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Old 01-04-2016, 11:14 AM   #1
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1968 28' Ambassador
Southwest Ranches , Florida
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'68 Ambassador Frame Repair & Aluminum Body Segments

Hi everyone!

Myself and my fiance recently bought a 1968 Ambassador LY Int. and we have plenty of questions. We've been working on it for a month now and so far have it almost completely gutted, but we've encountered some issues which seem to be unique to the '68 model year. I've done some research on the forums but haven't found much to specifically address our issues.

First, we've removed the floor, subfloor, spray foam insulation, and most of the belly pan. In the process, we've found that the steel frame has sagged on the curbside behind the wheel well. This is a result of previous owners welding a hitch on the back bumper and TOWING AN ATV FROM IT (isn't that atrocious?). There is a very obvious buckling of the frame that has caused the rear end to sag about 1-2" from the bend to the end of the bumper. It is only on the curbside, which leads us to believe that it is the result of the weight of the ATV, as opposed to rear-end separation. We have a welder who is going to make some repairs once everything is off. We're building Gantry frames to hoist off the shell in order to get a better look at the frame and make more long-term repairs. Having said that, I'm having a lot of trouble finding parts for the frame. First, the outriggers are 5" tall, which seems to be the measurement for the 1969+ model and not the 1968. Additionally, the main cross members alternate between 4.5" and 5" as they go from the rear to the front of the frame (please see attached). On top of that, they are 55" from the upper part of the main steel frame (~58" if you measure to the inside of the frame's inward facing "C"). Above the cross members that are 4.5" was a piece of 3/4" plywood that was 6" wide and ran across most of the 55" cross member. As such, we have TWO sizes of cross member.

Would it just be easier to replace them all with the same size?

Also, as with the other '68's, the aluminum body segments on the side do not stop at the lower trim (48"), they actually continue down to almost 5 feet or a little less. As such, I'm also having a lot of trouble finding 2024T3 0.032" Alclad aluminum sheets that are this size (and they need to be 14' and 18' to replace both sides, which are severely damaged due to a previous owners cutting them down the middle and carelessly slapping on a new piece of lower quality aluminum (see attached, there is an extra line of rivets going along the center around the same level of the International badge).

I guess for now that's all of my questions! I appreciate any help I can get!

Thanks, everybody!

Nick
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Old 01-04-2016, 08:46 PM   #2
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I did post a frame repair video on youtube. You should be able to find it by searching Airstream Frame Repair. The picture with the video is a shot of the side part of the frame at the rear bumper.

I purchase flat bars and I already had some plate stock. I used those to fabricate pieces to sistered to the places I repaired. I think your welder friend will have no trouble cutting the steel to the size you need.

For me, I want to have some decent metal in my frame. Sure folks want to keep the weight down, but I want to fix my frame one time. As you found out the frames can be overloaded, I think I read that rear bath model have more rear frame trouble.

I recommend you pick a bar or plate thickness that is around 3/16" thick for the frame and less for the outriggers. If you are concerned about weight, you can add up the square inches of the material and apply the weight per square inch to see how much you will be adding.
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Old 01-04-2016, 09:06 PM   #3
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1968 28' Ambassador
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Thanks for the info! He's coming out tomorrow and we should be best to get some answers from him then.

I'll take a look at your video!

Nick
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Old 01-09-2016, 10:34 PM   #4
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Hey Nick, I found your post finally. We are a month or so behind you with our demo.
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Old 01-10-2016, 07:39 AM   #5
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pics from last october when we were bringing here home.
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Old 01-10-2016, 07:43 AM   #6
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Thats a little better
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Old 01-10-2016, 03:28 PM   #7
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Congrats! The shell seems to be in much better shape than ours was when we got it! We're gearing up to take the shell off in the next week.

What's your plan for moving forward?

