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Old 10-28-2013, 10:17 AM   #1
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New owner of a 1966 Tradewind - excited and now angst ridden, advice please!

Hi all,
Been reading the forums for a while and finally went ahead and bought a 1966 airstream. Very excited to begin the project of bringing her back to life (I think it will be a 'her' name to be decided!).

The PO had placed wood panels on-top of the wooden sub-floor, and the sub floor is really dry and no signs of damp/rot (only done the front half so far, so not sure around wheel wells). However, yep, always a however, the belly pan had come away under the shower/bathroom, and well it is not looking good. A lot of rust which I can wire brush away, and the beams are still solid, I can't poke a screwdriver or anything through them. Also I could look further into the trailer and the rust seems to be just on the beams under the bathroom.

I just wanted to get advice from you guys, as looking at some of the renovations you have done, well I am in awe let's say, and mega excited to get going.

Just wondering what your opinions are/advice on:
1) Can I wire brush this rust away and apply POR 15. Will the beams be strong enough still? I have no welding experience etc...
2) Will the rest of the frame be ok if the floor is dry?
3) People talk a lot about the C channel, but where is it exactly? Will it be rusted, or how can I check easily?
4) Found a hole in the front covered in wire mesh. No idea what this is? Any ideas? (have attached pictures)
5) the box holding the black tank seems to have completely rusted, but I think this is fairly straight forward to fix?

I've attached pictures, hoping to get some friendly advice, as right now I am not sure if I have bought a lemon! Excited though non-the-less. Really don't want to take the shell off, as it is something I would have to get someone else to do, and guessing it would be expensive?!

Thanks all.
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Old 10-29-2013, 07:25 AM   #2
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1986 34' Limited
1975 27' Overlander
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Quote:

Just wondering what your opinions are/advice on:
1) Can I wire brush this rust away and apply POR 15. Will the beams be strong enough still? I have no welding experience etc...
2) Will the rest of the frame be ok if the floor is dry?
3) People talk a lot about the C channel, but where is it exactly? Will it be rusted, or how can I check easily?
4) Found a hole in the front covered in wire mesh. No idea what this is? Any ideas? (have attached pictures)
5) the box holding the black tank seems to have completely rusted, but I think this is fairly straight forward to fix?


Welcome to the hobby of antique Airstream renovation. Prepare for all the highs and lows involved in a big project. Allow enough time so you can enjoy the work and not feel pressed. Vintage Airstreams are worth more fixed up than in bad shape. Keep good project records.

I bought a 66 Trade Wind just a month ago, so I am in the same boat you are. I will try to answer your questions, although I am no expert and others will likely provide better insite.

1) Cleaning the metal of oxidation will help the POR 15 do its job of protecting from further corrosion. It does not add strength. Your photos suggest you will need to fabricate and weld new cross memebers to support the rear sectiion. It can be done, and you will read here about other Airstreamers who have completed the job.

2) Airstreams are infamous for rear end frame and floor rot. It is a design flaw. The rear of the frame is usually the worse. I plan on removing my entire belly pan and inspecting the entire frame. I will arrange any frame repairs I need to make. And I will apply POR 15 to all the frame members.

3) The C channel holds the shell to the floor and frame. It is aluminum and prone to less corrosion than the steel. The trouble is shell to frame seperation when the floor and frame rot away. You have to remove some inner skin panels to see the C channel.

4) Mine has the wire mesh under the gaucho too. The 66 furnace blows heat out the front, and draws cool air from this wire mesh covered hole in the floor. The bathroom heat register is the other cool air draw. My 66 Airstream manual explains this operation, and states that owners should not expect warm air to come out of these registers. Newer furnaces blow heat through ducts, and draw cool air from the front of the furnace.

5) A sheet metal shop can fabricate a new black tank box for you if yours is shot. Bring the old one for the pattern. This box is what holds up the black tank along with the toilet flange to floor connection.

Penetrating oil will be your frend. Expect lots of rusty bolts, some of which will break and need drilled out. Hard work, but every little bit of progress soon adds up to a very nice vintage Airstream.

