Author Topic: 1976 American Clipper 821F  (Read 317 times)

Offline rvanarsdale

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1976 American Clipper 821F
« on: December 07, 2016, 04:52:10 PM »

Today, I bought my American Clipper 821F. The odometer reads 1,620, which is obviously a farce. It does have a 440 from the looks of it, equipped with an aftermarket under/overdrive and timing adjustment knob. There's a few caps missing from the roof, a problem exacerbated by the missing ladder. A few of the exterior lights don't turn on. The stripe colors are paint, not the original still in the fiberglass resin. The Onan generator, electric roof a/c with heat and electric/propane water heater look replaced from the nineties. The tv and speaker system were added in the twentyteens. The microwave and radio were replaced by the last owner, who also replaced the flooring and added a backup camera. The fabrics are (I assume) stock corduroy. The body is in excellent shape, and I haven't identified any leaks from the roof or corners. The sink and shower might be a different story.

I have a few plans for my new girl. I'm going to live in it full time for a while, so I need to make some quality-of-life changes to the electrical system. I need a bigger battery bank of deep-cycles or cart batteries. I need a few big solar panels. I need an inverter. I need a ladder for the back! I'll be on the roof a lot. Plus, I'm going to replace the toilet with a composter because I don't think I'll be around many sewer connections. The roof vents are all going to get quiet quiet computer fans. All the windows need stripping and seals, and the door seals are about one hard slam from crumbling. However, the chassis looks gorgeous for a forty-year-old rv. Its lifetime in Southern California has left it remarkably dry.

I'm extremely lucky that the original owners started a binder of all the manuals and warranties. In 1990, this Clipper attended the ninth annual gathering in Morgan Hill, California. It has a badge to prove it, and I wonder what her name was then? In 1996, she belonged to Bob and Carol of Hayward, California. I know, because they were members in the ACOC and have back issues from 1996. The Clipper moved to James and Nancy of Alameda, California, because they have issues from 2007 and 08. It moved into the hands of a "surfer guy," as described by the young veteran and his wife. The Surfer added the speakers and the TV. The vet and his wife owned it in Lake Elsinore, California, but it spent a part of the summer further north getting its guts beautified by their father.
Now it belongs to Robby Van Arsdale, currently of Loma Linda, California, eventually of nowhere. I paid $6200 for her, and that's okay. It might be more than she's worth, but everything seems to work. If you want to know more about me, I've just finished a bicycle trip across the country and I wrote about it. If you want to know more about my Clipper, I'll write more later.
bit.ly/Menelaus


Thanks for the website! I'm looking to join the ACOC, but I need to scrape the fee together first. I just recently made a big purchase. *winks*
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. - Bertrand Russell

Offline Toedtoes

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Re: 1976 American Clipper 821F
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2016, 09:28:03 AM »
Cushions have been redone. The original fabric was 70's herculon orange/brown/blue/green plaid. After all these years, it will disintegrate into dust with a touch.

Mileage is most likely turned over and should read 101620.

Sounds like it was kept up well, but to be sure, check ALL rubber (hoses, belts, tires, etc.), including fuel lines and propane lines - those are areas where good "condition" doesn't always mean OK to use.   Tires can look brand new, but separate on a short drive, fuel lines can look good, but be filled with thousands of little pinprick holes. If you're going to live full-time in it, then checking the propane system for any leaks is definitely worth doing - be sure to check inside the propane components (I had a propane leak within the furnace).

Congratulations! There is a ton of information here on the board. With membership you'll have access to all the technical sections.
'75 American Clipper Dodge 360 821F; ACOC #3754

Offline rvanarsdale

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Re: 1976 American Clipper 821F
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2016, 03:17:41 PM »

Today, I started my renovation. Since I'm not going long distances yet, I'm working on sealing the Clipper against rain. As soon as I can, I want to replace all the fuel lines with metal instead of rubber, but I honestly have no idea how to source the parts.

