Woohoo!

Yesterday Olivia helped me tighten all the bolts on the driver seat and passenger seat. That, after yet another trip to Home Depot to get the ideal combination of bolts, lock washers, fender washers and nuts. Not all of them could be the same combo because under the deck, the bolt holes had to dodge various steel frame elements.

But the result is good, and both seats feel solid. And hey — the driver seat is actually centered on the steering wheel now! Both International Harvester tractors seats are fully adjustable and they swivel, so even the driver seat can be part of the party. And that means the RETROvan seats eight comfortably. Nine, if you count Mazy in her bed on the front desk.

So today I’m marking, drilling and cutting out my first 24×24″ window hole in the starboard back door. The windows are premium quality. They’re dual-paned, tinted glass, with symmetrical locking sliders and removable, sliding screens. Wish me luck…

The first problem was with the 6″ hole saw and centrifugal force. It’s intimidating enough on its own, but once I spun it up with my DeWalt drill there’s way too much kickback when the drill stops suddenly. That drill doesn’t spin down gracefully; it’s either on or off at full speed. I didn’t feel I should risk scraping the surrounding wall whenever I let go of the trigger. So I switched to my cheaper, slower Black + Decker drill and had marginal success. However, it’s underpowered and too slow, and starts to bind and heat up quickly. And then it finally died so I was forced to buckle up with the DeWalt anyway. The trick was to lock my shoulders and right elbow tightly against my body. Not easy when you’re up on a ladder, too.

The next problem was that the back door cavities are barely 1-1/8″ deep between the inner and outer panels, and my jigsaw cuts to a 1-1/4″ depth. And that means a lot of chatter and kick-back. So my solution was to jam some landscape spikes between the panels to spread them out a bit, along each cut line. This worked, but it was still slow going. This must mean that the side windows will be easier.

It took all afternoon and several batteries, but I managed to get both holes cut through the door. The corners are more ragged than I expected but they’re covered nicely by the window trim on both sides.

Olivia helped do the dry-fit, which was pretty easy. And she approves of the window style and placement. Just one window dramatically changes the RETROvan experience. Next I’ll need to determine whether these windows need an interior frame to keep the aluminum panels spread out to a full 1-1/8″, because they’re pretty wavy. The final fit will include closed-cell foam tape and exterior Dicor sealant around the flanges.

Only 72 more corner holes, 72 more side cuts, and 9 windows to go! Woohoo.

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