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Old 05-05-2005, 12:54 AM   #1
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1955 16' Bubble
Bend , Oregon
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Restoring a 1955 bubble

I am just about to acquire my parent’s old 1955 bubble. I have some reservations about starting such a project, and restoring such and old trailer. My first and foremost concern is the difficulty in such an undertaking. I want to do it right, and to start I need to fix the floor that is rotting from an old leak from the rear door.
How hard is it to replace the decking?
If I remove the shell from the trailer is it easier?
Is removing the shell imposable or a possibility with some help from a few friends (and a keg)?
If I do attempt this project I plan on a complete gutting and system check. The trailer is not in original condition, the trailer underwent a overhaul prior to purchase by my parents. So if any one has some cool ideas on possible upgrades to the trailer I am open to ideas. I have the time and some repair know how but there is the wife factor (money is available but limited). PLEASE help me! Any input will help, and would be greatly appreciated

Thank you.
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Old 05-05-2005, 01:28 AM   #2
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1965 17' Caravel
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Hi BB, Well I am in the midst of doing a floor replacement on my 65 Caravel. Check out the floor replacement section here. There is a lot of good info on the subject. I personally have updated the water tank (larger), new power converter, water pump, axle, refinished bath fiberglass, flooring, propane tanks, new auto switch valve on the propane tanks, new pigtails on the a/s valve, new wiring for running lights, new saftey chains. All of my appliances work so I am leaving them as is. Some of this is still in progress. When you replace the floor you'll have to take off the bottom row of panels on the inside, all the way around. You will be able to see where the leaks have been then, at least you'll be able to trace them down. You'll most likely have to remove some or all of the belly pan. I had to because the metal it self is shot. I am not taking the shell off the frame to do the replacement of the floor. I am doing a section at a time, actually the back half and then the front. I don't have the space or the resources to do the frame off and I wasn't convinced that you really need to do it that way. IMO Time is more of a factor than money I am finding out. Got any pics to post ?

Chris
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Old 05-05-2005, 01:31 AM   #3
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1965 17' Caravel
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BTW, Welcome to the forums ! We have a pretty active group here in the PACNW.
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Old 05-05-2005, 08:47 AM   #4
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hi bb,
we are replacing the whole sub-floor in our 60 traveler and happy to be doing so. We've gone through a huge learning curve but will be happy that we have good bones. This way we have access to the frame and can clean, repair and paint it. The forums provide a huge wealth of information as do many other sites. we are keeping the shell on but will be putting spacers around the edge and bracing the shell. Seems workable. Upgrading the electrical system since we've taken off most all of the interior panels (bad, icky f/g insulation) and upgrading the plumbing, too. Good luck.
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Old 05-05-2005, 02:36 PM   #5
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No beer kegs necessary, unless you want one! Chris is right, it doesn't have to be a full shell off. We're also taking out furniture piece by piece, checking the flooring and fixing what we run into. Like Chris, we aren't taking everything out at once, but just going by sections (we think that kind of helps with balance issues that can occur when you take everything out).

Folks kind of shake their head at us, but personally, I'm really enjoying doing it! It isn't the most expensive thing, but it does make me feel that finally, I'm going to have confidence in the structural integrity of the trailer. That wasn't there before. Plus, as the other folks here have mentioned, it is a good feeling to get in, clean out any yucky stuff (you wouldn't believe what folks have found inside their floors), update any really outmoded systems (plumbing and electrical are common targets) and add in any slick little new features you want (like entertainment systems, etc.).

Personally, I found it really terrifying to cut into the floor. But doing it was also empowering. Remember, you can probably fix almost anything if you goof!

Mary
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Old 05-05-2005, 08:53 PM   #6
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1955 16' Bubble
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Thanks

Thank you for your responces to my post, it helps to have a different point of view. I think I will keep from lifting my top, and I will go with fixing the floor from the inside. I will post pictures as soon as I get them.
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Old 09-13-2005, 08:50 AM   #7
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BB 55 Bubble, welcome, My wife and I are in the process of restoring a 1963 Bambi. It is 16 foot. we currently have the shell lifter off and I am sand blasting the frame. Would be glad to share info. We are farely close to you in Yreka, CA.
I have some pictures listed under my page.

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Old 11-05-2005, 10:55 PM   #8
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Update

The trailer is in the garage, and with only 3/16 of an inch to spare. I am in the midst of tearing out all of the furnishings and will be replacing the floor soon! I hope.
By the way need a little more room to get that airstream to fit in a standard garage? I used a set of two wheel dollies that are available at Harbor Freight to drop the height of the trailer about 6 or 7 inches. It worked but I hade to use some strap tie-downs to get them to stay put. Pictures to come.
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Old 11-05-2005, 11:13 PM   #9
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pictures Gooooood.
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Old 11-06-2005, 09:30 AM   #10
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For inspiration and to keep the juices flowing when it felt like I needed a lot more than a keg to keep focused I bought the book Silver Palaces by Douglas Keister. I got a ton of good ideas of what I liked, and also what I thought I would like till I saw a picture of it done in someone else's trailer and realized it was not for me. Another book that has just hit the market that also has good pictures for inspiration is Airstream Living by Bruce Littlefield and Simon Brown. Seeing what our trailer could be like got my wife motivated to work out an interior theme, gave me an idea of the actual lay out that would best work for our living on the road needs, and I made very good friends with a small local trailer repair guy. He was great for advice when I needed it now, and in return I purchased the parts and pieces I needed from him. He gave me a builders discount which saved me a swack of dough.

