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Old 04-20-2004, 10:25 AM   #1
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Frame Rust~

After having been exposed to the "Airstream Mystic" for over 5 years, this question begs a reasonable answer and/or valid solution~
Why it is the Airstream Company continues to produce a "classic product" which, at best, uses an inferior process/material for the frame??
I say this because, sooner or later, all of us are going to be faced with the replacement or major repairs of the existing frame.
Do you think Wally would have left it as it is currently made??
Somewhere, buried in the past, Wally had seriously been looking into another material approach for the purpose of replacing steel frame.
For example, take a look at Wally's personal trailer used in the mid 50's...This was constructed entirely out of magnesium for the frame. What, if any thing, became of that design approach?
At the very least, we could ask that the “paint” that’s being used to coat the frame is of a better grade~!!
Just my thoughts~

53FC
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Old 04-20-2004, 11:04 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by 53FlyingCloud
At the very least, we could ask that the “paint” that’s being used to coat the frame is of a better grade~!!
Just my thoughts~[/color
53FC
What paint? I think its old road tar mixed with kerosene.
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Old 04-20-2004, 11:12 AM   #3
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I'm not sure about the frame - but to me the floor is the weak link - most of the frames hold up pretty good - dont' they still use steel frames on cars? Obviously with the exception of unibodies - - - -

Uncoated plywood for the floor seems crazy - every Airstream I've ever seen has leaked.

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Old 04-20-2004, 11:24 AM   #4
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Once I have my frame sandblasted and protected with a new surface, the place I think I'm having do the work (west of Chicago, near Alsip) offered me the option of powdercoating the entire frame. At first blush, this sounds like an unbeatable way to keep rust from ever becoming a factor again, since I can't think of any time where I've seen something powdercoated finish being eaten by rust.

Of course, any location that would have to be drilled down the road, for reattaching the belly pan, securing wiring, etc., would conceiveably allow rust to generate at those unprotected points.

And now that I'm thinking about holes... didn't I read that there weep holes for the natural draining of water drilled into the box beam steel? That would compromise the whole point of powdercoating anyhow, just hiding the rust inside the frame! That's probably worse, since you can't tell when it's going to fracture!

I think this alternative frame material is a good thread. If 5 or so people at any given time from these forums are doing a frame off restoration, is it wise to consider alternatives to just patching up the same old frames every time? Are there cost effective alternatives to building frames from different materials that we should be considering?
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Old 04-20-2004, 12:13 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 53FlyingCloud
[color=red]Why it is the Airstream Company continues to produce a "classic product" which, at best, uses an inferior process/material for the frame??
I say this because, sooner or later, all of us are going to be faced with the replacement or major repairs of the existing frame.
Do you think Wally would have left it as it is currently made??
In general I tend to agree with you on this one. With the prices being charged I would think the frame could be made of aluminum or a modern steel with a rust stopping property.
I believe that a common hot rolled steel is all that is used on todays frames. With the use of modern coatings the rust problems could be cut significantly.
I don't know what is going on in the Airstream R&D department but they are sure tight lipped about it. If you're improving your product blow your horn, I say.
Airstream has developed an inviable reputation over the years, it would be a shame to see it all brought down because they did not embrace technological improvements with the rest of the industry.
The name Airstream is bit magical and synonymous with quality. How terrible would it be to lose that.
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Old 04-20-2004, 02:04 PM   #6
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The driving force in today's RV marketplace seems to be appearance and format. How big, what features, how chromie. Designing and builting high quality, light (not cheap), trailers using state of the art material science ( like airstream started out) is out of favor. There's no market, except in the 500,000 MH.
Prehaps we should start a design threat. How would you build the next generation airstream. Titanium frame for starters. 24 Volt DC systems with wind generator that charges the batteries as you drive down the road.

I hate rust.
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Old 04-20-2004, 02:25 PM   #7
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The buying public wants things that they can touch and see.

An Aluminum framed trailer would cost more, for sure. But you can buy one for an Oceangoing Boat. They weigh in the 10's of thousands of pounds. Why not a trailer?

I know that when Porche built the 928 it had an Aluminum frame. The frames were said to be good for approx 100K miles. Then they would start to show fractures at stress points.

The real question is what price point will the market bear? If an Aluminum frame and a floor that will never rot cost you an extra $10,000 on a $60,000 trailer (making it $70,000) Would you buy it?

There is an example of listing to the buyer and delivering, but you will not like the outcome. Nissan did just that with the 300ZX. They added everything that the buyers wanted, but when the car was released the list of buyers shrank due to the cost of the vehicle. The production run shrank to the point that the car was canceled.

Offering it as an optional frame and floor may be a route to go, but there is a higher cost associated with the low volume. I think if they offered it along with a lifetime warranty that the buyer would do it based on the long term value that they would be buying.

No Answers, just my random thoughts..................
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Old 04-20-2004, 03:00 PM   #8
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FWIW magnesium is very flammable and very hard to extinguish.

First thing AS needs to do is get rid of the fiberglass batt insulation squeezed between the floor and frame. They might as well use a sponge. There is nearly 0 insulation value when compressed, if they are doing it for antisqueek there are a bunch of materials that are waterproof and would work much better. Closed cell foam won't hold the water and it will end up on the belly pan instead of spending years rotting the frame away.

John
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Old 04-20-2004, 03:00 PM   #9
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Some good points, NewKid. I think it's tough to justify adding cost to any product these days that can't be seen or touched by the buyer. It may also go along with the "disposable society" mentality - why pay for something extra when there's no way I'll want it that long. I'd rather toss it than go through the trouble of fixing it - or better yet, sell it to someone uneducated about the issue, and be rid of the problem altogether.

Enough pessimism. On to my optimistic side (they're very separate, and equally vocal.)

Audi builds their cars (at least the A8, not sure about my A4) with all-aluminum frames. I believe Mazda did as well with their more sporty models in the 90's.

I'd love a different material as my Globe Trotter's frame! That said, I'd rather take my chances with slow-developing rust than stress fractures so it'd have to be really good stuff. How about an entire frame cast in one continuous piece so that there are no unfinished edges to corrode? All Airstream frames could be cast for the longest length trailer, then the "rungs" of the ladder-style frame cut down for the shorter models?

Or perhaps they could develop a frame made from of steel-impregnated resin that would have movement and give, but always spring back to it's original shape after hitting that last pot hole?

Flying Cloud has it right - looking at the number of improvements Wally made from the 30's - 60's, there's no way there wouldnt' have been many more major improvements by now, 30+ years on - Airstream should be thought of as an ever-changing product, never a finished result.

Look at the advances in wind-tunnel technology... NASA-derived super-lightweight materials... alternative fuels... all these are just waiting to be used in our simple trailers - things Wally could never have dreamed of.

Hopefully, Airstream is still dreaming.
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