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Author Topic: '74 Brave D19 Saga and Update  (Read 2787 times)

Offline cj

  • *
  • Posts: 14
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1974
  • Make: Winnebago
  • Model: Brave
  • Chassis: Dodge
  • Engine: 318
'74 Brave D19 Saga and Update
« on: July 06, 2016, 03:05 PM »
Hey there,
I posted here a few months back when we first bought our brave and were looking for a mechanic in Florida. We finally got the Winnebago up to Indianapolis and I just did a little write up about it on this blog we're keeping so Ihought maybe it could do double duty as an intro on this site, too. I've enjoyed lurking here and I'm hoping to learn a lot. Thanks! (Sorry if this post is a little long. Hope it's in the right place. Will post pics as soon as I figure that out):



So, here's the deal: our Winnebago Brave is kind of a wreck. Originally we'd planned to buy a pretty inexpensive, probably very ugly, RV in fairly good working order. Maybe a Class C from the nineties. Something practical that we could use for a relaxing road trip in the states before we head home to St. John. We thought we could either sell it after the trip or store it to use whenever we're over here. You know, something practical. Because as much as we love older vehicles, we knew that we were in no position to buy a project. We've been living out of a seemingly endless string of Airbnb's in Indianapolis for months as Jennifer's work assignment keeps getting extended. We have no tools. We have no contacts here. We don't reliably have a driveway or a garage. We literally have our two dogs, our luggage, and a couple of hard-to-find-on-island goodies that we're planning on taking home. So after a couple of weeks of scouring the internet for possibilities, we saw an add for a "90% restored" 1974 Winnebago Brave D19. It was so cute! It was so much cooler than modern RV's. Plus, it was small enough to fit in most parking spaces. And it has a bathroom, which is a huge upgrade from the 1977 VW bus we loved and traveled in before. We couldn't resist. So I flew down to Florida to check it out, in hopes of driving it back to Indianapolis for some minor updating.


The Winnebago looked much rougher in person than in the photos. Shocker, right? This was not "90% restored" even from a distance. It had obviously been sitting neglected for a very long time. The tires were dry rotted. The inside was pretty filthy, the appliances had not been tested, there was some water damage...but it had such a better feel than a modern RV.It's like a cabin on wheels. The test drive was a disaster. It barely ran. The brakes were pretty much non-existent. None of the gauges worked.  There was absolutely no way I could drive it 1000 miles. Or even 10 miles. The price was way too high but I negotiated it down (still way too high) and called Jennifer. After maybe five minutes discussion, I bought it and the seller's son bravely coasted it over to a nearby shop. And I flew back to Indy empty-handed. Here's what it took to get it stable enough for me to be able to drive it to back to Indianapolis:


6 new tires
Full tune-up and replace intake manifold gaskets, timing cover gaskets, etc.
A very hard to find water pump
shocks
batteries and terminals
fix and/or replace all the wiring for brake lights, signals, wipers, horn, headlights, etc
brakes: master cylinder
reroute generator fuel line (safety issue)
new oil pressure gauge
There was a lot more going on, and it stayed at the shop for like six weeks. When I finally went back down to pick it up, it was running. But it was also leaning pretty heavily to the right and the steering wheel was not lined up. So, basically you had steer at an angle to go straight. And you kind of felt like you're going to fall out of your seat a lot of the time. I needed to get an alignment and to have the suspension looked at, but I didn't have time. The mechanic who'd been working on it wasn't set up to do it and none of the truck places could fit me in. SO after much discussion with the mechanic, I decided just to drive it like that and get it looked at in Indianapolis, if I made it. Kind of a sketchy decision. Also, in general, it is not ideal to go on a 1000 mile/three day trip in a vehicle like this that has been sitting for so long. You pretty much know that SOMETHING will go wrong, just not what exactly or how bad it will be. I got used to this feeling when we had our '77 bus. I don't really know much about engines or cars in general, but when we had the bus I had to figure some stuff out. I'm not sure how much of that VW technical experience will carry over to the Winnebago, but I definitely remember how to expect the unexpected and roll on.


