Tuesday, 13 August 2013

I'm done with stripping - paint that is

Another post to keep you all updated. There's not been masses of activity this past week, my time has been taken up stripping that horrible mouldy paint from the interior walls - it is a horrible job! I've just about finished it all though, even though my arms feel like they're about to drop off from all the scraping and my skin is burning from all the white spirit I used! It takes about three hours just to properly strip a square metre of paint (that's including drying time for the liquid paint stripper itself) but it is still a very labour intensive job.

If you missed part one of the restoration (collecting the caravan), CLICK HERE
If you missed part two of the restoration, CLICK HERE


06/08/2013: I started with the wall behind the kitchen. For some reason, here and one small patch on the opposite side of the caravan the paint has refused to budge. The rest of the woodwork has come out quite nicely but the kitchen remains a misty white colour. It looks worse in this photo than it does in real life though. Good job I'm painting over it - with the correct paint this time!

07/08/2013: I've pulled down the middle section of the ceiling as it was rotten through around the rooflight. This whole section that runs the width of the caravan will replace in one big section and I will be able to upgrade the insulation. I've also discovered some rotten wood in the rear corner where you can see the insulation poking out. This whole section underneath the window will need replacing. In this image I've now stripped the paint from the whole of that side of the caravan.

I'm sure that should be attached to the caravan! Another worrying stage of the restoration - removing the hitch. This has been sent off to be dismantled, sandblasted and checked that it's all in working order. The paint stripper that I'm using inside takes an hour to dry between coats and needs two coats: so between coats I work on the chassis. The big obstacle this week was not removing the hitch, but the gas bottle mount behind it - it would not budge as the bolts were rusted solid. Some muscle pulling and a few colourful words later and it was removed.

With the hitch and gas bottle mount removed, sanding the paint off could commence. I started with just sandpaper but quickly got tired and bought in the drill sander!

Before and after shots of the never ending task that was scraping the algae off the roof! That stuff was well and truly baked on!

11/08/2013: Got the rear panel, rear ceiling panel and a bit of the offside stripped of paint. These panels have come up much better than those on the kitchen side. I wanted to remove the lower rear panel to access the road lights to renew the wires but you guessed it, our previous owner friend with the silicone gun has been at work again and has glued this panel in place! No chance of getting that off without replacing the whole rear interior woodwork of the caravan so I'm just going to somehow have to patch the road lights up.

12/08/2013: I've managed to salvage the old sink. It had a wooden frame bolted to it which refused to budge. I tried drilling the bolts out but the wood was weak and the drill kept slipping. I'd resigned to the fact that I was going to have to source a replacement sink so I decided to use brute force to break the wood off, I figured I had nothing to lose - but it worked! The sink cleaned up and looks like new!

13/08/2013: Finally got the offside stripped of paint. I've also stripped one layer of paint from the front panel and front ceiling section (not pictured) but it needs sanding off to finish it. There's one spot of paint above the wheel arch that refuses to budge. Any suggestions of how to get militant paint off are welcome! I've also pulled out all of the middle section of ceiling to reveal a HUGE dent in it which has been filled outside. It's been suggested that this was done in the factory when it was built - don't you just love the stories these old caravans could tell!

I've also been doing some research into the model itself, trying to decide if it's a 1961 or a 1962 model. Thanks to some help from a friend who happens to be an expert on Sprite caravans, it's neither! She's actually a very rare "crossover" model from 1963. In 1963 the Alpine was totally redesigned by Sprite to gain a completely redesigned exterior, modernised chassis, slightly altered interior, longer A-frame for more stable towing and the drop down double bed that was standard in 1961 and 1962 was reduced to an optional extra. My Alpine has the 1961/2 exterior with a 1963 chassis and 1963 interior fittings. And there's no evidence of there ever being a drop down bed - making my Sprite a "pre-production test" of some of the 1963 new model features.

I'm going on holiday next week so work on Jennifer is on pause for now. But when I return I shall be tackling the exterior, chassis, windows and replacing the damaged wood inside. I'll be sure to keep you all updated! Until next time, thanks for reading.


Monday, 5 August 2013

They say it always gets worse before it gets better...

The restoration of Jennifer began in ernest this week. After spending the weekend getting used to her foibles, I put a restoration plan together. Despite her being in structurally sound, she still needs an awful lot of work doing. The main issue for now is the mouldy paint inside: although luckily there is no damp yet! If you missed my introductory post from last week, see HERE  


05/08/2013: The restoration began, oddly, with some gardening. I had to move Jennifer a few inches nearer the house to allow me to get all the way around her, so I pulled her forwards to cut the Ivy hedge on my drive to give me an extra few inches of room. This was made possible by the now working jockeywheel! In my earlier post I explained how the jockeywheel was fixed and only allowed you to move the caravan in straight lines. It turns out that this was a tale spun by the previous owner! The jockeywheel was seized up and after dismantling and re-greasing, now works a treat - just as a jockeywheel should!

Next came the big clean. Dirt can work in two ways: it can make things look worse than they are or can hide the condition of something. So it's always best to start your restoration by cleaning - even if you're getting rid of the item that you're cleaning. On the left here is the kitchen worktop as the caravan came. On the right is another piece of it after twenty minutes or so of elbow grease! Just hot soapy water and a decent cloth were all that were needed. I also ran a scraper along the glossy surface to chip some dried on paint off the worktop.

