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Old 07-19-2015, 05:37 PM   #1
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Restoration of a very old 1984 dodge ram SMB - Need advice

Hi: I have been dreaming of owning one of these awesome SMBs but at the moment a new one is completely out of the question... Someday I will get a brand spanking new one when I am financially better off than I am now.... For now I am going to attempt to rebuild an older one I bought a few months ago. The "Beast" as I like to call it is ugly and needs some help but I love it and want to get at least 2 cross country trips out of it if I can. I figure if my hubby can share this kind of camping he might get the bug too.... It is a 1984 Dodge RAM Prospector. It is a lovely shade of tan with brown and maroon stripes, with a maroon Penthouse Top.... Very 80s! I love that it is older without the computer and ugly so no one will want to break in. Penthouse top goes up and down flawlessly. It is very rusty near the bottoms but not as bad underneath. The foam in the cushions is of course disintegrating as is some of the fabric. I am currently working on reupholstering the inside sofa and boards for the Penthouse top. I am a fairly handy with tools and a decent carpenter so the inside I can handle but I am not getting a good response from local mechanics. The 3 mechanics who looked it over see an old ugly van and don't share my excitement in rebuilding this thing. One mechanic quoted me $2500 another $3500 but said he didn't want to work on it because he said it was a piece of blankity blank. Another mechanic said he would consider working on it if someone could remove the top. This was to work on the mechanical issues as well as removing rust and repainting. He said he did not feel comfortable working on 2 rust spots welding metal in on top back corners without top removal. This was much more money which is be fine with me but again he said he wouldn't touch it with top on because he didn't understand how they work. The top leaks, but looking at it, I think redoing the gel coat, fixing 2 holes in back corners and replacing some of the boards inside will fix it. It always starts and I think it is worth fixing but I have questions. It needs mechanical work before I can drive it too far so driving to Indiana Sportsmobile is too scary without fixing. So far I have been told it needs a new radiator, brake system, all hoses, turn signals don't work on left side, need to be rewired and steering column needs adjusting. Here is my conundrum. I guess my dumb question about all of this is... before I try to do anymore on this vehicle, does anyone out there in this forum have any advice on how to proceed with my project? I was hoping to get it mechanically sound then drive it to a RV repair guy in Indiana who was going to install a battery bank and generator. There are auto restoration shops out that way paint and rust removal and of course Sportsmobile in Indiana as well if I need help with top of course - if I can get it running better... Does anyone out here know of anyone around Chicago area who might attempt working on my van? If they would work on the mechanical issues great if they would work on rust repair and painting even better.... Any help would be greatly appreciated. I will try to post pictures if I can figure out how to do so.
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Old 07-19-2015, 05:40 PM   #2
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Re: Restoration of a very old 1984 dodge ram SMB - Need advi

Welcome.

A How-To on posting pics.
viewtopic.php?f=10&t=110


Herb
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Old 07-19-2015, 07:40 PM   #3
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Re: Restoration of a very old 1984 dodge ram SMB - Need advi

Sounds like a Donor van, find a non-mechanic shop to pull that top and put it on a Dodge without all the issues. Just my 2
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Old 07-20-2015, 03:22 PM   #4
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Re: Restoration of a very old 1984 dodge ram SMB - Need advi

Wow. Ok, I kind of dismissed getting another van as a donor because of a conversation I had with a man who does hightop van conversions. After a lot of reading about the model of van I have it appears Dodge did not change body styles on the RAM vans from 1979 through 1992 at all. It looks as if van was same length it should line up exactly the same. So is there any advice on what to look for on a donor van besides the obvious - no mechanical issues, same model/size and structurally sound top in good condition free of rust damage etc.....? Still no one around here wants to entertain doing the swap. Do you think Spotsmobile might if I can somehow manage to get it to Sportsmobile in Indiana? This thought scares me half to death but will give it a try..... Anyone know of any shops who might consider helping me out? Anyone know of who to ask for SMB Indiana? Again any help would be greatly appreciated...
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Old 07-20-2015, 07:12 PM   #5
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Re: Restoration of a very old 1984 dodge ram SMB - Need advi

Boywonder, and several others, have swapped tops from one rig to another. Here is his build thread, viewtopic.php?f=24&t=11764&hilit=Popping+my+top&st art=180.
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Old 07-20-2015, 07:27 PM   #6
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Re: Restoration of a very old 1984 dodge ram SMB - Need advi

...The odds are close to zero that SMB will entertain swapping the top to a newer van, and if they would, it's highly likely the labor would be more than the cost of your newer van.

