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Old 02-08-2009, 01:24 PM   #1
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1977 31' Excella 500
Emmett , Michigan
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Saggy sides!

I am in the midst of renovating a 77' Excella and am in the process of redoing the floor. I have gutted nearly the entire interior and am noticing that along the length of the trailer both sides seem to sag a bit. The outriggers are all very solid, but about a 1ft perimeter of the trailer seems to drop about 1/4". It is really noticeable where some rot has occurred. Originally I was not going to do a shell off replacement, but because of this sag I think I may have to.

Does anyone have any insight into this problem??

Here is a picture or of the Street side wheel well that sonws what I am talking about.


Thanks.

Nate
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Old 02-08-2009, 02:18 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nd48463 View Post
I am in the midst of renovating a 77' Excella and am in the process of redoing the floor. I have gutted nearly the entire interior and am noticing that along the length of the trailer both sides seem to sag a bit. The outriggers are all very solid, but about a 1ft perimeter of the trailer seems to drop about 1/4". It is really noticeable where some rot has occurred. Originally I was not going to do a shell off replacement, but because of this sag I think I may have to.

Does anyone have any insight into this problem??

Here is a picture or of the Street side wheel well that sonws what I am talking about.


Thanks.

Nate
You can add more outriggers in that area.

Andy
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Old 02-08-2009, 03:22 PM   #3
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I would verify the floor level to confirm your suspicions. Use a straight 6' straight edge, or a water line level to make a preliminary assessment. If you confirm the sag, then you will need to tear into the floor or belly skins to gain a better understanding of what the issue is.

I would suspect a deterioration issue, accident damage, or maybe some frame rail deflection. Is there any buckling of the exterior skin evident adjacent to the areas in question? In the absence something obvious, you may just have to chalk it up to something that happened in the life of a 32 year old trailer.

As Andy says, you can add more outriggers to carry more loads in these areas. You may find it necessary to add some bracing between the frame rails in these areas too. I would definitely find a flat slab, or paved surface to do this work on, and I would take my time leveling the frame, and raising the sagging areas back up to the correct elevation before adding new outriggers and bracing.

Keep us posted as to what you find.

Kevin
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Old 02-11-2009, 11:32 PM   #4
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I hear you

Nate I am facing the same problem with my 75 except most of my outriggers are half rusted away. My current plan is to replace all and add support that will be hidden by the underbelly. I would like to hear what others think.
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Old 02-11-2009, 11:39 PM   #5
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The more that I 'dig' into trying to 'fix' my Sovereign, the more I am perplexed!!! I, too, am interested in what I need to do so any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated....I have the rear-end separation problem with my '74 and may need to learn to weld by the time I get to that arena.....HELP!!!
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Old 02-12-2009, 06:56 AM   #6
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Good Pics

Quote:
Originally Posted by nd48463 View Post
I am in the midst of renovating a 77' Excella and am in the process of redoing the floor. I have gutted nearly the entire interior and am noticing that along the length of the trailer both sides seem to sag a bit...Does anyone have any insight into this problem?
Nate -

Your outriggers appear to be in remarkably good shape considering all of the rot which is evidenced in your photos.

Great job of archiving your work with pictures - I know that I wish I would have taken more pics when I was working on the '78 Sovereign.

I’m a big believer that the fewer joints in anything is better, and to do as much repair as is evident from your pics (from what I can tell from the relevant shots) it appears as if there will be a LOT of scabbing to do, so it might be time for a 6-pack and a re-evaluation of your plan forward.

In one of my former lives when I was working offshore construction I inspected a lot of production piping and support structures. I was always amazed how much the structure (and piping) would deform and still perform to the designed parameters. Have a really good welder look at the entire frame – you may have to remove the rest of the belly pan for him to get in there.

The great thing about Airstream Construction is that it offers the capability to be modified to the rebuilders desire - sometimes the rebuilder will bomb-proof, others will do just enough to get by....the choice is yours. You have to keep an eye out for what the ultimate use of the trailer will be - if you intend to keep it and use it, then I would suggest to "do it right the first time" - so far I have not regretted the time OR the money I have poured into my two projects.

You certainly have done a great job so far - take a break when it ceases to be fun.

PM me (anyone) if you have any specific question or if you just need a place to verbally or electronically cry in your beer.
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Old 02-12-2009, 07:30 AM   #7
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If the wood floor is rotten around the edges the rot will compress causing the shell to sag or droop around the perimeter edge, especially on the sides
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Old 02-12-2009, 09:53 AM   #8
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On my '63 Overlander, the entire rear-end plywood section rotted out, between 3 and 18 inches wide into the trailer. Over time, the shell slowly drooped, and dropped, until the back end of it was resting directly on the main frame rails as they exit from under the shell and form the bumper mounts. Luckily, only the rub rail buckled under the pressure, and not the shell aluminum itself.

But these Airstreams are remarkably strong-- with its previous owners it traveled the country that way for who knows how many years? Over ten for sure.

I have since yanked out the old rotted floor, replaced three rusted-out cross-members and one rusted and broken-off outrigger, and replaced the flooring with new, which required lifting the shell up to its original height. And it popped right back into shape.

Good luck with your project, vintage Airstreams are Survivors.

-Marcus
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