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Old 02-11-2013, 02:02 PM   #1
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Question Can't take shell off... want to work on the frame and replace subfloor

The title says it all... is this possible? I have been reading through hundreds of posts about complete shell off restorations. I really want to strip it down to nothing, take all of the old wiring, insulation, subfloor out and replace it. I want to clean up and rustproof the frame underneath and I want to replace my tanks. I just don't have the indoor space to completely remove the shell. The space will be cramped as it is. I have seen some people who have said the only downside is that you have to take the floor out in sections and replace it in small sections. Is this true? What other problems will I encounter? What are the pros and cons of this? Is it just unrealistic to do what I'm planning without removing the shell? It's a 72 sovereign 31'. I really want to do this right and completely. I just literally don't have anywhere where I could have the shell off and stabilized and still be able to work on the frame and even though I'm doing this completely, I am trying to do this on a shoestring budget with small steps. I have seen some of the elaborate supports and means for lifting off the shell and it seems it would also add a few hundred dollars and several man hours.

Is this possible? Has anyone done this? Could you give a step by step... what gets removed first, etc?
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Old 02-11-2013, 02:25 PM   #2
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I helped one of our friends from our Northern Illinois group do the floor in his 68.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f394...arm-43583.html

Then prep work was extensive but the result was a good solid floor ready for another few decades.
Cutting and fitting the curved end sheets was tricky but not difficult.
I would recommend removing 8 foot sections of floor at a time. This will keep the shell from moving too much while you work on the frame and outriggers.

Good Luck,
Tom
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Old 02-11-2013, 02:47 PM   #3
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We have a huge lot where I'm doing the renovation.

My 31' renovation takes the exact footprint of a standard trailer and it was shell off plus had to weld and repaint frame. There is something to be said about being able to move your elbows in an enclosed tight workspace but it can be done without taking more space than necessary. It is important to properly shore up and support the entire frame from front to back when you lift. Over doing the supports make the shell much easier to lift via bottle jacks, floor jacks etc. just make sure you have a level workspace. The most space that you will be taking is the trash of the old trailer assuming it is intact when you receive it. The cabinets, appliances, wiring, insulation is a lot of junk that you will either need to store or dispose of.

As long as your neighbors are cool with the work in progress in your neighborhood you should be fine. Good luck
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Old 02-11-2013, 02:50 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by paulitee View Post
The title says it all... is this possible? I have been reading through hundreds of posts about complete shell off restorations. I really want to strip it down to nothing, take all of the old wiring, insulation, subfloor out and replace it. I want to clean up and rustproof the frame underneath and I want to replace my tanks. I just don't have the indoor space to completely remove the shell. The space will be cramped as it is. I have seen some people who have said the only downside is that you have to take the floor out in sections and replace it in small sections. Is this true? What other problems will I encounter? What are the pros and cons of this? Is it just unrealistic to do what I'm planning without removing the shell? It's a 72 sovereign 31'. I really want to do this right and completely. I just literally don't have anywhere where I could have the shell off and stabilized and still be able to work on the frame and even though I'm doing this completely, I am trying to do this on a shoestring budget with small steps. I have seen some of the elaborate supports and means for lifting off the shell and it seems it would also add a few hundred dollars and several man hours.

Is this possible? Has anyone done this? Could you give a step by step... what gets removed first, etc?
I have done it both ways numerous times & although it looks & sounds like a lot of work to take the body completely off, you're far better off doing it this way. When you work on the frame at waist level, upside down, you let gravity do the work for you on the paint, tanks, insulation, plumbing & bellypan. It also allows you to lower new axles into place, rather than lift them. If you've only got one place inside, or perhaps non at all, just make sure the body is somehow tied down, so it won't blow away if left outdoors. This hasn't happened to me, but I've spoken to people who's Airstream dream ended in one gust of wind. Gantries can be rented or "fudged" together out of salvage wood or steel. Installing a bellypan while lying on your back, with drill swarf falling on you sucks!
Remember, this adventure should be fun.
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Old 02-11-2013, 03:16 PM   #5
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Colin is very right. I just lifted my trailer and I am glad that I was able to. While working on the floor, frame, tanks, belly pan will be so much easier without the body being in the way. By sharing shop space and driving about 45 minutes from home I am able to be indoors. If I had not found a way to be indoors at a very reasonable cost I would do it outside in my backyard. Both approaches have advantages
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Old 02-11-2013, 03:30 PM   #6
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Yes what you're doing here is great. It never hurts to ask even if the questions sound dumb or don't make sense. I called Colin up from 2500 miles away because I was listening to a VAP episode regarding wind so I just wanted to make sure that my shell didn't fly away. He was very helpful even checked in a week later to find out how she faired.

