Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The British Import vs. The American Icon

I received a call. The call came with a frazzled, worried voice. "I think it is really bad… We got broad sided by a vintage MGB. The door is totally messed up and a rib or two is bent badly" 

Abby is a 1973 Argosy 26. Her owners lovingly renovated her a few years ago and as any trailer owner knows, your first trailer is very dear to you.

A canary yellow MGB, out for a Sunday drive, lost it's brakes and Abby stopped it. 

The door frame took the brunt of the blow. It was indeed seriously bent. I was optimistic when looking at the photos, but once I saw it in person I knew there was no fixing that door. The entire door frame was twisted. Even though I generally remain positive about these things, I knew it was finished.

Right at the wheel well there was also this very large tear and a bent rib. Her owners told me they had faith in me and left Abby in my hands. I might also add that before they brought her down, they made my life very easy by removing all the interior furniture and interior skins in the area.

I hatched a plan; Plan A, new door. New door from a California Airstream parts supplier, $2200+ shipping. 
I hatched another plan; Plan B, Salvaged door. And to my luck, it took about 2 hours to find one. 

Star Trailer Works in El Paso Texas had a door out of a 1976 Airstream on Ebay. Would a 76 Airstream door work in a 73 Argosy? One other issue, I needed the frame too. I contacted Mike and asked him if when I won the auction, could I also purchase the frame. Mike was more than willing to work with me. He offered to end the auction early but I just did not like doing that since he had bids. I set my bid and crossed my fingers. I think you know how it turned out...

The damaged panel and door frame were removed from the trailer.

The three bent ribs were then straightened back out. Two of them were fairly easy but one wanted to make it a challenge. I like challenges. 

A new sheet of Alclad was then fitted into the side.

At the moment of truth, it was serendipity. These frames must have had every other hole drilled during manufacturing, because those lined up exactly. During installation they must have free handed the holes in between because none of them lined up.  Keep in mind, 1976 Airstream door going into a 1973 Argosy. 

The Airstream gods were smiling on me.

All dry fitted, drilled for solid rivets, and ready to be put together for ever.

A new overlay panel was also made to cover the caved in belly pan.

An absolutely perfect fit. Sorry to blow my own horn, but I am very proud of pulling this off. Next I took it all apart and applied copious amounts of trempro 626 where needed.

That is great squeeze out.

Next all the rivets were bucket into place. 

Abby's owners had her painted from the belt line up to match their tow vehicle. I had to match the paint that was matched. Any paint jobs require excellent preparation because everyone knows the job only looks as good as the preparation . Aluminum requires extra special preparation. I used an etching aluminum primer.

The belly area got the same treatment.

Three, thin, coats of a single stage paint were then applied. When I say single stage that refers to a paint that has the base color and the clear coat all in one. It was my guess that whoever painted the trailer used that system. Most cars are painted in two stages, a base coat then a clear on top of that. It gives a really deep finish. With something so large I thought one pass was all the painter would have done. I wanted the paint to match so I went with the single stage.

There you have a really close match. When Abby goes home her owners plan to replace all the orange belt line with new material. The new panel will require very little work to polish up. The door will require a little more.

The last thing needed was new wheel well trim. Like icing on a cake, it just finishes it all off. An exterior electrical outlet was also installed just forward  of the wheels so that outdoor entertaining would be made easier.


  1. Lovely work Frank. Did you get to restore the vintage MG too ? I hope this won't cause an international incident !

    Festive best to you & your family

    Chris x

  2. Super nice work Frank! Amazing job you did there,glad the door worked out.

  3. A difficult problem professionally resolved. Very nice work Frank! Jim