This Project began as a result of my attendance to the “Turkey Run” event held every year in Daytona Fl. Because of my fondness of cars, this show is one of the best and most diverse collections of not only cars, but almost anything with an engine.
In November of 2011, after spending my first day working my way through, as I approached the back edge of the grounds, their I saw it for the first time. This Motorhome jumped out at me with it’s one of a kind profile. As I looked closer, the retired airline Pilot who owned it was seriously engaged with a prospective buyer. He brought it to the show for the express purpose of making this someone else’s property. The more I looked, the more this fit the old criteria I have had in mind for some time. One piece fiberglass, check, no slide outs, check, not too big, check, super cool looks, double check, not too far gone, check. Wow! I like this thing. I mean I really like this thing!
When the prospect offered the gentleman half what he was asking, this caught my attention. The seller of course was not please, in fact he was insulted, but this haggler soften things up a bit. And I decided to look further. When the prospect left, I approached the seller and said “well, he tried”. He then replied, “if he had not been such a nasty person, I might have sold it even at that price, but not to him!” That’s all I had to hear, I offered a little bit more, and told him I would close the next day. It was a deal.
Well little did I know at the time, as I drove away with my new toy, and dreams of restoring this beautiful home on wheels which from the appearance was screaming out “Restore me”. The seller was on his knee’s thanking GOD ALMIGHTY for some other fool to take his nightmare on down the road. As I look back. I just have to laugh at what went through his head, and mine. But, although it was just a little more work then I could ever imagine in a million years, I got over it and I have truly enjoyed at least most of the journey to its completion. My wife on the other hand, well let’s just say not so much. Today is exactly one year later almost to the day.
My personal standards are quite high, and to accomplish the degree in which I had to achieve on this project, resulted in fully restoring it. What a beautiful looking example it is today. Designed by Bill Lear from “Jet” fame, his designs are nothing I have ever seen, nothing looks like it. All these years later, the key Interest for me was the simple fact it still looks contemporary. I smile when I look at it. This is why I had to take it all the way. To 100% road ready and at least this unit will survive sometime into the future. These units only had around a hundred or so built, and they need to be saved by those of us that appreciate the effort.
In breaking from the pack, I am sharing some various photo’s for those who may own one, or maybe will own one in the future. I am also listing all the defects I discovered, and the correction. I am sharing with anyone the knowledge I have learned, if while your reading it you find yourself sharing a similar issue or information or story on this Manufacturer, I would love to hear from you.
Repairs and improvements made on the 1986 31’ Starfire Motorhome
- Water pump ready to fall off! Replaced with a new one.
- All four belts worn, replaced all four, and made tight.
- Both battery’s bad, replaced with deep cycle, cleaned the area, repaired the through on-off switches!!
- No horn, installed a new one.
- Worn tie rod end, replaced and had an alignment.
- Packed the front wheel bearings, and replaced the bearing’s on the tag axle.
- High speed balanced the tires, they were new Michelin’s!!!
- Hand polished all the wheels, and machine polished all the aluminum caps.
- Replaced the water tank drain under left rear wheel well.
- Installed the mushroom caps on the roof vents, they were missing.
- Installed a new opening above coach in the cabin and made a custom star in the headliner around it.
- Installed a new headliner, front to back.
- Resealed the sky light in the head.
- Replaced all the indirect cover lens that run the full length of the interior. Used a thicker more attractive Plexiglass, and went around full length and trimmed with a rope look. This added a nautical touch, as I am in the Marine watercraft business! Then, LED lighting was installed replacing the old florescence, both in the color blue, and in white. You can switch or combine for a nice mood effect. Also the speaker spacers were custom fitted with the dual colored LED lights, and adds a dramatic touch
To the Interior
- New sound system installed, blue tooth, video, back-up camera, cd, fm, am etc with 6 new speakers, and a sub woofer. Also has a 100 watt amplifier to push the sound. Very nice! Got to have Music!
- Had homemade wood dash panels, looked very bad, had new matching burl wood made, and also had the small cocktail table finished with the same. BIG IMPROVEMENT.
- Disassembled both inside door panels, all 4 seats. Completely repainted to the original color. These were faded badly, and discolored beyond a cleaning, so I redid them to like new. I also did the dash at this time. I removed all the combing from the area, it was beige vinyl and in bad shape. I made new wood patterns and covered it with a chocolate brown suede. When things really started to look a lot better. All interior fabric was steam cleaned, it was in like new condition, go figure? But the couch well, that turned out to have a rotten leg, which tilted to the left, it even prevented the bed from being useable. I had the frame removed re-welded with new steel painted and reinstalled. Perfect. Also installed a new junction box in this area.
