Rob Gray :: ontheroad :: wothahellizat :: wot2 :: diaries :: issue-012


Sun 14 Oct 2007

Poor old Wothahellizat is looking a little worse for wear at the moment. We've started the prep for painting the cab and although it was originally supposed to be a quick and dirty paint job, just mask a few things and spray, we really can't bring ourselves to do that.

On the other hand we don't want to do a full restoration either, it's just an old truck, we want it to look good but it won't get entered in any concourse events.

So I've been dismantling the cab, not a full-on strip down like I did the first time, but it's still looking a bit sad.

Looking through the back of the cab, I hope I can remember where all those wires go.

I can't face removing the dashboard and all the gauges, so that may not get painted.

Windscreens, doors, grill, bumper, seats, engine cover etc. All gone, for the moment at least. These old ACCOs were known as the "butterbox" and you can see why, they really are nothing but a box on wheels.

The driving lights were looking pretty rough with rusted chrome. They have a new lease of life.

Various other parts after painting.

Like all these types of projects things have to get worse before they get better, but I sure will be glad to have the truck back in one piece with the body on.

Tue 16 Oct

I quite enjoy spray painting but just the painting part, the prep is a pain in the bum. It takes me half the morning to mask up the cab.

Various photos of the cab after masking.

After masking I spray the inside of the cab with a view to letting that dry then doing the outside.

However we need to get some new windscreen glass cut and that requires a trip into town. The windscreens in the ACCOs are nothing but a flat piece of laminated glass with rounded corners (see photo above), you can have one made just about anywhere but the price varies a lot. We've been quoted amounts from $85 to $175.

The reason we need new glass is that I ruined the original screens while constructing Wothahellizat 1. Well maybe they weren't ruined, but they were well pitted by me grinding too close and showering them with red-hot sparks. The screens are still serviceable but the marks have always annoyed the heck out of us and this seems like an appropriate time to fix that.

While in town we pick up two pieces of mirror I ordered yesterday. These are for the rear vision mirrors which need replacing for the same reason as the windscreens. I've really got to be careful with those grinders.

I leave one of the original mirrors with the glass company with a simple instruction, "I need two the same as this". Now what can go wrong?

As soon as I see the new pieces I realise that the glass is too thick and question this. "Oh they don't make 3mm glass mirror now" they say, "so we used 4mm".

Now that may be true or not I still haven't rang around to find out. But why the hell do people just do their own thing and not phone to ask if a change is OK?

This happens all the time, and not just with me, I've heard similar stories all my working life.

As I've said before, if you did this full time you'd go nuts.

While in town I get a call, my stainless steel bolts are in, that's good as I'm replacing all bolts removed from the cab with their SS equivalents so at least now I will be able to put the cab back together.

After picking up the bolts (another $115, the budget is straining a tad) we drive around to the scrap merchants where I try to convince them to come out and pick up the remains of the old motorhome. Because there is a lot of wood mixed with the steel they are less than enthusiastic, but promise to "try" and get out sometime in the next two weeks. I hope they make it, because the alternative is for me to cut up the remains myself and cart the parts to the tip trailer load by trailer load. A job I would rather not have to do.

By the time we get home I only have time to touch up some of the morning's painting. Hopefully we'll finish the re spray tomorrow.

Thu 18 Oct

Sometimes I'm so clever I even scare myself. Even Chris agrees, "Too clever by half" I think is the the expression she uses.

Anyway, the windscreens on the ACCO can be opened to allow a cooling breeze into the cab. It's a great feature and really appreciated given that we have no air conditioning.

The handles that lock the windows pivot around special stepped-shank bolts. The step in the shank allows the bolt to be tightened without clamping the handle so it can still turn.

The standard configuration with a stepped-shank bolt.

But where to get a stepped-shank bolt? I've tried before with no luck. Maybe I could have something turned up on a lathe, or maybe I could rummage through the junk pile.

I measure the hole in the handle, it's a whisker short of 3/8", it probably was 3/8" originally but I had them chromed in a previous life when I had a lot of money.

As it happens I have some spare 3/8" brake line from the chassis shortening, what if I can cut small rings from that and use the rings to simulate the step on the bolt shank?

