Ahh, what a treat! COLOR!!! Don't get used to it. I prefer to shoot in Black and White these days. The lovely glow of new lenses forced me to switch cameras for just a few shots…
Work continues at a steady pace. In working towards a weather tight shell, the running lights all went on. The original No. 9 tail light assemblies were rather rusted and could have been refurbished. I instead went the replacement route. Vintage Trailer Supply makes a perfect reproduction lens, gasket and beauty ring. These items are an exact match to the original. The recessed can bases, behind the lenses were also replaced. Unlike the original holes cut for the turn signals, I was much more careful in cutting my holes. This makes for a better seal against the skin of the trailer.
Unfortunately this trailer had it's original license plate holder removed at some time in the past. Two or three versions of had been installed. With the new skin, all that damage went away. I routed through the parts bins and what did I find but an original tail light base. Thanks to Vintage Trailer Supply I was able to buy the bracket and a reproduction lens for the center. The bracket is made of rather cheap chromed metal. I strongly encourage you to treat this item to prevent rust. I actually sand blasted the chrome off. I followed up with a self etching primer and an industrial grey top coat. If you do not treat this item it will be fully rusted in three years.
The belt line was worked on. It actually required a lot of work. 1950's and early 1960's cars had ginormous bumpers. It was very common to jack knife the trailer while backing up. More times than not this jack knifing resulted to dents to the belt line and the panels in the front corners. This Caravanner was a poster child for this effect. The photo does this dent/ scratch no justice. The center of this dent is a full 3/4" below the plane of the face. Unfortunately, a gash like that can only be made to look a little better than it currently does.
Dents like this can be easily pounded out using numerous dollies and hammers.
And now we come to a serious juncture; My closest friends tell me I give too much away(literally and figuratively). They tell me I show too many of my secrets and I should make people pay for that knowledge. I have struggled with this. I feel however, those that can't, won't. Those that can will. And those who know better will just screw it up and blame someone else. I am going to divulge some serious technique I have learned through trial and much error. It is free for the taking...
The belt. Start in the middle of the belt. Old holes are very helpful. I take great strides at keeping the belt line holes clearly marked so no rivets get put in those holes during securing the shell. Start in the center and work towards the ends. The straight runs almost always lay flat with the first try. The only thing that will hang you up is if you lost track of the original holes and a rivet is in the wrong spot. All the holes for the belt are in one plane and the rivets securing the shell(the ones you are covering up with the belt) are in a different plane. When you get to the curve, the belt will start to give you gaps against the skin. *Here is the freebie* If you push your palm against the belt and skin, right after the last clecko, then pull the belt away from the skin slightly, it will bend the belt correctly into place. There might be some slight gaps here and there. Don't freak out, work it in a little more.
Here is that big gash. I did my best on it but it will never be perfect. Somethings one just has to live with. You might also notice I do not screw the belt on as it was originally. I find that these screws wiggle loose over time. I also prefer that the rivet locks everything together. All the layers; belly pan, shell, c channel, and hold down plates are locked together this way.
You might be saying, "whoa!!! my belt does not look like that! I have small gaps. I guess I will shove a bunch of vulkem in there." To that I say 'WHOA!!! DON"T DO IT!!!'
Water is supposed to be able to flow down and out. When you start sealing here the water is going to collect inside the belt. All you need to do is tighten up the top edge. Here comes *another serious freebie*
Take a hard wood block and gently persuade the top edge against the skin. The gap suddenly goes away. I will caution you at this point to be careful. If you are not good at hitting the nail on the head you could swing your hammer right into the skin. If you are too full of rage you might swing too hard and over persuade the top edge. Gently work it in.
You may have picked in previous posts that I am a big believer in replacing the eyebrow over the door. Doing that makes the eye appeal of the trailer instantly go up. Another excellent way to improve the look of a trailer is to make the wheel well edge new again. Until 1965 the wheel wells were edged in a simple bead molding. Blow outs, aggressive tire shops, and bad roads often tear up this edge. I almost always replace this edge with all new material
Now once that rim gets painted and a baby moon hub cap gets installed that area is going to pop.
In my next post I will probably tell you all about the struggles I have been going through to fabricate the one damaged segment in the end cap.
