Saturday, January 21, 2012

Is This Part 5? Who Cares, 1957 Caravaner

I feel I am now caught up enough to stop the "updates". At FTW we have had the pleasure of working on Michael's 1957 Caravaner. We did a little stuff to get Michael set for camping earlier in the year. Now his trailer has come back to get ready for an even longer season that entails a cross country trip and many nights boon docking.

His 57 is in very original state, even though the previous owner did some work, it is fairly original.

Here you see the modern, stainless steel, 30 amp, power inlet that was part of updating the electrical system. Now a locking power cord can be used instead of just a extension cord. In 1957, the 12 volt system was a tractor battery connected to a single light bulb in the ceiling fixture. It was very basic lighting just really intended for setting up or while on the road. We installed a converter, fuse box, and a distribution box. Now the original 12 volt light is supplied, as are new under counter lights, and task lights.

All the exposed steel was first sand blasted, then treated with Por15 rust treatment. We then primed and top coated using a two stage automotive paint that matches Michael's tow vehicle.

This is the color. It is a metallic paint. I think it is called Deep Cherry.

We gave the rims the very same treatment. Rims are VERY hard to spray. Take my word for it!

They came out Fan Damn Tabulous if you ask me. They look super sharp with the baby moon hub caps offered by Vintage Trailer Supply. That, is also a very sexy wheel well cut out I might add.

The plumbing was, well, as I said earlier, ... the previous owner did some stuff.

The plumbing has all been converted to PEX. I like the solid copper band style as opposed to the crimp style rings. The blue and red lines allow for easy identification should an issue ever arrive. A new Whisper King pump, accumulator, and a winterization kit were also installed to make life even easier.

The battery and converter were tucked into the most unusable space possible. Just forward of it we installed the new water heater. This is not your normal water heater however. It is an RV 500 water on demand heater.

This is the unpainted aluminum door they offer. It will polish up like a mirror. This is the unit in a 1971 Overlander. I use this photo just to show what the door looks like.

In Michael's trailer we installed it with an eyebrow above it to make it blend with the original hatch next door. As you can see, the unit is very well constructed. The solid copper still on the left is where water meets flame. Everything about these units is impressive. The second you touch the water valve, it knows and fires up. Within one second hot water is at your spout. The moment you turn the water off, it turns off. Very efficient to say the least. You might also note the water fill tucked right up under there.

A drawer contains all the electrical stuff if an issue ever comes up. Like I said, a very well made item here. This makes trouble shooting easy and replacing any electronics easy. These units do cost about 3 times as much as a regular water heater, but I personally feel it well worth the extra cost. Want your own on demand water heater from Precision Temp? I am now a dealer and would be glad to hook you up(get it, hook you up?)!!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Addendum To Long Awaited Update Part 1

In order to clarify the replacement panel fiasco I talked about in one of my previous posts, I have decided to explain with better photos. They speak for themselves.

This is a #11(front street side corner) replacement segment installed in a 1971 Overlander. It is a factory original, produced from the exact molds, in the exact same factory, as the original panel were. It fits absolutely perfectly. The bottom edge came pre drilled for rivets and amazingly, 95% of the new holes matched up perfect to the ones drilled in 1971. Well, of course silly, I did say it was made from the same mold in the same factory. There is just one major problem.

The aluminum used today to build Airstreams is the same alloy as license plates are made from. In 1971 Airstream produced the trailers out of same aluminum as Boeing jets. Big difference folks. Unfortunately, as I was told by Airstream customer service "that is how we make them. It is close enough and you are just going to have to live with it." Well, "close enough" is good enough for Airstream, but not for me. I do not claim to know Wally Byam, but I am fairly certain that "close enough" would never be good enough. I seriously doubt, "good enough" was in his vocabulary. A man that led families across Africa to prove his product was the best, would never stand for good enough.

That panel is a factory original too. However it was pressed in 1973 and spent it's life on a 31 footer. Oh yeah, it is also the #3 segment(rear curb side corner), not the #11(front street side corner). I purchased this panel from Ryan at RV Revive. Ryan was very straight and honest with me. Ryan took a good deal of time understanding my needs. He first sent me photos of all the possible segments he had in the yard. He was VERY straight up about each and every flaw the choices had. Unfortunately, the #11 segments all had damage that deemed them not good enough for either of us. Ryan then went to plan B of using a #3 segment. Ryan was very hesitant about selling me the segment as he thought that there was not enough face metal to cover the need.
I told him I was willing to try it out and two days later a well constructed crate arrived from Waterloo, Iowa. Inside it was the entire segment, literally cut right out of the side. All the ribs and everything were still attached. We drilled it out, trimmed it down, fit it into the opening, then stripped it of the clear coat finish. We then riveted it into place for the rest of it's life. Guess what, about 90% of the rivet holes on the bottom edge lined up. No, this time it was serendipity.

