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Old 03-11-2013, 10:11 PM   #57
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Joe this afternoon I decided to check the outriggers from the wheel wells forward. The two at the wheel wells droop about 3/8th of an inch.The stairs droop a full 3/4" and the rest droop 1//2" to 5/8". I was fretting about the proper height and placement of the front anchor plate when I found all the new problems. Should I cut and raise each outrigger back to level before I mess with the front hold down plate? At what point do you bite the bullet and get a new frame?
Wally
Hi again Wally,
The needs of your ATW Airstream are exceeding my experience (i.e. you are deeper in the restoration pool than I have ventured so far), so I don't have any firm opinions based upon first hand knowledge. Luckily I have not found any drooping outriggers on my ATW Airstream.

It is my belief that the outriggers should be brought back to level before re-installation of the floor and definitely before you do any work on the front hold down plate. I would not trust using shims to level the floor over drooping outriggers. The outriggers could be adjusted or even replaced with the "body on", either from above or below, and this makes sense if only a limited number needed work, but with pretty much all outriggers and cross members forward of the axle needing work, it seems more and more like things would be easier "body off".

If you go "body off" (and I have no first hand experience here), it would be easier to do any of the following (as compared to "body on"):
  1. Make any needed repairs to the existing frame. If the main rails are still sound (i.e. no holes or excessive thinning), then the cross members and outriggers could easily be repaired or replaced one by one (to hold all other dimensions while each one is replaced). If the main rails are shot, a new frame may be in order. If just a small section of a main rail needs work, it can be reinforced or replaced with new metal. I lean toward this option if the main rails are still mostly sound.
  2. Have a new duplicate frame made using the existing frame as a template. I have read of several people doing this. This might be my second choice. You could potentially reuse the hitch coupler, tongue jack, and rear bumper if you did this.
  3. Finding a donor frame. This means finding a trashed Airstream of likely the same year, factory, length, and model. If not an exact match (and even if a supposed match), it is likely that adjustments would be required to the donor frame (e.g. moving the step outriggers, etc.). I think this may be harder than just getting a new frame made, but again, I have not been down this path, so that is just an uneducated guess. Of course, if you happen to know of a likely donor frame without having to resort to a potentially lengthy search, this option could move ahead of option 2.
In any case, #83 still has the unique rear bumper that it had on the ATW caravan, so I'd reuse that whatever approach you take.

Well, those are my opinions. Hopefully others that have replaced or extensively repaired an Airstream frame will provide their input.

Good Luck!
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Old 03-15-2013, 03:41 PM   #58
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Here is another link to Fran Hall if you haven't seen it before.

Fran Hall, 95-year-old photographer, has seen it all - Boulder Daily Camera
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Old 03-16-2013, 02:18 PM   #59
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Clark View Post
Here is another link to Fran Hall if you haven't seen it before.

Fran Hall, 95-year-old photographer, has seen it all - Boulder Daily Camera
Thanks for the link. I have seen it and while the snow was slowing the restoration I did a lot of research on Fran and I have found his life's story very interesting. Can you imagine how terrific it would have been to have reunited him with his trailer.
Wally H
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Old 03-16-2013, 02:56 PM   #60
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A busy week

This past week has been a real learning experience. As I examined each center support member and the corresponding outriggers I decided that all four cross members had to much rust and needed to be replaced. Several outriggers were bad and I manufactured new ones. The front hold down plate was a disaster, it too was re-manufactured.
I was able to get all the original outriggers back up and level by using a floor jack to raise them and then welding in the cross member held them in place. I decided that since I was remaking parts I'd add a couple of extra outriggers in strategic locations like under bows and the door frame.
The angle iron pieces that run from front to the back and are about 12" apart will get a piece of 5/8 ply screwed to them. The plywood pieces will be backing plates for the sub floor joints since I can't install full sheets. I plan to use elevator bolts and construction adhesive to join the three pieces of plywood.
The frame and original outriggers were painted with silver Por-15. All the new metal has been coated with rust preventing flat black paint.
Since two sheets of plywood meet in the middle of the step area, I added extra metal for support. It will feel great to get the first 8 feet of floor back in so I can see what lurks behind the wheel wells. My welder just looks at it as more $$$$$$$.
Wally H
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Old 03-16-2013, 03:27 PM   #61
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Belly Pan had to go

I forgot to mention in the previous post that as much as I hated to do it , I had to cut out the belly pan. It had been installed when the trailer had rotten floor and sagging outriggers. As I tried to raise the outriggers I realized the belly pan wouldn't let me move them. As soon as it was out of the way, I was able to get them level with the main frame.
When I was fretting about installing the new hold down plate under the front window I discovered the window was 3/4" off center towards the street side. By removing a belly pan patch on one side of the A-frame and trimming an inch off the other side I was able to center the window over the frame.
I had pointed out a bulge on the front street corner to Scott and he shrugged it off to several thousand miles of BAD roads. Well guess what, a centered window also took care of the bulge
Wally H
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Old 03-17-2013, 05:27 PM   #62
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My '63's front end would have ended up off center had I simply fit the floor to the shell shape. I used hold down straps to re-center the front of the shell over the floor before I screwed down the C channels.

