouble in
> the long run...

While this is generally true for vehicles that aren't too old, with
a 15 year old vehicle he'd have to replace most of the soft stuff
anyway.  Assuming the rig was stored away from water, thereby
avoiding rust inside the power train, all the low mileage says is
there is more wear reserve in the drive train.  If the price was OK
(IT IS NOT!), I'd want to put a borescope down a few sparkplug
holes, in the transmission and rear end to look for rust.  If it is
clean, then the long layup won't hurt much.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Help! Buying used RV + Do I need a generator?
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 01:44:17 -0400

Joe Farkas wrote:

> My Husband and I have been shopping for a used RV =Class C (we think)!
>  1st timers here.  Need of some advice!  We will not only be doing the
> camping thing in it, but also traveling to in-laws in upper Michigan
> (8 hr drive).  With such a long drive , should we stay away from a
> model more than 10-12 yrs old. Due to mechanical problems.

I have an 82 Itasca that I bought about 3 years ago and have put
close to 60,000 miles on since. Once I went through the rig and
replaced everything that might age, the rig has been stone-cold
reliable since.

There are two keys to enjoying an old rig - Shop very carefully to
find a rig that has been taken care of and b) be willing to go
through the whole rig replacing age-affected items before trying to
use it.

A candidate rig should have no major or structural problems.  It's
wasted money and time to think that you can buy a "fixer-upper" and
make it good.  Even very well cared for old rigs have relatively
little value so forget the fixer-uppers and find a good, babied

Age-affected items include just about anything that has rubber in
it.  Belts, hoses, some gaskets in the engine.  Weatherproofing,
gaskets, etc in the coach.  The approach I took was to take paper
and pen and work carefully from one end of the rig to the other
inventorying every single item that might need attention.  Then I
developed a work plan listing each item, what needed to be done, the
materials needed and the priority.  I then worked each item as time
and money allowed.  I worked the priority 1 (critical to basic
vehicle operation) items first and then I started using the rig on
short trips.  It took probably 6 months and around $2k to complete
all this work. When I finished, I had a rig that was as reliable and
probably more so, than a new rig.  I get a little less mileage than
a modern EFI'd rig and I still have those yucky late 70s colors but
those are about the only negatives.  That balances well against the
<$8k that I have in the rig.

> We looked
> at one that we liked alot (26 ft Jayco) it had many updates, but it
> did not have a generator to run the A/C.  Can this be a  big problem.
> We have two children that will be traveling in the back of it.  While
> on the road is the cab A/C sufficient to cool the back.  Also is it
> more common for RV's to have or not have a generator for this reason.
> Any comments on using propane tanks while traveling long distances.
> Are they safe while on the road?  Any and all comments regarding the
> purchase of a used RV (Class C) and what to look for and beware of,
> plus any commnents regarding generators will be much appreciated.
> Thanks in advance

I couldn't imagine a rig here in the Sunny South without a generator
and good AC.  I'd consider a generator problem to be more serious
than an engine problem!  If you come South in the summer, you'll
find that the dash AC will NOT be enough to keep the whole coach
comfortable or even tolerable.  Even if you think you can suffer
without AC on the road, consider that a rig without a generator has
little market value when you get ready to sell it.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Newbie's first MH
Message-ID: <>
Date: Mon, 11 Mar 2002 19:19:45 -0500

On Sat, 9 Mar 2002 13:04:33 -0500, "Tim M" <> wrote:

>Greetings, all.  My wife & think we'd like RVing and have been doing our
>homework: lurking here,, etc.  I agree it's a good idea to 'try
>before you buy', but since rentals cost $1000/week, we think we'd be better
>off buying an old MH in the $5000-$6000 range (early 80's 21'-24' class C?),
>keeping it for as long as we like it, and then we'll be much better prepared
>to make a good decision for a longer-term purchase.  With two kids in
>college, a 'longer-term' purchase will still be a used class C.
>Although a geek by profession, I am pretty handy in the garage & in the
>shop.  I can do most anything that can be done with ordinary hand tools & a
>I would appreciate any suggestions or advice on inspecting an old class C.
>Any makes/models from that era that are known to be particularly bad or
>good?  I will have it inspected where practical, but I am willing to travel
>for a good deal, so it may not always be practical.

What you're proposing is exactly what we did.  I'm sitting here typing
this message in our 82 22 ft Itasca motorhome, a photo of which is on
my web site in my .sig line.  I have been most satisfied and have put
nearly 60k miles on it in 4 years.

I wrote extensively about mine and what I did to make it reliable in
this group so I suggest you head out to and search on my
name and "itasca" and see what pops up.

Here are a few bullets.

First, don't even think about a fixer-upper.  There isn't much
difference in the price between a top notch 20 yr old rig and a
trasher.  I paid $6k for this rig which had been stored in a fully
enclosed barn and was owned by a neat freak.  The structure and finish
was perfect.  Only the mechanicals, things that don't age well, needed
attention.  At the same time I looked at $1000 and $2000 junk yard
specials that could have easily eaten $10k with me doing all the work.
There are plenty of very nice 20 year old rigs out there.  Just takes
some looking.  Took me 6 months to find this one.

Next, be prepared to go from bumper to bumper and replace anything
that ages.  Just do it in the beginning and you won't have to do it
again.  That includes tires, hoses, vacuum lines, carpet and pad,
upholstery (the foam rubber will be rotten and will quickly collapse).
On the engine, change every rubber hose, the water pump and alternator
with new (not rebuilt) items.  Just do it and get it over with.
Change out the ignition wires and perhaps the distributor if there is
any shaft wobble.  The carb may or may not need cleaning/overhauling.
Consider an EFI conversion.  The throttle body systems work real well
on RVs and the conversion can be done in a weekend from $200 worth of
junk yard parts. Look on for details on what parts you
need to look for in the junk yard.  You can get the right CALPAK
tuning eprom images from the web site and there are experts on the
mailing list to aid. Or if you want to join our group and nurture the
nerd in you, look here: In the
other windows on this laptop, I'm just finishing up the "Deployment
guide" for this unit.

One other thing you'll probably want to address.  Back then they
didn't seem to understand the meaning of using the proper wire gauge.
I'm currently rewiring all my 12 volt loads with either 10 or 12 gauge
wire because I got tired of the lights dimming every time the water
pump kicked on.  They used 14 and 18 gauge wire throughout.  Not a
show stopper but something that you might want to do later.

I did all this stuff to mine in the first few months after I bought it
(camping all the while) and literally haven't laid a wrench on it yet,
except to change alternators which it eats like popcorn charging our
large house batteries.  Currently fabricating a bracket to mount a
Class 8 truck alternator which will solve that problem.  That's quite
a record for this rig, considering that I've missed exactly 7 weekends
in the last 4 years not going somewhere in it plus 2 10 day extended
holiday trips a year.

Pay attention to the power to weight ratio.  Some are pretty bad.  I
was at first turned off on this rig with its Chevy 350 small block but
then I looked at the weight (7800 lbs loaded and ready to camp) and
realized it wouldn't be bad.  Frankly, it pulls almost as well as most
full sized passenger cars of that era.

>I expect to find that they are too underpowered, but I am tempted by the
>Toyota/Winnibago units.  Any comments on them?  Where can I find weight
>ratings & other specs for them, and other old MHs?

Our first few camping trips were done in a borrowed Toyota-based
Keystone 20 ft Class C.  I was quite surprised at how well this unit
handled.  Also surprised at the power.  We made a trip to the nearby
Smoky Mountains and found that we could maintain 55 mph on even the
worst inclines on I40.  The bad part was that the rig was right at its
weight limit.  The practical consequences were tiny fluids tanks and
no generator.  I pulled a tiny trailer behind it to haul my generator.
That worked well for long trips but I'm not sure I'd want to do that
on our weekend jaunts.  Given that all rigs in this age range fit into
a rather narrow price range, I think I'd look for at least a V8.  My
preference would be one of the light weight units like mine with a
smaller engine.  I get 14-15 mpg on the interstate which is very nice
on the wallet.  I expect that to improve at least a couple of MPG when
I drop a MegaSquirt based TBI injection system on sometime in the next
couple of weeks.

From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Bought 1st MH, now the questions...
Message-ID: <>
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2002 13:59:06 -0400

On Mon, 17 Jun 2002 13:25:44 -0400, "Tim Mueller" <> wrote:

>Greetings, all.  My wife & I just bought our first motorhome, a 1986
>TravelCraft, 25 foot Class C with Chev chassis & 350 engine.  I've been
>searching the archives and have answered many of our questions that way, but
>there are still a few that could use more input.
>Is there a general consensus about what chemicals should be used in the
>fresh/gray/black water tanks?  Does ordinary toilet paper need chemicals to
>ensure breakdown & prevent clogging, or is the special, made for RV-use,
>toilet paper the way to go?

The answer is "it depends".  If your rig is like mine, with a straight shot
from the head to the black water tank and a dump valve connected directly to
the black water tank, then you can use any tissue you damn well please.  I
like to pamper my butt and so use Charmin unscented.  It doesn't disintegrate
(I have one of those clear plastic elbows on my dump hose so I can see when
it's finished dumping) but that doesn't matter.  It gets swept out with all
the other stuff.

OTOH, if you have a rig with some of the crappy, barely sloping plumbing like
I've seen on some 5ers, you need to worry.  Not only about tissue but anything
else non-liquid that finds itself in the black tank.

Unless you find someone where (or in person) with exactly your same rig,
generic advice isn't worth much.  You have to take a critical look at YOUR
plumbing, look for places where the system can get clogged up and then decide.

As far as chemicals, like someone else on this forum said, I'm running a
holding tank and not a septic system so I want to kill everything in the tank
for odor control.  I use the chemical they sell at WallyWorld or Camping
World, depending on where I am when I run out.  4 years of camping every
weekend plus 25 days on the road every year a no problems.

I will say that if I DID have a system so poorly designed that I had to worry
about what TP to use, I'd redesign it before the first use!  Life's too short
and there's too little camping time to have to worry about your shit tank!!!

>I have been to the Helm website looking for service manuals, but I'm not
>finding anything specific to a 1986 motorhome chassis, and I can't identify
>the chassis beyond the fact that it's an '86 Chev and the PO said it was a
>1-ton chassis.  How can I identify my MH's chassis?

My 82 is also on a Chevy chassis with a 350 engine.  In my manual, there is a
part number for the factory manual which is what Helm used.  Yours will be
either a P20 (3/4 ton) or P30 (1 ton) chassis.  Before I bought the exact
manual from Helm, I bought a used 1 ton van factory manual at a swap meet that
was very close.

None of these are going to give you the most important thing you need -
chassis and house wiring diagrams.  When I called Winnebago about mine, the
response was "Duh".  Soooo.  I spent a long afternoon running down wires and
hand-drawing a schematic.  Probably some of the best time I've ever spent on
my rig.  Itasca/winnebago made some significant changes to the factory chassis
wiring so the Helm manual was no longer accurate.

>Can anyone recommend service manuals for the 350 engine?  I have found
>Chilton & Haynes 'overhaul' manuals and some performance-building manuals,
>but I really just need good maintenance & repair manuals.

