Archive for the ‘GMC truck’ Category

I have been stressing about whether I ‘ll have the Spartan done for this summer,  feeling frustrated that I can’t seem to get anything done.  Then, it occurred to me, as I drove the GMC to the hardware store, that I DO get things done, it’s just that some of the things I do are silly and and take up too much time, and that I may underestimate the time and expense a project will gobble up.

A case in point, and one of the reasons the Thunderbird  and Rivera aren’t  done, and that my Hot Rod Fund is now empty, is my ’76 GMC dually.  This thing has eaten up spare time, project money, more time, and more money, than I care to think about.

It started 4 years ago when I sold my rusty ’00 Silverado, and decided to unearth the GMC from the barn at my dad’s where I’d abandoned it 20 years ago.  We bought the truck, with a 23’ Diamond REO camper on the extended frame when I was selling cars in ’83.  Some guy traded it in on an Escort, and I bought it.  We camped in it, my folks drove it to Florida, but we stopped using it in the mid 90’s, and it had been driven in the barn and forgotten about.  I needed a pickup, to haul stuff in, pull things with, and here was one, all I had to do was dust it off and go

Easy, right?

When I got it out, it started on 20 year old gas, although it ran pretty poorly and smelled awful.  The camper came off, the frame was shortened, I bought a box from Texas, a new hood, patched up the cab corners and shot a unifying coat of Arctic White enamel.

This summer,  after three years of abuse, it got 6 new 16″ tires, new wheels, stainless hubcaps, a new stainless exhaust, and a 3.75:1 rear end to replace the 4.56’s (in a futile attempt to help the abysmal fuel consumption).  The 454, with 22,000 miles runs like a watch, the transmission (after a new governor gear) shifts crisply, I’ve got a plow for winter and camper for summer, so I should be all set for a hauling needs for another 2 or 3 decades.

Maybe now I’m done spending money, and it’ll last another 2 or three decades…


With the Del-Ray firmly anchored in the box of the GMC dually, we headed for Milford MI last Thursday for the Tin Can Tourists Spring Rally.  We spent the the three days prior to that frantically cleaning, packing and getting ready, and spending all our allowance money on 6 new tires for the truck.  It seemed like a big expense, but the peace of mind riding on 6 new tires, opposed to 6 ancient, weather-checked ones was worth every penny.  On the plus side, I’ll never have to buy tires for the truck again!

At any rate, the truck and camper were a hit once we got there, much to my surprise.  We  had a line of people to see it Thursday and Friday, received many complements and what we think is a pretty serious offer to buy the camper.  All in all it was a successful trip, if you don’t count the the roof vent over the bed leaking (of course, it had to be over the bed…) during a torrential downpour on Saturday.  It’s cozy and comfortable for two people, although accommodating the six it’s capable of sleeping wouldn’t be nearly as much fun in the rain…

We answered a ton a questions about it, and I’ve compiled the top ten answers to those questions here, so you don’t have to ask:

10.  About 2500 lbs., empty.  We think.

9.  Yes, it rides very nice with the camper in the  back.

8.  No, it doesn’t seem tippy at all.

7.  We don’t know, but it’s older than 1967 according to the “Expo ’67” sticker in the rear window of the camper.

6.  Elkhart Indiana.

5.  Yes, that is 21,000 original miles on the truck.

4.  We’ve had the truck since 1982.

3.  Yes, it’s comfortable, and yes, the fridge works.

2.  7.9 mpg.

1.  7.9 mpg.

We had a great time, and happily, gas is cheap right now, although it’s only 110 miles from our house to Milford.  The Del-Ray attracts a lot of attention, and the whole rig is,  I must admit, eye catching in a really funky, kitchey sort of way.  We had lots of people relate stories of traveling with their grandparents or aunts and uncles as kids, riding in the bunk looking out the panoramic windows.  It’s rewarding to be complimented, and kind of fun to be reminded you don’t have to break the bank to have fun with vintage campers and funky old trucks.

Camp on!


I’ve spent the past two days on the Del-Ray and GMC pickup. New tires on the truck, fender wells and exposed frame sandblasted and painted. Camper cleaned, birch paneling oiled and polished, counters and backsplash scrubbed, stove cleaned, floor scrubbed. We need to make the curtains and wash the windows, but it’s close to getting a big “DONE” stamp!










IMG_4881 The Del-Ray tuck camper is officially DONE! Well, Kim is going to make curtains , but it’s “campable” now. New cushions , new water system , bathroom re-skinned, toilet working , new mattress, fridge checked, windows and roof re-sealed and caulked. The GMC, designated beast of burden has new dually hubcaps, there’s a complete new stainless exhaust waiting to go under it, so other than the steer horns going on and plow frame coming off, it’s ready to go. We’re ready for adventure!

