Dan's 1976 Scamp Frame Off Restoration with Improvements - Fiberglass RV


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Old 12-05-2017, 04:39 PM   #1
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Dan's 1976 Scamp Frame Off Restoration with Improvements

Hello and welcome to the beginning of the story. In this thread I will walk you through the restoration of my 1976 Scamp, which we affectionately call Scamper Van Beethoven. We have owned it for just over 2 years, and frankly we cannot imagine not owning one. However, as great as it is, it's not without issues.

First, there's the frame. It's in about the same shape as most 1970's - era Scamp frames. It's certainly fixable, but has serious issues.

Frame Issues
  • -There's a previous weld on the driver's side that was done without removing the frame.
    -There is a newer crack on the passenger's side, which has in the past year caused the door to sag and not close properly.
    -The floor is a bit soft in some places...
    -The body appears to have shifted out of whack in a few places. i.e. the kitchen unit and closet have bulged. Also, I'm fairly certain the sagging body is the reason the roof dips and collects a bit of water each time it rains. You can push this dip out, but it always pops right back in.

So with all these frame issues, what is a guy to do? Have the frame fixed?
Build a new frame? Or just buy a newer Scamp and consider this one a lesson learned? Well, after having gone round and round a million times, I'd decided that I'm keeping this 1976 gem, and I'm going to fix it better than new and make it our very own.

Thus begins our humble journey toward the perfect-for-us fiberglass camper. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy the ride.

Dan's Restoration Wish List:

  • -A new over-spec'd frame built by ME to last another 40+ years. None of this "they tend to crack here, here, and here" garbage.

    -An independent suspension system designed for higher than normal clearance. You know, to get off the beaten path once in a while. I'm not talking about rock climbing -- but maybe dispersed camping in a national forest some 200 feet from the road.

    -A solid floor that will also last 40+ years (Huber Advantech).

    -A 100% true eggshell that is not warped, stressed, bowed, flexed, or even poached.

    -A screen door mod that supports the shell at that critical spot and is glassed to the frame.

    -A modular design that can easy convert into multiple configurations using a few fabricated panels that easily stow in the TV. Why yes, I do want to have it all, thanks for asking. The configuations that I want my camper to have:
    a. Traditional "couch" up front for reading
    b. Traditional "bunk bed" up front for little guests
    c. The rare but apparently factory "front dinette" with pedestal table.
    d. The twin bed without the (removalable) bunk.
    e. An extended kitchen countertop "L" food prep area.

    -A pedestal table conversion with the option of two table sizes, drawer slides on the table for easy adjustment; seating plank for rear dinette conversion to wrap-around booth.

    -Padlocked security bar in front of door.

    -Scissorjacks built into rear of frame.

    -Redesigned stovetop range that is recessed (no raised cover needed for food prep)

Obviously, a lot of that stuff is far down the wish-list at this point. I'll start with the frame troubles and work through the list from there.
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Old 12-05-2017, 04:48 PM   #2
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Step One: Assess the damage

I decided that in order to really see what I was up against I should clear out the front bunk bed and cut a whole in the floor so that I could assess the situation with the frame. I don't recommend this approach now that I've done it, but it is what it is. Had I to do it over again I would taken the body off the frame without making any cuts and assessed that way. Live and learn. Maybe it's the last mistake I'll make!

I posted pics about tearing out the front bunk elsewhere, so won't dwell much on that process, but here is a recap of the damage I found on the frame rail.
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Old 12-05-2017, 05:11 PM   #3
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Step Two: Get Scamp in Garage

Sounds like a minor step, but in order to get the scamp in the garage, I actually had to finish a pinball playfield that needed to be sprayed in my make-shift sprayroom, which during the summer occupies the same spot as my Scamp in the winter.

Once I got the playfield sprayed, it was time to cut some tiny wheels on the CNC and roll this bad boy in the garage!
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Old 12-05-2017, 05:22 PM   #4
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Step Three: Dig In!

Why do I get the feeling that the Scamp was more fun to take apart than it will be to put back together?

I'm using Harbor Freight's truck bed cargo holds as support for the ceiling. Works okay, but you really have to crank them down hard to get them not to slip.
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Old 12-05-2017, 05:30 PM   #5
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Step Four: Liftoff!

Nothing overly complicated about this next part once you've found all the rusted screws. But you do get style points for coming as close as possible to the rafters without touching them.
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Old 12-05-2017, 07:22 PM   #6
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What did you connect those scissor jacks to for lifting the body? Look forward to seeing more!
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Old 12-05-2017, 07:28 PM   #7
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Looks like you will be doing the job right. Thanks for sharing.
Dave & Paula
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Old 12-05-2017, 08:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Curbfeeler View Post
...An independent suspension system designed for higher than normal clearance. You know, to get off the beaten path once in a while. I'm not talking about rock climbing -- but maybe dispersed camping in a national forest some 200 feet from the road...
I assume you're talking about a Timbren axle-less suspension...? You'd probably want an all-new frame to accommodate it, since the I suspect the stock torsion axle tube may be partly structural.

Seems like overkill for your needs as you describe them. With care, we take our stock Scamp 3 miles into a local lake down a rutted side track with rock outcroppings. If I did more of that, changing the arm angle on a traditional torsion axle suspension- 0 degrees or 10 degrees down, versus the stock 22.5 degrees up- would be plenty for light off-road use.