You REALLY don't need a manual to keep a small block chebby running, do you?
Change the oil every so often, plugs and wires when they need it and drive.

Since your rig is old, I VERY STRONGLY recommend changing all the rubber under
the hood.  Hoses, belts, etc.  They'll all be at least dry-rotted if not just
flat worn out.  You will save yourself a LOT of grief out on the road if you
just set a day to change everything out and be done with it.

After dealing with a collection of niggling little age-related problems right
after I got my rig, I extended this process to the whole rig.  New water pump,
new flex hoses whereever they were used, new weather trim, etc.  Changed any
wiring that looked suspect.  Now my rig is better than new as far as
reliability goes.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Buying a motorhome.
Message-ID: <>
Date: Thu, 05 Dec 2002 14:16:52 -0500

On Mon, 2 Dec 2002 00:17:26 -0600 (CST), (BLUE-EYES) wrote:

>What are the important things to check for ?? It will be a used one. At
>this time we have a 5th wheel camper and enjoy it very much. Witch ones
>are the best Southwind or Pace or Allegro??  The class c are to small so
>looking at the class a and must have a chevy drive train. Thanks  JOHN

After the generator, engine and drivetrain, probably THE most expensive and
the most hassle-filled thing to fix is a water leak and water damage.  Check
the rig VERY closely for water damage.  Sight down the side (if it is smooth)
looking for bulges where the wood inside swelled.  Look for stains and
wrinkled wallpaper.  Look under the rig for water marks where they should not
be.  Check the roof.

Do NOT believe any statements to the effect that the leaks have been fixed.
If you decide to proceed with a deal involving a water damaged but "fixed"
rig, at least take it to a car wash and apply the pressure washer to all the
windows and other wall penetrations and to the roof.  Also a good idea to set
it up for a 24 hour soaking with a garden hose.

My mom recently went through this with her new rig, a 95 Four Winds MH.  The
used car dealer she bought it from (another story, recommend you NEVER do
this) had removed the window that was leaking and had gommed on some caulk,
thereby sealing in the water.  I noticed the developing bulge in the wall and
wrote in the sales contract that this was to be fixed "as new".  Long story
short, after several weeks of hassle and after tossing the keys back to the
salesslime and demanding our deposit back, they took the rig to a professional
RV repair center.  There they removed and replaced the whole wall.  When the
repairman poked his finger through the wrinkled wall paper (!), water poured


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Can I get my money out of a used MH
Message-ID: <>
Date: Tue, 27 May 2003 02:55:25 -0400

On Sun, 25 May 2003 13:31:12 GMT, (Dr.Tate) wrote:

>I like a motorhome.  I started looking at 5W's because it seemed like
>it would be a cheaper solution.  But I found out pretty quickly that a
>decent truck/5W camper is really no cheaper than a MH.  So I am back
>to MH.

If you're going to travel as opposed to camp, a motorhome is much more
convenient.  Very nice to just pull over for a meal, nap or pee break.  Same
for nightly stops.  Just roll to a stop at Camp WallyWorld, get out of the
driver's seat and go to bed.  I always get a kick out of watching the fivers
set up in a campground.  Usually takes an hour or more to level and block,
unhitch and do all the other stuff they have to do.  I just back my rig in,
hook up the power (occasionally the water and sewer), toss out the lounge
chair and commence lounging.  No more than 5 minutes involved.  Add 5 more
minutes to let out the awning.

>I'm sure I am not the only one who has gone through this seemingly
>disjointed thought process.  It is simply a matter than when the
>questions come into my mind, I try to answer them.
>I am also in 100% agreement that renting a unit first seems like a
>wise decision, so I am doing that.  I'm sure I will learn a lot on
>that trip.  And I also like the idea of buying a used unit.  I have
>been looking on this site
> and it is giving me
>some ideas of what I can get for $30,000.

Several comments.

Every rental MH I've ever stuck my head inside of was a ratty mess.  Cheap to
begin with and very much worse for wear.  I agree that renting is what you
should do first but just keep in mind that YOUR rig will likely be MUCH nicer
than whatever it is you rent.

Take your first trip by yourself or maybe with one other person.  Mixing in a
novice operator, a rental unit and a bunch of folks crammed together is the
making of one of those "Vacation" movie type adventures.  Just contemplate
having yourself and all these friends cooped up for a weekend in your bedroom!

Unless you have some ex-navy types in your crowd, it's probable that no one
will have a clue about water discipline.  That means empty fresh water tanks
and full holding tanks before you even get started.  Even after many trips I
still have to remind my mom not to stand there at the sink with the water
running like she does at home.

I suggest a short trip to a campground with full hookups.  That will present
the operational side of MH'ing at its best.

As far as buying, I suggest sticking with mid to high end brands such as
Winnebago, Itasca, etc.  Roll back a few years to get to your price range.  As
long as the engine is fuel injected, the actual year won't matter that much.
The depreciation will have leveled out and the previous owner will probably
have worked out most of the bugs.  They ALL have bugs from the factory - just
the nature of hand-built construction.

Avoid the low end brands like Coachmen like the plague.  These things are
stick-built just like mobile homes and rapidly wear out and generally get
loose.  The mid and high end ones are actually engineered, with custom made
fittings, cabinets and so on and will last a LONG time.  My Itasca, for
example, has custom aluminum extrusions for the frame members, has custom
aluminum forgings for cabinet fixtures and the cabinets are made from stamped
aluminum sheeting.  The walls are made from a styrofoam and aluminum
composite, slightly bowed for strength.  They are light, strong and provide
excellent insulation.  The thing is solid and has not a single rattle even
after 20 years on the road.  Wish I could say that about my mom's 4 year old
Four Winds.

If you stick with the smaller end of the spectrum, say, up to about a 24
footer, you may find that you use the rig for many things other than just
traveling or camping.  I find that I drive my 24 footer just about always when
I leave the city, even for a day trip. It will fit in a regular parking space,
handles like a large van and gets as good a mileage as most SUVs (in the 14
mpg range) It is sooo nice to have a clean bathroom to use, plenty of snacks
at hand, a nice place to nap when you get tired and to have a cool vehicle to
return to.  Also nice to have plenty of room to haul your plunder from the
shopping trip.  I've had more than one day trip turn into an overnighter on
the spur of the moment, mainly because I could.

I love to go out junking early on a Saturday morning.  I'll drive out to where
I know there will be a flea market, cluster of yard sales or antique market
the night before, sleep nearby in a parking lot and be up fresh and ready for
the junk wars at the crack of dawn.  I can have a good meal and coffee before
I go and still not have to get up too early.  All this stuff you can do if you
don't buy a behemoth land barge.

>My RV book is coming this week.  I will rent, read, research and
>probably look at actually buying something after Jan 1.  That's about
>as organized as I can get.  That will give me two years more to shake
>me out than the rig, and by the time I retire I can decide if I want
>to  full time or just do occasional trips.

yup, just don't take the books too seriously.  I've bought several and read
several more.  While most contain some good information, none of the writers
seem to do RV'ing anywhere near the way I like to.  Just get a rig (rent or
buy) and go out and do it.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: DANG IT *%*#!& :( was : Took the plunge!!!
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2003 01:28:27 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Mon, 15 Sep 2003 18:46:52 -0500, Skyhooks <> wrote:

>ARGH!!! #(%*^&@### and then some!  Now I feel a little better, but not
>really (sigh).  OK, took this 1983 Chevy 20 to our (reputable and
>trusted) local mechanic.  It has a 305 V8 engine with nearly 89K milage.
>Anywho, mechanic reports ;(  :
>*  needs front end rebuilt
not a terrible problem.

>*  oil leaks - valve cover gaskets, possible intake valve
Minor, fixable without pulling a head or the engine.

>*  trans output shaft seal & bushings bad & leaking
Minor, can be fixed without dropping the tranny.

>*  (cab) a/c compressor wet with oil
Not mission-critical - use the roof-top AC until you can fix it.  Figure $600
to get a new compressor, barrier-type hoses and a conversion to a modern

>*  passenger electric window motor needs replacement
>     (window doesn't fully open, motor makes rachet sounds)
not mission-critical.  Ignore it until you can fix it.  Most likely just some
minor bushings worn out.  Even if the whole motor assembly is shot, only a
couple hundred bux to fix and is not major work.

This looks like maybe $2k worth of work.

>Plus, the mechanic told me this MH will "nickel and dime" us to no end.
>Of course, mechanic couldn't tell us anything about the RV-side
>components of the MH.
>So, we didn't buy it, pristine condition (inside & out) an all.  It was
>truly a pretty penny (sigh).  I absolutely regret we didn't buy this,
>but they wanted $5900 firm for it, and I/we wouldn't have minded paying
>that either.  My stomach turns because we didn't buy this.  But, we
>don't want to keep spending beaucoup bucks in the short haul, in other
>words, sounds like we can't afford to keep it.

OK, you made a mistake.

About 5 years ago I bought an 82 Itasca Spectrum MH on a chevy P20 chassis
with a 350 engine.  I paid $100 more than you could have.  I immediately spent
about $1500 or so replacing just about everything made of rubber (belts,
hoses, etc), the water pump, the water valves, some of the plumbing, the
upholstery, the batteries... in other words, everything that had a design life
or would wear out.  I put about 40k miles on the rig after that, doing little
more than changing the oil and replacing an occasional blown tire
(overloaded.)  Last year I dropped about $1200 on new tires and wheels
(remember our previous discussion?) and another $1200 on a new generator to
replace the noisy and worn out original.  Last spring the absorption refrig
finally went TU.  Had I replaced it I would have spent another $1200.  I
installed a small electric refrigerator and inverter, intending on leaving it
there only until I could get to Nashville and buy a new absorption rig.  I've
now decided that I like this setup so well that I'll not bother with a new
absorption rig.  I spent $149 (or something in that neighborhood) on the
fridge and $29 on an inverter.  Plus about $40 on some walnut veneer plywood
and trim to frame in the electric fridge and then stain it to match the other

So here I sit now with about $10k in the rig.  I've put almost a hundred
thousand miles on the thing and have had no problems that affected the trip in
any significant manner, blown tires being the worst problem.  Even better, I
have a rig that is customized to the way I want it and for my kind of travel.
It is built much better than my mom's 98 model Four Winds rig.  Looking at how
fast signs of wear are accumulating on her rig, mine will look better than
hers in just a few years.

Within a year I'm going to drop in a modern chevy truck engine and tranny to
replace this engine that is showing its age.  I can get a low mileage engine
and tranny from a nearby truck wrecking yard in the $2k range.  If I couldn't
do the transplant my mechanic would do it for about $1k.

After that is done I will have about $13k in the rig, a little over half spent
over the course of about 6 years.  That's about a grand a year.  Compare that
to the interest or depreciation on a new rig.

The rig originally had red and orange shag carpet (gag) and pastel orange and
brown wall paper in a very 70s motif.  That's all gone now, replaced with more
calm wall paper and carpet.  The carpet will come out this spring in favor of

The advantage of a rig this old is that if it is in good shape then it is a
survivor, the opposite of a lemon.  The Itasca was built of aluminum and
styrofoam composite walls on a welded aluminum frame.  Water and bug proof and
did not vibrate loose with use.  An old rig in good shape also has to have
been taken good care of. In my case the original owner had built an enclosed
barn just for this rig so that it was never exposed to the elements except
when camping.  Not much of that, with 14k miles on the clock.

