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Old 05-22-2015, 08:48 AM   #1
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1959 26' Overlander
Westminster , Colorado
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Shell on? Shell off?

I have a '59 Overlander that I'm in the process of removing the rivets to take the shell off...HOWEVER, I'm not convinced any longer that a shell off is necessarily the be all and end all. I do not have floor rot anywhere (at least that I can see). I want to replace the floor because of the age of the wood, not because it's loose.
So give me your best arguments for a shell off and shell on floor replacements!! I certainly don't want squishy floors, but I don't want to waste time taking the shell off if it's not imperative!
Thanks!!
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Old 05-22-2015, 10:14 AM   #2
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
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In my humble opinion, if you are going to replace your floor, then a shell off is the way to go. The fact is, in order to replace your floor (shell on or off), you have to do so much dismantling (interior skins, elevator bolts, bellypan, etc.) that you are only one step from pulling the shell off anyway.

If you are going to pull the shell, then I recommend building a pair of gantries, lifting the shell and placing it on the ground, and then move the gantries so that they can be used to lift and flip your frame. This way, as you scrape the rust off the frame, repair and repaint it, reinsulate the floor, replace axles, reinstall belly skin, retrofit tanks, etc., all can be done by lifting and flipping the frame, rather than lying underneath it and getting a face full of junk with every operation.

Have a look at the following thread for some shots of what can be done with the shell and frame separated:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f36/...on-115765.html

Now, if you don't intend to rebuild the bellypan, replace insulation under the floor, repair or repaint the frame, or retrofit with grey water tanks, then I would ask why you bother with replacing the wood in the floors (since they aren't rotten). When you start that process of replacing the floor, you are suddenly greeted with a lot of "as long as I am here," type of improvements.

Good luck.
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Old 05-22-2015, 02:20 PM   #3
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1959 26' Overlander
Westminster , Colorado
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I hope this photo attaches...the floor between the fridge exhaust (I think that's what it was) and the door needs to be replaced. That is the only squishy part. Should I remove the entire piece of plywood? Or should I patch that part?
Would I remove rivets on the exterior, slide the new plywood in and screw/bolt in place? Then re-rivet?
Thanks for your help!
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Old 05-22-2015, 10:24 PM   #4
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
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Yes, if you have just one area that is rotting, it can be patched, and again, if you have no intention of doing all those other repairs/upgrades and refurbishments mentioned earlier, then you will spend a lot less time doing a patch than doing an entire floor replacement.

The construction of most Airstreams is like this: The shell sits on top of the plywood subfloor, which sits on top of the frame. Bolts hold this sandwich together. The belly skin attaches to the bottom of the frame and wraps around the edges of the frame to rivet to the shell. So the difficulty in doing floor repairs that go under the wall, whether a whole section of floor, the entire floor, or just a patch, is that you will likely need to have access to both the top and bottom of the bolts that go through the outriggers of the frame, through the plywood, and into the C-channel of the shell (it all depaneds on how big of a section you are replacing).

You will want to get some information about how your specific year of trailer goes together (ie., how the belly skin is joined to the shell). I do recall hearing recommendations for the early '60's trailers to just cut the "center" section of the bellypan out so that you have access to the outriggers, but you don't want to disturb the rivets holding the bellyskin to the shell if you don't intend to separate the shell from the frame.

I saw that you posed a question on another thread where the forum member "Melody Ranch" stated that you don't have to remove the belly pan in order to repair the floor. I have looked at some of his threads, and he has worked on several trailers in the age range of yours--you might want to send him a private message asking for advice/direction.

Good luck!
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Old 05-23-2015, 01:58 PM   #5
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Restoration Info

I'm new to the whole Airstream experience and am currently browsing various threads to get a feel for things.
It's great to see members such as Belegedhel offering advice that is direct, clear and, apparently, very knowledgeable. I look forward to learning more about Airstream and its vagaries so that in the future I may become a part of the community.
By the way, is there a comprehensive list that covers all of the years, models, etc., that Airstream has produced? It seems that there is quite a myriad of offerings to digest.
Thx.
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Old 05-23-2015, 02:05 PM   #6
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1966 22' Safari
Weatherford , Texas
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Depending upon how large your one soft spot is, it might be repairable with penetrating epoxy. There are several products available. We used one called Git Rot on a couple of small soft spots in our subfloor (rear compartment area) and it has worked fine.

There is nothing wrong with the subfloor plywood being old, so long as it's not rotten and soft. Our '66 Safari has its original subfloor and is doing fine.
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Old 05-23-2015, 09:12 PM   #7
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1976 27' Overlander
Tampa , Florida
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Another benefit to pulling the shell is that you'll find all the other stuff that has failed, or about to fail, and needs attention. Remember its a 56 year old steel frame with wood on top. On mine, I found all kinds of issues like a cracked frame, poor welds barely hanging on- not to mention all the hidden nastiness. I've also been able to re-engineer things that were inferior, broken, not working correctly, causing damage, etc.

