Monday, September 8, 2014

It Always Get's Ugly Before it Get's Beautiful

I am doing some catch up with this post since all of what I am posting is about a month or so old...

We began the preparations for lifting the shell on the 53'. 

She is entirely gutted out here. These next two photos were taken before the windows were removed from the shell. All the windows were removed from the shell entirely. This era had a gasket that is riveted to the window frame. To replace it, one must totally remove the window. The same issue affects replacing the screens. All 17 windows were removed and are being rebuilt. More on that in a later post since it is a post on to it's self.

Interestingly, the construction of the shell and ribs is almost identical to today's Airstreams. They just used better materials.

The guy labeling the alclad sheets wanted to make sure it was clear what the material was. Generally I feel lucky when there is one stripe of information on the back of the sheet. 

Usually when someone tries to hide the rotten floor, they add a layer of luan or similar material. In this girl, they used layers of linoleum. 

Out of sight, out of mind. 

The gantry is all set up and the shell is free.

One, two, three,… PULL.

At one point in this trailer's life some floor was replaced(very improperly) and they installed a  ton of new insulation in the belly. This made for a nasty mess of fiberglass, detritus, and droppings. 

Michael jumped right in with a power washer and made the best of cleaning it up.

Keep in mind that the modern ladder frame was not introduced but two years previously. If you ever take apart a pipe frame trailer, you will see a situation similar to this where the belly is actually carried by an aluminum channel made from .032 aluminum.

You will also notice the engineers at Airstream were trying to find out just how long they could make outriggers. This one is 21" long. It is rotted off and actually held on with a 2x3 glued inside of it. You might also notice the lack of "c" channel around the front and rear curve. The shell is held with 3" long chunks every 8" or so.

The rear axle was free spinning and the front axle had electric brakes. The old running gear will be refurbished or replaced. Electric brakes will be on both axles going forward. Many of you might be wondering if I plan to install modern torsion axles. No. I plan to install new leaf spring axles. The goal is to look as if it still is all original. The owner also does not plan a lot of off roading with this trailer in the future.

Here is the frame in it's naked form. Like I said, this is a very early generation ladder frame. There is absolutely no metal on the underside of the frame. The cross members are 1 1/2" angle and nothing more. The frame members are 4" channel and the bumper is 5" channel. The frame measures exactly 29 feet from the bumper to the tip of the hitch. What surprised me the most was that the frame does not sag or droop. I expected it to be very flimsy but instead it is incredibly stout. With any other Airstream frame I would have to use numerous jack stands to keep it straight and level. The metal is incredibly hard also. In later steps, I was breaking drill bits way too often.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Not So Yellow Submarine

Many people I encounter simply do not have the budget to take their trailers all the way. But if they knew what is just below the skins, they often change their minds. Above is why one needs tho replace all the insulation in any vintage trailer. 
Mice are usually the reason it really needs to be done. All the structure can be repaired with out removing all the insulation, but more often than not, this is what I find behind the interior skins. Believe it or not, this is a rather pristine piece of insulation. Often the entire cavity is void of insulation. The mice have carried it off to make a nest elsewhere. Mice are incontinent and they are always leaving dribbles and droppings behind where ever they go. You cannot get rid the smell with out removing it all. 

Mice, being rodents are not only afflicted with incontinence, they also suffer from teeth that never stop growing outward. To counter act it, mice wear their teeth down on hard objects. The insulated wire is highly preferred by the mice. Unfortunately this makes having working running lights and turn signals a challenge. All this stuff had to be corrected.

Unfortunately the entire rear end of the Yellow Submarine was compromised with a severely rusted frame. It was so bad that 3 feet had to be cut off, then  rebuilt using new metal. 

One new out rigger had to be fabricated.

The bumper was missing. It had probably fallen off on the road some where. A new one was fabricated using rectangular tubing. This is not original to 1961, but in the mid 50's, this was how they built them. Once painted, I doubt any one will know the difference.

It came out rather well, if I do say so myself. I suspect originally this trailer had a spare tire mount on the bumper due to the off set license plate bracket.

