Bought a 1989 Toyota Dolphin micro-mini motorhome without knowing much about motorhomes in general (my first mistake) and then when I discovered extensive water damage I decided to try and fix some of it (my second mistake). Pictures and blogs that others posted when they were doing rebuilds was very helpful to me, so I figured that blogging about it may be helpful to someone else.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Deconstructing the Cabover

This is a picture of some of the visible water damage to the front driver-side cabover area. The wood was so wet that it was beginning to sag below the molding, mostly due to the fact that the wood edge had nearly turned into powder. The screws into the edging had rusted to the point they looked like nails.
This is the cabover area above the passenger side bunk bed. The walls in campers are really just sandwich board: fiberglass on the outside glued to polystyrene foam glued to luan and vinyl on the inside. What you're looking at here is the foam with most of the luan pulled off. The luan (underneath the vinyl) was rotted to the point it would nearly come off with a fingernail.
It was at this point that we realized the entire bunk would have to be torn out, as the sides and front were also rotted.

Another shot of the edge of the bunk and the door. Next to the door there are two 3/4" square boards with a 3/4" metal square tube sandwiched in-between. The metal tube was nearly completely rusted through. Apparently the water that had come in through the front had traveled along the fiberglass all the way back to the door (about 55" back)! Obviously all of this had to go.

Another shot of the same area with the luan removed that was backing against the fiberglass. All of this was originally covered with luan and then carpeting that was stapled on with enough staples to circle the globe at least twice. Whoever built these things sure was happy with the stapler.

My father-in-law and myself beginning to strip out the bunk. At this point we knew we had bitten off a lot to chew, but of course we kept on stripping because everytime we found a new joint we found it had rotted as well. The only place with good wood in this entire picture was the wood around the front window (which is a wonder, because that is usually where these leaks tend to occur).

Foam board stripped out, windows removed, bunk bed gone, and we're down to the fiberglass.
This is where we are now. Both sides and the bunk are down to the fiberglass. I've replaced the wood from the rear-driver's side wheel-well to the front edge, and rebuilt the metal bar from the bottom-front edge up to the top over the door. Instead of a 3/4" square tube and two 3/4" square sticks, we used a 1.5"x3/4" with a 3/4" aluminum angle iron and another 3/4" stick next to that. As long as it comes up to 2.25", then we're good.

I still have to clean all of the fiberglass and then I will begin to reframe the top edge. The roof edges are 1"x1" sandwiched between the vinyl ceiling and some sort of foam insulation on top (directly underneath the aluminum roof). I'm getting to that top corner on the driver's side by unscrewing and unstapling (again, some camper builder went staple-crazy) the aluminum roof from the bottom to the top and rolling it back as far as I can.

To get all of this stripped out took almost a week. I'm hoping rebuilding will go a little faster.


  1. When do you have to have it back together again, for the trek back home?

  2. I am thinking of undertaking a rebuild similar to this. Any chance, I could talk to you on the phone?

  3. Would like to communicate with anyone doing this kind of a project. I have a Seabreeze model to rebuild that is as bad as this one.

  4. We reboarded our front bunk. Now we keep the outside heavily caulked!

  5. Oh and yes the builder went staple crazy! I blooded my knuckles ripping out the carpet!

  6. Did you ever finish this project? My husband and I just bought a 1988 Dolphin and are in a similar boat!