1972 Winnebago Brave - Seattle or Bust!

Started by BigAlsVehicleEmporium, April 14, 2023, 08:24 AM

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Back in February I became the proud owner of a 1972 Winnebago Brave D20, on a Dodge M300 chassis.


I was on a cross country flight for work when my girlfriend sent me a Facebook Marketplace link for a "1978 Winnebago Unknown - Doesn't Run". We were no more in the market for an RV than we were for Arizona's famed ocean front property, but something about the iconic styling kept popping back up in my mind. I mentioned it the next day and she surprised me by making an appointment to go see it. Since I was still out of town I wrote up a two page list of things to check, with the most important two being: I'm not buying an RV that needs the engine replaced and it needs to be clean enough that you're comfortable in it after a Saturday's worth of cleaning.


After a lengthy phone call with the current owner from halfway around the world, we agreed on a $100 deposit. Purchase price would be $3,500 when I got back if the engine passed a compression test and I didn't see any other major red flags.



Once I got back stateside, with a bed full of tools, I headed out to see it!
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


When I got there it was both better and worse than I expected. The previous owner had screwed thin sheets of wood over the (minimal) water damaged areas and then painted then entire interior with exterior home paint. This made it look nice from a distance but completely covered up the wood paneling look that I love and the new paint is rough and scratches easily.

The "better than expected" part was in the completeness of the rig. Few things had been moved/tinkered with, there wasn't evidence of any real rodent damage to the wiring or other parts, and the roof, floor, and walls all seemed really solid.

First on the checklist was an engine compression test. If it passed that, then I would complete the sale. The rig had been towed to the current owner's house after he bought it from an estate sale. As best I can tell, it was last on the road in the 90s. First thing he did was throw a battery in it and turn the key, not ideal treatment for an engine that has sat for 2+ decades. He'd been trying to start it off and on for the last 8 months before throwing in the towel and putting it up for sale. Since that bandaid had already been ripped off, I pulled the plugs and (once I reassembled the starting circuitry from it having been dismantled) I checked the compression in each cylinder. While it's possible to do this without removing the driver's side wheel, I can't say I recommend it.


 The ones that were good were fantastic, at 150+ psi cold! However, three of the cylinders had no compression.

After pulling the valve covers, the reason why became immediately clear. For those who aren't familiar with engine resurrection, one of the first steps on reviving an engine that has sat for a long time is to spin it over twice by hand first to feel for any binding or excessive resistance. This is best done with a socket wrench on the crankshaft bolt. In this case, one intake and two exhaust valves had stuck closed and bent three pushrods.


I was able to get the valves free with penetrating oil and light tapping with a brass hammer. The engine in this rig is the industrialized version of the 413 and so a lot of parts are unique and not interchangeable with the passenger car 413 from the early/mid 60s. Luckily, I'd found this site! Using the Dodge Parts Manual available from the store, I got the Chrysler part number for the pushrods (2899597). I then found one of Dave's old posts showing that it crossed to a Sealed Power RP3192. Which was out of stock everywhere and NAPA's site didn't even let you order it. After doing a little more digging with more interchange numbers, I gave up and called NAPA in the morning. Through sheer luck, a store the next town over had exactly three in stock. While I was there I picked up eight new sparkplugs because the PO had installed regular 413 spark plugs and not the long reach plugs that the 413 requires. I went with Champion 405 but there are several options that interchange with that number. After swapping out the pushrods and spinning the engine over by hand a couple times to make sure the valves were valving, I checked compression on those cylinders again and everything was good! I reassembled the valve covers with new gaskets (Fel-pro VS50145R), cleaned out the carburetor, connected the fuel pump feed to a boat tank that the previous owner helpfully provided and installed the new spark plugs and a new set of plugs wires for a Ford 360 because that's all I had on hand.


I put a gallon of 2 cycle gas in the boat tank because it helps lubricate an engine that has been sitting on startup and dribbled a little down the intake. After turning the key, the engine fired up and ran great! I filled the gas tank the rest of the way with unmixed gas once I got the idle dialed in and after revving it a few times and not hearing any knocking I convinced myself that the engine was healthy.

So, I paid the man and this RV was now officially mine!
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


Congrats on your find and getting it up and running OK.  In case someone else needs the info what was the NAPA P/N you purchased?


Hi Dave, and thanks! This has been the most research intensive project I've taken on to date, which is saying something as I've got a collection of seven classic cars and trucks before this one came along. With a 50 year old chassis made by one manufacturer, finished by another, with an uncommon engine, all compounded by the myriad of single-year parts for the 1972 model, getting this project back on the road would have been impossible without this site and Dave's Place and I'm glad to contribute what I can!

The NAPA number for the Sealed Power pushrods I used is SEP RP-3192. The site doesn't show it as orderable or in stock anywhere, but if you call the stores you get access to a more complete inventory system apparently.

Edit: I have found a 2nd source for 413 pushrods as the Sealed Power ones are out of stock everywhere. The Melling MPR-322 crosses to the RP-3192. I ordered ten on ebay for about $30 and they matched up perfectly.
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


Before I get into the rest of it, I forgot to explain the title of this project posting. My cousin is getting married in the remote outskirts of Seattle at the end of September and lodging is both scarce and expensive. It occurred to me after getting the engine running that I now had a house on wheels. After a few quick calculations I determined that if I could get this rig running at 8 mpg, I could drive it from where I live in Atlanta, GA out to Washington, stay at an RV site down the street from the venue, and drive it back all for just about what it would cost to fly, rent a car, and stay for a week the conventional way. So, I booked the RV spot and I now have a goal! At the time, early February, I had just about seven months to get this rig roadworthy and tested for the upcoming cross country journey.

