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Old 02-21-2015, 11:00 PM   #1
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1972 29' Ambassador
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Flaagan's '72 Ambassador

Just brought home from the tow yard a '72 Ambassador, picked it up for $800. I got a hosed by the DMV for reg / title for the same amount, but after talking with a few folks I might be able to persuade them to give me some of that back.

The trailer had been abandoned and was picked up by the tow yard, and I found out about it from a friend who works there when I'd contacted him about towing costs for a Spartan trailer I'd come across on Craigslist.

It towed home fine even though we found out the left front shock wasn't even hooked up. Once we got it home I swapped out the busted electric jack for a Harbor Freight electric / crank one so I could actually put it down.

It's covered and full of dust from the last hurrah the previous owners had with it, going to the 2014 Burning Man, and I've pulled out 15 coolers, 2 tents, a sleeping bag, plenty of disposable eating utensils and gear, along with some rather amusing kitschy items and other stuff. I'll post some photos up of all the stuff soon, and I'm going to contact some friends who go to Burning Man to see if they recognize the stuff.

Aside from having sat around for a while, a lot of it looks to be in decent condition. As for a breakdown of the trailer's state...
  • A number of the sliding doors for the cabinets are damaged, though many work just fine.
  • Almost all the plastic window catches are busted in at least one place, so those will have to be replaced.
  • The step seems to be catching on something before it can fully extend so that the second piece can't be unfolded.
  • Almost all the locks appear to be damaged and will likely have to be replaced (fine by me), resulting in many of the exterior doors hanging loose
  • The screen door needs some TLC for the mesh and its general sturdiness
  • The gas tank rack is bent up on one side (can probably be hammered flat again)
  • The bottom of the rear bumper stowage has mostly rusted away (odd since everything around it is in good shape), I'll likely just make a new one out of aluminum on the CNC router at work.
  • The entire exterior was, at some point, painted with a silver paint that has since faded and is peeling off in areas. We will be removing this to check the condition of the aluminum underneath, and determining whether to polish it or repaint it (the two of which we may both do for a custom look).
  • The rear bumper is bent backwards at the driver's end where the framework behind it stops. I'll be pulling this off and giving it a try with the aluminum welding kit I have for my MIG welder. If it works, cool, if not, I'll just order a new bumper.
  • There are at least two decent sized dents, one in back above where the bumper's damaged, one up front and high. I'll see what I can do with a dent puller on them, though neither appears to be negatively affecting anything otherwise.

There's bound to be a number of other little odds and ends that I will update this list with later on.

I have no idea of the status of the gas, electrical, A/C, and water systems, though I've reason to believe that after a little maintenance they should be in good shape from what I've seen so far. If anyone can recommend good write-ups or youtube vids on how to go through those systems properly, I'd greatly appreciate it.

The trailer does apparently have a satellite tv dome or something of that sort on the roof, I will have to get some more info on that and ask about it.

Since I live with my parents, and they have a decent sized property, we're in the process of changing what was unused grassy area on one end of the house into a compacted gravel 'driveway' for the trailer, with the wheels and other resting surfaces going onto some cement pads we picked up at Home Depot.

The tow vehicle (currently) is my parents' 2012 Chevy Avalanche, which had no problem towing the trailer home, and should do even better with it once I pick up a weight distributing hitch.

The 'long term' plans as they currently stand are to fix it up and give travel trailering a try for a couple of years. I'm a bit of a speed-nut (see Stingray in sig) and my dad's not all that big on the idea of where you're staying being predetermined by available grounds, but we both agree that for the price we can't beat giving this a go.

If after a couple of years we decide that this isn't for us, I'll sell the trailer and will move on.

If we like it, we'll likely gut it to some extent and redo / modernize the interior, and I will sort out a tow vehicle of my own. This will be a bit of a chore for me, as the plan is to get a vehicle that can haul both the trailer and my '66 Morgan +4 stowed on the back of the vehicle.

Anyways, I'll post more photos as I get 'em, and if you have any comments about some of the issues I've noted feel free to chime in!
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Old 02-21-2015, 11:22 PM   #2
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Good luck with the project, with a lot of work it will fix nice.

Congratulations!