It's fun, like building a very tiny house, and when it's done you'll want to do more...........did I say that? Hope my wife doesn't read this.
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Old 11-06-2005, 10:14 AM   #11
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Good luck on your project. We have been rebuilding a 1964 Sovereign for about a year and a half. We found it in our campground and it had not been on the road in 25 years that we can document. We decided to just make it a "park model" and leave it stationary. We relaced the last of the floors and re-built the bathroom this summer. We did not remove the shell either. We also replaced the plumbing this year. Next season will be a lot of smaller cosmetic projects and polishing the shell. I have been experimenting with a number or products for that and "Neverdull" seems to have the most promise but will certainly tap out my supply of elbow grease! Anyone have a "kinder, gentler" (on my body) way to polish her up? Thanks
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Old 11-06-2005, 10:21 AM   #12
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Fist off, welcome to the forums!

You ill find lots of knowledgeable folks that have been through just about every circumstance you will run into during the restoration of you traler. Post any question that stumps you and you'll see!
Quote:
Originally Posted by RestorinanAS
I have been experimenting with a number or products for that and "Neverdull" seems to have the most promise but will certainly tap out my supply of elbow grease! Anyone have a "kinder, gentler" (on my body) way to polish her up? Thanks
This is one question that has as many answers as there are members! What 'works' for one may not for another and the aluminum (thus process) varies from some years to others. We have polished our '64 GT using Nuvite and a compounder then finishing it off with a CycloPolisher. It is kinder & gentler on your body...but still alot of hard work. We are happy with the results and maintain it with the same last coupke of steps once a year or so ~

For lots of reading on polishing use the 'search' tool and put in some terms like: stripping, polishing, etc.

Happy restoring!

Shari
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Old 11-06-2005, 05:02 PM   #13
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Lightbulb Polish

I found this web site that might answer some questions on polishing. Great informational resource, also the place to buy the products necessary to polish the trailer of you dreams (Coincidence? I think not). I have not tried them yet but they have sent me some samples, I will try them and keep ya all posted. O.K web site for the informational goodies and products
http://www.vintagetrailersupply.com/...ults.asp?Cat=3
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Old 11-06-2005, 05:35 PM   #14
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1955 16' Bubble
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It was a tight squeeze but I got it to fit. The wheel dollies I used from Harbor Freight are a bit wide and tend to move freely about when I was trying to get the trailer into the garage. I used some ratchet cargo straps to get the dolly to stay put. I will at a later date have them cut and re-welded so that they are a better fit and reinforced with some extra steel.
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Old 11-06-2005, 05:48 PM   #15
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The inside

As you can see it is a work in progress. I am still removing some of the cabinets and furnishings. It is obviously a mess; I am still cleaning up the debris and dirt. The rot is from a leaky rear hatch. There is also some damage up front from a leaky water tank, and the main door leaked around rotted seals.
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Old 11-06-2005, 06:08 PM   #16
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i'm another member of the shell-off restoration club! you will learn a ton either way you go. it's fun to re-read my thread from day one until now. stuff i used to really worry about now seems like a piece of cake (like skin replacement for example).

http://www.airforums.com/forum...ent-17197.html

good luck and happy learning! i wish i had a free spot in my garage to work through the winter, but alas, all the bays are filled with other projects... 8 vehicles... 3 run... ha! gonna be a LONG winter!

jp
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Old 11-06-2005, 06:49 PM   #17
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1955 22' Flying Cloud
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Shell off restoration

BB 55 Bubble Howdy, I also have been doing a shell off restoration. If you haven't looked a A-Merry-Can's thread I highly recommend it. It has lots of good information I have used so far. Here is my thread.

http://www.airforums.com/forum...mbi-17925.html

I've just completed the work on the frame and ready to begin replacing the floor. I need to rearrange the garage now to get the frame inside. As you know the rainy season has started! C Johnson has a good site also. He has complete pictures on the following site.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/airstream/

Enjoy the adventure
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Old 11-06-2005, 08:27 PM   #18
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I have done a shell off as well.

Really it depends on how extensive the damage is as to what way your go. If the damage is mostly isolated to just the rear then I would say pulling the body is not needed. You can drill out the rivets around the rear (to the wheel well as short as that coach is). Drop the belly pan nd remove the inner rear panel to access the bolts in the u-channel.

These coaches start with the floor then the frame is dropped on the floor upside down. Then the belly pan is installed. Once the belly pan and running gear is on they flip it over. There will be a few hidden rivets through the belly pan into the u-channel but not visible from the exterior. You can sheer with a putty knife to get the belly to drop. weight the bumper and get the rear to open like a clam shell. Then you can slide a full width piece in.


If at all possible the best repair is a full sheet across the frame. NEVER section along the top of the main frame rails. It is a weak repair. The frame rail will become a fulcrum point and the stress on the outriggers will be higher as a result. If you must cut the width then cut it in the center and from the bottom put a lap piece in the center that you use construction adhesive and plenty of bolts. Something like this -----__------. That will make a stronger repair.

Welcome to the forums! Look forward to more pictures of your coach.

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Old 11-06-2005, 09:53 PM   #19
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I did a semi shell off repair on my trailer - I detached the shell from the frame except for the front - lifted it a little to slide the wood under - mine is cut down the center exactly as 59 describes. Use 4" in each side of the seam and it will be as strong or stronger than the plywood - its a butt joint as they use in the plywood boat world.

BTW-not sure I would use the same method again - it was pretty scary being in the trailer knowing the shell was basically not attached...........

Ken J.
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Old 11-06-2005, 10:46 PM   #20
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59, that's a way cool factory pic...pretty cool to imagine that that's your trailer being built, even if that pic is Pre-69 era....I was thinking to myself, how cool would that be, if one of those was mine....then I saw the front window...oh well, one can dream.

Frederic
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