Upgrading Speakers while Retaining the Original Trim (Speaker Housing)

I’ve been using a portable Bluetooth speaker in the Airstream, but with as much time as I’m spending in there these days, it’s time for something a little more “serious.”  The 5.25″ speakers from 1972 are unlistenable, and I really wanted to keep the original trim (the speaker covers), so I hopped online to  research car speakers that would work.  I didn’t need anything “crazy,” and was happy to find a set of Infinity car speakers (REF-5022cfx) with great reviews for $50.

When they arrived, I placed them in the original speaker housing, and while the diameter was a perfect fit, the “tweeter” portion of the speaker protruded too far from the “woofer” portion, and thus pressed up against the grill of the housing.  This was a pretty easy fix, but it did take a little while to scavenge the perfect objects to use for stand-offs/spacers (rubber grommets).  I tried both plastic and rubber, and rubber was definitely the way to go.  Not only does it have some give, but it also helps reduce vibration between the speaker and housing.  I also ended up using rubber washers to replace the original nuts that hold the speakers in place.

The new speakers were already quite a bit deeper than the originals (larger magnets, deeper cone, additional tweeter component, etc.), so I knew I would need to cut away quite a bit of the insulation behind the speaker housing to accommodate the new speaker depth.  I cut away the existing 1.5 inches of polyiso insulation, then TremPro’d a 1/2″ sheet of polyiso panel to the exterior skin behind the speaker hole and sealed everything back up with 3M foil tape to make sure there wouldn’t be any drafts from behind the speaker grates.

Because all this insulation is foil-faced, and since I used foil tape to seal everything up, I made sure to cover the posts on the speaker with electric tape so there wouldn’t be any metal-on-metal contact.

Before placing the speakers back in the wall, I hooked them up to take a listen, and was extremely disappointed by the thin sound, especially since so many of the reviews specifically commented on how great the bass was for these 5.25″ speakers.   I realized that actually placing them on/in the wall would increase surface area and create more vibration and reflection, but I didn’t realize just *how* much of a difference placement would make.  They actually sound great!

So now I have permanent front speakers that I can use with my temporary audio set up (a 12v powered Bluetooth receiver/amp that I feed with either my phone or the television) until I decide what I will be using for the whole-house media system.  (More on that in a future post!)

 

Creating an Exterior “Pass Through” Box

When I dry dock in the driveway, I usually run a Cat6 ethernet cable directly from the router for the television rather than rely on wireless signal (wireless sometimes drops out when I’m that far from the router).  I also have a 12v wireless router set up in the Airstream, but I usually only use that when I’m traveling (it allows me to run a physical ethernet line directly from my host’s router, so I don’t suffer from signal drop when I’m parked in their driveway/yard or on the street).  I’ve been passing the ethernet cable through the small window next to the door, but that’s a pretty inelegant solution to something that I do fairly often.  I also don’t like that routing the cord that way will eventually deform the window gasket, not to mention it pinches the cable.

My original thought was to place an outlet box with ethernet and coax ports on the outside of the Airstream, but the more I thought about what the port could be used for, the more it made sense to simply create a “pass through” hole.  Sure, the ethernet and coax ports would look more “pro,” but coax is pretty much obsolete already, and I assume ethernet will be there in the not-to-distant-future, so why not do something a little more future-proof?  Plus, I can think of plenty of other things that I might want to pass through the Airstream wall from inside to out or outside to in (extension cord, gas line for portable grill or heater, 12v power, etc.).

So I started by cutting a heavy duty plastic outlet box down to size (depth) so it could fit snugly in the wall between the inner and outer skins.

Trimming an outlet box to fit between the skins.

I then drilled rivet holes, drilled to mark the corners of the opening on the exterior skin, and then cut a  hole using a 4″ cut-off wheel.

After cutting the hole, I put TremPro 635 on the back of the outlet box to secure and seal it to the inside of the exterior skin, then riveted the box from the outside (so the rivets look good on the exterior).

Finally, I used butyl tape around the outside edge of an aluminum weather-proof outlet face plate, and riveted the plate in place over the outlet hole.