Ain't nuttin in these things square.
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Old 08-23-2013, 07:21 PM   #63
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Rear Frame sag

I'm finally getting back on task with the ATW. A couple of days ago I removed the remaining 12 feet of floor. Today after cleaning out 40 lbs of Rat Poop I discovered the latest batch of frame issues.
1... The out rigger under the water heater has torn away from the frame.
2... The "C" channel that runs under the tub has pulled away from the wall, a whole row of sheared rivets.
3...Four of the five cross-members are a rusted mess,will need to be replaced
4... The frame sags at least one inch from the wheel well cross-member to the bumper.

I know that a person isn't supposed to mount a spare tire on the bumper because it can cause frame problems. Considering this trailer circled the world on terrible roads with that spare on the bumper I'm lucky to have anything to work on.
The big question is what will remove the sag and not make the frame to stiff? Has anyone boxed the frame to remove the sag?
Please feel free to chime in, I can use all the help I can get.
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Old 08-23-2013, 07:36 PM   #64
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flyrc View Post
I'm finally getting back on task with the ATW. A couple of days ago I removed the remaining 12 feet of floor. Today after cleaning out 40 lbs of Rat Poop I discovered the latest batch of frame issues.
1... The out rigger under the water heater has torn away from the frame.
2... The "C" channel that runs under the tub has pulled away from the wall, a whole row of sheared rivets.
3...Four of the five cross-members are a rusted mess,will need to be replaced
4... The frame sags at least one inch from the wheel well cross-member to the bumper.

I know that a person isn't supposed to mount a spare tire on the bumper because it can cause frame problems. Considering this trailer circled the world on terrible roads with that spare on the bumper I'm lucky to have anything to work on.
The big question is what will remove the sag and not make the frame to stiff? Has anyone boxed the frame to remove the sag?
Please feel free to chime in, I can use all the help I can get.
The frame will sag 4" under its own weight, nuttin to do with when where or how it was towed. If you flip it over, it will be bent UP!

The important thing is to make sure it's flat when you start bolting it back together. Lots of support under various points from front to rear, verify with a level. It's possible to rivet on the belly pay with the frame un level, and the dang thing will be twisted from then on.
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Old 08-23-2013, 07:52 PM   #65
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When I measured the frame on my 55FC I found that most of the sag occured right at the rear spring mount. Seems to take a heavy load there. I suspect that if you boxed in about 4' on either side from about the axle back it would cure a lot of the issues without stiffening the frame too much and creating new ones. Relatively quick and easy while you have access. I will make note that My 55 has a bent tube frame with an unwelded seam on the underside, not c channel, so your measurements might be a little different
Keep up the good work, I really enjoy this thread with its history.
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Old 08-24-2013, 12:00 AM   #66
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Wally,
I don't have great experience with floor replacement on a lot of Airstreams, but I have replaced the rear floor on both a 1955 22' Safari and a 1962 22' Safari. Here are my observations:

The 1955 had a frame made of rectangular tubing. I'd estimate it probably was 4" x 2" 14 gauge (when new). In the state I had that Airstream, the tubing was probably thinned due to rust. With the back 8 feet of floor out (basically from the wheel wells back) and the frame unsupported, the frame would easily sag 3 or 4 inches relative to the shell when the shell was detached.

The 1962 has much beefier C-channel rails that for the most part still have good thickness to the metal. With the rear 8' of floor out and the frame unsupported, the frame would sag less than 1 inch when the shell was detached (maybe only a half inch relative to the shell, but I didn't measure and it is all reattached now).

Bottom line, the frame, floor, and shell work together to give an Airstream its structural rigidity. Each element by itself is much flimsier than the whole. If you find no obvious bend point (e.g. near the axle mounting plate) and merely have a slight uniform arc to the rear frame when unsupported, I think everything is normal. You will have to decide if any of the metal is thinned to the point it needs to be reinforced or replaced, but the mere presence of a slight arc does not in and of itself mean the frame is bent.

You will definitely want to support the frame when reattaching the body so that everything goes back together as intended and not make the arc a permanent element. When I put the new floor in the 62' (body on) I left the rear bumper unsupported until the floor was slide in place. This made it easier to slide the plywood between the frame and shell. I then jacked up the rear bumper to the point that the sag was removed and bolted and screwed the floor to the frame and the shell to the floor and frame.

