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Old 05-18-2018, 10:41 PM   #1
1 Rivet Member
1969 31' Sovereign
Jacksonville , North Carolina
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 6
1973 Sovereign 31' Overhaul

Family and I just picked up a trailer last weekend that is in need of some love. This was more of an impulsive buy than we've ever done in the past. But because we paid peanuts for it, and I'm fairly certain we can recover the cost to this point, we're not sweating it too much.

Just looking at it is overwhelming.. my goal is to focus on certain milestones and small victories along the way. Being in the military and having the potential to relocate in 2 yrs, my goal in that timeframe is to get it to a point where it could be towed across the country. Not necessarily lived in, just structurally/mechanically sound. From what I've read here, this means:

1. Gut the entire inside and see what exactly I'm working with on the frame
a. Save interior skins?
2. Waterproof shell
3. Shell off (still debating gantry vs floor jack/sawhorse)
4. Sandblast/repair/reinforce/POR-15 frame, replace axles and subfloor
5. Shell On

--Tactical Pause--

4. Catch breath, lick financial wounds, re-evaluate

First and foremost, before putting any money or time into this project, I'm working on magic'ing the BoS into a title somehow.

My question to y'all.. What is worth saving from the inside? Is there anything that I should save to reuse, as an original or for a template for new stuff? In my simple mind, all of it goes. Those with experience, please chime in.

I welcome any other recommendations, positive affirmations, or chidings. It's good to be here.
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Old 05-18-2018, 10:57 PM   #2
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2002 25' Safari
Dewey , Arizona
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When you buy a vintage trailer, consider your purchase price as a down payment! Seriously, congratulations you have a big project ahead. Good luck and let us know how it is proceeding.



Wally Byam Airstream Club 7513
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Old 05-18-2018, 11:30 PM   #3
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1966 22' Safari
1955 22' Flying Cloud
Fredericksburg , Texas
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 685
When we picked up our 66 Safari a few years ago, it was totally gutted inside. The PO had started the project and got transferred. He was no longer able to finish the project. All the inside skin was in rolls and there were boxes of “stuff”. We saved everything until we were able to identify the components. The bulkheads came in handy for templates. Since we had no idea what the finished dimensions were originally, we spent a ton of time corresponding with another forum member with the same year and model getting exact dimensions and layout. I said that to say this: I would do a detailed dimensional drawing of all the interior, including elevations. If it’s still there and original. And I wouldn’t throw anything away until near completion. Good luck on your project and welcome to the forums. Bubba
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Old 05-20-2018, 03:30 AM   #4
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1974 27' Overlander
Baltimore , Maryland
Join Date: Mar 2016
Posts: 802
Congratulations on your new trailer.

I am in the "save everything until finished" camp. Even if you reuse none of the interior, it can be useful for templates, and you might be surprised at which parts might come in handy. For instance, my cabinet doors had some plastic latches that also appear elsewhere on the trailer like the door holdback and the bumper compartment. Much easier to grab them out of a pile you already own than buy them online.

Definitely save the interior skins.

From the front wing windows, I suspect this is a '69. A 73 should have a rounded lower outside corner on the wing windows.
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Old 05-20-2018, 11:03 AM   #5
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1993 32' Excella
Woodburn , Kentucky
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 14
Good luck with your project. I am sure you will look back with a smile and say, What was I thinking." Of course that will be with some pride after you complete a major portion of your redo. You could share your location. Some of the forum members may be near and able to lend a hand from time to time.

David Parker
1993 Excella 32'
1989 Dodge D-350
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Old 05-20-2018, 11:55 AM   #6
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1972 29' Ambassador
Boynton Beach , Florida
Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 462
A slightly contrarian opinion here...

First off, keep the existing crap in place and do a forensic analysis of the existing damage. It *could* be that things aren't as bad as you think. You'll be able to see where water leaked in, how long it sat, where to examine next. Use a scratch awl to poke and prod suspect places. Maybe you only need to replace a section of the floor, rather than the whole thing?

Have you tried the "bumper test" yet? Jumping up and down on the rear bumper will show if the frame has separated from the shell, and how much flex you have. From the pic, your frame looks pretty straight, so that's a good thing.

Another thing to consider is how you plan to approach the remodel. If you plan to restore your Airstream to showroom glory, then you need at least some of those pieces. If you're going with a different design, then you probably don't. I found that the bulkhead walls were fitted very poorly, and needed those curvy L-shaped moldings to hide a wide variety of sins. Yes, I had over half a ton of Airstream junk sitting unused in a large pile until one day I hauled it all to the dump. Some folks have no problems with the idea of using 40+ year old mistreated RV parts, running electricity and propane through them. I prefer to sleep at night!

