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Old 01-16-2006, 06:39 PM   #1
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1958 Cruiser (two door) Frame-off Restoration

Well, it's finally starting to look like a real frame-off restoration.

What I've done so far:

1. Removed the interior "furniture"
2. Removed all of the lower interior skins (and insulation behind them)
3. Braced the body by attaching 2x4s to the shell frame, side to side and front to back.
4. Braced the body to the floor by attaching the 2x4s to the floor
5. Removed all of the lower exterior body rivets that attach the body to the belly pan and u-channel.

The next step is, of course, to raise the body up. I plan to do this by jacking up the body using the 2x4 bracing as the jack point. I'll raise it a little at a time and block it up against the floor using scrap 2x4 pieces. Once it's high enough to slip a 2x6 between the u-channel and the 2x4 supports that I've braced the body with, I'll do so, leaving about 2 feet sticking out on either side of the trailer to support with saw horses.

My concern at this point is the reattachment process. There are hundreds of rivet holes that need to line back up, right? Anyone who's gone through this before, your comments would be greatly appreciated. I was originally thinking about towing just the frame (one the body's off) to a welder to have inspected, fixed (if needed) and painted. However, the whole process of lining everything back up seems really scary if I move the frame after the body is off. Right now it's all secured into location.

Also, for anyone else doing this... there is a LOT of sealant all over the u-channel where the belly pan skin folds over it and the body attaches. It makes it very tough to see "what's going on" right there. I've been scraping it off with a putty knife.

Here's some pictures so far. If any of you veterans see anything horribly wrong, please let me know! I've been trying to learn as much from the frame-off threads that others have posted so far. In this thread I'll try to fill in the stuff that I've learned on my own...
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Old 01-16-2006, 08:01 PM   #2
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If you have not read Uwe's thread "A '63 For Me" the search it. He did the full monty and lifted the shell off using the roof vents and his shop ceiling.
lot's of good info there for ya. Good luck- I just started a '57 (CA.) Flying Cloud but it only needs minor floor repairs in place.
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Old 01-17-2006, 09:38 AM   #3
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Ankornuta - I'm doing the same thing with my 54 Cruiser. I removed all the guts and lower interior skins. Drilled out all the perimeter rivets. I installed bracing and lifted the shell off with a A frame hoist. Once I got the shell off I started removing the plywood. The floor was in horrible shape. The frame wasn't any better. Half of the crossmembers had rusted to the point that sections were missing. So I ended up making a new frame using the old as a template. I'm just about finished - I put the wheel wells and step on last night. This also allowed me to upgrade to a modern axle and make space for a grey water tank. To combat any future corrosion I painted the frame with an industrial two part epoxy paint. Heres a few progress pics.
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Old 01-17-2006, 02:52 PM   #4
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Ahhh... VERY nice! Congratulations on all your great progress.

So, are you concerned with being able to line up the belly pan, body and u-channel holes when you get everything back into place? How do you plan to do this?
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Old 01-17-2006, 06:32 PM   #5
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Okay... now I have more questions after looking at your pictures more closely, Paul. I see that you actually built a whole new frame and have it laying atop your old one, wow! I imagine the realignment effort with the whole new frame will be a little trying.

But actually, come to think of it... if you replace your u-channel, the line up work on piecing the clam shell back together will be simplified by 30%... maybe I'll do that.