David
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Old 10-29-2013, 10:06 AM   #3
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Hi,
Thanks for your reply. Really appreciate it. I'm hoping that I don't find to much rust elsewhere and that I will just be able to get a welder to replace the back portion of the frame. Have you got any idea of costs to replace this part of the frame?

Also, I think I understand the channel a lot better now. I did a quick diagram, does this look about right? If so, and the c-channel is in tact I could take out some of the subfloor and do the frame while the belly and skin are still on?

Just ordered an endoscope to access the damage in the front of the frame, so hopefully will have a better idea this weekend.

Thanks for your reply (ies).
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Old 10-29-2013, 09:12 PM   #4
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Welcome to the forums Trady66. You have a very special Airstream there, it being a 66 Tradewind. I am just a little biased. Seriously though, I think it is one of the best designs that Airstream has made and the 66- with the console toilet, ash wood interior curved window glass with Phillips hardware, makes it real special.

I am not sure if your diagram is accurate. My floor is real solid, except for the area under the shower and the bath cabinet. It is soft/rotted here. You may be able to see the C channel if you look at the area under the bath cabinet through the rear access hatch.

The only "air return" my Tradewind has is in the bathroom floor. It looks like a floor register, but it is a return. You can see my plywood floor if you look at the thread I have- see Dan's 66 Tradewind Improvements.

Sorry I can't help you more on the frame issues. I really need to drop my pan sometime and examine my frame- not sure I want to go there. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Ask any question you have. Lots of help here and that is how we all learn.

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Old 10-29-2013, 09:46 PM   #5
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On my '66 TradeWind there is a register under the gaucho as well. Judging from the duct work, it is original. I suspect you will find quite a bit of variation from unit to unit given the hand assembly involved, especially during an era of build-to-order.
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Old 10-30-2013, 04:48 AM   #6
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Welding sheet metal is farily easy. I'm planning on renting, or buying a 115 volt wire fed MIG welder. They are small, easy to use, and perfect for the metal in an Airstream frame. They have good instructions for adjusting the current and wire feed rate for the thickness of metal you are welding. It just takes some experience to get good at it. Maybe similar to laying a good caulk bead or spray painting a smooth finish. The more you do, the better you get at it. A new 115 volt welder with helmet and gloves is maybe $400 or less.

And you can hire an experienced welder to travel to your site and make the repairs you want. I expect this would be in the several hundred dollar range, at least in my area.

Repairing and strenghtening rusty Airstream frames and rotted out subfloors is quite common. Don't worry, it can be done. And it won't be the most expensive improvement in your renovation project. Axles and appliances costs more.

David
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Old 10-30-2013, 05:47 AM   #7
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Looks like you got a good one with no floor rot. My black tank box was gone and the tank was held up with 2x6's. I took measurements and had my local HVAC shop make me a new galvanized box. I told my friend to just cut and bend the parts for the box and I would rivet everything together. He had some cut off pieces to ducting metal and did the job in about 10 minutes and did not charge me anything ( I do a lot of business with him).
The original had stryofoam in the bottom and the black take rested on that. You can make your own.
The box sits on two pieces of angle iron bolted to tabs on the main frame rails. I had to built one tab and weld a little on the other.
Go ahead and buy a welder. You will find all kinds of things to do with it after the trailer project. If you use flux wire you don't need to mess with sheilding gas bottles. Flux wire welds are not quiet as clean as when using a sheilding gas but perfect for trailer frames and stuff that you are welding outside. Get some scrap and practice before you weld on the trailer. Tons of youtube videos of mig technique.
Finally, here is a link to TomW's site showing his work on his 67. Take a look at the blacktank pics. 1967 Airstream Overlander
Finally, Trade Wind's are the "best".
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Old 10-30-2013, 06:20 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trady66 View Post
Hi,

...