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Old 02-24-2015, 11:42 AM   #3
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Thanks! Got plenty going on with household remodeling and the project Morgan, but the AS will be getting some attention too. First order of business is to get all the stuff cleared out and get the interior cleaned up.
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Old 03-08-2015, 04:29 AM   #4
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Went through the exterior door locks today, ended up drilling them out. Will be ordering replacements when I get some other parts on order. After a bit of reading, I'll be changing the access panels all to piano hinge setups as well, since a number of the panels have damaged factory 'hinges'. Swept up some of the playa dust, also looked into what kind of work it's going to take to remove the satellite dish, which shouldn't be too bad.
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Old 03-09-2015, 12:23 AM   #5
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Did a quick walk-around / through vid of the Ambassador today. I pulled up the carpeting not long after taking the video, and will likely get some flooring material to replace it (linoleum or such), with some rugs from ikea to cover some of the areas.

http://youtu.be/vkvNqaNNLmY
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Old 03-31-2015, 08:53 PM   #6
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Some more updates~!

In the process of removing the beds so I can clean up and lay down the "temporary" carpeting, proving a bit more difficult than expected because the mounting points on the kitchen end of the beds are inaccesible.

I started testing the electric system and found that I have to replace the Univolt, so a replacement for that, as well as a new fuse panel and a pair of new circuit breakers is on order through Best Converter.

Since the A/C is on a separate circuit, I was able to test that and am glad to report that it's in great working condition, which is a relief.

Once I get the new electrical equipment in I'll begin going through the electrical system to see what condition things like the fridge and lighting are in.

After that, I'll decide whether to test the gas or water systems next, and work forward from there.
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Old 03-31-2015, 10:40 PM   #7
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wow! quite a list you have there!

Glad to see that you are moving ahead with your new-to-you acquisition, Jim! There's lots to do, from that list you made up top. But that's the only way you make good (and logical) progress: get all the points down, figure out the order to put them in, and goper it, one item at a time.

One handy thing to have is a Service Manual. The Owners' Manual has lots of good general stuff in it, but there's more details (helpful in repair/renovation) in the Service Manual. I got mine through one of the few dealers up here in Eastern/Central Canada, and while there have been a few errors in it, it does have a ton of the "secret" stuff, like how to get the various doors off, or what the colour codes are for the wiring. Many of them are still available from Airstream themselves. You can look around their website, but I would just go ahead and call them: 877-596-6111

Airstream interiors are built from the rear to the front, which of course doesn't help when you want to do something 'in depth' which is at or near the rear. Just one more reason to have that manual.

And hey, how about lots more photos? For some reason we are always hungry for them...

Aage J
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Old 04-01-2015, 02:21 AM   #8
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Thanks Aage! I'll look into the service manual. Makes sense to get one, I've gotten one for every car I've owned, why not for the AS!

I'm resisting the urge to tear into the interior any more than I need to (which is nowhere near as much as I want to), but I'm keeping the thought in the back of my mind that if any of the subsystems (heater, stove-top, etc) proves to need work, I may have to dig in.

I will definitely try to remember to take more photos, haven't felt like what I've been doing so far has been worth it. I found making the Youtube video to be rather quick and straightforward, maybe I'll start doing update videos as enough work's done to warrant them.
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Old 04-01-2015, 09:09 AM   #9
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Welcome aboard. You got the trailer for real cheap money, it probably won't stay that way. It brings to mind a saying I've heard, "There is nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes".

Before you go into lots of make it pretty work, assess the condition of the frame and floor. On these trailers, the aluminum upper structure ties into the the steel frame through the plywood subfloor. If there is a leak (and there is always a leak) then the water can travel down between the inner and outer skins and rot out the plywood over time. Then the whole structure which is supposed to be rigid, is not and will start to flex and pop interior rivets.

It will need new axles, and you should pull the whole bellypan off to assess the condition of the frame. If the trailer lived most of its life in a dry arid climate then you will be better off than those that live in places like Florida. Post lots of pix if you want better feedback. Im not so sure videos would be the way to get it here though.
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Old 04-01-2015, 12:03 PM   #10
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Well congrats and welcome to the fold .

Yes do test all the systems first, then take a real close look in the rear storage compartment for floor damage.

It seems that the cover plate on the rear bumper allows water to get to the floor wood and cause rot.

Be sure to fill the black tank with fresh water and check for leaks.

I found that mine had a leak at the clamp that held the valve to the tank. Unfortunately the clamp was installed facing up before the entire interior was installed and was totally inaccessible from below.

