Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Winter Palace

I do not usually work on trailers from the 80's. There was something about the sound of 'in need of an extreme makeover' and 'something completely different' that appealed to me. 

She is a really big girl this 1984 Avion. 10.6 meters. That translates to 34.77 feet. I do not know the weight, but it is way up there. This Avion is an Abrams tank on three axles. It cannot be polished, that is a big plus.

Come on in... 
Be careful though, 1984 really wants it's vibe back. 
I graduated high school in 1984. 
It was a very awkward period in America. 

This rather awkward flooring was installed very recently. It is all going away.

Do you think I am joking? Just look at that fabric...
In all honesty, it really is one, seriously comfortable couch. It pulls out to make a queen sized bed. Pretend...
...you do not sleep well one night... 
...you get 3 hours of sleep and by 10am you are spent. 
You clock out.
That couch might be a very good place to take a little nap.

This trailer is very spacious. There is a very nice dinette to have the morning coffee while reading the online news paper. An almost full sized refrigerator makes full time living very easy. The one you see is a 110volt only and it is going to be replaced by a propane/ AC version.

The full time, rear, walk around queen sized bed is a nice luxury. It is a bedroom suite. 

The various room dividers are made of solid wood. I think most Airstreams are some cloth or plastic version.

They all recess into the wall so you do not see them. 

These two dividers create a private dressing room just outside the bathroom. 

Looking forward from the bedroom suite. Bathroom is on the left. 

A generous shower/ tub unit.

Take it all in. Soon it will look completely different.

The command central all works. It has an AM/FM stereo. I was hoping for 8 track. I do not want to miss quote the tank statistics, but all three tanks are huge. This girl can go for a long time between fill ups or dumps.

Not everything is an aesthetic change. There is a little of this and that to fix. 

This AC was installed fairly recently. I suspect it was put on by the RV dealer in Ohio that middle manned this sale. It is fairly small for such a long trailer and is not installed correctly. When it rains, it literally pours right through. 

The roof seams have been gone over a few times with various things. More slop put down on top of leaking slop. 

I guess I could slather something up there like everyone else would. 

I could also remove it all and seal the seams correctly. It all starts with a heat gun and a nylon chisel.

Then some lacquer thinner on a cotton rag motivated by serious helpings of elbow grease. Repeat. Repeat again. 

Eventually, with enough determination, you end up with this.

All three roof vents were removed. The half closest to you has been hit with the heat gun and nylon chisel. The upper half was wiped with the cotton rag and lacquer thinner. 

Liberal helpings of elbow grease. Liberal. I love that word. Halfway readers now have elevated blood pressure. But liberal amounts of elbow grease get this job done. 
Take a deep breath.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How to Skin a Cat

I have been polishing. Many people love a polished Airstream. Many people have a lot of opinions on how to achieve it. This is just one way. It works for me. I really do not want to debate other techniques or tooling.

I find, the most efficient method is to use the tools that work best for you. About 10 hours into holding the tool a little light bulb will go off, you will have an epiphany, and suddenly you will understand how to make the tool do what you need it to. 

Results always vary. One panel will polish perfect, the next will try everything in it's power to resist the effects of the polisher. Dents you never knew existed will suddenly appear. Scratches will show up like neon lights on a flat Texas horizon. 

Many try for that perfect mirror finish. It is rather difficult to achieve. I find this reflectivity from 10 feet to be more than acceptable. a 10 at 10 is always my goal.
Some readers(Tom) may note I have gone back to my high end Canon pocket camera. 

So, how do I get to this polished state? I will show you everything. Over the years I have been sent a number of secret polishes to try out. Some have worked fairly well. I have never wanted to revel their names since things were not actually perfected. This time around however I am impressed enough with the polish to state exactly what it is...

On previous jobs I have relied heavily on the Jestco System. It is a sown cotton wheel and two rouge bars. Over the years I actually changed the system a bit. It uses a grey and red bar. I stopped using the grey and substituted the white. I find this combination works better. You can polish an entire trailer with this system. The problem however is it creates a lot of lines you notice. I now use this system to do detail work. It can cut in very tight areas. 

So this is the magic polish I used this time...
 It was sent to me by Vintage Trailer Supply to try out. I suspect they sent it out to numerous commercial guys to test drive. I am rather impressed with this polish. I used the No. 2(course) on a wool bonnet to do the first cut. The issue I have with wool bonnets is they create big circular swirls. These are a little harder to break up than the lines produced by the Jestco system. I find this Airbrite on the bonnet to be the fastest at removal of the heavy oxide. It just eats it up. I will caution you that you need the smallest of a dab. Too much is very easy to put on. It takes a long time to remove the glaze of too much of this polish. It is a bit greasier than the Nuvite polish it is looking to replace. I works better than Nuvite in my opinion.

After that first cut I switched tooling. I went over to the Cyclo Polisher. I used blue pads and the No.4(medium) polish for this round. Doing it over I would have done the yellow pads for the second pass, then switched to blue pads for the third pass.  This pass really brought out the shine. It actually is all that is needed for my tastes. I like it shiny but do not care for the mirror look. I spend more time seeing the imperfections than seeing the total glow of the aluminum when it is mirror polished. I did not stop here...