Now, back to getting it home. While I was running the engine initially I noticed a significant coolant leak out the rear driver's side. Apparently the rear of each cylinder head has an outlet port about the size and shape of a water neck opening, maybe for a coolant crossover tube in some applications? Anyway, while the PO was tinkering around with the engine, he broke one of the bolt heads off that kept the outlet cover on and now that it was only held on with one bolt, coolant was blowing past that cover. With an appropriately sized transfer punch, right angle drill, and helicoil set, got the old bolt drilled out on center, tapped the head for a helicoil and threaded in the insert. My girlfriend cut a new gasket from some Fel-pro blue sheet stock and I put the cover plat back on. Fired it up and no more leaks!


Once the engine ran, and the bill of sale was in hand, I next wanted to check stopping ability. During the compression test phase I'd determined that the (apparently) infamous shift cable was seized in Drive, so I'd disconnected that down at the transmission and rotated the shift lever to park. I tried out the parking brake and I could pull the handle forward and back from stop to stop and it didn't seem to engage anything. Later I'd find out that the shoes mounted on the transmission tailshaft were worn down to the metal and soaked in ATF. For now though, that left the service brakes as the only way to stop the rig.

I filled the master cylinder with fluid, which was a blast because as others have noted it's a real pain to get to up by the drivers wheel and sparkplugs and had my girlfriend press the pedal while I was under the coach looking for leaks. When she did, both front and rear brake lines blew out and fluid drained everywhere, including from the master cylinder piston seal.


Having dealt with rotten brake plumbing before, I knew that ended my plans to quickly get the motorhome stopping and maybe drive it home. I called up Triple A and had them tow it the 10 miles to my house.



1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


Looking good so far.  Most have had to go through the growing pains your living.  Just takes time, patience and care, oh, and BTW $  :grin:  Be sure to build in some ring out time also.  A few trips locally to work out the bugs and get used to RV living.  You do not want to suffer breakdowns on the road.  Typically the cooling system is one of the biggest issues (overheating) due to age.

You already said brakes were an issue. Depending on chassis year (Winnebago typically built current year chassis on previous year Dodge chassis[eg. 72 Winnebago on 71 Dodge Chassis]), you either have a Dual Midland Ross Booster or Bendix Master-Vac Booster based system.

Assuming you have the rectangle dash gauge setup, main power is routed through AMP gauge of that configuration and was a weak spot on all Dodge vehicles of that era.  Dodge changed that in 74 with the new instrument panel design to a shunt based ammeter.  Eliminating that and using a shunt based aftermarket AMP gauge and separate aftermarket voltmeter will be a much better setup.


Thanks! That's the plan, take it out at least once a month and go further from home as I build confidence. I've taken it out twice so far and I'll chronicle those experiences soon. And noted about the cooling system. My upper radiator tank has a couple of pinholes in it. I'm lucky to have a very good radiator shop close by, I'm going to take it to them and see what they say.

My chassis was built in February 1972 and I have the Bendix Master-Vac Booster setup.

Shockingly, all the gauges are currently working! Good to know about the ammeter not being a shunt type. Has anyone retrofitted a later shunt type ammeter into the rectangular dash slot? I'd like to keep the dash looking as original as possible since it's in such great shape. If not, maybe I'll keep my eye out for a spare ammeter and/or keep a little jumper with ring terminals in the toolbox in case this one goes out on me.
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


Now that the motorhome was home, I could start a complete replacement of the braking system. By this point we had begun referring to it, creatively, as Winnie but we're open to suggestions on for something more original if anyone wants to chime in!

I realized pretty quickly that finding a replacement power brake booster quickly was a no-go, so since it held vacuum I decided to leave it be for now. I'd like to get it rebuilt at some point but haven't had luck finding a place to do it. That left the master cylinder, wheel cylinders, hoses, shoes, and hardware. I tried to reach out to Geof at Alretta but he was on vacation and I was in a hurry, so I dived back in to the parts book to see what I could come up with. These are the parts I used (and I wouldn't recommend all of them as I mention below):

Part                               Vendor        Part Number
Master CylinderWeareverMCA71259
Front Brake HoseO'ReillyBH4900
Fr Dr Wheel CylinderNAPAUP24954
Fr Ps Wheel CylinderDormanW24955
Rr Dr Wheel CylinderNAPAUP37083
Rr Ps Wheel CylinderNAPAUP37084
Rear Brake ShoesNAPAUP UP358R

Edit: I originally went with the O'Reilly NMC21936 master cylinder, but changed it out a few months later for the one listed above. Shortly after I bought mine, O'Reilly stopped making/selling it. I never could get a good pedal feel with it, and when I removed it, I found that it was missing the 10 psi residual valves needed to keep the right amount of pressure in the lines for a firm pedal. The Wearever part did have those, and the base part number matches many of the numbers listed in Dave's excellent brake part number page here:

I couldn't find a ready-made rear hose so I took my old one to my local hydraulic shop and they made me a new one. The stock ones I bought for the front are the same length as the old ones but once I had the front up on jack stands and let the suspension hang, I saw that they were very tight. If I could do it again, I'd take the old front hoses in and have them make me up a new pair that were an inch or two longer.

