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Old 02-02-2009, 10:50 PM   #1
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1973 31' Sovereign
Aransas Pass , Texas
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Talking Ready or not, here we go...

The day after Christmas 2008 I bought a '73 Sovereign Land Yacht 31' TT for $1500. It had been converted into a jewelry shop by the PO and had been partially gutted and benches installed almost all the way around. This was perfect for me as I planned on doing about the same thing except I'll be using the AS for my gunsmith shop.


When I bought it they still had all their equipment and shop stuff in there so I gave them a month to clear it out. I needed to get some new tires and wheels anyway before I could move it so I wasn't in any hurry. I also had to remove the stabilizers as the AS had been sitting on flat tires for four years and the weight of the trailer had collapsed them.





The month finally went by, I got tires and wheels, removed the bad stabilizers and emptied all the excess weight out of the trailer that I could. Yesterday we had to pull the trailer out from under the PO's house and the A/C was about 1/2" taller than the lowest beam of the house with it still riding on the completely flat tires. Well, the PO said he had the same problem putting it under there and the A/C and the shroud was toast anyway, sooo, he said to just go ahead and pull it through. We did just that and noisily squeezed it out of there. The house was no worse for wear and the A/C, well, it's getting replaced anyway.


Once we had it out from under the house, we could now install the new tires and wheels. I figured that the axles were going to make this a difficult proposition and they didn't disapoint. The axle torsion arms were all either seized level or above the frame. I had to use an axe handle to get enough leverage to pull each axle arm down while the PO shoved the tire in and pulled the wheelwell skin out at the same time. The curb side was the worst, but the street side still wasn't any picnic. The rear axle had a loose bearing on one side and a broken spring and star adjuster on the other. I cleared the broken parts, greased the bearings and set the bearing preload before the tires went on.

I couldn't hitch up to my truck (2500 Ram, 4x4, CTD w/ leveling kit) as planned because the axles were sitting so low, my truck was too high and there wasn't enough adjustment in the hitch. The new tires didn't bring the AS up as much as I had hoped they would. Luckily my wife was there with me and had driven her Durango (5.9, 4x4, stock height) over to follow me home. We ended up hitching the AS up to her truck, and once we set the WD bars and sway control up, all was well. The trip to my friends place (RV repair service) was uneventful and even with the bad axles, the AS looked to be towing smoothly along. I forgot the camera at home yesterday so I don't have any pics of the tire swap or us towing the AS.

Today, I started the daunting task of completely gutting the interior so we could have access to perform the necissary floor repairs. Probably going to end up redoing the entire floor and probably some frame repair by the looks of it.




Not much to say here except I made a lot of progress today. The bulkhead walls that were still in the AS were pretty bad off so there wasn't much point in trying to be gentle with it. I'm changing everything around so there's not much that is going to be useful to me here. I'm even moving the black tank and toilet to a center bath configuration. The rear end is sagging and I want to shift more of the weight to the center to help balance it out better. I did find one good bulkhead that I'll be saving as a pattern for later. Tomorrow I need to move the swap meet and keeper stuff out of the way so I can finish removing the rest of the interior. These two pics show the current state of the teardown. I hope to have the rest of it out soon.

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Old 02-04-2009, 12:28 AM   #2
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Day two...
The gutting process continued at a good pace. Not as much change to look at compared to the first day of work. This was mainly due to the fact that I was actually trying to save most of the parts that were left.



I got a better look at the rear bath area of the floor... and wished I hadn't. I knew it was going to be bad, but dang what a mess!


These next three areas took most of my time today. The furnace, univolt and water heater. I was trying to keep them in good condition, relatively speaking of course. The water hetaer didn't fare so well but the furnace might be salvageable. The univolt will be getting replaced with a modern equivalent but it still may be useful for someone else.




Before the floor repair can begin I still need to remove the AC, TV antenna plug and the inside wheel well covers. I already have the AC unbolted from below and all the screws and sealant removed from above. I need to save the mounting base for the new AC later, so I can't just chuck it off the roof. I'll need to get a friend or two to help me carefully pull it down.
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Old 02-04-2009, 01:31 AM   #3
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Big project - but already looks substantially better. keep us posted and thanks for the great pics
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Old 02-04-2009, 03:30 AM   #4
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Thanks for the encouraging words. I try to keep lots of pics as they help a lot with the reassembly. I've got a bunch on photobucket and even more still on my computer already. I'm mostly just trying to post the highlights and summary pics here to keep it from getting too clogged up. IMHO the words can sometimes get lost between too many pics.

Sometimes the pics can speak louder than any words though. Did you notice the last two pics on post #1? Look carefully at the ceiling in relation to the floor. The ceiling is drooping sideways towards the curb side of the trailer. I'm gonna have to check that out real close. I never noticed it until I looked at the pics as I posted them.