To start today, I wiped off all the chalky residue and restored some of the integrity of the gel coat with a cleaning wax for fiberglass boats that I found at Walmart. For all the plastic I wiped down with Armor All so hopefully I can get a few more years out of everything. Next is silicone around the joints. My brother and I tackled the non-starting generator. The first thing we tried fixed it and it ran right away: had to skip the low oil pressure switch. I guess I'll need to fix/replace that. Came back to turn the RV around and put it back in the parking spot and it wouldn't turn over. Click click click click. I didn't think it could be the battery, so I was afraid for the starter--all the lights worked, the fancy radio turned on, everything! Turns out the last owner put a marine battery in for the starter, and it only barely turns over the engine. Any real drain and I need a jump. Started up with a jump. Felt like a hero for about two minutes until my story takes a turn and the only branch possible just pops the center front clearance light and snaps the lens.

I didn't want to replace all with LEDs until later--this wasn't budgeted. But I understand ClipperJoe has a source for LED clearance lights that fit our grommets. I'll do 'em one at a time as I find money/they break. It's just heart-rending that she carried these for years until I got a hold of her and then I go and snap one first thing. Anybody else know/have a word of advice?
Much appreciated.


@Toedtoes: The tires are new as of the last owner. The belts feel and look good. The hoses are hell. I'm worried about the fuel system most, first, but I haven't looked for replacements yet. $$$$$$$$$ >:(
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. - Bertrand Russell

Offline rvanarsdale

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Re: 1976 American Clipper 821F
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2017, 08:57:54 AM »
UPDATE 3/26
When trying to clean out the water system, I've had quite an adventure. The hot water heater is from 1990, according to the handbook, so I expected quite a bit of scale on the inside. What I found was something else entirely. First, the drain plug on the outside didn't contain the anode, which frustrated me. When trying to remove the plug, the wing nut disintegrated and I had to resort to vise grips (the best tool God ever created) to remove the plug. I was able to buy a new one at an RV store nearby at a ridiculous markup.

That done, I set to searching the rear of the device for the anode (it's a Suburban). Sure enough, there she was. The opening for access was offset from true by about 1/4 inch too high, so I couldn't actually get any tools inside to remove the old anode. I had to use a pair of metal files to widen the opening because my brother didn't have any tin snips. Once I got the metal out of the way that was blocking my ratchet, (the old anode was in so tight there was actually no using a ratchet) I scrounged up a breaker bar and went ham. The old anode finally came out and all I found was the plug. I doubt that it has been replaced since the tank was new--even the wire through the center of the magnesium/aluminum was rusted away.


At that point, I had the unenviable task of boiling five gallons of vinegar and using a funnel/tube to pour it a liter at a time into the HWH through the back. I didn't really want to dismantle the pump to run the vinegar through that way, so it was a long process, and ended with me accidentally pouring a cup of vinegar into the space beneath my oven to soak into the wood.
Luckily, the vinegar had a visible effect on the openings I could see, though there's no way to know for sure what the interior is like without an ophthalmoscope or other instrument.


After that came the comparatively easy task of draining all the water from the system and running some bleach water to sanitize. While the RV was plugged into shore power, my brother opened the drain and ran the pump until empty, filled with bleach solution, and ran the pump again to fill. He turned around when he heard a pop and saw through the open door in the cabinet that the back of the hot water heater was sparking and flames were licking up from the bottom of the unit.
Crud.
He raced outside and unplugged from shore power before things actually got going, and luckily enough the insulation didn't catch flame.
I disconnected all the wires from the back of the machine and made an important discovery about the switch. Even though it had been fully off, there was nothing between the anode opening and the switch, meaning that when I had filed down the anode opening to get at the anode, I had laid a layer of sheet metal filings on top of the switch. These carried just enough current to heat and melt over time and short the switch.
I feel like an idiot, but I still have my RV.


