Action! Take 2

Yesterday I went to move the RETROvan, put it in gear and it wouldn’t budge. I thought maybe when Brett had done the transmission work in July he forgot to reconnect the gear shift linkage or something. So I texted him and was lucky he was nearby. He checked it out and determined it was simply low on transmission fluid. He didn’t charge me for the diagnosis because I think he enjoyed checking out the project.

I had no idea how a Fluid Coupling works. Apparently there’s a turbine on the engine side and a turbine on the transmission side. There is a chamber between them that is supposed to be full of transmission fluid. When there is, the engine turbine spins the fluid and the fluid spins the transmission turbine. But when there’s no fluid, there’s no hydraulic contact between the two, hence no movement.

Two quarts of Type F automatic transmission fluid from NAPA Auto Parts did the trick. So now I know the capacity is at least four quarts, maybe five. Teach a man to fish…

I turned the RETROvan around in the driveway so the driver’s side faces the sun, and then started applying my other clapboard branding decals. Here’s some more detail on how that works:

I first measured the corners from the passenger side and made matching reference marks. Then taped the eight-foot piece of aluminum angle in place and traced a line with grease pencil. Next I removed the straightedge and carefully applied the panels. I bit the bullet and wrapped the vinyl around the gas cap area, and it worked out great.

This piece of aluminum made me think that if I ever need to replace the vinyl, I’ll mount top and bottom aluminum rails and fill them with painted wooden segments. That would make for an even more intriguing 3D clapboard.

Here I’m working around the rivets with a special plastic tool, which I call a “spooger” for no apparent reason. This leaves a carefully crafted “blister” which I then poked with a razor and hit with my Wagner heat gun and coerced into shape. The trapped air escapes through the poked hole, while the vinyl shrinks to fit and the hot adhesive does its job.

And here’s the result; a mirror-image. I’ll try to cut my fresh water inlet at the “hinge” position, similar to the shore power inlet on the opposite side.

A couple of neighbors walked by and said, “Looks great!” Made my day. My next step is to get my “” and QR code elements over to Signs Now, after which the branding will be done for marketing and tax deduction purposes.

The Bends

Today I took my eight aluminum corner panels over to Archers Precision in Tigard. They’re backed up, but Alex and Casey liked the project and agreed to do my 90° bends for $10 each. It’ll take up to a week but that’s fine with me.

I’ve been fighting a stomach bug this week but I’m hoping to get started on insulation and lighting soon.

More delays: Gary Jackson told me the RETROpad concrete pour won’t happen today after all. The company has two trucks and one driver “down.” So hopefully tomorrow. Which means maybe next week.

And now Sundeleaf Painting reports that they had an equipment malfunction in their shop. Their booth fan flew off and set off the fire suppression system. My project wasn’t damaged, but it is delayed a week.

But some good news: My retro table and countertop moulding arrived already at HomeMasters. So I’ll go pick it up shortly. Hopefully I can get the 12-foot tube in (or on) my car!

And lastly, I’m considering turning off comments on this WordPress site due to the constant deluge of spam comments. Sorry, folks.

Fenced In

Gary stopped by today to help install the fence panels on the RETROpad. So now we’re just waiting for the slab to be poured on Thursday.

The concrete trough under the fence line had set up enough to shim the panels on 2x4s and get them as plumb as possible.

The panels were much heavier than anticipated but we got ’em hung on six stainless steel hinges with 54 #12 2-1/2″ screws per panel. “They ain’t goin’ nowhere,” as Gary would say.

Here’s a closeup of the hardware and screw patterns. Some of the hinge screws had to go in at strategic angles to miss the 6″ TimberLok screws in the inner frame. The four post caps are LED solar lights.

From the outside it all looks pretty seamless and you can’t see any hardware. The gap at the bottom is between 1-1/2″ and 2″, which is pretty standard. The concrete makes it easy to sweep or blow debris out of the RETROpad and prevents animals from burrowing under the fence.

We even found a home for some cast iron stars Olivia and I collected near the Grand Canyon a few years ago. These will look better once the concrete cures and I hit them with a wire brush.


Yesterday, between rain showers, I applied my trademark branding to the starboard side. The clapboard geometry took a total of eight rolls of vinyl wrap, measuring 12″ wide by 60″ long. So each bar is eight feet long and one foot wide. Four rolls were matte white and four were matte black. The material came from at about $10 per roll.

I used a Fiskars self-healing cutting mat, so it was just a matter of lining the rolls up against the grid and cutting the 45° diagonals with an aluminum straight edge and a razor knife made specifically for vinyl wrap.After producing 45 parallelograms and triangles and weeding out some defaced pieces, the next step was to decide how to compose the whole element on the RETROvan. I opted to use the power inlet as the clapboard’s “hinge.” From there, I taped a 96″ piece of aluminum angle to the hull with Frog Tape and then taped a couple of scrap corner pieces to help visualize the fit. After a few adjustments, I scribed the two inner angles with a black china marker, which wipes off easily. Then I started applying each piece, starting from the hinge and working aft using a special felt-covered smoothing spatula to coerce the vinyl home.

This vinyl uses a low-tack adhesive for easy repositioning. That made it fairly easy to get things aligned properly, even a few times per piece.

The biggest challenge, of course, was navigating the seams and rivets. For that, I broke out the heat gun. A quick blast caused a soft bubble to form around each rivet. Then a little jab with the razor blade allowed the air to escape while I worked the spatula around each rivet head. You can see the result in the photo above. It looks like paint, even close up!

You may remember this branding from my custom headrest cushions.

I’ll do the port side when the weather clears this week. And then the final branding elements (“”) will go on, along with a QR code like this: