2010
02.22

Flooring started!

Since the last update the following has been completed:
– plumbing vent stack covers installed
– air conditioning frame removed
– a/c opening taped over to stop leaks
– side fixed window installed
– multiple window frames scraped, cleaned and sealed with vulkem
– remaining floor bolts and nails removed
– purchased 4×8 foot sheets of Advantech flooring

The big news comes from this past weekend. We traced and cut a sheet of luan to form a template for the front curve of the floor. It took about three fittings/trimmings to get the template properly sized to the front of the Airstream. With the template ready we cut the Advantech board to size. After much wrestling, wriggling and wrangling we wedged the board into place in the front of the Airstream. It fit the curve quite well and completely aligned with the c-channel which rests on top. With that board in place, it was on to the straightaway.

The next stretch was exactly eight feet to the wheel well so it was an easy fit for that board. We plan on offsetting the flooring seams as we work our way back. Advantech is a tongue and groove product but since we need to slip it under the c-channel, there’s not an opportunity to make use of this joint. The boards are butt-jointed and joined from below with shims that span the center four feet of the trailer.

The next step is to bolt the Advantech to the frame and c-channel with elevator bolts. These have an extra wide head that must be countersunk and then tightened from below.

The frame is quite unstable at this point because the c-channel on one side is not attached. It needs to be re-riveted and then the flooring can be fit below it.

Once the flooring is secured in the front 12 feet of the Airstream, the plan is to gut the bathroom and move the parts to the front so that the rear floor can be removed.

2010
01.16

Riveting…

The last two weekends were spent riveting. Last weekend we got the awning rail reattached to the Airstream. It was slow-going since the Vulkem was stiff because of the cold. We applied butyl tape along the length of the trailer and then clecoed/riveted the rail in place. The rail seems to be holding well and the rain ran straight off over the past few days.

Today the kitchen fan vent cover was replaced. We’ve had a polycarbonate replacement from Vintage Trailer Supply for a while now. Instead of trying to match all of the old holes, we got the center one aligned and then drilled new. The old holes were Vulkemed over and then the vent cover sandwiched a strip of butyl tape to the curved exterior panel. Clecos kept everything aligned as the rivets went in. We’ve taken to applying Vulkem to each rivet before it is fastened to create a seal on the post and head. They seem to be watertight.

Tomorrow the plan is to attach a few of the plumbing stack vent covers. Assuming all of those go well, we’ll be removing the air conditioner frame, sealing with 6 mil poly for now, and then prepping the final two window areas for replacement next week. Then it’s time for the true leak test. Assuming the Airstream passes with flying colors, we’ll be making a trip to McCoy’s for the plywood flooring.

2009
09.27

I spent a few hours painting the remainder of the exposed frame today. I finally got through the first quart of POR-15 and partway through the second. At least now the rust is stopped.

The next step is to order the new air conditioner. I still need three vent stack caps but they seem to be out of stock. Then it’s on to (dare I say it?) the plywood subfloor! Spirits are running high now that it is sub-triple digit temperatures. We’re going to miss the upcoming rally to the Texas coast but the Texas Vintage Airstream Rally is just around the corner at this point. Enough time to get a floor and some cabinets in and a shakedown trip? We’ll see…

2009
09.06

Ok, so my last post said I removed the belly pan. That was only half-true. I had removed all of the rivets that held the belly pan but I didn’t actually pull it away from the frame.

With new jack stands supporting the trailer frame, I spent this weekend under the Airstream cutting the brake cables, cutting a few bolt heads and twisting, pulling, bending and tugging on the belly pan pieces. For those that aren’t familiar, Airstream fabricated the belly pan in two roughly four-foot wide aluminum sheets that run the length of the trailer. They overlapped a few inches in the middle and are riveted to each other, the banana wraps and the frame crossmembers. Needless to say, that’s a lot of rivets. I was able to slide one sheet of the bellypan under the other to give me clearance around the wheel well. Once the first sheet was out, the other smoothly followed.

I’m now having second thoughts about buying all new aluminum for the bellypan. It’s not in horrible shape and the price of aluminum is high enough to make me reconsider buying a new roll. That’s about $800 that could be spent elsewhere (and there’s plenty of places to spend it).

The second chore this weekend was removing the mostly unriveted interior wall that ran the street-side length of the trailer. There were a few rivets behind the pocket door wall which required removing the wall face. Another 20+ foot sheet of aluminum into the garage. Did I mention how packed it is in there with the entire contents of a 28′ Ambassador?

As tomorrow is Labor day, I’ll be back out there again. This time, I’m ripping up the subfloor from the wheel wells back to the bathroom. I’ll also be painting that section of the frame with POR-15. I need to spend a little time under the Airstream as well (what joy) assessing the rear frame crossmembers and measuring space for a gray water tank.

It won’t be too long now when this think doesn’t have any more parts to disassemble and the only thing left to do is start reassembling…

2009
08.24

I wish I could say that my lack of posting here was a direct result of spending too much time on the Airstream to have a chance to update the blog. That is definitely not the case though. Instead, I’ve been sitting in the air conditioning of my house researching Airstream parts and longingly looking out the window at the oven that is my Airstream. You see, here in Austin we’ve had over 60 days of 100+ temperatures so far this summer. Trust me, I’ve tried, but working in/under/on the Airstream in that kind of heat just hasn’t panned out for me. A quick list of items completed before the furnace blast arrived (or during temporary cold fronts in the 90s):

  • Removed awning rail
  • Cleaned gunk from the Airstream where awning rail was (22 feet is a long ways!)
  • Removed the old air conditioning unit from the roof
  • Removed all of the cracked/broken vent caps
  • Removed the remainder of the belly pan
  • Painted the front half of the frame with POR-15
  • Removed the lower 19-inch fixed window that was mysteriously broken

Next on the list is to order a new A/C and vent caps as well as a roll of new aluminum for the bellypan. Assuming it will start to cool off in the next few weeks, I’ll be back out there full bore with renewed interest because an Airstream sitting in the driveway for two years just doesn’t sound like my dream of wanderlust.

2009
02.12

Leaks, more leaks!

So far, all of that window replacement and sealing work has not stopped the river that runs into the front curbside window.  The last few days we had some heavy rain here in Central Texas.  After each storm I made the rounds and checked each window.  The whole streetside is completely dry (great progress!) but the curbside had a small pool (1-2 tablespoons) sitting in the rear two window sills.  Not bad, something a little silicone caulk on the hinge should fix up.

But the front window!  That narrow 19 inch one.  The lower sill was completely full and the upper sill was half full.  I went out during the next downpour and saw that all of the water being caught in the awning rail that runs the length of the Airstream was funneling water straight down the edge of that window.  So that means 2 things: 1) the trailer is not quite level (no surprise there) and 2) I’ve got more work to do sealing that one up.

I need to pinpoint whether the water is coming in from one of the fixed windows (there are two, one above and one below) or the operable window.  It may also be coming in the seam between aluminum panels since that sits just fore of the window.  Argh.  I can see the water streaks on the back of the exterior skin now that I have the inside skins out.  Fortunately that’s the only streaks I can see for now, so it looks like the leaks that caused some of the older floor rot may have been sealed successfully.

New item for the weekend punch list.  I have to get these leaks sealed up before the new flooring goes in.

2009
02.10

Airstream gutted (mostly)

Coming off of the Texas Vintage Airstream Rally, we were itching to make additional progress on our own Airstream. Sunday was a full day that started with copious note-taking and diligent photography of all of the remaining interior woodwork and systems.

Airstream curbside full

Airstream furnace location

It was then full steam ahead to disconnect, unscrew and gently pry the catalytic heater, furnace, sink, kitchen cabinets, twin bed, and both wardrobe cabinets out and onto a growing pile in the yard. The pile was looking bigger and the garage was looking smaller.

Airstream innards

We avoided the mistake of last weekend and started cleaning up with plenty of daylight left. We removed both of the wheel well covers and drilled out most of the rivets on the curbside lower skins. We’ll have to disconnect or cut the vent pipe to slip the skin out, but otherwise, we’re pretty close to having everything removed except for the bathroom. Our plan is to replace the front half of the floor, remove the bathroom and store it up front, and then replace the back half of the floor. The garage is officially a tetris tower of Airstream innards.

Airsteam curbside empty

2009
02.09

thirteen panel

It’s the time again; time to gush over how great the Airstream community is.  We headed down to Braunig Lake RV Resort in San Antonio on Saturday to join in the festivities of the Texas Vintage Airstream Rally.  This time we came with WBCCI membership form in hand and are now official members of the Highland Lakes unit of Region 9.

Let’s backtrack a little and point out that neighbors from a house we pass on our dog-walking circuit stopped by last weekend with information about the rally.  They explained that they too had an Airstream, had stopped multiple times to admire ours in the drive, and were hoping we’d join them at the rally.  Well, of course we were already going, but now we had friends there (and it didn’t take long to make more).

We arrived in the Braunig Lake area a few hours prior to the start of the open “house.” Little did we realize that stopping for lunch consisted of eating at the sole establishment, a burger joint, in the whole area.  Of course, that’s where the rest of the ‘Streamers were chowing down as well.  Don’t worry, the unit ribbons didn’t give them away at all, it was the smiling faces…

We headed over to the campground about 15 minutes prior to the official start of activities.  We were greeted by no less than 6 people directing us where to park and where to get voting slips (did I mention the competitiveness of the club members?).  I immediately spotted Marcus from Austin Aluminitus fame (recognized by remembering his infamous photo standing on the ground through his Airstream frame).  We chatted briefly and then were joined by Steve, aka SoldierMedic, who is also under major renovations.  We met some Austin friends (no blog yet, I’m working on them) and started the whirlwind tour of 45 vintage Airstreams in about three hours time.

