Portafold Caravan Restoration.
Part 2 of the restoration to a classic fibreglass folding 'van.
So it was all hands to the pumps and work every hour possible to make good the Portafold for the event.
As I now work from home these days I had more time than before and once finished work I could get straight outside and work for an hour or so before evening dinner and then get outside for more effort working until around 10 or 11pm.
I commenced work with the unit folded down so that the worst part, the roof could be tackled.
I gave the Portafold a good wash with hose fed soapy brush, months of dirt and green mould had accumulated. Once clean it was clear that the old paint had baked on hard in some areas, peeled, cracked, shrunk in others, was matt and horrible. I decided to use a combination of rotary wet and dry sanding disc, hand pad, and abrasive foam block, with water to keep down the dust, lubricate the work and clear the surface. This was difficult in some areas due to the shapes in the roof and was a long job taking many days to get good enough for painting.
Some parts had small holes in the gel coat finish, some had been damaged and filled and some impact cracking had taken place in one or two places.
Painting a glass fibre Portafold is really akin to working on a glass fibre boat so I went to a boat chandlers in Woking and bought two 750ml tins of cream colour International ‘Brightspan’ Polyurethane gloss paint, hoping it would be enough to do the job and some David’s gel coat filler for the holes, cracks and crazing.
Once home I mixed up the filler in order to sort out some of the surface blemishes. Gel coat filler is lovely stuff to mix up, nice and white, fine and quite soft for little while anyhow. It does set hard and is very solid, quite a lot of work to rub down so if you ever use it make sure it’s as flat as possible before setting. Once these points of attention were sorted I turned my thoughts to painting.
Now, when I was doing this we had some really nice weather, warm, dry but not good for flies and insects in general. I thought it best to paint the roof inside the garage. I sorted items within and made enough space to wheel in the Portafold and close the doors. With breathing mask, florescent lighting and a lead lamp I painted it on with a good quality wide soft brush. The biggest problem I had was being able to cover as much a possible before it started to set and cease to flow with the later strokes. This was the most frustrating part of the job. It took some time to paint the whole top and it proved very difficult to see runs developing on the vertical edges.
After a day or two I rubbed it down very lightly, cleaned off and painted the roof (or is it top?) again
It was now looking a lot better. This inspired me to move on as quickly as possible to the next part, the sides.
With the Portafold erected once more I rubbed down the old finish. This was not as bad as the roof, maybe due to the original finish being better or not getting as much sun damage. The roof does get all the suns rays and was very baked looking.
All this preparation took time and lots of patient effort. It was very tempting to take shortcuts and say, ‘oh that’s good enough’ but I decided it had to be as best as I could do or not at all otherwise I would be sure of wishing later I had spend more time on getting it better.
Around this time the weather was becoming a little less reliable with some showers at odd times. This proved to be a pain as I could not wheel it into the garage due to its height. Even with the roof off it was just too high to go through the doorway or clear the roof joists when inside.
I had to go for it and hope that the conditions would hold.
Once I had the main sides sanded down to my liking I painted them using small disposable foam rollers. This proved to be a wise move as I could get a good finish quickly and with not too thick a layer. The only problem was that air bubbles would form and if I left them would harden as tiny volcano like holes. I found that if I left them for just a few minutes than then rolled over them with a fairly empty roller they would flatten and set flat. This brightside paint is lovely stuff, dries quickly with a hard finish but you do need to watch out for air bubbles otherwise it can look awful.
I had to use a small 1” brush for the edges next to the front and back ends and other bits such as the window surrounds and handles on the sides.
I used strips of flat wood on the roof edges to raise it enough to paint the top edges of the main sides.
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