Well, this wasn't supposed to happen.

Well, this wasn’t supposed to happen

Or so I’ve heard.  Yesterday I decided it was a good to remove the slimline roof A/C units from the derelict “Luxury Traveller” motor home I dragged home earlier this summer.  (Ah, those heady, dream filled days…)  That soon lead to the thought that since I was tearing into it, I might as well keep going, and so, 7 hours later, this was the result.

As it turns out, the thing was built both much worse than I thought motor home construction was done, and much better at the same time.  I thought the thing was stick and staple framed, and simply cut through the body in what I though would be manageable chunks, leaving the roof intact to cut up once it was all down.

Great plan.  But…

The “but” is that the framing (?) of the coach was very thin wall aluminum tubing,  every 2 feet, around the windows, roof vents, down the center of the roof and at the tops of the walls/roof joint where were two stacked together.  Sturdy, and yet flimsy, all at the same time.  Between the framing is 2″ blue foam board, bonded to luan with a vinyl face on the inside, and luan bonded to very thin fiberglass sheeting (brand name, “Filon”) on the outside.  A leaky roof had led to water running down the left front corner and right rear, to the point that the luan inside and out, was completely rotted away, along with a few scraps of lumber where it was evidently too difficult to cut and from aluminum for structure, and a colony of carpenter ants had turned about a third of the wall at the right rear to a giant ant farm.  It was awful.

The Sawzall, with new demo blades, didn’t notice much difference in resistance to the very thin aluminum (I thought I was cutting through 2×2’s), and at the top, behind and above the driver seat, my roof cut and upward wall cuts didn’t quite meet.

I thought this would simply tear apart, not knowing it was really aluminum I was cutting though, and when I tugged on the pull strap with the GMC to pull down the house, the cab, still attached to the roof, came with it.  The  “welds” (if you want to call them that) on the aluminum tubing “studs” were so poor where they met the one laying down at the floor, that they simply popped off, and the cab pulled completely loose all the way to the front.

This complicates the rest of the destruction a bit in that now I have to  work under the partially collapsed cab to remove the gauges and enough of  the wiring loose in order to keep it operable (it still starts up and runs) so I can get it moved close to the shop (where the tools are) in order to pull the engine/trans and strip the rest of the stuff off it I can use.  Like  the “Onan” generator, air suspension, and leveling jack system.

So, that’s what happened yesterday.  Today I’m going to try to cut up the big chunks of wall and roof so I can stack them up, and so they won’t kill the grass in the back yard, and get ready to attend the “Relix Riot” this weekend.

Stay tuned for more progress on the motor home demo, and on the (hopeful) sale of the yellow Riv today…

Mural cut out of the left side.

Mural cut out of the left side.













This'll look real good framed and hung over the couch in the living room!

This’ll look real good framed and hung over the couch in the living room!

That looks like...

That looks like…

A huge ant farm!

A huge ant farm!

1, 2, 3, now PULL!

1, 2, 3, now PULL!

Oh my.  That wasn't supposed to happen.

Oh my. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

Might as well keep pulling...

Might as well keep pulling…

And,she's down.

And,she’s down.


Faithful readers will remember that for reasons known only to myself and an excess of disposable income, last summer I bought a mid 60’s “Del-Ray” truck camper.  Why, I have  hard time explaining, but it certainly looks neat in the back of my GMC dually, and it might actually get used someday.

We had it stored for winter in my Dad’s shop, whose roof a couple of weeks ago partially collapsed from snow load.  In order to clean up and rebuild, I had to get the camper out, and it’s now setting in the back of the GMC,  with the plow on the front and chains on the rear tires for plowing.  As it’s setting in my driveway, and the weather was decent today, I made a trip to Home Depot, spent my Christmas gift card money, and got some vinyl trim to finish up the new ceiling I’d put in last fall.

I’m happy with the results, and while I need to figure out how to finish up the front windows and get a couple more sticks of trim, it looks really nice now.   Still on the “to do list” is the center cushion for the booth, mount and plumb the new water tank and demand pump, and some “Panel Magic” or “Liquid Gold” on the cabinetry and paneling, but it’s useable and looks pretty cool now.

What will we do with it?  Well, a trip up north would be fun towing the Chris Craft, and we certainly could use it for camping and some short trips, but I really haven’t figured out what we’ll do with it once it’s finished.

I’m sure we’ll think of something.

The mighty "Del-Ray" Imperial 90.

The mighty “Del-Ray” Imperial 90.

From the bunk, looking rearward.

From the bunk, looking rearward.

Ceiling trim.

Ceiling trim.

Looking up from the door forward.

Looking up from the door forward.



The dinette.

The dinette.

Ahh, springtime!

Ahh, springtime!

