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Old 04-30-2017, 08:42 PM   #1
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Default Gandalf the Roadtrek

This thread will be dedicated to the build of my 1998 Roadtrek Versatile 200.

My wife, Alfie (12lbs. Chihuahua) and I are planning the following trips for now:

- Summer 2017: 3 weeks in Newfoundland (trial run)
- Summer 2018: Go across Canada and Yukon
- Summer 2019: Start going south... then keep going south... until we don't feel like it anymore. The objective is to eventually reach Ushuaia.
- Someday: Ship to Europe and keep going...

You can also read my intro thread to get a little more background: intro thread link.

Here's what I need to do:

- I'm not looking to convert it to 4WD (I can't say I'm not tempted though... :drool. I don't think it's necessary for what we want to do. Others will agree (check out this conversation as an example). I do plan on making sure I don't get stuck too often and that it's easy to get myself out of trouble.
- We like the idea of slow travel.
- I don't want to build this thing forever. It's gotta be at least almost done by 'Nov 2017.
- I want this vehicle to be reliable.
- I want to be able to boondock anywhere... But we'd rather pay a minimal fee to be in nature than have free Wal-Mart parking lot camping.

The build

(I will update this section with links as the build progresses.)

- Add ground clearance in the suspension (currently discussing with Weldtec).
- New tires for ground clearance that can be deflated for reasonnable beach driving.
- Powder-coated stock steel wheels.
- Solar panel with corresponding electrical system.
- Steel front bumper with winch and recovery points.
- Steel rear bumper with spare tire mount and extra fuel.
- Roof rack for surf and SUP boards (for Baja per bucket list).
- Mount for MaxTrax or equivalent.
- Coat running boards with bedliner.

That's about it. The rest should be minor details.

The challenge

- Limited availability of parts for the 1996-2003 2WD Chevy Express (I wish I had found a Ford... but I love this one).

- The whole camper part is a big Fiberglass bubble. This means:
  • There's no gutters to install the standard roof racks for the surf board,
  • There's no doors in the back so no hinges to install an Aluminess bumper.
This means the whole storage system will have to be custom. For now, and this may seem over the top (pun intended), but this is my inspiration:

(Photo courtesy of my friend VirtualVanner)

- I don't have a garage (we sold the house and downsized to a condo) so I have to work at my friend's (to whom I lent ALL my tools long term... he owes me), in my dad's driveway or have the work done by somebody else (thankfully it's already in great condition).

Thanks for following along or if you're a fan of Instagram you can find me at @matsirois .

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Old 05-02-2017, 01:54 AM   #2
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It sure sounds like your going to be busy with all those plans, we did the Newfoundland trip last year, and it was truly amazing, probably one of our best trips ever in our 1997 Roadtrek, slept on the ocean almost evry night, the people were some of the friendliest we ever met, They say the best time to go is the end July and the beginning of August, lots of festivals, and great weather too, please show some pics of your van and the upgrades your planning, we always like to see other handy work and new ideas,,,, good luck,,,,,
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Old 05-05-2017, 05:10 PM   #3
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First quick question:

Looking at my sewer drain it seems rigged:

Does anybody have a photo of what it's supposed to look like from the factory?
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Old 05-05-2017, 11:18 PM   #4
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Hi Matt. Try these pictures for a factory drain example. Regards!
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Old 05-08-2017, 03:27 PM   #5
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Thanks gklugie!

I think mine is pretty stock except for the hinge being bent. Easy fix!

Also, i think I have an extra hose coming from a tank on the passenger side which happens to be weeping. I'm not too worried as I think it's the fresh water tank but I still need to get it fixed. I'm also wondering why I can't see it in gklugie's picture.

So saturday I spent some time removing the stripping decals at the meeting point between the white at the top and the blue part painted on the rocker panels. This was my priority because I might be bringing it soon to a supplier to have the line-x painted on the bottom.

Here it is after a quick wash to make sure I wasn't scratching with a bunch of sand and dust ("Before" picture):

Here's the tools I used:

I thought it would be more difficult but the decals came off pretty quickly. All i needed was to heat up the glue a little bit and it would pull off. I set the heat gun about 10" from the surface and at low heat/fan level. Any more heat would make the decals melt and break and making the job more difficult.

