Buggeee's 1973 Playpac Build Thread - Fiberglass RV


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Old 07-14-2017, 05:04 PM   #1
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Buggeee's 1973 Playpac Build Thread

Hey there fellow Eggheads!

I've been building a bug over on The Samba, which is a forum for VW Airheads. I'm starting on a rescued Playpac to pull behind it. (Who rescued who, am I right?).

This should be a breeze after downsizing from a rescued 36 footer that I had been dragging around behind me all over the place (with a truck not a bug). 36 ft to 13 ft in one day. That's what I call Devine Intervention! Now I just have to convince the missus that we can fit in this Bug House.

To help that happen, my plan is to make this Playpac worthy of its Holy Grail status (this is a significant thing for me not only as a camper, but also as a bugger) and meet some Egghead peeps along the way.

I have been lurking a few days and have already benefited from your threads in significant ways (to be developed later) and see that this is a really positive crowd, so time to dive in!!!

This is my build thread.
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Old 07-14-2017, 05:53 PM   #2
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This poor Playpac had been resigned to counting the years as a hunting cabin dreaming of the day it would find a home again.

Right now I'm busy taking inventory, slowly performing the archaeological dismantling process and assessing the rot. There is a completely failed spot in the floor by the front door that will have to be rebuilt.

Unfortunately I lost the wood on the back of one of the seat cushions to water damage. The back window must have been left open on that side for some period of time. It's a shame because all the upholstery is in really really good condition and most of this thing seems to be original.

The Montgomery Ward curtains were folded up in the ice chest, look like they're a week old and I'm going to try washing them. They are that 70s appliance gold and if I can save them I'll match the new seat fabric to compliment some how.

The propane burners seem to have been used twice but the valves are stuck. Either I don't know how to work a propane stove or I'm going to have to see what's locking them up.

The vinyl wall covering is sticky dirty but in remarkably good condition. What do you clean this stuff with?
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Old 07-14-2017, 05:57 PM   #3
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Oh... Did I mention that this camper was won on the Price is Right? I'm belly laughing over that one but that's the lore that has been passed down with it over the years. I'm sticking with it and will tell everyone around every campfire from here on out!!! Too much fun Peeps.
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Old 07-14-2017, 07:25 PM   #4
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I love the " price is right" story
I was on it 25 yrs ago
I won a life time supply of turkey browning bags
Go figure
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Old 07-18-2017, 04:10 PM   #5
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Well, I am really enjoying this Camper much more than the long, long trailer. My big rig had been constructed out of wood, with aluminum skin. The rot ran everywhere in that thing. With the fiberglass egg, there is very little wood to deal with.

From reading the Chat with the inventor over in the Community threads, it seems this egg was manufactured like a fiberglass boat. That was key in knowing how to dive in as I have had the benefit of watching my father totally rebuild the transom and floor in a small fiberglass tri-hull. Those were a fiberglass and plywood sandwich, as is the floor of this egg.

So... here are the tools of choice:



The vibrating multi-tool cuts through fiberglass and plywood (slowly, which is how I wanted to get in there) and also vibrates its way between the sandwich layers... while the paint scraper and crow bar lift the wood from the bottom layer. I started at the door and lifted layers of fiberglass and wood-plies following the rot in each direction until I got to dry, sound structure. In this fashion, I was able to separate the wood from the bottom layer of fiberglass, leaving it in place (for the most part) to act as the bottom of my mold for the new work. Then I scored a line along the frame rail so the old and new work could share the support of the joist, and cut the last part out. Here's how it stood when done with that part (the frame rail under here is a box with a diagonal running down the middle like a boat trailer):



I also removed all of the truly water damaged other things, like walls or what not, as needed as well as the countertop and cabinet at the front. I have decided I don't want propane running inside this small of a space (my big rig had an exhaust fan like your kitchen does). I'll run electric appliances when inside and propane barbecue will be outside on a camping grill. Also, I'll be running a converted freezer (like the off-grid peeps... more on that later) rather than the ice box.

So don't mind the ugly dark areas, its just staining not soft at all, but here is what I was left with as my starting point...