I had hopped to use the trailer for a year before tearing the bathroom out as I hate the layout and silly bath tub shower.

So my plan had been moved forward .

Airstream installed the interior starting at the rear and builds forward . As they install things fasteners get buried under other parts.

After gutting the interior to gain access to the clamp I found this hiding behind the bathroom walls .... Aghhhh ! And wouldn't you know , the only solid part was above the clamp and I had to cut that out.

The result 2 years later I'm finaliy installing the interior.
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Old 04-01-2015, 03:23 PM   #11
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Thanks for the input!

I've looked at the frame from what I can see of it and it looks to be in good shape. The trailer was built here in California and more than likely has spent its whole life here. There's a few areas of surface rust where it's to be expected, and some packed-in playa dust I'll have to clean out, but it looks to be in good shape.

The floorboards look to be in decent shape - there is a small broken off piece that shouldn't affect it any, and there's a small bit of water staining just outside of the shower / tub, but nothing to suggest damage to the boards. I've looked and there are no signs of the "drooping butt" issue.

The suspension / axles I'm going to look into anyways. Turns out our mechanic previously had a travel trailer maintenance business in the area so he gave me some solid input on it, particularly about cleaning / repacking the bearings on the axles. He didn't seem to think the axles needed replacement as a rush item, though we both agreed new shocks are definitely in order.

Thanks for the input on the black water tank, that was one of the areas I definitely wanted some input on.

I definitely want this trailer in good shape for the time being, but I don't want to put myself in a position to have to tear it apart to get there. My plan is already to try it out for a year or two and if I like it then go to town on the trailer. I've already got a project vehicle (the Morgan) that I need to finish, and that vehicle will actually drive some of the changes I want to make to the trailer.
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Old 04-01-2015, 05:16 PM   #12
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Oh, and service manual is ordered. Dang that was a lot cheaper than the car manuals!
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Old 04-05-2015, 08:36 PM   #13
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Between messing around with my new 3D printer and plenty of interior remodeling on my parent's home, I got the new converter and fuse panel mocked up where I plan to put them.

I will be putting a receptacle in to the right from the cable from the circuit breaker. I'd originally planned to wire in the converter directly like the Univolt was, but hadn't realized the converter I bought came already wired with a 3-prong plug. This works better in my opinion since I can disconnect the converter more easily now should I need to pull the assembly out.

Both the converter and the fuse block are screwed to the plywood board with rubber pads in between for some shock absorption, and the plywood piece will be screwed down to the bottom of the closet. The other piece will be held off from the bottom piece and likely held down by wingnuts or some other setup that allows me to remove it and access everything while still protecting the electronics from debris and such.

Fortunately for me the wiring from all the 12v systems in the trailer has plenty of extra tucked away so I can cleanly run it to the new fuse panel, though the battery cables may be too short. This isn't too big a concern as I may want to replace those anyways since the other ends are somewhat corroded. I may even have some heavy gauge wire left over from trunk mounting the battery in our '70 Barracuda to use for this.

I will hopefully start working on the wiring in the next few evenings if I can get home from work early enough for it to still be light out.

I have to say, I'm more than a little surprised that Airstream would stow something like that (utterly and ridiculously heavy) Univolt setup directly beneath / beside the shower tub, that's some serious confidence on their part.

I don't know if the old Univolt has any value, or should I just recycle it?
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Old 04-05-2015, 11:28 PM   #14
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Hi there!

Was there not a shelf in where you are putting in the plywood? It's not a big deal for the look of things, since it is in the closet, but I just wondered why you didn't just tuck the two boxes back in where they came from (adjacent to the tub) and keep the floor clean. You could alternately put the converter inside, and cover the opening with the fusebox. That would leave space for footwear to sit on the floor of your closet...

IMHO your tub would need to suffer a major failure before the water could leak onto anything, and even if it did, as you have already seen, both the converter and the fusebox are well protected with fuses.

Wherever you put the converter, do NOT restrict its ability to cool itself by running its fan and blowing on the parts inside it. The fan DOES occasionally come on in my '74 with a 50W version of the same converter, so things do actually heat up in it.

If you decide to do it that way, the fusebox would logically be closer to the door since you might want to replace a fuse.

The Univolt is something like 20 lbs of steel, so it is better recycled than thrown on the garbage heap...

PS: my TT has a 120V electrical outlet for the converter already. Doesn't yours?
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