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Old 01-03-2016, 09:30 PM   #1
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GuitarmanFL's Avatar
1972 27' Overlander
Orlando , Florida
Join Date: Dec 2015
Posts: 62
Input Needed: About to lift shell

Hey Guys:

Backyard renovation. About to lift shell off frame for frame repair / painting.

I don't have a crane, overhead dolly, or any such equipment.

What I do have:

4 ton floor jack.
4x4 posts

Here's my current plan:

Construct a 4x4 double beam 42" long that will press up on 3 full ribs. The jack will lift the vertical 4x4 post which will be bolted to the double 4x4 beams running horizontal under the ridge ribs.

I gently raise the shell from the estimated CG @ my forward most axel (mine is a tandem axle) and then slide in two 4x4 beams about 18" apart under the C channel - with a 2x4 on top of the 4x4's directly under the c channel to ideally distribute the weight so as not to deform the c channel too much.

repeat up front.

Problems are numerous: I don't want to crimp or overstress any panels, the front window, or anything for that matter.

I am thinking about only removing the 36 blind rivets at the very front panel after lifting the aft portion - to help prevent this unstable lifting method from allowing the rear to oscillate side to side. That would be bad.

My greatest fear is that the roof will crumple under stress it was probably not designed for. My old Algebra seems to suggest if I"m only lifting 12", the angle is low enough that some minimal and non-damaging flex should be able to be absorbed by the structure.

My unit is 23' interior, end to end. Not sure why it's labeled a 27 footer. 137.5 inches is the precise midpoint. That is not the same thing as the center of gravity, obviously, but I think it's close enough that I have a reasonable chance of not buckling the shell.

If it works I'll pull the trailer out and take it to the welder guy. It's not in great shape, that's for sure. He may tell me to keep going straight to the recycler or dump... all the outriggers need replacing, as well as the main rear c channel's which I plan on requesting box channel.

So ideally, my shell will be resting it's weight on 2x4's running length wise under the C Channel's and those 2x4's are thus supported every 36" or so with 4x4's on cement blocks.

This is a one man operation, plain and simple...


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Old 01-03-2016, 11:05 PM   #2
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batman's Avatar

1964 22' Safari
modesto , California
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 499
Sounds about right.

The 27' vs 23'
is that our trailers are measured from rear bumper to tongue. i.e., 27' = 23'.

Pictures, please.


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Old 01-03-2016, 11:47 PM   #3
Rivet Master
1974 31' Sovereign
1979 23' Safari
Wayland , New York
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My recommendation,

I took my shell off basically the way you described, it was a complete and utter disaster, and more stressful than I wanted to be.

Putting the shell back on I hired a crane, it doesn't take a large one, mine was a smaller fold out boom arm on the back of a flat bed truck about 1/2 semi length. I was/am working on it in the boonies, so there weren't really any close. I found one about $175/hour, only they charged drive time one hour each way. I could have done it in an hour easily if I had lived closer. Lifted through the vent holes. Best $500 I spent on the trailer so far. Have a couple guys to help each time to guide it when it's in the air. Being in Orlando I would think there should be some cranes available. Call and let them know what you're lifting, (not heavy) so they know to spec cost for a smaller crane.

Other recommended option is build gantrys with 4x4's and 2x material and lift through the vents with chain hoists. The gantrys can be helpful later for polishing and working on the roof.
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Old 01-04-2016, 06:02 AM   #4
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1967 28' Ambassador
1964 19' Globetrotter
1960 24' Tradewind
Edgewood , Kentucky
Join Date: May 2015
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Originally Posted by HiJoeSilver View Post
Other recommended option is build gantrys with 4x4's and 2x material and lift through the vents with chain hoists. The gantrys can be helpful later for polishing and working on the roof.
I'd go with that idea. Chain hoists aren't too expensive and you could suspend the shell long enough to pull the trailer bed and rest it on the wooden frame as you mentioned. Where this becomes an advantage is putting the shell back on because you can strategically and slowly lower the shell back into place without shoring up anything on the inside with a bottle jack. Food for thought, there is definitely more than one way to accomplish this. There is a few threads on here about building a gantry system. You'll be glad you went this route. Good luck!
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Old 01-04-2016, 06:29 AM   #5
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1973 27' Overlander
1972 29' Ambassador
St. Paul , Minnesota
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If* I were to do it again... GANTRY. Flipping the frame upright or inverted will reduce time & effort needed by 80%. Don't think twice about it.

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Old 01-04-2016, 08:57 AM   #6
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1975 Argosy 28
Springville , Alabama
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Gantries are the way to go. With your construction knowledge you can build just as easily as your option. The shell is tougher than you think if lifted the right. Me and my kids (10,7,5) lifted the shell with gantries then I bolted it to my driveway for 2 years while reengineering the frame to accommodated the new floor plan, tanks, and frame improvements. Plus chain hoists are cheap at HF.
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Old 01-04-2016, 09:26 AM   #7
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1964 26' Overlander
1974 31' Sovereign
Milton , ON
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Keep in mind that you could do all of the repairs without removing the shell. I did that on our '74 Sovereign and it worked well for me. The downside is that you have to work around the shell while you're welding and replacing the floor. You also lose the option of using a rotisserie to turn the frame upside down for painting, welding, belly pan installation, etc. On the plus side, you don't need to worry about damaging the shell while removing and storing it and you save the time and money that you would have put into removal and replacement. I replaced or repair most of outriggers and some cross members. I used the trailer as an "excuse" to buy a MIG welder and did the work myself. I can see where the welding would be more of a challenge with the frame in place if you're hiring a welding as you would want to have it done all in one go.
You might get by without replacing all of the outriggers. I fully replaced about a third of them, but most were good on the top so I cut off the bottom half and replaced it with pieces I made to match the profile (giving me an excuse to also purchase a brake for bending them).

