Rob GanleySee other Advice articles filed in ‘Running a motorhome’ written by Rob Ganley
The Sherpa has sailed through its MoT and is ready to go on tour, so Jack tackles a few cosmetic fixes to give Kate and Kyle a good
Before commencing this month, it’s useful to remind ourselves of our original aim for this project, which was, in a nutshell, motorcaravanning on the cheap. Peanuts has always been cosmetically challenged, though her underneath was renewed by the last owner, so there are no MoT worries. We never intended to restore her to showroom condition: she had been molested by B-B (Bird Brain) far too often in botched DIY attempts to make restoration a viable project. Anyway, we bought her for Kate and Kyle (and me) to use, not to leave in bits in the workshop for ever-and-a-day.
This is the last of our Peanuts workshop series for this year, though she’ll be back next month for an overview. I’ve traced many of the 13 former owners, so I’ll be taking a trip down Memory Lane to fill in some of the background of a quite remarkable old Sherpa. She’s just been awarded another MoT (with no ‘advisories’!) so she’s all ready for a summer of fun. If you see her out and about, give Kate a wave – it helps to pass the time in the (very) slow lane!
Peanuts (SRB 110R) left Don Amott’s Caravan Kingdom in 1977, resplendent in Leyland White. Back then a TV advert quite rightly described Don Amott Snr as ‘The King of Caravans’. Years later she was painted in a rather fetching mid-blue with a black grille and white elevating-roof. Next, another owner brush-painted her all white again, and later B-B threw royal blue paint at her and upturned a tin of black goo on the roof cap.
More recently a real hero (more on him next month) saved her from the scrapyard and returned her to her original colour. Successive DIY-enthusiasts have painted odd bits in “not quite the right shade” and this was how she was when we bought her. The point of this rambling tale of chromatic enhancement is to emphasise that without a bare metal respray and rebuild (£15,000 minimum), the ‘make-over’ was always going to be just a quick tidy-up.
Top tips It is better to spend an hour or so on consecutive days than try to do it all in a day or two. Further, only ‘attack’ one side at a time; otherwise it’s easy to get disheartened, leaving the 'van in red-oxide primer so it looks like a shed. Finally, there’s never been a stronger case for RTFI than when using harmful corrosion treatments, fillers and paints. RTFI…read the flippin’ instructions!
Task 1: repairing rust scabs on panels seams
By far the most unslightly blemishes were these scabs along the lower side panel seams. First job: remove the flaking paint, loose filler and whatever else has been crammed in there over the years.
Use a wire brush to get back to bare metal. Top tip: don't use the one you clean the BBQ with, or the grease will contaminate the filler and paint won't grip.
Apply rust converter with a clean paintbrush, using a stippling action to ensure good coverage. We used Kurust. Re-coat corroded areas until they turn navy/black.
Oh no! I'd just liberally applied the Kurust when the phone rang. The runs, which I'd normally have wiped off quickly, had dried by the time I returned – but luckily a wet rag removed them.
We would have used sealant in the seam and painted it, but the rest had been filled flush so we matched it with stone-chip paint. Not bad for two-hours' work!
Task 2: repairing damaged bumper
Peanuts' rear quarter's bumpers had been covered in silver-grey gaffer-tape. I knew exactly what we were going to find underneath… 'religious chrome' (holy!). I was right.
First job was to remove the tape adhesive and muck, using a rag soaked in white spirit, before applying filler. We stuck fresh gaffer-tape to the holes' undersides to stop the filler falling through.
Next, level the filler. Also abrade the remaining chrome to key the surface for the primer (a type of thick undercoat). That's about where we were in the previous photo (above). It started raining so we packed away and the next weekend we decided to finish it in Hammerite silver paint (right), as we had some left after re-finishing a garden swing frame. A smarter – but more expensive – solution would have been to buy an aerosol spray can of Leyland White (special order only) and colour co-ordinate the bumpers to the body colour.
Task 3: filling and re-tiling the floor
It's time to finish the floor after being rudely interrupted last month by a wayward windscreen wiper switch. First job: torque the towbar bolts correctly before covering them up. I always supply the torque wrench to the nuts (below floor).
We filled the craters flush with the floor, using Polyster car body filler. We then made a removable plug to allow access to the towbar bolts, by spreading Vaseline liberally over the crater floor and sides and pressing a polythene bag over the lot.
On the first fill we sunk some nuts with large shoulders in diagonal corners, so we can screw bolts into them if the plug needs to be lifted. Next we filled it flush. Once it was hard, we lifted it to remove the plastic bag, before replacing it.
Finally, we laid out self-adhesive vinyl tiles with the backing still on as a 'trial run'. To lay tiles symmetrically, draw a centre line along the floor in pencil and work from there. Top tip: make cardboard templates to help you trim ties.
Project Peanuts: the story so far
Gentleman Jack set out to show you can live the dream for less than £2000 in our 'Project Peanuts' series. This 1977 Auto-Sleeper Leyland Sherpa cost just £825. Jack manages it for single mum Kate and her son Kyle, who enjoy regular trips away in it. Each issue, Jack writes about his tasks, packing his tale with DIY and ownership tips.
Starter-van to-do list
Shake down DONE
Urgent mechanical repairs DONE
Mechanical safety check, lubrication service DONE
Repair elevating roof DONE
Habitation safety check DONE
Service and refit gas and 12V equipment DONE
Fit new rear door cards DONE
Refinish cabinetwork DONE
Soft furnishings upgrade DONE
Roof-trim and floor repair DONE
230V/12V power upgrade DONE
Bodywork makeover DONE
Previously 71 hours
This month 10 hours
TOTAL SO FAR 81 hours
Motorhome purchase £825
One year's road fund licence (tax disc) £205
MoT Test £39.95
Repairs and uprgrades:
2 x wiper blades £5.98
Top-up fluids £10.00
Workshop manual £5.96
Overdrive actuating solenoid assembly £81.50
Roof seals £19.97
Hinges and screws £6.25
New 'van battery £70.00
Brake adjustment £40.00
Gas and 12V consumables, including three-way manifold, new fuse box, etc £72.74
Wood, glue, screws and screw covers £15.00
Anti-freeze, new jubilee clips, second-hand 230V unit and fire blanket £40.97
Indicator/lights/horn stalk switch assembly £33.99
Beech-effect vinyl £20.98
2 x Lucas panel switches, inc p&p £35.99
4 x packs self-adhesive vinyl tiles £15.96
Kurust, pain, filler £22.00
TOTAL SO FAR £1743.48
Missed the earlier articles? Click on the links below to catch up:
- Part 1: buying a van – your options
- Part 2: more buying tips and insurance
- Part 3: safety check, towbar and rear step
- Part 4: essential roof repairs
- Part 5: making safe old DIY horrors
- Part 6: refitting the hob, fridge and some wiring
- Part 7: general improvements to the interior
- Part 8: making new door cards
- Part 9: 'wiring' for 230V and winter prep
- Part 10: repairing faulty indicators
- Part 11: touching-up the cabinetwork
- Part 12: renewing the floor covering and fixing wipers
Ask Jack …
If you have any queries relating to this series, feel fee to contact Gentleman Jack at email@example.com.