Portafold Caravan Restoration.
Part 3 of the restoration to a classic fibreglass folding 'van.
Once I was happy with the sides I then though I should work on the two ends. These were rubbed down as best as possible, again taking quite a bit of effort in some parts to be good enough to paint.
I found it easier to take off the roof completely and work on the ends lying down in the folded position.
About this time I decided to have a go at sorting out the light assemblies. These units worked but needed a good clean up, in some cases restoration. The nearside amber flasher unit was loose due to a broken bolt caused by me when I first bought the Portafold, trying to unscrew the lens, which was really stuck fast. I thought what would I do if the bulb went? I decided it had to come off and anyhow, the side lamps and flashers units are both on a fibreglass plate raising them from the rear bodywork, to paint this properly it all had to come off. The side lights were not a problem as they were the more familiar rubber base, glass lens and chrome ring job which prises out with the persuasion of a blunt knife!
The steel screws that held these were rusty and difficult to unscrew but it was possible with a good screwdriver, patience and some choice words thrown it!
The amber lenses were made by PMG and were very very difficult to deal with. I tried all the usual penetrating oil, and rubber glove with brute force methods but it proved fruitless.
My wife Angela offered to try and help and came back from the kitchen with a round tin biscuit maker cutter!
Oh dear I thought, how is this going to help me, but wait, the diameter was just about right to sit on the lens pips and with a bit of cutting of the ‘cutter’ I could see it might fit on quite well. Anyhow, I got out my angle grinder, cut slots into the circumference to make for a better fit over the lens pips, and then used filament reinforced sticky tape to fix it around the chrome outer ring of the lens. With a thick rubber glove on and lots of force, the offside lens made a clicking noise and started to undo! A lot more turning and it came off, wow I couldn’t quite believe it had worked! The thread on the base had rusted itself into the plastic and it was a sorry looking state. No wonder it was difficult.
I then moved my attention to the nearside lens, tried the same method but just would not go at all. I then had to use a tourniquet and the fixing screws heads gave up and sheared off! The complete assembly could be pulled out of the Portafold body but I still had the problem of how to remove the lens.
At this point I thought I must make careful notes and drawings of the wiring so that I could pull it all apart.
Once done the bullet connectors came apart and the complete lighting plates could be removed from the Portafold body.
With the nearside light assembly out on the bench I decided the thing was too rusty to unscrew and levered the edge of the lens until it broke a piece out and then would come away from the lamp body. To say it was rusty was an understatement; it was seized back in 1993 and was a real mess. I couldn’t find replacements so decided to repair as best possible and try to find better ones at a later date.
I cleaned up both pieces. The lens was glued using wonderbond superglue, filled with epoxy where little bit were missing and weak and the holder dewired, wire brushed, rust treated with rust killer and spray painted silver.
General reshaping of the holder and
making good later resulted in a presentable unit. The lens threads were cleaned of rust and carefully ground out to match the original in the epoxyed part using a very small modellers circular saw in a modellers drill. The lens was then checked before being testing on the holder. Thankfully it proved worthwhile and screwed on and off beautifully.
Whilst in pieces I rubbed down the fibreglass mounting plates in readiness for painting later.
The number plate light unit was dirty, tatty and rusty. Rather than condemn it I cleaned it all up, fixed a poor contact and painted in readiness for re-use later.
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