The plastic razor blades were useful but I only ended up using one. I'll probably end up using 2-3 more.

So it ended up taking about 2 hours to remove the bottom decals. I'll post an "after" picture once I finished the ones in the middle of the body.
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Old 05-15-2017, 03:09 PM   #6
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Just a quick update on my progress.

I took Friday off to work on the van because it was supposed to be a beautiful day. It's been raining a lot around here lately including flooding that we've never seen in some neighborhoods. It's a good thing I did because it rained Saturday and Sunday.

Decal removal

I continued working on removing the decals. It was a very boring day. I only managed to removed the dried on glue between the blue rocker panels and the white of the body. Ugh...

So I placed an order for 2! Wizzy Wheels on Amazon. I should be receiving them tomorrow. I hope this works... There's only so many hours I can do this!

A/C inspection

I also took a bit of time to inspect the A/C. As the previous owner said, it really doesn't seem to work. The Vent low and high positions do not work which, in itself isn't too bad. But the A/C modes also do not seem to work. The unit only seemed to be pulling in the fresh air from outside. In other words, the fan was working but the refrigeration system didn't seem to be working. Finally, the thermostat was set at the lowest and it never turned off.

So I started researching. Most of my research is based on this really good thread. I tried to find the LG LW8016ER but, according to LG Canada, it can only be ordered from an installer.

It's not even available on (even if it's available on I tried to find other manufacturers and models but this seems to be the only one that fits.

I left a message at my local authorized RT parts retailer and I'm waiting for their reply. To be honest I'm not expecting much for a 20 year old RV/part. We'll see.

I also contacted a few installers that might help me.

The last resort is to go buy it at Home Depot in Plattsburgh, NY or order it from and have it delivered at Free Port at the border.

Any other Canadians have this issue with their A/C?

Refrigerator parts

I also took a bit of time to order parts for my RM2453 Dometic fridge. It works fine but some of the plastic is broken. So I placed an order for my Flap freezer door (#14, 2932650019) because the side tab broke as well as the Right Spring Casing (#16A, 2002236004). The plastic seems to have broken because it is fairly dried up so I also ordered the Left Spring Casing (#16B, 2002236012).

I also ordered a Shelf door because it's held together by duct tape (#11, 2932576016).

I ordered all these parts from and I'll let you know how it goes.

Suspension and roof rack

It's not huge progress for a whole weekend but my "suppliers" weren't available this week.

My Suspension guy was at the ExpoOverland for the weekend.

And my contact at the workshop for the roof rack was out of the office for the week.

This week should pick up! I can't wait to get the ball really rolling!
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Old 05-29-2017, 05:03 PM   #7
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I replaced my AC did this weekend on my 1998 Versatile 200 RT.

As noted previously, I had a really hard time finding the correct AC. It has to be a LG LW8016ER because of the dimensions (the height is the critical measurement). I ended up buying it from as did not have it. The added difficulty was that does not ship to Canada so I had to ship it to Freeport Forwarding which is right next to the US/Canada border. The process was simple. I declared my purchase and paid my taxes as a good citizen and it was easy and painless. Going on a Wednesday afternoon was a great call as I had no line-ups!

So Saturday morning, I went to my parents and started the job with my Dad. You could do most things alone but removing and lifting the AC from the roof is definitely a 2 person job. Here's all the steps. Let me know if you have any questions:

Old A/C removal:
  • Unplug the A/C from inside the rear driver side cabinet.
  • Take off the 4 screws holding the cover in place.
  • Disconnect the wiring for the clearance lights.
  • Remove the top cover.
  • Drill out the rivets holding the rear grill in place and remove it.
  • Remove the panel below the A/C.
  • Remove the drip tray below the A/C. Mine was held in place with odd hardware. I doubt it's what was there at the factory because it was pretty beat up so I can't give you guidance. The tube at the back is held by a collar.
  • Remove the screws holding the A/C in place.
    They're inside the cabinets. One on each side and are pretty hard to find. Note that they are at an angle. We didn't see them until we force the AC out so they don't hold very much.
  • Cut as much of the silicone around the A/C as possible.
    There's a lot! It might have been painted over in black for cosmetic reasons.
  • Now's the fun part: removing the A/C. Just pull it out with someone else's help.
  • Remove the baffles on the rear sides of the old A/C unit.
This is what it will look like after the old AC is removed:

