Friday, October 17, 2014

Coco's Fidy Tree continued...

What can I say, Coco's trailer is getting some major cosmetic surgery. 

The entire lower portion of the exterior skin is being replaced. 

There were some major rashes, a few worry lines, and number of wrinkles we wanted gone.

90 running feet of new Alclad was ordered up from one of my favorite vendors; Airparts Inc. I cannot say enough good things about the gang over there. They give me excellent service and regular shipping gets it here in two days.

They cut me out a few custom lengths. I always order my Alclad with a PVC film applied to protect it from scratches during fabrication. Always spend the extra few dollars on this film. Here is one panel an inch short of 20 feet long. I roll it out face down. 

The original panel is laid face down on top of the new sheet. I begin at a corner and drill through the rivet holes followed by a clecko to hold it in place. All lines are traced out then cut out using a variety of tooling. Mostly I just use hand sheers.

Then presto, the new panel fits like it was made for it. 

Above is my clecko box. This is one of the coolest tools at FTW. What it does is so highly specialized, but it does it so perfectly. Basically, they act as a temporary or spring loaded rivet. I love my cleckos for another reason also. FTW is their second lease on life. They originally were used at Boeing to build jets. Once they go through just a few builds, Boeing considers them surplus. I know the surplus buyer and I buy them from him. I find this rather apropos since originally Airstream bought the aluminum Boeing did not want and used it to to build trailers. 

Drill, clecko, drill clecko, thousands later it is ready for actual rivets.

All the way around the trailer this was done. Drill all the rivets out. Remove the panel. Copy it. Re install the panel. Rivet into place.

There is that film being pulled back.

We also did two upper panels. There were three separate attempts at some sort of stove vent system. There were also some sort of furnace and stove vent penetrations. This took a serious toll on the panels and replacing them was easier than patching them.

Here are those steps again. Drill out all the old rivets.

Remove the original panel. Copy it.

Install the new panel with cleckos. I mighty add that first, it  all is drilled using an 1/8" bit and copper color cleckos are installed. I then remove every other one and drill with a #21 bit for the buck rivet. A black color clecko is used in that hole till it is replaced with a bucked rivet.

And that is how you rebuild an Airstream…

Next post will be about the Herh Standard window used in this trailer. It has a lot of them. Each one requires a lot of attention to rebuild. I will cover all that in a further post. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Coco's Fidy Tree

We have scratched our heads over finding this message. I can only speculate that this trailer was such a special order and so far out of the normal production that the boys in the factory didn't know what to think.

Sorry for the jump forward, but in the last post she was just a bare frame. The frame was sandblasted then painted with three coats of POR15. The exposed elements were top coated with the POR top coat product. This is a new system I am trying and so far the results are impressive. The colors however are very limited. The plywood has been bolted down and the C channel installed. Honestly, those with a sharp eye will see in this photo that the belly pan is on too.

This is what I had to template off of for the new belly pan. In later years the belly pan is made of two long pieces of aluminum running back to front with a seam down the middle. On this trailer the aluminum was riveted into big panels with the seams going across the trailer. I think they used scraps since there was no real rhyme or reason to their dimensions. Normally, I copy things faithfully, but this time around I made my belly panels using maximum yield to the sheet. Aluminum is expensive and I felt it better not to be wasteful on something no one ever looks at. 

Here you see three, four foot sheets riveted together to make a 12 foot long sheet. Two of these mega sheets and one smaller one make up the belly pan.

Here you see the belly pan sections all installed. You might also note those new wheel tubs. They were fabricated by my buddy Tom at Metal Benders. He used 3/32 thick aluminum and they are super solid. I suspect I will get a lot of calls from people wanting them for their project.

Here at the wheel wells I discovered an issue. The belly pan leaves a gap at the out riggers. Originally this was just left open. There was a great deal of road debris in there. 

I came up with this improvement; a cap made of aluminum.(the aluminum is not white, that is the pvc film I always order my material with.

Another problem area is where the bumper meets the floor. I came up with a multi stepped flashing system. Above is the first layer. It caps off the plywood. Copious amounts vulkem were applied between this cap and the wood.

So there is step one.

Next I made this piece. It might be a small piece of metal, but that was some tricky metal bending right there.

Finally this piece caps off everything. Once the shell goes down, it is all sealed up.

Speaking of the shell going down… sorry about the big jump in work. Sometimes I am just too busy to remember to snap photos.

Now comes my personal favorite part of any project; the body work.

Due to the numerous dents, scrapes, and holes in the skin, many of the panels are being replaced.

Here, the first panel has been removed for copying. There will be a lot more on this in my next post.

Also in my next post I will tell you all about the new running gear. We had a few snafu's with the spring shop. Once this all gets sorted out, I will be getting very in depth about leaf spring axles. 

Stay tuned, there is a lot more coming on this project.

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.