Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Winnie Prepares for her Extreme Makeover

After a delightful few weeks in southern Illinois and southeast Missouri, it was time to prepare for Winnie's big makeover at Mike's Custom Painting near Elkhart, Indiana.  I had a few Winnebago parts and other upgraded accessories to pick up at my stepsister's house in Chicago before heading to MCP, so I spent the last week of April there.

I had planned to get Winnie's windshield replaced while in Chicago, but after calling a few Safelite Auto Glass locations, no one had a workbay tall enough to fit the Winnie!  Thankfully, one call to their main call center got me in touch with a nice customer service rep who found a location in Springfield, IL (along my route to Chicago).  Winnie fit inside their garage with room to spare!

But, the expected 2-hour job turned into a 5-hour panic when the first new windshield turned out to be 2" too short.  It turns out that Winnebago did not use a standard Sprinter cutaway chassis for their 2007 model year Views.  They had Mercedes customize it with the slightly taller windshields used on the short 188" wheelbase vans.  Who would have thunk!

Thankfully, the guys at this Safelite shop were fantastic.  They called the warehouse in St. Louis to get the right windshield dispatched immediately and then drove 70 miles to meet that delivery truck halfway so they could get the new windshield returned in time to get the job completed same-day (so I wouldn't need to spend the night in their garage)!  At 5:05 pm, Winnie rolled out with a gorgeous new windshield and the cost was only around $250 bucks-- thank you super Safelite guys!!!

With that to-do finished, it was on to Chicago for a few more to-do's-- the biggest project was to start Winnie's transformation from a Dodge back to her true Mercedes identity.  Early Sprinters (pre-2010) had quite an interesting import process when Mercedes and Dodge were still under the same Daimler corporate umbrella.  Sprinters were completely built in Germany by Mercedes, and then disassembled and shipped to the U.S.  Once in the U.S., Dodge reassembled them and slapped a Dodge grill and a few Dodge emblems on them.

Since Winnie would be getting a new paint job, I figured it'd be an opportune time to swap the grill back to an original Mercedes star.

eBay has a ton of listings for Mercedes Sprinter grills, many of which are made by aftermarket vendors.  I went with this one marked as a genuine Mercedes part (and indeed it was).

After watching this great YouTube video of how to do the project, I assembled my spray can of 3M adhesive remover, heat gun, scraper, needle-nosed pliers, T20 and T30 torx wrenches, flat blade screwdriver, and other odds and ends to begin the conversion.

The 2 plastic tabs and 3 torx screws along the top of the grill were easily removed with a flat blade screwdriver and torx wrenches.  Within 5 minutes, the Winnie was grill-less!

Out with the old Dodge grill and in with the new Mercedes (note that you must buy the grill and the metal u-shaped trim piece that goes beneath it for a Winnebago Sprinter).

Pulling the Dodge chrome-colored plastic trim piece off the edge of the hood was the most difficult part of the job.  Or, I should say, trying to remove the remaining black rubber adhesive had kept it adhered to the hood.  I had no choice but to do this job outdoors on a dreary 40-degree day.  Even with generous amounts of 3M adhesive remover, the excess crud was just not going to come off the hood without sanding it (as well as the paint) off.   I'm sure this would have been a much easier job on a warm sunny day, but I didn't care too much knowing that the guys at Mike's would be sanding down the hood next week anyway, so Winnie went off to Indiana looking like quite an ugly duckling...

and returned a month later looking like a swan!

For the final Dodge transformation, I bought a 52mm Mercedes steering wheel emblem.  It's a bit difficult to source, as it's only sold by international vendors on eBay.  The item itself is a knockoff made in China.  I bought mine from a dealer in Australia, but here's a similar eBay offering from a vendor in the U.K.

It was a 2 second job to stick this new emblem right over the Dodge ram circle on the Winnie's steering wheel...

Winnie was now fully "Dodge-free"!

Meanwhile, I had rented a small 5 x 5 storage unit near my sister's house in Chicago, and stopped there on the way to Indiana to transfer excess gear out of the Winnie & Tracker to the storage unit (as the little Tracker would be carrying all my worldly possessions for my next month of "homelessness").

With that final job done, I headed to Mike's to drop the Winnie off for her month-long long, ugly duck!


  1. After that little sneak preview, I can't wait to see the finished product! :-)

    1. Click the link on the last sentence-- I posted the new rig pics a few months ago, but just catching the blog up to that point now.

    2. Thanks for that reminder Lynne .. it's all combing back to me now ... LOL

  2. Very much like your rig's new paint job.

  3. I do not think I'd tackle the grill work myself, looks like quite a chore, I'll leave the Dodge logos in place. The new badges certainly give it a more contemporary look tho, goes good with the new paint.

    1. Yeah, I never would have swapped the grill if I'd not been getting the rig repainted-- to much risk of scratching or chipping paint off the hood when trying to scrape that rubber goo off.

  4. I had Safelite put in a windshield for me in Austin, Tx this year. Best auto glass replacement experience I've ever had. So cool they went the extra mile for you, Lynne!

    1. I've now had 2 really great experiences with Safelite-- one was a mobile service tech who replaced the Tracker's windshield, and the experience above with the motorhome at their garage. WAY cheaper than I thought it'd be, so I just paid out of pocket rather than file an insurance claim.

  5. Lynne, you go, Girlfriend! You are a badass pulling off that grill and putting on a new one. You inspire me!

    1. Ha ha! Well, Mike's did all the hard work to make it look pretty again. I just made it as ugly as possible beforehand!


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