>Someone else please tell me we made the mistake like I feel we did by
>not buying this unit??????  I just need that little bit of more guilt
>placed on my conscious, considering how my gut feels right now (and for
>a few days longer).  Now there's no way I can talk spouse into buying
>this puppy because of what the mechanic said (drat!) despite the RV's
>hidden motor defects.

Your mechanic is a little bit right but mostly wrong.  At least in the
beginning you will spend some money making all the aged and worn things right.
That's the down side.  The up side is that you can be camping all the while.
Once the mission-critical things are put in tip-top shape (belts, hoses,
tires, water system, waste system, batteries) you can camp in spite of things
that need fixing.  I spent a good chunk of one winter heating with a catalytic
heater until I could fix the furnace.

The BIG advantage is that the total dollars you'll spend is a small fraction
of what even a used late model rig will cost.  Even better, you get to choose
when to spend them.  Don't like that old
get-out-in-the-dark-to-light-the-pilot water heater?  Choose your time to
replace it with a modern pilotless heater.  It'll fit right in the same hole
and in the meantime you've been camping.

Fixing up a rig can be fun.  Like renovating an old house but with all the
jobs small enough to get your arms around.  My wife loved redecorating our
rig.  For example, with only 3 sets of drapes to make, she could have any
fabric she wanting and not break the bank or her back.

>Now to go stew and wait for more ads to show up with units we can afford
>(in the long haul, short haul, too).  No pun intended, of course.

I firmly believe in "chemistry" in these situations.  After over 6 months of
looking I just knew that this rig I have now was the right one for us.  Even
before giving it much more than a casual walk-thru.  It just had the right
"feel".  If that chemistry has happened to you and your mechanic can't find
anything more wrong than what you listed, and you're not afraid of some DIY,
then I say go for it, if the unit is still available.  The trick is, of
course, to tell the difference between chemistry and blind infatuation :-)


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Where in Atlanta to Buy First Trailer??
Date: Mon, 07 Jun 2004 03:56:19 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On 6 Jun 2004 16:19:04 -0700, (Racer X) wrote:

>I live in the Atlanta area and want to know a good dealership to
>purchase our first travel trailer.

I can tell you a place to stay away from.  Three-Way Camper sales in Marietta
on Hwy-41.  They royally screwed my parents on a TT, taking advantage of
people who didn't know about RV just because they could.  I posted a detailed
description of their actions several years ago in this group so you can google
if you want to know the details.

I've heard a few decent comments about Bleakley.  No personal experience.

Frankly mine and my parents' experience with RV dealers has been 100% bad.
The latest incident involved Shipps RV here in Chattanooga.  She had a minor
bit of remodeling done (the main bed narrowed.)  The work was a hack job and
in the process they did a couple thousand dollars worth of damage, including
running screws into water pipes.

If I were in your shoes I'd do a LOT of tire kicking.  Visit many dealers in
the area and closely examine the wares.  Look at the construction.  Even an
untrained eye can spot cheapness with a little experience and with something
to compare to.  Ask questions in this group.  Maybe wait for the Atlanta RV
show next spring.  Then find a good used trailer and buy it.

When you find a candidate unit, avail yourself of a local RV expert or two to
inspect the unit.  There are several knowledgable members of this group who
live in Atlanta.  For that matter, I'm not that far away :-)  Maybe you could
get lucky and find a professional inspector or maybe an independent RV
serviceman in Atlanta.  Just make sure the person isn't associated with a
dealer.  Whomever you find, pay him to do an autopsy on the unit.  Poke in and
around, under and on top of the unit.  Have him compile a written list of
defects.  And a list of design deficiencies.  Poor layouts, weak looking
chassis, etc.

Some, such as water damage, are show stoppers.  Time to look for another unit.
Others may be negotiating tools or ultimately just things you fix when you get
a round tuit.  Use this trailer to learn RV camping.  Then in a year or two
take your knowledge and the money you saved by not buying new and find the RV
that fits your style.  New or used.  That's how most people including me do

Most of the depreciation happens in the first 4 or 5 years.  A rig that old is
still fresh if it hasn't been abused.  Therefore I suggest looking in that age
range.  You can buy a LOT of camper for not much money that way.

Some people will advocate paying the money to join  I don't for three
reasons.  One, I've not been impressed with either the info or the
presentation on the free part of the site.  Two, he has an agenda (which is
OK) but that agenda may not be the same as yours and certainly isn't the same
as mine.  And three, good info is out there on the net that doesn't cost
anything.  It may take a bit of work to find and filter but it's there.  IMHO,
you end up with a much more thorough understanding when you dig out the info
for yourself.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: WTB: Travel Trailer in Dallas, Texas area
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 12:06:44 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Wed, 16 Jun 2004 07:31:54 -0500, "dbtolman" <>

>I didn't say how often we planned to use it...  We plan to use it on a VERY
>regular basis.  I've got other family members who vacation frequently and
>can afford to do so since they don't require $150 - $200/night hotel rooms
>for the week.
>Nudist?  Nope, just a cute way to keep spam down.   Read the email address
>and reply instructions again.  ;0)

You've just run into two things that make this group quite unfriendly.  The
first, that angry old man who just blasted you is easy enough to fix by
killfiling him.  I suggest doing that immediately.

The second thing is harder to fix.  That is, people telling you what an idiot
you are instead of just answering your questions.  No technology fix for this
one so you just have to wade through the crap.


>BTW, I also forgot to mention, if it needs some work I don't mind.  For that
>price, I'd expect it to anyways...

I'm going to suggest you not go too far down that road.  Thinking you can save
money by buying a "fixer-upper" is false economy simply because used RVs are
so cheap.  The money needed to fix any significant problem would buy a much
better rig than what you'd end up with after the fix.

I went down this same road several years ago and fortunately didn't make that
mistake.  I had limited money and am very skilled at many crafts.  I figured
that I could find an old motorhome and fix it up.  I spent quite some time
looking at sub-$2k rigs.  I started to tally what the repairs would cost and
compared that to rigs in the sub-$10k range and very quickly realized that I
could put just a bit more money toward the MH and get a MUCH nicer rig.

I ended up spending $6k on an 82 Itasca 20 ft unit that had been meticulously
cared for by its owner.  I STILL ended up spending a couple grand over the
next year or so on the thing to get it as reliable as a new rig and get all
systems working properly.

Here is my suggestion: Start looking in the >10 year old range.  Look at what
was the top end of the size class you're interested in.  The top end units
will have been built to higher standards and with better design and materials.
Avoid stick-built (mobile home wood frame) rigs.  These are more susceptible
to rot and in general, represent the lower end of the class.  A 20 year old
Aluma-lite, for example, with the welded aluminum chassis will be a LOT better
rig than a 10 year old stick-built unit.

Run as far away as you can from water damage.  The damage you can see is the
tip of the ice berg. Any interior signs of water mark a money pit.

I generally dislike rubber roofs.  My first choice is aluminum, followed by

Don't get too excited if one or more of the appliances don't work.  In the big
picture, appliances are inexpensive and easy to fix.  You can buy a LOT of
$350 water heaters for what one water-damaged wall would cost.

If you find yourself considering a high mileage unit, particularly a
lightweight one, very carefully inspect (or have inspected) the underside for
stress cracks.  This is particularly important if you live in a state like Pa
that considers the pothole to be the state animal.  ANY cracking, even on
minor brackets, is reason to run.

When you find something interesting, post here and we'll discuss it.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Found possible RV deal, opinions wanted
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2004 17:10:14 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On 23 Jun 2004 08:56:17 -0700, (Brian Gudzevich) wrote:

>I found a dealer in New York that has a 1989 Coachmen 24' Class C.  It
>seems to be in good shape, except for some delamination in one spot.
>I'm in Massachusetts.  I think I can get it for $4000-5000 delivered.
>Is this a good idea, or should I stay away from it, since I'd be
>buying it sight unseen?  I know delamination is expansive to repair,
>but I think I have the time and the skills to work on it myself.  At
>least to patch it long enough to afford a better rig.

Run, don't walk, away from that one.  First off, Coachmen is a low end brand
which means cheap construction materials and methods.  Second, ANY sign of
water damage is reason to run away from a rig, especially with fiberglass
sided rigs.  By the time the blister shows there is serious damage.

A couple of years ago my mom impulse bought a 24 ft 4 Winds rig.  It had a
blister under the window.  I tried to talk her out of the purchase but she
fell in love.  I did manage to get the seller (a car dealer) to promise in
writing to fix any water damage associated with the blister.

Turns out someone had removed the window and botched the install.  When they
got the wall opened up, about half of that side was rotten.  Cost the dealer
several thousand dollars.

My advice is to keep looking.  It took me a year to find my perfect rig in my
price range.  I'm sure glad I took the time to be particular.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Help in buying a used motorhome - First time owner.
Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2007 20:10:53 -0400
Message-ID: <>

There really isn't a simple answer to that question.  It will depend on the size and
weight of the vehicle and how the owner drives and cares for it.

At the theoretical level, research has been published that shows that an engine's
life is proportional to both the total number of revolutions turned and the total
energy thruput in HP-hours or your other favorite unit of energy measure.

On a practical level what that means is fairly obvious - the faster the engine turns
and the harder it has to work, the shorter its life.  That leads to another fairly
obvious deduction - that the heavier and the more drag a vehicle has, the more work
the engine has to do and therefore the shorter its life. Gross generalities of
course, but one could be fairly certain that the 454 in my mom's 24 ft MH will last
longer than one in a 38 footer, all else being equal.

When I bought my rig, a lightweight 20 ft Itasca with a 350 chevy engine in it and
about 14K on the clock, I predicted in my log book that the engine would be good for
about 60k miles.  I based that on fairly extensive knowledge of engines and on my gut
feel for how hard the engine had to work to propel that rig.  Sure enough, at about
65,000 miles it sunk its first valve.  I kept driving it for another 10K miles or so
until it sunk another couple valves and lacked the power to keep up with traffic.  A
new set of heads made it happy as a clam in sauce and it still burns less than a
quart of oil between changes.

Unless you're going to be living in the thing full time and/or traveling somewhere
every weekend (whereupon you ought to be looking at a diesel), I just can't see
engine life being a major issue.  All modern engines are designed and built well
enough that they'll probably outlast the rig.

If engine (whole drivetrain actually) life is important - you're going to be
traveling most of the time, etc. - then a look at the trucking industry can be
instructive.  You won't find many gas engines in anything heavier than about 6 or
7000 lbs gross and almost none above 10K lbs.  Usually a gas-fueled engine in
anything heavier than a medium duty pickup truck is there for some other reason, such
as the availability of one type of fuel over the other.

Personally, I'd not pay so much attention to the clock as I would the overall
condition of the rig.  A well-cared-for rig owned by a gentle driver can last
practically forever.

