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Old 09-18-2005, 10:16 AM   #1
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Planned '77 Argosy 20' MH Buildup. . .

O.K., guys - just a few short weeks and I'll fly from CA to NC to pick up my newly-acquired Argosy MH and, along with my friend, attempt to drive it back here without incident! He's busy blitzing on it now, replacing the steel wheels w/new Alcoa "Hot Shot" aluminum wheels, Michelin LTX M/S tires, and full servicing of all engine, chassis, genset, and coach systems. Meanwhile, in addition to burning up my Visa card, I've been spec'ing out the planned buildup on this; thought I'd share my thoughts with the group and elicit your comments and opinions:

-Full polish/ceramic clearcoat of body; paint galvanized endcaps silver, coat roof with Elastomeric - The Polishing Guru in Riverside.
-New rooftop A/C unit - 15K Carrier Low Profile "AirV" A/C unit (7.5" tall!) w/heat strip
-Refinish all tambour, wood and flat vertical surfaces with birdseye maple veneer
-Bamboo wood flooring, industrial carpet in forward area.
-Vintage Air Heat & A/C dash unit.

If/when the driveline needs replacing, here's what I'm leaning towards:

-Sallee Chevrolet's "Xtreme 454" RV engine, carbureted, w/alum. heads: http://www.sallee-chevrolet.com/Chev...treme_4x4.html
-PATC 4L80E "Quadzilla" manual-shift automatic overdrive transmission: http://www.transmissioncenter.net/4L80E.htm
-Griffin Radiators aluminum HD radiator.

Comments? Critiques? Yeah, big $, I know! Ought to be a nice, dependable MH when finished, I'm hoping. One of my design goals is to "Keep It Simple Stupid" - hence my avoidance of fuel injection/electronically-controlled transmission options, just to preanswer that query. . .
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Old 09-18-2005, 11:06 AM   #2
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well sounding like a great project on the order of the Shiny one being done at gmccoop right now for another member.You didn't mention interior, and thats a whole 'nother topic!
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Old 09-18-2005, 12:03 PM   #3
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If I were going to do any(MAJOR) Engine workI would get rid of the carb and opt for fuel injection this can be found @ any major junk yard or you can go the new route and check with you local speed shop...Fuel injection The way to GO !!!
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Old 09-18-2005, 04:40 PM   #4
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The 4L80 transmission shows as being full manual. Does this mean you have to manually shift through all the gears, or can you just put it in O-D and let 'er rip? Full manual would turn into a royal PITA real quick in city traffic.
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Old 09-18-2005, 06:32 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander63
The 4L80 transmission shows as being full manual. Does this mean you have to manually shift through all the gears, or can you just put it in O-D and let 'er rip? Full manual would turn into a royal PITA real quick in city traffic.
Yeah, you gotta go through the gears manually; but hey, it's not like you gotta clutch it or anything! I drive my automatic cars that way in traffic now. . .
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Old 09-18-2005, 08:32 PM   #6
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I did different and the same than you have planned. My body is full paint. It's a personal thing, I don't like almost matches and would rather see a contrast in colors. If you have a program like Photoshop dummy up your mh in the polished and silver and see how you like it. I do that with everything I build, some colors I like don't work on a particular body.

The trans is big $$ and doesn't have a lock up converter (still going to make lots of heat). The od is all that is really different than the one in it. I found a US Gear od for $500 without electronics. I bought the box from US Gear for around $75 and did my own wiring and switches. Had the drive shaft cut, 3 new u joints pressed in and a new carrier bearing, around $250. Trans rebuild was $600. That said, I have been looking for another over drive and don't think with the gas prices I will find it for anywhere near that price. But I think you can still do better than the price of the trans and end up with the same thing.

I am also a hot rodder. The car I am working on right now is slated to be built with a carb, I have a brand new chrome vacuum secondary 650 Holley sitting on the shelf (street cruiser/show). But I don't know. OBD1 on these is very easy with very few sensors actually needed. To me it is simpler and more reliable than a carb. When I built the engine for my mh I used TBI. If I do use the Holley on the car it will be the last one I build that way. The only reason I originally planned to do it was the year-1980 and I wanted to stick with period. But I would really reconsider on something that will get so many miles, altitude changes, etc.