The inside will be finished with another spring loaded, weather-proof face plate, but could also be completed using a keystone face plate for dedicated ethernet, co-ax, etc. ports.  The box is below the deck of the dinette seat, so it won’t be visible, thus I’m just going with the spring-loaded door for more universal use.

Mounted box ready for interior face plate.

 

 

Laminating the Dinette Kick with Salvaged Aluminum Skin

Today I put the finish on the dinette kick by laminating salvaged aluminum sheet (interior skin) to the front surface.  I’ve found that the 4×8 1/4″ “utility panel” at Lowe’s is the least expensive substrate I can find, and it’s actually a pretty decent product.  It’s readily available (always in stock), plenty strong (especially once you adhere aluminum to it!), and in a pinch can even take a coat of stain and look acceptable on its own.

I cut the new kick panel to size from a salvaged ceiling skin, and then adhered it to the face of the kick plate with DAP contact cement (used for laminating countertops and available at any big box/hardware store).  Because of the inner curve of the dinette corners, it didn’t take much to clamp the aluminum sheet in place (it basically stayed there on it’s own, but I clamped the upper edge to be sure it was nice and tight).  This was fortuitous, as I was not looking forward to building clamp plates to hold the sheet where it needed to be, especially at those inner corner radii.

The salvaged aluminum sheet had some rivet holes from it’s previous life as a ceiling, so I shot rivets through those existing holes to further secure the skin to the utility panel since the holes would need to be filled anyway.

I will eventually paint the skin to match the rest of the Airstream.

I think it came out looking really nice, and it is definitely a strong and sturdy surface that I don’t need to worry about when it gets kicked and banged over and over again for the next hundred years!

Things I Learned on Roadtrip #5

So… we’re getting there.  This is the first trip where things started being… genuinely comfortable.  We traveled over two thousand miles in nine days from Denver to Alamosa (via the mountainous highway 285) to ABQ to the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas and back.

All appliances function as they should.  We’ve got running water and drains, a working toilet (which is completely custom and water-less, though not quite perfected yet), a working dishwasher, kitchen cabinets for pantry storage, a powerful whole-house vacuum (a must-have with dogs), a dining table with seating, television with game console (N64!), propane heat, air conditioner, a Fantastic Van, and comfy beds.  The only major thing that’s missing is a water heater (and eventually the radiant heat system), but we didn’t really miss it on this trip, even though there were times when outside temps were below freezing (in a pinch, if you really need warm water to wash up with, you can always heat up a pot on the stove).

I still need a more permanent window covering solution (we’re currently using panels that fit inside each window cavity), but I’m getting close on that.

The Fewer Things You Have to Move for Access the Better

I made the dinette seating so you can keep bins below for “utility stuff” and other sundries (extension cords, bungees, lantern, tape, velcro, etc.), as well as access to the 12v system (batteries, converter/conditioner, and 12v fuse panel).  While it’s really nice having all that storage space, it really is a pain to have to move people, cushions, and anything else sitting on the bench before lifting the bench panels to get at the things you need.  And I found out quickly that I need to get at those things a LOT more often than I anticipated (don’t even think about keeping dog food under your seating!).

Future builds will definitely include a larger exterior-access utility bay for tools and other “heavy utility” things, and I am still working on ways to make the under-seating storage better without resorting to front-access panels/doors/drawers (I don’t like the look or the function of front access storage at feet level).

You Can Use a Lot Less Water Than You Might Think

Because I’m still dealing with freezing temperatures (March in the mountains), I have been testing out an auxiliary interior water tank system.  I found a nice looking 10 gallon, silver colored Thermos drink cooler (like you’d use at a Soccer or Football game).  I removed the bung/spout where you’d get your drink from, and replaced it with a valve that hooks directly to the water pump.  This trip was 11 days long (including two days in the driveway), and I only filled the tank once.  To be fair, we never ran the dishwasher, but I tested that before we left, and a full load of dishes only uses three gallons of water.  So teeth brushing, washing up (there was a lot of that with all the work on the Tow Vehicle), cleaning dishes, etc. didn’t use more than around 15 gallons for the two of us for 11 days in the desert (CO, NM, AZ, NV).  I’m sure we’ll use more in the summer, but that’s kind of the beauty of the auxiliary tank for winter use when temps are below freezing outside the Airstream.