I'm looking to cut just a couple of millimetres, so get out my old plumbing pipe cutter and give it a shot. It's a little wobbly but works well.

I drill out the handle to 3/8", insert a 1/4" bolt through the ring, insert them both through the handle and fit the lot to the windscreen frame.

My version with a small spacing ring simulating the shank step.

It works a treat, I can tighten the bolt without applying too much force to the handle.

I experiment with spring washers and different sizes of ring and soon arrive at a solution.

While on the subject of converting things, the standard Army ACCO has door handles with no locks. I guess the Army is not worried about people stealing their trucks. However we are, and years ago I replaced the standard handles with lockable versions.

Of course I didn't just do to the parts shop and order the part, I had to improvise, and I found just the thing, a garage door handle. Fortunately some brands have the correct spacing for the ACCOs door handle mounting bolts.

They worked fine over the years but are looking a little tatty and I was never really happy with the style, so I've now fitted a different type.

One of the new handles in place.

These types of handles have a 1/4" square spindle that is normally inserted through a hole in a garage door lock mechanism. To convert it for the ACCO I simply cut a lever off the original handle, shorten the new handle's spindle, and weld the lever to the end.

One more job to do before the body goes back on the chassis is to determine where the pressurising blower will be located and create an opening for it.

The blower is designed to pressurise the body when travelling on dirt roads, it's a 150mm (6") air conditioning transfer blower and therefore requires a 150mm opening from which to suck air.

We used this system in Wothahellizat 1 and it worked well. Previously however the air was intaked (intook?) through a Donaldson pre cleaner, reasoning that there's little point blowing dusty air into the body in an attempt to keep the dust out.

This is a reasonable approach for vehicles that travel faster than us because they may spend time behind a truck while waiting for an opportunity to overtake. In this case you are sitting in dust for some time and it makes sense to clean the air.

In our case however we have never passed a vehicle, OK there was that combine harvester, and I almost overtook a tractor once a few years ago but the sod turned off before I could catch him, but in general we don't pass other vehicles, they pass us and when they do so on dirt roads we pull over and let the dust settle.

What this means is that I don't think it's necessary to pre clean the air entering the blower, I'll just make a plate to provide some protection.

The plate over the 150mm intake hole for the pressurising blower. This is located on the body wall just behind the cab.

A closer view of the plate, here you can see the hole for the blower's intake.

Fri 19 Oct

The cab has been completely painted for a day or so now but there's a thousand details that have to be touched up and things to bolt back in place so that's what we're doing.

Sat 20 Oct

Finally we get to sleep under the new motorhome. Note I said "under".

Tomorrow we plan to drive up to our block, mostly to collect our two push bikes, but also to take some stuff away in an attempt to de-clutter the shed. It's a four-hour drive and we decide to leave and about 5AM so we don't get back too late.

We don't want to be packing the Cruiser at five in the morning so do so this afternoon, the trouble is that we normally sleep in the back of the 4x4, so where do we lay our weary heads tonight?

On the floor under the body, that's where.

Chris gets the idea to drape a few towels and prop some sheets of wood up to create a cubby house into which we throw the camp mattresses and there you have it, a comfortable bedroom.

The bedroom from the outside.

And from the inside.

Mon 22 Oct

I know you all want the answer to the sixty four-dollar question. What colour is the truck?

I can tell that everyone's interested because I've been absolutely inundated with an email asking me that very question.

If you've been paying attention you will have got a hint from a couple of the previous photos, but they were just details, here's the full Monty.

Various shots of the truck in its new clothes.

It looks different according to the light and of course what monitor your using, but it's a dark grey hammer tone base with a light grey hammer tone spattered over the base.

One of the tool boxes.

By enlarging the centre of the tool box photo we can see the spatter pattern.

We've used a hammer tone paint for the base because we want an industrial look that will tend to hide the faults, of which there are many because I didn't fill most of the chips and cracks in the old paint.

