I'm back from a nice little holiday break up in Ohio with family and friends, and now the holiday season production pressure is off and I have time to work on non-ceramic projects! The top of my list is renovating the 1976 Fleetwood Prowler that I bought off FB Marketplace last June, for use this summer as a way to get out of New Orleans and travel to festivals and art shows. The Prowler was in "decent" shape when I bought it, though it definitely looked like it had some sizable water leaks causing water damage in one or two sections. The AC is relatively new and works well, the electrical works fine. I was eager to get started soon after I bought it, but the extreme heat of New Orleans in the summer made it virtually impossible to get anything done without heatstroke. So now is the time!
This past week, I began demolition work. I started at the bathroom and closet at the rear of the Prowler, as that's where the most obvious water damage is, and the bathroom fixtures were already removed. The basic structure of the "canned ham" campers is wood framing, like a house, but with 2x2s rather than 2x4s, with the aluminum bolted/stapled to the frame (mostly just at the corners and windows/doors/openings), then seamed up with aluminum "rails" over the aluminum sheet overlaps. If the seams leak, water has a direct route to the wooden structure, which will rot quickly in an enclosed environment.
Turns out most of the seams have leaked - who woulda guessed?? The thin plywood used as the interior walls has warped and separated terribly near the leaks, and a little bit everywhere else, including the built-in furniture. I wasn't sure how much interior demolition I was going to have to commit to, but all of it needs to go - I need to expose every stud to assess rot damage, remove gross fiberglass insulation, and to get to all the electrical elements. So I spent a few days tearing out the interior furniture, all the walls, pulling up the layers of flooring, removing insulation from the ceiling (to start).
The front and back both have pretty serious water damage throughout, and need to be rebuilt. There are very suspect seam treatments on both front and back roof slopes, with unsealed bolts that shouldn't even be there in the first place... which I think was a big part of the culprit. The j-rail covering the outside of the corner seams is damaged, and was previously re-attached with inappropriate screws that rusted, creating more water inlets. And there is a shocking lack of vertical support in the front and back, which I'm planning to amend. I'm going to start my rebuilding from the front and back.
The sides are in better shape with less water damage, though there's some spots that should be spliced out, probably from window leaks. I might be able to keep the fiberglass insulation in the walls, to save some money and landfill waste, but perhaps any water exposure is too much.
The aluminum j-rail and other types of trim need to be replaced, though I'm having trouble sourcing it on my initial search. It would be awesome to find an aluminum supplier here in New Orleans. The windows are all in working shape except for two louvers in one window, and they need to be cleaned, and re-sealed. I need to replace one or two sheets of the aluminum on the roof, and I'm going to replace the very front panel with a much thicker piece of diamond tread aluminum for extra rock protection.
I'm definitely thinking about the inside (that's the point!!), but there's so much structure stuff to get done first, it's not yet time to talk about it.
I didn't consciously expect to jump into a full on vintage camper restoration project, but I'm not surprised, nor upset. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't anxious about all this work - it's a lot of learning to do, and probably way more money than I'm expecting to spend (Donations are welcome). I do feel better about the project now that I can see what needs to happen.