On the wheel cylinders, I went with NAPA parts where they were in stock because the online picture showed slightly different Made in USA castings than what other vendors did. When my order arrived however, I realized that they were the exact same Made in China parts that Dorman and others offered, so I wish I'd gone with them for the lot and saved a bit of money. By the way, I tried to leave a review on the NAPA site for those parts indicating that they were the same generic assembly as everyone had and not made in USA, but NAPA took the reviews down. Go figure.

The front and rear shoes are the same part number, but I didn't replace the fronts because they looked brand new. They weren't even fully worn into the drums yet, and the drums had just been machined front and rear. It looks like someone did a complete brake job before parking the rig because the self adjusting hardware looked pretty new too. I had to replace the rear shoes because leaking rear wheel seals had coated them in oil.


I'm not sure about the master cylinder either. After all was done and I'd adjusted and power-bled the brakes, I found that I had to push the pedal over halfway to the floor before the brakes engaged. I had a firm pedal and could lock the front wheels up if I really wanted too, but having to push the pedal  that far to do it doesn't feel or seem right. I'm wondering if that master cylinder is missing the 10 lb residuals that the stock one has. If anyone has any thoughts on this, feel free to pass them along because it's an issue I still haven't resolved.

I bent and flared replacements for every piece of brake line using NiCopp 3/16" and 1/4" tubing, new tube nuts, and coiled spring guard where originally used.

Here's the brakes done:


And the drum back on. I did the front and  rear wheel bearings and seals while I was at it. That will be my next post as the part numbers were tricky to find & cross reference ahead of time.

1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


Looking good!
Check to see if the brake pedal to booster connecting rod is adjustable.  Parts book hints that it may be.


 :)ThmbUp  ;)  :grin: <3 <3 <3 Looking good! The Winnebago too!

Eyez Open

Nice work going on there congratulations. I've had quite a time allocating parts for a 82 GM doing a 70's Dodge must take quite a bit of patience along with tenacity.

Best of luck to you, I am almost at the end with mine...I can tell you there will come a time when you look at your RV and just smile thinking Damm I got there...unbelievable!


When do we get another update, Big Al!?


    Since I already had the hubs off to do the brakes, it made sense to re-pack or replace the wheel bearings as well. Getting the rear axle shafts removed was a huge pain because at some point in the past, someone had used RTV in all the axle flange holes in lieu of replacing the axle flange gasket. This held in all the little collars that are supposed to pop forward off of the axle studs when you rap on the axle shaft with a hammer. I had to dig the RTV out of all sixteen studs with an assortment of tiny picks, but both axle shafts finally popped free. Then I could remove the rear drums and get at the brakes and bearings.

    The rear bearings all seemed original and looked a little rough. Nothing terrible, but definitely on their way out. The front passenger side bearings were worn as well and had very little grease, but the front driver's bearings were pristine. As they were Timken bearings made in the USA, and likely of better quality than the made in China SKF bearings, I decided to re-pack those and just replace the bearing sets on the other three corners. I used a Lisle 34550 bearing packer for all but the rear inner bearings (they were too big to fit in the chamber) and it made the job so much easier and faster than it is doing it by hand. As far as replacing the races goes, I'd make sure that you have a brass punch before trying it or the ability to turn a custom aluminum driver disk as the rear inner bearings are massive, something like 3 ½" – 4" in diameter. I used my old race as a buffer between the hammer and new race until it got below the lip of the bore, and then a brass punch on the edge of the race to go the rest of the way. I considered using the old bearing as a race driver, with a greased rag between it and the race as cushion, but I was worried that the angle would put too much outward pressure on the race and cause it to not want to drive in. 

    The shop manual publishes a good procedure for adjusting the front bearings (torque to 50 ft-lbs then back off 1/6 – ¼ turn) but I don't like the vagueness off the procedure for the rear bearings on my Dana 70. It has you tighten the nut until you feel binding, and then back it off 1/6 of a turn. It then cautions you to be careful of altering the bearing preload by pushing the adjusting nut forward on the threads when tightening the jam nut. That's not a particularly helpful warning as I feel like the average person isn't going to be able to eyeball where the nut is positioned in the thread tolerances. To make sure I wasn't over doing it, I used a dial indicator on a magnetic base to check end play and make sure there was at least some measurable amount. If anyone has any insights on setting those rear bearings, I'd love to hear it! I've since checked the temperature of all four hubs after driving for a couple hundred miles on the interstate using an IR thermometer and the rear passenger one runs 5-10 degrees hotter than the drivers side one. Not sure if that's uneven brake adjustment or if I need to readjust the passenger bearings...

    I put a new axle flange gasket on and tightened the axle flange nuts to 55 ft-lbs as the manual calls for 40-70 ft-lbs for 7/16-20 axle flange nuts. The flanged wheel nuts get torqued to 325 ft-lbs front and rear. 

    Lastly, I pulled the rear diff cover, scooped out the old oil, reassembled it with a new gasket, and filled it with new gear oil. The old looked very brown but not shiny and the ring gear looked great, so I'm feeling good about the longevity of this axle. Cover bolts get torqued to 30-40 ft-lbs. 