Whatever you do don't lose hope. I've been following your thread on getting her home. That's the first step. The rest can be figured out 400 miles later
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Old 02-11-2013, 04:42 PM   #7
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It's doable. My first question would be whether you need to to do the whole floor or not? In my trailer, only the back 4 feet of flooring needs to be replaced, so that is what I am doing. It's enough work in its own right, but it should let me get the rig back on the road in a couple more months. A shell off could take well over a year and is probably much more work than folks realize. It really depends on what your ultimate goal is, a totally renovated airstream or one with original interior that has been made to last. In my case, I don't mind the interior as it is, though I will make improvements along the way. YMMV.
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Old 02-11-2013, 10:14 PM   #8
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You all may be interested in the Vintagetraileracademy.com - we will be doing a shell off floor ( at least the shell will be mostly off) replacement during the three day seminars

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Old 02-12-2013, 11:44 AM   #9
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Thanks for all of the input. My biggest problem is that we will be keeping the AS on my father's farm during restoration. Using the garage for a day or two isn't a problem, but I don't have anywhere long term to take up a massive amount of space. His property is surrounded by farm property with no windbreaks in sight so while we get a lot of calm days, it doesn't take much wind to really make it a problem. I'm assuming if I took the shell off it would be off for some time and I really don't have the space for it. It seems like a shell off would be nothing more than a large aluminum sail. So even if its a lot more. difficult, it may just be necessary to always leave the shell partially attached so I don't lose it on a windy day. Can someone describe exactly how the shell is attached to the frame? Is it attached to the floor itself? I've read so many posts but I'm still not clear. I'll have the AS home this weekend, but if I must go shell off then I may need to make arrangements to bring it somewhere else. Thanks so much for the input everyone.
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Old 02-12-2013, 11:45 AM   #10
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And to answer your question, bob, the goal is a totally renovated trailer. Everything is getting replaced and we will not be using the original interior.
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Old 02-12-2013, 11:58 AM   #11
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We did a shell on floor replacement, and yes, it's doable. We replaced the floor in two sections and that worked out very ok. A key point is to make sure the frame is as dead level as you can get it before you start, and support it well so it doesn't get off-level while you're working. Read our thread for ideas: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f185...urb-50967.html

If you can attend the Vintage Restoration Academy, we both highly recommend it!

Good luck!

Chris
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Old 02-12-2013, 01:58 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by paulitee View Post
Thanks for all of the input. My biggest problem is that we will be keeping the AS on my father's farm during restoration. Using the garage for a day or two isn't a problem, but I don't have anywhere long term to take up a massive amount of space. His property is surrounded by farm property with no windbreaks in sight so while we get a lot of calm days, it doesn't take much wind to really make it a problem. I'm assuming if I took the shell off it would be off for some time and I really don't have the space for it. It seems like a shell off would be nothing more than a large aluminum sail. So even if its a lot more. difficult, it may just be necessary to always leave the shell partially attached so I don't lose it on a windy day. Can someone describe exactly how the shell is attached to the frame? Is it attached to the floor itself? I've read so many posts but I'm still not clear. I'll have the AS home this weekend, but if I must go shell off then I may need to make arrangements to bring it somewhere else. Thanks so much for the input everyone.
A sail perhaps, but a very forgiving one, given its shape. I would put in on the ground next to the building, then pound stakes into the ground around the interior & fasten them to the ribs with ratchet straps etc. Remember, Airstreams are aerodynamic so the wind will go around it. Build some basic "buggies" to rest the chassis or body on so you can wheel it outside when your father needs his space back. I use a couple of large hardwood pallets that aluminum came on & attached some Harbor Freight pneumatic casters to. This is low to the ground & we use these to move bodies around. We have taller steel framed "tables" for the chassis, but the lower wood versions could also be used for the chassis. Sounds complicated, but you could do it very cheaply & well.
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Old 02-12-2013, 06:49 PM   #13
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And to answer your question, bob, the goal is a totally renovated trailer. Everything is getting replaced and we will not be using the original interior.
Well, if you are replacing the whole floor you are essentially doing a shell off job since you have to cut through all the bolts holding the shell to the frame through the plywood floor. That separates the shell from the floor and frame. I suppose you could do it in halves or minimally lift the shell off the floor but for all the hassle that would entail, I agree with Colin, figure out a way to stabilize the shell outside and roll the frame out from underneath.

If you look at my blog you should get an idea of how the shell's lower C channel sits flat on top of the plywood and is bolted either just through the plywood or straight through to the frame or an outrigger.
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Old 02-12-2013, 07:16 PM   #14
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I think you have to attack your project within your constraints. If you don't have to rent space at your fathers farm and are on shoestring budget and have minimal space A LOT can be done by lifting the shell 4" off the frame and setting it on 4x6's and saw horses. It has been done this way MANY times by people in their driveways and sideyards. It doesnt really pose problems except for the occasional need for elbow room or slipping if you have to walk on your frame with wet shoes in rain (yes i've had some tumbles)

Basically if you have those constraints rest in the knowledge that it CAN be done and I'm sure most back yard or driveway renovations are done that way. If you're not good at securing your frame and you lift and move the shell by the time you get that shell lifted and ready to go back on to your new subfloor you might find that none of the rivets lined up anymore and maybe your door doesnt close so well anymore.

The most important thing in that case is regardless how high you lift it or if you do move it make sure that your method of securing the shell via 2x6 and 2x4 framework minimizes the movement of that shell because it WILL torque and twist when you lift.

Again dont sweat it too much. Tons of these restorations you will see people working under the protection of the shell that is still sitting on the outriggers or on sawhorses a few inches above the frame and they're welding and painting with no problems whatsoever. Again if money and space is an issue the Farm is the only way to go...sounds like you'll have all the time in the world to finish your project and if there is a barn or building that can shield from the wind then use it.
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