Sunday, January 15, 2012

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.


  1. Glad to read that business is good.

    FWIW, I do not agree with your close friend's comment/advice. My take on life is that choosy people want to know/understand what a given repair/update requires even though these same people have zero plans of doing the work themselves. The bill is easier to pay when the level of effort/sharing-of-"tribal knowledge" is understood.

    Also, glad to read that the segment fiasco appears to have a better resolution.


  2. While I respect your friend's opinion, I am thankful that you share so much information on the blog. I don't think you'll be losing any business because of your great cataloging of restoration processes: Either people will realize all of the work it takes and PAY you to do it, or they can look here and to Air Forums to guide them in the restoration process (I am the latter and thankful for your great documentation).
    I'm having the 'bathtub issue' with the bumper trunk on my 1974 Sovereign and will need to work out something to keep the leaking at bay. My dad helped me by rebuilding the sub floor in the back bedroom where it had rotted.
    I'm going to work on the polishing in the next year or two once I get the leaks resolved. I'm going to put in new Fantasic Vents and perhaps a new AC eventually. I've restored 3 of 5 vista view windows using help from the Air Forums. This is my first Airstream (and first RV!) and I'm thankful for the wise and helpful community.
    Your work is of high quality and highly commendable. Keep up the great work!
    Sincerely, T.J.
    (Air Forum ID: purdytj)