A third alternative is a Flexiride adjustable torsion axle. It allows you to raise the ride height when you are heading to the backcountry and lower it if you're heading cross-country on the highway.

For the front bench, I like this Boler reno that works in four modes: dinette, sofa, bunks, single bed without upper bunk. Add a flip-up, fold-out counter extension, perhaps, for the food prep area you desire? One member modified the stove cover to sit on the cutlery drawer when pulled out to create prep space.

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Whatever you decide, I'm looking forward to this rebuild!
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Old 12-05-2017, 09:20 PM   #9
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Step Five: Crawl into your CAD hole

With all of the fun stuff behind me, it's time to dig into the very time consuming process of taking the picture I have in my head and making it a reality in CAD. This is never easy, and for this job I chose Sketchup--a tool that I have never attempted to use before. It had a bit of a learning curve, but after a few hours I was off and running. Sketchup is the tool of choice on this job, because of the vast amount of free content available. Do I want to spend my time rendering a tongue coupler? No I do not.

I chose the design by Ian G. at boler-camping.com/boler-modifications/boler-frame/ as my starting point. It's a really solid design using C channel and a great starting point for anyone looking to improve on their original trailer.

However, he starts his build with custom-fabricated C channel. For somebody like me who is learning as I go, this seems far too intimidating and possibly expensive. I decide to start with easy-to-source 2x6 in 11 gauge.





Like Ian G, I will put a 2x3 under this, also in 11ga. I will use the same for my tongue.





To support the plywood I am using 1x1 tube, running 45" spans of it roughly 20" on center. It will be about 50x more solid than anything scamp did. I also have 1 1/4" flat bar with a 3/4" overhang to give the plywood support and to prevent any warping down the road.





I realize going in that this is going to be WAY over spec'd, but I'm good with the extra weight. My Ridgeline can handle it, and the prospect of having a trailer this solid makes it well worth the tradeoff.

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Old 12-05-2017, 09:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
I assume you're talking about a Timbren axle-less suspension...? You'd probably want an all-new frame to accommodate it, since the I suspect the stock torsion axle tube may be partly structural.
Hi Jon. Indeed, I bought that very suspension. Arrives tomorrow, can't wait!

https://www.etrailer.com/Trailer-Axl...SR2000S02.html

Your point is well taken about this being overkill. I wholeheartedly agree with that statement, but I'm having too much fun to care

This trailer is my Christmas present to myself!

++++

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
For the front bench, I like this Boler reno that works in four modes: dinette, sofa, bunks, single bed without upper bunk. Add a flip-up, fold-out counter extension, perhaps, for the food prep area you desire? One member modified the stove cover to sit on the cutlery drawer when pulled out to create prep space.
I'm more than a little embarrassed that I have grabbed ideas from all over this site and all over the web and done a terrible job of citing my sources for these ideas

I do know that I had one of my "aha" moments when I saw this guy's thread.
Installing a front dinette while retaining bunks, couch and porta-potti in 13' Scamp"

I am not going to raise any of that lower area so that I can take advantage of the extra storage that Bolers had over Scamp.

Dan
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Old 12-05-2017, 10:10 PM   #11
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Dan,

That is a nice looking frame. Be sure to gusset or somehow reinforce the point where the tongue welds to the frame box structure. That is a very high stress point. You might use another piece of the same angle to make the tongue pieces into a box for a short distance and run them through the box frame to meet the side rails. Or some other way to spread the load and prevent bending.

Nice work!
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Old 12-05-2017, 10:14 PM   #12
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Step Six: Let the Welder do his Magic

Well, it's time to catch this thread up to present-day. Last night I went to the steel place, and today I delivered the old trailer and the new steel to Josh the Welder. He cut me a sweet deal. Josh is taking the old trailer as partial payment for the fabrication of the new trailer. While it needs some love, I'm confident that he'll be able to shore it up and make it like new. PM me if you want his information or are interested in the old trailer once it's been refurbished.

Josh is going to start on the project this weekend, so hopefully more updates soon.

Dan
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Old 12-05-2017, 10:42 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by thrifty bill View Post
What did you connect those scissor jacks to for lifting the body? Look forward to seeing more!
Hi Bill. Thanks for visiting. I started by using 1x10 pine boards to spread out the weight between the scissor jacks. I also used my floor jack and some plywood to spread out the weight of that, as well as a step stool to hold the weight while I moved the jack. I alternated between the middle floor jack and corner to corner with the scissor jacks. I used my drill with a 1/2 socket drive, so it went fast. I kept building the height up and up a little at a time, alternating, etc.

Eventually, I realized this was all in vain, though. The scissor jacks were always going to be inside the frame, so that frame wasn't going anywhere.

Finally I went and got some 2"x4"x8' from the cull pile at the home depot for 80% off. Cost me maybe a dollar. I was able to fit two 2x4 on their sides under the body, protruding out under the well without touching the fiberglass at all. This more than supports the body for the whole back side.

At the very last I used straps to cinch the weight off the corner by the door, and I removed that passenger front jack stand to get the trailer out, then returned it promptly.

See red circles in my pics of the 2x4s.

Dan
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Old 12-06-2017, 07:39 AM   #14
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Great idea saving the old frame. Much better than turning it into scrap. Lots of old Scamps out there. Hopefully your welder can hook up with someone in need!
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