Save the skins, though. As you start to work on your trailer, you'll discover the "joy" of working with compound curves. Start stockpiling large sheets of cardboard to use as templates. I was able to find 4 X 8 sheets of cardboard at the place I bought my plywood from, so I always had a ready supply.

Triage-wise, you should probably make the trailer road-worthy first. It's actually fun to go camping in a gutted Airstream, and you have plenty of time to dream about how nice it'll be when you're finished!

Now the bad news- your axles look to be toast. We should be able see 2/3- 3/4 of the tires above the rims with fresh axles. Some folks like to jack up the trailer to replace them, others like to roll the trailer up on ramps and do an axle at a time (me). If you have the shell off, method #2 would be problematic. You can get axles and brakes ready to go from Colin Hyde. Wow are they heavy!

Good luck, remember that fortune favors the prepared mind, and keep all of us here on the Forum updated!
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Old 05-20-2018, 01:24 PM   #7
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1973 31' Sovereign
1978 Argosy 30
1985 31' Excella
Sacramento , California
Join Date: Nov 2016
Posts: 323
If the wood and alu extrusions are in good shape I would keep it... and go back with the factory floor plan.. but updating the appliances as needed. A lot of support can be found by searching the web...

The reason for saying this is because the A/S trailer is a light weight trailer.. and most of the time when people start re-vamping them they exceed the weight with products that were made for normal homes...

So keep in mind that you are on a low weight diet when you start putting things in the trailer that were never were... It makes it look nice but....every oz you add.. is one less that the frame can take along for the ride...

Also.. instead of pulling the hull off.. I would go from under.... and take a look... seems that the under pin belly pan would be the easier way to go... and then while down their do the frame mod so that you will never have a problem towards the rear of the wheel trucks and body seperation as others have said to do the test...

We pulled the hull on a friends A/S... and it was a lot of prep work... we used a load equalizer beam.. and had a crane strap lift it off.. once re-enforcement at the strap positions was temp installed... it was actually cheaper to have them lift it than other means... as you want to equalize the weight across the whole thing... Once up 3 ft.. the trailer slid right out... and the hull was set on temps at that height... I even think we watched a video of someone doing it on youtube... the same way... which gave us the idea of how too...

Be very careful about the end cap liners... they are like chicken lips.. hard if not impossable to find... and you don't want to crack them.. actually before you take the body off the frame... I would remove them... yep lots of extra work.. but... them pop rivets do drill... just be careful andnot melt the plastic liner with the rivet spinn'n ...

I would also add the cable TV line... and prep it for spliting the A/C away from the main line... that way you can plug into 50 amp service.. and run the A/C as well as the microwave etc... add two more 120 v. plugs in.. one at the rear andone at the front... so you can use elect space hearters as heat...when glamping... Univolt goes too.. new technology has better more effecent conveters like the wizzard. and while your at it and have the interior down... I'd wire it for Solar.. and new golf cart bats up in the A frame area of the hitch... use the battery boxes for storage kinda thing if you ever need more POWER.. then you have a place for it... LED lighting.. is a major improvement too...

When you get done... you will have a BRAND NEW OLD TRAILER... which as far as we are conserned.... much better than the brand new ones at 4 times the price... so keep that in mind when you are looking at price tags... on equipment.

One other thing.. yours is big enough to live in... so one wants to keep that in the back of their mind.. have the little ladys input as to what is needed... but again remember.. its a camping trailer.. and you do get off the grid in the boondocks with it too...

I am sure that others have advise as to what to add from the 70's GOOD OLDIES
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Old 05-20-2018, 01:38 PM   #8
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1975 27' Overlander
gurnee , Illinois
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 154
save some stuff

I did a complete gut job on my international and found that the original layout was just fine. The only thing we really wanted was a new one for 1/2 price. So as we gutted the trailer we set it all back up outside the trailer, changed the floor and put most of it back together with some different cabinet formations. The new items went into the old spaces to use the existing wiring and plumbing. New 120v wiring was added for the micro wave and the oven was tossed. The 30 amp box was replaced with a 50 amp. Also TV cable lines were added behind the cabinets for smart TV's.Th water heater was changed from a 6 gallon to a 10 gallon. The old one had a PILOT LIGHT. That still worked but no way.The old shower looked like a bathtub for dogs. OUT. The new one is a 2 piece (from AS) And has a seat in the shower. Next were all those rolling panels in the upper storage cabinets.We tried to keep them for one year, but no way. Their junk. bad design. Every time you put away or remove clothes from them they fall on your hands. Then there is the twin beds, they lift up for storage. But once you buy and install a comfortable mattress you are now trying to lift 75 pounds in the morning to get your pants out. I don't want to tell you how long it took to get my wife's clothes out. That had to go. Build drawers that slide out into the isle. Your 70 something rig did not come with a propane detector, carbon monoxide detector or a smoke detector. These must find a place in your new rig. Change out all the old light bulbs to LED, This will save big wear on your battery (and you can stay up later). If you can find room, install a second battery. When building your new cabinets, make one drawer one foot shorter in depth. In the space behind the drawer build or install a safe. Just big enough for important papers, cash and if you please a small weapon.You can change out your sinks and toilet to custom units even your heater and water pump and still not change the plumbing or ducts. If your AC still works, DON'T change it. It's way better than the new ones they make now day.I hope you have fun with your project as I did with mine. And I hope your able to use one or more of my ideas.
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Old 05-20-2018, 01:45 PM   #9
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1993 34' Excella
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Originally Posted by SuzyHomemakr View Post
Now the bad news- your axles look to be toast. !
Sail on silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine.
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Old 05-20-2018, 03:14 PM   #10
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1970 27' Overlander
Poteau , Oklahoma
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 29
Take it from me.

