Fixing and remodeling our (not)new 77 Avco - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-30-2012, 12:39 AM   #1
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Name: Les
Trailer: 1977 Avco 29' Grand Lodge
Idaho
Posts: 15
Fixing and remodeling our (not)new 77 Avco

We bought a 77 Avco motorhome last Wednesday. It needs work, mostly mechanical, but nothing that prevents it from being safe to drive. Just annoyingly inconvenient - like the main fuel tank is heavily rusted and disconnected so it has to be driven on the 20 gallon aux tank.
There were a number of 'small' problems, like the hot water tank wasn't installed. In fact, the 'all appliances work' was a bit of a stretch.

The water heater had been removed in the past and a PO had bought an on-demand water heater designed to power a small shower with the intention of using it to supply the entire coach. I'm very happy he never got around to doing it. We traded it to an RV salvage yard for a credit on a bunch of parts. We're working on figuring out what water heater will most closely fit a hole 18 inches wide by 14.5 inches tall...

This sounds a little disconnected - I was replying to my "Hi!" post, and realized I was going way past the intention of the topic.

We were testing systems and discovered that the rear AC is genset powered and the front one is shore power. We were discussing why it would be a split system and the conversation picks up from there:


We suspect that when the RV was professionally remodeled some time in the past, that the owner elected to have half the 110 shore powered and half genset powered. I haven't had time to look at it yet, and we'll likely enlist the services of my father-in-law or brother-in-law as both are licensed electricians.

So the first problem tackled this weekend was checking the plumbing, sans the hot water system, of course . Turns out that the 'it was properly winterized' was missing the "wasn't". The cold supply to the shower and bathroom sink had popped and when I connected the toilet (aqua magic GL), it sprayed water from the back where the water supply hooks up. More freezing damage, I suspect.

We went out to Marsing, ID to an RV salvage yard and picked up the booth and couch from a wrecked 2010 Jayco trailer as well as a lot of little misc parts. It's mostly installed - the table is mounted and the benches are in place. I have to take them out to stain and varnish the wainscoting. The table and benches mount to the wall, which is curved on the Avco, so I built a false wall to attach them to. We want to yank the mauve carpet too, but it's not in the budget at the moment.

I also got the main and aux fuel tank gauges working. While I was inspecting the system, I discovered that the selector valve has been bypassed and we're plumbed into the aux tank. The PO told us the main was heavily rusted, so I expect a good bit of work there, and I'll take care of the tank selector valve when I fix the main tank.

I managed to also get the dash properly grounded, and wired to fix a bunch of inoperable gauges and dash lights. Like I said - it was a busy weekend.

Exterior and the booth:

Yes - the booth is broken. When the trailer was wrecked, the overhead microwave fell out and landed on it. I'll be replacing the ends of both benches using the good one as a pattern.
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Old 04-30-2012, 09:02 AM   #2
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Trailer: 1973 Hunter Compact II
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Looks like an interesting motorhome, but you might have better luck on a motorhome oriented site. Almost everyone hereabouts has mini-sized, molded fiberglass travel trailers.
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Old 04-30-2012, 07:30 PM   #3
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Name: Les
Trailer: 1977 Avco 29' Grand Lodge
Idaho
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wow. even on the internet I get asked to park somewhere else...
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Old 04-30-2012, 08:13 PM   #4
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Name: Logan
Trailer: 1976 Scamp 13'
Wisconsin
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Originally Posted by LesBerg View Post
wow. even on the internet I get asked to park somewhere else...
I think what Bob meant is that most of us are unfamiliar with motor homes and have very limited knowledge of them.

I think it is an awesome and unique find worthy of restoration.

What engine/transmission does it have?
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Old 04-30-2012, 08:44 PM   #5
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Trailer: Escape 5.0 TA, 2014
Oregon
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Les, believe it or not... we're trying to be helpful. We don't discuss motorhomes here. This is a forum that's niched for all molded fiberglass towables.