Maybe I should have anticipated this being a problem. In retrospect, it all looks so obvious, and I feel like a pretty big idiot for not cleaning up the metal shavings. Where did I think they had gone?
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. - Bertrand Russell

Offline rvanarsdale

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Re: 1976 American Clipper 821F
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2017, 05:06:58 AM »


I listened to Clipper Joe's sermons about fuel lines and replaced the bits connecting fuel filters (why two?). The hoses were cracking, so I'm glad I did it. I clamped them down as tight as I could. Also replaced the spark plugs. Things seemed pretty good until I started the engine and warmed her up to drive to the DMV.
Sad story. Standing there with the hood open and the vehicle on, I heard a loud woof and saw flame on the side with the fuel pump. Maybe I loosened the metal line pulling on it to remove the very old rubber on the old fuel filter. Maybe I didn't clamp down the new filter as well as I thought. Maybe I just got unlucky, and it would have caught fire either way.
https://goo.gl/photos/ughstQehJo1TLSgv5


Regardless, the wiring and tubing through the entire lower engine is utterly gone. The doghouse saved the interior, but I won't be able to move this beast until I finish a complete rebuild. I bought her because I wanted a cheap place to live, and now I've just caught a huge expense.
Three fire extinguishers and twenty minutes with a hose. Listen to Clipper Joe, everybody.
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. - Bertrand Russell

Offline Clipper Joe

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Re: 1976 American Clipper 821F
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2017, 03:54:49 PM »
Well Dam,
Sorry To Hear About Your Mishap. :-[
If There Is Anything That We Can Do For You On This Forum,
Please Let Us Know,You Were Very Lucky You Had Doghouse On! :-\ If Have Seen People Who Run
With Them Off Sometimes.
I Have Seen Forklifts On Propane Burn To The Ground. & Melt Tires Also Really Hot.
I Have A 2 1/2 Lb Fire Extinguisher Above Entry Door, & Keep A 5 Lb ABC Behind Driver Seat.
Just Incase. I Have Seen Some Old RV Rigs That Have Installed A Halon System Inside Doghouse.
I Know Those Dodges Do Not Have Much Room.
We Have Our Rally This Weekend, I Will Be Sure To Bring This Up.
These Rigs Are Getting Older And Need TLC.
I  Know You Are Like Me & Do Your Own Work ;)
Keep It Up, And We Know You Will Have This 76 Clipper Back On The Road In No Time.
Send Some More Photos? And Good Luck. Bertrand Russell
Thanks For Photo. Do You Think it Was A Back  Fire From Carb, Or Just Flash On Exhaust Pipe?
Let Me Know If You Need Any Photos, I Have a 440 CI Also. & Have A Dodge Service Manual..

Joe

« Last Edit: May 15, 2017, 04:00:14 PM by Clipper Joe »
1977 Dodge 440  Rear Kitchen
ACOC#3749

Offline Clipper Joe

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Re: 1976 American Clipper 821F
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2017, 04:02:46 PM »
One Last Thing Bert,
Remember Nothing Is Impossible Just
Takes A Little Longer To Complete.. ;)

Joe
1977 Dodge 440  Rear Kitchen
ACOC#3749

Offline rvanarsdale

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Re: 1976 American Clipper 821F
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2017, 12:13:19 AM »
Hey, Joe: there's two minutes for you on YouTube of the inside of the engine. All I've done to it since is pull out some wires and tubes and vacuum up the smell as best I can.
https://youtu.be/gc7xqoZV6Fs
Thanks for the support. I'm not much of a mechanic, but I still want to do my best.
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. - Bertrand Russell

Offline Clipper Joe

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Re: 1976 American Clipper 821F
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2017, 04:21:40 PM »
Hello Bert,

I Saw The YouTube Video, You Have Some Work Ahead. Looks Like Its Do able, Ie; Wiring, You Will Need Smog Amplifier, PVC Valve Looks Like The Wire Harness Is Fried.

I Noticed That Disp, Cap & Spark Plug Wires Needs Replacing. Is This Engine A 360 CI.?
My 440 Has Disp. On Front Right Side. I Bought My Vacumn Lines @ Napa Auto, I Use Silicone Style,
They Are Better With The Heat Generated In Doghouse. 

I Would Try Your Local Wrecking Yard, Get Some Of The Parts, That Burned Up, Find A 1975-1978
B-300 Dodge Van. Also You Can Check Online E-Bay & Mopar Nos Parts. Ill Try & Get Some Contacts For Old Dodge Parts If Needed. Let Us Know How You Make Out.
Joe
1977 Dodge 440  Rear Kitchen
ACOC#3749