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Old 01-19-2018, 09:50 AM   #1
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1973 31' Excella 500
Dallas , Texas
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 8
Hey Everybody! Renovating a '73 Excella 500!

After traveling around the country for the past year and a half in a Casita Travel Trailer, I've found a new project: my girlfriend's recently purchased Excella. The shell is in good shape, but we found - like so many others - rotted floors at the ends and somewhat severe rust near the rear of the frame. This was going to be a cosmetic update only, but is now a full renovation. I've been researching everything on this incredible forum over the past couple of months and finally got around to registering.

Things we've already accomplished:
1) Removing/Upgrading weatherstripping on all hatch windows and doors
2) Gutted everything (kept about 80% of it)
3) Removed Interior Skins and Insulation
4) Removed 98% of Subflooring (hope to remove edges and replace with new boards in sections. Due to limited space, shell-off did not seem possible)
5) Welded new pieces to fix rear of frame

Things we're currently tackling include:
1) Weatherproofing seams and rivets from inside and out with Trempro 635
2) Installing new MaxxFan Deluxe fans and patching holes in roof
3) Redoing the broken dump valve connections for a 2 grey tank setup (composting toilet ahead)
4) Painting the frame
5) Deciding on subfloor, flooring material, and insulation

Thanks for reading and for all the help this community has provided already. Any suggestions are more than welcome!

Cheers,
Drew
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Old 01-19-2018, 06:46 PM   #2
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1986 34' Limited
1975 27' Overlander
Conifer , Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 4,102
Images: 1
Hello and welcome from Colorado: I'm glad you decided to join these Forums. It sounds like you two jumped into the deep end all ready. Your aggressive approach is exactly what is needed to bring these old Airstreams back to "travel ready status" as I call it.

You and yours have a lot more work a head, although enjoyable work in my view. I'd figure a total of about 1200 hours work and about $12,000 total spend on the new stuff. I think that is the scope of a total renovation.

I have a 75 Overlander that I'm renovating, but not to the extent of your project. I have repaired the rear floor rot and rusty frame members. I've repaired the "rear end separation". I am installing the new waste water tanks now. I have new axles, brakes, bearings and shocks on order. I've started replumbing the ABS drain lines just today. I have much more to do.

I believe the Excella 500 was the top of the Airstream line in 73. Your girlfriend knows how to pick'em.

David
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Link to my 1975 Overlander Improvement Journal:
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Old 01-21-2018, 09:42 PM   #3
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1973 31' Excella 500
Dallas , Texas
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 8
Thanks for the reply, David! The new axles, breaks, bearings, and shocks are really going to make a difference for you - I changed the single axle on my Casita to a "high-rise" axle, added shocks, and upsized the wheels from 14" to 15" and it was a whole new beast!

My drain line upgrade/fix would have been completed today had I not grabbed 1-1/2" pvc instead of 2"...measure twice, buy once or something like that, right?

We were able to have another piece of the frame fixed today by the welder (a crack appeared - or went unnoticed - by one of the axles), patched a 2'x1' spot on the roof where a previous antenna was installed. It looked like a shotgun had peppered the outer skin with holes, but it's all sealed now and rain-tested! The welder helped me get the new 1/2" hex bolts through the frame and rear C-channel too, so hopefully our separation is solved too. Good day overall.

Best of luck to you on the Overlander!
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Old 01-22-2018, 08:08 PM   #4
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1986 34' Limited
1975 27' Overlander
Conifer , Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 4,102
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Thanks for the good luck wishes on my Overlander. I'll need it.

I carefully inspected my frame and did not see any cracks or buckles. I understand that the axle mounting plate can develop stress cracks in these trailers. I read on these Forums that the "lightening holes" that Airstream stamped in these plates weakened the plates some. And I think that Airstream was shifting weight to the rear of these trailers to reduce tongue weight. We have to remember these 6000 pound trailers were being pulled by 1975 Chevy Caprice with maybe 200 horsepower, a long trunk behind the rear axle, and soft suspensions. Tow vehicles weren't the greatest back then. They had to keep the tongue weight low so that old Chevy wouldn't bottom out. Maybe the frame wasn't strong enough to "teeter-totter" the extra weight in the rear of the trailer when bouncing over rough pavement and potholes.

I'm satisfied I got my frame repaired. The mobile welder had nine areas to weld up for me. I feel I'm back to full strength now. Frame, subfloor, and shell all have to work together as none of them are strong enough to carry the loads by themselves.

David
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