One thing I like to do when I'm considering a used vehicle is have the owner drive me
around for awhile.  I'm more interested in him than I am the vehicle at that point. I
want to see how hard he accelerates and brakes and how smooth he is.  Does he ride
the brake with his left foot all the time?  Does he use the pulse-braking technique
on long downhills?  When backing up, does he slam it into D before coming to a
complete halt?  I don't want a vehicle from a "high maintenance" driver regardless of
what the clock says.

Pay attention to your gut.  If your gut feeling says the rig isn't right then pass it
up and vice versa.  I looked for well over a year to find just the right RV.  I knew
within a half hour that I'd found the one for me when I came across my rig.  The
owner had built an enclosed barn just for it so it wouldn't be exposed to the
elements.  His driving was very smooth and his maintenance records complete.  He was
honest about what was wrong with the rig and I detected no signs of evasion.  I
bought the rig on the spot and never looked back.


On Tue, 17 Jul 2007 17:51:53 -0400, "Stew Jackson" <> wrote:

>Thanks to all that have answered my initital questions here and for other
>issues that have cropped up in the discussion.  Being a newcomer to the RV
>world, It's great to see the sharing that's happening here and the tolerance
>of a newbie with his questions.
>I have another related question, if you all won't mind.
>I see the Chevy 454 and the Ford 460 seem to be in a lot/most of the units
>that I see advertised.
>Most of the units in my price range have 20-30,000 miles on them or over 50K
>miles.  I guess those with 30-50K miles are still happily riding around.
>Naturally, I'd like one with the least amount of miles, but the question is,
>how long do these engines really last in this kind of service given that
>they get normal routine maintenance?  In a car/truck you'd expect well over
>100K miles.  What about in the RV?  should I steer clear of anything with
>over 50K miles on it, for example?

From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Toyota Motorhomes
Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2007 18:59:55 -0500
Message-ID: <>

On Sun, 25 Nov 2007 08:39:26 -0800, Jim <> wrote:

>Ok, I'm thinking about a Toyota based motor home, maybe a Winnebago, as
>late a model and low mileage as possible.
>What does everyone know about the engine and transmission choices?  They
>have the 4 cyl, a V4, a V6, then there's the transmission choices.

I started my modern RV career in a borrowed Keystone MH that was built on the Toyota
chassis.  It had the big 4 cylinder engine and manual transmission.  We did a couple
thousand mile trip pulling a lightweight trailer with a generator, lounge chairs and
other stuff too big to fit in the rig.

I really enjoyed the experience and would not hesitate to buy another.  The engine
wasn't a tire scorcher but it kept us at the speed limit even pulling the trailer. It
handled better than any other MH I've ever driven.  Fit nicely in a standard parking
space.  Got high teens MPG.

This particular MH was small (too small to contain a generator) and light and easy to
manage.  I've seen some monstrosities built on Toyota chassis.  Don't think I'd want
one of those.

Couple of things to be aware of.  One, the weight of the rig.  Some manufacturers
apparently overloaded the chassis and the result wasn't pleasant.  I'd weigh any rig
that I got seriously interested in.  Two, make sure the rig has the heavy duty rear
axle.  I don't recall if it is 6 or 8 lug but it's more than 5.  It's the floating
axle design.  Apparently some manufacturers used the lightweight truck axle and
frequent breakage was the result.

As for older rigs, much of the "advice" in this thread is simply BS.  Can you repair
your car?  Fix things around the house?  If so then you're more than capable of
handling the few problems that pop up in old rigs.  Selecting the right rig is the
key.  Mileage in and of itself is relatively meaningless.  More important is how the
rig was used and stored.  A rig that was gently used on occasion, properly laid up
for storage and kept under cover and away from the elements will be a good rig
regardless of the mileage.

Almost 9 years go (how time flies!) I bought an 82 Itasca Spectrum Class C.  Took me
over a year of serious looking to find it.  It had only around 25,000 miles on it.
The original owner had built a fully enclosed barn to store the thing in.  He drove
it back and forth to his lake property and otherwise kept it covered.  Other than
age-related maladies (mainly rotted rubber items), the rig was in pristine condition.

Before I took the rig out on its first trip I replaced all the rubber items under the
hood.  That produced a practically care-free engine and drivetrain for many thousands
of miles.  Over time I had it reupholstered (chic 80s brown and burnt orange just
didn't do it for me anymore!), put suitable tires and wheels on it (the OEM ones were
severely overloaded) upgraded the water and electrical system, replaced the generator
and gradually rebuilt it into a practically new rig.  I did each upgrade as I had
spare change so I never had any sort of payment to deal with.  I've probably spent
$10k on upgrades and repairs over the years.

The result is that I now have a very nice, like-new rig for very little money. To the
uninformed, it looks like an "old" rig so I don't have any worries about theft.  More
importantly, I now have a rig that works exactly like I want it to.  I've yet to see
a new rig that even comes close.

Your observation re: engines and transmissions is spot-on.  It's only common sense
that the more power any sort of mechanical system has to produce and transmit, the
shorter will be its life.  An engine and tranny that will go 200k miles in a 5000 lb
pickup truck will go only a fraction of that propelling a 30k pound MH with many
times the frontal area and drag.

My rig is an example.  It contains a 350 chevy engine and the heavy duty 3 speed auto
(TH400?  I don't know trannys that well).  My rig weighs 7000 lbs and has probably
twice the frontal area of a van or pickup.  Engine life varied accordingly.  That
engine/tranny will easily go 150k miles in a pickup or sedan.  It made it to about
65k in my rig.  I pushed it to 70k.  When I had a top end overhaul done, it had three
burned exhaust valves and one burned intake.

Interestingly enough, when we bought the rig I told my wife that she needed to start
tucking back money for a new engine because I estimated that it would need one at
about 70k miles.  That was a SWAG based on the weight and estimation of frontal area
and of how much throttle it took to maintain highway speed.  The engine performed as
expected and the <$1000 for the top end job was a tiny expense when spread out over 7
or 8 years.

As for recommendations, I can't imagine a much better built rig than this Spectrum I
have.  It is NOT stick-built (sawn lumber, staples and glue).  The body is formed of
a rolled composite of aluminum and structural foam.  The cabinets are made of
aluminum and are closed with lightweight plastic blow-molded doors.  The only things
made of traditional mobile home materials are the kitchen counter and the dinette.
Even the drop-down bunk is made of formed aluminum.

All this resulted in a very light weight and very strong structure that is
practically impervious to water, rot and other things that bedevil other more
conventional rigs.  I once had a water leak around the roof AC and all it did was
wrinkle the wall paper that was laid on top of the composite underlay.  Replace the
wall paper and no damage done.

Itasca is Winnebago's up-scale, up-quality brand.  This Spectrum is a kinda rare bird
- I've only ever encountered one other one in my travels.  IMO, it would be worth it
to search one out.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: 2001 Minnie Winnie 24V
Date: Sat, 12 Jan 2008 20:16:38 -0500
Message-ID: <>

On Sat, 12 Jan 2008 13:44:50 -0600, Bob Giddings <> wrote:

>On Sat, 12 Jan 2008 13:59:35 -0500, Neon John <>
>>Adding to that, I went to the Atlanta RV show about that time and saw that
>>Mini-Winnie.  It caught my attention because the FRP was bent so sharply around the
>>bottom of the front overhang that the plastic on the display unit was already
>>cracking.  I think I have a photo somewhere if you're interested.
>That seems to be an area to inspect closely.  Shouldn't be hard
>to discover such damage on a 7 year old unit, if it's there.
>How about the engine?  Was that fuel injected?


>This one has 15K miles.  It seems to me that means seals and
>bearings dried out from lack of lube, and the unit just sitting
>for years.  I don't know the story, but it sounds like one of
>those things where sickness intervened, but they never sold it.

I don't think that'll be a major problem.  6 or 7 years isn't all that long.  Plus,
materials had been improved significantly from, say, 10 years before.  FWIW, my '82
Itasca (chevy) is going on 25+ years old and still doesn't leak a drop of oil.  I DID
replace all the hoses under the hood when I got it but it was almost 20 years old

>All that's fixable, though not cheap.  Anything you can think of
>that might not be?  In the pictures it looks mighty clean.

Nothing I can think of other than that front window and the FRP.  Look closely at the
underside of the overhang.  If water gets in there it will sag and detach from the
walls.  My mom's 4 Winds (essentially the same design) had that happen.  It is a
first class b*tch to fix.

>Any other suggestions?

Look over all the "infrastructure", the stuff that gets used and accumulates wear,
quite well.  For instance, even though my rig had low mileage, it got a lot of use.
The previous owner kept it parked for the summer on the lake.  Things like the
'fridge, furnace and stove had more wear and tear than the mileage would indicate.

I had an interesting defect in my stove.  The lady was a neat freak and apparently
used oven cleaner every time she cooked.  The caustic soda in the oven cleaner ate
away at the aluminum gas lines that run between the control valve and oven burner.
The result was a nice little explosion the first time wifey tried to light the oven.
I would have never thought to lift the range lid and peer down at the tubing where it
ran down to the oven burner.  I just cut out the corroded line and used automotive
gas line to make the connections.

Mine had other problems associated with storage - dirt daubers in the furnace flue
and water heater burner.  Stuff like that.  No show stoppers but they did take some
time to work out.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: 2001 Minnie Winnie 24V
Date: Sat, 12 Jan 2008 20:43:19 -0500
Message-ID: <>

On Sat, 12 Jan 2008 19:34:38 -0600, Bob Giddings <> wrote:

>On Sat, 12 Jan 2008 20:16:38 -0500, Neon John <>
>>>All that's fixable, though not cheap.  Anything you can think of
>>>that might not be?  In the pictures it looks mighty clean.
>>Nothing I can think of other than that front window and the FRP.
>Okay, John, I gotta ask.  Wot the hell is an FRP?  I get from
>context you are talking about the filon on the front overhang,
>especially where it wraps under.  Is that right?
>Front Rigid Panel?  Friggin Rotten Potato?

Fiberglass reinforced plastic.  FRP is the trade slang for the stuff.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Military Campgrounds
Date: Wed, 09 Jul 2008 20:29:27 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Tue, 8 Jul 2008 10:44:00 -0600, "Max" <> wrote:

>"John H." <> wrote in message
>> Hi all,
>> I am retired Army, and my wife and I just got a travel trailer. We
>> live in
>> Alexandria, VA, and are considering where to go for our first trip in
>> said trailer.
>> Any suggestions? We're thinking Ft Story, but know nothing about it.
>> The idea of being close to water is appealing.
>> Thanks
>For a first trip it's a good idea to not wander far.
>You might try Fort Meade.  Nice campground; well maintained.

I'd go a little further and suggest that your first camping trip be in your
driveway.  Lock yourself out of your house for the weekend and see how it
goes.  Particularly if you have a brand new trailer, you'll want to shake out
the manufacturing defects and infant mortality issues before you get out on
the road.

I bought an old but very well cared for MH about 8 years ago.  I did just what
I'm suggesting for my first two "trips".  There were many "been stored for X
years"-related issues that would have been a pain to work out on the road.  As
it was, I simply unlocked my shop, got out my tools and fixed what was wrong.

