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Old 01-11-2015, 10:46 AM   #1
2 Rivet Member
1974 27' Overlander
Twisp , Washington
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 73
Shell off pit-falls?

We've had a '74 27' Land Yacht since '95, originally purchased as a "tin tent" for some recreational property we used to own. It's been an ongoing and on again/off again project pretty much ever since. We sold the property several years ago, but kept the Airstream. It's seen service as a home away from home when I had to be working away from home, as a bunkhouse when we have guests, and we've even gone camping in it . I've done lots of work on it over the years, some more extensive than others, but the biggest PITA during just about all of it is the sagging frame! It sags fore and aft and side to side, and that seems to complicate just about everything I try to do. Been doing a lot of reading here lately, and what has been an irritant is now a concern, I KNOW I have some outrigger problems, there are numerous leaks I still haven't been able to chase down, and that, of course, means some floor rot. Bottom line, I've decided it's time to gut it, pull the shell off, and fix the frame. So how crazy am I ?

Before anyone asks, I've been in construction most of my adult life, I have more tools than time to use them, and I'm better than fair with my hands. I'm also not afraid of hard work and getting those hands dirty. Having worked on this thing for years, I'm also familiar with some of the quirks and challenges involved with working on Airstreams. But I also know that Murphy likes to live in my back pocket, so if there are specific tips or tricks that some of you have learned in this process, I'm all ears . Thanks in advance, and you can be sure there WILL be more later.


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Old 01-11-2015, 11:00 AM   #2
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2012 25' FB Eddie Bauer
Vintage Kin Owner
Virginia Beach , Virginia
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 5,678
Have a barn, or a building to do the phase where you pull the shell. I've seen two where they tried to do it outside and a windstorm came along and totalled the shell. From the sound of your known problems (and pretty easily confirmed by pulling the belly pan), you're going to need a new frame.

It's simpler, faster and more expensive to have a new frame ready to slide under the old shell. Of course this means you have the frame, new axles loaded right up to the tires, and a new subfloor installed. Heck go all the way and run new finish floor over the subfloor too. It can then be a short project to lift the shell, position the new frame under the shell, and install.

But the advantage is it's a matter of just getting the running lights and brakes working and you have a great tin tent. The rest of the restoration can be done in small steps if if the first big step is done right. No compromises on safety or lifespan issues with a new frame and running gear.


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Old 01-12-2015, 10:16 AM   #3
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 1,903
I don't think you are crazy at all. People do shell-off restorations all the time. It is laborious, but just keep your momentum, and you will get through it.

My recommendations: build gantry frames to do the lift of the shell. Only remove the belly pan around the edges so that you can access the underside of the bolts that go through the C-channel. Once the shell has been lifted, and set back on the ground (and anchored down), move the gantry frames over the frame, and use them to lift and flip the frame. Now you can remove the bellypan and tanks without lying on your back underneath. Flip it back over and remove the old rotten flooring, and you will be able to see whether the frame is repairable or not. There are plenty of people who brace the inside of the shell for the lift. My experience is that this is completely unnecessary if lifting from above, rather than jacking from below. A pdf diagram of the "standard" gantry frame can be found at the following, bottom of the first page:

good luck!
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Old 01-15-2015, 08:27 AM   #4
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1974 27' Overlander
Twisp , Washington
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 73
Thanks, people. Paula, I have a 30 x 40 shop to work in, so no worries about the shell blowing away . Having a new frame standing by, ready to slide right in would be a luxury, it's just not in the cards. My labor and time is cheap and plentiful, not so much cash. I can and will spend what I have to, but hopefully, I won't have to have a new frame made.

Belegedhel (what's that mean, anyway?), I don't have room in my shop for gantries, but the roof trusses in my shop are more than sufficient for lifting the shell, although I intend to add some extra reinforcement, just to be safe. This time of year, working on this outside is NOT an option, there's around 6" of snow on the ground, and we've warmed up over the last week or so to daytime highs of around freezing .

While I'm here, I might as well include a progress report. I've got all the interior fixtures removed, and will be starting on the interior skins today. At this rate, I should be ready to lift the shell by Saturday, although it probably won't happen 'til later next week. Sunday is football (Go, Hawks!), and Mon-Wed progress is halted by various appointments. More later.

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Old 01-16-2015, 05:27 PM   #5
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1962 19' Globetrotter
Winchester , Ontario
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 251
Hi Dave,
Apparently the shell is not terribly heavy. I have seen pics at the factory in Jackson Centre (the Mother Ship) that show two guys lifting a shell, it is all aluminum after all. The frame will be much heavier. You could maybe build a floor supported set of shorter gantries (just over 1/2 the width of the frame) to spin the frame on, with just some bracing to the ceiling trusses so it doesn't shift laterally. Colin Hyde should be able to give you an idea of the separate shell and frame weights, and some tips. I have also seen a bolt-on ball for the rear end of the frame (in horizontal alignment), and a coupler (in vertical alignment) on the gantry so that you can spin the frame. I am not sure if you can visualize it, kinda hard to describe, and I personally have not tried it, and don't know how easy it made the job, but search the forums, there are some great ideas.
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