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Old 11-21-2013, 09:40 AM   #1
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1975 31' Excella 500
Ames , Iowa
Join Date: Nov 2013
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New owner, exciting aquisition

Hello all!
I have been looking for a camper solution for a few years, bouncing back & forth between renovating a motorized RV or a shuttle bus. In my search for the perfect vehicle I found an 1969 Avion for sale in my home town. The price was right, but it was a lost cause. It got me thinking about the advantages of a trailer and how cool vintage aluminum is. I hit craigslist and found a promising 1977 AS Excella only 5 hours (!) away near Topeka. After talking with the owner for a while i decided it was worth the trip.
On arrival, I found pretty much what I expected and hoped for. For a 36 year old trailer it was in better than average condition. Some floor rot, a dent and a ruined fresh water system. Bought it for the asking price of $2500. Getting it home was the exciting part...
She had new tires and seemed to ride okay. My old truck (1999 Ram 1500 4x4) didn't much care for the tow and dropped to 7 mpg, but seemed to handle it okay.
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My newly installed brake controller worked great, which was a very good thing when the front right wheel of my fell off at 65 mph just outside of Kansas City. That's right: My wheel fell off.
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Evidently, the lugs had been over-tightened. I think the trailer brakes acting as an anchor are the only thing that stopped me from heading for the ditch or swerving into oncoming traffic! Once I got slowed down, my wheel passed me in the ditch at about 50 mph. Very surreal. Long story short, I was very lucky I didn't hit someone or have a totally wrecked vehicle. I got the wheel back, got a tow and had it repaired (on a Sunday) in less than 5 hours. The day cost me about $1000 more than I had planned, but it was a small price to pay.
I am now 2 weeks into the renovation. I'm pretty much gutting it and starting from scratch.
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Look for me in the repair forums!

iowamike
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Old 11-21-2013, 10:01 AM   #2
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1965 26' Overlander
Ferndale , Washington
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Great story Mike! Glad you, the truck and the trailer survived with minimal drama.
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Old 11-21-2013, 10:12 AM   #3
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That truck wheel incident reinforces the concept of using a torque wrench on wheel lug nuts versus an air impact wrench set at who knows what torque value which changes with the air pressure in the line.

At my local CostCo tire service, the the final tightening is done to the manufactures lug nut torque value with a calibrated torque wrench.

Mercedes years ago would fire a mechanic if they used an impact wrench on wheel bolts because they could warp the disk brake rotors as well as over stress the wheel bolts.

Welcome to the forums. Lots of renovation reading here to cure insomnia.
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Old 11-21-2013, 12:05 PM   #4
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Town , Iowa
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Wow Mike that story will be around for years to come. Winter is on the way in Iowa, will you be working on the AS or wait til Spring. Welcome and good luck.
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Old 11-21-2013, 12:49 PM   #5
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1975 31' Excella 500
Ames , Iowa
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I'm getting as much done as I can before the snow flies! It may do so in a matter of hours though!

I have the floor rot cut out and I am hoping to get it repaired before it gets cold enough to keep my butt inside.
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Old 11-21-2013, 01:18 PM   #6
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Looks like you have a plan! Looks great so far but are you planning to repair or replace the floor? Enjoy you purchase and I prefer bow ties to mopars which is old school because they are so much the same now.
Cliff
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Old 11-21-2013, 02:22 PM   #7
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1975 31' Excella 500
Ames , Iowa
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Except for the three areas in the photos, the floor is in pretty good shape. My plan in to replace those areas with 3/4 exterior plywood. I will grind out a scarf joint so the patches will have 2-3" of overlap with the existing floor. I will be using a lot of fiberglass roving and West 105/205 epoxy to hopefully keep it from happening again.

edit: the big patch where the toilet was was patched by the PO with MDF and was pretty bad. I expanded the area to be replaced so that the 2 inner edges will sit on the (rusted but solid) frame rails. I will probably remove some of the belly pan to run some screws up through the flooring into the shell rim.

The black water tank is badly broken and I can't find a replacement at the moment. I'm just flooring it over for now & will run with a porta pot until I can find a solution.
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Old 11-21-2013, 04:21 PM   #8
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Hook up the furnace and you will be able to work on the inside no matter what the outside temp is.
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Old 11-21-2013, 04:57 PM   #9
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Hook up the furnace and you will be able to work on the inside no matter what the outside temp is.
Be careful with an old furnace. If cracked or damaged you could have gas leaks or carbon monoxide.
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Old 11-23-2013, 05:42 AM   #10
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1969 18' Caravel
, Iowa
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Hi Mike & Welcome to the Airstream family!
I'm glad your 'mishap' resulted in only minimal damage and no injuries.
Just out of curiosity I ask, during your search for a motorhome/trailer, did you happen to see an Airstream funeral coach there in Ames? I spotted one there (off Lincolnway, on the East side of town) several years ago and wonder what became of it. It appeared tired; but I've thought one of these would make a neat project resulting in a classy motorhome with room enough to carry a motorcycle or two, or maybe an ATV, with ramp access.
Anyway, it sounds like you are making good progress on your trailer and I hope to run into you sometime here in Iowa.
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Old 11-23-2013, 09:44 AM   #11
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New Owner, Harrowing Experience!

Thank you for sharing! Glad you're safe, keep us updated on your progress.
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Old 11-25-2013, 12:35 PM   #12
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1975 31' Excella 500
Ames , Iowa
Join Date: Nov 2013
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Hi Mike & Welcome to the Airstream family!
I'm glad your 'mishap' resulted in only minimal damage and no injuries.
Just out of curiosity I ask, during your search for a motorhome/trailer, did you happen to see an Airstream funeral coach there in Ames? I spotted one there (off Lincolnway, on the East side of town) several years ago and wonder what became of it. It appeared tired; but I've thought one of these would make a neat project resulting in a classy motorhome with room enough to carry a motorcycle or two, or maybe an ATV, with ramp access.
Anyway, it sounds like you are making good progress on your trailer and I hope to run into you sometime here in Iowa.
I haven't seen anything like that around here. Sounds interesting though!
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Old 11-25-2013, 04:55 PM   #13
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This is my first message since buying my 20ft Flying Cloud exactly 3 years ago, so bear with me please and excuse me if this isn't the proper forum. I would like to ask something related to IowaMike's wheel loss. Just having a single axle with two wheels on my unit makes me nervous, for reasons such as what Mike experienced or just a tire failure while driving 60mph. Can someone provide me with some feedback please re your own expeiences? (Hint: The preferred answer is nothing happens... ). Than you. Jon
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Old 11-25-2013, 05:48 PM   #14
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Newport , North Carolina
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Jon, I am by no means a pro but at 57 I do feel qualified to answer your question. Wheel falling off a road kill yeti getting stuck in the belly pan or in the case of the unsinkable titanic an ice issue! The best we can do is insure the axle is of the proper capacity and the tires are good brakes works properly and we drive safely! There is nothing that is 100% safe (before you answer remember asteroids) we only do the best we can in get some good insurance!
It is just my opinion take it as you will
Cliff
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