Here is the way-too-cool 70's futuristic bubble top area above the kitchen:



Unfortunately the lexan bubble is long gone, but thankfully it had been replaced with what appears to be a road sign! Bottom line is I'll just have to remove some roof sealer from above and unbolt or drill out the screws to recover the original opening. Does anyone have a 26" boat hatch lying around? The biggest one I have found so far is 25" I figure those are round, open to vent and are water tight, even if they are not a spacey bubble.
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Old 07-18-2017, 04:41 PM   #6
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Enough deconstruction, its time to build something!!! This is really exciting because I started rebuilding on the first day, whereas the deconstruction alone took a long, long time on the long long trailer.

I needed to cut a piece of plywood to act as the filling for the fiberglass Oreo. It was a really odd shape. I used a technique I've seen my friend do on a one-piece linoleum kitchen floor installation. First I made a little gizmo with a coat hanger and a marker (there is a tool for this but I don't have one).



Then I taped down some paper roughly in the area, it does not need to go to the edge. And I ran that gizmo along one edge, then another, then another. I ran the coat-hanger side along the edge where the new wood would meet the old wood (wood chucks coming to mind for some reason), keeping it perpendicular (45 degrees) to an imaginary line as I went. This results in a series of lines inside the paper, as so:



I drew little arrows along each line so I could know which way was perpendicular as I moved it along the weird shaped edge. Then I pulled up the paper, walked it over to a fresh piece of plywood and taped it down.



Then I flipped the gizmo around and ran it perpendicularly along the lines, but this time the coat-hanger edge was at the line, and the marker was to the outside. This transfers the shape of the hole in the floor onto the piece of wood that is going to fill it.

You can also see in that shot (if you look closely) how the gizmo was oriented as I transferred the line onto the plywood. It is key to this process that the gizmo stay perpendicular as it rides the line so that the marker recreates the shape properly.

Cut it with a circular saw (Goggles and Gloves - Saftey First! ) and I maneuvered the wood piece into place, got stuck, trimmed a bit, tried again, repeat. Eventually it wiggled into place where it was under and holding up the fiberglass top layer where I had left a bit of it along the outer edge of the trailer. Here you can see its under the aluminum door frame and the fiberglass on the right and left of the door pillars. It travels along under a few inches of flange I left running there to support the walls and door when its all secured and glassed in. The notch on the left side was necessary to tip the plywood into position and I'll fill that with glass, its under the sink (or, it will be when I have a sink!!!)



Loosing sunlight, I packed it in for the day. When time permits, I'll pull the wood back out and start layering the fiberglass sandwich....
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Old 07-19-2017, 11:13 AM   #7
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Very interesting, and some innovative work. Looking forward to future posts!
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Old 07-27-2017, 05:53 PM   #8
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Thumbs up Invitation to organize a meet in Florida and to join the Playpac pack on FB

I'm impressed! Great approach to your restoration project. Please share this with other Playpackers
who are members of the Playpac pack group on Facebook. I will gladly accept your request for membership. I currently live in Florida and if one of this group or one of the Facebook group would organize a meet anywhere in Florida I would be thrilled to be your host and pay for a BBQ around a large campfire where I would tell some interesting stories about the birth and shortened life of Playpac. Happy trails
Steve Whysel
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Old 08-08-2017, 12:46 PM   #9
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I've been busy and gotten way ahead of this thread so its time for some updating. Before I put the floor in I thought about how to run wiring from front to back with the door there. Under the door is a soffit as best I can describe it, that is built into the fiberglass body. I decided to make a run so I could push wiring through there as needed. The material would be pvc plumbing. First I cut off the top of a couple of tees like so:



Then I drilled a hole in the replacement floor board on each side of where the door would be and installed the pvc pluming underneath, hanging by the tees, like this:



Than way, once its all glassed in place, I can shove wires from one end to the other and get past the door.

Next I built a little trough, out of gorilla tape, across the transom of the door. I also ran some frog tape (painter's masking tape) along the aluminum door frame.



The idea here is I'll fill the trough with some scraps of fiberglass cloth, pour resin to fill it as much as possible and then slide the wood into place. When I pour the resin over the top and let it flow under the door frame, the repair will take the shape of the aluminum door frame but... and this is key (I hope it works)... the frog tape will keep the resin from bonding with the aluminum. My theory is I'll be able to pull out that aluminum door frame off of the frog tape if needed for maintenance as the aluminum door frame will just be bonded to the tape (which is not strong) and won't be bonded to the resin.

