Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Rebuilding the Amerigo–Call me Fix-it Felix!

Well, that’s two movie references so far, wonder how long before I run out of puns as I continue my work on rebuild the Going MerrySmile


Since my last update, the camper pretty much sat on the back of the truck, under a tree in my drive way through pretty much all of the winter.   Alot of the winter months involved me having trouble doing little else on my weekends except sleeping, between work stress, holidays, and not getting enough sleep week in and week out, the poor Amerigo sat untouched until this month.

I’ve done more in the past month than I had in the past five.

So, to start off where I left off, I continued into my demolition of the cabinets and wall paneling on the passenger side of the camper. 

After I finally got the stage where I could remove the propane compartment and the cabinet housing the fridge, I made my first rot discovery.

In this instance, it wasn’t so much as finding the rot, as it was finding the rot that the previous owner had found and had tried to fix without a whole lot of success. 

I quite literally was able to grab hand fulls of the plywood and pull it out like a handful of potato chips. 

The patched in piece of 2x4?   Came off in my hand where it had been epoxied in place.   So, time to just get rid of the whole beam and replace it with a new one Smile.

Out with the old….


In with the new Smile



Much thanks to my neighbor, Robert, who actually did the removal and reinstallation of the wing. This was a late sunday find and with it all unbuttoned and rain in the forecast, it was a race against the devil to get it done and closed back up in time for the weather to go to pot again.

One thing we did discover was when the Amerigo was built, they were using longer than eight foot sheets of plywood to build it. 

I took a page from the KIT’s design as a solution.  

The wing is now made of two sandwiched and glued (With 3M 5200), sheets of 5/8” plywood.  The seams are staggered so that it makes one solid sheet and givesi the necessary rigidity needed.  I will likely add a second sheet onto the driver’s side as well to give both sides some extra durability. 



Sorry for the mess, but I’m running of places to stick bibs and bobs as they come off the camper, so, its kind of a migrating mess in the Amerigo right now. 

Since the corner wood was rotten as well, I took this opportunity to properly rebuild the front corner (will do the same on the other side as needed) using 2x6’s in the lower area where the jack attaches and extending the loading all the way to the top beam using added in 2x4s to make the frame strong enough to handle corner jacks. 




I did the same in the rear where my custom rear brackets will attach, to carry the load through the main frame (I still need to cut and install the 2x4’s that go above it). 



Demolition is coming along well, other than I have an utter hatred of the double cresent security screws that the entire camper is put together with


Other than the wing, I haven’t found any major rot, however, now that I am digging into the cabover, I’m finding instead of rot, evidence that the camper was either:

A.) Assembled starting on a Friday and finished on a Monday

B.) At some point had to have some repairs done during warranty at a dealership that didn’t know what they were doing. 


First off, looking at WagoneerTruckster’s ‘74 during their remodel and looking at my ‘75 which is the exactly same model, one year newer, its obvious that Gardner Industries started cutting ALOT of corners.   There’s several areas where less framing is present, in the case of the cabover, pieces of framing are missing all together.

Wagonqueen Truckster’s 74’ factory framing (From her blog, Amerigo Truck Camper Restoration - Uh oh, What did you do?)


75’ Amerigo Factory Framing, notice the difference?


On the driver’s side, there are 2x2s that are installed that go all the way out to the edge of the cabover, tapered to fit the curvature of the nose cap.  The wall paneling on this side is attached to these 2x2s and stops flush at the cabover floor.  

The window is framed with a different breed of wood and is assembled using the wide gauge staples that were common in alot of other truck camper brands during that era.  No where else in the frame of the Amerigo are these staples present, just this one windows frame out (Which I plan to tear out most of and redo). 


On the Passenger side, the extra 2x2s are not present and there’s no tapered piece at the front corner, instead the paneling on this side goes all the way down to the bottom of the frame. 



Then, don’t get me started on the bed platform design…… 

Really, who thought hanging a small piece of paneling from the edge of the unsupported 2x2 that makes up the front frame for the bed floor to another piece of paneling attached to the underside of the window shelf was a good structural idea?!

Again, there’s major differences in the two model years, in Wagonqueen’s unit, the fiberglass is bare, and its easy for them to add additional framing underneath the existing bed frame.  As you can see in the photo below, in mine they decided to spray in expanding foam and glass in bits of plywood here and there.


There really isn’t any room on the underside to add more framing to properly stiffen the bed frame, so the end solution is going to be to add additional 2x4s/2x2s to the side wall frames, then build a second 2x2/2x4 based bed frame that will go on top of the existing one, and stiffen and sandwich the two together, make the bed platform 3” thick instead of 1 1/2 “ thick. 

It will also allow me to extend the bed frame all the way up under the window shelf like it should have been, and extend back an additional several inches inwards into the camper to make it possible to fit a queen size mattress in the cabover.

My plan is to fully enclose the cabover area, with just a small entry spot near the fridge.   I haven’t decided on if we want to make a curtain or some kind of hatch for this, and that will likely be something added later, for now, it will simply be an opening just a little wider than the fully opened fridge door. 

The fridge is being shifted back several inches, and in the process shortening the dinette some, to both center the fridge on the access door, and to center its fins beneath the roof vent, both of which were heavily off set before. 


And, now you’re up to date Smile.  


  1. Matt,

    I swear the number crunchers are the ban of society. I don't begrudge making profit, I am a capitalist and believe in making profit from my work but when they do so knowing how bad the product can turn out it frosts me. Consider the Montana, the best seller for a decade, so what do they do, bank on people buying even after they reduce quality and cut corners... profit goes up but HOPEFULLY people never buy Keystone again and they go out of business so a company that does believe in selling quality can take over.

    I wish, I hope the rest of your rebuild goes well!

    Have a great holiday!


    1. This thing as really got the flavor of budget cutting to survive the fuel embargoes. You go from one area that was built with an eye for craftsmanship, to another that's slapdash as all hell, glue missing, sealant missing, and so on.