    This is definitely the most ungainly vehicle I've ever picked up and I learned a valuable lesson about doing so on a sloping asphalt driveway. Make sure that the wheels on the opposite axle are chocked front AND rear. I'd only chocked mine on the downhill side, and had a heart stopping experience when it all of a sudden went south. I'd jacked the front up enough to level it out, and the rear passenger wheel started to roll backwards, causing the front of the RV to try to swing towards the passenger side!



    I used a heavy duty ratchet strap to the nearest tree to keep it from going any further and then used two more jacks to gently pick it up, level, by the front axle.


    Now I always make sure that the wheels are chocked front and back and I keep an eye on the bubble levels to make sure it's going up evenly. I got off so easy that I'm committed to keeping the win and never learning the hard way.

These are the SKF bearing part numbers I used. I think the Timken numbers are the same.               
Front Inner    LM603011 or LM603012    LM603049    BR37
Front Outer1524515101N/A
Rear Inner4522045291SET416
Rear OuterLM104911LM104949BR38

These are the wheel seals:       
SealsNational    SKF
Front Seal    49329122835   
Rear Seal45508630033

The rear axle flange gasket was Fel-pro 12579

The lug nuts take a 1 1/8" socket and the front bearing nut is 1 7/16". I had to get a special bearing nut kit to do the rear nuts. They were 2 1/2" or 2 3/8". I used the Sunex 2847 socket set that I bought online for $84.
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


I did the bearings & brakes one axle at a time and had new tires put on while I was at it. When I took the wheels in to the local truck tire shop, they said the date code on the old ones corresponded to 1989! And truthfully they looked that old, even though the tread was near new. Mine are the multi-piece rims, but not the illegal widow maker style. Trying to explain that to tire shops was tough and I'm glad I found a place that would do it. I'd like to replace them some day with single piece wheels so any shop will work on them and I don't have to deal with tubed tires. I spent a while trying to figure out which wheels would work on this rig, but I was on a deadline for our first trip and got lost in the multitude of options. If anyone knows what 8 lug wheels will work, let me know! The tires that were on it were LT235/85R16 so fortunately I didn't have to worry about translating an older tire size. The tires I got were Firestone Transforce HT2, load range E and all seven tires cost $1,650 out the door at Atlanta Commercial Tire in Marietta, GA. I've put 1,000 miles on them so far and have no complaints about the tires and definitely recommend the shop!

While I was getting the tires done, I pulled the drive shaft and took it in to American Driveshaft Service, also in Marietta, to get new U-joints and get balanced. The U-joints are an unusual size that is specific to old motor homes, according to the very experienced guy at this shop and he had to order them. All told it ran me $295 for the balance and the joints. 


I had three other main issue to deal with before our first trip out and those were the seized shift cable, the rusty fuel tank, and the lack of front seats. I'll save the seats for the next post.

There was a great post on here a while back about how to get a B&W shift cable and kit for this rig and connect that to the existing shifter and transmission. I followed the recommendations there and used the B&W 80834 cable and B&W 10497 lever kit. Per the instructions, the lever kit was supposed to come with longer bolts for where the bracket mounts to the transmission pan but it didn't. Fortunately I had a pair on the shelf that were the right size (I wish I could remember what that ended up being...). To mount the cable to the shift mechanism under the dash, I bent a piece of steel into an L-shape and mounted the long side to the top of the shift mechanism by drilling and tapping two ¼-20 holes in the shift bracket. A 5/16 through hole in the short side of the L bracket allowed me to mount the teardrop tab of the shift cable. Initially I couldn't get the shift cable adjusted to go all the way into either park or 1st. It turns out that the cable was hitting some internal stops in the sheath and I had to move the cable's teardrop mounting tab to the other side of the L bracket and add some shim washers. There was also more slop between the shift cable eye and the shifter mechanism shaft than there was with the original cable, so I turned a thin aluminum sleeve on the lathe to regain that tolerance. The end result works perfectly! I can go from Park down to 1st and the detents in the dash shifter match the detents in the transmission. 

The fuel tank was a much bigger project. My Winnebago has twin fuel tanks, but the front tank seemed to be the main one, so I started with it. Removing it wasn't terrible, but the order of operations was important. First, I removed the nuts holding the fuel tank straps down, and slid the tank outward until it touched the passenger side skirt. Then I could get to the bolt heads on the eight bolts that hold the mounting L-brackets to the frame rail. Support the tank from below when you're down to the last two bolts and then lower it down. Along the way, I disconnected the fuel gauge wires and the engine fuel line. The generator fuel line had no visible way to disconnect it that I could see, so I cut it with some tubing cutters. I knew I was going to replace all the line anyway, so this didn't bother me. Once the tank was lowered and disconnected, I could just barely slide it out from under the vehicle.

Measuring it with a tape, I found that it could hold 40 gallons - making it easily the biggest gas tank I've ever worked with. It still had some 30 year old rusty gas that smelled more like varnish sloshing around in the bottom, so I drained that into a 5 gallon fuel jug. I double filtered it and had to clean the funnel filter screens every quart or so, so getting all 5 gallons out took a while. Then I took the tank to Marietta Radiator and had them clean it out and then seal it. There were flakes of rust the size of pizza slices in it and internal baffles, but they cut a couple of access holes to clean it out and then welded it back up. The whole job cost me $350, which was definitely worth it.