On the other hand, the rear bath area has the typical rear end sag pretty bad, but it's almost impossible to show that in the pics. Soooo...? I know, I know, just take more pics. Right?

PS: For those that may be reading this, and are lacking in certian humor receptor areas of their brain, that last sentance was meant to be satiracal in nature (ie: funny). I don't want to get blasted again because someone doesn't understand when I'm just trying to joke around. Anyone that knows me personally already knows this. However, it's not always possible to translate something like dry humor over the internet very well. So count this as my disclaimer for the rest of this thread: "I like to kid around."

PPS: Janet, That last PS was not directed at you. Well, not unless you actually are lacking in humor brain cells.
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Old 02-04-2009, 06:11 AM   #5
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Boy are you in the right place. Most here know sarcastic remarks when they see them. You have taken on a huge project and your sense of humor will help you. I too have the 31ft Sovereign and I can tell you I would still be standing in the doorway with my mouth open if mine had looked like that. I was a basket case last winter when mine got a dent in the front end cap. Now my toilet leaks and I'm dreading trying to change that out. You are a strong person and a winner, I can tell. Please keep the pictures coming so we can see your progress in bring this grand old trailer back to life. How anyone could let an Airstream get in that conditions escapes me. Good luck to you.
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Old 02-04-2009, 07:19 PM   #6
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juel - Thanks for the moral support. I've learned to have a thick skin, but probably what I hate the most is to be misunderstood.


Today I had a lot to get fixed on my truck so I didn't get to do much to the AS. I got a friend to help me get the AC off the roof. We ended up just chucking it overboard (I know, I know...) We carefully tossed it upside down off the roof so the mounting plate on the bottom of the AC never touched the ground when it hit. Made a nice satisfactory THUD when it hit too.

The TV antenna thingy inside came off the wall easy enough, just a couple of screws. I didn't see the amplifier I was looking for behind it though. Oh well.

I still need to get a big tarp to cover the AS before we get any rain. My front vent cover was torn away somewhere in the past so theres a hole there. The antenna base wasn't rivited to the roof when I got up there and looked at it. Only the rotating shaft and the handle inside was holding it onto the roof. It's gone now, so there's that hole there. There's also the AC hole now too, obviously. I yanked the PVC vent pipes off the walls inside so water could get in there now as well. That's not even counting the less noticable leaks that are sure to be all over the place.
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Old 02-04-2009, 08:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoMopar440 View Post
Thanks for the encouraging words. I try to keep lots of pics as they help a lot with the reassembly. I've got a bunch on photobucket and even more still on my computer already. I'm mostly just trying to post the highlights and summary pics here to keep it from getting too clogged up. IMHO the words can sometimes get lost between too many pics.

Sometimes the pics can speak louder than any words though. Did you notice the last two pics on post #1? Look carefully at the ceiling in relation to the floor. The ceiling is drooping sideways towards the curb side of the trailer. I'm gonna have to check that out real close. I never noticed it until I looked at the pics as I posted them.

On the other hand, the rear bath area has the typical rear end sag pretty bad, but it's almost impossible to show that in the pics. Soooo...? I know, I know, just take more pics. Right?

PS: For those that may be reading this, and are lacking in certian humor receptor areas of their brain, that last sentance was meant to be satiracal in nature (ie: funny). I don't want to get blasted again because someone doesn't understand when I'm just trying to joke around. Anyone that knows me personally already knows this. However, it's not always possible to translate something like dry humor over the internet very well. So count this as my disclaimer for the rest of this thread: "I like to kid around."

PPS: Janet, That last PS was not directed at you. Well, not unless you actually are lacking in humor brain cells.

SOOOOOOOO.............. YOU ARE JUST ABOUT READY TO POLISH THE SKIN???

Seriously, can't wait to see your progress. Good luck
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Old 02-05-2009, 05:17 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by 94Tri View Post
SOOOOOOOO.............. YOU ARE JUST ABOUT READY TO POLISH THE SKIN???
I don't know which is going to be more fun yet. Polishing the outside or fixing the floor.

I'll spot polish it wherever I put in patch panels on the outer skin. That should help make the whole job a little easier down the road.

I'll be moving to the Rockies this September, so I really need to get this project completed fairly quickly. Since I'm not going for a standard interior, I'll have a bit of leeway. That should make things a bit simpler and quicker.

Well, after the floor, and leaks, and furnace, and AC, and relocating the toilet & black tank, and water pump, and replacing the axels and brakes, and wiring and electrical, and windows, and front door, and front step, and...


What have I gotten myself into?!?!?
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Old 02-05-2009, 09:15 AM   #9
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Man... nobody will ever call you lazy! You are making great progress. Cant wait to see the finished product.

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Old 02-05-2009, 12:04 PM   #10
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Actually the easy part is done.