Alot of work though.
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Old 05-24-2015, 10:12 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mixter View Post
Another benefit to pulling the shell is that you'll find all the other stuff that has failed, or about to fail, and needs attention. Remember its a 56 year old steel frame with wood on top. On mine, I found all kinds of issues like a cracked frame, poor welds barely hanging on- not to mention all the hidden nastiness. I've also been able to re-engineer things that were inferior, broken, not working correctly, causing damage, etc.

Alot of work though.
I would definitely second the above, and offer the broad brush opinion that most, if not all, vintage trailers are candidates for a shell-off. Floor rot is typically just scratching the surface of the additional issues that will be uncovered when you see the frame.

Remember that quote from the first Shrek movie--"Ogres are like onions--they have layers." Well, I've always felt that vintage Airstreams are like onions--not only do they have layers, but every layer you peel away makes you cry.

Good luck!
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Old 05-24-2015, 11:30 AM   #9
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Ha.... amen to that!
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Old 05-24-2015, 11:44 AM   #10
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1973 27' Overlander
Fonthill , Ontario
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All I can add to the discussion, is this. With the belly pan removed off my '73 Overlander, my frame had what appeared to be just some "surface rust" when I removed the floor, it looked a little worse. When I hit the area with a hammer, large chunks of rusted metal just fell away leaving me with a frame that would have failed eventually. Now with the shell off, I'm able to repair my frame, replace sections as needed. Without having to weld upside down.

Before:Click image for larger version

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After hammer:Click image for larger version

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After repair:Click image for larger version

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In summary, I wasn't planning on a shell off, but was glad I did. Allowed me to repair the frame properly, and much easier than if I was just going to patch it. With luck, it will last another 40 years.
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Old 05-30-2015, 06:24 AM   #11
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1965 30' Sovereign
1969 23' Safari
Redgranite , Wisconsin
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Thumbs up Frame Off or Not?

It depends. Is this your forever trailer or are you going to flip it? Either way it's good to address the bad stuff. If you have the interior skin off along the floor then this is the perfect time to do it. Steel and aluminum result in corrosion. Connecting bolts will deteriorate and the channel under the bolts will corrode. If you have already found one "squishy" piece of floor did you poke around with a sharp screwdriver in the front, rear and under all windows, doors and wheel-wells? Remember, THEY ALL LEAK!
Sounds like you are doing a lot of good work. Go as far as you feel comfortable but remember: The frame is the foundation of your trailer. Together with the floor and body you have a complete structure, similar to an airplane. These must all have good, solid connections.
Once you cut out the area under the fridge, peek under the floor and check out the frame and funk the years have left in the pan. This may lead you to drop the pan, just to confirm how the frame looks and what needs to be addressed. Also if you find any "habitrails" in the wall insulation (tunnels left by critters) you'll want to remove all the insulation and this will allow you to check/replace the wiring, add outlets and divide circuits to better meet todays needs. I've heard older models didn't insulate the wires well as they passed through the sometimes sharp holes in the wall studs. Scary stuff.
As one of the people who have stood on their driveways while inside my trailer I can tell you it is worth the piece of mind knowing I did it right. And no, mine was not a frame off, just a rear section...so far. I did the back half first, checked walls halfway up and didn't go further. Mine was a barn kept 1965 Sovereign survivor. But the rear bath floor was toast with some lousy PO repair that failed again due to plumbing problems.
In typical "while I was at it" mindset I added an angle iron frame connection under the trunk access, removed the Airstream hose trunk blunder that directed water onto the rear floor and modified the cross members to accept a grey tank while the belly pan was partially lowered. The frame was sanded down and POR 15'd. The frame and outriggers ahead of this area to the axle was inspected and found to be rust free with factory paint. We'll see what I find when I do the front half. As for my 69 Safari "mouse house," it will be a frame off. But it is now 10 years later and I've learned a lot from these forums and THEVAP.com. I KNOW my '69 is full of mice, smells awful, has leaked for years as it sat in a field and requires the FULL MONTY.
What I've learned...GOOD TRAILERS DON'T: SMELL BAD, HAVE BUCKLED SIDE WALLS NEAR THE WHEELS, HAVE A BUMPER OR TONGUE THAT MOVES INDEPENDENTLY OF THE BODY, HAVE MISSING RIVETS, HAVE STEPS THAT BOUNCE AND CAUSE THE SKIN TO STRETCH OR HAVE 'HOME-SWEET-HOME' SIGNS PUT OUT BY THE RESIDENT SQUIRRELS AND MICE.
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Old 05-30-2015, 04:44 PM   #12
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1974 27' Overlander
Portsmouth , Virginia
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I took my shell off but it was a no brainer the frame was totally gone, I couldn't even save enough for a template. I ended up salvaging a frame from an 02 Coleman to use. Plywood being old doesn't mean it is bad, don't worry about it unless it is rotten. What's under that I'm sure you have issues after 56 years but it just depends on what your priorities are. If everything works as is then get in it and hit the road! If you have kids it's time to make memories camping, not slaving away on a classic. If you just want a project or you know for sure there are issues that need to be addressed then do the shell off. You could also buy a used pop up camper to use while you work on the Airstream.
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