Friday, July 11, 2008

Cool Picture Of The Week - Original Batradio

Cool Picture of the Week is of an original Bat Radio used on the TV show and/or movie being auctioned by Profiles in History, lot #712.
Original prop Bat Radio from the television series Batman.
(ABC-TV, 1966-68) Original prop Bat Radio constructed of a piece of wood cut in the shape of a bat with metal screen, metal antennae and metal knob. The red painted metal frame is a replica, executed in the style of the original. An exceptionally rare and highly visible prop item from the cult television series.

$8000 - $12000

Friday, July 4, 2008

Cool Picture Of The Week - Victor La Baron

This weeks Cool Picture Of The Week has more than one picture.

This bird splattered and faded 12 foot long finned boat appeared on eBay in recent weeks. A rare, late 1950's Victor La Baron on a trailer with cantilevered suspension.

Extremely scarce, however, the folks at one of the boating forums say the seller is a known fraud and most likely doesn't even own the boat or the property it sits on to begin with.

Some of these early fiberglass vessels had production runs numbering in the hundreds, sometimes with the manufactures going out of business within several years or less.

Although quite rare, these great looking boats don't command as much monetary value as some land vehicles from the same era. However, with a modest amount of cash investment and lots of physical work they are restored in better than new, pure eye candy showroom condition with modern plywood, fiberglass and gel coating paints.

This Victor La Baron looks suspiciously similar, in a way, to another boat we're familiar with.

Batboat Rebuild: Part 2

The type of wood everyone at the boat restoration forums will tell you to use when repairing old fiberglass boats is Exterior Grade or Marine Grade plywood. The three "big box" lumber sellers here have neither. A while back a local boating shop had suggested asking Barn Door Lumber, a place at the other end of the county.

I checked out what they had. There were two 4x8' sheets of Marine grade 3/4" ply left and priced at almost $100 each. I talked to the guy working there about the different types of plywood. He was very knowledgable about his field and explained how it was getting harder to find fine quality plywood. The Marine Grade they had there had to be special ordered and getting harder to get.

At home, I thought it over and decided on the Marine grade and figured out the measurements it needed to be cut. There wasn't much choice. Barn Door was the only one who I found stocks it.

It is crucial that this wood is kept completely dry at all times before installing. However, when driving back to Barn Door Lumber for the plywood the next day, Thursday, June 26, it was in the worst rain storm I've ever been in. Visibility was no more than 10 feet ahead of my hood but the rain stopped by the time I got there.

The cut Marine Grade ply fit in my back seat with an inch to spare and, luckily, I was able to get it back home and in the house without a drop landing on it.

I have to stress that it is very important that this wood stays completely dry. After it is sealed in epoxy there is no way for moisture to get out, thus, starting the rotting process.

Later that night there was another downpour. The huge, heavy autographed Batboat fin I had carefully placed on the porch was starting to get hit with a mist. The outer layers were made of Tileboard that gets damaged when wet so the six foot long fin had to come in the house were I leaned it upright against the fridge. After the frustration of bumping into it several times, I took the autographed side off carefully and set the rest back outside.

The next day was Friday and a dry one. The pile of dismantled Batboat debris I left leaning against the pine tree days before was cut into pieces for firewood with the table saw. The two heavy, large boards originally used under the fin deck were set by the curb with "free plywood" sprayed in black letters and were gone the next day.

The center of the fin was stuffed with Detroit area newspapers dated April, 2006. I assume that must have been when this Batboat was built.
Monday, June 30, I shopped around a bunch of places for a Sawzall, or reciprocating saw. Found one on sale for $20 off. I need it to cut off the rotting deck that original to the boat to make room for the new, improved one.

Got it home and while getting used to how it works by cutting through the rotting deck I had another Oops! moment by misjudging the depth of the blade and the distance between the deck I was cutting through and the fiberglass hull, sawing a 10 inch cut through the bottom. It is an easy fix but I had no idea the two were so close together in that small spot!