Nick
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Old 01-10-2016, 08:03 PM   #8
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Gut it, pull the floor up, then decide weather or not to pull the shell off. There is a good sized dent in the front outside cap on the curbside. I need to figure that out once I can pull the inner skins. It has the original a/c which I have to replace. None of the electrical is functional so it will need to be replaced and I can see that the gas lines have been cut underneath.
Where did you trailer spend most of its life? Do you have any of the original paperwork? Mine was originally sold in Indiana and I think it spent most of its life there. The previous owner had no paperwork and no manual.
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Old 01-10-2016, 09:16 PM   #9
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1968 26' Overlander
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I found that "panic" set in a little when I first ripped off all of the floor boards in the back of mine. The far rear cross member was gone, the black tank was resting on the belly pan with no crossmember supports left but rusty dirt in the pan... Rust on everything! After I dropped the belly pan on myself and squirrels nests fell in my fave, I said enough! I went to Lowes and bought 4x4x12s, a bunch of lag bolts, and I built the gantries. It sounded so much easier than working underneath trying to put the belly pan BACK on while laying in the mud.
I suggest you do the full monte, pull the frame out, strip it all down, take a good look at it... Then walk away for a few days and then come back and look at it again. It doesn't look as bad after the panic settles down. And you can really see what is just surface rust and what is rot. Sandblasting works wonders!
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Old 01-10-2016, 09:24 PM   #10
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As far as your different sized cross members, that is how it is made from the factory! Don't change it. Just replace the boards that went over the 4.5" cross members. Those "join together" the 4x8' sheets of plywood with lots of staples (or decking screws would be easier) to form one giant connected floorboard. The frame actually gets a lot of its support and stiffness from the plywood subfloor itself.
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Old 01-11-2016, 07:34 AM   #11
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1968 28' Ambassador
Southwest Ranches , Florida
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Ours spent it's life in Connecticut, Ohio, and for the last 15-20 years, central Florida, which is where it got the most abuse. You may notice the badge on the side that looks like a Sheriff's badge, right? Wrong, it's the security badge for a place called the Redneck Yacht Club here in Florida, and it is exactly what it sounds. A bunch of drunk rednecks riding ATV's. So, as you can imagine, most of the abuse came from here. Truly a tragedy to be honest...

SonOfAnder -

I actually really like that they were used to provide support, so I will definitely be using this when the new subfloor comes back on. Trying to figure out what to use as a fastener between the two pieces of wood. It looks like it originally was haphazardly stapled, but I think I'd like to do something a little more...permanent.

Yes, I definitely remember ripping that floor up in the back after feeling the floor sag when walking to the bathroom and thinking, "What the hell have we gotten ourselves into." But hey, we're still here and still going! We've tried to stay positive after just about everything has gone wrong though. We even found out that the two longest aluminum panels on the exterior (14' and 18') were cut down the middle throughout the full length (for some unknown reason) and had a new piece of lower quality aluminum slapped on top of the old one. This new piece was overlapped in the wrong direction (so the seam faced up) and now there's been years and years of water flowing in both sides and rusting outriggers left and right.
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Old 01-11-2016, 07:40 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bababouy View Post
Gut it, pull the floor up, then decide weather or not to pull the shell off. There is a good sized dent in the front outside cap on the curbside. I need to figure that out once I can pull the inner skins. It has the original a/c which I have to replace. None of the electrical is functional so it will need to be replaced and I can see that the gas lines have been cut underneath.
Where did you trailer spend most of its life? Do you have any of the original paperwork? Mine was originally sold in Indiana and I think it spent most of its life there. The previous owner had no paperwork and no manual.
If you need gantries, we'll be done with ours in a few weeks! We're almost done building some massive gantries out of PT 4x4's and 8 inch bolts, so it isn't going anywhere. We've also got 2, 1/2 ton chain hoists, which is enough to lift the shell off but probably not the frame. Not sure if it'll actually be better to upgrade so we can lift the frame, though.
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Old 01-11-2016, 06:15 PM   #13
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1968 26' Overlander
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Geeeez that sounds like your airstream has seen some good times in its past! I'm sure you'll have it fixed up right in no time. I should have a "prototype" outrigger built hopefully this week and will post it for you to check it out.
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Old 01-18-2016, 09:26 PM   #14
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Thanks Nick. Ill let you know when im ready for them. I still haven't had a chance to start the gutting. When I geet down to it, I may need your welder's number.
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