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Old 10-26-2008, 03:50 AM   #1
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'54 - '55 Safari Interiors

Has anyone else noticed that 1954 & 1955 Safari's appear to be the only Airstreams from the 1950's that have their closets and cabinets painted from the factory (usualy in Zolatone)? The closet and cabinet doors and drawer fronts are a varnished birch, the the rest of the closets and cabinets are painted, inside and out.

On other 1950's Airstreams, paint was only applied to the walls and roof lockers. The cabinets and closets themselves were typically varnished birch. Occasionally wet bath may have had painted walls, but that was about it on non-Safari's.

Interestingly, 1956 Safari's got varnished birch cabinets and closets.

The best place to see this for yourself is in the Vintage Airstream Photo Archives: http://www.vintageairstream.com/archives/index.html

Were the 1954 & 1955 Safaris the Argosy's of their day, getting blemished and rejected parts from other models (since they would be painted over anyway)? Or was it just less expensive to paint these items rather than varnish them?

I know one thing. This interior finish method would make it eaier to repaint, because there would be very little to tape off once the doors and drawers were removed.
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Old 10-26-2008, 04:53 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by 66Overlander View Post
Has anyone else noticed that 1954 & 1955 Safari's appear to be the only Airstreams from the 1950's that have their closets and cabinets painted from the factory (usualy in Zolatone)? The closet and cabinet doors and drawer fronts are a varnished birch, the the rest of the closets and cabinets are painted, inside and out.

On other 1950's Airstreams, paint was only applied to the walls and roof lockers. The cabinets and closets themselves were typically varnished birch. Occasionally wet bath may have had painted walls, but that was about it on non-Safari's.

Interestingly, 1956 Safari's got varnished birch cabinets and closets.

The best place to see this for yourself is in the Vintage Airstream Photo Archives: Vintage Airstream Photo Archives

Were the 1954 & 1955 Safaris the Argosy's of their day, getting blemished and rejected parts from other models (since they would be painted over anyway)? Or was it just less expensive to paint these items rather than varnish them?

I know one thing. This interior finish method would make it eaier to repaint, because there would be very little to tape off once the doors and drawers were removed.
Joe

When we brought our 55 Safari home and gave the "whole" trailer a good looking over, that was exactly my thoughts, Airstream just threw this thing together without much thought. To put a bathroom and kitchen with all that weight up front with no place to put a black, and fresh water tank supports your Argosy theory.

Toastie
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Old 10-26-2008, 10:10 AM   #3
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Interestingly, 1956 Safari's got varnished birch cabinets and closets.
Hmmm...I never noticed the painted closet/wood doors before. Ours were all lacquered wood before the PO got ahold of it. But I have noticed all the various option on the upper cabinets. I always attributed it to different color scheme or price options. Our '56 Safari had Zolatone upper cabinets (under the PO's white paint). From what I have been able to put together in the 20 months since we've owned ours is there appears to have been a couple of different options available (see pics below).
1) Painted curved wood uppers w/ gold veined sliding doors (this is the one ours had)
2 & 3) Lacquered squared cornered wood uppers w/solid panel sliding doors @ kitchen and painted metal cabinets w/solid panel sliding doors @ streetside
4) Painted curved wood/metal (I think metal because of the trim pieces & straighter front face) uppers w/lacquered wood sliding doors
5) Painted square edged wood/metal (again, I think metal because of extra thin trim pieces) uppers w/painted pegboard sliding doors
There are also various details in the base cabinet & bed details. Ours has curved wood corner edge details (in plan) and others have square details. I've seen examples of both throughout '54-56 models on RJ's site. There are also different floor tile & countertop laminate options - all which look to be period correct & "original" and seen consistently throughout different lengths/models in the mid-50's.