I have to do fiberglass repair in that area anyway.

I am doing more demolition this July 4th weekend. By Monday or Tuesday I hope to have all of the original deck removed and work started on replacing the transome, or rear of the boat.

Lots of pictures of the mess, too.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Delay in fiberglassing the Batboat. Victim of ID theft.

Demolition work on the boat will go on as planned, unfortunately, there will be no fiberglass work in the near future.

My identity was stolen last week and sadly, I've been preoccupied with getting that situation fixed.

Someone got my credit card # somehow and charged thousands of $$ to it. To my relief, my credit card company blocked my account immediately when they detected suspicious activity.

The fraud investigator told me multiple internet orders were made to places like Abercrombie and Paypal over the weekend.

To add insult to injury, this afternoon I received a bottle of weight loss pills in the mail that I didn't order but was paid for with my card. The person used their email address, but I doubt much will be done about it.

There is no way I can buy the fiberglassing supplies until the new card arrives, which should be next week, and funds to the unauthorized orders are refunded to me. Most of the items have to be ordered from the internet.

Until then, I will post updates on ongoing progress with the Batboat and a tutorial on how to make a Batman Utility Belt.

Batboat Rebuild: Part 1

Wednesday, June 25, 2008 seemed like a good day to begin dismantling the Batboat in order to get it ready for structural repairs and fiberglass rebuild. It looked so nice and I hated to do it but once started I couldn't stop.

Spent about 4 hours that afternoon through the evening. One of those hours seemed to be spent drilling out 5 rusted screws original to the boat but I had a good time.

The boat is about as old as me. I won't say which is better condition, however.

I began the afternoon taking off the rotating light, fin and rear deck. All were secured with a large number wood screws. I had to be extra careful to avoid accidently damaging the autographed side of the fin. It is signed by Batgirl Yvonne Craig and George Barris, the designer of the Batmobile.

The rear deck came off easily. It was very heavy but after a careful balancing act I needed no help. The fin was attached to the top of the large deck with screws and I decided to wait until I could take the time to carefully remove it.

Next to go was the rest of the damp carpet and the 4 x 8 foot, rotted plywood underneath which was wood screwed on top of the even more rotted original floor.

The moldy carpet came off easy but there were many, many woodscrews underneath holding in the makeshift plywood flooring. Some were totally rusted and despite all the rot I ended up prying it off with the claw of my hammer. I checked to see what the crunching sound was while prying and it was the hull flexing under pressure, resulting in three minor holes in the hull cracking through the gelcoat above the water line. My first major Oops! I have to re-fiberglass in those areas anyway. Not much of a big deal.
My first Oops!

With the false floor out the original deck was exposed for the first time. Nothing but rot. Walking on it sounded like a bowl of Rice Crispies.

I ripped some holes in the old deck by hand and there was nothing but compost and more rot. Yes, I said compost. It smells like potting soil in there.

It is normal for an old fiberglass boat to be in this condition, however. The plywood Glastron and other boat companies used back in the '60s was usually 1/2 inch thick untreated ply. Topside of the wood was epoxyed and fiberglassed to the hull while the underside was left bare, making the wood vunderable to mold, dampness and rot. Especially, if water got down there and saturated the foam that is suppose to make the boat float in an emergency.

Interestingly, most of the foam I've handled so far has been dry.

In the case of this vessel water got under the deck because of unsealed bolt holes drilled for bass boat seats. (scroll 2/3 down the page here for the story)

I ended the evening with carefully taking the autographed fin off and dragging it on to the porch to protect it from the elements until I could figure out how to take it apart.

If you are going to buy a boat to rebuild into a Batboat, get one that is very rotted. Trust me, you will be relieved you did. The structural wood in old, all original fiberglass boats (by old I mean 1950s through the 1970s) has to be completely replaced anyway, no exceptions, and rot makes it easier to get it all out. Most of the deck in mine can be pulled out by hand. This will also save you money than buying one in better shape.