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Old 03-26-2006, 01:11 PM   #1
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I have been to the mountain...

OK, so it's a figure of speech, but last week my buddy and I visted Jackson Center. Got a tour of the whole place by a nice gent named Don Amos, if I remember correctly. Don said he was just celebrating his 48th anniversary with Airstream, having been there since 1958.

It was neat to see the trailers in every stage of construction. I learned a lot of neat things.

All the sides are built on the same set of bucks. They've got large steel bucks with the straight sides and proper curvature toward the top. There are long horizontal steel bars built into the bucks so that when they are riveting up where one skin overlaps another, they don't need a guy on the back side with a bucking bar, they can drive their rivets right against the steel form. When the ribs are installed, it requires two people as you have to have a guy on the inside holding the bucking bar.

They've changed the design since mine was built. The ribs are in three pieces now, rather than going the whole way around (like a giant inverted U). They build a left side with a long extrusion down the top edge, a right side with the same extrusion down the top edge, and then the top has a mating extrusion along both edges. The four extrusions are connected together longitudinally, forming the shell. As well, to distinguish between the wide bodies and the narrow bodies (I'd thought they were all wide bodies now but apparently not) they have different size plugs they insert in the roof. The sides are the same for all of them, but they vary the width by the size of the roof plug.

Another thing I found neat was when they form up the shell, some models don't have a large enough rear window for a man to crawl through. So, they'll cut a rough hole in where the door is going to go and go inside through that. I belive that is so the guy can buck rivets from the inside when installing the window frames. But it was neat to see this shining brand new aluminum ingot with a rough cut hole in the side.

Another neat point was that most of them had a plain black painted steel step. Only a few had the aluminum step like on mine. I asked Don about this. He said it's a cost reduction measure, and only certain models come standard with the aluminum step. He said the aluminum step costs $1000!!! That floored me. He said they do have parts available for them if anybody needs them.

I really like the wheels they're putting on them. There's a six-spoke star mag looking wheel I found very sharp. The other mag looks just like an American Racing Outlaw II. Oddly enough, I checked out several of th e75th anniversary Bambi's,and I really like the baby moon on the black steel wheel. Didn't think I would, but it looks sharp.

Speaking of, that special edition 19' Bambi is some nice trailer! I like the sink that's in it; a very deep basin probably 16" in diameter (perfectly round) and about 16" deep. The rest of the interior is kind of art deco, but it was neat. I also looked at a 16' Bambi, but didn't care for it one bit. It's got the wet bathroom and is super tight. The 19' had just enough room that two people could be pretty comfortable.

On the subject of brakes, they are definitely using the Actibrake E over H unit. I wasn't able to confirm what type of brakes were mounted on the hubs. I only got a brief look. From that brief look, they appeared to be floating caliper types, which would indicate that they're probably Kodiak, but I'm not certain. It wasn't very bright and I only got a quick glance. Most of the trailers had electric drum brakes. Only a couple had disks.

Most of the trailers on the line were 19' Bambi's and 25' Safari's. They had a couple 34' Limiteds and one 30' Classic (the one I'd really wanted to see because I'm thinking of changing the floor plan in my Excella to match the new 30').

They had several of the new rear-door models. I'd never seen one of those before. Bedroom is in the front of the coach and the door is at the rear of the curb side. Neat!

I was able to sneak a spy shot of Wally's gold annodized Airstream as well. I'll try to upload them here. If I can't get it to work, I'll stick them in my pictures section.

I got them to attach...we'll see if they show up. They didn't when I previewed it... Anyway the one is of me by the sign on the way into town. The other one is great. I had to pull into the back of some medical clinic's parking lot to click these. But it appears to be a two-door Liner, one of the early Clippers, another older model I'm not sure about, and Wally's Gold Anodized model. Cool!

One negative: We swung by the WBCCI headquarters at 4:15-4:20pm. They were locked up tight. Sign on the door said open 'til 4:30. Not sure what was up with that. Probably went to watch the basketball game. The guys at Airstream were all clustered around the big screen in the lobby watching Ohio State play...