Maybe they were "leftovers" from other models...or maybe there was very little consistency to begin with. I've talked to Fred (VAC historian) over many a margarita about these sorts of things...and he's not really been able to shed any definitive light on this or all the oddities between our later made GTs. We've almost made a game of trying to find all the differences between the CA/OH and individual '64 GTs we come across at rallies. We both have '64 GT's (his OH ours CA) and have compared them each to other and other '64 GT's at rallies over the last 6 years and no two are the same, even when the VIN numbers are close - whether they were made in CA or OH (OH vs OH, OH vs CA or CA vs CA)

I truly believe things were not produced with the "assembly line mentality" as they are today. Or as Fred has suggested, possibly dealers ordered there own customizations to "their trailers" and Airstream built them for them based on their selections.

FWIW, another oddity is mid-50's bunks no two I've seen are ever the same. But many of them look to be "original" - maybe they were made as an afterthought on the dealer level...who knows?!

If only these babies could talk...

Shari
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Old 10-26-2008, 10:20 AM   #4
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To put a bathroom and kitchen with all that weight up front with no place to put a black, and fresh water tank supports your Argosy theory.
But, ours didn't have a black tank then...and the fresh was back under the dinette which is almost over the axle.

I agree though, while the shower/bath itself is not very heavy...the kitchen is, especially when "loaded" for a trip.

Shari
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Old 10-26-2008, 11:05 AM   #5
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Quote:
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But, ours didn't have a black tank then...and the fresh was back under the dinette which is almost over the axle.

I agree though, while the shower/bath itself is not very heavy...the kitchen is, especially when "loaded" for a trip.

Shari
Absolutely. But, tongue weight is a good thing, in my experience, anyways.
The 63 Globetrotter tows noticeably more stable when the 28gal fresh tank is full.
I would take a close look at the front frame section, now that the trailer is still apart, and see if there are any signs, whatsoever, of frame stress. It's not terribly difficult to give a vintage frame a little bit more stability. We recently did that to a 55 Flying Cloud that had received new holding tanks under the floor.
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Old 10-26-2008, 11:35 AM   #6
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Absolutely. But, tongue weight is a good thing, in my experience, anyways.The 63 Globetrotter tows noticeably more stable when the 28gal fresh tank is full.
I agree, but we will rarely travel any distance with full waste tanks up front...just in case.
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I would take a close look at the front frame section, now that the trailer is still apart, and see if there are any signs, whatsoever, of frame stress. It's not terribly difficult to give a vintage frame a little bit more stability.
We did look everything over while it was apart - it looked a-okay, we a blessed with a very dry climate - we don't have the same issues with frame deterioration that coastal or humidity exposed trailers do. And besides, we are already beyond that point - everything "floorwise" is sealed up and ready to go...woohoo! Good advice though ~

Shari
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Old 10-26-2008, 11:44 AM   #7
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I was actually referring to the weight of the hopefully always fully stocked galley, but what you say makes sense, of course.
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Old 10-26-2008, 11:46 AM   #8
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Uh yeah, the galley's not going anywhere...and it's always fully stocked ~

Shari
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Old 10-26-2008, 09:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InsideOut View Post
Hmmm...I never noticed the painted closet/wood doors before. Ours were all lacquered wood before the PO got ahold of it. But I have noticed all the various option on the upper cabinets. I always attributed it to different color scheme or price options. Our '56 Safari had Zolatone upper cabinets (under the PO's white paint). From what I have been able to put together in the 20 months since we've owned ours is there appears to have been a couple of different options available (see pics below).
1) Painted curved wood uppers w/ gold veined sliding doors (this is the one ours had)
2 & 3) Lacquered squared cornered wood uppers w/solid panel sliding doors @ kitchen and painted metal cabinets w/solid panel sliding doors @ streetside
4) Painted curved wood/metal (I think metal because of the trim pieces & straighter front face) uppers w/lacquered wood sliding doors
5) Painted square edged wood/metal (again, I think metal because of extra thin trim pieces) uppers w/painted pegboard sliding doors
There are also various details in the base cabinet & bed details. Ours has curved wood corner edge details (in plan) and others have square details. I've seen examples of both throughout '54-56 models on RJ's site. There are also different floor tile & countertop laminate options - all which look to be period correct & "original" and seen consistently throughout different lengths/models in the mid-50's.

