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John and Mandi

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Pop Until You Drop, Our Rear Window Swap

Jul 5, 2014
by John

Several weeks ago we went junkyarding to see what rusty gold we could score. We were on the hunt for some bumpers since we will be changing our Reunels out for Aluminess and would like to have some in betweeners. We were also hoping to come across a spare tire winch and possibly a hitch. As luck would have it the first van we happened upon during our dust bowl perusing had a set of pop out rear windows. In less than 5 seconds we were taking them out. We assumed that they would fit and we just wanted them. That day also had us scoring a spare tire winch and a rear bumper. The front bumpers we tried to take off had stripped bolts, a second trip the next weekend ended in a bloody hand and still no front bumper.

This 4th of July long weekend finally had us getting around to cleaning up the doors, side and rear, so we decided to go ahead and tackle the rear window install. We figured this should be a piece of cake since we wouldn't need to cut any holes. The theme, so it seems, is that everything is going to take much longer than we think... obviously. We are also finding that since our van has had several lives, each a bit different, many things need a wee bit of attention. To our surprise, while rooting around in the passenger rear door, I found the rear door automatic lock switch. We plugged it in and it worked, awesome! Who knows if we'll use it but it was fun finding it as opposed to the other suspect and random bits we unleashed from those dark crevices.

Rear door automatic lock switch found hiding in a hole

Rear door automatic lock switch found hiding in a hole

We decided to start with removing the driver rear window first and soon found a large mess of butyl and some sort of rubber sealant. Removing butyl is fairly straight forward, acetone and elbow grease, but we were having trouble with the rubber. An hour was spent with plastic scrappers, a razor blade, cursing, and a lot of persistence. I gave up at some point while Mandi continued fighting it and I decided to get a start on the passenger rear window just assuming it would be the same. About 10 minutes later I was completely finished. It was installed with just butyl so it was as easy as we expected. We continued to take turns working over the driver side until we finally got all of that rubber crap off. Two hours later we were ready to move to the next step.

There are a few things we are omitting as we try to keep the end result a secret, this will fail as we are horrible at trying to make things a surprise, but just know that we spent several more hours "working on the van" before we got back to the window install. As in most of the things we have and will be doing we used the advice on the sportsmobile forum. There is a great write up about how to remove and install the rear windows. Before removing our windows we decided to use RVT instead of butyl to seal them so hopefully one day someone, probably us, won't be cussing about that decision.

Driver's rear window with the rubber sealent of death

Driver's rear window with the rubber sealent of death

All clean and ready for some new old pop out windows

All clean and ready for some new old pop out windows

We thought it too... all that for an inch and a half

We thought it too... all that for an inch and a half

It's great to get that little crack for some much needed additional ventilation. We normally have the doors wide open while we work on the van, it's in the high 90s already, but for those times we can't these should come in handy. We mostly think we'll use them while stealth camping since the pop top has so many windows. We'll be adding shelving across the back of the van so they may become difficult to access but only time will tell if we end up actually using them or not. We kind of dig the rusty bits on them, adds a bit of recycled charm.

We ended up fizzling out on Sunday after working on the van both Friday and Saturday. We did remove some random covers and such that are in the way of other things we need to get to. Our POR-15 is still in transit so the floor is having to wait until it arrives. Right now, the van is in worse shape than when we bought it. Wires, covers, knobs... junk just hanging and missing everywhere. It's a bit of a puzzle sorting all of this out. Our only real plan was what layout we thought we wanted. That changed during the first of many two hour sessions of just sitting in the van staring at our 9ish foot by 6ish foot dwelling. Mandi, being the star she is, brought back a previously scrapped couch idea and that's what we settled on. Our Bigfoot and Pleasure-Way had couches and it's clear, we are definitely couch people.

We'll gather up my scribblings and Mandi's mostly to scale renderings and post them some time to share what our floorplan is. It isn't precise as we are shooting from the hip and will be making adjustments as needed. We are scavenging the base design from an actual Sportsmobile layout so we have a strong guideline to follow. Right now we've been mostly weekend warriors but it's probably time to start putting in some hours in the evenings too. We are planning on attending Overland Expo East the begining of October so it'd be nice if we could take our van.


Say what? (2)
Oct 24, 2014 at 11:58 AM
Nice work guys. Just a comment about pop-out windows you installed: be carefull, they're very easy to open from outside, then the lock of the door is easy to unlock... So, when I let VivaLaVida in town or so, I put a zip tie around it to make it more difficult to open. ;/)
Oct 24, 2014 at 12:04 PM
Thanks for the tip Claude-Alain! We plan on keeping the Aluminess swing outs locked together but we'll also use this zip tie trick. Security has been on our minds a lot lately, especially after hanging out with previous Pan-Am veterans.
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