1979 Boler Renovation

Outside Yosemite 2003 Lee's Ferry 2003

    In 2003 we got our little Boler 1300.  It is a 1979 manufactured by Vangaurd (Neonex) in Kelowna.  Two weeks after getting it we christened it with a 3000km road trip: Vancouver, San Francisco, almost Yosemite (turned back by passes closed with snow), Grand Canyon, Zion, Yellowstone and back to Vancouver.  Just as we had hoped, it pulled great behind our Suzuki XL-7, we hardly noticed we had it back there most of the time.  However, our Boler was showing signs of age and haphazard alterations by a previous owner so we decided to do some renovations.


Some Before Pics  


Paint Chipped Cupboard Originally, our boler had all the woodwork done with “fake wood”, either plywood or particle board with the vinyl on top to give the appearance of real wood.  The previous owner had painted over this, but the paint doesn’t stick to the vinyl and as a result anywhere you rub against it the paint comes off.  This cupboard was constantly shedding bits of paint into our pots.


The previous owners had also modified the front bench seat to a dinette.  We liked the dinette, but didn’t like how it was done.  The original bench was just hacked, same with the table.  I added some support rails for the summer so we could use it as another bed, but it definitely needed some work. Also, the seat on the right was just a bit too small to be comfortable, and the seat on the left was a bit too long so that it made sitting down a bit of an acrobatic event.   Old Front Dinette


Headache causing shelf over front dinette A major annoyance was the shelf overhead the front dinette.  It too had been hacked and then had some floor molding nailed to it.  Sharp corners left after they cut the shelf meant that if you weren’t careful when you stood up you would end up seeing stars.  The picture below is after I “modified” the pointy sharp corners they had left.  The plywood trim around the windows had also delaminated, either from condensation or a leak around the window some time in the past.


 The vent in the ceiling was good all summer, but come the heavy rains of fall it started to leak.  Further inspection revealed that there was about a pound of silicone around the vent, but apparently not enough to stop the leaks.  Looking closer showed that all of the screws for the vent had rusted out of the wood blocks inside the trailer.  The roof also had a small sag in it, probably because they manufacturer mounted a flat vent in a round roof!   Leaky roof vent


Kitchen The kitchen wasn’t too bad.  The formica counter could use some updating, there was some rust on the overhead stove vent, and some rust on the stove itself. Stove with rust through chrome under the burners



Rear table that was permanently converted to a bed The rear table had been permanently converted to a bed; all the hardware for the table had been removed and the tabletop had been replace by a bunch of ¾”x4” planks.  This worked for the summer, but we wanted the flexibility of using it as a table again.


The rear cupboard is a bit of a bizarre thing.  To start with the sliding doors don’t work very well in that they don’t slide back far enough to give you good access to the far corners of the cupboard.  On top of that, a previous haphazard installation of a car stereo meant that the right sliding door could barely move over at all before it hit the radio.  The plywood around the rear window was also delaminated and generally very sad looking.   Rear cupboard with sliding doors that don't open completely


    The floor has old brittle vinyl with newer layer of vinyl laid on top of that.  The “popcorn” insulation on the inside of the trailer had been painted with some kind of spraypaint in the past, but the painting was uneven (some areas only partly covered), and it had been done long enough ago that things were discolored a bit.  Other than that things weren’t too bad inside.  All of the lower cupboards were very dusty inside; we spent a fair bit of time on logging roads last summer and the holes for electric and propane in the bottom of the trailer hadn’t been sealed to keep dust out.  The door also had a bit of a gap that let dust in too.  Outside, the trailer didn’t look too bad.  It had been painted with a roller and brush, but they had done a pretty good job.  However, lots of silicone had been gooped over old leaks and around the belly-band and windows and the previous owners had just painted over this silicone.  The paint didn’t stick to the silicone, so anywhere there was silicone the paint was coming off.



An Adventure Begins  

Boler having paint stripped off the outside So, it was time for and update.  I planned to move the Boler into the garage to do most of the work.  But before that I wanted to get the paint off the roof while it was still outside and there was lots of room to work.  I ended up using 3M safest stripper.  It worked OK in that it didn’t attack the gelcoat of the trailer, but it also didn’t exactly peel the paint off either.  It just softens the paint enough that you can scrape it off with a putty-knife and some serious elbow grease.  Unfortunately, we had unusually warm fall weather that made things more difficult because it causes the stripper to dry out.  In the end, after an 8hr day, I was able to get the roof stripped, but that was it.  Since rain was in the forecast we decided the rest of the stripping could be done in the garage later (roof vent still leaking).  

      After some careful measuring I figured we could get the boler into the garage using smaller wheels.  So, with a pair of 8” wheels from Princess Auto mounted we went to move the trailer into the garage and …….  It didn’t budge.   I neglected to account for the fact that unlike most bolers ours doesn’t have a torsion axle but instead has a conventional leaf-spring axle (a 3” drop axle to be exact).  Anyway, the bottom of the leaf springs were sitting about 1/8” below the bottom of the wheels!!!  Ok, get out some 1” boards and roll the wheels on that so the leaf springs are off the ground, now push it into the garage and….. bump.  Even with the vent off things were close (I knew it would be, but the trailer was supposed to be sitting about an inch lower!!).  Anyway, with the help of a come-a-long attached to the far end the garage we managed to coax the boler in.  It really just brushed against the metal flashing around the garage door J  No damage to the boler or the garage.


First up on the list was to get a look at the frame.  It had some rust but not too bad.  However, the only parts that looked to be painted were those that you could easily see or paint.  So, off comes the egg.  This wasn’t too bad, a couple of bottle jacks, a grinder and 3 hours later the egg and frame had been separated.  Amazingly the egg is only held to the frame by six bolts!!!!  All of which were very rusty, the worst of which was about 1/3 thinner than it should have been due to rusting away.  Egg separated from the frame


Frame upside down ready for painting I then used a grinder with a wire brush attached to clean all the old paint and rust off the frame.  About four or five evenings work.   The frame looked pretty good, no major rust problems, no cracks in the welds, and everything was still aligned properly.  The frame on our boler is a bit beefier than  others I have seen.  I’m not sure whether this is just ours, or if all of them made by Vangaurd in Kelowna are like that.  It also does not have the sunken floor area in the middle of the trailer like most bolers do; the floor is just flat without the dinettes at the front and back being raised.  The picture here is the frame upside down with the axle removed in the background, everything stripped and ready for painting.  


Two evenings of painting later and things are looking a lot better.  I brushed on tremclad gloss black.  Hopefully it stands up OK.  It’s a lot less work than using automotive rust converter and then painting again.  I’ve also used some blue stryrofoam to close up the open ends of the frame after spraying some rust inhibitor inside.   Painted Frame Close-up of frame showing styrofoam plug


Damaged copper propane line One of the more alarming discoveries so far was the condition of the soft-copper propane lines under the trailer.  Here is a picture of one section.  The copper pipe was totally unprotected under the trailer and as a result was constantly assaulted by a barrage of rocks.  It is a wonder we did not have any leaks!!  



Before putting the frame back under the trailer I wanted to seal the plywood and caulk closed any spaces between the plywood and the edges of the fiberglass egg.  The plywood had been treated with something before, I’m not sure what exactly, it is a bit soft and greasy when you scrape it.  I wasn’t sure what would stick to it, so I sanded it (while wearing a respirator and vacuuming up all the dust) and then tried some rubberized automotive undercoat on it.  It stuck, so that is what I used!  For caulking I used polyurethane caulk because it is supposed to stick more aggressively than silicone.   Underside of trailer before sanding and painting




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