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Old 08-28-2012, 06:40 AM   #1
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Resurrecting Big Bertha... or, 'How I spent $30,000 on a $2,000 trailer...'

08/18/2012- Big Bertha comes home with me for the first time. She was born in 1974 up in Ohio. 31 feet long, center bath. I'm sure she was quite the looker back in her day. Now, she has no bedroom floor, all five Vista Views leak like there is no glass in them, and her awning lays in the grass next to her. Oh yeah, I'm in love...

Pretty sure the previous owner just got discouraged and gave up. He'd actually torn out the floor in the bedroom and welded in the new framework necessary. Had all brand new tires (including spare) and the propane tanks full... then decided he wanted to get back into sailing. After pulling the belly pans and lower skins, I almost decided to get into sailing myself.

Actually, I'm REALLY looking forward to this project. I'm replacing the back eight feet of floor and the front eight feet of floor for the time being. The middle section looks "good enough" for the time being. I want to do some camping in it in a few months, and the shell-off thing will wait until I retire in 6 years.

Started off by removing the commode, and all the fake wood vinyl flooring. Went to my local welding supply and had them make me some 11 gauge 5 inch channel. Have replaced all the outriggers from the wheels back, and three of the rear cross members. I have one cross member in front that needs replacing, and all of the front half curbside outriggers. Oddly enough, I can get away with only replacing a couple of the street side forward outriggers, but might just do all that I expose with the sub-floor removal...

I'm one week, and about $200 into the frame at this point. Will probably take about another $100 in metal. I've bought the plywood already, and the new oak laminate and moisture barrier for the whole trailer, along with TEKS screws to hold the ply in place... Got a little more than $400 in that.

Just wanted to add, and I don't mean this in a bad way, but if I had based my purchase solely on reading the refurb threads on here, I never would have bought this thing. Some of ya'll make a trailer rehab sound like a trip to Mars... incredibly expensive, and it's rocket science. However, mixed up in the doom-saying is some incredibly good advice. First, it IS going to cost more than you thought. I was figuring on around $750 to $1000 to get my first camping trip out of her (not totally renovated, but serviceable) and in reality, it's appearing like it will be between $1500 and $2000 now. So the guy who said to double your original estimate was pretty much on the money. Second, you really need to know a bit of everything to do this. The guy I got her from was a welder, so the frame repair wasn't a big deal to him. But, the wood work, electrical, plumbing, etc etc I believe overwhelmed him just a bit... ok, a lot. Fortunately, having grown up on a farm, and having a dad who has done everything from working for IBM in their hey-day, to drilling wells and fixing appliances, I got a very well rounded education (I've been the "Flashlight Holder" since way back)... and it's all coming into play in the refurb.

All that to say, "Hi", and "Thanks!" for some great advice and tips. Hoping to post up some pic's soon as I figure it all out.

Oh yeah, for all you guys that have vista views that you can pull the clip out and remove the glass, don't do it until you have all the shimmed butyl in hand... you'll end up with a duct tape window for a few weeks if you do. The up side is, it's the only vista view I have that isn't leaking right now. I've got an order in with "All Glass Parts" up in Canada for a roll of each size shimmed butyl they carry. They'll let you order single rolls... I'll let you know which size works for me.

-Red
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Old 08-28-2012, 07:01 AM   #2
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Well, howdy and to Airforums.com! Glad you are finding good info here to help you with your project.

Wow, talk about jumping in with both feet! I love this kind of story, a kind of ready, fire, aim situation. I suppose that's the best way to really get things done in the fastest time.

Good luck with your Sov, and hey, where are the photos!? You already knew we were going to say that, didn't you?

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Old 08-28-2012, 08:54 AM   #3
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All my pictures aqre up on my Facebook page... and it won't let me access them at the moment. May have something to do with the network here at "The Office".

I've wanted an AS for years now, however the cost of the newer ones is, ummm, prohibitive you might say. And I figured why pay somebody to do something I've been practicing my whole life to do. About 15 years ago my father and I tore a 1979 MG midget completely down, no two pieces left bolted together, and totally rebuilt it. Had about $15,000 in a $6000 car. This can't be NEAR as difficult as that was. Dad's to the "Sit on the stool and give advice on how to do it" age now.

More outriggers being welded on tonight with pictures to follow...
-Red
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Old 08-28-2012, 09:52 AM   #4
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Red

Welcome to the forums. I'd say you have the perfect background for restoration of an Airstream. It is really very satisfying to get stuff done the way you want it done. When you finish it, it will work as well as a new one and cost you less than half as much. Glad to have you with us.

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Old 08-28-2012, 10:11 AM   #5
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I am having deja vu, all over again...
Good luck with your Bertha.



http://www.airforums.com/forums/f314...ins-32395.html
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Old 08-28-2012, 07:41 PM   #6
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Thanks Overlander, now I have to read all 2647 pages of your thread...

Annnnd... the photo's!

This was just getting her home. Looks a bit different at the moment...
More pictures to come after I finish the rear outriggers and paint the rear half of the frame. Got the black water tank out today, all except one of the curb side outriggers, and only have three road side outriggers to do.
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Old 08-31-2012, 05:29 PM   #7
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Outriggers and frame reinforcement done on curbside rear... picture is before welding was complete.
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Old 08-31-2012, 06:58 PM   #8
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Welcome Red!
It looks like you have apretty good grasp of what it takes to get Bertha back on the road.

These things have one HUGE advantage over an MG....they leak less oil...

Keep us posted with lots of photos...
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Old 08-31-2012, 07:10 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiHoAgRV View Post
These things have one HUGE advantage over an MG....they leak less oil...
That's why the Brits don't make a Travel Trailer... they can't figure out how to make it drip oil.

Will do on the photo's... wife's leaving on a trip to Kenya next week, so the work on Bertha will get fast and furious.
-Red
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Old 09-03-2012, 06:43 AM   #10
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All welding from the axles back is complete!!! Now it's wire wheel time and them some ospho and POR15. More pictures to come. Got done late yesterday and was just too tired to think about photos...
-Red
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Old 09-04-2012, 07:17 PM   #11
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Decided to skip the ospho after reading the directions on the can of POR15. Wire wheel and then painted back half of the back half.... I guess that would be the back quarter.

I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to every one who said that POR15 wouldn't come off. "Surely it will" thought I. "They just aren't using the right stuff to get it off," was another thought I had... My hands are two thirds covered in what remains of gray POR15. The only thing I can think of that I didn't try was PVC cleaner, which I believe is close to acetone, which didn't touch this crap... I have very black fingers.

Hoping to finish painting the rear half of the frame by Saturday and put the subfloor in Sunday. Pictures upon completion of the painting...
-Red
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Old 09-04-2012, 08:41 PM   #12
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Cool project! I look forward to reading all about it!
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Old 09-05-2012, 05:49 PM   #13
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Great project! Spending 30k on a 2k trailer sounds like every car I have ever owned. All part of owning an American classic. Keep posting updates. Thanks.
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Old 09-05-2012, 06:47 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Panama Red View Post
I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to every one who said that POR15 wouldn't come off. "Surely it will" thought I. "They just aren't using the right stuff to get it off," was another thought I had... My hands are two thirds covered in what remains of gray POR15. The only thing I can think of that I didn't try was PVC cleaner, which I believe is close to acetone, which didn't touch this crap... I have very black fingers.
Remember, experience is a great teacher. It allows you to recognize a mistake when you make it again...
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