  • Remove all the old silicone and clean up the compartment.
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Old 05-29-2017, 05:41 PM   #8
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New AC installation:

Below, you'll find how I did it. You might change up some things but this should give you a good idea. I decided to add aluminum angles to help block the space on the top and sides. It was also a good way to attach the A/C to the cabinets (there's now 6 screws holding it in place properly instead of 2 screws barely holding on). I put a 3/4" angle on top and 1" angles on the sides.
I suggest using Stainless steel hardware.
I used GE Silicone II clear silicone.
  • Add a hole for the new A/C's bigger plug. The plug is too big (with an integrated breaker) to fit in the original hole of the cabinet. I ended up drilling a 2-1/8" hole with a hole saw at the bottom of the cabinet.
  • Remove the bracket on top of the new A/C. It's held in place with 3 screws.
  • Lift the A/C and put it more or less in place.
  • Pass the cord through the hole.
  • Place the A/C in the hole for final fitting (centered and not to inwards as to prevent the cabinet doors from opening).
  • Cut the angles to size and, if necessary, file them down at the bottom for proper fitment.
    Because of the rib and screw at the bottom of the A/C interfering with the angle, I decided to just grind out the angle to allow the angle to fit properly. Also, looking back, I would have made the side angles go as high as the top angles to help block the holes (in other words, 3/4" higher than the top of the A/C).
  • At your work bench, drill three holes in each of the angles on the side that will be in contact with the A/C. (on each end at about 2" from the edge and one in the center).
    I wanted #8 screws to pass through these holes in the angles and grab onto the A/C's housing so I used a 5/32" bit.
  • Drill 2 holes on each of the angles on the side that will be in contact with the perimeter of the hole.
    I wanted #6 screws to pass through these holes in the angles and grab onto the wood from the cabinet so I used a 9/64" bit. Make sure to drill them closer to the edge as the opening of the original A/C is a bit wider.
  • With the A/C in place, you can install the top bracket by driving some #8 x 1/2" self-tapping screws. Put some silicone between the surfaces.
  • Put the side angle irons in place and mark their location with a Sharpie.
  • Pull out the A/C and attach the side angles in place. You can turn the A/C from one side to the other without removing it from the roof. Make sure you put some silicone between both surfaces.
  • Using the same #8 x 1/2" self tapping screws, re-install the rear baffles on each side of the rear of the A/C unit.
  • Push the A/C in place and find the location where you want to place foam underneath the unit to prevent vibration noise while driving.
    I used the thin foam provided with the A/C but it was kinda flimsy. I placed it below the two feet on the front of the A/C and below the rear baffles.
  • Drill the fiberglass with the same bit as you used for the side of the angles that will be mounted to the opening.
    Since I wanted #6 screws to pass through these holes in the angles and the fiberglass to grab onto the wood from the cabinet I used the same 9/64" bit. Careful not to drill into the cabinets.
  • Pull out the A/C back out and apply the silicone on the mating surfaces.
    Make sure to put a big bead on the bottom of the tray and then some silicone on all the aluminum angles that were added.
  • Push the A/C back in place firmly and spread the silicone around nicely. Don't be stingy on the silicone!
    If you need to do some clean-up, use brake cleaner fluid.
  • Drive your screws into the 6 holes you prepared.
    I used #6 x 1" SS screws.
  • Add silicone wherever you think it might be necessary.
The new AC in place:

From the inside:

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Old 05-29-2017, 05:51 PM   #9
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Closing up the outside
  • Put the grill in place and attach it with rivets.
    I think it's about 1/8" dia. x 1/4" long.
  • Connect the clearance light wiring.
  • Place the cover on top and screw in the 4 screws.
That's it!

Since my drip tray is in pretty poor condition (cracks, weird white sealing material, black caulking, etc...) I will patch it up with fiberglass and finish the inside next weekend.

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Old 05-29-2017, 06:00 PM   #10
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I just wanted to share this picture courtesy of this Expedition Overland article:

It's kind of the evil twin of my idea because my roof rack will be very similar!

We will call it the Dark Lord Sauron... but only behind it's back...

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