Once the riveting was complete we went about polishing the segment. What is that cool saffron colored paste on the segment? I have never seen a polish that color before. Is that the super secret polish you are testing out? YYYUUUUUPPPPPPPP!!! However it is not super secret. It has a real fancy name too Aluminum Trailer Polish. Once I test it out a little more, I will probably become the North American distributor. The results I am seeing at present are very encouraging.

Well? Good enough now? Perfect match.

How about that polish job? Good enough now?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Long Awaited Update. Part 3 (the end of year bonus)

How does the saying go? A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.
What if your boss takes you fishing? What if he takes you fishing and treats it like a regular work day? Kind of messes it all up right? Well, at FTW, we love to screw these things up.

Wayne has been an absolutely awesome employee! He has never been late, always sober, and more than willing to avoid mistakes. As a sign of my gratitude for his great service, I wanted to give Wayne a gift he would appreciate. I contacted my Brother in Law and with some long time friends, we chartered a day with Captain Bo to fish for rockfish(stripped bass to the rest of you) on the Bay.

This is far from the first time we have fished with Captain Bo. He has a super clean boat and ALWAYS puts us on the fish.

His report of the previous week was less than stellar.

But, hey, a bad day of fishing is better than a great day at work (unless you work at FTW. Fishing might be your job for the day. "Hey Boss, what do you want me to do today?" "Go fishing").

There were very few other boats to compete with for the fish. This late in the season is hard to be on the fish. Most of the big summer fish have migrated out to sea. This leaves many small fish too young to migrate. However, if the timing is just right, the big fish from up North, turn up the Chesapeake for a quick snack as they head South. These fish are generally monsters.

They make you work for it. "keep the tip up, wind as you drop, never let it go slack..." Hey that's Wayne up to bat!

Dang Dr Lou, what ya got bending that Ugly Stick like that?

Wow John, you loosing line or gaining?

Captain Bo has an awesome mate by the way. He knew his job well and made it feel as if we were doing the catching.

Not bad, everyone got a keeper...

Wayne's fish enjoys cigars too.

There are our two biggest. John, on left is holding a 41" fish while Wayne shows us his 42" fish. Incase you do not understand how much fish that is, one filet, was dinner four times, for my family of four. At each meal, the entire family devoured the rockfish. Without a doubt, this is one of the finest fish you can eat.

Everyone had a great time. It is kind of hard not to. I just want to take this opportunity to thank Wayne again for being such an awesome employee. Glad you enjoyed one of the fringe benefits of working at FTW.

I also want to take this opportunity to put in a plug for Captain Bo. Brawler Charters is probably one of the top ten charters working the Bay. This is probably the 10th trip on the Brawler and as usual we came home with big smiles on our faces and a cooler full of fish. Plans are ready in the works for the next season. Hopefully I will be taking another employee on that trip.
Does FTW seem like a great place to work? It is. Would you like to work here? I am looking for another talented person.

Long Awaited Update. Part 2

Polishing, we LOVE POLISHING!!!!

We had the honor of polishing up this 1967 Caravel recently. Her owner had stripped and done the majority of the compounding in past years. FTW was hired to take it to the next step. We also pulled a significant dent and installed a new AC unit on the roof.

Somehow the removal of the original unit missed my camera lens. It is just as well, for it was a huge challenge to get it off. The original unit was installed to never be removed or replaced. First we had to cut an opening and then install a rib into the ceiling to support the new unit. The original shroud was riveted to the longitudinal ribs in the ceiling, so the weight had to be redirected for the new unit. On top of slipping a rib into the ceiling, we also boxed in the opening with some C channel I bent up.

The windows and many seams had to first have multiple layers of sealants removed. There were also a number of errant holes to deal with.

The hardest part of polishing these previously clear coated trailers, is that when said clear coat fails, it does it very very slowly. The failure allows aluminum oxide crystals to form under the clear surface and this is the resulting damage. This is called filiform corrosion and trust me, it is a bear.

Many many cuts with black rouge on a very stiff wheel are required to get it off. Often, we sand with 600 grit wet/ dry paper first, then go at it with the wheel.

100% removal is virtually impossible. With determination, one can put a serious hurtin on it though.

On the 1966-69 trailers it is VERY important to protect the glass. We put double layers of blue tape down. I do not want any heat from the polishers or even worse, any polishing chemicals to touch the glass. Remember, this glass is chemically tempered. You do not want to chance any unknown chemicals might un-temper that glass. I have heard that some of the acids in some polishes has caused damage to some windows. Fortunately, we have avoided this.