- Which leads me to the next item the reason the leg was rotten, was because there was a freaking hole in the floor, oh man! The floor is Bad??????? This I was not ready for. Sooooo Out came the interior, and we installed a whole new floor. Used ¾ ply special treated, laid down that. Then used ½ inch furring strips in which we laid the ½ installation required, then over that in the opposite direction laid another ¾ ply and screwed everything securely in place. Done, solid.
- Which brings me to the next little issue, steps were rotten! All new ones built. We then epoxy coated these and built in an extra little storage box (really comes in handy) and secured this to the frame the right way.
- Now, we go in with all new carpet. Let me tell you, THIS IS NO EASY DAME DEAL HERE FOLKS!
This took a pro I know, 3 and half days of non-stop work! And I mean work. But wow, what a difference. All was properly trimmed with tape edges, high quality mat, expensive high wear carpet trimmed with a lot of detail work. No wonder when I first priced this at the RV place, they quoted 6,000!!! Thought they were crazy well, you do the work the right way, and then tell me. They were not far off. See now why I mentioned fool earlier.
- Base board under left side rear coach had water damage, cut a new base and installed it.
- All the window trim valances were rotted. They are made out of fiberglass with a material glued over it and folded in a certain way. My wife and I removed these, scraped of all the old material to get them back to clean. We then picked out new fabric and recovered all of them and reinstalled. This too was a big job but with big rewards. They looked great!
- Found a bad piece of wood behind the gallery, we removed it, cut a new section, wrapped in vinyl and reinstalled.
- Broken draw, fixed that.
- Refrigerator did not work, we found a place in MO. That rebuilds them. We went that route because we wanted the panels to match the inside, and that size Refrigerator is not available. So we took it out.Sent to them, they returned in one week rebuilt, and repainted on the inside. We reinstalled it.
- Furnace did not work. We disassembled the unit, only to find it was packed full of wasp nests.
We thoroughly cleaned it all out and it fired up like a dream
- Vacuum did not work, took it apart, repaired, put it back together done.
- Bathroom vent looked old and discolored, replaced it with a new one.
- Replaced bath sink faucet, and also bathtub fixture and shower head. Installed a new shower door system, as it had none.
- Removed the little port a potty and installed a real toilet higher and porcelain.
- Repaired various water leaks throughout the unit.
- Repaired the electric windows, as they had not worked in years. We cleaned the tracks, grease what had to be serviced, and replaced the relays and some switches.
- Electric mirrors did not work, replaced the relays, and went through both fuse boxes cleaning and identifying what was what, and replaced many fuses. All good.
- Inside dash air conditioning not working, leak, repaired, fix some cabling refilled and corrected that.
- Replaced both head lights one was burned out. Polished the lenses. Also repaired the side light markers.
- Took the fog lights off. Rusted, one was burned out. Disassembled the cases, and cover glass. Machine polished back to new, brought xenon replacement blubs, had the internal bracket handmade as they do not make them anymore, and reinstalled them. They have hi and low beam, prior the high beam was never hooked up.
- Generator has a new starter, exhaust, wires, coil, condenser, points, filter oil change carburetor rebuild air filter, and fuel filter. Runs very well.
Put in new distributor, Old DNE stuck, could not set timer so we replaced it.
- Made new fender braces for front end. The old ones were too small, and one broke.
- Tuned up engine, cap, rotor, Cond, plug wires, plugs. (2 plugs were left in it from new, too hard to get to, we changed all of them) air cleaner, Rebuilt the carburetor to be safe, installed a new ignition mod. Changed the oil and filter, lubed the under chassis. Engine has low mileage at this time, and runs very well.
- Steering gear leaks, removed, and replaced, also replaced the steering disk! This stopped any slop in the wheel, big improvement.
- Prior owner had work done on the air-conditioner, and removed the oil cooler. He blocked the end of the oil line and went to the bypass. We installed a new oil cooler and would not operate the vehicle without one!
- Cruise control did not work, this was repaired , and works for the first time in years.
- A flat screen LCD TV was installed in the cabin on a swing bracket. We also installed a 3 LNB direct TV dish that is automatic. It electrically folds down for the hwy. There is a blue ray player and a game box also installed.
