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Old 10-19-2019, 10:12 AM   #1
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76 Sovereign Renovation Project

Greetings vintage Airstream enthusiasts. I have an Airstream friend who lives in my town and has a 76 Sovereign. We met here on Airstream Forums. This is their first Airstream. They are avid RV travelers and have upgraded from a pop up and vintage Shasta trailer. His trailer has the common "veil of tears" problems with 70s long Airstreams, to wit:

Bad axles and shocks
Rear end separation, rear floor rot
Rear end sag
Film failure on leaky vista windows
Delamination of interior parts
Bad plumbing
Cracked plastics

But hey, all the windows work pretty well.

We are going to renovate his trailer over the winter months in my building. I'm retired, need something to do, and enjoy working on these old Airstreams. His is a twin, rear bath layout. They both work full time and have less time to spend on the project. I have "finished" my 75 Overlander and look forward to having my way with this 76. Our goal is renovating it into a reliable, comfortable travel trailer. It won't be a show winner if you know what I mean. They are going to use this old trailer extensively. It will be interesting to see how different the 75 is from the 76. I think there are many significant differences. It was a significant model year change.

First job: Jack it up and pull the old axles down. Done, I can handle that one.

We will need your help along the way.

David
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Old 10-19-2019, 08:17 PM   #2
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David - looks just like mine. But it looks like the shell is in pretty good shape.

Gods luck on the your newest project!

Bill
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Old 10-19-2019, 08:47 PM   #3
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Thank you Bill. Glad you found my project thread. I will need your help and guidance. We won't be doing a frame replacement, just a major repair. And we won't be doing a subfloor replacement, just patching the rear subfloor and maybe a soft spot here and there.

My friend loves to travel to Florida and next year he wants to take this Sovereign. Pressure!

David
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Old 10-19-2019, 08:53 PM   #4
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Bath Plastics Out

I have removed the bath plastics to gain access to the rear subfloor rot and the worn out plumbing. The bath layout and plastics are very similar to my 75 Overlander, except better.

The vanity countertop and sink are larger. There is a new plastic part that is a medicine chest and a shower wall. The tub is the same.

We will clean, prep and paint the bath plastics. I do have some cracks to repair.

The subfloor under the bath plastic parts wasn't too bad. There was a huge mouse next under the tub. I thought I smelled something.

David
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Old 10-19-2019, 09:17 PM   #5
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Deja Vu

Hello DBJ,
That workspace of yours sure looks familiar. Hmmm. Just remember I did a '76 Sovereign with the same floor plan in 2006. Let me know if I can help.
The skin on your project is beautiful.
Your neighbor is lucky to have you.
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Old 10-19-2019, 11:29 PM   #6
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I totally agree. I am learning from the best and unbelievably thankful. I look forward to a winter of scraping grinding sanding polishing and education. More laughs than tears! HA!
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Old 10-20-2019, 11:04 AM   #7
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Hello Aluminholic: Fancy meeting you here. I have a photo of your 76 Sovereign as inspiration, see below. Yep, I will need your help as well as many others. I doubt we can make this trailer as good as yours, but we will make it much better.

Gee, I see you joined ranks with the new trailer owners. Congratulations. The new Airstreams are very good indeed. I think better built than the older ones.

David
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Old 10-20-2019, 11:45 AM   #8
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Congratulations on your newest project David, and how lucky for your project owners to have you on board. I enjoyed your '73 reno thread and look forward to your adventures on this one. Hope all of your discoveries are the best kind. Anymore before pictures of the rest of the trailer?
CC
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Old 10-20-2019, 12:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbj216 View Post
Hello Aluminholic: Fancy meeting you here. I have a photo of your 76 Sovereign as inspiration, see below. Yep, I will need your help as well as many others. I doubt we can make this trailer as good as yours, but we will make it much better.
David
Methinks thou art kidding. What ever you do, you do much better than I ever could. You'll notice I never show any pictures of the inside.
It needed the DBJ "rip it all out and start over" approach, along with new axles and the new holding tanks you do so well.
Yes, we have a new Airstream, Old#6. We continue to alternate: Vintage, new, Vintage, new, etc.
Since I am now 73, this will be our last.
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Old 10-20-2019, 08:10 PM   #10
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Alumaholic: You have such a rich Airstream experience through the years. New ones, old ones, big ones, and small ones. Enjoy old #6, it might be the best one so far.

Yep, I'm back under a dirty old Airstream this winter. It keeps me out of the bars.

David
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Old 10-20-2019, 08:26 PM   #11
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We Think You May Be Right

Quote:
Originally Posted by dbj216 View Post
Alumaholic: You have such a rich Airstream experience through the years. New ones, old ones, big ones, and small ones. Enjoy old #6, it might be the best one so far.
David
We have enjoyed it immensely so far: Chilly Chama Rally, two trips to Creede, Colorado, Balloon Fiesta Rally, and now here we are in Mesa, AZ, where it will spend the winter so we have a place to to escape to from time to time when it gets to cold in Albuquerque.
All the best to you. Sorry to hijack your thread.
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Old 10-20-2019, 08:36 PM   #12
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Tanks Out, Belly Pan Down

We removed the black and grey waste water tanks. I was thankful I got the toilet flange out of the black tank without breaking it. The galvanized tank pan is rusted toast. The tanks looked pretty good. They are certainly bigger than the ones in my 75 Overlander.

