I spend a lot of time mucking around inside old pieces of shit. Mostly because I hate old pieces of shit being abandoned and because I can see so much promise in junk other people expect to have hauled off to the wrecker.
It’s not that I resurrect old junk for the sake of it, but because I want to restore things that have intrinsic value, and allow people to experience the joy of them long after they are usually tossed aside. I guess part of it is simply the doomed errand of trying to stave off time, trying to delay the inevitable corruption and dissolution that comes with existence. As long as I’m still around, I can delay the inevitable, at least for a little while. Maybe the old pieces of shit are a metaphor for the self.
At any rate, I get a warm glow when after countless hours of cursing and sweating, I take the proverbial heap and turn it back into something lovely again, something like how it might have looked when new, or close to new. I did that to my 1957 wooden cruiser Peanut, and get a lot of kudos and praise for her. Her very existence gives people pleasure, as she’s a lovely object, something beautiful to just look at.
I have a long list of old crap I’ve restored, and one of the most challenging was Thunderbutt, a 1973, 24 foot class A motorhome that I literally pulled out of the weeds. I spent so much time and money working on that machine over the span of a couple of years, and have several posts describing a 6,000 km roadtrip we went on her a few years ago. Hers was even my very first transmission rebuild, something I’m quite proud of.
But driving around in big RVs really isn’t my thing so last summer we sold her, a gorgeous and funky survivor from many decades past, in fantastic shape. People loved her and we sold her in a wink, which tells me we let her go too cheap, but nevermind.
At any rate, I just received this note from someone commenting on my last post about Thunderbutt, one I wrote in October 2014.
“Just finished reading through all your adventures with Thunderbutt. My friend just purchased her yesterday from the people I am guessing you sold her to last year. I cannot even begin to imagine the hours you have into her and reading all your trials and tribulations in getting her semi reliable makes me want to hide this blog from him…lol. He called me very excited about this old retro motorhome that looked “mint” and had a lot of work done to it. Me being his “mechanically inclined” friend, he turned to me for advise. Me also being google savvy found my way here. Reading how much you fought to bring the ole girl back and the amount of care and pride you took in sorting out what was surely the nasty kinks, I felt good knowing the worst was prob over…lol… and he was getting a solid rig. My friend bought it sight unseen with his wife going over to pay/transfer etc…He will be driving it home to Maple Ridge June 11th to start his own adventure and introduce his young daughter to camping around the lower mainland. I suggested to him no immediate runs up the Coq, but to first stay local and build a relationship with Thunderbutt and learn her quirks, as I also warned him things will happen…she is an old girl. I myself am a tad jealous as I love the old retro styling’s and the tinkering to keep such a ride rolling right. Again, I really enjoyed your adventures with her and your writing. Cheers!
To read that gave my heart a lift knowing that Thunderbutt is still out there, still amazing people, still giving joy. 99% of her ilk are long gone, but she’s still out there making people smile, and that makes me very happy.
I hope they call her Thunderbutt as well.
I’m still doing it by the way. This is my latest project: a 1984 VW Get Away hightop camper. Similar to the VW Westfalia conversion but these were converted in Abbostford. It’s much nicer than a westy IMO as it has standing room, much more storage, a 3 burner stove, much larger fridge and sink, and a furnace. The interior was in very sad shape when I bought it, but I’ve replaced everything inside with new birch panelling and veneer. This is also an exceptional van because it only has a paltry 160k kilometres, and the engine was replaced with a new factory one by VW at 100k, and so has only 60k on it. It runs like a dream. The body and paint is in fantastic shape and when I’m done it will be a wonderful adventure machine. I might keep it for a while before moving it along, I haven’t decided yet.
The kind of stuff you haul out of old campers.
What the old wood looked like compared to the new.
People can’t give away campers with this kind of ratty interior.
It feels good to make these kind of transformations
It’s been a hell of a lot of work, but she’ll give a lot of people a great deal of pleasure over the ensuing years,
And once that van is done, later this summer I’m going to restore this cute little gem:
It’s so light it can be pulled by even a subcompact car. It’s an early 60s “Lil’ Loafer” by Aristocrat. She needs a full restoration but when it’s done it should look like