I admirer your expectations!

Go man go.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Action
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Old 02-05-2009, 06:57 PM   #11
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That jut takes my breath away. You are a talented and brave soul.
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Old 02-05-2009, 08:10 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danalee View Post
That jut takes my breath away. You are a talented and brave soul.
KEEP BREATHING! My CPR certification is waaay out of date.

Well, today was almost a total bust. I've been fighting a cold since Monday and this morning it was pretty bad. I wasn't able to get up to go to the AS Rally and I stayed in bed half the day. When I finally did get up, I went out and bought a 20'x30' tarp and covered up the Sovereign. The only other thing I did today was to pull the AM/FM 8 track radio assembly out of the front end cap.

BTW: Anyone know where I can find some of that U-C extruded channel used to attach the sides to the floor on these 70's AS's? I need about a 2'
straight section of it to cover up the hole where the water heater was. I'm not putting it back in since I'm going to convert the rear bath to a center bath and I'll only have the toilet and a small sink for washing hands. I'm planning on using one of those small tankless water heaters for the bathroom sink. The shower and kitchen sink will not be reinstalled. I'll be moving the black tank forward, behind the fresh water tank and between the axles. I'll be running the small sink drain directly into the black tank. I don't plan on using a seperate grey tank since the sink won't see a lot of use.

Uggg. I'm off to bed to try to get some sleep now. I've got to go back to work tomorrow morning after being on leave (that's "vacation" for you civilian types ) for the last 2 weeks. I'm NOT looking forward to it. Especially concidering the way I feel right now. BLECH!
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Old 02-05-2009, 08:25 PM   #13
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Can't wait to see pictures as you start to put it together. I remodeled mine last winter and had a good time doing it. Hang tough and good luck with the cold.
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Old 09-26-2009, 11:19 PM   #14
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Been a while since I posted here I guess huh?

Well, with the last three months being about 100*+ degrees and 100% humidity (but no rain), I didn't get anything done on the Airstream for quite a while. I was collecting some steel to repair the frame and some wood for the floor, but not much else got done till about two weeks ago. We finally got some rain here and the temps finally droped below the 90's so I got back to work on the project.

BTW: Please pardon the lack of pics. I lost my camera for a while and just recently found it after most of the work written about below was already completed. I'll try to be as descriptive as I can remember on how it went. If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll clarify as best I can.

Remember that "body lean" towards the curbside I mentioned? It turns out that all the frame outriggers behind the axles to the rear bumper were either bent from previous tire blowouts or rusted away enough to let the weight of the body start to fold them down about 1"-1.5". The street side outriggers had similar tire blowout damage and quite a bit of rust holes from the leaky water heater. The street side wasn't as bad with only about 1/2" droop at the worst area by the back bumper.

The main frame beams had some serious issues as well. On the curb side main beam just behind the axle plate some PO had apparently tried to jack up the AS with something and bent the bottom of the frame rail upward. This had the unfortunate effect of also causing the rear end to droop from that point back. The street side main beam had some bad rust holes under the water heater area.

It was at this point that I had to take a very long hard look at the safety issues with trying to repair this type of damage and wether or not I should even continue on with the project. I asked around to some professional welders and local RV repair experts to get some opinions on which way I should go with it. After getting a few good suggestions and positive ideas I came up with a plan to be able to repair the frame to be at least as safe as it was from the factory.

To fix the main beams, I first had to cut the back half of the body free from the frame and use some jacks to lift if just barely above the frame. This wasn't to hard to do given the amount of droop in the frame at this time. Then I bought two 6' long 3" structural C channel steel pieces and welded them to the original beams at the back (clamped up front), joining them to the existing 3" fraime reinforcement beams. The frame beams were then jacked up at the very back end until they were brought back to level. The new 3" beams were then welded to the main beams all the way up to the axel plates, I added bolts through the bent area of the main beam and the 3" C channel to help pull it straight on the curb side. I had to keep checking and rechecking with a level at numerous places to make sure I wasn't bowing the frame any more than I needed to bring it back straight.

All the outriggers behind the rear axle were going to be replaced so I bought some long pieces of some structural steel to make some new ones. I cut them to legnth with a chop saw and then used an angle grinder to shape the edges to match the factory pieces. With the back half of the body still on jack stands I cut the old out riggers off one at a time and ground the frame rail smooth to prep it for the new piece. The short outrigger behind the battery box (why did AS do that???) was in good shape, but I replaced it with a full size one anyway. That outrigger had previously broken through the wood floor since it didn't go all the way to the outer edge of body. The fact that the other outriggers on that side hadn't carried their own share of the load for quite some time couldn't have helped the situation either. Anyway, after they were all welded in, the whole frame was wire brushed, Ospho'd and then painted.

Next on the agenda was the floor itself....
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