I (or more precisely, my wife) also learned very quickly what is and is not
necessary. :-)

No experience with military campgrounds other than to look longingly through
the fence at one every so often in my travels.  I'm an army brat but the Army
and the Navy both had the nerve to tell me that I wasn't fit for duty.  Just
because one knee rattled like rocks in a can....  On the positive side, it
kept me out of 'Nam.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Ping Ginger
Date: Sun, 03 Aug 2008 13:01:34 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Sun, 03 Aug 2008 09:50:17 -0500, Bob Giddings <> wrote:

>On Sat, 02 Aug 2008 01:44:30 -0400, Neon John <>
>> The whole front clip, the "van" part, is a fiberglass
>>clone of the Chevy sheet metal.  Done for weight, I assume.  Only the frame
>>rails, fire wall and the dash are OEM.
>That is really unusual.  Crazy overkill.  Can't imagine how that
>can be justified economically.  A fiberglass copy of the OEM

yep, believe it or not!  Actually I think that they streamlined it just a
little in the process. Like I said, this was Itasca's high end small unit for
'82. I haven't yet found an MSRP for the rig (though I haven't looked very
hard) but I bet it was high.

You can see in the photo how a second fiberglass part mates the van frame to
the oval cylinder of aluminum/styrofoam that constitutes the body.  The frame
holding the windows and the doors are steel.  Everything else on the front of
the rig is fiberglass.

Even the hoodlet is fiberglass.  It has an issue right now.  they attached the
hood to the metal hinges by laying down a big blob of epoxy and then pressing
the hinge into it.  The epoxy oozed through the holes, hardened and formed a
mechanical bond.

Those little pillars of epoxy strength have gotten brittle on one side and
broken.  The hinge floppeth.  The pad is too thin to screw sheet metal screws
into.  I'm probably going to just clean up the area, plop down another blob of
epoxy and repeat the OEM technique.

This epoxy blob technique is used at all attachment points between the body
and the frame.  Hmmmm.

The entire back of the rig is one fiberglass piece too.  Very nice, even if
the styling is a bit dated.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Right Size, Class C
Date: Mon, 04 Aug 2008 00:57:33 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Sun, 3 Aug 2008 18:18:05 -0700, jor <> wrote:

>Great feedback. Thanks to all and I hope others will add to it. Let's see...
>* Engine: Sounds like Ford's V-10 is a good bet;

I don't have any sort of brand religion and I've owned both Fords and Chevys.
Some general opinions.  Chevy trucks (and chassis) ride MUCH better than
Fords.  Lots and Lots better.  In fact, I frequently get car sick in Ford
vehicles including my Ford van.

For a small RV on a Ford Chassis, the 454 is more than enough engine and will
get better mileage than the V10.  Mom's rig got in the 12-14 mpg range,
depending on terrain and how much of a hurry I was in :-)  It probably would
have done another MPG had I stayed closer to 60 than 70.

The transmission behind Mom's 454 grenaded, leaving us stranded in Detroit
(yeah, I know, could it get much worse?)  The overdrive planetary simply
exploded as I lifted the gas to start down an exit.  The transmission shop guy
told me that he repairs a LOT of Ford RV transmissions.

My experience with Chevy heavy duty transmissions has been 100% good.  No
broken parts and no repairs.

>* Sleeping: Actually, we figured we'd sleep in the back bed and use the
>over-cab deal for storage.

You might even want to move back and forth, summer to winter.  Heat collects
in the overhead.  When we traveled together, I slept in the overhead while Mom
took the bed in the back.  She'd have to use an electric blanket for me to get
the overhead cool enough not to sweat in the summer.  In winter, I curtained
off the overhead and opened the windows so that she could get warm.  Had I
been by myself, I'd have turned the heat way down which would have made the
overhead comfortable.

>* Mileage: 10 mpg is what I've heard. Actually, several have said 10 to
>12 so I figure that means 10.

Probably true with the V10.  A 24 footer with the 454 should do significantly

>I've heard that the Winebago is great. Any other
>recommendations for brand and model?

Winnebagos are the Chevys of RVs.  Very good quality for mass production.
Their Itasca brand is, oh, the Buick.  Upscale quality but still mass

Someone touched on the concept of a B+.  Most of the time, a Mercedes/Chrysler
Sprinter-based MH is meant.  That is definitely something to take a look at.
The little turbocharged diesel can get nearly 20mpg, according to some folks
I've talked to.  There's a guy who's up here in Tellico almost every weekend
in a fire-engine-red one that is decked-out to the hilt, including in-motion
satellite TV and internet.  Unlike other Class Bs, even I (6'7") can stand
upright in one of these.

He says that he approaches 20mpg on the interstate driving 55-60.  14-15mpg
driving these mountain roads.

The only negative is cost - These things start out at about $60k and go up
real fast.  This guy probably has over $100k in his.

>Thanks, again. Also, I get a kick out of all the OT stuff on this group!

Uggghhhh.  Maybe I ought to take back all my advice if I'm helping someone who
encourages all that crap! Just in case you decide to participate..... As a
lurker, you probably know that I'm one of the guys who spends a LOT of time
helping folks and answering questions.  I have a zero-tolerance policy for
political crap.  One such post and into my filter you go. Permanently.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Lazy I
Date: Mon, 04 Aug 2008 15:24:11 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Mon, 04 Aug 2008 10:05:06 -0500, Bob Giddings <> wrote:

>So this unit is just the other side of the money pit, perhaps, in
>that little bubble of ease before it makes it's final journey.
>This is, in fact, a comfortably retired motorhome, out of debt
>and taking it easy, mostly recovered from major surgery, learning
>to play golf and having to pop a pill now and then.
>At this stage of my search, this is an interesting predicament.
>I'm tired of looking, juggling the variables, judging my needs
>against the measure of what's out there.

Pretty good assessment except that I'd not call it a money pit so much as a
restorer's labor of love.

Think of it this way.  Suppose someone did a frame-off restoration.  Tore the
thing down to the frame and started back up, replacing everything that could
wear or age.  You'd have, in effect, a NOS (new-old stock) vehicle.  An old
calendar model that was new.  A motorhome that had been in an argon-filled
time capsule where nothing ages.

Well, it seems like that's what has happened here.  Someone didn't tear the
box off the chassis but he did the next best thing.  Steel and aluminum and
other metals don't age.  There is very little plastic on the outside to age
and what there is has been changed.

You're in a position to benefit from the classic Hotrodder's curse.  That's
where one takes an old car and makes it like-new, pouring his love and his
heart into it. And LOTS of money. The result is better-than-new.  But since
the market places little value on love, after he drives it awhile and gets the
urge to do another one, he sells it for a small fraction of the cost of the
parts that went into it, not to mention the labor and love.

You're the guy who can buy that labor of love for pennies on the dollar.

Like all hotrodders/restorers, the guy missed a few things or ran out of round
tuits.  No big deal.  You have a different perspective and different resources
so the things that he missed or ignored glare at you.  The cost to fix what
remains is no big deal at all, especially compared to what a newer, unrestored
rig of that quality would cost.

>I like it.

I'm falling in love with it and I'm thousands of miles away.  That's the only
rig that I've seen since I've owned mine that would make me think about
selling mine and getting another.

>The costs I see right in front are about $2K for fridge and 4
>back tires and rims.  The transmission seems fine, but it is 30
>years old.

It can't read a calendar.  It still thinks that it's a low mileage nubile 16
year old :-)

>The springs in back may need a little tuning.

Call it $300 to account for inflation.

>plywood floor of one compartment is sagging.

$30 for half a sheet of plywood.

The furnace has been disconnected, a mystery.

At most, removing a gas line cap and hooking it back up.  And maybe digging
the dirt dauber nests out of it.

>The back bumper and front tire rims need repainting.

Cheap: $10 worth of Krylon.
Right: Perhaps $100 to have 'em sandblasted and properly painted.

>He got trapped by a Sunday flat in
>Stillwater Okla., found a sort of junkyard accidentally open, and
>was talked into changing the front two tires from 16.5 inch to
>16.  Now the spare doesn't match the front tires.

The guy did him a favor.  I had 16.5s on my rig.  Obsolete 10 years ago. They
were the highest rated version that I could get for that size.  They were
overloaded and the result was they shed treads like cats shed hair.  When I
got sick of buying tires out on the road after fixing flats on the side of the
interstate, I bought 16" wheels.  Steel spoke wheels that look very nice.  I
went up two load ranges.  I had another load range to go if these weren't
adequate.  They were.  Not a single bit of tire trouble since.  The change in
ride quality was huge.  I wish I'd done that on the first day of ownership.

My tire dealer who is also a friend had been pestering me to change to 16s oh,
1 or 2 tread separations previous.  I didn't want to spend the money.  In
retrospect, the best money I've spent on the rig.

When you're changing tires and rims on the back, you might take a look at a
big single to replace the dualies.  Cheaper to buy, cheaper to replace AND
cheaper tolls in some places.  The Baltimore bridge-tunnel for one.  They
charge something like $10 extra for dualies.  I loved it when the smart-assed
little toll collector actually came out of her booth to verify that my rig did
NOT have dualies :-)

>I don't know about the converter, except that it is working.
>There is what looks like a fairly new Optima in the battery

Guy had decent tastes in batteries, though it's only a 55ah.

>No inverter, but that's easy to remedy.  The
>holding tanks just look like holding tanks.  They're not sagging,
>but they are empty, so who knows?  I may get him to fill up the
>fresh water today.  It sits inside beneath the couch, in a nailed
>shut box, with a clever little trap door on the side to check the
>level.  The usual white.  Polyethylene?

Probably.  Cute setup.  I like it.

>I think his backup plan is to stick this thing on a piece of
>property he has in the country, and let it sit there as a sort of
>cabin.  That's what he says.  Seems like a shame.  I think it
>would quickly fall apart.  But any bid I make has to be more
>attractive than that.

Yeah.  We have a lot of those up here.  Motorhomes that'll never move again
except on the back of a wrecker.  One guy recently moved in an old Itasca,
jacked it up, removed the wheels, installed a skirt and then disassembled the
engine from the inside, piece by piece so that he could build a table where
the hump, steering wheel and seats had been. I almost felt like organizing a
requiem for the poor thing.

>Thanks for the advice.  This is an interesting situation.

Dude, this is a no-brainer from over here on this side of the country.  Buy
the damned thing!  If you bought it, pulled out the generator and AC and drove
it directly to the salvage yard, it'll bring $1500 or so.  Sell the genny and
AC and you've made a profit.  There is no way you can lose on this deal. Given
how new everything in the drivetrain is, about all I'd do before heading out
is do a full brake overhaul, replacing all the rubber stuff that could be old.
The way this one is going, the guy probably did that and forgot to include the

If you don't like it after you get it, plan a big loop around the country that
puts you somewhere near here.  I'll give you your money back and buy you an
airplane ticket home :-)


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: The End Approacheth
Date: Mon, 04 Aug 2008 20:53:58 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Mon, 04 Aug 2008 14:30:00 -0500, Bob Giddings <> wrote:

>I took some pictures.  Maybe some of you can see why I suspect
>buying this thing isn't completely crazy.  Take a look at the
>driver's seat.  I am told, and believe, that is the original 1979

It is.  My rig has the same colors.  A mix between mud and baby sh*t.  Ugghhh,
must have been some damned fine acid they were taking back then.

