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Old 07-01-2013, 08:32 PM   #1
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1974 27' Overlander
Chatsworth , California
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Full Restoration Dent Removal

Hello Everyone,

3 weeks ago, I purchased a 1974 Airstream. A restoration had been attempted by two owners back. They removed the entire interior and replaced the water tanks. They gave up and the owner that I bought it from had it for a couple years. That was about 5 years ago. He basically put up some insulation, some 1x2 framing that was not done to well, and some jiffy boxes for 110. I was basically left with a shell, but as a contractor I figured that I could do everything myself. Plumbing, Electrical, Flooring, Polishing, and Cabinet work.

I have been reading up on everything I need to know, and have been sourcing parts from all over the country. I was able to source nearly all the emblems and missing trim. I also order a new air conditioner, 10 gallon water heater, furnace, a tub pan, and toilet. In the meantime, I have ripped the interior insulation out and 1x2 framing and stripped many of the exterior items before I started polishing.

I am in the greater Los Angeles area and have already been to Inland RV to see Andy and C & G Trailer Service to see Rod. I have also ordered some items from air stream supply as well. I have also heard good things from Colaw Salvage. Anyways I am still sourcing parts, so if any of you know places to locate airstream specific parts, that would be greatly helpful.

The question that I have it that there is a dent in the front passenger side that is significant. I have talked to some paintless dent repair mechanics, but they say that aluminum is not sheet metal and it is harder to work with. It may even have to be heated up to be reformed. Has anyone had any luck with a paintless dent mechanic, or should I consider replacing and/or leaving it.

I have attached some pictures of my brother and myself on some homemade scaffolding polishing the roof in 100+ heat, as well as what it looked like before the polishing began. There is also a picture of the interior stripped down to sheet metal.
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Old 07-01-2013, 08:46 PM   #2
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Grant,
Welcome to the forum, sir!!! It's really looking good! A couple of thoughts for you to consider as you go down this road. Take lots of pictures, that will help as you put things together and it will encourage you as you make the journey to see your progress! Also, the enormity of the project will possibly overwhelm you from time to time. It may be that you just need to step back from your work on the trailer and put it on your calendar that you will start back in a week or two.

I've found that when I get discouraged, I'm basically exhausted...maybe physically or maybe mentally or both. So I have a little talk with myself and tell myself that my problem is fatigue and I will feel better about everything in a day or two.

All my best,

Steve
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Old 07-01-2013, 09:07 PM   #3
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You will get the best advise available right here on the forums. Anything you need, it's all here. I really can't see the dent your asking about in the photo's but if it's on the curved end panels I think replacement is the best option. If on the straight panels replacement is probably also the way to go but they are much easier to deal with. Especially since you have the interior open. I don't think you'll be happy with any effort to straighten it. Now, that is quite a polish job. Remind me to keep my sunglasses on when you drive by.
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Old 07-01-2013, 09:44 PM   #4
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Heating the panel - not a good idea to do with anything stronger than a hair dryer. Aluminum will burn, so keep the blowtorches well away!

Creases don't come out. Dishes do. Stretched metal doesn't re-form without extreme expertise and specialty tools. English wheel?

Look for an aircraft airframe mechanic to assess the damage. If anyone can do a credible job of minimizing an aluminum scar so much that only you notice it - that's your guy.

Oh - and show us the dent. We can give you a pretty good assessment.

Paula
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Old 07-01-2013, 11:43 PM   #5
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Dent repair using load jacks - Airstream Forums

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Old 07-02-2013, 11:36 AM   #6
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Dent Pictures

Sorry I thought that I had attached the dent pictures. It is less noticeable now that it is polished, but it is as if it had been pulled through some shrubbery on the door side. Some of the scratches are too deep to polish out, and if the only way to repair them would be replacing most of the skin on the drivers side, then they will be staying. I think that the major dent can be popped out, and even if a crease is left where it was popped, that would be acceptable. But again, I haven't worked with aluminum sheet metal before.
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Old 07-02-2013, 01:25 PM   #7
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Roll it out - since you've got the inside skins off, get a dent roller (or steal a wide roller off of a bed) and gently gently gently roll and push the dent out from the edges to the middle. It's easy to go too far so don't try to push it all the way out in one pass. Six to eight will do just fine. One member even used a slightly under inflated basketball to remove his dent, but yours looks a bit too small - maybe a soccer ball?

If you've got a place on an inside skin that will be covered by a refrigerator or something, you could even make a dent and practice fixing it there first.

The crease will remain, but if you can reduce the dimple, it will be even less noticeable.

Good luck. Paula
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Old 07-02-2013, 02:46 PM   #8
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Roller and heat. Mark the heat with TempLac. I used an electric heat gun for heat.

`
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Old 07-02-2013, 03:12 PM   #9
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I had several dents in the back top, of my 68 when I got it. Usual cause, some PO had backed under a low hanging garage. I had a dent removal guy who I had used with great success on several car dings come out and give it a try. He worked for about 45 minutes but with no luck. The aluminum is much stiffer and harder than auto body sheet metal and it just will not "work". The fellow I used is very good with years of experience and he had no luck. Since my dents were up high, I use a body hammer and dolly to VERY gently work the areas. After polishing the trailer the dings which are up high are barely noticeable. My advise is don't waste your money on a paintless dent repair.
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Old 07-02-2013, 05:19 PM   #10
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The metal in your end caps (all panels of the front and back ends) is an aluminum alloy called 2024-T0. This means that they are not heat treated which allows these panels to be easily formed into compound curves on a stretch form. The disadvantage to this un-tempered metal is that it does not hold it shape very well and is easily dented or bent.

I have had some success in reforming the metal with a roller and using a dolly and body hammer. I think that if you had someone to back up the dent on the outside with something like a 2X10 and hammered it gently from the inside (work from the perimeter to the interior of the crease in little steps, I think that this dent could be improved quite a bit. Take a look at a mallet like this and see what you think about the concept. Note: proceed at your own risk.
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Old 07-02-2013, 05:40 PM   #11
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I've had some success with straightening dents on my trailer in the end cap and elsewhere. Here is a dent caused from the tail being thumped on the ground.


Here's the same corner after straightening using a roller and a hammer and dolly. I've also installed an internal doubler and done some other frame strengthening. However, I had to bring the corner out to contour before I installed the doubler.

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Old 07-02-2013, 05:46 PM   #12
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Here's a thread on dent rollers that was started by Aerowood, who is a master airframe mechanic in Colorado. There is a significant discussion of rollers for dents in Airstreams including a roller that Kim (AKA Aerowood) made and sold for folks on this forum.

Steve
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Old 07-02-2013, 06:20 PM   #13
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The dent on my trailer had memory without heat. With heat it pushed out with almost no pressure. I used the jacks and forms with heat and then finished up with heat and roller.

The job was easier than thinking about it. After the trailer was polished, the repair spot was hard to see.

`
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Old 07-03-2013, 01:42 AM   #14
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Dent Removal and Scaffolding

Thanks everyone. I will try to roll the dent out, but I believe that it just popped back when I put some pressure on it. I will try again and possibly have to hold it in place and hit it with some gentle heat from a heat gun. Someone Pm'ed about the scaffolding I built, and wanted to know if it was safe and strong. It is and held 700lbs. I don't know how to send him a picture, so I am just going to post it here. It shows how it is braced to the ground to be strong.

Tomorrow the AC and Fantastic Fans go up, and possibly the solar panels and vent pipe covers. Thanks for the advice.

Grant
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