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Old 04-26-2015, 11:48 PM   #1
1 Rivet Member
1973 23' Safari
Calgary , Alberta
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 8
Floor, frame and road worthiness

Well - I sure wish I had read through this forum BEFORE I bought an Airstream.

All told, the previous owners of the 73 safari I recently purchased where methodic in their hunting down of leaks, and for the most part the floor and frame look good (where I can see them). My Dad and his brother restored a 59 greyhound bus for our childhood trips, so I knew of the potential to find badness, but didn't know enough about how to look for it UNTIL I bought one.

I paid CAD $7500 after negotiation (about $6200 USD), will attach some pics here. Fridge replaced (~10 years old and much larger than the stock version), wiring had been redone, hot water heater ~5 years old, and everything seems to work. It had been really well cared for by 3 generations of the same family. After seeing some of the prices paid here - it may well remain that I overpaid, but it took some work to get to where I did.

My use case is two fold: a 3 season spare bedroom given our present cramped house, and realistically, my camping use case is short little hauls to the mountains - no trans continental rides or anything. Will do the axels / brakes / tires before any trips.

I'm planning on removing the belly pan sometime in the next couple of weeks. My question is: how much rot is too much for road safety / structural stability? Are some areas of the frame more important than others for the monocoque? Is there a limit for linear feet of soft-to-probe subfloor?

In inspecting it - the worst rot seems to be in the bathroom closet - extends to about 3-4" along the curb side wall. There is some rot under the shower seat that can be seen as well. I'm sure there's some under the toilet, which I haven't lifted. The front has some rot but is not as bad - limited to 1-2", but at various points under windows it does get soft directly under the shell (poking with a scratch-all).

I didn't know enough about outriggers to identify the cause of the vertical slit on the curb side belly wrap (directly in front of the wheels). But in looking at the outrigger - the weld seems good - it might just be bent (pictured with the spray foam insulation, which the PO were using to plug up any holes to prevent rodent ingress). I don't see other outriggers forcing the belly wrap outwards (but there isn't much distension of this one either). The ones under the stairs still seem solid.

Within the limits of the belly pan on inspection, the frame looks pretty good. The worst it seems to get is the exposed extension to the bumper compartment, where there's a couple of holes.

I don't see any frame separation when I step on the bumper. I'm not jumping on it, in part because I don't want to know, I suppose.

I guess the question I'm trying to assess is folks general risk tolerance for frame issues and some degree of floor rot in assessing road readiness. I realize the pan has to come off to be more fully assessed than what I've done here.

As I realize - I've made the mistake of many here: assuming I could pick this up and be well on my way short little trips with the kid (soon to be kids), with something that is otherwise a piece of art that serves as a spare bedroom as well. You would think that 59 Greyhound would have taught me something - or perhaps sons are fated to repeat the mistakes of their fathers . Something about rivets gets us pretty fired up I guess.

(sorry about the hasty, malrotated, and generally lousy photography).
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Old 04-27-2015, 10:25 AM   #2
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Belegedhel's Avatar
1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 1,899
Yes, you are in good company--many here have had your same experience.

You might get many opinions as to "how much is too much" when it comes to rot. Some folks would encourage you to camp in the trailer as is, and get some enjoyment out of it while fixing as you go. Others would advise that if the frame and shell are moving independent of one another, you are likely to accelerate and aggravate damage. At the end of the day, it has a lot to do with your own risk tolerance.

My opinion (and its worth every penny you pay for it) is that you should go ahead and drop the belly pan. This will give you a real view of the condition of the frame, the progression of the rear-end rot, and some insights as to why you have outriggers eating their way through the skin. In my '73, the floor was rotted completely across the rear end, the rear hold down plate was well eaten up, and the last ~4' of frame rails had to be replced. Needless to say, the last two cross members had disintegrated. As soon as I removed the lower exterior trim, I could see that the rear center panel that rivets tot he hold-down plate had gotten damaged via corrosion and relative motion at the point where it rivets to the rear hold-down plate. I ended up replacing this entire panel as well.