Due to budget constraints, we only replaced the worst of the floor. How much to replace is often a fine line. My vote is always to replace all of it. Some times the budget only allows for the worst of it.

Sometimes I have to just replace the minimum.

A good deal of the belly pan was missing or so torn up it was no longer doing any good. Of course these had to be the most difficult segments to fabricate from scratch. I have done these corners a number of times now, so for me, it is a fun little challenge.

Some of it was flat and easy to replace.

The repairs done required the belt line to be removed. This meant drilling two rivets and extracting three rusty #14 screws. Both belt lines were barely holding on. Both are back on and tight.

Well, here she is! A big change from the yellow blob that rolled in a few months back. The trailer to the right; you might recognize that 57 Caravanner from a year or two ago… it is going to be done shell off soon.

Before the 57 Caravanner, is a great project that is currently already under way. 

This is a 1953 29 foot Liner. You saw this trailer in a previous post when I went to inspect it. This unit is rumored to have been custom built for Coco Chanel.

The story told to me is that her American handler wanted her to have luxury accommodations when she was in Hollywood working on films. Who knows, this may be one of those trailers Wally Byam drew out on a roll of paper and sent off to the factory to be built . The agent ended up with the trailer and it sat for many years on a horse breeding farm in Kentucky. Various jockeys and farm hands used it as a crash pad before it was sold. I have no proof Coco Chanel actually slept in the trailer, but there was a faint hint of No 5 de Chanel when it was being taken apart. More on all this in my next post.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Yellow Submarine.

Music will be needed for this post. Take the time and watch the video, it will take you back for sure. Play it again as you read…

I always want to believe that people think they are doing the right thing. I also want to believe that inspiration is divine. In this case, I wonder what the heck he was thinking. 

I simply do not know what to say.

Burning Man?

Woodstock Redux?

Bonnaroo maybe?

Maybe just too much LSD in the past. I just do not know what to think about this paint job.
Her new owners bought her this way. Their plan is to turn it into a guest cottage. They went at the paint removal. I think it took a lot more than they expected.

About 98.89% was removed. It is that 1.11% that was our challenge. We got 98.89% of that 1.11% by the time we were done with our attempt at paint removal.

I think maybe the trailer was painted due to these chemical burns to the Alclad. It can be seen in many areas. I have never seen this sort of skin damage. It goes way down into the skin. 

A lot of people wonder what went in the box up front. It is a tractor battery. I have not seen a trailer with this battery type still in it in years. Three sit in the yard currently with this battery in them. One is leaking acid badly, one is dry, and this one is currently holding a whopping .01 volts.

There was yellow paint in every nook and cranny. Yellow Submarine yellow is what the can read I am sure.

I love this take on an astrodome. It is a piece of triple laminated glass held on with about 6 tubes of silicon. That white primer you see was wicked stubborn. The nuclear marine stripper we use is more stubborn.

Little bites eats an elephant.

Much of the skin has been tortured. Huge screws were used a great deal. I had to remove about 30 broken off #14 screws. There were also a number of tamper resistant screws rusting away and reacting with the aluminum. 

Someone didn't want to spend $9 on a pair of tin snips. Instead they drilled a bunch of holes. I don't understand what this hole was even for. The time it must have taken to do a half ass job like this is astounding.

Slowly, but surely all the paint was removed. That last 1.11% was, to be honest, a bitch. It took a lot of effort. All the holes in the skin were filled or patched over. As you can see in this image, the skin has not been well treated in the past. We did our best to make it look good again.

In my next post I will show you all the structural repairs we have done. I might even bore you with the seals, locks, dead bolt, and all that mundane stuff. Stay tuned folks!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


There will be a series of short update posts coming out. We have just begun a major project and I want to fill in the gaps before launching into that post...

If you do not love a polished Airstream, you must need serious mental help. It catches your eye from a mile away and you just cannot look away.

There has been some polishing going on a FTW as we continue to test drive the new mystery polish we call ShineOla around the shop.

Results speak for them selves.

It is a lot of work even with a polish that works as well and as fast as this one does.

At FTW we like ShineOla a lot. We are currently booking polishing jobs. Please call for a quote...