>The black and grey tanks are just black plastic, NJ, and held up
>with a lot of rusty but very sturdy feeling 2 inch wide metal
>banding.  You can see the one sagging point in a compartment
>floor just behind the driver's door.

Sounds like the tanks are hung just like mine.
>We had a little talk.  I started at $1500.  He started at 5.  I
>suggested 3, then stopped until I can drive it again this
>evening.  I think we're looking at 4.  He paid 8 in 2006.

Mission Possible:

By the time you read this message, you will have either bought the damned
thing or declared yourself a moron!  Seriously.  This message will not
self-destruct in 10 seconds....

All joking aside, slide the man some money before someone runs in under you.
This is the buy of the century.  If there is any doubt in your mind, buy it
anyway.  Give me a day or two to cash in some mutual funds and I'll be on a
bus out there to take it off your hands.  Talking about long distance love
affair!  I'm serious.  That is one gorgeous classic.

Every photo I look at I see something else that I like.  Little things like
the rear tail lights.  Standard trucker affairs that can be replaced at any
truck stop.  God only knows where I'm going to find replacements for the ones
on my rig that have started to craze, much less if I ever crack one.

Huge bathroom for the size.  Wonderful shower.  I bet I could stand up in it.
Nice analog dash with gages on the hump.  Even the front grille looks
pristine.  Howthahell did the chrome manage not to flake off that plastic?
Mine's doing that and it's been stored indoors most of its life.  Or is the
grille metal?

I love that little pop-up counter in the kitchen.  I think something like that
will have to be added to my rig (assuming you buy this one and don't leave it
for me :-)  I see a new china head in the bathroom.  The sink has to be new
too, along with the faucet.  They didn't have that color back then.

In the shot looking directly toward the stove and microwave, what are the two
round dials on the control panel?  And is that a breaker panel I see to the
left side of the microwave?

Does the couch let out into a bed?  It appears that the previous owner
probably took out a dinette to make way for the couch and the chairs.  That
does raise one question.  How much storage is there?  The under-dinette area
is one of the major storage spaces in my rig.

Man, that's a nice rig.  I'm serious about grabbing it if you decide you don't
want it, Bob.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: The End Approacheth
Date: Mon, 04 Aug 2008 20:59:53 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Mon, 04 Aug 2008 15:11:28 -0500, Bob Giddings <> wrote:

>Well, it's not my favorite color.  But it's uglier in the picture
>than when you are inside.  It's pretty neutral, really.
>How about if I painted it all a nice light beige?.
>Or wallpaper.  If I travel to Florida from Tennessee, maybe I
>could get a certain ace decorator to pick out a pattern.
>The walls just don't jump out at me as a problem.  I could start
>out painting the bath, and when I got that right, do the rest of
>the coach.

I LIKE the wood grain.  Certainly better than the trip-inducing pattern on my
wallpaper and a heck of a lot more durable.  Just about anything short of
molten iron just wipes right off Formica.  Can't say that about any other

As for sleeping overhead, that would be my preference.  That's the only major
thing I don't like about my rig.  Either I have to make up the bed every day
or I have to crawl over it.  I'd LOVE to have an overhang with a bed that I
could crawl out of and leave it alone for the day.  Pull the curtains and
pretend that it's made up :-)


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Right Size, Class C
Date: Mon, 04 Aug 2008 22:19:42 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Mon, 4 Aug 2008 16:55:54 -0700, jor <> wrote:

>Sheeesh... now I came across a 26' Minnie Winnie (2006 model) that
>would be perfect but it's a shade over $42K. I kinda wanted to stay
>around 30 grand if I can. I gotta say, buying one of these things is
>harder than buying a house! So many variables. Thanks.

You ain't gonna listen about starting off inexpensively, are ye? :-)

One thing to watch for on the Minnie Winnie.  In the 2001-2003 timeframe at
least (haven't seen a later model one to know it), the fiberglass sheeting was
wrapped in far too tight a radius on the front overhang.  This is at the point
where the fiberglass transitions from the bottom horz surface to start up the
sloped front of the overhang.  The result is the fiberglass is under high
stress and in some models, cracks.

I took some photos of one sitting at the Atlanta RV show in '01 where the
gelcoat over the radius had cracked and fibers were poking out.  I saw (but
didn't photograph) the same effect three years running at that show.

This is easy to see from a distance.  The lower radius just doesn't look
right.  It looks far too tight.  In addition to being fracture-prone, that
tight, highly stressed area could easily cause water leaks around the front
overhang windows.

I like Winnebagos.  A lot.  But I'd be very careful of the Minni Winnie in
this area.  Maybe they fixed it by 06 - I haven't been to an RV show in a
couple of years now.  Just something to be aware of.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Ping Neon John
Date: Tue, 05 Aug 2008 16:12:20 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Mon, 04 Aug 2008 23:52:50 -0500, Bob Giddings <> wrote:

>Psst!  John!
>Moron here.  The one that hasn't bought the Lazy Daze just yet.


>Got a question for a tinkerer.  One of my last complaints about
>this unit has to do with heat from the engine penetrating into
>the cab.  I noticed it against my right leg and under my feet.
>Not enough to burn, but enough to irritate.
>The guy admitted it was a problem he had not been able to solve.
>This is not excessive internal heat in the motor, at least not as
>registered by the heat gauge.  This is discomfort caused by
>sitting just 6 inches from a Dodge 440 while it's running at it's
>normal temperature.
>There's insulation in there, but it's not doing the job well
>enough.  And it seems to go up a little when you turn off the
>motor.  The radiator gurgles a lot right about then.

I briefly mentioned this problem in another post but I'll expand.  My doghouse
got real hot too while driving, hot enough that it was uncomfortable to lay my
calf against it.  I addressed the problem by removing the doghouse and adding
ANOTHER layer of foil-backed fiberglass insulation.  The foil must face out.
It serves a dual purpose.  It supports the fiberglass AND it reflects radiant
energy coming from the engine, especially the exhaust manifolds.

I have one of the cheap-sh*t stud welders that Harbor Freight sells.  It's
designed to spot-weld studs to a dented area of car sheetmetal so that a slide
hammer can be used to pull out the dent.  Then the studs are broken off and
the weld sanded down.

I used it to weld studs to the doghouse to hold the insulation on.  I got some
insulating retaining discs from the HVAC wholesaler.  These are round stamped
thin sheetmetal discs that have had holes punched in the center.  The punch
had a gentle angle so considerable metal is upset and makes a sharp pucker.
The hole is just a little smaller than the stud so that when the disc is
pushed down on the stud, the sharp edges of the pucker bite in and hold it in
place.  This is standard HVAC practice but the guns sold for HVAC use are

I also put a second layer of carpet on the area where my leg touches the dog
house.  That might not have been necessary but I didn't want to have to fool
with this problem again so I overkilled it :-)  I had some left-over carpet
from the stuff the PO installed. I cut a square about 8" to a side and took it
to a local carpet shop.  I had him stitch on a border to make it look better
and prevent unraveling.  Some contact cement holds it in place.

>Is there an aftermarket electric fan that will keep cooling the
>area for a while after the motor is off?  One that actually has
>the cfms to do some good?  Or that maybe will dissipate heat fast
>enough while moving to keep heat from entering the passenger
>Is it replacement?  Is it auxiliary?
>I figure this is something you have dealt with before, and
>probably have a ready suggestion.  I hope so.

I have.  Aftermarket electric fans are available.  Kwik-Kool and Modine are
two brands.  They're expensive and somewhat inefficient (lots of current

Much better are the OEM fans used on many vehicles these days.  Here's an

This fan is a "puller".  Air exhausts toward the camera.

My Caprice, for example, has two electric fans.  One that blows a large amount
of air that is controlled by the PCM according to coolant temperature.  A
second larger one that REALLY blows that comes on whenever the AC system is
operating and can be activated by the PCM if the first fan isn't getting the
job done.  This is a very common configuration.

A quick visit to the junque yard should produce a wide selection of fans.  Pay
attention to whether they're "pushers" or "pullers".  A pusher goes in front
of the radiator while a puller goes behind.

You could probably gain back an MPG by getting rid of the belt-driven radiator
fan and replacing it with 2 or three puller fans, controlled by a thermostat
sensor screwed into the block.  The fans would only run when needed.  If you
wire the fans directly to the battery, they'll keep running after the engine
is off until the system is cooled to the thermostat's setpoint.

Back when I bought a pusher fan for my 68 Fury, OEM fans weren't common so I
bought a kit.  About $80 as I recall.  A single large pusher fan attached to
the AC condenser with some specialized cable ties.  The thermostat was quite
clever.  It was a standard industrial remote bulb affair.  A tiny capillary
tube connected the bulb to the main part.

Here's the clever part.  The kit came with a small square of foam-type
double-sided tape.  The instructions were to wrap that tape around the
capillary a few inches behind the bulb.  Then loosen and remove the top
radiator hose.  Lay the bulb on the radiator outlet with the bulb projecting
into where the hose would be and the foam laying on the outlet where the clamp
squeezes.  Then slip the hose back on and tighten the clamp.  The bulb is now
inside the hose  The double-sided tape kinda melts from the heat and seals
around the capillary.

This worked great.  Not even a hint of seepage around the capillary.
Autozombie sells the thermostat as a general purpose spare part.  I like the
OEM purpose-designed fan control switch that screws in a block or manifold
hole best but if a hole isn't available then this thermostat is a great second

I now use this trick when I want to slide a thermocouple into the coolant
flow.  Just wrap some double-sided tape (probably even electrical tape would
work) around the thermocouple wire, loosen the clamp, slide the wire in and
re-tighten the clamp.

Anyways, after (not if :-) you buy the rig, you can take some pics and we can
work out the specifics of fans and mounts.

BTW, nothing says that you can't mount both a pusher and some puller fans for
extra cooling.  The pusher would greatly aid the dash AC's operation by
blowing directly on the condenser.

Speaking of dash air, my dash air fan was also inadequate.  I thought that the
motor might be worn out so I replaced it.  No change.  Just flat
under-engineered.  I solved the problem by building a little DC/DC converter
that supplies the fan with 18 volts on "high".  Now the air from the dash
vents will fluff my hair. :-)  The fan's been running with "overvoltage" for
better than 5 years so I know that it isn't harmed.  There is a little rubber
duct that brings cold air right off the evaporator and blows it on the motor's
brushes so it gets REAL good cooling.

When you get to that point, I'll find you an off-the-shelf converter that will
do the same thing.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: The End Approacheth
Date: Tue, 05 Aug 2008 17:02:34 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Tue, 05 Aug 2008 09:21:46 -0500, Bob Giddings <> wrote:

>>Do you mean that the starter wouldn't run or that the starter couldn't spin it
>>fast enough to start or that it wouldn't catch?
>I mean that it started right up when cold, but when we got it
>warm, turned it off, and then tried to start it again, it went
>"enh........ehhn.......enh...." and refused to spin the starter.
>Very much like a dead battery, but you could feel it trying to
>move, and we checked the battery and it was okay.  When it did
>this the other day it burned up a small ground on the battery. He
>found the big ground was loose and thought tightening that up
>would fix the problem.  Apparently not, though there was no fire
>this time.