When I got the tank back, I installed a new fuel sending unit. I used the generic Mopar/Ford fuel sending unit from Tanks Inc p/n: TAN-ORG to match the original gauge's resistance range and adjusted the sender so the float swung across the full range of the tank's height. I have used their senders on several other projects and highly recommend them if you don't need a sender with a built in pickup and the original style is no longer available. They also supplied the new fuel filler hose and roll over vent.


I aadded a vent port with a roll-over valve because I plan to add a charcoal canister one day and didn't want to have to drop the tank to do so. Because I didn't think to have Marietta Radiator weld in a 1/4" NPT connector for the vent while they were working on it, I used a brass 1/4" NPT bulkhead I picked up on Amazon. I bent and flared new NiCopp fuel lines and ran the lines out the front and rear for the engine & generator. I ended the lines a few inches past the edge of the tank so I'll be able to connect to easily connect/disconnect them with unions.


After my girlfriend painted the fuel tank mounting brackets to match the newly painted tank, I installed it!


I got lucky in that the pickup tubes worked well with the sealer and didn't clog or have any rust holes that suck air. The fuel sender worked great, but I found that my gauge was reading a little low. It gets to the empty line after using 25 gallons, so I plan to install a MeterMatch to adjust for the gauge drift, rather than gambling on a new gauge.
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


Quote from: DaveVA78Chieftain on April 16, 2023, 11:48 AMLooking good!
Check to see if the brake pedal to booster connecting rod is adjustable.  Parts book hints that it may be.

It does! I used a power booster depth tool to set the rod so I feel pretty good about the adjustment, but it might need a 2nd look.
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


Quote from: Eyez Open on May 01, 2023, 09:53 AMNice work going on there congratulations. I've had quite a time allocating parts for a 82 GM doing a 70's Dodge must take quite a bit of patience along with tenacity.

Best of luck to you, I am almost at the end with mine...I can tell you there will come a time when you look at your RV and just smile thinking Damm I got there...unbelievable!

Thanks Eyez Open! I looked at it and thought that after the very first trip haha. I still can't believe I was able to take it out camping three weeks after getting it. I'll post that update soon! I can't wait to have most of the major projects done though, then I'll really feel like I got there!
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


Quote from: WinneBaby on April 29, 2023, 07:52 PM:)ThmbUp  ;)  :grin: <3 <3 <3 Looking good! The Winnebago too!

Haha thanks! You were looking good yourself painting those fuel tank brackets  ;)
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


Awesome job man.

Yes, it is important to make multiple safety measures, but we've all been there.

But do i also see jackstands without the safetypin installed? That can cause definite heart stopping moments when your struggling to get under or underneath the rv and kick the handle.  ;)


Quote from: Mlw on May 08, 2023, 05:18 PMAwesome job man.

Yes, it is important to make multiple safety measures, but we've all been there.

But do i also see jackstands without the safetypin installed? That can cause definite heart stopping moments when your struggling to get under or underneath the rv and kick the handle.  ;)

Good eye! The upright jack stand without the pin was added after everything started to go south. I basically threw it under there to have something while I tied it to the tree with the ratchet strap and didn't want to reach under the motor home far enough to install the pin until it was better supported haha. But I bought those locking stands specifically because I kicked one onetime and got lucky that it didn't release.
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


When I bought Winnie, there were no front seats at all. The previous owner had removed them and thrown them away because the upholstery was bad. No seats is worse than intact seats with bad upholstery, but they were long gone. I sourced a set out of a '78 Winnebago for $150 that were in pretty rough shape.


We tore all of the old upholstery off and spent a long time cleaning and sanitizing the foam backing and metal base. It came off more cleanly than expected and by the time we were through they looked clean and smelled great.


For $28 per seat I picked up some neat Southwest style seat covers and semi-matching arm rest covers. They fit very well and I'm pleased with the finished product!


The newer seat bases had a different hole pattern than the originals, but I lined up the rear holes such that they drilled through some angle iron under the floor for increased structural rigidity. Fortunately, the PO saved the large, thick washers that originally went under the floor to mount the seats and, combined with new grade 8 bolts and nuts, I feel that the seats are at least as well secured as they were from the factory. They fit in there nicely too! I wish the driver's seat back was a little straighter so I could get a little bit more leg room, but I've since logged about 2,000 miles with this setup and it's very driveable!


Lastly, I did a few general maintenance items. Changed the engine oil and used Shell Rotella T4 15W-40 diesel oil to protect the flat tappet cam and a Wix 51515XP filter as Wix seems to come out on top of any oil filter tests I've seen. Installed a new air filter element (Wix 42044) I shot several pumps of grease into the water pump after replacing the zerk fitting and adding a cap to keep debris out. Looked at all the steering linkage while my girlfriend turned the wheel side to side to check for excessive play or anything else that seemed unsafe. All the linkage looked intact, if a bit worn, so I figured we were good for now! Finally, I got some new transmission cooler hoses made. They are 1/8" NPT on one end and 5/16" female inverted flare on the other. They're a bit of a pain to install without crows-feet socket wrenches, and only slightly less of a pain with them, but they went in and sealed fine with a couple of wraps of yellow gas rated PTFE tape on the pipe threads.
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


We took Winnie for her first test drive on the road in probably 30 years, and it was a great success! The engine was running good and I was confident that the coach could stop, steer, and roll, so we were mechanically ready for out first trip. The only two surprises were when the engine cover blew off when I accelerated and when the front grill door swung open when I came to a stop  :laugh:

An extendible truck bed cargo bar braced between the rear of the engine cover and the dinette half wall held the engine cover down so long as we piled our luggage on top. I've seen a number of people fix the grill door issue by adding an external sliding latch or other mechanism, but I felt that the original latch assembly could probably be salvaged. It was coming unlatched when the door would sag while going over bumps and the latch would slip off of the bottom of the catch. I screwed a sheet metal screw right under the catch to block the latch from falling down and it worked! The door hasn't swung open on it's own since!


