Monday, April 28, 2014

Consumer Review (Public Service Announcement)

I am a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due.  I am a consumer just like many of you reading. I hope to alert the public about a serious, customer service issue so you can avoid wasting your time and money like I have.

If you are reading, you are aware that I have been working on restoring a 1968 Caravel. Some parts are very hard to find. Others are widely reproduced. Not all, are produced the same. Above you see the original lens for the over head lighting fixtures side by side with one of the reproductions. The company selling this reproduction charges $25.99 each and the shipping cost is astounding. They are exported from California so it must justify the extreme shipping and handling costs. 

In the description it says;  Ceiling Light Lens '67-'68(Triple thickness from original) These lenses are designed to fit over the base and are slightly taller than the original, this provides better heat disappation, a longer switch may be required

The new lens is significantly taller. 

This is how the switch protrudes from the original. There is exactly enough thread for the retaining nut and the knob covers it all giving a clean look.

On this one the switch is 1/4" below the reproduction when the base is laid inside the lens. It said in the description I would possibly have to replace the switch. Now go out and find a 4 way rotary switch, and spend an hour re wiring the fixture? This brings the actual cost of lens to around $125 each.

To make it even better, the base is actually 1/4" inside of the lens so you will need to get a switch 1/2" longer than the original one. 
I rejected these lenses and called the seller wanting to return them. I expected to get clipped with a 15% restocking fee but instead was told I could not return them. I had a similar experience with this seller before. That time I was told "too bad, make it work". First time, shame on you. The second time, shame on me. There will never* be a third chance to shame me. I will never* do business there again. A hard, costly lesson learned. If I cannot find the part I need some place else, I will declare it does not exist.

Next Reproduction

Above is the reproduction lens from Vintage Trailer Supply. It is virtually an exact copy. 

Here is the product description; We've had this inside light cover made for our customers with 1967-1971 Airstreams.  It is also used on early 1970s Streamlines.   Click on the MORE PHOTOS button to see if your light base is the same.

It measures 6-3/4" square and fits inside the edges of the base.

It is made of strong, heat-resistant Lexan® polycarbonate, rather than the original low-grade plastic which melted in the heat. It is the only replacement available that fits on the original base using your original rotary switch and requires no trimming or modifications.  It will make your fixture look brand new. 

You may want to drill vent holes in to match the original to further enhance ventilation to the fixture.

Please note we also carry switches for this fixture.

Cost pre lens; 19.95 each. Shipping and handling was very reasonable.

The only negative thing I can say is one corner of one lens was just a little short of the corner. If I were to ask to return it I know there would be no issues. I had an issue once with an item and they over nighted the replacement to me before I sent the rejected item back. Do not expect that every time, but that shows you the level of customer service dedication at Vintage Trailer Supply.

I hope this will help some of you in your reproduction parts searches.

* my Grandmother chastised me once for saying 'never'. I rarely use 'never' since it is finite.

68 Caravel 9 of...

FTW has a new employee. Mike Hanyi has come on board with a great deal of boat building experience. Airstreams are called land yachts so the transition is rather natural. Here, Mike is working on removing the old veneer from the hollow core doors. They all got re-skinned or remade.

We refurbished what we could and replaced wood as it was needed. There was a lot more replacing than refurbishing.

Some cabinets had to be totally rebuilt. Any guess of what wood species was used in this 1968 Caravel? We used it again in this 2014 rebuild. Hint, it is not commonly used today except for baseball bats.

After all the parts were rebuilt or refurbished, they were then stained with a custom color. Matching old wood and new wood is not an easy task. Good luck finding the difference in this trailer. Next, two coats of catalyzed sealer was applied followed by two coats of a catalyzed, low sheen lacquer. This finishing system is what is used in commercial bars. It is super durable. I always use low sheen finishes since they look more original and hide any imperfections. High gloss shows every single blemish and looks very out of place.

The bathroom module was the first thing Airstream installed, and so did we. Most of the plumbing was installed at this point, also. A great deal of plumbing is compacted into this corner, so doing as much before everything is installed makes things much easier.

We next snapped the pieces in, working from back to front. Since all the new furniture is an exact copy of the original, it all went right back where it was supposed to. Had a bunch of changes been made or imperfections corrected (what most people try to do) the job of putting it all back in would have been a serious challenge. Airstreams are handmade and Man makes a lot of imperfections.

That is a new Aqua Magic ceramic toilet. It was not planned, but the bone color matched the bathroom color perfectly. I am a huge fan of this brand and model as a replacement toilet. You might note that the wardrobe got an extra shelf. In a 17-foot trailer you can never have enough storage space.

Originally, both wardrobes had one shelf and a large hanging clothes area. The curbside wardrobe was converted to all shelves since today the need to hang clothes is not what it was back in the day.

As any one familiar with the Caravel knows, it has just one tiny drawer. This Caravel now has a large drawer with dividers for cutlery right under the stove. The original reefer units were very tiny. To get a new unit installed, the drawer always gets sacrificed. Not in this kitchen.  It got a bigger drawer.

Here you get a good look of all the cabinets installed. 

You might be curious what the laser looking thing hanging in front of the end cap and down the edge of the back wardrobe is.  It is a LED ribbon light. Mike brought this innovation from his boat building.  You string it up during construction and remove it when complete. This is far superior to the halogen shop lights I used for years. Super bright, no bulbs to replace every other day, and no heat. I might use a halogen during the winter to help keep the trailer warm, however.

A modern distribution panel was installed under the side gaucho.  

(Sorry for the blur) Here is the distribution panel open. I really love this unit and you will probably see me using them a lot in the future. It contains both 110 volt AC and 12 volt DC fuses. The converter is integrated into this unit. The panel can easily be accessed through the side baggage compartment. Unlike the original system, it takes up none of the limited compartment space.

Please excuse the cardboard on the floor, but we put it down to protect the floors. Here you get an interior shot of the cabinets with all the fronts applied. You might also spot the sound system in the front cabinet. The owner wants to be able to listen to the ball game while sitting on the beach.

When the trailer arrived, the previous owner converted the side gaucho to a full time couch. We converted it back to a double bed gaucho.

Here you see the kitchen unit with all the fronts and the reefer installed. I fabricated a front using some salvaged 1953 aluminum and an original name badge from this trailer.  All the catches and latches were replaced with new reproduction parts.

Many people are very into that 'retro look.' Unfortunately, retro means boomerang to most. I hate boomerang. I see it as a cliche of a cliche.  Above is "retro" to me. This is a Nevamar line that many of my previous clients will easily recognize, since they have one of the 9 colors it comes in. This laminate is both modern and classic at the same time. It is called Serene Stardom. Both the counter top and dinette top will be surfaced in this material. Between the floor color, bathroom color, counter top color, wood color, and fabric colors, a rich inviting feel will be created. I look forward to showing you all of them together.

So that is a wrap for this 9th post. My next post of this trailer will be its final. In the next couple of days it will be totally complete except for the upholstery work. Stay tuned in….

PS.  The wood is ash.