Replacing the exterior woodgrain accent

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Replacing the old hatches brightened things up, also. Although the original hatches are still available, Theyre no longer available in dark brown. We matched one of the original parts with an aerosol we found at Lowe’s. We bought all 3 new hatches from RVs Plus online.  Total investment for the hatches, paint, and sealer was about $60.

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imageHere’s one thing we did to brighten up the look of our camper. Not too difficult, but a bit tedious and time-consuming. We think it was well worth the effort and expense. There are other ways to approach this that certainly look good, as well, but we’re shooting for the original 1973 look to go with our old truck.  Any thoughts and opinions are welcome! :)

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As it looked the day we bought it. The original woodgrain was still there, but in bad shape, hiding under a couple different coats of paint.
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If you want to replicate the original faux wood, 3M DiNoc is the only way to go. In my opinion, anyway. This is what it had originally, and what was used on all of the old station wagons in the 60’s and 70’s. It won’t shrink. The adhesive sticks like death, and it is supposed to have a 5 year lifespan outdoors, without any maintenance. indefinite life indoors, or if protected. The look-alike shelf paper (Con-Tact paper) you can buy for a fraction of the cost will look ok. . .for a short time, until it sits in the sun. It will shrink, peel, and fade. Don’t waste your time, effort, or hard-earned dollars.
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I was too busy with a heat gun, scraper, steel wool, and goo-gone to take pictures of the blue removal. It can be done, but be prepared to use a lot of elbow grease. Rubber gloves are highly recommended. And patience. Lots of patience. If your surface had been previously stripped of the woodgrain + properly prepped and painted, you might get away with just a thorough cleaning without stripping down to the gelcoat. Be sure to use something like denatured alcohol to scrub the surface. You don’t want to run the risk of poor adhesion with your expensive DiNoc.
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Here’s the cleaned surface, ready for the fun to begin! I love the grease pencil markings left by the Starcraft inspector in 1973. I was careful not to wash them away. You can also see the area where the original American Road decal once was.

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A sidenote, here. After 40+ years, the screws holding the lamps to the body were rusted and rotten. Every single one had the head break off while attempting to remove it. I discovered that I could heat the stub with my soldering iron and carefully grab it with vise grips. Twisting the broken screw back and forth, it broke free and I was able to back the remains out. This worked on 7 out of 8. I had to drill one out. Without the heat, they wouldn’t budge. They just twisted and broke off closer to the surface.

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When Michelle wasn’t busy taking pictures, she was helping hold the new woodgrain transfer up against the surface. This really is easier with 2 people. This stuff sticks like crazy, so you want to get it right the first time. DO NOT REMOVE THE PROTECTIVE BACKING FROM THE WOODGRAIN, YET! We positioned the transfer which had been cut to 9 1/4″ in width, in place on the prepped surface, allowing extra material at each end. This gets trimmed later. We used some masking tape to assist in holding the transfer in place. Once we were happy with the positioning, I carefully started peeling the backing at one end, while using my other hand as a squeegee to press the transfer in place. If you work it right, you shouldn’t get air bubbles or wrinkles. A cooler day without a hot surface will make this much easier. I might also mention that the 3M primer is not mandatory, but at the price of this stuff, I didn’t want to risk an adhesion problem. Without the primer, this is a little more forgiving to apply. If you haven’t squeegeed it down, you should be able to lift it back off and reposition, if needed. With the primer, it sticks like mad the first time. no room for errors. But you won’t worry about it flying off while driving down the road. If you have never done anything like this before, take some scraps of the DiNoc and practice a bit to get a feel for how it works. Some people have used a slightly soapy water solution to apply the transfer with. It allows more time for positioning. I prefer the dry method, but do whatever you’re most comfortable with.

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Well, what do you think? :)

6 thoughts on “Replacing the exterior woodgrain accent”

  1. Oh my, get a load of that T-Bird in the garage. Can you call that a garage? How many projects are going on in there?

    One last thing; I’m not an expert and can say this will be the first time for me to attempt this transformation and immediate upgrade, back to the wood grain. From start to finish, on just one side of camper, how long did it take? Include prep time please.

    1. You must mean the garage that doubles as a catch-all garbage dump.
      Room for 7 cars if empty. Might get 3 in there right now.

      I think that with prep time, which is 90% of the job, this took us a solid day to do one side.

  2. Well that is good to know. If I promise to not tell your wife, what financial budget should I plan for on this wood trim? Would it make sense to buy more product up front than for the exterior? I’d like to fix the inside of the back door too. There are several scars and scratches from muddy boots, fishing poles and a few anxious dogs. What are your recommendations there?

  3. Love your website. I am the original owner of an American Road camper – still have it! I didn’t realize that others have the same emotional attachment to their camper.
    I will get the information to register and send pictures.
    My outside wood grain trim is not looking so new – wondering if you could tell me where to purchase the 3M DiNoc? I found it on a 3M site, but it’s sold in 4′ x 164′ rolls – would be nice to find it in shorter rolls.
    Thanks so much – this will become my favorite site!!!
    Carol

    1. Hi, Carol!
      Welcome to the site! Thank you for your kind words. We are definitely having fun with our camper, with the site, but the very best part of the process has been meeting some terrific people. :-) Most of us are pretty passionate about our campers. After all, there’s nothing out there like them, and if you are fortunate enough to have one, you’re part of a pretty exclusive bunch. A few of us have been trying to get an idea of how many campers still exist. Including your camper, I can come up with 23. Of course there has to be more of them out there, but I will stick my neck out and say that there are not too many more. 80-100 would be about 10% of the units originally built. I think that’s a very optimistic number. I’m thinking more like 50-ish.

      I apologize that I didn’t get back to you right away regarding the DiNoc. Metro is the place we bought ours. There are a few different vendors, but we had a good experience with Metro Restyling. It expensive stuff, but we have no regrets. If you want to keep the original look like we did, you can’t beat it.

      I’ve rambled on enough. PLEASE send pictures and info on your camper. We’d love to hear all about it. I can’t think
      Of any other owners who’ve had their camper since it was new! How cool is that? Please write up a story if you don’t mind and we’ll create a page for you.
      Thanks again for writing, Carol.

      Best regards,
      Tony & Michelle Tabacchi
      americanroadcamper.com

  4. Found my own answer – found the 3M DiNoc in 15″ and whatever length rolls you want at Metro Restyling. Hope this info helps someone else out!

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