The Airstream Diary | Airstream Repair | Airstream Living

Airstream Trailer Living and Repair

The Sun Finally Shined

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The sun finally shined on the ground at A&P Vintage in Cottondale, and we were able to unroll the marmoleum, cut it to fit and we have liftoff!

In three days of intense and windy work, our “Full Monty” is now fully dressed – back together again and in one piece. These last three days were the kinds of intense work days that went fast and left us spent.

If you decide to use the sheet marmoleum for your Airstream restoration, be sure to remember the width of marmoleum means you will have to “splice” in some extra length into the width for full coverage. The more we look at the material we used for the back compartment (below the bed), the more we like it.

Once we were certain that the shell was going back onto the frame, I clamped a GoPro 3 camera into the shell and let the camera roll.

The things we had to contend with, as the reassembly got underway were; 1) a brand new nest of freshly hatched wrens had made our front endcap home, 2) Now it would matter if it rains, so the roof had to be secured, 3) unexpected things like that custom made angled steel at back of trailer being completely misaligned.

SOMETHING FROM NOTHING
When trying to reconstruct something from nothing, as is the case with an Airstream Trailer with tail rot, sometimes you hit it, but most of the time you miss it. Think about it. We were cutting templates for the rear deck (marine grade plywood) where there was no deck – completely gone and rotted away. We missed by distance and circumference just a bit, but enough to cause me to have to plug in the plasma cutter and amputate the angle iron at the rear of the trailer. That was depressing after I had sandwiched it in with calk plywood and a pretty strip of shiny aluminum (that would’ve formed the back compartment top). These are the kinds of things that happen to you if you work on an Airstream trailer. To begin with, they aren’t exactly made by robots on an assembly line, so even if we copy a cut, a wedge or some funny angle … well, maybe we shouldn’t have. It’s a healthy point of view to question everything you see on the way down, and on the way back up when rebuilding your Airstream.


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New Decking for Airstream Going Down – Retro Modern Design Going Up

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Remember to create your templates for the curved front and back of your Airstream deck when replacing decking! I am the metal guy, and Leslie is the wood chick (borrowed from my Aunt Pattie). Yesterday, we started working on the decking, cutting and painting the edges (my requirement), and this morning we are talking “design” already. Anything to avoid the TV on this Super Bowl Sunday.

Here’s how we’re defining our version of a RETRO MODERN AIRSTREAM interior:

  • Floor – warm golden wheat color – Marmoleum
  • Galley Wall – raw polished aluminum backsplashed
  • Dinette Cushions – textured charcoal fabric
  • Zolatone walls – creme with grey fleck (many to choose from)
  • Room Dividers – Originals stained black satin finish | Or new with circles drilled out
  • Other Cabinets ¬†– light ash ’60’s oak look
  • Galley Counter top / Dinette Top – Boomerang Formica | Grey-White or White-Grey
  • Curtains – Prefer mini blinds to fit curves
  • Accent Colors Throughout – Yellow-green, Aqua and Brick Red

My role is obviously still “heavy metal,” and painting, with the major crisis of the week being – get the wheel wells replaced because of a design flaw that I never noticed, but Paul had to work through in another trailer which I had a set of wells made for – for him. It’s bad. Once the wells are replaced, the remaining deck goes down (over the wheel well flanges), and the fuselage goes over and on. Amazing.

Note – Work got in the way for a couple of months, as did the holiday season and winter cold requirement. How I wish I had the Airstream on the last frack job I was on, and thought about it every day I was out in a SOB (Some Other Brand) trailer on the Barnett Shale! I will put together a photo gallery tonight to show the Airstream decking, the templates, the new stove and the water tank testing.

Take a Picture – in an Airstream Frame

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Airstream Safari Frame Done New Axle and topcoat of paint

Hard to believe, but the frame is complete on the Airstream Safari. I knew the day would come, but I really didn’t know when. We had to do some maneuvering – switching the disc brakes onto the 35-degree axle, and off the 22-degree, but I appreciate that kind of work because it comes in handy down the road … somewhere sometime.

After I put the old tires/rims back on the new axles I took a tour of all the trailers on the A&P Vintage lot, and of all the Airstream Trailers there, none, not a single one, had the same tire-rim combination. At this point, fretting over the tires and rims (rims more than tires) seems a bit frivolous. Tires yes. Rims whatever. It’s not like we have a polished trailer or anything to go with fancy rims, but yeah, folks notice those things.

I noticed some interesting square holes on the front of the step, and think that may be either an Airstream add-on, or an improvement. What’s the improvement, you say? Add another step made from square tubing and the step and bracket to hold the step. We’re going to need it now because the Airstream just jumped about eight inches (at least) in height. It will drop about three after the weight’s back on her, but we’re a long way from the sprung axle that came with it.

I will post a slideshow of wheels, so you can see just how many variations there are – in one single place.

Airstream Axles – This is How You Roll

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The axle is waiting and ready for the install on our Airstream Safari frame. It’s going to be a 35-degree which gives about 1.5 inches more height than the 22-degree. This Airstream axle is made by Rockwell, and you can purchase them through A&P Vintage Trailer in Cottondale, Texas. Paul can have these ready and waiting in about four days.

Original 1970 Airstream Safari Axle

As you can see, this is a  major and extremely necessary upgrade for most restorations of vintage Airstream Trailers. Axles are your connection to the ground, and the ground is what stops you, right? I also opted for the disc brakes (and controller), which should have the Safari stopping on dimes and giving change.

New Replacement Axle for Airstream Safari with Disc Brakes

I finished all the welding of the frame yesterday, so now my painter will be coming in to paint the frame with a topcoat (it’s primed) after the axle is on (allowing me to move the frame away from other trailers), and I have sand blasted and primed a couple of other spots. There’s only a token amount of old frame remaining on the Safari – from just behind the axle plates forward, and the total long distance replaced came out to something like 80-inches. That’s almost entirely boxed as well. Add the custom cross members, and you get the picture.

The Final Push – Full Monty Here We Come

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Full Monty on a 1970 Airstream Safari 23
Inside the danger zone of a soon to be floating twinkie, suspended to pull out the frame from underneath, box the back of the frame (with steel replacement for rusted cross beam), new suspension, new marine grade decking, and who knows what else

There are two more slivers of silver skin inside the Safari, and they are just there because they are in front of several obstacles, including a fuse box, and the hot water heater. I am firmly convinced that anyone who knows anything about Airstreams either can’t find, or isn’t looking for anyone like me, who knows just enough to get himself into a world of hurt.

Airstream Safari Full Monty
A few skins sit in the front yard, waiting for their storage destination.

We have deadlines in place for the Airstream Safari ’23, and they’re firm. It’s really difficult to realize after all these years, that it’s so close to the build back and the takedown could be done in a matter of a few eight hour days. It will be done this year, or scrapped for aluminum … hmm, where is aluminum now? Seriously, I would have to be a “maroon” as Buggs Bunny says, to let the opportunity of a fly fishing escape module get away like this. It isn’t going to happen – just watch.

Of course, since I am unable to locate anything as far as detailed instruction on how to separate the top from the floor / chassis, I guess it’s up to me to lead the free world in documenting what may end up on America’s Funniest Home Videos. If anyone wants to be a part of an award winning video, and knows anything about the Full Monty, I am all ears. I have definitely crossed the rubicon of fear, pain and injury. It’s expected. There are a lot worse things that could happen, like a perfect build-back, and then an electrical short burns it to the ground. Hence, my meticulous documentation of the wiring.

Keep your eyes on this site as well as on www.texasflycaster.com, where this saga will be bleeding over into printed word there as well.