Also, I think I understand the channel a lot better now. I did a quick diagram, does this look about right? If so, and the c-channel is in tact I could take out some of the subfloor and do the frame while the belly and skin are still on?
...
Trady,

Welcome and good luck with your "new" Airstream.

Your diagram is correct for a '65, so I assume it is the same for a '66. The wood floor is a key structural component in the design, so you'll need to be sure it is solid, especially where frame members bolt to the c-channel. You also want to be sure that you don't have a lot of corrosion where the c-channel is attached to the floor. With an aluminum c-channel and steel screws, our '65 had significant galvanic corrosion and we had to replace much of the c-channel.

Given the amount of rust on the back frame members, it is very possible that you have floor rot below the bathroom. If you do, and have to replace the wood, there are people who have done Shell-On restorations. Search utee94's threads or start here.

If you do face these issues, there is no question that it is a lot of work. None of it is rocket science and you'll find this forum to be a tremendous resource. People with no experience have done some amazing work -- simply by learning from others here.
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Old 10-30-2013, 01:32 PM   #9
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Thank all for the replies, really useful. I think this weekend I am going to get the endoscope out and drill a hole through the sub-floor to get a peek at the front and middle sections. Will post some pics as well. Fingers crossed that the frame is ok up there. Then I might get a welder in and replace the back section of the frame completely. It looks like I could do this shell-on if it is only the back section and jackup the shell just at the back so that I can replace the sub-floor to attach to the c-channel. This is the plan of action anyway, see what happens this weekend!
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Old 11-11-2013, 09:29 PM   #10
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You may find the articles on Vintage Airstream helpful. Floor replacement is here:
Floor Replacement - Vintage Airstream. This fellow does good work. The way Airstreams are put together varies but the basics of putting a floor in, replacing belly pans, etc. seem to stay the same. There are a lot of threads in the forums here that deal with reconstructing a vintage AS so use the search feature.
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Old 01-18-2014, 05:27 PM   #11
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Hi All,
Just a quick update and question. Restoration is going well. I've taken up portions of the subfloor and replaced the entire back of the subfloor. I did it all frame on due to not have a garage etc... The frame was actually in really good condition hardly any rust, so have put Por 15 on it, which I've got to say is great stuff.

I'm just about to insert the final front section now of subfloor, but have a dent on the belly pan on the front right (attached a pic). How easy, and how can I get this dent out. Should I sort out the dent before I put in this final piece of subfloor?

Also the step design is pretty terrible in-terms of letting water in through the sliding mechanism. Has anyone come up with any clever ideas of how to stop water coming in through the step or even partitioning off behind the slider so water so not get to the rest of the frame?

Pics attached.

Happy New Year All. Hoping to finishing this renovation this year!
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Old 01-19-2014, 05:56 PM   #12
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Dents in the "banana wraps" are pretty common. I have them on both sides of my Trade Wind. I have read about guys taking the banana wraps off the trailer, and then working out the dents with auto body tools. Some have used sand bags to rest the dented surface on as they "roll" or use dollys to push out the dent. It probably can't be made perfect, but it can be improved quite a bit.

Way to go on the floor replacement. That's a big job, I know first hand. But it is very necessary work on these old Airstreams.

David
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Old 01-19-2014, 06:51 PM   #13
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Hoping to finishing this renovation this year!
So many of us have said that over the years!

All the best for your renovations!

Grant
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Old 01-20-2014, 04:33 AM   #14
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There isn't a good way to keep water out of the belly pan area. If you steps function and are not rusted out, then you are good to go. You do not have to worry about water entering the belly pan through the folding steps.

Many people "engineer" their "basements" (from the plywood subfloor to the belly pan) to handle storm water egress. The bumper storage compartment is a funnel for water entering the "basement." 62overlander has a solution for that. And the infamous rear shell attach joint rotting subfloors needs improved too. Again, 62overlander developed a solution for that one too.

Use water proof insulation in your basement, something that won't hold moisture. POR 15 the frame to keep it from rusting any more. And provide ways to let water out of the belly pan area, like little drain holes in the belly pan aluminum itself.

David
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