Put a Conveniently Located Switch on Your Water Pump

After several stops where water was evident in the sink, on the countertop, and in various other places, it became apparent that it would be a good idea to shut off the water pump while driving.  At first I was just removing the fuse, but it’s a pain to access on a regular basis, so I decided to mount an on/off switch next to the kitchen sink to control the water pump.

Dogs Make a Huge Mess

There doesn’t seem to be any way around this. Towels and carpet are the only apparent “solution,” but they can only do so much (catch dirt and water to make it a bit easier to clean up).  A “buffer area” outside the door (under an awning with a rug) would be a good step, but we aren’t quite there yet.  Luckily I’ve got the whole house vacuum installed, so we could perform a “meaningful” clean up whenever we had an electrical hookup.  And the dogs had to learn to sleep on the floor on this trip.  There’s just no way 11 days on the road can be comfortable with two 80 pound, adventurous (meaning: covered in nature’s filth) beasts in your bed.

Your Refrigerator Might Not Be Closing All the Way

I couldn’t figure out why our fridge wasn’t getting cold enough.  I switched between propane, 120v, and 12v, but it just wasn’t getting much below 50 degrees F.  I tried cleaning the exhaust flue and making sure the exhaust fans were working.  I adjusted the propane flame.  I messed with the thermostat and the thermistor (the wire attached to the fins inside the fridge).  Nothing was changing the situation.  Finally I realized there was a small gap around the door and the door wasn’t sealing completely.  It turns out a plastic washer on the door hinge had worn away and the door was sitting slightly lower than it should have, thus it was rubbing against the bottom of the fridge and not closing completely.  This has also happened when items inside the fridge aren’t Tetris-ed perfectly.  Once I realized the door wasn’t actually closed (!!!) and fixed the problem with the washer hinge, our 50-year-old Dometic was back to keeping perfectly cool.

The Hensley Hitch is Massive Overkill for my Setup

With the ongoing issues I’ve had with the Hensley hitch (see other posts), I decided to use only the “back up hitch” on this trip (the kind with chain leveling bars and a small, friction-based sway bar).  It worked fine, and that included facing the huge trucks on Interstate 40 as well as crazy Arizona cross-winds.  The Hensley Hitch is still more of the “dream” while driving, but factoring in all the issues I’ve had with its inadequate design, plus the  added size and weight, I have decided that the standard WD Hitch works plenty fine for a 25ft. Airstream built to be a little lighter than factory issue… even when being pulled by my tiny Jeep Liberty CRD.  And the non-Hensley Hitch is certainly more dependable.

Exhaust Will Find a Way into an Unsealed Airstream

Things are still getting covered by a fine, black film/powder (particulate matter).  Obviously, diesel exhaust is easier to *see* than gasoline exhaust, thus, I am privy to just how much tow vehicle exhaust is still entering the Airstream.  This thing is sealed up like a drum… except where it’s not.  I currently have a drain running “open” (not to a tank), and I also haven’t sealed up the front panel where the tow vehicle electrical harness enters the Airstream.  I can see lots of diesel dust at those points of ingress.  It’s amazing how badly vehicle exhaust wants to be inside our trailer!  I am certainly looking forward to finally having things all sealed up and not having to deal with black dust anymore.

Dinette Kick

Just some updates for the current build…

Working on the dinette kick plate.  This is the bracing that goes behind the finished layer of aluminum to match the skins on the walls. The minor cracks in the radius of the curve won’t matter, because they will be behind a sheet of aluminum.

I’ve also included a couple pics of laying in the LVP (“luxury vinyl plank) flooring.

Vintage Propane Tank Valves

The 40# tanks on my 1972 Airstream Land Yacht are period appropriate, which is to say, they are original to the Airstream! It would seem propane valves have changed over the years. The interesting thing about my valves, is that they are able to take multiple connections.

