While the chassis was gone on its welding and powdercoating improvement journey, the egg was “up on blocks”, and its time for the body work.
We went out to get our supplies, and learning from the last stage, to do preliminary research on the cost of painting the egg after it was all prepared. Insert parade of idiots and outrageous quotes here, and cut to a couple beneficent guys standing in stores with us giving us crucial instructions, and one angel of a guy at a body shop who broke down every stage of what we needed to do.
We had to clean it all with a scotchbrite pad and comet. Giving it this “mechanical scratch” is enough for the paint to bond. For our repair patches, we had to build up the bondo and sand it down, sanding and refining with a primer/filler, arriving at a grit of 4-600! That sounded insanely fine to me, coming from woodworking, but for automotive finishes, 400 grit is not fine enough.
Fiberglass is an unusual animal, and it turns out it’s not very well liked in the automotive world. Too finicky. It shrinks and holds paint differently, and it doesn’t bond with bondo (automotive filler) that same way. Over the fiber, there’s a gel coat that ages with exposure and gets dull, like old boats do. He suggested that we could dispense with painting it and just restore the original surface by buffing out the gel coat. “To preserve the original colours because they were so nice?” I asked. No way was I doing all that work for 1970’s orange.
We razored off all the decals, took out the windows, and H.W. scrubbed it all. The biggest issue besides the crushed corner and the multitudinous tiny holes and cracks was the window sized chunk missing from the side, that I’d patched with plywood on the inside. Now it was time to address the outside. First we had to cover the entire area and overlap onto the main shell with resin and silk. As we were told, it could not be avoided, or the seams would crack with expansion and contraction in the heat.
I thought the fiberglass was behind me, but alas, we had to break out the resin and silk again. It was a whole ‘nother world, doing it with four hands. Four hands are the minimum number of hands required, in fact, for fiberglass work. One could almost call it easy, doing it together.
Likewise we patched the crushed corner hole on the outside with silk. For all the cracks and screw hole patching we were doing, we had to use special fiberglass body filler. It’s impregnated with lots of teensy glass fibers. It’s like regular bondo, only thicker and heavier, harder to sand, less workable and stiffer to apply.
On the two places we patched first with silk and resin, we could use regular automotive filler, softer and more easily sanded. So we set out to build up the layers to fill the gaping hole on the side of the camper and blend it out flat with the body.
Both types of bondo were two part epoxies, toxic, stinking, powerfully adherent, and turning on you at a moment’s notice. This was no fun, and I was really bummed. This was no eco-reno. It started out so well, and now, energy intensive and toxic powdercoating and off gassing epoxies, ugh. I freaked out a bit, and H.W. talked me down, saying we are keeping this trailer out of the landfill, and avoiding more flagrant consumption by recycling, and it’s fiberglass, so we have to work with fiberglass. Grumble grumble.
It took approx. 10x as many layers (and an extra quart) of bondo as I thought to build up that hole in the side. The first several coats went great and predictably, but then as the layers got finer, it got more frustrating, and it required ever more fine layers of fill. Each time I thought it was done we primed it and then sanded it with the absurdly fine 400 paper and then a few flaws or low spots showed up that needed another swipe.
One morning I finally finished while H.W. was away. I wrestled it back onto the chassis, bolted it down with shiny new bolts, hitched it up, all ready to take to the body shop for painting. I pulled into the sun, and immediately saw with horror the awful marbling in the big patch on the side. That slant of light set us back another 3 days and six attacks of bondo and sanding. I parked it at the revealing angle in the sun and tackled it again. And again and again and again and again.
Finally, we were done, and on a lovely day we drove it out to drop it off for a painting. It was covered with primer spots like a pox, but it was sanded, clean, and masked off.