Thursday, September 25, 2014

Coco's Fidy Tree

We have scratched our heads over finding this message. I can only speculate that this trailer was such a special order and so far out of the normal production that the boys in the factory didn't know what to think.

Sorry for the jump forward, but in the last post she was just a bare frame. The frame was sandblasted then painted with three coats of POR15. The exposed elements were top coated with the POR top coat product. This is a new system I am trying and so far the results are impressive. The colors however are very limited. The plywood has been bolted down and the C channel installed. Honestly, those with a sharp eye will see in this photo that the belly pan is on too.

This is what I had to template off of for the new belly pan. In later years the belly pan is made of two long pieces of aluminum running back to front with a seam down the middle. On this trailer the aluminum was riveted into big panels with the seams going across the trailer. I think they used scraps since there was no real rhyme or reason to their dimensions. Normally, I copy things faithfully, but this time around I made my belly panels using maximum yield to the sheet. Aluminum is expensive and I felt it better not to be wasteful on something no one ever looks at. 

Here you see three, four foot sheets riveted together to make a 12 foot long sheet. Two of these mega sheets and one smaller one make up the belly pan.

Here you see the belly pan sections all installed. You might also note those new wheel tubs. They were fabricated by my buddy Tom at Metal Benders. He used 3/32 thick aluminum and they are super solid. I suspect I will get a lot of calls from people wanting them for their project.

Here at the wheel wells I discovered an issue. The belly pan leaves a gap at the out riggers. Originally this was just left open. There was a great deal of road debris in there. 

I came up with this improvement; a cap made of aluminum.(the aluminum is not white, that is the pvc film I always order my material with.

Another problem area is where the bumper meets the floor. I came up with a multi stepped flashing system. Above is the first layer. It caps off the plywood. Copious amounts vulkem were applied between this cap and the wood.

So there is step one.

Next I made this piece. It might be a small piece of metal, but that was some tricky metal bending right there.

Finally this piece caps off everything. Once the shell goes down, it is all sealed up.

Speaking of the shell going down… sorry about the big jump in work. Sometimes I am just too busy to remember to snap photos.

Now comes my personal favorite part of any project; the body work.

Due to the numerous dents, scrapes, and holes in the skin, many of the panels are being replaced.

Here, the first panel has been removed for copying. There will be a lot more on this in my next post.

Also in my next post I will tell you all about the new running gear. We had a few snafu's with the spring shop. Once this all gets sorted out, I will be getting very in depth about leaf spring axles. 

Stay tuned, there is a lot more coming on this project.

Monday, September 8, 2014

It Always Get's Ugly Before it Get's Beautiful

I am doing some catch up with this post since all of what I am posting is about a month or so old...

We began the preparations for lifting the shell on the 53'. 

She is entirely gutted out here. These next two photos were taken before the windows were removed from the shell. All the windows were removed from the shell entirely. This era had a gasket that is riveted to the window frame. To replace it, one must totally remove the window. The same issue affects replacing the screens. All 17 windows were removed and are being rebuilt. More on that in a later post since it is a post on to it's self.

Interestingly, the construction of the shell and ribs is almost identical to today's Airstreams. They just used better materials.

The guy labeling the alclad sheets wanted to make sure it was clear what the material was. Generally I feel lucky when there is one stripe of information on the back of the sheet. 

Usually when someone tries to hide the rotten floor, they add a layer of luan or similar material. In this girl, they used layers of linoleum. 

Out of sight, out of mind. 

The gantry is all set up and the shell is free.

One, two, three,… PULL.

At one point in this trailer's life some floor was replaced(very improperly) and they installed a  ton of new insulation in the belly. This made for a nasty mess of fiberglass, detritus, and droppings. 

Michael jumped right in with a power washer and made the best of cleaning it up.

Keep in mind that the modern ladder frame was not introduced but two years previously. If you ever take apart a pipe frame trailer, you will see a situation similar to this where the belly is actually carried by an aluminum channel made from .032 aluminum.

