Saturday, November 2, 2013

1968 Caravel 5 of...

TOUCH DOWN!!! Well, kind of. I put the shell back into place. It is always a momentous occasion. I always breath a big sigh of relief once it happens.

Everything went right back where it was supposed to. It took a little shoving and pushing, but it all went right back from where it started. I continued the bolting of all the parts back down. Not all the C channel was able to be accurately referenced before the shell was put back into place, so I opted to cleco it to the shell and lower it all back down together. 

Wally Byam always said, "make no changes, only improvements." I take that fairly seriously and strive to do just that. 
I use a slightly hybrid method of bolting everything back in place. First, on the right is the elevator bolt. It has a head twice as wide as the original bolts used. This gives a great deal of holding power over the board.  It also has a square shank which grabs the wood and keeps it from spinning while it is tightened. Center you see a bonded washer, front and back. I use these so no ferrous metal makes contact with the aluminum. It acts as a barrier and also helps distribute the force of the locking nut on the far left. I like these nuts since they do not back off once tightened down. I still bend over the excess shaft of the bolt to keep it from backing off just as Airstream did back in the day.

Next I went on to fabricate new bell pans. The old stuff is just too torn up and corroded to be used for anything but templates. The first step is to make sure all the rivets, screws, and blobs of putty are removed. Next I  flatten everything out with a body hammer. I next carefully trace the original making sure to copy everything exactly as it is. I want to point out the obvious since obvious is not always clear to everyone; The new aluminum is face down and so is the original or visa versa. This is a VERY common mistake made by many. Those tabs you see standing up are also very important in how much cut and angle there is. COPY means to make an exact replica. Close is not going to make it at this step.

That slit to the right. CRUCIAL. It allows the belly to curve upward to the outside of the frame rail and the center section to stay put. 

Here are the rear and front corners. Unlike earlier years, the guys at Airstream made these in smaller pieces. Previously, these were all part of the main belly sheet previously. This makes it a lot easier to install. 

I hope you enjoyed this little progress report. There will be more to come next week.


  1. Nice work Frank! What type of aluminum do you use for the belly pan and wraps?