"A Joy Forever," RA

Rebuilding A 1969 Chinook Camper

Feeling a bit too old to tow a trailer from the Pacific Northwest to Arizona every winter I started looking for a camper in my price range. My price range? About nothing up front as I realized I would be chopping the back off something longer and uglier. Searching my local Craigslist I found this...

1969 Chinook. Has a little water damage, not bad though. have all 3 new vents, 1 already installed. Everything works. Need it gone A.S.A.P. Yes I have a title. If you don't have the Twenty dollars (The listed price) I will change the price to whatever. I moved. I need this gone so I don't have to pay another months rent. You will need an 8 foot truck bed to pick it up. The camper is jacked up and ready for you to back in and take it. The truck shown(a rusty, elderly green Ford) is only there for safety. If the wind blows it will land on the truck.

The truck shown does not run. I cannot deliver this, the truck does not run. Its the only truck I have. No I can't deliver. No delivery by me. If you don't have your own truck or a truck you can borrow, than you cant pick this up. BECAUSE I CANT DELIVER THIS AND THE TRUCK SHOWN DOES NOT RUN.

The owner was a nice younger guy, relative to me at least. He didn't deliberatly lie about the condition but the only real truth in the ad was that he wanted the camper gone and he had the title. I had watched the ad for some time. The price started at $500 and steadily went down. The owner had been forced to buy the camper to get the truck. The truck died after he drove it home with the camper.

It was east of Seattle, about 100 miles south of me. My friend Jay and I showed up with my short bed truck in the rain. I gave the guy $50 for having a clean title. He was surprised. (The extra $30 was for writing an entertaining "desperation type" ad.)

He looked a little apprehensive but hopeful as we pulled his truck from under the camper, out of the way, and loaded up. It looked really long on a short bed truck. One nylon strap over the top-front to hold it down to the truck and one nylon strap around the rear to hold it back. The front strap was loaned by my friend Fred who, on seeing the camper, christened it "A Joy Forever."

On I-405 in Bellvue the fridge access door started flapping and I pulled over for a duct tape solution. I carefully pulled back into traffic with plenty of room but a motorist blew their horn anyway. Perhaps they were impressed with the camper?

I thought a fiberglass top would be a piece of cake to repair. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Nearly 50 years in the sun had eaten up the gel coat and the fiberglass itself was disgustingly thin. The roof was as porous as a flour sifter. The ceiling, walls and parts of the upstairs and downstairs floors were rotten. There was wet fiberglass insulation all through the ceiling and walls. The non-inspiring frame work seemed to be usable.

I cleaned the top and put on two coats of magic white whoopee roof coating. The first coat length-wise, the 2nd cross-wise.

The appliances were all toast, rusty hulks, except for the amazing Swedish made Dometic fridge which still worked on AC. All else went to the dump courtesy of my friend Ruthie. Three loads.

Essentially I cut the bathroom off, about 3 feet. Removed the shower, the holding tank that still held 5 gallons of the original stuff of uncertain age, LP tanks...everything.

After hundreds of measurements and sawsall work, replacement of 3 structural members of the upstairs floor and three large patches in the downstairs floor, I was ready for a lot of paneling work. The upstairs ceiling almost killed me off- my back. My friend Carrie helped with that and with the reloading of the camper on the truck later.

My friend Jay did most of the fiberglass work for the "new" roof. I reused old roof sections for outside panels.

My understanding neighbors, the Erkens - Sezo, Mariah and Adgil, christened the new "A Joy Forever" with beer, pizza and an accordion solo by Mariah.

Five months...what a trial. A Joy Forever, the RA version...(reduced amenities)

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