No one ever said this was going to be easy, did they?
With the major inside components upgraded, and a lot of the small stuff in progress also, we turned our efforts to completing the exterior insulation/vapor barrier so that we could get the skins on and throw some color on. We had a deadline, in that we wanted to take the camper to the Texas Renaissance Festival in November, so we had a lot to get done before that happened. As I’ve already talked about earlier, the insulation was cut and installed and two layers of heavy millage plastic sheeting stapled down over the insulation for a vapor barrier. I had also purchased another batch of the #8 stainless square drive screws for the exterior aluminum panels. We test fit all the windows in their respective frames to ensure that all was square and flush. This is important! We had completely replaced the front end and the framing around the front window and dinette side windows and you really want these to fit like they are supposed to! So after several days of fitting, stapling and trimming excess plastic, we pulled out the panels to reinstall them onto the trailer. This is a task which requires at least two and possibly more people, as long, flexible panels don’t cooperate easily.
Insulation and vapor barrier in place.
When you work with these old trailers you will notice that in most cases, long horizontal seams along the sides are joined with a curiously folded joint that kind of locks the two sides together. This is called a “Pittsburgh Lock” and was the standard way to create an overlapping and secure fastening between two panels. We installed the upper panels on each side first, then pushed the lower edge into the upper edge of the bottom panel until the Pittsburgh lock was fully seated from front to back. Take your time and make sure that the edges are flush and that the edges of your metal fit against the edges of the camper as they are supposed to. If done properly, the window cutouts will line up perfectly and you can use the existing screw holes in the skin to fasten to the frame underneath. (We also test fit the windows after putting exterior skins on again, just to make sure).
At this point in the game, we got real friendly with ‘butyl tape’.
Butyl tape is the sticky, rubbery stuff that come in rolls and is laid down under wherever metal seams occur, as it is both adhesive and waterproof. You can get butyl tape at RV supply stores or from Vintage Trailer Supply. When working with the stuff, a good idea is to put the rolls in a freezer the night before you need them because they will be MUCH easier to work with when somewhat stiff with cold. Butyl tape becomes very tacky and sticky and adheres to everything in warm or hot temps. Save yourself some cussing and frustration and freeze it beforehand.
The panels went back on with a small amount of finessing, and getting them into the same exact spot they had been before, so using just enough screws to hold them in place securely, we were ready to tackle the painting.
This is the area that probably causes the most heartburn with folks who are renovating these old trailers. What kind of paint scheme? Original? Custom? What type of paint? How do I apply it? So many questions…
We know that Tallulah Belle would have the best paint job we could accomplish, with colors that were appropriate to the period, and done in the factory style. We had gone round and round over colors, and finally got choices down to either a butter yellow to match the interior upholstery, or else some variety of aqua/blue. Now, you can use any kind of paint you wish and spray on, use rollers, or even rattlecans, but since I already owned professional painting equipment and have over 20 years experience painting cars, gas pumps, etc, our choice was simple. We went with automotive urethane enamel base coat/clear coat. We got our supplies from a local shop called Cajun Color, in Broussard, LA, and when we went in to buy they were having a sale on Valspar auto base/clear systems. We chose Shorelink Light Blue and Olympic white for the basecoats and high solids clear coat with UV stabilizer for the clear top coat. Since the panels were faded but NOT flaked or corroded, all I needed to do was spray some urethane primer, to separate the new paint from the old and give the new stuff a good base to adhere to.
The base coats we used. Love me some Valspar!
My paint gear. The blue gun is a Sharpe SLP used for primers and coarser bodied liquids, the silver gun is a Sharpe T1 Titanium for most all around work and the small black and green gun is a Finex detail gun.
Panels in place ready to be primered. Note the cargo and heater doors are primer grey as the PO had done that before we bought her.
I won’t bore you with the “Zen of Painting” but to get a good outcome you MUST do a good job with the prep first. I had powerwashed the panels before reinstalling them, making sure they were free of grease, dirt, tar or anything else that would cause a problem. The primer was purchased already reduced and ready to spray so I rigged up my compressor, set air pressure (18 lbs) and got busy. (BTW this type of paint gear is called High Volume Low Pressure, or HVLP. It wastes much less material as overspray and puts a smoother and finer coat on the surface. )
Here you see masking paper in place behind the window openings as I mask off before primer.
Spraying white primer. September 10, 2013. 102F in direct sun. It was HOT!!
I sprayed two medium coats of primer over the whole trailer, and due to the heat the primer flashed off almost immediately. I wish I could have had an indoor space to work in but you play the hand you’re dealt.
After finishing the primer, the afternoon sun baked it quite thoroughly, so the next day I started early and sprayed the white base coat over the entire trailer. Old painter’s tip…if you use a white base coat, a color coat on top will ‘pop’ more. Base coat paint dries to a semi matte finish and is easier to spray without runs or drips. The clear coat is what gives the real gloss and shine.
Three medium heavy coats of white base coat, (in early morning for cooler temps) and another day of baking in the 100F September heat gave a rapid cured surface ready for masking.
I had to duplicate the Shasta stripe by eyeball, as there are no templates for doing this, but it’s not that hard. Just take your time and don’t hurry!
Note the heavy sweating. Even at 7 AM it was still HOT!
Just like before, after three medium heavy coats and 24 hrs to bake in the intense sun, I removed the masking paper and FINALLY the finished image was swimming into view!
Last step was to spray the clear coat. Again, work in early morning and get three coats done before temps got above 85F, then let afternoon sun bake all the solvent out and leave a glossy, tough surface behind! We let the trailer sit for a few days after clear coat, then we installed the windows and eyebrows (finally finished polishing) and had enough daylight to snap a few pics of the glossy new paint with shiny bits installed too!
Starting to look like a righteous trailer…finally!