You will also notice the engineers at Airstream were trying to find out just how long they could make outriggers. This one is 21" long. It is rotted off and actually held on with a 2x3 glued inside of it. You might also notice the lack of "c" channel around the front and rear curve. The shell is held with 3" long chunks every 8" or so.

The rear axle was free spinning and the front axle had electric brakes. The old running gear will be refurbished or replaced. Electric brakes will be on both axles going forward. Many of you might be wondering if I plan to install modern torsion axles. No. I plan to install new leaf spring axles. The goal is to look as if it still is all original. The owner also does not plan a lot of off roading with this trailer in the future.

Here is the frame in it's naked form. Like I said, this is a very early generation ladder frame. There is absolutely no metal on the underside of the frame. The cross members are 1 1/2" angle and nothing more. The frame members are 4" channel and the bumper is 5" channel. The frame measures exactly 29 feet from the bumper to the tip of the hitch. What surprised me the most was that the frame does not sag or droop. I expected it to be very flimsy but instead it is incredibly stout. With any other Airstream frame I would have to use numerous jack stands to keep it straight and level. The metal is incredibly hard also. In later steps, I was breaking drill bits way too often.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Not So Yellow Submarine

Many people I encounter simply do not have the budget to take their trailers all the way. But if they knew what is just below the skins, they often change their minds. Above is why one needs tho replace all the insulation in any vintage trailer. 
Mice are usually the reason it really needs to be done. All the structure can be repaired with out removing all the insulation, but more often than not, this is what I find behind the interior skins. Believe it or not, this is a rather pristine piece of insulation. Often the entire cavity is void of insulation. The mice have carried it off to make a nest elsewhere. Mice are incontinent and they are always leaving dribbles and droppings behind where ever they go. You cannot get rid the smell with out removing it all. 

Mice, being rodents are not only afflicted with incontinence, they also suffer from teeth that never stop growing outward. To counter act it, mice wear their teeth down on hard objects. The insulated wire is highly preferred by the mice. Unfortunately this makes having working running lights and turn signals a challenge. All this stuff had to be corrected.

Unfortunately the entire rear end of the Yellow Submarine was compromised with a severely rusted frame. It was so bad that 3 feet had to be cut off, then  rebuilt using new metal. 

One new out rigger had to be fabricated.

The bumper was missing. It had probably fallen off on the road some where. A new one was fabricated using rectangular tubing. This is not original to 1961, but in the mid 50's, this was how they built them. Once painted, I doubt any one will know the difference.

It came out rather well, if I do say so myself. I suspect originally this trailer had a spare tire mount on the bumper due to the off set license plate bracket.

Due to budget constraints, we only replaced the worst of the floor. How much to replace is often a fine line. My vote is always to replace all of it. Some times the budget only allows for the worst of it.

Sometimes I have to just replace the minimum.

A good deal of the belly pan was missing or so torn up it was no longer doing any good. Of course these had to be the most difficult segments to fabricate from scratch. I have done these corners a number of times now, so for me, it is a fun little challenge.

Some of it was flat and easy to replace.

The repairs done required the belt line to be removed. This meant drilling two rivets and extracting three rusty #14 screws. Both belt lines were barely holding on. Both are back on and tight.

Well, here she is! A big change from the yellow blob that rolled in a few months back. The trailer to the right; you might recognize that 57 Caravanner from a year or two ago… it is going to be done shell off soon.

Before the 57 Caravanner, is a great project that is currently already under way. 

This is a 1953 29 foot Liner. You saw this trailer in a previous post when I went to inspect it. This unit is rumored to have been custom built for Coco Chanel.

The story told to me is that her American handler wanted her to have luxury accommodations when she was in Hollywood working on films. Who knows, this may be one of those trailers Wally Byam drew out on a roll of paper and sent off to the factory to be built . The agent ended up with the trailer and it sat for many years on a horse breeding farm in Kentucky. Various jockeys and farm hands used it as a crash pad before it was sold. I have no proof Coco Chanel actually slept in the trailer, but there was a faint hint of No 5 de Chanel when it was being taken apart. More on all this in my next post.