Here's the cooker top during cleaning. It has come up like new! I recommend wire wool for coated metal items as it won't scratch them and wire wool really shifts the dirt. I used stainless steel cleaner that helps to loosen the dirt quicker, but you can also use hot soapy water.

Now for the scary part - removing the internal furniture! The previous owner had remade these bed bases. I would have preferred for the original ones to have been left in regardless of condition as these new ones weren't even squared up. Not to mention that fact that they had silicone all over them to glue them to the caravan. Annoyingly these took a long time to take out as the silicone did not want to budge. Some bad language, a few cut fingers and a lot of hammering later and the first one came out. It only took 45 minutes!

Sadly the mould in the rear corner was totally unventilated as the seat cushions were pushed up against it - so damp is beginning to form in this corner. I've now got to replace the wall panelling and I will be making all new bed bases with in built ventilation and I will also fit draught boards to allow air to circulate to stop this from happening again. I've also removed the kitchen unit and above cupboard to properly strip off all of the paint.

I've decided to remove the modern, out of place laminate flooring. To my amazement, the original lino is still present underneath! It's got a wonderful leafy pattern on it but sadly is too badly damaged to salvage it. I will be putting new lino down. It's a shame I can find an identical replacement as this lino is wonderful!

The original lino pattern. The green is a little lighter than this picture and the leaves more prominent.

This is the awful, messy bed base construction that I am having to contend with! This stuff doesn't like to come off and looks horrible. I'm pleased to say that this stuff won't be getting put back into the caravan.

And finally the front end all stripped out. It's official - there's no going back now! The first plan is to strip all the paint inside and repaint, then add new lino before beginning to reconstruct the interior. Along the way I'll be rewiring the road lights, adding 12v electrics, replacing two damp wooden wallboard panels and constructing a new kitchen, bathroom and bed bases! I've got my work cut out!


Friday, 2 August 2013

My 'New' Caravan!

Meet "Jennifer"! She's a 1961/2 Sprite Alpine 12ft four berth. To say she's at least 51 years old, she's in great shape! The previous owner had started work on her but sold her as he had just acquired an Eriba Puck and no longer has somewhere to store both caravans, so he wanted rid of it ASAP. Admittedly, he had repaired some damp and painted the inside of the caravan with matt emulsion paint - which isn't breathable and cause mould to appear. So I have to strip all the paint off and repaint her. Anyway, she was an absolute steal at £60!


Day one: 01/08/2013: Picked her up from just south of Birmingham. Here we are at the first services as her indicator light had stopped working - luckily only the bulb had come loose. She towed like a dream on the way home, a completely faultless and 120 miles seemed like a breeze.

Here's a view of her other side - look how green she is! She'd been sat under a tree for two years before being moved out into a yard; but she was never cleaned after being removed from under a tree so the green algae is well and truly stuck on! Lots of elbow grease needed to remove it.

Back home. I gave the front a quick clean and doesn't she look better already?! I'll be spending the next few days thoroughly cleaning her to get a better idea of what condition she's in and what needs doing.

The old hitch. Thankfully it's a metric 50mm hitch, but the jockeywheel is imperial. It's the original "Alperson Sprite" branded one that you raise and lower by using the corner steady winder on the nut at the top! Annoyingly, the jockeywheel doesn't pivot. Also the tightening lever is seised. Even though it's original, for the sake of convenience I want to source a better jockeywheel: but finding an imperial sized one is going to be difficult! Because of the jockeywheel's lack of manoeuvrability, I had to reverse the caravan myself with the car - terrifying as there's only about 20cm clearance either side! I managed it though.    
NOTE: It turns out that the hitch is a rare hydraulic "special order" hitch. This means that it uses the modern brake overrun system, as opposed to a spring which was the standard hitch. This hydraulic system is much more effective.

The Sprite is full of quirky features. One of my favourites is this door lock - complete with a proper key! When you open the door, the door catch catches on the handle to hold it open. Great, simple design.

The interior. There's a dinette in the front corner that turns into a double bed, a wardrobe next to it, bench seats at the rear that also turn into a double bed, a kitchen and in the front corner there was originally a washroom.

Showing you the front corner and kitchen. Where the table and cushions are should be a washroom. At some point this was removed. I will be putting it back in place. The kitchen is all there but is loose. The previous owner took it out to relay the floor. All the gas and water connections have been cut but they all remain. I will remake this unit and the cupboards as they've warped and been damaged over the years. Another feature I love is the floor mounted foot pump to pump water to the sink!

The wardrobe is original on the outside, but inside has been modified tastefully to feature a couple of drawers. I'm going to take the wardrobe out and give it an overhaul to restore it as it's looking a bit tired.

The front dinette area. Here and the rear dinette the table drops down to form the bed base for the seat cushions. I will re-make the tables as the tops have warped. I wish to keep the tops though, see photo below...

Here's the very 1950's/1960's 'Atomic' patterned formica table and work tops that are present throughout the caravan. Great design! I'm going to clean up all of these and keep them. I'm going for that new age atomic mid century look throughout the caravan for its restoration.

Finally the seat cushions. These are not original, but are charming nonetheless. They came from a later Sprite (late 1960's or early 1970's) but none of the cushions quite fit properly. I love the material but will have to make new cushions. I'd like to salvage the material but I might not be able to.