"Fiberglass RV is the leading online community for owners of lightweight molded fiberglass trailers. A vibrant forum, active classified section, trailer registry, expansive photo gallery all make Fiberglass RV the most active community in this niche."
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Old 04-30-2012, 08:44 PM   #6
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Name: Les
Trailer: 1977 Avco 29' Grand Lodge
Idaho
Posts: 15
I figured, but it was too good of an opportunity to pass up
My apologies to Bob if he, or anyone else, took it wrong.

It has a Dodge 440 / 727 combination that runs excellent for the few miles we have on it.

As far as community support for the mechanicals, I'm not too worried. I've been a mechanic of some flavor or another since about 1985. That's a story all on it's own, that one...

Quote:
I think what Bob meant is that most of us are unfamiliar with motor homes and have very limited knowledge of them.
I don't think you give you give yourself enough credit for what you know. The only difference between a trailer and a motorhome is the chassis the house is built on, and even then you have much the same concerns: tires, suspension, brakes, exterior lights, etc.. the only major difference is the presence or lack of motive power and you're all familiar with that on some level.

I'm hoping to tap into your knowledge and experience with fiberglass RVs - while I've been a mechanic for years and lived in a 1971 Komfort 17 travel trailer with my wife, two kids, and a black lab since last August, I really don't know much more than basic electrical and mechanical repair on these things.

For example, I've done a lot to fix the roof leaks and make sure that the appliances we have stay running in the trailer, but I don't have much of a clue with choosing appliances in the absence of something already installed. My biggest problem is figuring out what to do about a water heater in the Avco so we can get moved in - it was taken out before the PO we bought it from purchased it.

The original heater was apparently a combination LP and heat exchanger, and wasn't a standard shape. The tough break there is that it's already gone and I can't get dimensions - I can't even find brochures or sales information that shows layouts, features, or specifications.

The original door is 14.5 inches tall, 18 inches wide and I haven't seen any water heaters with dimensions like that. The closest I've seen is a 16"x16" Suburban or either Suburban or Atwood in 16" x 12.5", IIRC. Now those are the advertised dimensions for the heater itself, not the door including the frame. I can't seem to track down the dimensions of the doors themselves, so I'm probably going to have to go into Campingworld or Nelson's RV and start measuring parts.

So you see, the experience you have with RVs is exactly what I'm looking for.

And if you happen to have any questions regarding gas drive trains and related systems, I'd be happy to be of some help.

And we really are going to try to make it more presentable so we're not asked to move along.
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Old 04-30-2012, 08:45 PM   #7
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Name: Les
Trailer: 1977 Avco 29' Grand Lodge
Idaho
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Originally Posted by Donna D. View Post
Les, believe it or not... we're trying to be helpful. We don't discuss motorhomes here. This is a forum that's niched for all molded fiberglass towables.

"Fiberglass RV is the leading online community for owners of lightweight molded fiberglass trailers. A vibrant forum, active classified section, trailer registry, expansive photo gallery all make Fiberglass RV the most active community in this niche."

Sorry - I tried to get my wall of text in before my poor joke got any farther...
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Old 04-30-2012, 09:29 PM   #8
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Trailer: 1976 Scamp 13'
Wisconsin
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Hmm..

Yup, I'd definitely turn it into a 440 6 pack.
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Old 04-30-2012, 09:41 PM   #9
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Name: bob
Trailer: 1984 u-haul ct13; 1996 Casita 17 Spirit Deluxe; 1946 Modernistic teardrop
New York
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What is that gas tank repair franchise, Gas Tank Renu or something like that where they put a coating inside & out to seal leaks. And there are other gas tank sealers available, try Eastwood Company. Father-in-law had a motor home years ago, what a cob job wiring nightmare that was.
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Old 05-18-2012, 11:14 AM   #10
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Name: Les
Trailer: 1977 Avco 29' Grand Lodge
Idaho
Posts: 15
So the main fuel tank was coated internally with about a quarter inch of varnish. A two week soak of 1/4 tank of water and two lbs of lye and the inside of the tank is squeaky clean. I'll be installing it this afternoon.