Good Luck! You can get through this - many of us have done so before you.
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Old 08-24-2013, 12:46 AM   #67
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Sliding the new sheets into position

Quote:
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Wally,
I don't have great experience with floor replacement on a lot of Airstreams, but I have replaced the rear floor on both a 1955 22' Safari and a 1962 22' Safari. Here are my observations:

The 1955 had a frame made of rectangular tubing. I'd estimate it probably was 4" x 2" 14 gauge (when new). In the state I had that Airstream, the tubing was probably thinned due to rust. With the back 8 feet of floor out (basically from the wheel wells back) and the frame unsupported, the frame would easily sag 3 or 4 inches relative to the shell when the shell was detached.

The 1962 has much beefier C-channel rails that for the most part still have good thickness to the metal. With the rear 8' of floor out and the frame unsupported, the frame would sag less than 1 inch when the shell was detached (maybe only a half inch relative to the shell, but I didn't measure and it is all reattached now).

Bottom line, the frame, floor, and shell work together to give an Airstream its structural rigidity. Each element by itself is much flimsier than the whole. If you find no obvious bend point (e.g. near the axle mounting plate) and merely have a slight uniform arc to the rear frame when unsupported, I think everything is normal. You will have to decide if any of the metal is thinned to the point it needs to be reinforced or replaced, but the mere presence of a slight arc does not in and of itself mean the frame is bent.

You will definitely want to support the frame when reattaching the body so that everything goes back together as intended and not make the arc a permanent element. When I put the new floor in the 62' (body on) I left the rear bumper unsupported until the floor was slide in place. This made it easier to slide the plywood between the frame and shell. I then jacked up the rear bumper to the point that the sag was removed and bolted and screwed the floor to the frame and the shell to the floor and frame.

Good Luck! You can get through this - many of us have done so before you.
Joe this may be a lame question, but here goes. To get the new plywood into position, did you take all the belly pan off the rear of the trailer? Dumb question, if you didn't you couldn't get anything between the bumper and the shell
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Old 08-24-2013, 08:36 AM   #68
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Joe this may be a lame question, but here goes. To get the new plywood into position, did you take all the belly pan off the rear of the trailer? Dumb question, if you didn't you couldn't get anything between the bumper and the shell
Hi Wally,
In both of my cases, the belly pan was "semi-removed" meaning the side belly wraps were still present and wrapping under the outriggers, but the center section of the belly pan to just outboard of the main rails had been removed. That said, I know that others have replaced the floor with the belly pan fully intact, but that is not what I did.

In my cases, I think that many if not all rivets attaching the belly wraps to the outriggers were missing, making the shell walls able to be moved somewhat outward to allow the floor to be inserted easier, but them making realignment of the walls harder to allow the shell to frames bolts at the ends of the outriggers a little harder to align when reinstalled.

As for lifting the sell to get the floor inserted between the, see post #33 in this thread for how I lifted the shell slightly (the photos are from the '55, but I did the same thing on the '62).

Or if you are asking about inserting the last piece of floor and removing the belly pan so that it can be slide over the bumper under the shell, no that is not how I did it. If you are putting full width floor sheets in, the curved ends need to go in before the straight middle sections. This is what I did on the '55. One of the middle 4' sections was the last to go in, after both ends were inserted.

If you are splitting the floor sections into two sides and using a backer boards, screws, and glue to re-secure them together, then likely the rear parts can be inserted "last" if you lift the shell a little like shown in post #33. If the belly pan is in place, you will need to put in one side of the rear floor, attache the backer to that half with screws and glue and then put in the other half of the rear floor and attach it with screws and glue. If the belly pan is open, I suppose the backer could be added from below after installation of the to floor halves, but this would be tougher I think. Of course it is best to "dry fit everything before screwing, gluing, and bolting anything together.

If you are inserting any 4' floor sections in pieces, carefully plan where to put the seam to avoid frame rails, plumbing and furnace duct holes (and below the floor gray tanks, if you are adding them). A seam does not need to be exactly in the middle and a seam in the wrong place can cause you to have to redo it, or prevent other things from going in as planned. Placing a seam on top of a frame rail should be avoided, because this does not allow a backer board to be used and this can put extreme stress on the outriggers that no longer have the strength of the floor to help hold up the shell.
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Old 08-25-2013, 09:52 AM   #69
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiHoAgRV View Post
My '63's front end would have ended up off center had I simply fit the floor to the shell shape. I used hold down straps to re-center the front of the shell over the floor before I screwed down the C channels.

Ain't nuttin in these things square.
You are right about it "not being square. It isn't aircraft quality either
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Old 08-25-2013, 10:26 AM   #70
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Frame Stiffeners

Have any of you guys that have had the floor open on a 60's trailer found added frame stiffeners inside the frame channel? Yesterday while sitting contemplating replacing the cross members I noticed the added 1/8" thick by 3" tall pieces of metal bar that are just over 5' long. They run from 10" in front of the wheel well to about 18" behind the well. They are back against the inner wall of the frame channel and are welded every four or five inches for the length of each bar.
The big question is this, when were they installed? Was it a factory fix for a 22' trailer that had developed problems or was it a production change before the trailer was built?
The bar is located between the paint marks in the photo.
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