We over spayed with light grey partly because we just like the look, and partly to further hide any faults. I do this by setting the air pressure to the spray gun nice and low and lightly spraying from a greater distance than normal. This has the affect of spraying large blobs, rather like filling my mouth with paint and blowing a raspberry, only a lot more palatable.

Overall we love the way it looks and even though you can see many of the underlying faults when you catch the light at certain angles that doesn't seem to matter, which was the whole point I guess.

We've also sprayed most of the chassis and will do the rest after I fix the oil leak and do some degreasing.

Tue 23 Oct

The saga of the truck's wing mirrors continues. After being given the wrong glass the other day I modified the mirror frames to accommodate the 4mm glass instead of the 3mm they were designed for.

This modification involved cutting the frame in a way that means we can never use 3mm glass again, at least not in the original manner. No big deal I suppose, especially if you can't get 3mm glass.

I assembled the the two mirrors the other day and put them aside until we finished painting the cab.

When I retrieve them though I find that one as developed a crack, it looks like I tightened the bolts too much and placed the glass under stress.

We have to buy another piece so Chris takes one of the originals back to the same glass company.

When she returns she just hands me the new piece and doesn't say a word, there's no need to, I can immediately see that it's 3mm glass.

These people are either incompetent or they lied, and I'm not sure which is worse.

Thu 25 Oct

I'm back onto shutters today, specifically the lower shutters on the deck.

Location of the shutters in question.

These shutters will open downwards, the opposite to all the others. Partly because they are just for added ventilation on hot days and will serve no real purpose in protecting from rain, and partly because if they open upwards they will reflect light and heat into the deck area.

I want them to fold completely down though, which means a hinge that allows the shutter to rotate 180°. I also want the hinge to be concealed and as far as I know there's no way to do this without having a compound hinge, ie. one with two pivot points.

You can buy them, but that means a trip into town and they are designed to fit into a 35mm plug cut into timber, not much use with my steel shutter.

I've got some spare continuous hinge, maybe I can knock something up.

My CAD drawing of the hinge requirement.

The blue bit in the above drawing represents two hinges connected by a link, and here's a photo of the real thing, made from two pieces of continuous hinge (cut and trimmed to make two flap hinges) and a length of 25x3 flat bar.

The blue bit in real life.

Having made the hinges I temporarily fit one of the shutters using clamps.

A demonstration of motorhome building rule #1, you can never have too many clamps.

I seems to work, however there are so many clamps required that they get in the way of each other and I can't totally exercise the shutter, so I just have to weld things together to see if it works.

It does.

Sun 28 Oct

The bottom half of the truck's rear wall lowers to become half of the deck floor and the top half raises to become the deck roof.

When both halves are closed they form the rear wall of a large lounge room. When they are open we have a smaller lounge room and a partially enclosed deck.

There are other combinations planned as well but that's probably confused you enough for the moment.

This graphic shows the extent of the lounge room (blue) with the rear wall closed and the deck (red) with it open.

Today I'm working on the deck floor. It has to be strong enough to support a couple of people but light enough to be easily lowered and raised from inside with no mechanical help.

We'll see how it works out.

Mon 29 Oct

I've finished the deck floor. So far it seems to work well, it takes my weight with just a slight amount of bending at the very edge when I stand in the middle, and I can raise it from inside the deck area without putting my back out.

Now I'm working on the deck roof/upper rear wall.

The deck floor/lower rear wall (in red when you mouse over the photo) is quite solid because it has to take our weight, whereas the roof/upper wall (yellow) is only lightly constructed.

It's coming along fine until Chris sees the four "panels" formed by the vertical bars in the upper part of the rear wall and files an ECO (Engineering Change Order). It seems she wants to add windows to the rear shutter.

After some discussion I think that's what will happen, I just have to figure how to make it so.

Thu 1 Nov

I'm still thinking about the rear windows so have moved on to other things, specifically the placement of items in the utilities area.

This part of the body will house all of the gas and water systems and it's a bit of a tight fit that's taking quite some time to work out.

The utilities area with gas bottles, hot water system, filters, accumulator, control valves, tool box etc. (mouse over photo). Some items are just put in place, others have had the mounts made.

I'm also making mounts for the oven and inverter. It's a lot of fiddly work.