Scamp Restoration (Part 1)

A 1981 Scamp Camper Restoration Story.Image

In April, Rosa and I bought a 1981 Scamp from a crab fisherman who used it as sleeping trailer that he pulled behind his RV.  It was stripped down, pretty dirty, but had the basics.  It had 12 volt and 110 wiring, and a hand pump sink.  It’s a fiberglass camper (16 feet), and has been painted silver.  It needed some work, especially on the inside.

Here’s the Scamp when we bought it:

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I started by tearing out the ugly, vinyl tile floor.  I put down a very tough, synthetic wood floor.  It’s hard to scratch, waterproof, and it floats like laminate flooring.  However, it needs to cushion or barrier.  I didn’t even clean up the remaining adhesive from the old vinyl floor–just laid this floor right over that shit.  You know why?  Because it does not matter.

One thing I’ve learned doing this DIY restoration is that someone will always tell you that you really should remove that adhesive, or really should use this chemical, and really should put on this many coats, and really should try ordering this product.  But really, you could spend your whole life screwing around with “really shoulds.”

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The interior shell of the fiberglass is covered with a textured material called ensolite, which was stained, torn, nasty, and had exposed seams.  Instead of using seam tape to cover the seams (what you “really should” do), I caulked, and Rosa and I painted the ensolite using a primer+paint semi-gloss, white enamel.  I used the same paint on the unfinished bunks.

I was told that I “really should” use $50 Zinsser primer before applying enamel–a paint job that would have taken four days and cost over a hundred bucks.  But then I cut a piece of that ensolite and brought it to a guy who worked for Behr paint.  He smiled, shook his head, and handed me a can of thirty-five-dollar primer/paint and said, “Two coats.”

It looks great, stuck just fine, and is tough and easy to clean.

Before:

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After:

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Rosa scrubbed all the ensolite and cabinetry with TSP, and I took the cabinets out so we could give them a new paint job and retro hardware.

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As I switched to exterior work, Rosa bravely took on sewing the new curtains and the upholstery.  Our cat, Scheherazade, was anxious to help.  Or stare blankly into space.

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I fit a cutting board over the counter with the storage box underneath it.

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Then came the electrical.  We wanted the Scamp to run completely off solar, so I built a solar generator unit with a roof-mounted panel.  As you can see, the wiring runs down the exterior so that we can remove and re-position the panel depending on the circumstances.

I built the roof mount myself, and it’s mounted using 3M VHB double-sided tape, which may be even stronger than bolts.  I finished off the mount with a bead of Silicone II caulk.  Once you get over your fear of using tape to mount something that will be exposed to high winds, hot sun, and driving rain, you realize how great it is not to have to drill more holes in the roof of your fiberglass trailer.

The wiring runs into a solar controller, which is necessary to prevent overcharging the battery.  As you can see in the pictures, there’s an inverter (12V to 110) that will allow us to plug in just about anything.  Right now, it’s a cheap 400 watt Cobra, but I’ve ordered a 1100 watt inverter to replace it–it has a voltmeter in it, which will tell me how many volts the battery is throwing out (this can give you an idea of how fully charged the battery is).

The panel is 30 watt, and keeps the battery fully charged.  After researching this stuff a lot, I’ve learned that keeping deep cycle batteries charged up is important.  The more you fully drain the battery, the sooner it wears out.  It’s good for a battery to remain fully charged at all possible times.

Panel on roof:

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The panel mount allows me to tilt the panel or remove it and place it on the ground at a campsite.  3M tape and silicone:

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I mounted the wire clips with 3M VHB tape too:Image

Solar wire goes into a charge controller, deep cycle battery, and power converter.  This runs all lights and outlets:Image

After finishing the exterior work on tires, hubs, and solar, I had to pop out a couple windows that leaked.  The seals go bad, and every so often you have to replace the seals with butyl tape.

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Here you can see the tape before I screwed the window back into the frame.  That compresses the butyl tape at which point you cut off the excess.  Because the Scamp has curved lines, I had to use two layers of tape on one side of the window:Image

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Now a little break before finishing touches.  Stay tuned for Part 2, where the Scamp prepares for the big trip: The American Happiness Tour.Image

I call it the Poor Man’s Airstream.Image

Here are some research links that I have used and found helpful:

Battery:

http://marine-electronics.net/techarticle/battery_faq/b_faq.htm

Solar Panel Mounting:

http://www.camperize.com/solar-panel-mounting.html

http://www.casitaclub.com/forums/topic/8079-solar-install-with-vhb-tape/page__hl__solar%20panel%20mounting

http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/f56/new-roof-mounted-solar-panel-29810.html

Solar and Electrical:

http://cheaprvliving.com/howtohaveelectricity.html

http://cheaprvliving.com/Stealth_Solar.html

http://www.fiberglassrv.com/solar.php

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14 thoughts on “Scamp Restoration (Part 1)

  1. Love your scamp re-do!! I’m looking to purchase a new one but want to customize it according to my liking. How long did it take you to do your revamp?

  2. Great job! Just bought a small camper and am wondering what exactly the flooring product was that you used? Forgive me if I missed it somewhere. Thanks!

  3. Im so glad i found this site. I have a 13′ Scamper and couldn’t decide what to do about repairing the seams. Did you use plain tub caulk? Looks great!

    • Hi Laura,

      I’m glad it helped. Yes, I used standard, white silicon caulk to fill the seams. For the larger gaps, I had to reapply. Obviously, using caulk (as opposed to seam tape) is only advisable if your plan is to paint the ensolite after you caulk.

      Have fun in your 13′.

      Nick

  4. I am confused, Nick – sorry. Did you scrape off all of the “rat fur”, take off the insulation between that and the fiberglass itself and the fiberglass is what you are referring to as ensolite? Did this affect the R-value of the camper? I am looking to buy a used Scamp, but hate the rat fur!! Your Scamp looks awesome, by the way

    • Hi Kathy,

      Sorry I missed this comment until now. The ensolite on our scamp is a foam substance that some call “elephant hide.” It’s glued to the fiberglass, and provides a small R-value. The rat fur is on newer Scamps. I actually have only seen that stuff in pictures, but it’s almost like carpeting, right? I believe that the rat fur is actually attached to a layer of ensolite foam on new models, whereas ours is finished with a thin layer of vinyl.

      Because of that, I was able to paint it.

      Hope that helps, and thanks for the compliments.

      Nick

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