Also, any particular reasons why you decided to replace the leaf spring axle with the torsion type?
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Old 01-17-2006, 09:39 PM   #6
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I'm not sure how far you are with the shell separation. There are hidden rivets. So when you start to lift the shell and it refuses go look for rivets that connect the belly pan to the ribs "under" the shell. Do a search on the forum for threads that give you some clues. I found them on both sides of the doorway and the wheel well area.
I am a little concerned about the angle of your 2x4. Prehaps it is the angle of the photo. You want side to side suppports which hold the width of the shell. I drilled holes in the ribs and used 1/4 bolts in 2x4's. I used four scissor jacks as close to the shell on each end of the most forward and aft 2x4's. Working a little at a time. If it is free it will go up easily. I need a dozen 6x6 blocks to get it up high enough to get the 6x6 cross pieces in place for holding it. Be aware that the shell will extend down past the ribs and you will need a block between the supporting pieces and the bottom of the ribs. Take your time and do it on a calm day.
Don't worry about lining it up latter. If you get the floor right and the door in the right place on the frame you'll be real close. Having a shop bend new channel and drilling new holes may be easier.
Use the floor to make templates "before you take the floor off" so it is exact. I will save you many hours. The whole thing so you have the errors in the new floor. These things are not necessarily symetrical. Do not assume the front and back curves are the same or the right side left side.
You will put on a new belly pan. Put is on before you put the shell back on. I did it the other way and it is very hard to get the pan up under the shell smoothly. You then lower the shell and are ready attach everything together. You may want to replace the holding plate in the front. Take pictures of how it is positioned. A new one means you dont' have to line up all those holes.
Get a set of Kleco pliers and Klecos. Best thing I did. They are cheap and worth their wieght in gold.
I took my frame for sandblasting and painted it with Por 15 and got new axels. Got two new wheel wells for about $100 made up by a local metal fab business.
New floor. 5/8 is heavy enough for the floor. I used 3/4 and it is too thick. Causes some alignment issues.

See post 53, 64, and 65. http://www.airforums.com/forum...9-a-10709.html

I found too extension ladders made a very stable platform to hold the shell.
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Old 01-18-2006, 09:23 PM   #7
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Wow, thanks! These couple of paragraphs are probably the most helpful text I've seen anywhere for preparing for the next steps I'm about to take.

I think I am going to use saw horses in place of extension ladders to hold the body up, but other than that, I'm using the same method as you for lifting the body.

So far all of the rivets are out (that I've found, and I've found several of the "hidden" ones). I haven't separated the old vulkem from the body in all places yet because I kind of want it to hold until I get the body set up on the saw horses and then tied down.

I am planning on completely replacing the belly pan with new aluminum. It's not in very great shape. It's amazing what happens when old steel rusts and sits in contact with aluminum... I heard a term for it before, but either way, it's not very pretty. As I've been finding spots like this, like how the gas lines are attached, underneath, I've been wondering what to do to prevent this in the future. I'm wondering if I should only attach periphery items to the aluminum skin with aluminum fittings or... ?
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Old 01-18-2006, 09:27 PM   #8
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TINY Space

I thought I should also mention, I'm doing this in my drive way, in a space about 30' x 14'. I could be wrong, but I think I could be jockeying for the worlds first frame-off restoration of a 26' Airstream in an outdoor space this size!

P.S. I did actually check with my neighbors to make sure they were relatively okay with this before I started. They think the project is great and stop by from time to time to see how it's going.
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Old 01-18-2006, 09:52 PM   #9
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You want the trailer level front to back and side to side before lifting and keep the shell that way when off. If you have an incline it will want to go downhill. Good Luck. I had a heck of a time getting the wheel wells off. A small disc grinder is a great tool for removing stuck and broken elevator bolts.
Shell off, cut new floor, floor off, front plate off, wheel well off, belly pan off, new wheel well on, new front plate on, new floor on, new belly pan, shell on. Not what I did put what I'll do "The Next Time". Oh, don't forget to run wire for the brakes and 7 Way.
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Old 01-19-2006, 03:08 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ankornuta
Okay... now I have more questions after looking at your pictures more closely, Paul. I see that you actually built a whole new frame and have it laying atop your old one, wow! I imagine the realignment effort with the whole new frame will be a little trying.

But actually, come to think of it... if you replace your u-channel, the line up work on piecing the clam shell back together will be simplified by 30%... maybe I'll do that.