If doing a brake job is a one banana job and rebuilding your engine is a 10 banana job, then swapping tops is about a 7 or 8 banana job as far as level of difficulty goes.

All that said, there are a few of us here who have done it......all it takes is a come-along, a few wrenches and screwdrivers, and about 3 burly friends.

Then what do you do with the donor van?
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Old 07-21-2015, 07:50 AM   #7
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Re: Restoration of a very old 1984 dodge ram SMB - Need advi

Quote:
Originally Posted by boywonder
Then what do you do with the donor van?
Sell it to pntyrmvr, it's a Dodge after all!
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Old 07-21-2015, 10:43 AM   #8
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Re: Restoration of a very old 1984 dodge ram SMB - Need advi

this all looks like a buzzkillin' bundle of horrible frustration to me... and, yes, for the record, I have rebuilt a van (on further thought, I never stop rebuilding my van). You are apparently in the Illinois/Indiana region... chockablock with automotive wunderkinds. If the mechanic says he don't wanna work on it, then I would take that to mean I should quietly walk away from it.

Maybe if you devoted the time/effort/frustration that this would require to gathering more financial means, you could hold out a bit and get a ready-to-roll rig.

We all understand and share the excitement of van "projects", but it seems that you are starting underwater.

All that said...good luck and we're rooting' for ya
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Old 07-21-2015, 11:11 AM   #9
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Re: Restoration of a very old 1984 dodge ram SMB - Need advi

Quote:
Originally Posted by twogone
We all understand and share the excitement of van "projects", but it seems that you are starting underwater.

All that said...good luck and we're rooting' for ya
What he said^^^

I would start by making a list of all the things it needs and how much its going to cost to fix. It looks like you're willing to spend $2,500-$3,500 on repairing rust/paint, perhaps pay a mechanic to fix the radiator, brakes, wiring, and steering ($1,500?), and also pay an RV shop to install a generator ($2,000-$3,000?). With all of those expenses, you could probably find a cleaner van to start with that's a little more mechanically sound. Projects are fun until months go by and you still haven't been able to take your van out to go camping because you don't have confidence in taking it much further than around the block.

I've seem some clean looking Dodge SMB's (here in CA) listed on Craigslist for about the cost that I'm "guestimating" for your repairs. Of course that means you would have to have those monies right now to purchase which may or may not be the case. If buying a different SMB is a possibility, spread your search to a region or nationally. If you find one a few states away, you could make it a camping trip on the way home.
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Old 07-22-2015, 12:41 PM   #10
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Re: Restoration of a very old 1984 dodge ram SMB - Need advi

Thank you for the posts! I am laughing because I am a person who is incapable of doing anything the easy way. Whenever I see something I like, I need to make it the way I like it, from scratch. It started a few years ago when I met an adorable older couple who had a fancy SMB at a campground. It was incredible! They mentioned They paid over $150,000.... It had everything.... A luxurious little house on wheels, with a pop up top for bringing the grandkids with camping if you wanted to... When I got home I couldn't get it out of my mind. When I am in my 60s I am going to get one... Today, I want one without all the bells and whistles. I don't need a washer/dryer, tv, satelilte, electric lifts etc.... I have looked at a few used ones but I am always frustrated with the layout. Somehow I see better ways to maximize storage.... I have called on a few that were for sale across the country but usually they have been sold quicker than I can figure out travel plans to look at them. I am that stubborn and pigheaded enough I am proceeding this direction regardless of how difficult. I am hoping it is a 7 banana project but prepared for a 12 and excited none the less. I have already enlisted several big burly friends to help me when the time comes to help with the swap. Besides Boywonder did anyone else document a top swap?
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