Unfortunately, the gasket on the inside of the valve is shot. On modern connections (like the connection on a grill), the hose connects to large threads on the outside of the valve. This connection seals when the male part of the piece you screw on presses up against the back of the female part, causing a seal at the aforementioned gasket.

Evidently you can’t just replace the gasket. The place I have certify and fill my tanks searched and searched, but they were not able to acquire the piece inside the valve that has the failing gasket. Thus, you have to replace the entire valve. Replacing the valve is around $55. My valve, however, also has internal threads, and there is an adapter that will go from those internal threads to the large external threads we have today. That adapter is $21. The adapter is configured so that it presses against the gasket that has failed in my valve, but since it also threads into that stem, I can put gas teflon tape (the yellow stuff) on the threads to seal up the connection.

Thus, this adapter is a workaround for making sure my vintage valves are safe and sealed when using a modern propane connection.

Here’s another post on BeahmStream.com with more information regarding RV propane tanks.

All About Propane Tanks (for your Airstream/RV)

Before our last adventure at Thanksgiving, I went to fill up the shiny and new (looking) 40 pound propane tanks that came with our 1972 Airstream. When I got to the place to fill them up, they told me they couldn’t do it, because the tanks hadn’t been certified… since 1982!!!

Turns out, propane tanks need to be certified every so often in order to keep using them. The specific schedules vary from state to state, but here in Colorado tanks must be re-certified 10 years after the date of manufacture, and every 5 years thereafter (most states have similar terms).

Luckily, it’s really not a big deal. I went to the local propane place (Metro Gas). They did a visual inspection of the tanks, as well as making sure the valves didn’t leak when closed (turns out they actually did leak when open and hooked upmore on that in another post). It was $9.50 per tank for certification. They engraved their vendor number and the date of inspection on the tank, and I was good to go.

It is against the law for places that sell propane to fill tanks that haven’t been certified. That said, last Thanksgiving when I was on my way out of town and went to fill up at a place that shall go unnamed, what actually happened when the guy told me he couldn’t fill the tanks because they hadn’t been certified was this: I pleaded my case (I was leaving that minute to drive 2000 miles across the US in the freezing cold to visit family), and he went ahead and filled the tanks for us. Actually, the first guy wouldn’t do it, no matter what, but he called someone else out to the tanks, and that person said as long I didn’t tell anyone, he’d do it for me. The first guy wouldn’t even stand there while the second guy filled the tanks though. He said he didn’t want to be anywhere near when it happened so he couldn’t be held accountable.

Another interesting note regarding the purchase of propane: When refilling my 40# RV tanks last week, I took along the 20# tank that goes under the grill. I noted the price to fill it up ($18.91) was slightly less than the exchange rate at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Grocery Store, etc. ($19.99). When I mentioned this, the attendant pointed out that I was also getting almost five pounds more propane at that price! “Look at what’s written on the tank,” he said. Sure enough, the 20# exchange containers state their content weight as only 15 pounds! It turns out that around 2001 when the price of propane rose, rather than adjust pricing significantly for exchange tanks, the companies in charge simply started filling those tanks with 5 pounds less propane to make the cost of a tank exchange remain approximately the same. All this time I thought refilling a 20# BBQ tank was about the same price as exchanging one, but it turns out you are getting ripped off! Not only are you paying more for the propane, but your tank will also not last as long (because there’s less propane in it).

A 20 gallon tank at 70 degrees Fahrenheit is at about 145 psi. At 90 degrees that same tank is at 180 psi. At 105 degrees, it’s all the way up to 235 psi.

A gallon of propane at 70 degrees and 145 psi weighs 4.2 pounds, thus a 20# propane tank (the kind that you use with your grill) should contain around 4.7 gallons (20 pounds) when full.

Since the propane in a tank is under high pressure, it needs to be converted to a lower pressure using a regulator (the silver flying saucer looking thing on the the gas hose that you are likely familiar with if you have a propane grill). Propane for use in an RV for things like the refrigerator, stove, and heater should be at a pressure of 11 water column inches. These days, most RV’s utilize a two stage regulator. The first stage take the tank pressure down to 10-15 psi, and the second stage takes it to a usable and (hopefully) constant 11 water column inches for RV appliances.

