Thursday, September 22, 2016

Genesis of the Tiki Motel Van, a 1980 GMC Vandura.

Van as seen on the very first visit. This was going to be a gamble.

Back in January 2014, my wife and I were having a discussion about travelling during our vacation and she voiced her desire to own an RV. I said a full size RV was not a good idea as they are too big and cost too much in fuel. What about a camper van? Easy to park and drive in the city, still a fuel guzzler but not as bad as a full fledged Winnebago. Compromise was agreed and off to Kijiji we go to shop. Second ad I spot is this 1980 GMC Vandura camper van for $2 500. I phone the guy, ask if it's a 350 and the positive answer seals the deal on a visit.

So the next day we show up in the evening at a pizza place to meet the kid who owns the van where it is being stored outside for the past 2 years. The van is already idling on the choke as we pull up, smart guy started her up before we showed up to make sure it was running. the van wasn't plated so the test drive was very limited. It went forward, backwards and it stopped. It looked and felt its 34 years but still it was solid for the base of our project. The Chad, yes that was his name, told me their was nothing to do on it, I told that was a stretch for a 34 year old truck. Apparently the truck had been plated in the previous year and wouldn't require an inspection. I knocked of $250 on the price and made a deposit.

2 days later the first snafu popped its ugly head, at the license bureau. Truck hadn’t been plated for more than a year and would require an inspection. I still went ahead with the purchase. I had learned to drive on a 1980 Chevy van and I wanted that baby bad. This was the first surprise of the many more to come as expected. You can't lure yourself into thinking that all will be good when you buy something this old at that price, there's going to be some work involved.

Towing in the beast

I didn't take any chances and spent the bucks to have the thing towed straight to my garage where it was inspected prior to the official MOT inspection. The list was long. In order to make sure I wasn't going to get flagged down for minor stuff, I sent the van as is to be inspected and it failed miserably. Here's a list of what had to be fixed: Replace entire exhaust system, broken springs, replace all four tires, loose steering, loose stabilizer bar, spark plugs, wires, distributor cap, rear wheel bearings, busted locks, broken motor mounts and high-beam switch. Later on I had the carburator rebuilt for $300 thinking it was the reason for the engine running rough, turns out it was a $0.25 vacuum leak. That's only the mechanicals which added another $3 000 to the price tag. Lastly, the entire inside of the cabin had to be gutted for a fresh start since it had a serious water leak from the top vent and moisture had set in. Of course, we also replaced the top vent.

As for the good news, this original truck's paint was rustproofed and garaged during the winter except for the 2 years it was with the Chad. The under side and 95% of the panels were free of rust. Numbers also revealed that the engine was replaced at some point and the transmission runs good. A great base to start our project.
The funky interior

I'll talk about the build in the next chapter.

Living the Vanlife


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