A final pass with the No.6(super fine) and white pads. 
So pads; I generally buy 4 boxes of each color for a job this size. That gives me 8 changes. I use the pad till it starts to get a little polish build on the surface. I then wash them out in hot water and citrus cleaner. They get rung out and left to dry. I will use that pad one more time before throwing it away. You need to know that the foam is part of the grit doing the polishing. When the surface starts to degrade, so does the quality of the surface you are going to achieve.

Almost as important as the polish and the tooling is the rags. You will blow through tons of rags removing the polish haze and residue around edges and rivets. I buy them in a 50 pound box. I bet we used 30 of those 50 pounds. You MUST use 100% cotton t shirt material. Some like micro fleece towels. I do not. I find the nap in the micro fleece has a tendency to catch grit and metal bits. It is very easy to scratch the skin due to this. I have found that 100% cotton T shirt material to be the best.  The rags at Home Depot and Lowes are not good quality. There will be knits and polyester mixed in. The rags will be irregular also. Go to an auto body supply house or to a high quality paint store for these rags. Ask for 100% cotton T shirt rags. Not wiping cloth, not staining cloth, 100% Cotton T shirt.
I will give you another hint; Fold the rag carefully. Each face will grab the black residue for only a very short period. Keep folding it over, exposing a new face. Just balling it up will result in a lot of wasted surface area. Maybe you do not care, it is just a rag. I care because quality rags cost about $1.50/ pound.

I will be glad to answer any questions you might have about what I have posted here. If you want to debate technique, method, or polish, please go to Airforums where people love to argue that stuff. I am just reporting on what I do. I look forward to your comments below. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Last Chance Garage, Redux.

I promised more. I got detained...

So, in my previous post I stated that there are some very cool and extremely rare cars at Last Chance Garage. You ready to see one? This car is number `1 on Hemings "sleeper cars" list for 2015. I am only giving you one color image. I really love aluminum as many of you know. That is orange anodized aluminum. It is also the logo for a much maligned auto manufacturer who never really got the lime light they deserved. Rambler. 

Rambler has never been looked upon as a great car. Unfortunately Rambler was in actuality a very high quality car builder. They made cars for the working folks. Never really stylish, more economy than anything else. Reliability was their thrust. In 1957 Rambler did something completely different. They built what many consider the first true muscle car(there is a semi debated between the Chrysler 300 and this car as to which was indeed the first real muscle car).

The Rebel was incredibly fast. For a matter of fact, it was the second fastest production car built in 1957. The Corvette was 5mph faster at 3/5th the weight.

Unlike Rambler's previous offerings, this car screamed of high fashion. It was stylish and sleek.

It's lines, though still boxy, were also a departure from the big cube most cars were in previous years.

What really set it apart was this motor. 327 cu inches producing 255 horse power. This car could do 0-60 in 7.5 seconds. 

So do you want a Rebel? I sure do. I would be completely afraid to drive it however. There were only 1500 of these made. About 12 are known to exist today. Only three are on the road.

This particular Rebel is probably the best one of the three drivable. If you Wiki the Rebel you will see a few photos of this actual car.

Buck has done an incredible job with the restoration of this car. It is probably in better condition than the day it rolled onto the show room floor.

Speaking of better condition than when it rolled of the show room, what is that next to the Rebel? Could that be another rare car built by another orphan car company? You will need to wait and find out.

This is a correction. I was informed of this after writing my post; 
The regular Corvette was actually slower than the Rebel. Only the optional fuel injected Corvette of 1957 was faster. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Last Chance Garage

I have always loved a field trip. I loved them as a kid. I think it got me out of the boring class room and into the world where I could learn by touching, smelling, and understanding the environment in which things exist. To this day I take advantage of any opportunity for a field trip. A few weekends ago, I had a great visit to Last Chance Garage. I suspect it will take a few post to cover my visit. Lets begin with the garage itself. The name really says it all. Most of the cars that come here are on their last legs. This really is their last chance. The other thing about the cars at Last Chance is the cars are incredibly rare. One I will cover in a future post is so rare that you most likely have never even heard of it. Every car is loved. 

Last Chance is owned by Buck Depkin. Buck is a wealth of knowledge. He is also incredibly talented at taking a complete hulk and restoring it back to original, new condition. I feel really grateful for the time he took to show me just about everything in his collections. Even though he has probably given the tour a thousand times, he talked to me as if I was the first person he ever showed it too. He seemed genuinely excited about it.

I got in to Last Chance because back in high school, this guy Pat was friends with my best friend Steve. We went to different high schools together. Pat, like his dad is a wealth of knowledge. He is really passionate about all these cars. The thing that alway impressed me about Pat is how incredibly smart he is. Pat is a very sharp tool. Pat is also one of the few people to have my complete respect. I feel honored to call him my friend.

Buck is a collector. He has a lot of signs. Mike and Frank from Pickers would be changing their undies if they walked in here. I seriously doubt they would break the ice. I doubt anything is for sale at Last Chance.

You can tell a lot about a man by his shop.

Unlike my chaotic shop, Buck's is clean and organized.

This is just a small slice of business cards. I spent a lot of time just looking at all of these. I might have created a diversion and snuck one of mine onto the wall.

Wouldn't it be great to still be paying those prices?

How many sets do you see there? I already said this might take a few posts.

I love this old school organization. Austin? That's a British car isn't it? I have to wonder...

This sign is hanging above the door where the cars are. In my next post I will show you what is behind the door. It really is a historical exhibit.