 

Standard sizes for RV Propane tanks are 20#, 30#, and 40#.  Usually tanks are vertical, but there are also horizontal tanks.  Horizontal tanks are commonly used for fuel tanks on forklifts, but I am currently researching possibly using them for an Airstream.  It seems like storing tanks on their side is more stable, and I’m also wondering about tucking them up underneath the belly so they are more hidden away (I’ve had locked propane tanks stolen off my rig).



 

Things I Learned on Roadtrip #4

We recently took another 2,500 mile trip to Ohio and back for Thanksgiving.  Here are some important things I learned on this adventure…

Vibration is the Enemy!

This Airstream has never had shocks.  When I first purchased it and had the axles and breaks checked and the bearings packed, the RV dealership I took it to told me that shocks on an Airstream are pretty much worthless, and that the torsion axle would do all the work.  Since they were actually cutting their own profit by not selling me something, I believed them.  They were certainly wrong.  And on this trip, not only did we not have shocks, but one of our tires had tread that was actually coming off (though I didn’t realize this until later), so there was additional trailer vibration from an irregularly shaped tire.  When we arrived at our destination, I found that all of the storage drawers and bins were filled with a fine dust consisting of plastic and metal, many  things had “changed color” (the finish had rubbed off), and lots of things were broken.  Imagine turning on an orbital sander and tossing it in a drawer with your stuff for 12 hours.  It was exactly like that.

Storing Things in Bins Instead of Easy Access Cabinets is a Real Bummer

If you have to take a lid off of a bin every time you need something to cook with (bearing in mind that you have likely also set things down on top of said bin), it makes cooking and other activities arduous.  Being able to get at things quickly and easily, especially kitchen utensils, pots and pans, spices, etc., is going to make a HUGE difference in the livability of the Airstream.  Having a pantry and kitchen storage with drawers and/or shelves and a latching door will be one of the first things on the build list from now on.

A Thermostat on Your Heater is More a Necessity than a Convenience

Our Mr. Heater propane heater is fantastic for heating up the Airstream quickly, but leaving it on all night, even on low, makes things uncomfortably hot and wastes too much propane.  Thus, I usually turned the heater off right before bedtime, which meant waking up to a super-cold Airstream in the morning.  It was toasty and cozy under the blankets, but getting out of bed was paaaaainful. The portable propane heater is a good temporary solution for winter time heating, but a dedicated system (which will likely entail radiant hydronics) with a thermostat will definitely need to be installed.

Under Bed Storage is a Serious Inconvenience

I’ve got copious storage under the rear beds, but when the beds are made up (which ends up being pretty much all of the time on a trip), it’s a real pain to access that storage.  The under-bed storage is accessed from the front via either drawers or fold down doors, but having to move the bedding and mattresses and slide the extensions back before being able to get at the openings is way more difficult than I had anticipated.  I started leaving things “out” in the walkway area between the beds (under the sliding extensions), but even accessing that stuff was a pain.  I’m going to really have to rethink what goes under the beds and how we get at it.

Camping Toilets Suck

We are currently using a “camping toilet” since the permanent toilet hasn’t been installed yet.  It’s small and uncomfortable, and I HATE emptying it at the end of the trip (I puke every time!).  I am really looking forward to having a “big boy” toilet.

Painting the Interior

In my initial interior painting tests, I experimented with several readily available (Home Depot/Lowe’s/auto parts stores) spray paints for plastic.

While Krylon Fusion seems to be the only one that says “this is made specifically for plastic and bonds chemically with plastic” (paraphrasing the text on the can), I have read and been told that Rust-Oleum 2x Painter’s Touch bonds with plastic in a similar way.

The Krylon Fusion is many people’s go to, but it comes in very few color choices.

The Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover has MANY more color choices (though you are still much more limited than mixing your own or using a Latex wall paint).

Some people have mentioned that Valspar (carried by Lowe’s) also makes some sprays, but the colors were so few (and nothing on the can indicated that the product would be *great* on plastic), so I didn’t include it in my test.