Next I glassed the bottom of the wood repair piece, then (after this picture) let the resin cure before flipping it over and wiggling it into place. If you have ever spoken to someone trying to get resin to stay in place from the underside you'll know why I'm doing it this way.



Here is a picture of how I've got the fiberglass cloth wrapped around the flange I left on the body (the wood wiggles into place under this flange) and the scraps laying in the Gorilla tape trough (I'm overbuilding this little strip across the entrance because everybody steps on it to get in and out and I don't want the floor flexing every time). Don't mind the glass cloth on the left - its just waiting for me to pick it up and move on.



Finally, I wiggled the wood floor repair panel into place. I poured resin aound all the edges and worked it in at all the edges. Then I poured resin and a strip of glass cloth across the crack where the new wood meets the old wood in the middle of the floor (they share the metal frame joist from the trailer under there). Then, while its all still wet, I screwed in metal joist straps across the top of that crack between old and new wood. Last, I layered cloth and resin over the whole kit and caboodle, resulting in what you see here...



If you look close, you can see I've pushed an electric cable through the run under the front door...

That my friends, is how I did the structural repair work in the floor by my front door. It will be ground even with a belt sander and then a skim coat of bondo autobody filler will fill the pin-holes and goughes. The finish coat for this floor will be a 2 part garage floor epoxy with color chips. No laminates, no carpet, nothing to hold or hide water. If it weren't for the front door you would be able to fill this thing with water and take a bath in it.
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Old 08-08-2017, 01:04 PM   #10
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So here is a little aside... This whole time I though my Playpac was unoccupied... Not so! There was a thriving community of friends camping in the rot of my front door floor. Here are a few of them rushing to find a new home for their eggs, now that I'm reclaiming my egg!



I found that they had found that the little cavities leading through the laminated layers of plywood can be used as ant farm tunnels into to the good wood as well. So... I encouraged most of them out (including the huge queen) by heating the floor with a heat gun. Then I soaked the whole floor, in the holes and around, all crevices and openings, with insecticide.



As long as I'm evicting living things of all kinds, I soaked every inch of everything in the WHOLE camper (walls, ceiling, floors, door frames, seat frames... all of everything and in every hole and crevice) with Concrobium. This is a salt of some kind I believe, and you spray it on and leave it. It soaks in everywhere like water. When it dries, all mold, fungus, spoores, etc. is dead, roots and all. Then you just do what ever you do... paint or whatever. You don't wipe it off. I stays and prevents future growth. No more musty smell. (It's not bleach so it doesn't whiten anything, just kills it). This is not to fix rotten wood. This is just to kill any roots or spores that may be laying around on the good stuff that I'm keeping.
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Old 08-08-2017, 03:58 PM   #11
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Smile Wow!

Great planning and execution! You need to put this on "youtube" I commend your thoroughness. Wish I had you supervising the construction of Playpac. It was built in a large factory owned by the Winner Boat Co.of Dickson, TN. They only built fiberglass pleasure boats until they contracted with my company, Playpac Industries, Inc. in 1972. The full size prototype was built for us by a company in NJ in 1971. I was the first one to pull it around their property with a '71 VW bug. That was one hell of day, best ever, in my life.
Keep up the good work but get this "episode " on line.
Steve
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Old 08-09-2017, 11:54 AM   #12
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Clearance / Marker Lights

Trying to gain ground on all areas, I'm moving inside and outside as weather and curing epoxies permit. Here's the scoop on Playpac clearance/marker lights. I don't know if this will be of interest to anyone other than the nine other souls on this earth who happen to have a Plapac.

The clearance lights are bolted on. Here's what you see when you take them off. Its a positive/hot 12v wire and two bolts. The one on the right where I've placed that shiny nut had the neutral attached to it.



Here's what it looks like from the inside. You see that at every light the common hot wire is crimped to a pigtail that goes outside to the light. At every light the common neutral wire is joined by ends with a screw through them to the outside, where the light's neutral wire is bolted on.



Do you see in that picture there how the screw head and the wire ends have that blue frosty corrosion? That's a problem. You need a good groud to every light and in this system the whole ground/neutral chain is only as strong as its weakest, or most corroded, link. The result is a handful of lights that are bright, a handful that are out, and a handful that are dim. So... what to do?

Thought about that for a while and even considered re-wiring the whole lot of them. But, that would mean tearing out the elephant skin along the whole front and back roof. The front I had access to as you see here, but I did not want to open it all up.

