Before I show you this week’s saga of picking up UV 605 from Joshua Tree, CA and towing it to it’s new home in Albany, Oregon let me begin by telling you a little of 605’s history. It begins back in 1973 when the Ultra Van company finally closed it’s doors. The story has it that Dave Peterson offered Ultra Van 605, the body only, to an employee in lieu of his last paycheck. The employee accepted and with 3 friends and a trailer came back, picked up the body by hand, placed it on the trailer, strapped it down and drove away.
UV 605 soon passed to its 2nd owner, George Truman, who equipped it with a drive train, suspension and steering components. After about 20 years and now not being able to see the project to completion Mr. Truman sold the project to Jim Craig who then sold it to Roy Nakamura with one caveat, that was that Roy could store it at Jim’s home until he was able to get the project started. It has sat at Jim’s place for about 25 years until the Nakamura family finally decided to sell it this year. In stepped Jerry and Patty Mello of Albany, Oregon to eagerly buy 605 which they promptly name Max and accept the caretaker responsibilities for some future owner. I’m sure you are asking why they named their coach Max, well they already own UV 333 which is named Mini so it seemed appropriate that they name the new one Max because it is one foot longer!
Jerry and Patty have big plans for Max, the only Ultra Van never officially sold by the Ultra Van corporation. New, modern drive train, completely rebuilt suspension and steering components and new interior. While the interior scheme hasn’t be divulged to me yet, you can be assured that it will be functional, efficient and eye popping. Personally I hope it will be a retro theme in keeping with its year of birth, 1973 but only time will tell.
Now for the saga/trip from Albany to Joshua Tree with a side trip to Nevada City, CA and return, bringing RC’s new cousin home to it’s new caretakers. A few weeks ago Jerry Mello told me he had bought Max. After congratulating him, I volunteered to help him pick it up and the trip turned out to be quite an adventure. Jerry was originally going to borrow a truck and flat tow Max home staying in hotels along the way. As he was talking to a friend in Albany about the project the friend not only volunteered his truck, a 2015 GMC dually, but himself as well, welcome to the party George Rollins! Then Jerry started calculating costs and realized it would be much less expensive to bring Mini, UV 333, as our rolling hotel and dining hall.
So, once the logistics were ironed out the itinerary and dates were set, a call was made to Christy Barden of Nevada City, CA, owner of UV 603, to see if we could stop by and do some research on his coach as it was the same series and style as Jerry’s new coach. Christy not only invited us to stop by but said if we got there on June 2nd we were welcome to attend his annual barn party. Always up for a party we made plans to drive from Albany straight thru to Nevada City (501.8 miles). Only stopping for lunch and essential old men breaks we made it to Christy’s in just a little over 11 hours.
While not really a part of this adventure I felt is was significant to include the following picture of the Lake Shasta area as a reminder to be careful with fires while out in nature, thanks for your indulgence.
This is the remnants of a fire along I-5 along Lake Shasta, not the Paradise fire.
We spent a little while with Christy then he went out dancing (this man is in his 80s) and we went to bed! The next morning we caught up on Christy’s evening and he caught up with ours, his was more exciting and we did a lot of research on UV 603. We also helped Christy prepare for the barn party and he even allowed the three of us to be his official parking detail, what fun! At the end of the party we helped break down the tables and chairs and generally cleaned up for 125 party goers.
Christy’s big barn, UV 333 is shown for size!
This is what we set up for party, this is only half of the chairs and tables.
This is the job newbies to Christy’s barn party get!
As evening fell, the four of us spent an hour plus talking Ultra Vans on Christy’s back porch. We then said our good nights and toddled off to bed because we had a early start the next day for what was to turn out to be a 13 hour drive to Joshua Tree, CA (551.9 miles). We’re gluttons for punishment! It was late evening when we arrived at the Craig’s house so we spent some time chatting and catching up on each others activities since the last time we were together and then we set up our bunks for the time we would be there. Jim and Marlene offered their Bounder motor home for sleeping arrangements and I took them up on it as I had been sleeping on the twin dinette bed and they offered a queen mattress! Thanks Jim and Marlene!!!!!!!
After a night’s sleep it is now Tuesday, June 4th and we have a ton of work to do on this very unique vehicle to get it ready to tow back to Albany. We are awake at 6 AM and Jerry, better know as the slave driver, starts giving assignments. After a couple hours of work Marlene invites in to breakfast and, if you know Marlene, you know it was a feast. After breakfast it was back to work packing wheel bearings, changing tires and wheels, adjusting brakes, unloading dozens of boxes and sorting contents for repacking once the coach is readied for it’s trip home. A lunch break was taken sometime during the day and then back to work rebuilding the air bag suspension, a brake cable that broke and following up on other Mello dictates. Evening comes and dinner is consumed with great gusto as it is one of Marlene’s great feasts again. After about an hour on the patio watching the stars and drinking tea we stumbled off to bed with visions of much more to do the next day. This day’s work was done in 94 degree heat!
Here it sits, waiting for us to work our magic.
The front looks blunt compared to Mini and RC but is has some streamlining down low that you can’t see in this picture.
The squared off back allows for much more headroom.
This is looking forward without seats, etc. The engine is amidship on the left.
While it’s hard to show all the details of the work I thought it would suffice to show the workers doing the details;
This is the Boss pretending to work.
This is George repairing the air bag suspension.
This is Carl not pretending at all!
Wednesday, the 5th of June did not disappoint as there was much to do. We skipped Marlene’s breakfast and started working at around 6:30 AM, hopefully to get enough work done early so that we could stop early and miss some of the late day heat. It was not to be as we had to go get parts and some gas to start the coach once we were finished work. This extended our work day well into the evening giving us over 13 hours of work so we could take off for Albany on the 6th. Today’s heat topped out at 96 degrees.
Well, it’s now the 6th of June and we get up early to attach the tow bar and set up the tow lights so we can hit the road. This accomplished we said our goodbyes to Jim and Marlene, hooked up the coach to George’s GMC and hit the road, for about 2 minutes. It seems that Max wasn’t ready to track correctly behind the truck. With about 20 minutes of adjustment to the alignment of the wheels we were off again. This time without stops except for food and rest stops. We made it to Modesto, CA before stopping for the night (411.1 miles).
The 7th of June arrives with us skipping an early breakfast so that we could get beyond the morning rush hour traffic into Sacramento. We made it thru Sacramento and stopped in Woodland, a few miles north for breakfast and then it’s back on the road. We are determined to put some miles on today so we forgo lunch with the exception of nuts for protein, water for hydration and popcorn chips just because they were there. The photo below was our next stop at a last rest area in California. We were really making good time.
George’s GMC is morphing into an Ultra Van. Just what George wanted!
We now head over the Siskiyous on our way to the final gas stop in Medford. Once at Medford we feel a sense of renewed energy and make the decision to push on to home in Albany. It’s a long slog but we all want a real bed for the night. (590.4 miles)
Welcome home hugs from the wives, a late dinner and a cold beer awaited us! Also a nice, comfortable bed. Mission accomplished except for the unpacking and rearranging of the Mello garage which will take place after several hours of sleep. The picture below will attest to the fact that we did accomplish that task.
MIni and Max ensconced in their humble abode.
I am now on an AMTRAK train headed for Sumner and my just reward of a cup of hot tea and biscotti. Thanks for inviting me along on this adventure Jerry. I look forward to your tales of resurrection of the great 605 Max, or is it Maxine?