After doing some thorough surface prep with xylene and acetone (which actually “etches” the plastic for better adhesion as well), I sprayed different single applications and combinations of paint on the backside (where the experiment won’t be visible in the final install) of my two plastic sliding window inserts on our 1972 Tradewind. After waiting two weeks (plenty of time for the paints to completely cure), I did some scratch tests.

My final application includes several clear coats, which I experimented on separately after making my initial spray paint selection. I also tested various finishes and brands for the clear coat: matte, satin, semi-gloss, gloss, Krylon Fusion, Rustoleum 2x, Rustoleum Enamel clear, Duplicolor Acrylic, etc.

I did a similar paint test on the vinyl coated interior skins, examining how the “plastic specific” spray paints adhere to the glued-on vinyl coating.

The original covering for many vintage Airstream interiors is a substance called Zolatone that is actually still available (though more difficult than regular paint to apply and fairly expensive).  Some interior skins also utilized a glued-on Vinyl “grass cloth.”  Our Airstream has the factory adhered vinyl.  Some people choose to strip the vinyl from the aluminum skins, but unless you’re actually going to leave the skins aluminum (not painted), I think it’s best to paint the vinyl coating, especially since it’s so durable. Not only that, but getting paint to stick to bare aluminum is quite difficult, even with the “aluminum specific” primers and etchers available.

I have seen a few owner’s complaining about the vinyl coming off of their interior walls over time, but ours is adhered incredibly well, even after being stored in the PO’s barn and covered in various barnyard animal scat collections (be-do-bop-de-doo).

When I cleaned the skins (trying Simple Green, TSP, Goof-Off (xylene, 2-ethanol), and paint stripper), the vinyl stayed completely adhered until I left the paint stripper on for extended periods of time (lesson: if you want to get that vinyl coating off your walls to expose the bare aluminum, use paint stripper, leave it on for a while, and the vinyl will peel right off).

First impressions regarding spray paint on plastic panel/inserts and vinyl over metal skins…

Between the two main brands that specifically advertise “bonding to plastic,” the Krylon Fusion does seem to stick a bit better (it doesn’t scratch off as easily as the Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2x Ultra Cover and holds up to a clear coat much better). Places where I put down Rustoleum 2X Ultra Cover Flat Gray Primer before a coat of another color (no matter the brand/type) does seem a little more scratch resistant, but it’s probably just that the scratch is showing gray underneath instead of (very visible) white (the original surface). I think a better primer for bare plastic might be a flat Krylon Fusion. I am not as impressed as I’d hoped with Rustoleum Universal Bonding Primer. It is pretty thin and runs quite easily, though I do still use it for spray painting metal, especially shiny metal.

The Rust-Oleum Universal Metallic is probably the least durable on the  plastic inserts and end cap, but somehow the most durable on the vinyl skins. Go figure.

Dupli-Color Trim & Bumper (Dark Charcoal) was a late addition to the test, and after just one day it seemed about as durable as the Krylon and Rustoleum that had been curing for more than two weeks (in comparison, a new color of Rust-Oleum 2X I added at the same time came off like butter when scratched the next day). The Trim & Bumper paint is advertised as having “Fade-X Technology” and also boasts “flexible finish” and “excellent adhesion,” but the colors are extremely limited (like… three colors: black, white, and gray). However, if it’s made for bumpers, I’m hoping it might be the most durable of the bunch? I’m also wondering about it’s possibility as a primer.

After two weeks (plenty of time for everything from the first batch of sprays to cure), I started testing

clear coats. The bad news is that when Rust-Oleum 2X Ultra Cover Satin Clear was sprayed on heavily, it caused ALL paints (every type and brand) on the plastic inserts to crack, bubble, and flake. Seriously. You simply can’t use it on Krylon or Rustoleum applied to the plastic in my Airstream unless you apply many, many very thin, light coats.  When used in a heavy application, the Rust-Oleum clear coat did OK for the paints that were on the vinyl, but be aware that it clouded up a bit at first and  then cleared up.