Heat strip in the AC is a waste of money IMO. I have one, it still blows cold at 50-60 degrees outside temp. Buy a small electric heater, it will put out a lot more heat and is $25.

1 thing we agree on completely- Vintage Air. It was a lot of work changing over, but the old unit was garbage and huge. I started going thru it and decided it wasn't worth the time and money. I don't know how hard it would be to put one behind the original dash, mine was pretty to really trashed so I built a new one. I kept the original height but not quite as deep, made it as tight to the heater box as I could. It puts out a lot of air (Gen II Supercooler), electric shutoffs on the water, nice selection of control panels. I used the Streamline panel, at the time the didn't have the Dakota Digital panel (and my gauges are Dakota Digital, bummer) and the digital panel they offered wouldn't fit the Gen II. I might have to make some changes. If you go this route watch the quality. The heater box was OK, the defroster ducts were pretty low quality. I called and left a message no response, emailed with pictures. About a week later I got a call. They didn't make it easy getting replacements, I wasn't impressed with that.
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Old 09-18-2005, 09:12 PM   #7
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Nice work on the A/C install!

Yeah, I'm not f'er sure on the trannie or the carb - might still go tuned port fuel, in which case I'll just go with the 4L80E with the electronic control box. . .Hoping to be able to put off the mechanicals for awhile anyway.
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Old 09-18-2005, 09:36 PM   #8
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Whatever you do with the intake system plan carefully. I used a low/medium rise dual plane manifold as opposed to the uphill flowing stock cast iron piece of cr** and had to raise the doghouse cover 2" in the rear to clear the air cleaner. There is very little clearance in these, anywhere.
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Old 09-18-2005, 10:53 PM   #9
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On the Vintage Air A/C unit, did you consider the version(s) they offer specifically for the dashes of the '73-'80 Chevrolet Pickup? I wonder if that would be a m'oh bettah fit. . .
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Old 09-18-2005, 10:59 PM   #10
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Sounds like a great project. As John noted, exterior finish is a personal preference thing. Do what you like - it's yours!

I've spent a lot of quality time with my 454 and it's Rochester QJet. I think if I were build up new I'd go FI of some kind.

Can't help you on the AC. I haven't been there yet and mine is completely missing the condesor...besides - it's Fall here again

Agree with John on the heat strip - barely does anything at all - but you live in a warmer climate. The dash heat is pretty powerful, on the 345's they ran a second heater with fan back about mid coach. Might look at a simple solution from JCWhitney and do the same for heat enroute.

LP Furnaces for heat when camping...heats up in no time. I've had mine in upstate NY in January for a three days and stayed toasty warm.

Whatever you do - keep us all posted on your progress. We live for projects like this. You know - the kind where we get to tell you what our "dream" setup would be but don't have to spend any of our own money or bloody our own knukles to enjoy.
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Old 09-19-2005, 09:03 AM   #11
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Funny. my heat strip is ok until low 40's outside. We had to rely on it when in Fla last yr, and my furnace would not light. It was ok as i said, but the temps dropped into the 30's and we were cold.
I now carry a small ceramic type heater. It puts out enought o keep us warm, if I don't want to use the furnace, which I have repaired - burner was corroded, and irreplaceable, used JB weld to fix it..
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Old 09-19-2005, 09:09 AM   #12
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-Refinish all tambour, wood and flat vertical surfaces with birdseye maple veneer

Congratulations on your purchase. The 20' is a nice size and good looking motorhome.
I am very intersted in how you will be doing the cabinets and tambours. I want to do the same with mine in oak to match the rest of the interior redo I have done. My concern is that it does not end up looking like a box built over the cabinets or that paste on custom van look. I keep trying to think of a way to use veneer and integrate it with the cabinets. I will be folllowing your progress with interest. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 09-19-2005, 10:36 AM   #13
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My major consideration was cfm. These have a huge interior compared to any car or truck and the heat/ac will have to try and heat/cool it. I had a Coachman mh with a curtain behind the seats and a swing down bunk above them and always figured it got more use to isolate the cab from the rest of the house on hot days when the sun was beating through the windshields than for privacy.

