The Airstream Diary

Airstream Trailer Answers and Questions

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.

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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Yamaha Generator & Decking

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We had to hustle yesterday at A&P to get about half of the decking bolted down on the Airstream. I will detail that process – and include some photographs – next time. We went home the night before expecting a dry twelve hours, but instead were treated to an unusual soupy fog that coated everything with a mist of water – the frame, the plywood, hardware – everything. We had to do some drying out before we started bolting down. Come to find out, the calk we are using between the deck and frame (and in every other nook and cranny) sets with moisture (BSF Sonolastic NP1). The decking is half done, but it’s plain to see where my rebuilding of the frame went a little caddywompus – we are having to do some post welding “tweaking” of the deck to get to a near flat dance floor.

The elevator bolts are countersunk so we can fill the cup in the plywood with leveling stuff (not there yet). We tried some self locking nuts, and neither those nor nylon lockers would go on without spinning the heads of those big-headed bolts. So we retreated to flat washer / lock washer / standard 5/16″ nut. What we are (with proper guidance)doing with materials and the nuts and bolts of it is so far beyond what Airstream does …

Paul Mayeux at A&P Vintage Trailer is looking to sell a new Yamaha Generator, which I can’t pull off even at his bargain price right now. Contact him at A&P Vintage Trailer Works – (817) 919-3651.

A Short Day at A&P Vintage

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We put in a short day at A&P Vintage just because the work didn’t time out with the daylight. It’s not like we were tired from yesterday’s work, or anything like that!

Leslie and Anne took a look at colors for the Airstream’s new Marmoleum floor and Multispec by Multi Color Specialties, Inc. (resembles original Airstream zolatone). There’s still plenty of hard design decisions to be made above deck, but the path is set for everything happening below the Airstream’s marine grade plywood flooring. While they were talking, I managed to finish the edge painting of the ply wood and covered known wet areas (specifically the doorway and bathroom area) with a coat of paint just to have a shot at beading water instead of absorbing it.

One thing I had forgotten about, and really hadn’t decided, was where to put the spare Airstream’s spare tire carrier. It didn’t come with one, and there was no place for one evident in the old configuration of the Safari ’23. So, while we are in so deep, I decided to put a standard Airstream spare tire carrier that mounts between the main rails just behind the tongue – up and under the floor. That means leaving off a section of belly pan / insulation, and laying a sheet of aluminum below the marine grade plywood and sandwiched against the frame and the ply wood. We will lose some R value right there, but the ability to carry a spare up and out of the way is well worth another tradeoff.

It is amazing how much more real the project looks with pieces of plywood decking fitted neatly and almost puzzle perfect atop the frame. Now the frame begins to disappear, a time capsule for someone else to unwrap and say, “We can do so much better with today’s materials and technology. Bring in the magnetic levitation axle, and activate hail forcefield, ” in about a hundred years.

Earlier, I mentioned the possibility of the Airstream wheel wells being off, way off. I took one of the old ones (never throw your old wheel wells away until the new ones are completely installed)out to compare to the new ones that I left in Cottondale yesterday. For my money, in mymind’s eye, they were exactly the same, but Paul had a heck of a time with the ones I had made for a ’63 Safari that we assumed would be the same. It turns out my Airstream wheel wells are an exact match to my Airstream (1970 Safari), but not even in the ballpark for the ’63. Such is the Airstream life. I breathed a sigh of relief, and knew that the wheel wells wouldn’t be costing us any extra time.

On the other side of the design spectrum, apparently the best way to lay down these full sheets of Marmoleum is to lay it directly on the deck before we drop the fuselage back onto the deck – sandwiching the edges under the Airstream’s U channel support / bolt down strip.  That makes for a clean install, and still stays true to floating the flooring (allowing for expansion and contraction of the surface).

Below is a good look at the wheel wells, and how they meet with the decking. It may take some adjusting, and further notching inside the wheel well decking, but remember the very outer edge of the well (where it meets the deck) is flush with the deck. Those little tabs running over the top are for securing the inner skin with rivets. If you have problems here, don’t fret! Much of this will disappear beneath a lot of further construction.


airstream wheel well

Decking is just laying on flange of wheel well here. If you get this tight of fit, you are doing great. Otherwise you may have to trim back the decking to make everything line up.



airstream wheel well replacement

Note how I folded down the tab on the piece that is below deck. If your wells look like this, do the same.

Airstream Frame Rebuilding

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Airstream Trailer Frame Rebuilding at A&P Vintage Trailer

Touching up the primer on the Airstream frame, and a few more welds. When it comes to rebuilding the frame, it can be easy to forget parts (like the strips that run along the bottom of the outriggers (front to back @ 6-inches from frame edge-to-ege) and photographs are helpful reference. It’s also helpful to NOT dump the removed / discarded pieces until completely done.

There’s a uniquely angled piece of angle iron that secures the bottom of the back wall to the frame that Paul had to have special bent, and the long pieces of steel I was referring to earlier are also a unique thickness. Those long front to back pieces on the bottom of the outriggers are critical – it’s where the skins get riveted back under the curve!

The Safari Doubles as a Chicken scratch spot  in the evenings

When The Cat’s Away

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I’ve been laying low, staying cool, while Ann and Paul have been away at an Airstream gathering out west (I’ll wait for their details), and while we have a pile of pieces to put the Airstream back together, we’ve definitely been busy on the home front. If it wasn’t a temporarily defunct home central A/C, it was something else.

I did have time to get the wheel wells fabricated by the guys at Able Sheet Metal north of Denton, and I did load all the steel for the outriggers and bring it back to the new shop here in Denton. Oh yes, there’s a new locale for Leslie’s Cimarrona manufacturing along with a palatial new spread for our steel and wood working tools. The shop 1200 square feet of gloriously air conditioned comfort, will get its first steel work when I taper the 11 gauge steel C channels for the frame’s outriggers this week. That curved taper is what enables a smooth wrap on the bottom of the trailer, and as it turns out, every single one will be replaced.

As significant as that is, the outriggers, frame pieces outside the frame that provide strength to the edges of the Airstream, are all the same length, and the taper is the same for every one as well. What a relief that is. Paul and I cut off the ends of left and right outriggers so I can simply follow the angle with my plasma cutter and get a good clean cut.

The replacing of the outriggers along with every single cross member with 11 gauge C channel cold steel adds significant strength and stability to the frame, a wider top to that channel that allows us to stagger the bolts that will hold the decking down. Looming at the rear of the frame is a clean cut off of the frame and replacement with a boxed end to the rear frame / cross rails.

While I am deep into the manual labor of deconstruction-construction, Leslie is looking intently at Airstream layouts for inspiration in her soon to come remodel/rebuild of the interior. The changes are significant, and a radical departure from the original layout. Like Wally dictated, we consider ourselves to be making improvements – radical improvements. Reminder – I am the heavy (beast) worker, while she is the beauty (fung shue / design / layout / soft stuff) rebuilder. And I can’t wait to turn Tilley over to her!





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