First get to know your trailer before doing anything. By this I mean try and test out ALL the systems the electrial sytem on both truck, battery and shore power the brake and exterior lights, fans, outlets, AC, fridge. Test out the LP system and see if all operate and pilot lights gas valves work correctly and do not leak. Then the water faucets, drains plumbing ect. Holding tanks and sewage. The old univolt charger. RV plugs, rear end separation issues, floors, frame, windows, Everything. Find out where things are and what switches do and get to know your trailer first.
This will take a few days but then you can give yourself a proper assessment of the trailer and what would be involved in getting it functioning properly.

You may find that this old stuff works pretty darn good and the quality of the old wood and some of the appliances are hard to match today and can be restored before you do a total gut job. That is going to get into your pocket pretty heavy and take tremendous amounts of time. I managed to keep mine 90% original and even sent some of the old stove parts to have rechromed. Its just a personal preference. I like Old Sckool. Either way its gonna be an investment in a lot of time and money but give it a look cost-wise from both perspectives before you start.
I see trailers for sale every day CHEAP that someone gutted and then realized the amount of time, money and work involved and gave up. Then you have basically an empty aircraft body that will need everything. Not worth much.

Just my 2 cents
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Old 05-20-2018, 04:22 PM   #11
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1991 34' Excella
1963 26' Overlander
1961 26' Overlander
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1973 Sovereign 31' Overhaul

Good stuff above, my only addition is to do the diss assembly without ever using a big hammer, pry bar or sawsall. You will learn a bunch that will help when you start to put it back together. Notice that they never used 2x4's when they were built!
Hi Ho Silver RV! Vernon, Sarah, Mac the Border Collie -
A honkin' long 34' named AlumaTherapy
and a 26' '63 Overlander, Dolly
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Old 05-20-2018, 04:59 PM   #12
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1976 31' Sovereign
Helotes , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2017
Posts: 37
All of the advice given so far is great. IMO, I would move one step to the top of the list. Remove the belly pan entirely to assess the condition of the frame. If I had done that on my ‘76 Sovereign, I might well have given up before starting. My frame was in such bad shape, I would never have felt comfortable riding on it with patchwork repair work...NEVER!!
I am in the process of building on entirely new frame from rectangular tubing. My skill set includes welding, but this job is really pushing the envelope. Having someone do this for you (according to previous threads) is $15K +/- $5K. From this point on, it’s a major commitment.
It gives me a very sick feeling to think of all the people out there that have focused on the floor and upwards. In this case, “out of sight, out of mind” could have deadly consequences. I would advise everyone to rethink your priorities.
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Old 05-20-2018, 05:38 PM   #13
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1970 23' Safari
Marion , New York
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 71
Originally Posted by TheGreatleys View Post
Congratulations on your new trailer.

I am in the "save everything until finished" camp. Even if you reuse none of the interior, it can be useful for templates, and you might be surprised at which parts might come in handy. For instance, my cabinet doors had some plastic latches that also appear elsewhere on the trailer like the door holdback and the bumper compartment. Much easier to grab them out of a pile you already own than buy them online.

Definitely save the interior skins.

From the front wing windows, I suspect this is a '69. A 73 should have a rounded lower outside corner on the wing windows.
I agree with TheGreatley's that this is a '69 Airstream or possibly a very early '70, but not a '73. The square corner wing windows were only used in 69. Plus your overhead lockers have swing up doors, in '73 there would be tambour doors. If you post a picture of the ID number near the door someone will be able to confirm the year the trailer was made.
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Old 05-20-2018, 06:57 PM   #14
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Rockton , Illinois
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What year?

I swear that’s a 1969
It has the 3 point front wing windows up front.
I didn’t think that went past 1969 models.
Just saying.


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