Maybe you will get lucky, and your floor can be replaced with patches rather than a shell-off, and your frame will be intact. Keep your fingers crossed!

Good luck!

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Old 04-27-2015, 11:45 AM   #3
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1969 25' Tradewind
Shasta Lake , California
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 539
You call that a problem ! Look what I found behind the rear bath cabinets .

Only had to replace the last 4' of the floor.

Remove the lower inner skin for access to the bolts in the u channel .

Use a hole saw around the bolt heads in the floor at the front joint .

Cut the rear floor in half front to rear and slide out from under the u channel.

Weld in a support front to rear to support the new halves of floor .

Slide in the new halves of floor and bolt in.

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Glen & Jane 1969 Airstream 25' Trade Wind
2014 Toyota Tundra
1998 Chevy Tahoe
2001 Casita 13' Patriot Deluxe
2004 Chevy SSR+ 4 other trailers & 6 other Cars & Trucks
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Old 04-27-2015, 12:05 PM   #4
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1969 25' Tradewind
Shasta Lake , California
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 539
Next install underlayment , level , and Marmolium in our case.
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Glen & Jane 1969 Airstream 25' Trade Wind
2014 Toyota Tundra
1998 Chevy Tahoe
2001 Casita 13' Patriot Deluxe
2004 Chevy SSR+ 4 other trailers & 6 other Cars & Trucks
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Old 04-27-2015, 12:13 PM   #5
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1973 27' Overlander
Portsmouth , Virginia
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 775
Honestly, it looks fairly normal for a 73. Rear end rot is probably the number one issue in these vintage trailers. You will probably end up pulling out the rear bath and replacing the last 4 feet of floor just as I and quite a few others have. The first photo looks like one of the outriggers has worn its way through the aluminum and the second looks like some sort of ham fisted use of expanding foam to try and seal something up.

From the few pics you showed, it otherwise looks to be in good shape and as a shorter trailer, they are in higher demand and are valued more than the longer ones. I for one dont think you overpaid, and the good thing is you probably wont loose any money on it, even putting some hard work in to fix the issues.

If your plans are to keep the camping fairly close by, you might be able to get away with using it this summer and then in the fall, start your rehab process. Besides the floor repair, you probably want to budget in for new axles, they will both need replacement. Dropping the belly pan and inspecting the frame is always the best thing to do as well as trying to seal up all the windows and getting up on the roof to look at plumbing vents and the condtion of the rivets and everything else.

So to put your mind at ease a bit, take a breath, use it some, fix it when you have time and keep reading the forums. If you check my blog, you will see how I've been dealing with essentially the same issues. None of it is rocket science, but it does take time and effort and some cash. Your trailer survived over 40 years already, with some help from you it will still be around quite a bit longer. HTH

Ongoing adventures at:
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Old 04-27-2015, 12:40 PM   #6
1 Rivet Member
1973 23' Safari
Calgary , Alberta
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 8
Appreciate the advice. Like I said - I don't see much movement of the body on the frame. I'm thinking more and more that a couple of early trips is all I'd be getting this year anyway (family expansion) and I don't think the thing will implode on me.

To clarify - the picture with the spray insulation shows the offending outrigger causing the slit (coming out towards the camera) The weld looks good, and the metal is pretty firm on both. I don't know if it's bent, or if there is other structural compromise deeper in the frame to cause it to contact the belly wrap. The spray foam was used by the PO to seal any gaps between the belly pan and the frame, and prevent rodent ingress.

I guess my hesitation in disconnecting the gas and dropping the belly pan is that once you've done it - the project is on, and I lose my guest cabin until it's done - you're not going to want to put the belly pan back up over those evil humours (or maybe you are

Will have to find some time and money first I think - especially seeing the work of Glenritas and others.

Thanks again - will update when the courage comes in, and the pan comes off . In the meantime, I might look into a fiberscope to see if I can cheat the belly pan removal a little bit.


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