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Old 12-20-2006, 06:52 AM   #1
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Excella 500 Toy Hauler

Hello everyone. Found this site and a 1979 27ft (?) Excella 500. Bought it yesterday. the seller almost gave it away. It is COMPLETE and fully operational but needs a bunch of TLC. As far as I can tell it is in good shape. Our plan is to convert it to a toy hauler for my Harley Road King. We plan to modify it to open in the rear so 2 bikes can be loaded end to end down the center. This will require reconfig of the bath (rear), side bunks, bulk heads, etc. I have extensive mech/elect/fab abilities and tools. All I need is time & $. The interior will be HD inspired with alum. diamond tread plate down the ctr, orange/black vinyl tiles, alum side walls, etc and a polished exterior. Unit has new refrig, A/C. I plan to reduce the interior weight by removing all un-needed appointments, which will want sell to someone for use in their restoration. Any advice from you experienced AS'ers would be appericated. I will keep you posted.Thanks for listening, Mike
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Old 12-20-2006, 07:08 AM   #2
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Not questioning your mech/elec/fab capabilities, but you may have second and third thoughts once you start digging in.

Moving the rear bath is do-able (anything is if you're willing to spend the time and money) but will probably be much more complicated than you might think.

If it is fully operational, I'd be tempted to "spruce" it up a bit, flip it for a profit and look for a gutted shell, preferably center bath. Still not sure it's a great idea, but I'd hesitate to sacrifice a decent unit (which it sounds like you have) for a toy hauler.

I'm on my second restore (and hopefully last) so I'm pretty familiar with the construction of the 70's Airstreams and I'd think you'd want to beef up the frame quite a bit in order to add that type of weight. They really weren't designed for that. (Removing the interior won't lighten it that much as it wasn't that heavy to begin with.)

Good luck!
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Old 12-20-2006, 07:16 AM   #3
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It won't work, no matter the number of modifications you make.

First, the 1979 models have only a three inch frame. Many of the longer models were plagued with rear end seperation of the body from the frame as it was with only the weight of the black tank's contents back there.

Second, the Airstream is a semi-monoque construction. This means that the shell is part of the strength of the design. What you are planning to do will destroy the integrity of the shell and its relationship to the frame.

Third, beefing up or adding a heavier frame to the Airstream will still not achieve your goals.

If you want to build a toy hauler, go find yourself some other brand of trailer to convert.

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Old 12-20-2006, 07:55 AM   #4
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You are taking on a very ambitious project. I have seen photos of a similar conversion to haul an automobile. It really looked neat, but it was a car hauler only and did not have any RV appointments.
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Old 12-20-2006, 10:05 AM   #5
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ditto

hi- I'm going to have to agree with the opinions of pizzachop and gstephens, despite my own penchant for changing things around to suit lifestyle and needs. I think the monoque/structural issue is huge, when considering cutting out the entire rear-end of the trailer to allow motorcycles to be driven in, never mind the weight of a 800 lb. Harley sitting on a plywood floor over minimal chassis framing, axle capacity, towing characteristics, etc. etc. I'm not saying don't do it, that is for you to decide- I just think you could end up with something very dangerous, if not completely ruined. I'd just get a long-bed, 3/4 ton (or 1 ton) truck, put the bike in there, and keep your Excella in it's vintage, safe configuration. Happy trails!-tim
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Old 12-20-2006, 10:26 AM   #6
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I'm no engineer, but I'd have concerns about the shell for the reasons stated as it is part of the load manager of the whole trailer and those ribs and such are aluminum, which can and will distort under loads they were not designed for.

I am sure there could be some engineering done to make it happen, but I don't know what that would be or how much it would cost. The worst thing I think one could do it simply place pig iron on the frame and think that would work (not that I think you'd do that).

Best of luck on your project and keep up posted on how it goes.
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Old 12-20-2006, 10:42 AM   #7
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Another option

Maybe you will consider placing the bike in a pickup tow vehicle. There are lots of options for loading a bike in a truck and you can have more usable camping space.
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Old 12-20-2006, 04:01 PM   #8
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Like moosetags said, it has been done several times and has been documented in Airstream Life and Trailer Life (with Airstreams) but you do give up a lot of camping space and you do have to do some heavy duty (pardon the pun) structural modifications. My main concern would be handling with a trailer that is that tail heavy, even if structurally modified to appropriate strength. Many people that have had toy haulers get rid of them after a season or two because they don't handle well when disproportionately tail heavy. Moving the bath is another really major undertaking as well.