The Dupli-Color Acrylic Enamel “custom matte finish” gave  much better results.  Be aware though, when sprayed on thick, it did cause all the Rust-Oleum flavors to bubble and crack like the Rust-Oleum clear coat, though not quite as badly..  The Dupli-Color Acrylic Matte Clear did very well with the Krylon Fusion and even with the Dupli-Color Trim & Bumper (with minimal curing time; it became as tough or tougher over night vs. having to wait a week). I also like the matte finish of the Dupli-Color better (it’s more “invisible”) than the Rust-Oleum Satin (which has some sheen), but the comparison of the look isn’t really fair as it’s apples to oranges (matte to satin).

Also note that both the Rust-Oleum and Dupli-Color clear coats caused the Rust-Oleum Ultra Cover 2X Satin Aqua (the only actual color in the test) to discolor (both clear coats made it look a bit yellowed).

Like so many things Airstream related, it turns out the “most perfect” isn’t really “enough more perfect” to warrant basing my decision upon the results.  Practicality wins out over “the ultimate” once again.  To me, there wasn’t a big enough difference in the durability of all the products and combinations to warrant sticking with the winner (the bumper paint), and I just went with the one that I liked the looks of best.

I sprayed the fiberglass rear end cap and part of the rear vinyl skins (everything in the bedroom) with Rustoleum Universal Metallic in “Flat Soft Iron.”  It’s a charcoal gray I really like, and it’s got a nice, subtle, metallic sparkle to it when the sun catches it.  Since I used Rustoleum for the color coat, I decided to stick with their products for the clear coat in case it might aid compatibility.  I used two coats of Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2x Ultra Cover Satin Clear.

Next I painted the plastic “sliding shade” housing in the VistaVue windows with Krylon Fusion in “Satin Dover White” (the only “off-white” they offer, but also close enough to the original color). I also painted the actual vinyl coated aluminum “sliding shades” with metallic copper and finished with Krylon Fusion Clear Gloss (for metallics you need to use a clear coat, because a satin or flat finish clear coat will dull the metallic sheen).  I did try four different kinds of “metallic copper” ranging in price from five bucks to fifteen, but all of them seemed to look and perform exactly the same, so now I just purchase Rust-Oleum Bright Coat Metallic Finish by the case from Amazon for anything I’m doing in copper.

You know what I learned from all these spray paint tests?

Scratches gonna scratch.

While I did my best to get things as durable as possible, if something really goes to town on the skins (like keys, or a large sheet of something getting swung around), they scratch.  Also, where there is repetitive motion, whether from road vibration or repeated use (like opening/closing the shade), there’s really nothing you can do about the fact that the paint will scratch off.  There is some solace in the fact that the products I used are readily available, so touch ups are relatively painless.

The next step would be 2 part epoxies and gel coats, but at this stage in the game, I’m not willing to go that far, and I’ll just stick with touching things up every once in a while.

ALSO…

After all these tests, and the incredible amount of time and cost it took to do the small bedroom area with rattle cans (it took north of 20 cans of consumer spray paint for that small area), I decided to give rolling regular house paint a try in the kitchen area.  I cleaned all the vinyl coated interior skins with TSP-PF (the slightly more “earth friendly” version of TriSodium Phosphate) then rolled on a coat of Valspar Bonding Primer/Sealer and waited 48 hours for it to cure (probably overkill).  I then rolled on two coats of Clark & Kensington Interior Satin Enamel.

After a couple days of letting the interior house paint cure, I would say the durability of the rolled on paint in the kitchen is far superior to the spray paint in the bedroom.  You can still scratch it, but the house paint is able to heal a bit, whereas the spray paint is more brittle, and thus “breaks off” when scratched.  The house paint also allows for the second rolled-on coat to scratch and reveal the first coat, where the spray paint all comes off at once.  Looks like if I’m reusing interior skins that are c

overed in the factory vinyl, I’ll be rolling on paint from now on.

It just goes to show, that sometimes the easiest way actually IS the best way (not always, maybe not even often, but sometimes!).

Some links I perused ad referenced while doing the research for painting the interior skins:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f7/starting-mostly-gutted-flying-cloud-83715.html

Interiors

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f39/im-restoring-my-1970s-end-caps-finally-124989.html