Personally I wouldn't consider removing a shell unless I had a large space like a barn where I could suspend it from beams and keep it stored inside.

As for your question about the length, the measurement is taken from the rear bumper to the front of the hitch, and is nominal so the stated length won't always match the exact measurement.

I'm not saying the method you describe won't work. Go for it if seems like the best solution!

Grant Davidson
Milton, ON

1946 Spartan Manor
1954 Va-Ka-Shun-Ette
1964 Overlander
1965 Avion C-10 Truck Camper
1974 Sovereign
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Old 01-04-2016, 10:08 AM   #8
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1959 18' "Footer"
san francisco , California
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As Vernon said " my hats off to anyone who can do it without flipping the frame upside down".
I started to try that and after about 1/2 hour of climbing up and down and crap falling in my eyes I gave into the flip. This is regarding insualtion. belly pan replacement.
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Old 01-04-2016, 10:47 AM   #9
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This is how I lifted my body from the frame using 4 x 4's and supporting it from the roof. Everything worked out fine, lifting it off the frame putting it back on with no damage to the body.
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Old 01-04-2016, 02:40 PM   #10
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
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I often sense that folks fear the gantry because it looks like a lot of lumber, a big construction project, and an investment in the wood and the hoists. Most of the non gantry lifts I see employ a lot of bracing and other encumberances to achieve what the gantries do, so I would conclude that the difference in cost is maybe $100 for the three HF hoists. I built my gantires in a day, including several runs to the hardware store.

As for tight spaces, I lifted my shell on one half of a two car driveway, set it down on the slab, and then dragged my gantries over onto a brick patio area to do the frame flipping. Yes, my trailer is only 21', but my house occupies 1/4 of an urban redeveloped lot that is about the size of a large postage stamp. You don't need acres of land or a warehouse/barn to lift a shell from above. The fact that I do the vast majority of the work on my trailer alone is what made the gantry lift a clean and attractive solution.

Even after the shell was back in place, I then added a bit of decking between the two gantry frames so that they would serve as a scaffold for my roof work (ie., sealing hatches, replacing the AC, etc.). I got lots of use out of my gantries, and now they have been disassembled, and the lumber is stacked behind the garage waiting for another project.

I installed all new aluminum on my bellypan, and the whole time I was doing it (from the "top", with the frame upside down), I just kept thinking that if I had had to try to hold a fresh panel in place while drilling a fresh hole for the rivet, while cuttings fell in my face, I would have given up on the project long ago.

So good luck with whatever you end up doing. There are plenty of ways to "skin a cat", or lift a shell. I promise you though, if you think you are going to be stressed out with the method you are planning, you will be. If you damage your shell during the lift/replacement, then any time/$ you save will get eaten up fast with the repair work.
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Old 01-04-2016, 04:17 PM   #11
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1976 25' Caravanner
Salt Lake City , Utah
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I have to heartily endorse Belegedhel's gantry suggestion, having just put my shell back on the frame. Lifting off, welding, preppring (POR 15) and painting, as well as floor and insulation attachment, new axle attachment, and general ability to continually inspect the project. And I spent no money on lumber. It was all lying around. Three chain hoists at Harbor Freight for about $32.00 each with the 20% discount. And now I have the gantries for top work and perhaps a snow shed to build next summer.
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Old 01-05-2016, 03:26 PM   #12
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1972 27' Overlander
Orlando , Florida
Join Date: Dec 2015
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Hey Guys:

All excellent feedback, so thank you!

I have the rear lifted. I was surprised out easy it lifted. It did wander however, so I had to be extra careful to keep from wracking the shell.

I braced the C-Channel as I had previously stated - actually using cement blocks and 2x4's longtitudily to not crush the channels. it worked!

I do agree that gantries would be far superior. What I do worry about is placing the shell back on with precision and with out losing my mind with my ground based supports. I can imagine the shell suspended from gantries being easily moved and shifted to line up correctly with the frame. So, I'm thinking about that...

I'll get a few pics up later. It looks like hillbilly Alabama in my backyard.
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Old 01-05-2016, 04:13 PM   #13
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1960 24' Tradewind
Folsom , California
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I installed my belly pan from below (no gantry), on my back, tight quarters, stuff falling in my eyes, mouth, nose . . . I'd build 3 gantries before doing that again . . . your mileage may vary.

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Old 01-05-2016, 07:53 PM   #14
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1975 Argosy 28
Springville , Alabama
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I resemble the hillbilly alabama remark- I am one😄 then again redneck engineer might be better

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