The rear cross member is also certainly bigger than the one in my 75 Overlander. But there is more to rust. The infamous aluminum decorative sheet between bumper cover and body is still their. That piece sure has kept a lot of folks busy repairing vintage Airstreams.

We also removed the rear belly pan to the fresh water tank pan. This is our first peak at the frame rails and cross members. I've seen worse. We have not carefully inspected and assessed this part of the frame yet. We do know we have rear end separation and rear frame sag. It all can be repaired no matter what we find.

1976 model year trailers have the new frame design. I like the two additional steel 1x2 channels running inside the frame rails, the additional elevator bolts, but don't like the 1/2" plywood subfloor. I imagine Airstream thought the additional floor support negated the need for 3/4" plywood.

As we often say, taking a vintage trailer apart is easy and quick compared to putting it back together again. We have a lot of work to do this winter.

David
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Old 10-21-2019, 10:47 AM   #13
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Looking forward to see how you progress.... Im jealous of your great shop space! I think we'd all like to have a neighbor like you.
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Old 10-21-2019, 08:05 PM   #14
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Alumaholic: You can hijack this thread anytime you want. I hope you follow along and chuckle when I mess up. You are going to have a wonderful Airstream winter. \

rucos: I am blessed to have this heated outbuilding on my property here. Luckily my wife liked the house well enough. I wanted this building for my Airstream hobby. It is working out.

David
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Old 10-21-2019, 08:19 PM   #15
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Starting to Clean and Inspect Frame

Well, the belly pan is down and the old fiberglass insulation out. I've just started learning about this new frame design from Airstream on the 76 and later trailers.

I found the front body seal between body and frame to be very good. There is an aluminum vertical panel between the A frame members that covers the frame and wraps around the belly pan. Water can't get in and the frame and subfloor look good in this area.

Airstream boxed in the frame rails in the area of the fresh water tank. The frame is very robust in this section. Why they didn't do the same thing over the axles is a mystery to me. This trailer wouldn't have rear end sag if the frame were stronger over the axles.

We have several outriggers that are rust dust. We will replace them. I don't know why this happened yet.

The rear cross member is much bigger and stronger than the one in my 75 Overlander. But due to the lousy rear body seal design, this beefy cross member is badly rusted and the rear 6" of subfloor is rotted dust. Both will need replaced. Maybe most 70s Airstreams end up this way.

Photos coming later...

David
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Old 10-23-2019, 08:28 PM   #16
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Some Photos

So here is the dirty rear end of the Sovereign. This decorative aluminum strip catches rain water and funnels it into the rear joint between body and frame.

This is the bigger and more robust rear frame cross member in the 1976 new design frame. But excess rain water turned it to iron dust. We will replace it.


Of course the rear subfloor is rotted away. This allows the rear body bolts to fall loose.


These photos are not unusual in 70s trailers. It is a classic case of rear end separation.

David
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Old 10-23-2019, 08:37 PM   #17
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Fresh Water Tank Removed

My friend and I decided to drop the fresh water tank. The fill hose was leaking and needed replaced. And we wanted to see what the frame and subfloor looked like over the tank. Their were no particular issues discovered over the fresh water tank.

The big, heavy galvanized steel pan unbolted nicely. The 76 has this nifty steel plate that bolts to a special vertical post welded to the frame. The steel plate helps support the center of the tank. I liked this arrangement.

It is a large fresh water tank. It is 50 gallons at least. There is a lot of water weight here. It is located forward of the axles. Here is a photo of the fresh tank in its pan.

David
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Old 10-24-2019, 03:32 PM   #18
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David

This is so reminiscent of my own rear frame issues. Are you replacing the holding tanks with something bigger? From you pics, it looks like a rear bath?

Bill
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Old 10-24-2019, 07:41 PM   #19
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Hi Bill: Too early to determine that. We do know the old tanks seem sound. The black tank is considerably larger than the grey, which is opposite of the way new trailers are designed. We don't like that so much.

The first thing is to figure out how to repair the rear end separation and level the rear frame rails.

David
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Old 10-24-2019, 07:56 PM   #20
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Frame Differences

We're cleaning surface rust off the frame members so we can inspect for cracks and the like. I first learned of the 1/2" plywood subfloor and the extra frame channels here on these Forums.

I want to show you a photo of the frame "doublers" Airstream welded in the frame rail C channels forward of the fresh water tank. These certainly add to frame strength. My Overlander didn't have these doublers. Too bad the doublers weren't added over the axle plates. They would be most welcome there to help support the long rear frame channels.

And there is a big expanse of unsupported 1/2" plywood in the front of the trailer where the optional spare tire is housed between the A frame members. My Overlander was the same, but it has 3/4 plywood subfloor. I'm guessing Airstream said no problem as we will bridge that area with the gaucho. No one will be walking there. Well, we are considering a dinette up there and will need better floor support for sure.

David
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