Friday, October 31, 2008

Letter to Bob

Following is an extract from an email I sent my father-in-law last week:

The restoration of the Travco (we need a better name) has begun. Lorane Valley is about 40 miles south of here, a beautiful place. Yesterday I drove there alone (third trip) and spent 4 hours rolling around under the belly of the Dodge beast. In that time, I managed (of course, with Ken's help) to install a new master cylinder and bleed the brakes, and run two new gas lines (and one new filter). The main tank was bone dry, but I bled over 15 gallons from the aux. What didn't get on me was mixed with oil and will be burned in Ken's stove this winter. Score one for Ken. (Ken is a retired mechanic with not one but two shops on his property--an auto and a wood shop. He has also kindly offered me the opportunity to cannibalize an 80s Winnebago he's getting rid of. This means a new driver's seat, hot water heater, hinges, lights, curtains, whatever. Score one for the Clark/Wheeler Enterprise.) The gent who really owned the bus (Ken is serving as his go-between) is a guy named Bill. Bill owned it over 20 years, and will be sitting down with me (by phone) next week to tell me all he knows. What Ken knows is that Bill's a stickler for detail, and loves to overbuild. Outwardly, she may not be a head turner (yet), but underneath... Bill had not one but three fuel filters (I reduced that back down to one, since 2 of the filters were installed between tanks and fuel pump, adding not only a redundancy but another hurdle for the gas to get to the carb). And the Monroe shocks are about the biggest I've ever seen. He had brackets welded on to support them. Custom front grill. Air cooler for the tranny (they used to drive from here to San Diego non-stop, cruising at 80 mph). Anti-sway bars. Apparently, a lot of money was spent on the exhaust system, too. You should see the muffler on this thing. Remember, it's a 440 and the sheer size of the engine intimidates the hell out've me (although it's placement makes it extremely accessible). I'm a woodworker for Christ's sake! But it was kept up over the years by mechanics (Bill, BTW, is NOT one and knows it.) It was used by their car racing club (Ken swears it has slept up to 10 guys, with two on the floor), and most of those guys were mechanics of one stripe or another, so, overall, the bus has been intelligently and knowingly maintained. Everything points to this being one of those once-in-a-lifetime deals for us. And, as for Ken, it helps him clear off his property.

Everybody's happy.

This extensive report comes as response to your concerns about the bus's safety. The things we knew before: she runs, she has decent tires, most on-board systems work (or not); she could use a new fridge (and flooring and upholstery....). The things we know now: her brakes work; her fuel lines are new; she's been overbuilt (this rig is HEAVY, with steel-ribbed construction) and well maintained. The LP system will, when the time comes, be gone over by an expert. That leaves a general makeover for me. And she actually fits into the shop! (By 3 inches on top.)