I bought a new 48" x 75" RV mattress for the back along with a new set of sheets and a mattress cover to go with. I'm very pleased with how comfy the combo is! The mattress is an 8" thick memory foam model from American Mattress Company. They made it in this country and packaged it as soon as they got the order and had it to my door in less than four days. It's very comfortable and sleeps cool. We're also happy with the Shreem Linen microfiber RV sheets and I plan to purchase a second set to keep as a spare.

We loaded the coolers, dogs, and camp chairs, and hit the road! Almost immediately it started lightly raining, even though the forecast called for clear skies all weekend. I tried the windshield wipers for the first time and found out that the rubber inserts were down to the roughed up nubs. A quick stop at my Friendly Local Auto Parts Store for some Rain-X and we were back on the road! We made it the 65 miles to our campsite in Chattahoochee Bend State Park a little after dark, so my girlfriend set up some glow stick rings for interior lighting. I hadn't touched the coach's electrical system and wasn't about to try it for the first time so far from home. I think it looked awesome!


We spent the next day hiking around the park with the pups and relaxing by the campfire ring. Everyone who passed by complemented the rig and either had fond memories in one or wanted to have one of their own one day.


The drive back was equally uneventful! It was a perfect clear evening and I found that I love driving this rig down the highways and back roads. The big glass windows, huge steering wheel, and bus-like ride all make for a relaxing experience at 55-60 mph.


The trip was a success! Gripe sheet items included:
- Figure out why blinkers and hazard lights all blink way too fast, even though they're on different flashers.
- Investigate steering, as it's a bit sloppy and the steering box clicks when crossing center after a turn
- Check coolant, as the engine temp got a little above half way on the interstate ride back and took a long time to cool back down.
-  Figure out what is causing the driver's side valve train ticking when the engine is good and warmed up.

All in all a good trip! We made it back and had a blast the whole time. I'm going to include cost details for this project so anyone getting into something like this can go in eyes open, expense-wise. At this point, between initial purchase price and many, many parts, I had $8,900 into this project. We joked that it was our nine-thousand dollar camping weekend, but I'm hoping that the per trip cost will come down eventually haha!
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


The plan, to build up confidence for a cross country trip to Seattle in September, is to take Winnie out once a month, on further and further trips. Between the first trip and this second one, there was very little time to work on the coach, as I was going to be traveling for work during the last three weeks in March. I decided to tackle lighting, both external and internal.

Looking into the fast turn signal flasher issue, I checked all brake, turn, and running lights and replaced any bad bulbs. This made no difference. I tried swapping the hazard flasher with the turn signal flasher as they were the same part number, a standard 2-pin #552 flasher. No change. I spent a while measuring resistances, checking wiring, etc before concluding that I couldn't find anything wrong. I went up to my FLAPS and picked up two brand new 552 flashers, installed them, and the problem was immediately fixed! I couldn't believe that both flashers, which were even different brands, failed in exactly the same way. But, now my turn signals stayed on long enough for the incandescent bulbs to heat up enough to glow, Safety achieved!

Next, I installed a deep cycle battery in the battery tray to run the house 12V circuit. I ran new cables from the negative terminal to the ground post and from the positive terminal to the house side of the dual battery relay. Connecting the positive terminal did not produce any sparks, so I counted that as a win! The original water tank air compressor was long gone, and I wasn't going to try the furnace, so that pretty much left the two lighting circuits. One had a blown fuse and for the low, low cost of a second fuse, I confirmed that it was blown due to a continuous dead short. I left that alone for now. The 2nd lighting circuit though was intact! I replaced the bulbs in the rear light and the dinette light and they both lit up!

We got on the road the next day for our 2nd trip in Winnie! This time we traveled south down I-75 to High Falls State Park. We got there right at dark this time, but we were able to light up the campsite with our interior lighting alone!


The next day we hiked around the falls and old power plant there, canoed around the lake, and had a great time. I have driven past the exit for this park for years and finally got a chance to go and I'm glad I did! Anywhere we went, Winnie caught someone's eye and she even got her picture taken in the Chick-fil-a parking lot on the way back!

1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


With two successful trips under our belt, I felt that it was time to take Winnie out a little further from home. Back in February, I bought tickets to see the Wailin' Jenny's, a string-heavy folk group that is great to see live, perform two nights in two different towns in North Carolina. But, before going that far, I wanted to rebuild Winnie's steering system.

I started by removing the steering gear box and sending it out to Redhead Steering on the West Coast. I wanted to get my box rebuilt rather than take a gamble on a replacement rebuilt box because I knew that mine was in decent shape. Between shipping and the cost of the rebuild, going this route set me back $525. Definitely not the cheapest, but the rebuilt box worked perfectly, didn't leak a drop, and had no noticeable play. It comes back nicely painted and with an American flag sticker on it to boot! They hand fit the recirculating balls to take up any wear in that part of the mechanism and I felt better knowing that it had been professionally gone through. Removing & reinstalling the gear box was straight forward and relatively easy with two people. The only real complication was that I had to shave down my pitman arm puller on the grinder to get it to fit in the tight space between the pitman arm and the frame.


