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British Caravans 1919 - 1959
British Caravans from 1960
Motorhomes - The History
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The Gypsy Caravan
History of the Caravan
Century Camping & C'vng Club
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Portafold Caravan Restoration.

Part 6 of the restoration to a classic fibreglass folding 'van.

At last I felt I was getting somewhere. With the hub caps stripped of old peeling varnish (difficult in some parts!) and a good polish up with autosolve metal polish including the window frames, it started to look a heck of a lot smarter and almost finished.

However, a fair bit more needed doing including the four screw jacks and interior paintwork.

All four screw jacks were cleaned, rubbed down, and painted with some black enamel paint intended for metal. This was thinned down for ease of application. After two coats they looked a lot nicer.

With this out of the way I decided to repair a broken hinge fixing the offside wall to the rear of the Portafold. The hinge pin had been broken for quite some time and as there are four hinges it didnít seem too urgent a job. As I was restoring the Portafold I thought it must be done.

Now, if anyone has ever had to undo screws and bolts that have been in place for 47 odd years might guess, they donít like coming out! Even though they are in the most part, inside the Portafold they do go rusty. The broken hinge pin had proven that! The hinge is a heavy brass item not the same size as can be found in todayís shops I can tell you. I decided the best thing to do would be to remove the two pieces, drive out the broken pins and insert a new pin. Easier said than done!

One half of the hinge is bolted through using quite a course thread, to the glass fibre upper stowage unit. Easy I hear some say, but no. The threads were full of old paint, were difficult to get to due to one having to reach through one of the stowage side access holes. The hinge bolt heads had thin slots full of paint. The first thing I did was to use a small paintbrush and Nitromors the bolts heads and threads a few times. This loosened the paint enough to hold the head from turning using a well fitting screwdriver and an open spanner underneath through the access hole. A contortionist would have faired better than I but after some time I managed to get three of the four bolts out. The forth was a real pig as it was hard up against the body side and would hardly turn. The screw head didnít want to move and it took ages to persuade it to turn and undo. Having too long a bolt by far did not help the cause.

Having got one half of the hinge off it was the side panels turn. This was a bit different. The hinge had screws that went into the side panel thickness and it was not possible to see how it was fixed. I naively thought that they were wood screws going into wood built into the fibreglass side, but no. When I tried unscrewing one the head sheared off, I thought oh dear (or words to that effect!)

I wanted to heat up the bolt with a blowlamp to shift the rust but flame and fibreglass do not mix well, seeing the skeletal remains of a Reliant Regal after a petrol leak that had ignited taught me that!

I tried using a high wattage soldering iron held on the screw for quite some time. It did get very hot but it made no difference, the next head was tried, a lot of brut force, yes, its turning, its getting easier, but, bang, yes, it also sheared off!

I gave in and tried the other and they both did the same. Anyhow, the hinge was off now. It had to come off, as there just was not the room to try and drive out the broken pins.

On careful inspection of this side panel fixing it seemed that a threaded plate had been fixed into the side during manufacture. This was prone to water ingress and of course rusting. The treads must have been rusted to this fixing plate. Rather than mess about trying to drill out the old studs I decided to drill two rather than four, fixing holes in the middle and tap the captive fixing plate for the new stainless steel screws I had bought some days earlier.

When drilling into the fixing plate I was very careful not to go too far and end up going right through to the outside. When the drill went into the side a fair bit of water came out. It would seem that this is a weak point of the design. If you look at a folded Portafold you can see these hinges and rainwater must get into the fibreglass mountings.

Once the two fixing holes were tapped out I went into the garage and held each piece of the hinge in turn in a heavy vice. I used various drifts to drive out the rusted pins from the two halves, most were very difficult to move. (A suitable press would have come in very handy!)

I was very lucky to have some steel rod of the right diameter in my inherited engineers box thanks to my deceased Father in law, Fred Clarkson.

Once cut to length and driven in, the hinge was as good as new and I returned to the Portafold and screwed and bolted it up using new stainless bolts throughout. At last it was fixed. I went round and oiled all the other hinges hoping that I wouldnít have to repeat the protracted exercise. It took the best part of a day to sort this which looking back seems very incompetent.

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


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