I installed an Atwood water heater last weekend. We still have a few issues to clear up, but we're hoping to see some road time this weekend.

First issue is, I believe, propane system related:
When the water heater is running, flame will periodically 'pop back' from the main burner to the spot where the propane and air mix. I adjusted it a bit, and now instead of 'popping back' the flame just dims a bit. It's not fixed, but I feel safer.

Also, when the stove is running at the same time as either the furnace or the water heater, the flame acts strange, often coming away from the edge of the burner when turned up over 3/4.

Between the two issues, does this sound like a faulty LP regulator?

The second issue is more of a question:
Does anyone know where I can pick up a Mark II electric leveling jack?
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Old 05-21-2012, 10:30 AM   #11
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Name: Les
Trailer: 1977 Avco 29' Grand Lodge
Idaho
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The fuel tank is in! I have the fuel system setup as originally designed, using the electric tank selector switch.

I also dug into the PD-712 power converter. When we picked the unit up, the entire 12v system worked except that it wouldn't charge the house batteries from the converter. I ran through the system wiring and got it all connected correctly to the batteries and it still wouldn't charge.

I took the cover off the converter and started checking everything out, and it turns out that the thermal breaker that connects the charge voltage to the batteries was dead. I'm temporarily running a bit of fusible-link wire as a substitute until I can take the breaker out and find a suitable replacement.

Next up is tracking down the operator and service manuals for the 6.2kw Onan genset and figuring out why it won't start from the remote panel.
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Old 05-21-2012, 10:42 AM   #12
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Name: Les
Trailer: 1977 Avco 29' Grand Lodge
Idaho
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 841K9 View Post
Hmm..

Yup, I'd definitely turn it into a 440 6 pack.
That's the best idea I've heard in ages!

I thought the 440 was a little lackluster when we brought it back from Emmett. Now that I have a clean tank and fuel lines, she purrs like a kitten with absolutely perfect mixture. Power after the secondaries kick open is amazing. We're going to gas it up this week and take it for a shakedown cruise.

I'm hoping to get an idea of fuel mileage, wear the new brakes in, and generally get an idea what other work the chassis may need before we set out on the summer's adventures.

I don't know how many Mopar fans we have on the board, but I learned that the 440 used in RVs is slightly different than the 440 used in cars and light trucks.

The automotive 440 is properly called the 440-1, while the 440 used in RVs and some medium-duty trucks (think U-Haul sized) is a 440-3, which has a number of differences, most notable are a heavy-duty cooling system, different heads with larger coolant passages, and a forged crankshaft.

I think I read that there is a 440-7 as well, but I haven't looked too deeply into that yet.
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Old 06-25-2012, 09:35 AM   #13
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Name: Les
Trailer: 1977 Avco 29' Grand Lodge
Idaho
Posts: 15
We hit the road in the Avco the last couple of weekends - Until last Saturday we'd still been having fuel starvation issues. On a hunch, I blew 100psi air back through the last six feet of steel line before the tank, and it's finally able to feed the engine properly.

Earlier tests looked good, but becuase we were parked and the engine was running with no load, the fuel demand still wasn't high enough to make the problem show up.

So far we have about 250 miles on it and it's run through a bit less than an half of a tank of gas. By the outside dimensions it's a 55 gallon tank. We put 40 gallons in it from dead empty and running the math it comes out to about 20mpg (half of a 55g tank is 27.5g, subtract that from 40 to get fuel used gives 12.5, 250miles/12.5g = 20mpg = no way in hell is this right). Then you figure the fuel used includes a few hours of running the engine in the RV park troubleshooting the fuel system, plus an hour or so running the 6.5kw generator so the 20mpg would be too low...

As a long-time mechanic I don't believe 20mpg from a Dodge 440 in a vehicle rated at 16,000lbs GVWR is even remotely possible , so when we roll out for Seattle this weekend, we're going to do a 100% fill up and watch the numbers to see what the mileage really is. I expect the 'real' mileage to fall into the 6-10mpg range.
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