One or both of two problems.  1) the starter is overheating. 2) the timing is
just a little too much advanced.  If 2) is involved, the engine doesn't kick
back enough to spin backwards, just enough to stall the already-lame Mopar
starter.  Retarding the timing just a snunch (precision measurement) is easy
and will quickly test that theory.

>There's also a persistent smell of burning oil after you stop.
>Like a light film of oil burning off a manifold.  So oil's
>leaking somewhere, perhaps around a manifold cover.

My Mopars did that.  For some reason, it's almost impossible to get the valve
cover gaskets to stop seeping.  The cover isn't stiff enough and/or there
aren't enough clamp bolts.  I could probably have solved the problem with
Permatex Form-a-Gasket but I never bothered.  Besides, that's like Harleys and
oil leaks - part of its personality :-)  If mine had quit stinking, I'd have
worried that it had run out of oil. :-)

>You see, that's my problem, John.  I like the coach, but I'm
>having trouble trusting the drivetrain.

Why not get a mechanic to give it a good going-over, what should be a standard
procedure on any used vehicle?  I should point out that this engine has been
worked on by a lot of people and there's no guarantee that the timing or
anything else has been adjusted to spec.  You're evaluating an engine in a
totally unknown condition.  Remember that few non-middle-age mechanics have a
clue about tuning a non-computerized engine.

The mechanic who did my top end job was like that.  I told him to rebuild the
heads, put everything back together but call me before starting the thing.  I
did my own tuning. That saved me a BUNCH of time. He was lost without an
OBD-II port to plug into :-)  He was looking over MY shoulder, asking

>And I'm trying to figure
>out what to do about the heat up front.  There's already carpet
>and insulation on the doghouse.  It's not spot heat, really,
>that's the problem.  It's that the heat from the motor generally
>is overcoming the air conditioning.  And in summer Texas, that
>ain't good.

I know.  In the beginning my rig behaved just the opposite of what I would
expect.  Nice and frosty sitting still but I'd start getting hot when I
started moving.  I fairly quickly realized that the cause was air infiltration
from the engine compartment and from in front of the radiator.

I'd already installed the Maxxaire fan so I could pressurize the interior.  I
set off an HVAC smoke bomb (same thing you buy at the fireworks stand but with
a fancy label and price to match) inside the rig and looked for smoke trails.
There were a bunch, ranging from pin-holes to gaping openings where it
appeared a duct or something would have gone in another chassis application
but that they'd not bothered to cap.

I basically went ape-sh*t with "Great Stuff" aerosol foam, not only on the
firewall but under the coach where things penetrated the floor.  That closed
off mouse paths in the process.  After the foam cured, I spray painted it
black to match the rest of the under-hood color.  It looked OEM.

It's hard to describe what a world of difference that made.  It also cured the
bad case of cold feet I'd get in the winter.

In Mom's rig, the AC was all-powerful but my feet would still get hot enough
to sweat my shoes damp.  I did the same smoke test and found openings in THAT
firewall.  This was either a '99 or '01, can't recall.  No excuse for one that
modern but there they were.  More Great Stuff to the rescue.  That cured the
sweaty feet syndrome.

One other thing to remember.  All the seller did was dump in a can of R12. The
system probably holds 2.5 to 3 cans.  It's almost surely running
under-charged.  A rig that old should have a sight glass in the receiver. Take
a look and see.

One last comment in this area.  What condition is the doghouse gasket in?  The
area inside the doghouse is a fairly high pressure area, both from the ram air
effect and from the radiator fan.  Even a little defect in the gasket can let
in a LOT of air.  Given the amount of heat in that area, I'd not be surprised
to find it all dried out and cracked.

>I hate dinettes.  They are bulky and uncomfortably upright, and
>only exist so you can make them down into a bed for kids.  I tore
>mine out of the trailer, and put in a couple of comfortable
>chairs.  But a fold out table between two comfy chairs is just
>about perfect.  When you are not eating or typing, the table just

I'm with you on that one.  Problem is, in my rig, the under-seat space
constitutes a large amount of my storage space.  One side is now full of
batteries (5 Group 29s).  I'd love to be rid of my dinette but I can't spare
the space.  Maybe THAT's why I like your future rig so well :-)

>It's not money that's hanging me up.  $5K would be fine if I
>could quiet my doubts about being cool driving down the highway,
>and just the general doubts about that oil smell and heat
>problems in the engine area, like that balky starter.

A couple of hours of a mechanic's time should assuage your fears about the
drivetrain.  The starter problem can easily be fixed.  That's a common mopar
problem and people have worked out fixes years ago.  I HIGHLY recommend the
racing gear drive starter that I mentioned earlier.  It turned my fury from
"Shitshitshitshiiiiiiiitshitshit-sputter-sputter-varoom" to "Click,
rrrr-varoom".  Mopar guys call the original starter "shit starter", both from
how it performs and the sound it makes.  It sounds like it's saying shiiiiit
over and over :-)

>I've driven lots of more recent motorhomes, mostly Fords, and
>while they don't drive as well they are not hot inside.  The AC
>just overcomes all that.

The AC problem can be fixed.  I have absolutely no doubt about that.  An
mobile HVAC shop can fix it.  You can fix it with my help.  Or you can make a
trip out this way and I'll fix it.  From across the country I can't be
positive about some things but I KNOW that the AC problem can be fixed.

Look at it this way.  Suppose you give the guy what he's asking and then you
drop another $grand into the AC system by having a shop fix it. Oh heck, call
it $2grand  You have $7k in a rig that is practically new except for the date
encoded in the VIN.  That'll be hard to beat.

I suspect that some more refrigerant and drapes will solve the problem good
enough for the time being.  Insulating the dog house, adding a cooling fan and
plugging air leaks can be done at your leisure.

You'll want drapes anyway so that you don't have to try and mount that
windshield cover while all scrunched up under the overhang.  The windshield
cover got left at home in both mine and Mom's rig before the first trip!

What I did on Mom's was have longer curtains made and mounted them in place of
the short overhead privacy drapes.  I sewed couple of pieces of velcro on the
drapes just below the overhang so that I could part the top of the drapes to
let in cool air while holding the bottom shut for privacy.  That was quick,
simple, required no mods to the rig and was cheap, as I got a neighborhood
lady to sew the drapes in return for some BBQ :-)

Mine doesn't have an overhang so the drapes are located directly behind the
front seats.  With either vehicle, when the drapes are pulled, the space to be
air conditioned is smaller than that of a compact car.  The big honkin' unit
in mom's rig always ran on low once the heat soak was removed.  Mine generally
runs on high or second from high.  I like it cold (60-62 is ideal) so I'm
expecting a LOT more from the system than most folks.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Ginger??
Date: Wed, 06 Aug 2008 14:08:59 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Wed, 06 Aug 2008 10:49:46 -0500, Bob Giddings <> wrote:

>I'm pretty sure that if you want to get ten years out of a
>motorhome without major expense, you buy a low mileage number,
>from a quality manufacturer, about ten years old.
>Before that, it costs too much to be considered cheap.
>After that, you won't get the ten years without major repairs.
>The question is, after major repairs begin, do they ever end?
>Bob, who gets what you're saying.

I would normally agree with your first paragraph but before we go too far down
this general philosophical path, let's consider the particular rig.

What's left that's still old and could break.

The transmission. - I've owned a number of Mopars and broken quite a few
things but never a transmission.  I can't think of anyone in my old Mopar club
who broke one who didn't do something to deserve it.  Like letting it run out
of oil or feeding it about 500 hp with no mods.

But let's say it does break.  Figure $2000 for a brand name reman and
installation.  It cost me $1800 to have my Caprice's tranny overhauled and
performance parts installed about 5 years ago so let's figure a little

The rear end.  Hard to break one of those.  Floating axles, occasionally but
the main chunk?  Nah.  If there's any doubt, have the mechanic who will be
checking this thing over drain the dope into a plastic bowl, drop a magnet in
and leave it overnight, pull it out, wash it off and see if any metal sticks.
If not then it's good to go if it isn't making any noise.  I suspect that with
your pickiness, had a single little tooth decided to emit one little moan,
you'd have mentioned it :-)

But let's say it does break.  Figure $1000 for a rebuild.

Frame -  Nah.

Front end - Mopars have a rep for eating ball joints but they're easy and
cheap to replace.  I farm mine out because I DO put a value on my time,
especially when it involves groveling on the ground.  I think I paid $200
labor to have my 68 Fury's front end gone through and urethane bushings
installed.  That kit was about $150.

Given Mopar's propensity to eat ball joints every 60k or so, I bet that if you
look, those are nice and fresh.

Sheet metal - If it's firm now, it'll be firm in 10 years if you don't hit
something or spend too much time in slushy snow.

Holding tanks - You said that they looked OK.  They're probably PP which is
GOOD.  Think back to how many people have come to RORT asking how to fix
cracks in late model ABS holding tanks.  I should own stock in Urethane
Supply, I've sent so many people there to get their plastic welding supplies.

Dashboard and instruments - Possible.  But a whole instrument cluster for a
rig of that age can be had for $100.  I have a whole database of
Mopar-specific wrecking yards.  That's what the Mopar restoration hobby
thrives on.

What else?  I can't think of anything.

Even if you had everything on that list replaced right now, you'd still be
below $10,000 if you get the rig for what you are offering.  If your IMO
irrational fear of on-the-road breakdown is that bad, go ahead and have 'em
all gone through right now.  Then everything except the steel in the frame and
the Formica will be less than 5 years old.  You'd have a 2003 model rig that
insures and attracts thieves like the 30 year old rig that it is.

I think that you've let yourself get worked into a tizzy over ongoing
maintenance and if this was just any old 20 or 30 year old rig, I'd agree. But
it isn't.  Now look at the other side.

Suppose you buy a 10 year old rig.  Finding another one cared for that well
has about the chance of a fart in a whirlwind.  But let's assume that you can
come close.  There is still the matter of all those electronics.  Remember,
this is coming from a guy who LOVES electronics.

You or someone helping you bungles hooking up jumper cables.  Happens all the
time. I'm seeing a $500 PCM and the labor to replace it.  I'm seeing $500
airflow sensors and $100 ignition modules and several hundred dollars for the
BCM (body control modules - what controls the AC and stuff)  I'm seeing $500
dash entertainment systems (not just a radio/cassette player anymore.  I'm
seeing a $500 ABS computer. I'm seeing $1500 electronic gauge clusters. (I
have a friend in Atlanta who's gotten rich repairing nothing but electronic
gauge clusters).

I'm not counting stuff like the alternator diodes and voltage regulator that
would get smoked in the 30 year old rig.  Even a new (not reman) mopar
alternator is only about $60 and the regulator $12, last time I bought 'em.
About 5 years ago.