I showed you this image in a previous post about this project. I believe I waxed on about how simple it was going to be to make. Well, friends, it has been far from simple. Computers have been brought into the struggle. If they do not succeed, hammers will get it done. I am just going to leave it there.
The name Silver Top might jog a familiar tone in your head. If you have ever driven on Pulaski Highway in the White Marsh area you might have noticed their show room on the West side of the road. You might have even seen their ad in many of the vintage trailer magazines. They have been around a long time. I got a complete tour of the Silver Top manufacturing facility. I like the Silver Top story and want to tell you a little about it.
During the Second World War the Glen L Martin Company built planes at their Middle River plant. It was a major operation. They built the B 29 Superfortress. The Enola Gay and the Bockscar were built there. Glen L Martin Company built the B26 Marauder, the A22, and many flying boats. When the war came to an end there was a lot of surplus equipment and a lot of surplus talent. The government had programs to try and convert some of this war effort into domestic production. A worker from the line took full advantage of this situation and started Silver Top. He also took advantage of the post war mobile home craze and manufactured a product to support that trend.
Silver Top's founder, much like Airstream's founder, based his business on aircraft construction. Silver Top manufactures awning roof, sunroom, and car ports using what is called the bridge arch truss. Buzz, the founder's son in law, proudly runs the business today. Buzz was very gracious to show me around.
So back to this war surplus; Most of the machines used at Silver Top were surplus brought over from Glen L Martin after the war. This 16 foot long shear could very well have cut the wing panels that were used to build the Enola Gay. I am not saying this shear did, but it is very possible. Stuff like this makes me feel proud to be an American.
When these tools were made, they were made to last forever. 60 plus years later, they are still building America.
Every machine is immaculately taken care of. The body of every machine is painted the same industrial grey. All the safety parts are the same industrial yellow.
From one end of the facility to the other, everything matches. Did I mention everything is immaculate?
A 14 foot metal brake. MASSIVE.
I don't know what half of this stuff actually does. It impressed me however. The smell of mechanical victory hangs heavy in there air here.
I love sheet metal breaks. Here is a 14 footer, a 12 footer, a 10 footer, and a little tiny 8 footer all lined up.
This jig has been making bridge arch trusses for over 50 years. It was built by the guy who built all the wing jigs for the Superfortress. From swords to plow shares.
I do not like dewalt tools(a very long story I will not bore you with but yellow is not liked at FTW). This however is a De Walt. This is a real tool made when men cared. It was made to last forever. The 60 foot saw table clad in aluminum was fairly impressive too.
Some things still are made with pride in America. This visit gives me hope we can take this country back, one manufacturing facility at a time.
The body works continues. Panel by panel I removed the damaged ones...
… Hole by hole I copied everything. By doing this, the new panel goes right into place.
Back in late 1956 or early 1957 a guy at Jackson Center took out a red grease pencil and marked out where someone was to drill through the skin and the rib behind it. Airstreams are hand made. This is the evidence that 57 years ago, the hand of a man touched this trailer and left it's mark. I use a black sharpie instead of a grease pencil. Maybe in 50 some years a guy will be drilling out my rivets and contemplating where I left my mark.
You may be asking yourself, 'why would you go to this extent?' Because the scrap above will never go away.
Once polished, dents like this show to the eye like a neon sign out in the desert at night.
A dented scrape like this going from one end to the other could never be made right.
Yowzer! That's a long one!!! The hatch door was removed, but it went right across the hatch and on towards the rear. End cap to end cap that is 12 feet.
Some of the damage goes very deep.
Up front there used to be a battery box. By replacing this skin, all the holes, blemishes, and battery acid stains can be removed.
All this panel replacing uses a lot of Cleckos. Even using them spread to out every other or every third hole, I saw the bottom of my Clecko box. Over the years I have purchased around 3000 black Cleckos. The barbs bend, the prongs stick, occasionally some end up in the scrap bin. Even if 25% have been lost to attrition, there still are a lot of Cleckos in my box. It is rare I see the bottom of the box.
This is also a sign I drilled a turnip truck load of holes.
Eventually I made it back to where I started.
Of all the lower panels, only the one at the door, under the window, was not replaced
Panel by panel we filled all the holes with solid rivets. A thick bead of Trempro 626 was applied between all the seams.
The Clecko box is over flowing once again. The damage is just a memory now.