While the steering box was being rebuilt, I pulled the steering shaft in order to rebuild the pot joint. I'd read a story on here about how one person's pot joint broke and another person had so much bearing wear in theirs as to render it unsafe, so I didn't want to skip putting eyes on mine and refreshing it. Most of the procedures I've seen will have you remove the steering column as an assembly, and then remove the shaft from that. That seemed like a lot of extra work and I was able to remove mine out the bottom with the steering column still mounted to the Winnebago since the steering gearbox was already removed.. The replaceable components appeared to be the top seal, two bearing shoes, and the flat metal spring that holds the bearings tight to the housing. I couldn't find a source or part number for the spring, but I did find a NOS seal on Ebay (Chrysler p/n: 1939485) and a new pair of bearings as well (p/n: 2072111). The pot joint was easy enough to pull apart once the retaining ring was removed.


Fortunately, mine was still full of grease and the bearings had almost no wear on them. As they are symmetrical, I was able to rotate them 90 degrees and take advantage of the unused wearing surface. I filled the joint half full of grease and installed the new seal, as mine turned out to be cracked and rotted. The seal didn't fit tight to the steering shaft at all, so I added several wraps of electrical tape to the shaft to take up the slack. This seemed to work well, as the seal was now snug but not overly tight. If anyone wants the unused pair of new bearings, PM me and they can be on their way to you for just the cost of shipping!


Reinstalling the steering shaft would be difficult with one person as it needs to be pressed in from the bottom while the retaining ring is installed in the cab, but working with a buddy we got it in no problem. I made sure that the steering box input shaft was exactly centered, lock to lock, and installed the steering wheel facing straight ahead. The steering response is tightest across center, so I wanted to make sure I knew where that was. I got my local hydraulic shop to make me new power steering hoses and added a Magnefine 3/8" filter to the return side.

I then turned my attention to the drag link. I had read of DRMousseau's harrowing experience when the drag link in his Winnebago failed and became determined to replace mine. Having the steering wheel no longer be connected to the wheels is a scarier situation to me than experiencing brake failure...

As a few before me had determined, there is no suitable drop-in replacement drag link. I couldn't find any drag links that measured in the ball park of 23 3/4" long, much less ones with 7 degree tapered 9/16" studs. So, I resolved to build my own. It occurred to me that the tie rod ends would likely be the same taper & size as the drag link ends and, as I planned to replace those anyway, I ordered a pair to see. RockAuto sells them, Delphi TA5395 & TA5398. Once they arrived, I determined that they were a perfect match for the non-replaceable drag link ends! Next, I got a pair of right-hand and left-hand threaded 11/16-18 welded inserts (Midwest Control Products p/n: M-WTFH-11L-0.995x1 & M-WTFH-11R-0.995x1) to match the LH & RH threads on the new drag link ends. They were $12 each at the time on Ebay. I also got LH & RH jam nuts to go with. Lastly, I bought an 18" length of 1.5" OD, 1/4" wall DOM Tubing. This drawn-over-mandrel tubing has tight tolerances and is used in applications that require strength. My local welding shop welded in the threaded inserts, and I had myself a new, adjustable drag link! The ends are even replaceable, if by some miracle I ever put enough miles on these to wear them out.


Once it was all said and done, the new drag link cost about $200. More than I've ever spent on a drag link, for sure, but worth it to not lose steering control on a rig that I've got nearly $10k in at this point. One more thing I'd like to do is safety wire the drag link ends to the drag link tube to ensure that they can't un-thread even if both jam nuts come loose. The new drag link fit perfectly and I was able to adjust it so that the rig tracked straight down the road when the steering wheel was straight ahead and the steering box was right on center. A road test showed a lot of improvement in steering play and any ticking from the steering gearbox was gone. Success!
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


With steering safety addressed, I turned my attention to the 120 VAC wiring. While my rig has an onboard generator, I'm saving that project for a later day. That left the 30A plug as the only source of input power. When that was connected and the shore power breakers engaged, I couldn't get any voltage on any of the outlets. Some investigating lead me to determine that the shore power input breaker had failed due to the dirt daubber nest that had been built inside of it...


My rig uses half-sized GE breakers and fortunately Lowe's had the two 30A 2-pole breakers and three 20A single pole breakers I needed in stock, for $60 out the door. At that price, I decided to replace them all, as I'd feel pretty dumb if my rig burned down because I saved $45 on breakers. With the new breakers installed, the 120VAC now worked! As a surprise bonus, I tried the rooftop A/C and got a blast of cold air!

Next, I mounted the standard, compressor refridgerator that came loose in the rig, on rubber in the original fridge spot. Adding some child-proof drawer/cabinet latches to the doors made it road-ready!