Wayne loves to chew on his cigar and watch his face get clearer and clearer in the aluminum. He often says, "I can see just how ugly I am now, time to move to the next section..."

When originally polished, one of the steps used was very aggressive. It took considerable effort to get through this stuff also.

Here is a good shot of the new AC unit on the roof. These little Caravels are so sexy!

I mentioned earlier a dent we pulled. How is that one? Right up front where you could not help but see it, over two feet wide.

We have some tricks up our sleeve though. Here you see it significantly reduced in size.

97% gone...

99.4% gone. My standards were missed by only 0.6%. I will have to try harder next time.

This Caravel is not the Shiny Hiney, but her hiney sure did take a shine!

Long Awaited Update. Part 1

I know, I know... I have gotten the message, the emails, and now the snail mail letter asking what is going on and why there have been zero posts in quite a while. To be honest, a close friend told me I was giving too much away on this blog. Him telling me that kind of set me back. It had me evaluating and questioning if it was indeed true. The conclusion I have come to is that I enjoy sharing what I do. I have also come to find that there are many that really enjoy reading about what we do at Frank's Trailer Works. I have always prided myself in being an open book - why close the cover now?

Since I generally put in six-day work weeks, and four of them are with Wayne helping out, a huge amount has happened in the long gap between my last post. The main project in the shop is Michele and Larry's '71 Overlander. This post will focus on bringing you up to speed on what has been happening with that trailer.

When we removed the AC unit, we found that the steel pan had caused serious galvanic corrosion. The metal was so thin that I was able to stick my finger right through it in some spots.

We made a very large patch that overlapped the damaged area by a number of inches. All the original rivet holes were re-drilled and replaced with new bucked rivets. Great care was taken to match the rivet spacing so this patch will never be noticed by the casual observer.

At the same time we removed the astrodome curb, stove vent, and all the plumbing stacks and then installed them using new sealant and rivets. The goal is no leaks.

All three vent openings now have Fantastic Vents installed. All three are powered and have the rain sensor.

Some minor welding needed be done in the rear to accommodate a change. Yes, change. This change is an improvement, however. The Airstream bumper hatch causes water to actually run toward the plywood sub floor. We totally re-engineered it so this can no longer happen. All water goes straight down now.

Also, no longer can the bumper hatch double as a bath tub. It all drains out now.

The plywood in this trailer was remarkably good. We did have to replace the rear sheet earlier. The area under the right side of the door jamb was a little bit questionable. Most would had probably just let it go. I could not, however. This is the last rebuild this trailer is going to get, so it was taken care of now. We cut it back to just inside of the main frame rails so we could join the main sheet and also tie it together with some cross members. The area was cut out carefully so both ends lay firmly on top of outriggers. While we had this floor out, we took the time to fine tune the steps, which worked, but marginally.

Here you see Wayne drilling out for new elevator bolts.

I am very pleased with the final results. Yes the job did expand ever so slightly, but a lot of things were corrected in the same stretch of work.

Some of you may have followed this segment fiasco on Air Forums. The original segment was stretched out during polishing. In order to make it right, a new segment was needed. I went onto the internet and found that you can buy "factory original replacement panels" via Airstream dealers. I contacted the guy who has been in the business over 40 years and explained my situation. "Piece of cake," I was told. Same panel, made on the original forms, by Airstream. How could you ask for more? And look how well it fits. PERFECT FIT!!!! Of course you say, it was made from the original forms. Just one slight problem. The segments are pressed from the same alloy as new Airstreams are. No matter how hard you try, it will never be the same color or sheen as the original skin. The customer service response was "that's how we do it. It is close enough; live with it." Sorry Airstream, maybe it is good enough for you, but it far from good enough for me.

There is a very happy ending to this story however. I was able to find Ryan at RV Revive. He spent a good deal of time listening to my needs. He sent me photos of three possible segments and was very honest about all their faults. We agreed on the one and two days later Fedex dropped a crate off from Iowa. I am sorry I do not have a photo to prove it, but the segment fit perfectly and polished up so sweet. Ryan is an excellent resource and I suggest anyone reading this to bookmark the link to him.

We have also completed the first layer of insulation.

Ace Goldberg has been coming into town to lend a hand on many of the projects. He has a hell of a commute from Pittsburgh. Three people working on this really makes it roll. About 90% of the wiring has been completed as of this post.
I am also very pleased to have become a dealer for Precision Temp. This trailer has had an RV 500 on-demand water heater installed in it. We have installed a few of these units now and love them. I will try and get you all a photo of these units soon. I have been very impressed with every thing from PT. The units look and feel as if they are made with great pride. Even the box it comes in is impressive.

Once again, I want to apologize for this sabbatical of sorts from posting. I am back now and feeling energized.