We saw all sorts of rigs: full-timers, “show trailers,” family heirlooms, party campers.  The only consistent part of the tour was the friendly, helpful people we met along the way.

airstream line-up

I want to take a minute and point out how much the Airstream gang likes to party. Sure, you might say, what do a bunch of semi- and retired aluminum fanatics know about partying?  Well, maybe they are naturally drawn to beverages served in aluminum cans but I have to say, between the free-flowing wine and multiple margarita machines, everyone was having a pretty good time (not to mention the odd can or case of PBR and Schlitz). Heck, they threw a birthday party in between a couple of Airstreams for anyone and everyone that had a birthday somewhere around the beginning of February. Sign me up!

Since we were new members and all, we were invited to stay for the catered dinner.  Unfortunately some last minute birthday plans came up and we were whisked back to Austin.

We’re looking forward to getting to know members of the unit better over the course of the next few months as we continue our own project.  I’m definitely hitting up the monthly lunch at Luby’s in NW Austin since it’s close to the office.  We were strongly encouraged to attend the next few rallies around Central Texas, Airstream in tow or not, just for some fun.  We’ll plan on it!

2009
02.02

The past two weeks have been packed with floor removal.  We spent a weeknight prepping the garage for long-term Airstream parts storage. We spent the next weeknight unloading the loose parts from the Airstream and stacking them in the garage much like a Tetris puzzle.

Two weekends ago weekend we removed the pantry, room divider, one twin bed, and the upper cabinets (basically everything down the streetside of the Airstream).  With some prying, chiseling, and luck we were able to remove the first section of flooring (the piece previously hinged up). With that piece up we could get a good view into the frame and cross-members.  Again, some surface rust but nothing that looked completely rusted through.

We spent the remainder of the day Dremeling elevator bolt heads out of the C channel around the perimeter of the curved front section of wood subflooring. Between each bolt was a nail that had a T head barely protruding above the aluminum. Prying these out was next to impossible as most broke. As daylight dwindled, we lassoed the flooring through a chiseled out hole and try to tug it free of the frame.  No dice.  Apparently those broken nails were holding better than expected.  We picked up some reinforced Dremel cut-off disks to make the job a bit easier the next time we tackled the elevator bolts.

This past weekend we re-assessed the front flooring section.  With the new cut-off disks, we carefully trimmed the nail heads flush to the C channel. We then used a nail to punch the rusted nail shank through the flooring.  This turned out to be quite effective at removing the remaining nails.  Unfortunately, there were two more elevator bolts we originally missed in the middle of the flooring.  More chiseling, Dremeling, and prying dropped those bolts out as well.  From what we could see, the flooring was completely free of fasteners.  Still no luck with removal, though.  Time to get out the circular saw.  With two passes down the middle of the flooring (being careful not to cut into the frame) we were able to remove the center of the floor (a piece that aligned with the front window). Now that we had some leverage room, the two side curves were removed quite easily.  Only a small portion of the streetside curve crumbled to sawdust and will have to be approximated.  At this point, our backs were sore and we recognized we couldn’t pull up any more flooring until we remove the kitchen cabinets and sink.  Instead of that undertaking (the garage is getting full already!) we disassembled and labeled all of the wiring connected to the Airstream control panel.  It turns out all of the 12 volt wiring is stranded copper and all of the 120 volt wiring is aluminum.  So I guess the upside is that we only have to replace half of the wiring, not all of it. Grrr…  At this point everything is removed down the streetside and we are now ready to tackle the curbside.  That’s what next weekend is for, right?

2009
01.19

As promised, we ripped into the Airstream’s flooring Sunday.  Let’s just rub it in a bit that it was 75 degrees and sunny.  Not bad for renovation weather.  Anyway, we started by detaching the fresh water tank (completely, totally nasty inside), unhooking the water pump, and removing the fold-out table. From there it was on to rivet drilling.  How much fun!  We pulled out the front lower panels from the door around to the street-side window.  That panel seems to run from the window to the bedroom, so we have a bit of cabinetry removal before that piece comes out.

We could already see that the bolts around the floor edge were rusted. We also saw on closer inspection that the Airstream floor had been repaired in the past as it was held in by multiple screws, nails and a few elevator bolts. It took careful scraping with a dental pick to remove the rust from the screw heads so that a screwdriver would bite enough to back them out.   We tackled the rusted bolts with the Dremel and heavy duty cutting disks.  We’re getting through about one bolt per disk.  Not exactly speedy; we’ll need to research some reinforced disks for this work.

Today we had a little daylight after work so we prodded and pried a two-foot wide board out in front of the door.  We had to chisel around the elvator bolts to remove the wood.  There’s still one bolt attaching the shell to the floor that only allows us to hinge the board up, but we can see underneath and… surprise! the steel looks pretty good.  Sure, there is surface rust, but it’s nothing like the rotted out mess we expected.

We agreed to spend another night this week consolidateing/tidying the garage to make room for the removed woodwork.  The Airstream is getting pretty crowded with removed walls, couch assemblies, etc. Here’s looking forward to an upcoming weekend with more floor removal and frame exposure.