Just the same, Jackson Center is a nice town and everybody I met seemed very friendly. I'd highly recommend the trip!
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Old 03-26-2006, 03:55 PM   #2
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Jim,

Thanks for the report from Jackson Center. I plan to make that trip soon, and it's nice to get a picture of what to expect.
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Old 03-26-2006, 04:35 PM   #3
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good report!

gives a good visual of how things come together behind the scenes.

My 19' CCD Bambi hits the line tomorrow (according to my work order), can't wait!

That gold trailer is awesome

b.
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Old 03-26-2006, 05:42 PM   #4
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Jim,

Any chance to get a feel for the fit/finish on the 75th 19 Bambi. I'm thinking of upgrading from my 19CCD to one of those............ .
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Old 03-26-2006, 08:17 PM   #5
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thanks Jim that was a cool post on the tour you had it covered well. The pictures were neat to see also. I'm surprised that they do not have those vintage trailers in a building for weather protection, It would be a shame to have a hail storm come thru there.
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Old 03-26-2006, 08:23 PM   #6
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I just brought up the idea of going to Mecca with Brooke, and her question was, "Is there anything there for the kids to do?"


Is there?


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Old 03-27-2006, 11:47 AM   #7
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Lew, the fit and finish on the 75th anniversary Bambi looked good to me. Actually, I was quite impressed with their build quality in general. There was a Prowler factory pretty close to where I live that shut down last year, but it was there for 30 years. Their quality wasn't even close to Airstream's. In fact, my one buddy used to work there and he was sitting my '77 and he said "This thing has better fit and finish than the new ones we just sent out the door." It's easy to sound like a snob, and I don't want to come across that way, but Airstream really does build a good product. I only wish I could afford a new one. Two actually; I'd take a Classic 30 and a 19' Bambi

If I remember correctly, Don told me that those old trailers were stored indoors normally. It just so happened that they had them outside the day I was there. They won't let you take pictures inside the factory (although I managed to sneak a couple of the inside of a Bambi that didn't turn out very well...) and they had these in a chained off area where the guard wouldn't let us in. So I had to go downtown and pull in behind a medical clinic to get the pics I did.

Frederic, Jackson Center is a small town and there's not a whole lot there other than Airstream. However, the USAF Museum is just about exactly an hour away, in Dayton. I've been to all of them, and it's The Best airplane museum there is, bar none. If your kids like planes at all, they've got it all there. Just be sure to get there early and sign up for the bus tour that takes you over to the X-Planes hangar. I was steamed; they had no signage saying you had to do this and they moved the X-planes out of the main museum to a remote location. After going through the entire place and not seeing them, we asked and were told you had to sign up, but that there were no more slots available that day. I'd gotten to the museum when it opened, and inquired at 1:00pm. I could have signed up had I known. Bottom line is I'd wanted to see the XB-70 again, it's my favorite airplane of all time, and is one of the museum's showpieces. Unbeknownst to me, they'd moved it from where it was a couple years ago and now you have to get in the que to see it. Anyway, give it a shot.
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Old 03-28-2006, 11:41 AM   #8
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Shell Mount Extrusion

I forgot to mention one other very important detail:

Whereas our older trailers have a U channel going around the bottom that bolts to the floor/outriggers and the skin and banana wrap rivet to, and this U-channel sits on top of the plywood flooring, the new ones use an extrusion that is much different.

This new extrusion likes like a combination between a capital L and a capital U. Imagine a capital L that you attach a capital U to with a gap between the bottom leg of the L and the bottom of the U. The plywood floor slides into this gap. So, they've basically fixed the leaking/rotting out the plywood problem. And, you could then change out the floor without removing the shell. They told me you can buy this extrusion and retrofit an older one if you were so inclined. I didn't ask about the price. Bet it's a dusie!
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Old 03-28-2006, 11:44 AM   #9
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Jim,

That sounds way too complicated. I think I'll stick with making sure that the seams are properly caulked at regular intervals.

Frederic
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