This journey was made even more interesting by the fact that he couldn't fix the speedometer, odometer, or gas gauge, which meant that not running out of gas could get tricky. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be speeding. My first stop was a Wal-Mart where I picked up a decent GPS that I could stick on the dash and which would give me a rough idea of how fast I was going and how many miles I had traveled. I also bought a pen so I could keep a log of how much gas I was going through (a lot) and I'd just stop at really conservative intervals to fill the tank. My plan was to drive in daylight and sleep in motels because nothing had been done yet to the interior or any of the camping equipment/systems. Also, as a lady on my own and without even a dog, I wasn't that into the idea of sleeping in a parking lot. Also, the Winnebago was pretty gross.
The first couple of hours, bouncing along at 50mph in the right lane, were absolutely terrifying. But then I got used to it and it was amazing to be cruising down the highway in such a fine, fine motorcoach. Obviously the radio didn't work, but after awhile I downloaded a book on my phone and stuck one headphone in so I could be entertained and also stay alert for scary noises.


Sometime on day two , I noticed that the gas pedal wasn't really bouncing all the way back when I let up on it. I pulled over, did some googling, did some looking around under the Winnebago and decided it was probably a spring of some kind, or maybe the cable, but I had no idea how to make it better so I just took off my shoe so that I could physically pull the pedal back with my toes. This is not a practical solution for everyday driving but I thought it would be manageable since I was pretty much only on the highway. Okey dokey.


Then in Tennessee at the end of day two, maybe 600 some-odd miles in, I hear a scary noise. A loud continuous THWAPPING sound, like a belt gone crazy, or something. So I took the next exit and heard some sputtering, like backfiring, and then as I'm coasting into this gas station to check it out I hear the loudest backfire. Ever. I did a quick inspection and saw that there was indeed a belt hanging loose, but I couldn't figure out where it went. I ended up calling AAA and getting hooked up with a very cool local mechanic and his girlfriend (thank you John and Ashley) who met me at the gas station. John showed me how a bolt came off the alternator causing the belt to slip AND showed me where the spring for the gas pedal had broken off AND fixed both things right there. No tow. Great conversation.


The downside was that the huge backfire was basically my muffler exploding. Serious exhaust problems and a very loud Winnebago. John's opinion was that I wouldn't actually be doing more damage by driving it that way, so the next morning I fired it up, opened all the windows and actually made it to Indianapolis. Rejoice. However, when I was taking pictures of Jennifer and the dogs in front of the RV, I noticed that the rooftop AC unit was in tatters. Somewhere along the way the shroud (and various ac parts) must have blown off. So scary. I really hope no one got hurt. I had no idea. So scary.


From there it went pretty much immediately to get aligned and have the suspension adjusted (although the wheel still needs to be straightened). And then on to another shop where they replaced the muffler and the exhaust manifold...but it's not a perfect fit so they're looking for another manifold (and a shifter cable, too) and in the meantime it's at yet another shop (two hours away near Cincinnati) where we are having some stuff done to the interior (new a/c, water tank, composting toilet, checking all the propane, etc.). I took it all the way to that shop because I'd seen pictures of the work they've done on older campers and because when I called they were nice. Also, we have friends there. Very scientific reasoning, I know.


On our way to Cincinnati I noticed that the oil pressure seemed kind of low compared to when I was driving back from Florida. Also, there were a couple of low popping sounds which I think might have been from the exhaust leak? Anyway, I stopped. I didn't see any leaks. I checked the oil and there was some brown oil on the dipstick (which is hard to read) but it was arguably a bit low. So I put in maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of a quart. But when I checked the dipstick again...I couldn't see any oil at all. Seriously. Jennifer and I both dipped and looked and dipped and looked and nothing on the stick. Where's the oil??? I didn't want to keep pouring it in without any idea of what was going on. So I fired it up. The pressure was better. We continued on our way and made it to the shop, although the oil pressure seemed to be creeping back down a bit. This shop doesn't really do chassis work, they're just doing the camper stuff, so I'll have to figure all that out when they're finished. I just need to make sure I can drive it two hours back to the shop that's finishing the exhaust work.
So, basically we have done exactly what we said we were not going to do. We bought a project. And because of our current situation (time and space) we have to just keep paying different people to work on it for us. Although, honestly,most of this stuff we'd have a mechanic do no matter where we were living. We have about six more days in Indianapolis, and we can probably stay with our friends in Cincinnati for a while after that, but we are really, really hoping to be on the road within the next two weeks. That way we can travel in the Winnebago for at least six weeks before we head back to the Virgin Islands. So, instead of buying a practical  RV, it looks like we've got another family member.

