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Suggested reading on this subject
British Caravans 1919 - 1959
British Caravans from 1960
Motorhomes - The History
RVs & Campers 1900 - 2000
The Gypsy Caravan
History of the Caravan
Century Camping & C'vng Club
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The continuing story of a caravans resurrection

Portafold Caravan Restoration.

Part 5 of the restoration to a classic fibreglass folding 'van.

As the hitch to draw bar plate was rusty I decided it would be a reasonable idea to make up a thick plastic gasket to go between them and help keep in the grease.

I needed something tough and found some house building damp proof course membrane on a roll. I put the drawbar hitch on top of a strip and drew around it using a pencil. I used a pair of scissors to cut this ‘gasket’ out and then put it back underneath. I then had the problem of how to make the holes for the fixing bolts. Wanting an accurate fit I decided to use a bolt the same diameter as the proper fixing bolt, heated it up well using a blow lamp and then dropped it down through the hitch onto the gasket. Doing this to all 4 fixing points gave me the exact position for the holes. Once the gasket was taken from under the hitch I cut out the remains of the ‘melts’ and tried it out on the drawbar. It worked a dream and is quite difficult to see when bolted up properly.

With this part done except for the step panel, which was awaiting suitable screws, I had taken off the wheels for restoration. The tyres fitted were radial 125x12 with inner tubes. One of the inner tubes were replaced last year as it went down due to being perished around the valve base. I suspected the other must be on its last legs and the tyres although had plenty of tread, were rather cracked. Not wanting to spoil the ship for ‘ha’peth of tar’ as it were I decided to have the tyres removed so that I could restore the wheels. My local tyre shop obliged in removing the offenders and their inner tubes and ordered replacements which were 135 x 12 radials at £20 each.

When I got these home I ‘Nitromored’ them for a few hours, scrapped off what I could, cleaned down and then wire brushed to a good surface. They had been painted black originally by the look of the layers, then silver. They were not too bad rust wise and once sorted to my satisfaction I gave them about 3 coats of red oxide primer during some warmer weather.

Once this was OK I gave them several coats of black gloss, which brought them to life.

After leaving the wheels to bake in the sun and heat I went back to painting the end panels once again. After cleaning down the old paint and fibreglass finish I used a small paintbrush to paint the edges and detailed areas that I couldn’t reach into using a small roller.

Once this was done I rollered as much as possible being careful to remove the dreaded air bubbles as I went:

With this done I decided to check out the wheel hubs and brakes next. Although they seemed to work I had never taken off the hub drums to take a look. My excuse was ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!’

Anyhow, curiosity got the better of me and it should be checked out anyhow after all these years of neglect.

These trailer drums are as simple as possible and are held on ‘studs and all’ by the hub castellated nut. Removal of a split pin and a gentle tap brought it off the stub axle complete with roller bearing. The rear bearing and rubber seal stayed on the axle. (If anyone knows where I can buy replacement axle grease seals I would be most grateful!)

The offside brake assemble was a shock, really rusty and horrible looking.

Anyhow, after removal of the bearing and a strip down of the shoes and springs a clean up commenced. Wire brush, wiping down with rags and currusting fluid made the whole lot a lot nicer again.

When derusting the hub I put a plastic bag over the centre on both sides to stop contamination.

Once it was all done I reassembled it putting on some more grease on the bearings. Finally checking brake lever effectiveness when spun by hand. All seemed OK so I went to the nearside and went through a repeat of the exercise. The nearside turned out to be a lot better than the offside. I guess some water got in to that side in the past.

With this done I re-painted the inner wheel arches with black paint and then put back the re-tyred and tubed wheels. This made made a big difference to the look thanks to the shiny wheels, new tyres, fresh arch and body paint.

I then moved back to the rear light units and painted them twice over two days, left them for another two and reassembled carefully noting my diagrams of each side. One of the bullet connectors was rusty and I replaced it with a new old stock one bought at a car rally about 14 years ago.

When checked out on the car the number plate light was not working due to poor tension in the bulb spring. Once re-bent to exert more pressure it seemed to be fine.

This article is spread over 8 pages: Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


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