Be sure that you plan this one out very carefully. Once you start, you can't stop. Once you finish, you can't go back.

And one more thing, welcome to the forums! We don't mean to be so negative, we just think this one bears out a little more thought.
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Old 12-20-2006, 07:15 PM   #9
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Thanks for the timely responses. You have given me considerable food for thought. Let me continue by letting you know that I am an engineer with 17 years experience in metal fab and machining. I realize that there are significant structural issues but me budget does not allow for a $20,000 toy hauler. My plan includes reconfig of bath not relocation. I will not be removing the entire "back" of the unit, just the portion occupied by the rear window and below to floor deck. the bikes will be loaded end to end up the center of the trailer. The forward bike will be positioned so the rear tire is located just over the forward axle. The second located directly behind. I need 20" width at floor height to clear foot pegs, etc. and 43" at handle bar height. I plan bulk head removal in favor of curtains, fold up bunks at mid station and reconfigure galley to accomidate width and length requirements. It appears the by reconfig of head that I can gain clear acces through rear.As for loaded weight, Iplan to travel with empty water and holding tanks. We will carry minimal camping support items and plan our trips to lodge at full hookup camp facilities. City water hook-up will also be utilized. We will not be utilizing this for "off road" service or boondocking. Maybe this will provide a better description of my temporary insanity. Please keep your minds as open as mine. I appericate all the feed back please keep them coming. THANKS, Mike
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Old 12-20-2006, 07:17 PM   #10
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It's possible but will be some work

Build a new frame using 8" deep channel sections, 1/4" thick web with 3/8" flanges, and it'll handle the weight no problem. For the middle 20', box the channel off with 1/4" plate. Center the 20' plate about the center of the axles. Make your cross members out of a lighter channel with vertical plates form big L's. Do that, and you've got plenty of frame.

The shell would also no longer be required to be semi-monocoque, but rather just along to keep the rain out. The new frame would carry all the bending loads.

Handling is another matter. I have an Excella 500 myself and am building a new frame for it. I wanted to mount my 350lb Kawasaki to the back bumper. It's no problem at all structurally with a frame like what I mentioned above. But, the handling of it could be a death trap, and I've basically abandoned the idea of putting a motorcycle out back.

In your case, you'd want to put the bikes as far forward as possible.

I saw a guy on here somewhere who did a really cool thing: He made like double doors up in the side where the normal door is and could pull his bike into the trailer sideways. That put the weight of the bike just ahead of the axles, where it's safe and won't hurt the handling. It'd work fine for one bike, and I'm considering something like that for my own. For two bikes, I don't know.

Good luck with it. It's a big project. It's not impossible, but it'll be a job.

Do some searching and find the links to the posts by and the website of the gentleman who modified a Spartanette type trailer to haul his Lincoln. It's a super cool project. He used air ride suspension so that he could modify the ride height/angle as needed. Very well done. Something like that would be the goal.

Keep us posted!
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Old 12-20-2006, 07:38 PM   #11
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Thanks Jim. Are you saying to fab a complete new frame, remount my axles, then set my trailer on top of this?
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Old 12-20-2006, 08:41 PM   #12
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o.k. so where is the thread on the Spartan reconfig to a classic car hauler??? That was a great thread with a photo essay to match. This would be a great way to reference the project.
Can anyone remember who did that one? I'm drawing a blank.
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Old 12-20-2006, 08:43 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmnorman
Thanks for the timely responses. You have given me considerable food for thought. Let me continue by letting you know that I am an engineer with 17 years experience in metal fab and machining.
Well then Mike, you are far better off than most that just know how to weld.

Keep us posted how it goes...it does sound like a neat project.
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Old 12-20-2006, 10:03 PM   #14
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The Spartanette thread WAS a neat project, but there are few similarities between the Spartanette configuration and that of an Airstream. Even so, the Spartanette wrecked on the first trip out after all that beautiful work. I hate to keep sounding like a broken record, but IT WILL NOT WORK to modify your Airstream as you describe. If you are a structural engineer, then search this site and read up on the semi-monoque design, its assets and its limitations. Read how others have attempted to make similar modifications to these trailers and I hope you will come to see that your idea won't work.
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