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Freshwater Tank Fried

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airstream trailers #airstreaming #airstreamlife

Turns out the fittings on our freshwater tank were “worked on” by some previous owner. I suspected that when I took a close look, but hoped … against hope.

Now, we will be adding a new freshwater tank to go with (not literally) the grey and black tanks. If you think about it, these fluids can be a great weakness in an Airstream trailer rebuild, so why not start with new AND IMPROVED tanks?

We were marveling at all the “New and Improved” improvements that we are actually privy to – with the passing of such a great amount of time since first purchasing the Airstream. And we also thought about all the ideas we had based on our working from the trailer – on the Barnett Shale – work that has pretty much dried up and blown away. Funny, that oil business … black gold … Texas tea. Had that revenue stream kept up with us, the trailer would be long finished and on the road. Airstreams certainly are not for the financially shy.

We’re still waiting on the Marmoleum Dude, and I am getting a lot of fly fishing in between photo shoots. Add it all up, and it’s the BUSY season for sure. The best weather is the best for so many things. We already know we’ll be sweating it out during the hottest months — working on the Airstream. That’s just how it goes.


Do As I Say – Not as I Did

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double wide airstream runners
The new double-wide Airstream belly runners. This is where the sides and belly pan come together.

Yeah, an Airstream rebuild is a humbling experience. You think you’re going to snap it back together, like a pile of LEGOs that you just pulled apart, but nooooo!

I hear it when Paul (AP VT Works) says, “things don’t always go back the way they were,” but maybe I don’t always listen.
Folding over side Airstream panel

I had no idea the runners – that run along the bottom of the outriggers, and are where the side panels and belly pan get overlapped and riveted – would be so far off my dead center measurement of the originals, that I would have to go back in and weld in another whole set of runners.

I figured that having a double wide set of runners, rather than cutting out the old or moving the old, I would totally eliminate the margin of error (and tacked the two together along the length) … and be done with this SNAFU. Let me tell you, welding upside down with floor attached is a whole different deal. Put that together with days that start early and end by noon-ish due to the heat, and it’s a recipe for a good old fashion beat down. And that’s exactly what it was.

NOTE TO YOU WHO ATTEMPT THIS – Save these runners for the last welding you do after the shell is back on. Fold under the side panels, measure and weld for the new location of these runners. The old measurement will not work.

Appliances are starting to roll in now. We have a brand new Dometic A/C and I picked up our new toilet the Dometic 310 this week as well. We are starting the search for a refrigerator now. Amazing what trailer (gas + electric) cost these days, and always I guess. It’s hardly aligned with what you get for the dollar in a home refrigerator, so just put those comparisons right out of your mind.

Airstream Polishing in action
There is a polisher working out at AP right now, and he gave me a cost on polishing the Safari. I would have to remove the clear coat, and Paul said that’s a pretty simple chemical process. For $2400., we can gaze at the landscape in the side of the Safari. Time to call in some debts?!

Instinct and In Stink

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My instinct tells me that I don’t need to call Paul at A&P Vintage Trailer and tell him to get ready for a good old 1930’s Texas dust storm. He already knows, but I feel the pain of our Airstream sitting wide open and apart. She’s going to need a good cleaning after this one!

I am clocking some good days out near Sunset, Texas, working in the oil fields on the Barnett Shale. Most of the days I drive home and cha-ching – the next piece or part for the Airstream is paid for. We are making the monetary progress that I had been looking for for a few months now. Progress, once off the Shale, will be rapid fire, as long as I am not called back out (which would be fine if I were).

And with financial progress finally underway, so too can the Airstream product research get underway. I can finally get serious about some of the big ticket things, and sock them away for when their time comes – because it’s coming just like that dust storm tonight.


The path to reconstruction goes to shite by necessity. We have come a long way from our original intent to NOT have any commode or that plumbing in our Airstream. We were talked down by Paul and Ann, when they explained that you aren’t always “hooked-up” and when you’re on the fly road, sometimes you’re nowhere close to a hook-up. So we went from always assuming we would camp in parks and be close to bathrooms, to embrace the common sense of needing indoor plumbing and the ability to go boondocking.

Plus, being able to boondock means you are not paying for that hook-up, site or whatever entry fees and all that jazz.

Before we headed down this commode road, we did research the composting commodes that are scientifically interesting, but require constant attention – even when not in use at all. See, I avoided saying constant feeding! Nevertheless, through past experience with shite eating microbes – for yard dog applications – I was confident that we would not have the discipline necessary to feed this bird. So we went conventional.

We begin at the bottom (of the trailer silly), and that means a black tank. We are going from an above the floor tank curved into the back streetside corner, to a total rearranging of everything – including the commode. The commode was the root of all our evil to begin with – the tail rot that lead to the ground up restoration you are witnessing. IT WAS THAT EVIL that almost soured us on having a commode at all.

Now, thanks to Paul’s direction, we are moving the bathroom, the commode and going with a below deck black tank for the Safari. We welded in the cross members with this in mind, and as the black tank is being built, we will also run a grey tank next to the black. The 1970 Airstream Safari ’23 did not come with a grey tank.

So there will be three items underfoot. ONE – a grey tank, TWO – a black tank, and THREE – a pan that is exposed from the bottom of the trailer (imagine laying on the ground behind the axle and looking up) that supports and protects both tanks. I’ll detail the whole thing as it happens because I know there will be details.

These will be galvanized steel, but I imagine the tanks could be done in stainless if you wanted. I am wondering how rust is prevented from happening once the welding burns off the galvanizing though? I am a big fan of stainless from my darkroom days, but that’s an expensive proposition.


Probably the best way to start is by defining our parameters. Neither Leslie, nor myself are too daunted by being on the trail – camping in the Colorado mountains for a week at a time. So, we are looking at what we consider to be a luxury item.

Next, I am a guy and Leslie is a gal – just in case the names threw you. I have typical white guy short comings when it comes to my hind quarters, and Leslie … no I am not going to make a “Does this dress make me look fat?” mistake. Translation; we don’t need a commode with extra size or reinforcement.

I figure a little internet research is the first way to start finding the right throne for our aluminum castle. Let’s have a look. The first pop on is Thetford.

I’ve heard of Thetford before, and when I go to the Thetford website and click on their “permanent toilets” I realize I am already in deep … look at all the choices, recirculating, cassette and marine. And look at those names that were conceived just to inspire me to use their toilet: “aria, bravura and silence plus,”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really associate toilets with silence. Maybe they mean the sound of the flush? It looks like Thetford is a pretty dominant manufacturer, but that only means I have to look for an off brand. Back to google.

Slightly down the search page, a name I actually like – Dometic – pops. Going to the Dometic page and hitting the drop down there gives me fewer choices – ceramic, ceramic/plastic and plastic. I like that simplicity. I hadn’t thought about it much, but now that I do, I LIKE the feel of ceramic, not that I like spending a lot of time hugging the ceramic, but it cleans easier and, you know, it’s CERAMIC.

The Dometic 310 China has an exotic name, not as much as it used to, and an elegant look, with a thinner base that gives it an organic appeal, and since we are ultimately talking organics, I clicked it. Okay, I’m done. They use words like, “tasteful and elegant Euro design,” and seal the deal with “POWER FLUSH”! Yes, I put it in all caps, but you get the point. It’s just that the narrow base gives the idea of more room in our eventual enclosure.

dometic toilet for airstreamI’m probably not done with my research. Of course I have to call my Mom to get her to check her Consumer Reports for their ratings – and isn’t that one of the things moms are good for – helping with making informed decisions on sexy things like a toilet for an Airstream? To be continued …




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