Next consideration was a universal configuration and the physical size, no particular order. I can make nearly anything fit, but some things take a lot more time and work than others. From the .pdf of the pickup unit it is designed to mate to the stock ducting. Bending all the ducts to mate to this (or even mating them to tube) would be time consuming, running flexible tubing right of the box is easy. Even with the Gen II it dumps the heat out in 1 location. In the picture of the heater box on the lower left you can see where I made a tube and routed it to the LH side to keep the driver's side warm.

The defroster ducts (on mine at least) were outside the actual mh house and under the hood. I routed the 2 defroster tubes through the firewall into a plenum and distributed the air from there. I wanted (at least) 4 defroster ducts on the windshield. The plenum I built has 6 openings and a baffle to even the air flow to all the defroster vents. I capped 2 of the openings, 4 seem to work well. Another box to build, but I could choose the location and not be constrained by ducts I had to build to mate with the GM (Vintage Air) ducts. It is time consuming making rectangular duct go around corners, too many bends become restrictive.

The coolant and refrigerant connections with the factory replacement unit should all be on the outside of the fire wall. These are easy connections, I used bulkhead fittings and routed them to the interior connections, also easy. To me ducting is harder than coolant and refrigerant, it sometimes has to have multiple exhausts from a single inlet, is much larger and has to go side to side with not a lot of under dash space.

So much of what I start with is usually trashed I strip the old out and start from scratch. I have found that universal is easier to work with as it is more adaptable. I look at performance, space available and physical size, then start making parts. Fewer and simpler parts (in this case rolling tubing and flexible tubing as opposed to bending rectangular ducts to fit) are a plus. It was the better choice for me but is still a lot of work and not an easy conversion, lots of planning and parts to make, it definitely isn't plug and play by any stretch.
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Old 09-19-2005, 07:57 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chaplain Kent
-Refinish all tambour, wood and flat vertical surfaces with birdseye maple veneer

Congratulations on your purchase. The 20' is a nice size and good looking motorhome.
I am very intersted in how you will be doing the cabinets and tambours. I want to do the same with mine in oak to match the rest of the interior redo I have done. My concern is that it does not end up looking like a box built over the cabinets or that paste on custom van look. I keep trying to think of a way to use veneer and integrate it with the cabinets. I will be folllowing your progress with interest. Thanks for sharing.
Well, I'm talking about wood veneer - basically replacing the thin "oak" veneer that's on all the flat surfaces right now with an antique natural-stained birdseye maple; might even do the ceiling surface too. My friend is an expert cabinet maker extraordinaire, though I see no reason to redo the cabinet/wardrobe configuration in the coach; to me, Airstream made THE best use of available space that I've ever seen in a coach that small!

On the tambour, you can custom order that in virtually ANY wood and finish you want - all it takes is $! My "design goal" inside is loosely an "art deco" look, with fabrics and materials chosen accordingly. Externally, I'm going for a smooth, "machined" look - low profile A/C unit, no awning (I'd rather have an "E-Z Up" canopy anyway-you can place it where you want it), no antennas or roof-mounted "stuff" to break up the sleek lines of the coach. No spare either; in ~750K miles and 33 years of driving, I've had ONE flat; conversely, I've replaced ~3 starters, ~4 alternators, and a half dozen batteries! I want it simple, reliable, reasonably bulletproof AND easy to diagnose, repair, and work on. No satellite dish (I'll settle for a flatscreen TV/DVD), no dishwasher, no washer/dryer, no icemaker, no leveling system, no backup camera - just a nice, simple, sleek, compact but high quality motorhome that can get me from A-B quickly and fairly comfortably, with reasonable fuel economy. . .

I've been "thinkin' on" this project for 7 years now; started thinkin' on a '50's Flxible bus conversion, then a '70's FMC Motorhome, then a '60's Clark Cortez - finally settling in on the '77-'78 Airstream Argosy 20'. I've built 23 vehicles from the ground up, so I've got a pretty good foundation for my first motorhome project, and a $45K budget, so it should come out pretty nice. I'll sub out the work I can't do, or don't FEEL like doing - I've learned that THAT's the way to keep it (relatively) "fun". Stay tuned for progress reports, boys & girls!
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