Long Lasting Dodges

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I enjoy going to your website and can see that you have put a lot of effort into it. It is a great resource for people that are interested in vintage motor homes, weather they own one or are thinking of restoring one or just love the history.

I don't know if are aware but I am the owner of two places of business, Soapstone Valley Equipment is a truck and equipment repair shop, with myself and three mechanics since 1994, and next door Classic Motorcars of Ellington, where we have a show room with 20 - 25 antique cars for sale, we also offer repair service and parts for old cars and trucks.

The reason I tell you all this is because after being in the truck and antique car repair bussniess for 35 years, I have a few thoughts I would like to share with people who are thinking of restoring a vintage motor home.

I'm sure you have seen other web sites or blogs about Travcos. Some have done wonderful jobs and inspire the rest of us. Others seem to jump into a total restoration project without sitting down first and counting the cost. I have seen this many times when it comes to old cars.

I tell people the most expensive car (or in this case motor home) is the one you can get for free.

The real cost of a restoration is staggering.

People start with good intensions, tow home an old Travco and rip out the interior, try to get it running, after a while reality sinks in, the list starts getting longer and longer, rust issues, fluid leaks, wood rot, glass, electrical, paint, brakes, tires, exhaust, interior, etc. and all they wanted to do is take a trip in a cool old motor home. Sadly some get frustrated and give up.

I really admire those who stick with it and end up with beautiful rigs even if at a great cost.

I would encourage wannabees to consider buying a vintage coach that has had most of the work done, this has proved over and over to be the most cost effective way to enjoy the hobby.

Good running, driving Travco can be bought for $5,000 - $7500 and is far less than the cost of a restoration.

We that have old vehicles know that there is always things that need attention or find that even a good unit is a continuous work in progress. Or better said, we get to use out rigs and are always tinkering with them too.

It is my hope that someone reading this might give it some thought and that more people would be able to enjoy this great hobby.

Thanks Arlo Hoffman


                                           Cool It Down

The Freedom bird ran at 215 degrees according to the temp guage.  I decided that I needed to check it out.
Remove the front
I started by pulling the front grill off.

You can see the air conditioning condensor and the small transmission cooler mounted low inside the front.  There are two hoses there are beside the radiator cap.  I have always wondered what they were for.  My brother thinks that they are for cooling air to something.  I never found the other end and I have never seen them in a parts book.  Does anyone know what they are for?

Air Deflector  removed Coolers

I removed the air deflector and the coolers.  The Air conditioner was assembled with low pressure hoses where there should have been high pressure hoses.  I just removed the air conditioning system.

Rotary CompressorRemoved Radiator

You can see that there was a newer rotary air conditioning compressor installed.  I planned to remove it.  The radiator is on it's way out to be sent to a shop for testing.
Wrong Thermostat
The wrong thermostat was installed.  Since overheating was one of the common problems on a Dodge Chassis Motorhome.  I am going to add some information that I have on Dodge engines and thermostats.
Correct Thermostat
Correct Thermostat
Correct Thermostat

Correct Thermostat
This information came from my 1978 Dodge Chasis Motorhome Shop Manual.  With this knowledge in mind.  I went cooling parts shopping.

Mil-16260 water pumpCorrect Thermostat

I ordered a Milodon high volume water pump and a 185 degree thermostat also made by Milodon from Summit Racing.  The thermostat cost $15.95 and the water pump was $89.95.

Mystery Hoses
While I was waiting for parts, I tried to find out what these hoses were for.  I still don't know.  I also ordered a transmission, engine oil cooler with a fan to be installed when all of the parts come back.  The radiator was 75% plugged and I had it recored for $390.00.  It was back, but I was still waiting for Summit Racing to deliver my cooling parts.

New Water Pump
 removed CompressorLeaking Valve Covers
I installed the new water pump and removed the rest of the air conditioning system.  It was a good compressor.  I gave it to a friend of mine for their truck.  I also removed, cleaned, resealed and painted the valve covers at this time.  They were leaking pretty bad. I used Napa Felpro Gasket Part Number VS50145R.  They cost $16.31 on July 1st 2008. 

Fresh Paint Napa PN 271305
I painted everything after the installation.  I installed a new thermo clutch fan.  I got it at Napa for $38.89.  The Part Number was 271305.

Damaged Radiator Ready to Install
We damaged the radiator taking out of the truck.  It was a simple repair.  I reinstalled the brackets for the oil spout and dipstick and got ready to reinstall it.
Installed Radiator
The job is complete all except for the new transmission/engine oil cooler.  It is back-order.  I have to assemble the Motorhome without it so that I can take it to the Truck shop.   They are going to replace the king pins, a bad carrier bearing and replace the glass pack mufflers with some that are not as loud.  I have my house rented and must move so that the renters can move in.

Leaving Home
I am leaving home for the repair shop.  I was hoping to leave for full-timing after the king pin replacement.  The people renting my house wanted to buy it, but the bank wants too big of a down payment.  I decide to hang around the area and work part time for two years.  This is July 2008.  July 24th 2010 is my official retirement full-timing date.  It turned out that I would not have the Freedom Bird ready till this year 2010.  I also have the shop replace the bad passenger side tie rod end.  They are going to adjust the tow-in after the parts are replaced.  The cost of all of these repairs was $1565.94.  When I picked it up and drove it to the campground.  It drove great.  It did some bogging down under heavy loads like steep hills.  I had a part-time job for the winter.  I would wait til Spring 2009 to do anymore to The Freedom Bird.  I lived in her at the Harper Lake Campground til November 1st when I moved indoors for the winter.

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