Maybe they were "leftovers" from other models...or maybe there was very little consistency to begin with. I've talked to Fred (VAC historian) over many a margarita about these sorts of things...and he's not really been able to shed any definitive light on this or all the oddities between our later made GTs. We've almost made a game of trying to find all the differences between the CA/OH and individual '64 GTs we come across at rallies. We both have '64 GT's (his OH ours CA) and have compared them each to other and other '64 GT's at rallies over the last 6 years and no two are the same, even when the VIN numbers are close - whether they were made in CA or OH (OH vs OH, OH vs CA or CA vs CA)

I truly believe things were not produced with the "assembly line mentality" as they are today. Or as Fred has suggested, possibly dealers ordered there own customizations to "their trailers" and Airstream built them for them based on their selections.

FWIW, another oddity is mid-50's bunks no two I've seen are ever the same. But many of them look to be "original" - maybe they were made as an afterthought on the dealer level...who knows?!

If only these babies could talk...

Shari
I went back and re-read Fred's write up on the 1954 thru 1957 Airstreams in a 2003 Vintage Advantage. It seems the 1954 & 1955 Safari's were no frills "economy" models with few options. Not from that article, but somewhere else I remember reading that the rear bunk was about the only factory option (some have have also been added by dealers). Interestingly, the article states the 1956 Safari was part of the "non-economy" fleet having many more available options and the 1956 Caravanner apparently replaced it as the "economy" 22 footer.

It can be tough to deterine what is correct and not on these old trailers. Certainly many like yours have been painted one or more times by previous owners making the original finishes harder to determine. (Mine has been re-Zolatoned in a non original color, but the original Zolatone is visible in spots.) And I will note that on the Vintage Airstream Archives I linked to in my first post, there are occasionally trailers identified as being from the wrong year. My trailer is actually there, but is is currently shown as a 1954 Safari, because apparently it was listed on eBay once as being a 1954. The serial number confirms it is a 1955 (as does the pull out step) and it will be moved to the 1955 Safari section sometime in the near future. I also see one of the Safari's that is listed as a 1955 that is more likely a 1956. Of course without knowing the serial number we can't be 100% certain. Maybe it is a late 1955 model that got most of the 1956 changes.

I am not certain if we are agreeing or not, but to my knowledge the cabinet doors and drawer fronts on all 1950's Airstreams were varnished/laquered from the factory (although some have been painted by their past owners). It is only the cabinet walls themselves that I was making the distinction as having been painted on 1954 & 1955 Safari's, but were varnished/laquered on 1956 Safaris and all (most) other 1950's Airstreams.

Roof lockers were almost always painted (apparently except for the wooden one over the kitchen counter in 1956 Safari's), although the material used to make the roof locker doors did apparently vary. Mine has the painted pegboard. A 1954 Safari that I almost bought had painted pegboard. Others, like yous may have had doors mad out of a solid material. Other Airstream models from that period may have had the optional hinged roof locker doors.

I agree that there was no such thing as "standard" back then. Designs, materials, and build techniques were probably changing all the time as improvements were thought of and as material shortages forced substitutions. About all we can talk about is "trends". Any individual Airstream from that period may have a number of differences from any other model of the same year and from published brouchures as well. I guess that's half the fun - figuring out what we have.

All I want to do to mine is maintain it and make it appear "period correct", but with modern updates like a 12V electrical system and maybe holding tanks so that it is more usable by todays standards.
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Old 01-29-2013, 01:04 PM   #10
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We have a 55 Safari with the front bathroom and galley, but no tanks installed. We bought it gutted. Can anyone point me to some holding/black/grey water tanks? I really like the ones on the Birdy resto.
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