Here's what I did. I located and then connected the hot and neutral wires that fed the clearance lights, in order to "close" the circuit. (Its not your eyes, I apologize for the blurry picture.)



Then I went to outside to each light to measure the resistance for that light with a multimeter I got for just about free at Harbor Freight. This should read zero, for no resistance, at each light because the circuit is "closed" and the electricity should flow freely from one end to the other. The reading should look like this, which it did for a few lights:



But, on many lights, the corroded ground/neutral wire was resisting the flow and the reading looked more like this.



Those were my trouble spots, and I found them without tearing elephant hide to see the connection with my eyeballs. So there's a corroded screw head inside there, now what?
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Old 08-09-2017, 11:54 AM   #13
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Here's what. I sprayed phosphoric acid (its a metal prep chemical found in some paint preparation solutions and I got a jug of it called, aptly, "metal prep", at Lowes). Phosporic acid melts oxidation (rust, corrosion, blue frosty nonsense, etc.) off of metal, leaving it clean and fresh. Don't use muriac acid, some use it for rust, but that opens the molecules of the metal to more corrosion. Phosphoric acid binds the molecules of the metal preventing future corrosion.

Anyway, I sprayed the screw, and then twisted and pushed and pulled it with my fingers working the solution down the threads. Spray, twist, spray twist. It got in there and I could feel the screw head spinning smoothly on the ends of the wires in there, so I stopped.

Then I installed a nut onto the screw and tightened it to draw the screw tight. This made the stud for installing the new light, but more importantly, it pulled the screw head and the two ends of the neutral wires tightly against each other inside the fiberglass body. I want a nice tight ground contact. Once reasonably tight, I let it dry.

Then I took another reading, and it was great, no resistance because the corrosion was gone and the contact good, like this:



In that fashion I was able to locate and address the corroded ground connections from outside the camper and did not have to peel the elephant skin from the inside to get it done.

Ok, here is a tip. The double nut. Its good for all kinds of situations. Here, one or two of the screws did not hold themselves from spinning as I tightened the nut against the camper body. So I put two nuts on the end of the screw and tightened them against each other, to make a handle of sorts. It looked like this:



That way I could hold the double nut handle to keep the screw from turning while I tightened down the nut against the camper body. When done, break the double nut from each other by twisting them in opposite directions, and then just spin them off.

With nuts against the camper on each stud, the spacing gave just enough room for the wires to hide under the lights. One wire gets attached to the hot, the other slides over the neutral stud to get sandwiched on when you tighten the light. The hot pigtail had very little to work with, certainly not enough for a crimp on connector, so I used a "linemans' splice". (Google it, its a useful way to twist wires together that tightens under a mild pulling) I heated some shrink wrap tubing to seal it all up. Remember to put the shrink wrap tubing on the wire before your splice it together so you can slide it over the splice and then melt it tight.



Got the lights bolted on there, with the wires tucked underneath and ran a bead of white polyseal adhesive caulk around the edge to waterproof it.




Here's the thing about caulk and clearance lights. Don't block the little holes in the bottom of the light. They are necessary to allow moisture to leave. There will be moisture, you can't caulk it out. Moisture condenses inside the lens due to ordinary sunrise and sunset heat and cold on the light. It condenses and has to get out some how, hence the hole. You've opened these after they've been all caulked up and still found dirty mess right? Condensation - let it out.

My posts sticking out of the camper were at an angle so the hole in the bottom of my lights would have been off set a bit. I drilled a little new one right at the bottom of the installed position.



Then I waited for the sun to go down and put the battery on those two wires just to stare at it. Isn't it romantic?

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Old 08-09-2017, 09:30 PM   #14
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Cherry on the Cake!!!

It's here! It's here! It's the piece that makes a Playpac the Planet of the Apes Ultra Modern Everybody's Gonna Be Riding Around in Hovercrafts thing that it is...

The 26 inch diameter tinted Lexan Bubble Dome has arrived!!!

It will be a few days until Saturday that I'll have to stare at it in my living room before I can reclaim the huge circle hole in the roof of my Playpac with it. I had it made to order by a great guy nicknamed Holiday who lives in Canada and makes bubbles.

Here's a link to his web site. Go get your domes Peeps!!!

EZ Tops World Wide manufacture acrylic and Lexan skylights and domes.

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