Then there is the plastic.  In the transmission, for example.  My transmission
guy thought that a plastic bushing giving way is what exploded the overdrive
cluster in my mom's MH.  That was $3500 plus 6 days to get out from under.  In
an approx 10 year old rig.

Then there's the fuel pump in the gas tank.  We know how much trouble those
cause.  Put some bad gas in that punches through the fuel filter and you're
looking at 8 or 10 new injectors at $100 a pop plus a fuel system flush.

Trash an AC compressor because the R-134a-compatible oil really isn't oil but
a first cousin of brake fluid - a frequent occurrence that is keeping the
independent AC shops in business - and you're looking at at least a $grand and
probably more to flush the system, probably replace the condenser because
debris get jammed into the tiny passages and put on a new compressor.

Many new rigs don't even have much of a doghouse - mom's didn't - so that
means that most engine work will be done from below which really runs up the
labor.  I peered under the hoodlet of mom's rig more than once, trying to even
spot the engine and dreading the day I had to do something as simple as change
plug wires.

One of the really nice things about vehicles made before about 1985 is that
they didn't have all these "miracle plastics" to replace metal with.  Plastics
are OK in their place but I don't believe that their place includes inside
engines and transmissions.

You've heard of the tin foil hat people who wear 'em to protect themselves
from CIA mind control, right?  I think that something like that is going on in
miniature here.  That VIN tag is radiating mind control rays that say "I'm a
geezer.  I'm old.  I'm a geezer.  I'm old." and they're getting to you.  What
you need to do is get a little piece of aluminum foil and place it over the
VIN tag to shut it up.  Take a sharpie and write the VIN number from your
truck on the foil so that "new truck rays" will be radiated.  :-)

Or look at it another way.

ON-the-road-breakdown score:

My old rig          0
Mom's new rig       2  (the second one was a tossed U-joint)

Not counting flats, of course.

The very few non-mission-critical problems that I've had on the road, I could
fix easily with just the small toolbox that I carry.  For instance.

In 1999 We headed out for our week long winter vacation.  We planned to drive
to Virginia and work our way down the Atlantic coast, spend Y2k at some
memorial spot (Hattaras lighthouse, it turned out) and head back only when we
had to.

In NC, we hit snow and with everything running on high, the alternator's
diodes leaked blue smoke.  No problem, I simply cranked the generator, flipped
the battery isolator switch to "manual" and let the converter supply the
chassis electrical needs.  Without all the modern electronics, the amp
requirement was modest, easily handled by the wimpy converter I then had.

We continued that way for several days, until we got far enough South to find
warm weather again.  At an RV park on the Outer Banks, I got the spare
alternator from a storage area and changed it out.  A 45 minute job.  I can
actually see AND reach the engine on my rig.

If that had happened in Mom's rig, we'd have been stranded until I could have
gotten it fixed.  With all the electronics and with the headlights and heater
on high, the NORMAL amp draw is around 80 amps - I measured it.  The wimpy
Magnetek with it's Z-pinching 5 charging amps couldn't have even touched the
chassis electrical load.

I couldn't even SEE the alternator, much less change it out in a campground. I
carried a spare so that we'd not get raped on the road for the part but
someone else would have had to change it, probably by reaching up from
underneath with the rig on a lift.

You're getting advice from a couple of women who couldn't change a lightbulb
without help and from some others who, to the best of my knowledge have never
had an old rig.  Those aren't good sources.  Maybe Pete or some of the others
with old-rig experience will jump in.  For that matter, doesn't Don Bradner's
Bluebird coach's chassis have a number of decades under its belt?

I've kept a detailed log on my rig, describing in detail every single thing
that I've done to it.  It's the same kind of engineer's journal that I kept
professionally.  If it would make you feel any better, I'll scan it and send
you the file.  You'd see that 99% of what I've done has been things that I
wanted done, things that I wanted changed and not things that I had to do.

My rig's initial condition wasn't even in the same universe as yours.  The
seller gave me a list of things that HE knew were wrong that needed fixing
before we went camping the first time.  I found a lot more.

I hate to sound like an evangelist but I also hate to see that VIN tag scare
you away from a remarkable rig, literally the 1-in-a-million.  To me, this is
like sawing the lock off an old barn that I inherited from a distance relative
and finding a pristine '69 Superbird under a tarp.  Dust it off, put some gas
in it and drive it like you stole it!

I was serious about taking the rig off your hands if you don't like it so it's
a no-risk situation for you, assuming you don't pile it into a guard rail or
scatter the engine all over the interstate, of course.

Changing subject, my little e-calendar thingie just popped up a screen
reminding me that today is the day we nuked Hirsoshima.  A day to celebrate. I
gotta go make a little mushroom cloud..... :-)


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: More Blather about Motorhomes
Date: Fri, 08 Aug 2008 01:33:55 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Thu, 07 Aug 2008 14:50:03 -0500, Bob Giddings <> wrote:

>I went over to look at the Lonely Lazy again this afternoon.  I
>wanted to measure the tires, because this guy has 16 inchers on
>the front and 16.5" on the back.  The backs need replacing, but
>only for age.
>Roughly measured from the concrete, the front tires are 30 inches
>tall, and the spare is 28 inches tall sitting on the back.
>Depending on inflation, that probably means between 1 and 2
>inches difference in diameter rolling on the ground.
>Is that significant?  Could you drive 50 miles or so to the next
>town at 30 mph on those, after having a flat?

Are you talking about having 16.5s on one side of the rear axle and 16s on the

Yeah, you could probably do that.  The spider gears in the diff would be
turning all the time but as long as you don't go too fast, no problem.  Look
at how many people drive around for weeks with one of those tiny spacesaver
spare tires on one side.

On the front it won't matter.  The steering might pull a little but nothing

>Another question.  Discount Tire says the 16.5 inchers are still
>being manufactured by Kumho, Goodyear, Cooper, and probably
>others.  They will probably be phased out "in the next 10 or 15
>years", but meantime they are available new for about the same as
>16s, and in the same load ranges.
>If he buys 16s, he has to buy an extra tire and 5 rims.  The
>Discount guy thought rims ran around $150 apiece, but even if you
>found them cheap in a wrecking yard you'd have to paint them, and
>that's an expense.  Plus you'd lose a nice chrome trim ring.
>Is there some compelling reason to go 16s, given that it involves
>maybe an extra $800?  Is there some reason to do it right now?

Compelling?  Nah.  My 16 inchers ride MUCH nicer and handle better than the
"point fives" did but if I hadn't been shedding treads like fleas on a dog,
I'd not have changed.  probably not, anyway.

>But here's the question.  Is there permanent damage done to a
>starter if it gets hot enough not to turn?  Or is it just fine
>once it cools down?  According to the owner, this thing "always
>starts if you let it cool down a little."

That's always been the case for me.

The problem is USUALLY that the solenoid housing distorts enough that the
plunger doesn't pull in far enough to fully make up the high current contact.
The starter doesn't get enough current, or none at all, so it doesn't turn.

The classic solution, in addition to the heat shield is to install a ford-type
remote solenoid relay.  This feeds the heavy current directly to the starter
motor terminal, bypassing the solenoid contacts.  The factory did that to my
MH and I've NEVER had a starter problem.

>Am I really looking at a new starter, or a new shield?

Probably just a shield, though if he used a reman starter I'd probably want it
off there soon, replaced by a new one.

In addition to the shield, I recommend getting some exhaust wrap and wrapping
the pipe and manifold in the vicinity of the starter.  This wrap is a
refractory fabric tape that comes in about 1.5" wide rolls.  It's made to wrap
headers to cut down on the heat in the engine compartments of hotrods.  All
the big box parts stores carry it.  You simply wrap it on like tape and hold
it in place with a few over-wraps of stainless steel wire or stainless cable
ties (harbor freight).

>BTW, this thing has been sitting in the same place for 3 days,
>and it's not leaking oil or transmission fluid.  It's pretty
>clean under there, though the oil and transmission pans are a
>little wet where the gaskets are seeping, and probably could use
>tightening up.

I was thinking some more about that oil smell.  There is a good chance that
the PCV valve has come out or been knocked out.  It is simply a friction-fit
in a rubber grommet in the valve cover.  I knocked mine out fairly often on
the Plymouth while monkeying around under the hood.  I always knew because I
smelled strong crankcase fumes.

Can you see the valve covers from the hoodlet?  The PCV valve is usually on
the right valve cover toward the rear, looking in from the front.

Oh, BTW, remember that motorhome I described last week where the guy
disassembled the engine from the inside?  That one is a 440 Mopar.  If you
want a spare engine and tranny, easily shipped in a dozen or so boxes, just
give a yell :-)  The guy's here now so I can put in a good word for ya :-)


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: More Blather about Motorhomes
Date: Fri, 08 Aug 2008 01:35:43 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Thu, 07 Aug 2008 14:50:03 -0500, Bob Giddings <> wrote:

>I went over to look at the Lonely Lazy again this afternoon.  I
>wanted to measure the tires, because this guy has 16 inchers on
>the front and 16.5" on the back.  The backs need replacing, but
>only for age.
>Roughly measured from the concrete, the front tires are 30 inches
>tall, and the spare is 28 inches tall sitting on the back.
>Depending on inflation, that probably means between 1 and 2
>inches difference in diameter rolling on the ground.

Forgot to add, with the 16" tires on my rig, the speedo is now 5 mph slow at
60 mph.  The 16s are actually larger than the 16.5s.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Lazy I
Date: Sat, 09 Aug 2008 01:31:44 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Fri, 08 Aug 2008 00:10:43 -0500, Bob Giddings <> wrote:

>On Mon, 04 Aug 2008 15:24:11 -0400, Neon John <>
>>The guy did him a favor.  I had 16.5s on my rig.  Obsolete 10 years ago. They
>>were the highest rated version that I could get for that size.  They were
>>overloaded and the result was they shed treads like cats shed hair.  When I
>>got sick of buying tires out on the road after fixing flats on the side of the
>>interstate, I bought 16" wheels.  Steel spoke wheels that look very nice.  I
>>went up two load ranges.  I had another load range to go if these weren't
>>adequate.  They were.  Not a single bit of tire trouble since.  The change in
>>ride quality was huge.  I wish I'd done that on the first day of ownership.
>John, you don't say what ply or load range in 16.5 you were
>having trouble with.

I don't recall.  I might have it written down in my log book.  The only thing
I recall is that my dealer told me that I had the highest load range tire
available.  I'm not into tires so I didn't ask a lot of questions.  He could
have meant for my rim width or for any rim width.  I don't even remember
whether I got a 16" tire for a spare or kept one of the old ones.

I just know that I was a few (3-400 lbs) overweight on the rear axle but that
was enough.  Things would be fine until I hit a little bump. Even going over a
curb cut to a parking lot did it once. Within a few miles I'd start to feel
the familiar thump and if I didn't stop and change the tire, the tread would
come off a little while later.

Sorry that I can't be more specific but to me, tires are just donut-shaped
very expensive containers of stuff that annoys you when it leaks out.  I drop
my vehicles off at my dealer's lot the night before and drop the keys in the
night deposit with a note saying "give 'er new shoes".


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