Also, any particular reasons why you decided to replace the leaf spring axle with the torsion type?
Yes it was easier to build a new frame than to patch the old. The rust had taken it's toll on everything. I was also surprised at the number of broken welds due to poor penetration when the frame was originally built. I am going with all new U channel. I had a metal shop bend me up a a full sheet of .040. The cost was under a $150 and it gave me 12 ten foot pieces. The old channel was crapped out and as you said, it'll be much easier to put back together. Building a new frame has also allowed me to fit it for grey and black water tanks which will be nice to have on a vintage unit.

I did a thorough job of surveying the old frame before I ripped the floor off and those measurements have come in helpful to check the tolerances as I progress. The true test will come when the shell goes back on which hopefully will be in the next week or so. Having done a partial floor replacement on my old Overlander I think it'll go pretty smooth.

I changed to a torsion axle because I feel the torsion axle is a better choice for the Airstream body. They ride and handle much better due to each wheel being able to absorb bumps independent of the other giving the coach a smoother ride.
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Old 01-21-2006, 09:54 PM   #11
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So I started the lift today, but unfortunately I couldnt' start it until later in the day. I'm just trying to get the body free from the u-channel. I got the back corner up about 1/4" which is a beautiful thing.

Those &$%#ing hidden rivets are a real pain! I think I figured out the rhyme and reason to them though and the next few should be easy to locate and remove.

Anyhow, I'll finish the lift tomorrow morning.
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Old 01-22-2006, 03:13 PM   #12
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Wow. That was pretty intense. When the body finally breaks free from the frame and the whole thing comes up, it's very very frightening.

But... the body is off now. I have all the braces screwed to the supports and attached to the ground, so I think it will be safe, but it's still a little nerve wracking to think that the body is no longer attached to the frame. I think I'm going to call it quits for today after accomplishing quite a bit.
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Old 01-23-2006, 08:29 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Over59
You want the trailer level front to back and side to side before lifting and keep the shell that way when off. If you have an incline it will want to go downhill. Good Luck. I had a heck of a time getting the wheel wells off. A small disc grinder is a great tool for removing stuck and broken elevator bolts.
Okay, now I have some big questions... I pulled the body off without ever having to remove one elevator bolt; did you lift the U-channel along with the body? I didn't do that, I removed the body from the U-channel and then lifted it.

Also, how did you hold the body up once it was lifted? I currently have some blocks underneath the 2x4s that are attached to the shell frame and set on the trailer floor. Of course, that's going to have to change soon so I can replace the floor. Do you have a more detailed, close-up shot of the trailer, like what you have in post #53 of your frame-off thread?

Thanks!
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Old 01-28-2006, 05:47 PM   #14
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Lessons Learned

I got the body all the way off today and set up on some saw horses.

This is not work for the weak of heart. That body flexes so much... perhaps I didn't brace it enough. But either way, here's a few things I learned today. Some of this people already know (but I didn't take their advice) and some of this is new-to-me information:

1. TOTALLY immobilize the frame. This is so important because once the body is detached it will flex and move like mad. Not fun when that's what your jack is supported against.

2. Don't use a regular hydraulic-lift floor type jack with wheels. It will roll around and when it lifts, it moves the whole body laterally, not just vertically because the distance between the jack point and the fulcrum changes as it gets higher.

3. Remove all of the interior skin so you can brace the ribs in the ceiling; the body flexes a LOT, like a big upside down "U" made out of jello. I don't know if this is bad when lifting it, but it's nerve-wracking.

4. If using a jack, pick four lifting points. Raise them in order, each a little bit at a time (like 2"). It seems like the strongest lifting points are near where the front and rear end-caps connect to the main "tube" part of the body.

5. The best thing to do would be four scissor jacks, like over59 recommended. However, in lieu of that and a hoist, if you're using one jack (like me) make sure you have LOTs of short pieces of 2x4 or 2x6 to use for cribbing material.

I have a two door trailer. I imagine in some ways it would be easier to lift a typical one-door model. Having two doors creates a lot more body flex than I imagine a one-door trailer would have. Either way, I'm amazed at how flexible AND strong that body is. It is indeed a truly incredible design. The more I work on this thing, the more respect I have for Wally Byam and the other engineers who designed these trailers.
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