- A small TV is installed opposite the gallery, so if one is sleeping in the back, they have a TV, and if sleeping in the front berth, a small one there. The TV’s can be run through the stereo if so desired.
- Refrigerator vent was missing on the roof, we installed a new one, and also made a new wooden base.
For the ref. The old one was rotten.
- We had to repair the ice maker, it now works fine.
- LED lights were installed by the steps, this looks nice and makes it safer.
- Light installed in rear closet.
- New plug in bathroom.
- Rear tail lights were blackened out, looks more modern.
- All dash switches were replaced. The old ones were either not hooked up, or broken. Much time went into this and a lot of research. All systems work properly.
A new clear len’s was made, and we machined metal panel’s to fit over the old holes, to fit all the new switches. This totally restored the dash to like new.
- Gas gauge did not work. No luck here had to drop the gas tank, found the fill hose was routed over the frame and under the rear floor. This caused the hose to collapse as it was pinched. We put a spacer in between, installed a thicker fill hose, and that was why it took so long to fill the fuel tank up!
Someone in the past repaired the fuel pump which is located in the fuel tank, by hooking up a pump on the frame because they did not want to drop the tank and do it right. We put a new tank pump back in, and a new sending unit, gaskets etc. and all is now correct and working perfectly. A new fuel filter was also done. Generator would stop after a few hours, this is because the tank fill end was off. Now it draws to the bottom of the tank.
- Installed two 12 volt plugs in dash, none existed.
- New wiper blades installed, wash squinter repaired, and wiper arms painted.
- Installed a new water pump. For the fresh water system.
- Made a new windshield cover, cover for the skylight and side door.
- Replaced the LP tank Valve, and had it pressure checked, all ok.
- Installed new dump valve, and water valve.
- Removed old tail pipes with new stainless steel rectangular shape.
- Brought all new dump hose and accessories.
- No one could fill the LP tank! Found out, you need an 10 inch straight extender before they can fill. Your LP tank, Big lesson here. I went to a special place to get one made.
- Installed a carbon monoxide detector, none existed.
- Installed 4 T-rubber hold downs for the engine box. None existed.
- Put in a new junction box at the rear of the coach.
- Rebuilt the door lock assembly, now works easy and is much more secure.
- Recovered the side door panel with the chocolate sued.
- Painted the inside side door panel.
- New table mount.
- Installed mounting clips for second table behind swivel chairs.
- Brought all new tire covers.
- Had a center seal leak in transmission, yup lucky again! That led to a new or should I say rebuilt transmission. Better trans lines, and better parts than came with it new were used here. It’s brand new.
- Gunk cleaned engine area after all the work to really keep it clean so I know at a glance what is going on.
- Had the whole unit rubbed out with a 3 step process not satisfied. Took the unit in and had it repainted front to back as original Had new updated stripping, got rid of the turquoise embossed “Starfire” Look, had stripping applied to the rear panel. Now it not only runs brand new, but looks it too.
- Had the door hinges sand blasted and painted, this was the only area that had any rust. I wanted it sealed right.
- Replaced all the wheel lugs with new chrome.
- Installed a new relay for the air suspension. Flushed engine and radiator.
- Flushed engine and radiator.
- Sliding door in bath remove, the track rebuilt and new rollers installed. There also was a new catch latch installed.
- A second battery charger was installed to charge the house battery. I later changed it to charge both. The original charger still works, but the second charges both and is used of back-up.
- Hood was removed and the underside painted black to freshen it up.
Although the above item’s were extensive, the overall condition of the Starfire was surprisingly good.
It had spent it’s life in Florida, so the frame and under carriage was in great shape. The upholstery was like new, low mileage, and the body in very good condition. The exhaust was very good, new roof air unit was already in place. It had new brakes and new tires. One of the more important additions it also had was a new rear end. The previous owner installed a lower gear ratio this allows the unit to cruise at higher speeds with better fuel consumption. When it was built, speed limits were 55 so the higher gear made sense as it was faster to get to speed. I must say, that with the lower gear now being used, it is perfectly acceptable off the line, and very smooth at 70 or even 75 mph. The Starfire also drives more like a car than a bus, so the gear change is a very big plus in my book. I hope there is some useful information in my journey to bring this unique motorhome back to life. If you ever consider to own one of these units know up front there will be a lot of work, very few took the time and dedication that I did to go all the way! But the rewards are so worth the effort but certainly not the money for everyone.
Mark has invested 42,000 on the 1986 Starfire Eldorado.
24200 Jefferson Ave
St Clair Shores, MI