Given that we might encounter rain on this trip, I decided to do something about the wiper nubs. I knew that the wiper style was an uncommon one, from my unsuccessful attempt to buy some at the auto parts store after setting out on my first trip. Eventually I found out that this style was used on certain semi-trucks back in the 80s. Trico 61-150 15" blades seemed to be the correct replacement, but I didn't like that they were black rather than the bright metal of the originals. I had a pair of left over 16" wiper blades for a '73 F100 that didn't fit that truck particularly well, so I pulled the end caps off and found that the insert width was 5/16" - 3/8", a perfect match for the Winnebago blades! I pulled the old and new inserts out of their beams, and installed the new inserts in the old beams. It took some dish soap as lube and a bit of coaxing, but they eventually fit perfectly and I saved $22 on new wiper blades! I just need to do that ten more times and I'll have the drag link paid for  :laugh:


Lastly, I tried out my new setup for torquing the lug nuts. Previously, I'd been using a 2 foot breaker bar and standing near the end of it with the bar parallel to the ground, to approximate the 350 ft-lbs that these lug nuts call for. Wanting a little bit more precision than that, I picked up a Neiko 20743A 3/4" digital torque adapter good to 750 ft-lbs and a Neiko 03069A 3/4" ratchet that can extend out to 40". This set up was great! I was able to torque the lug nuts with confidence and it collapses down so I can store it in the back if I have to change a tire on the road.


With that done, we were ready for the road again! We set out on the six hour drive with a nice 3 hour cushion to make it to the concert in Greensboro, NC. Plenty of time to stop, eat good food, etc. Well, about 2 hours into the trip, the outside temperatures started getting up towards 80 degrees F, a first for us in a Winnie trip. With that increase in outside temperature came an increase in engine temperature - and I knew we were in trouble. As the temperature needle climbed up to 3/4, I reduced speed from 60 mph to 55, then to 50 as the temperature kept creeping up over the course of the next hour. We stopped for fuel and I temped the water pump with my IR thermometer. 225 degrees F! My hopes of an inaccurate temperature gauge went up in steam, so to speak. We let the engine cool a bit while I checked the tension of the water pump belts. They were both loose and riding pretty deep in the fan pulley, so I tightened them up, hopeful that I'd improved the situation.

No such luck. Once we got back on the road, we were only able to maintain 50 mph for a half hour or so before having to slow to 45 mph and eventually just above 40, the legal speed to stay on the interstate. Going that slow was a safety concern too. Between pulling off to let the engine cool and the occasional stand-still traffic that did nothing to help with the overheating, our 3 hour time cushion was rapidly depleting. In desperation, I finally removed the engine cover and opened all the windows. The heater control valve was seized, but some coolant was circulating through the core anyway, so I opened those vents up and turned the fan on to get every bit of cooling capacity out of it that I could. By that point I'd temped the water pump at up to 236 F at one stop and didn't want to risk blowing a head gasket.

Removing the engine cover did the trick. We were able to maintain 45-50 mph for the rest of the trip and we made it to the concert venue just as they were starting their opening song, over three hours later than planned. But we made it! The campsite that we stayed at that night was nice and we had a spot right by the pond.

1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"


The rest of the April trip went great! Outside temperatures dropped by about 10 degrees and Winnie stayed cool all through the Smoky Mountains. We spent the rest of the long weekend in Cherokee, NC and had a blast. No trouble on the way back to Atlanta either, aside from the radiator growing leakier by the mile.

The night we got back I tore into the front end, determined to figure out what was causing the overheating. Thermostat, radiator, water pump impeller??

The radiator is surprisingly easy to pull out. Just a few screws hold the lower grill and divisor bar in and then you have full access to the front engine area.

When I got it pulled, I looked in the lower radiator hose opening and figured I'd found my answer. Many of the tubes I could see looked plugged with scale and corrosion.

Once the radiator was out, I pulled the fan, fan clutch, and water pump. Fortunately, the water pump impeller looked perfect! No evidence of any leaks from the weep hole and the bearings felt smooth, tight, and quiet. I was worried about that as rebuilt units are not available except from a specialty rebuilder on Ebay who wants $400 for a rebuilt pump plus a $125 core charge.

Then I pulled the water neck and got my first look at the thermostat. Sure enough, it had been replaced at some point with a non-skirted version and boy, did it look rough.

The water neck was in rough shape too, so I cleaned it up with a wire wheel. This was the result:

No idea how the thing lasted this long when so much of it was solid rust. No replacement appears to be made either. So, I looked closer at the one I had to see how Dodge made it five decades ago, because it obviously wasn't a single cast piece. It seems to just be a piece of exhaust pipe brazed onto the flat mating flange. I went to my FLAPS and picked up a 2" ID to 2" OD exhaust adapter that appeared to match the original perfectly, except for the rolled lip on the end. I used an exhaust pipe expander and pliers to flare and then roll the lip. I cut off the old pipe and ground the last 1/8" out from inside the flange. A coworker with some brazing experience helped me braze pipe to the flange using bronze brazing rod. Some time on the disc sander cleaned up the mating surface at Dupli-color engine primer and DE1619 Chysler Green paint had it looking good as new! (if you squint, and ignore the globby brazing on top of the flange.)

I took the radiator down to Marietta Radiator and had them look it over. As I expected, the core was shot and it needed to be re-cored. I knew it would be expensive but wasn't quite prepared for the $975 quoted price. This included going from a 2 1/4" 3-row to a 2 5/8" 4-row core, but even going with the original size didn't cut the price appreciably. After sitting down with a stiff drink and spending 2 hrs online trying to find any alternative that I could make work, I gave up and told Walter to go ahead with the repair including the core upgrade. Go big or go home. Or maybe it's go big and get home...
1972 Winnebago Brave D20 - 413 V8, A727, Dana 70
"That leaves only me to blame, 'cause mama tried!"