Offline Rickf1985

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  • Posts: 5491
  • Member since: 2013
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1989
  • Make: Winnebago
  • Model: Chieftain
  • Chassis: Chevy
  • Engine: 454
Re: '74 Brave D19 Saga and Update
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2016, 06:34 PM »
PUT OIL IN IT! Keep adding until it comes up on the stick. If you are losing oil pressure then you ARE damaging the engine! Also if you are losing pressure you are at least three quarts low. You have quite a project on your hands but I give you a lot of credit for have the guts to do what you have done so far.

Offline cj

  • *
  • Posts: 14
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1974
  • Make: Winnebago
  • Model: Brave
  • Chassis: Dodge
  • Engine: 318
Re: '74 Brave D19 Saga and Update
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2016, 07:58 PM »
Thanks. I totally hear you about the oil. It's just sitting right now. I'm kind of confused about where the oil could have gone because when i first pulled out the stick, there was clearly like normal looking brown oil on there. Then I added a little bit of new oil and suddenly it was totally invisible? How does that work? I kind of thought maybe there was something going on with the dipstick...like I wasn't pushing it far enough down or something, but I was. I'm definitely going to have to figure this out before we move it again. I just read a post on here about someone who had a similar experience and it turned out the tube the dipstick goes into had a hole, so the dipstick wasn't actually going into the oil. Could that also affect oil pressure? Or is this just wishful thinking. I have a new oil pressure gauge that is pretty sensitive...it's not just the idiot light...so I can see if it's fluctuating just a little. I should probably post this part in a technical forum, huh?

Offline Oz

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  • Posts: 3214
  • "So let it be written; so let it be done!"
  • Member since: 2002
  • I own: a Motor Home
Re: '74 Brave D19 Saga and Update
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2016, 08:14 PM »
That's correct.
 ;)
Previously enjoyed our '74 - D24 Indian & '74 - D24 Indian Custom

Offline GOWINIGO

  • 7 year member
  • *
  • Posts: 23
  • Member since: 2009
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1973(2) 1976(1)
  • Make: Winnebago
  • Model: Brave D18 Indian 24 Brave 21
  • Chassis: Dodge
  • Engine: 318 413 440
Re: '74 Brave D19 Saga and Update
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2016, 09:00 PM »
Sounds pretty much like my purchase/first drive experience. I flew from NC to Portland to buy my D18 sight unseen. It would only dive 45  miles/hour the whole way to West Virginia. I found out after many hours of trial and error, found that the PO had moved the distributor one tooth over due to the timing having jumped, So what looked like a correct firing order on the distributor was wrong. I drove from Oregon all the way to West Virginia on six cylinders :/    Have fun!
:)

Offline Lahti35

  • *
  • Posts: 28
  • I own: I don't own one but I'm a vintage RV enthusiast!
Re: '74 Brave D19 Saga and Update
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2016, 11:15 PM »
Sounds pretty much like my purchase/first drive experience. I flew from NC to Portland to buy my D18 sight unseen.

You're my hero. I wouldn't have the guts for that one ???

Offline legomybago

  • *
  • Posts: 1175
  • Member since: 2013
  • I own: a Motor Home
  • Year: 1974
  • Make: FMC
  • Model: 2900R
  • Chassis: FMC
  • Engine: 440
Re: '74 Brave D19 Saga and Update
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2016, 09:41 AM »
Sounds pretty much like my purchase/first drive experience. I flew from NC to Portland to buy my D18 sight unseen. It would only dive 45  miles/hour the whole way to West Virginia. I found out after many hours of trial and error, found that the PO had moved the distributor one tooth over due to the timing having jumped, So what looked like a correct firing order on the distributor was wrong. I drove from Oregon all the way to West Virginia on six cylinders :/    Have fun!
That's ruff....I bet you seen more than one middle finger!! hahaha
Never get crap happy with a slap happy pappy

 

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