In a desperate attempt to enjoy the outdoors here in Michigan on  March 1st,  the crew here at Cool McCool’s Garage spent a little time yesterday relaxing in the shade of the new canopy for the Tini-Home.   We all agree the canopy is a success, but the surroundings are not what we would have chosen, if we were in charge of weather.

Today, at least it’s sunny, and a balmy 16 degrees.   The truck camper is ready to go, but there was 4″ of new snow last night that had to be plowed.  Who plows with a rig like this?

Look for us next weekend in beautiful downtown Detroit at “Autorama Extreme”, in the basement at

This is how we do it.

This is how we do it.

Who's idea was this long driveway?

Who’s idea was this long driveway?

Cobo Hall.  I promise, no snow inside, the awning will be up, there will be shade, although no palm trees.  We’re bringing the forest with us, so come on out!

The set up for this is that a couple of days ago, while plowing pushing snowbanks back along the driveway (I’d run out of room to push snow), it was obvious that the plow blade was swinging to the right every time a little pressure was put on that side of the blade. The plow has a relief valve that allows it to swing to prevent damage when LOTS of pressure is put on one side or the other, as in hitting a curb. I didn’t think I was pushing hard enough to trip that safety valve, but it had to be, right?

I pushed pretty hard on a bank out by the road, the blade again swung hard right, and when I backed up, it disappeared from view with a “clunk”. That couldn’t be good…

I got of the truck and the problem was obvious. The plow blade pivots at the bottom had rusted out, and the blade had fallen off the A-frame. It had been swinging right because the left hand bracket had broken first, and had been bending the pivot pin on the right hand side.


So today, instead of going the Kalamazoo swap meet, I went to ALRO steel for supplies, and spent the afternoon fixing the plow. Got it all done in time to sweep the new 6″ of snow from the drive, and we’re ready for more!

Rusted plow.

Wait, this is supposed to be on the front of the truck!

Wait, this is supposed to be on the front of the truck!


New bracket and pivot pin.

Cool McCool himself, almost ready to plow.

The plow is back together, the drive is plowed, and it’s still snowing. We’re ready now, and didn’t’ need any old car parts anyway!

Ready for the next storm.

Ready for the next storm.

Got that tightened up and resumed the action, so we’re ready for the next blizzard.

Actually, I’m ready for winter to go away, but I have to admit it was kind of fun to go out in the cold and do something!

We’ll have big snowbanks until the middle of April, but for now, it’s pretty, and we can get in and out with no trouble. Last week I had gone and gotten a ton of wood pellets at Tractor Supply, so we’re keeping the GMC busy and putting it to good use. It’s not just another pretty face!

It's so cold the snow looks blue.

It’s so cold the snow looks blue.

I haven't backed into the garage once this year!

I haven’t backed into the garage once this year!

Big banks at the end of the drive.

Big banks at the end of the drive.

It's a LONG WAY back to the Tini-Home's garage!

It’s a LONG WAY back to the Tini-Home’s garage!

Gotta keep this open so we can get the Tini-Home to Auto-Rama in March!

Gotta keep this open so we can get the Tini-Home to Auto-Rama in March!

Oh, the humanity. New Years eve, or rather, early New Years morning we were stricken with the dreaded Noro-virus, the 24 hour bug, or in the common vernacular, the pukes. We’ll spare you the details, but the acute misery lasted from about 3 am until 3 in the afternoon. After that, some clear liquids finally stayed put, and late in the evening, a cup of soup tasted pretty good.

Called in to work the next day as well and kept a pretty low profile, and even today, we are not completely “normal”, whatever that is. Once the outside temp got above zero though, a fire was stoked up in the Cool McCool’s Garage shop, and the T’bird got some love. The front bumper is now delightfully devoid of any turn signal/park light holes, and looks great.

Look Ma! No holes!

Look Ma! No holes!

Smooth as a baby's bottom now.

Smooth as a baby’s bottom now.

While the shop was warming up, the old GMC started right up and we got the driveway plowed out. By the time that was finished, it was a balmy 50 degrees inside, MUCH better than the outside temp of 13. Brrrr.

Does that puff of white smoke mean we have a new Pope, or is the shop getting warm?

Does that puff of white smoke mean we have a new Pope, or is the shop getting warm?

Path to the Tini-Home garage.

Path to the Tini-Home garage.

Cool McCool's World Headquarters.

Cool McCool’s World Headquarters.

Down the driveway to Milo Road.

Down the driveway to Milo Road.

The might '76 GMC.  Just rolled over 20K miles.  Nicely broken in.  2wd with chains.  Who needs 4wd?

The might ’76 GMC. Just rolled over 20K miles. Nicely broken in. 2wd with chains. Who needs 4wd?

Tomorrow we’re supposed to get a little break in the weather with a high near 30, then back into the deep freeze next week with single digit temps for highs. We may have to open a southern branch office…