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Old 01-18-2009, 03:16 PM   #1
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1974 27' Overlander
Park City , Utah
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First Post Here -- The End of Triage

Hello all. I've been meaning to start posting here for a while, since I bought my 74 Overlander International - rear bath double about two months ago. And, procrastinator that I am, two months is not all that bad for me. One thing I have not procrastinated on, out of necessity, is doing the original set of what I would call "triage" repairs on my Airstream. I call them "triage" because, due to the fact I am living in the trailer as I write this -- in fact since I purchased it -- and doing so in a pretty extreme winter climate, these initial repairs were matters of necessity, not mere option, and more than once seemed akin to battlefield repairs.

I did manage to record most of what I have done in pictures, so in future posts, for the benefit of anyone facing similar challenges, I will try to describe in more detail the things I have done, or in some cases, endured. Almost none of which I could have done without the help of previous posters on this site, leading the way.

I read here one time that no matter what their initial impressions, anyone who buys a 20 - 40 year old Airstream is generally in for at least a year of general discovery and repairs before their trailer approaches something like full functionality. I wholeheartedly agree. In my case, though, out of necessity as I have said, I compressed that year into two months of full time work, sometimes literally night and day.

I did all my homework -- trying to figure out what things to check in a used trailer, pricing, various advantages and pitfalls. In the end, however, I bought the trailer that seemed to have my name on it, if you know what I mean. It was in the right place at the right time, seemed like the right trailer, right size and age, something like the right price. At some point, I figuratively put one hand over my eyes, and with the other handed over the few thousand dollars of consideration, and I was an Airstream owner.

As you have probably already gathered, I tend to go on a bit when writing -- I'm a lawyer by trade, so probably predictably -- so I'll try to cut this introductory post short, with just a few more comments. One more thing about me. As a white collar type, I am anything but a mechanical do-it-yourselfer. The last time I actually built something was probably in 5th grade shop class. So, why I would buy a vintage Airstream with the idea of fixing it up myself, parking it in a high altitude winter climate right at winter's onset (Park City, Utah – 7000 feet high, 300 inches of snow a year), and then resolve to live in it for the same winter, all of this is a bit beyond me. Without getting too mystical about the whole thing, I believe there is some kind of journey involved here that someone, something, who knows, conspired to set me out on. And so, here I am.

My Airstream, when purchased, I can now say with a certain amount of actual knowledge, was actually in pretty decent shape. Which is to say, it was not a fully functional, livable unit (which, by the way, is what I expected it to be in my relative ignorance), but neither was it in such a bad state that a return to livability could only be accomplished with full gutting and restoration. And, whether or not any Airstream is truly "winter-worthy", well you be the judge. Mine, I now believe, is pretty close.

Here is a partial laundry list of what I have done, learned, experienced, endured over the last two months -- all done solely by yours truly, all on a complete, and sometimes exasperating trial-and-error basis (since I confess I absolutely no, zero, nada experience at this sort of thing):
· rebuild original toilet.
· rebuild shower faucet
· rebuild kitchen faucet
· fix first set of plumbing leaks and problems
· fix second set of plumbing leaks and problems
· attempt to fix third, fourth, fifth and on and on.
· scrap all attempts -- replace all major plumbing systems.
· making the trailer winter-worthy, consisting of: attempting to insulate pipes, scrapping attempt to insulate pipes, designing and building auxiliary plumbing heating system (mostly geared to heating the rear compartment that houses what I call the "plumbing nerve center" of my Airstream), identifying the major heat-loss culprits in the trailer, figuring out ways to seal up these culprits, figuring out ways to seal up culprits that do not create new problems (there were more than one of these), skirting the trailer (which, as many owners say, I do recommend, but which I believe is far from the most important element in Airstream winter-worthiness.
Along the way, I realized I had entered into a sort of love-hate relationship with my Airstream. On days when it's cold outside, and all is clean, warm and cozy inside, like right now, of course it's love. But let me spot an infernal drip drip somewhere, let alone a full-on Old Faithful geyser of water shooting out of somewhere, and love can, and often has, turned quickly to -- you guessed it.

But love or hate, it has turned into something undeniably intimate. There are a number of things that drew me into buying an Airstream in the first place, things which I am sure I share with many people on this forum: a love of classic Americana, a love of classic things in general, a strong desire for independence, freedom, all those things that used to be a part of our national esprit. In fact, it's that sort of frontier spirit that strikes me as the strongest thing. Independence, freedom, and also a kind of intimate connection with the thing that gives you shelter. This last thing would seem strongest among those owners, like me, who without apparent rhyme or reason, would prefer to buy a vintage trailer over a new one even if cost were not a factor, and resolve, whether qualified or experienced or not, to do all the repairing and restoration themselves. Such an endeavor, at least in my case, seems to have created a very intimate connection between the trailer and me -- almost as if the trailer were a living and breathing companion. Neglect her, and she will surely neglect me at the next cold snap. Give her the right amount of love and attention, and yes, she returns it in kind. OK, I realize I'm getting "out there," but so be it.

I've put up a few introductory pics. I'm not sure how to link to them from here, but they are all under the heading of first images – 74overlander. I’ve attached them to this post as well, so I suppose I will see how it all comes out. Each one, for me, has a certain amount of significance.

§ Receipts – Whatever price I paid for my Airstream soon became pretty much irrelevant against the growing piles of receipts from Walmart (thank god for Walmart), Home Depot, State Trailer Supply, Lowes, and various plumbing supply houses.
§ Trailer in winter – pretty much the trailer as it sits right now, all cozy and warm for the winter
§ Three pictures of some of the trailer’s original equipment – the range, the kitchen sinks, the old Thetford galaxy. I put these up to make a point. Although many, including me, who buy an old Airstream, can’t wait to fix it up, to “modernize” it, there are elements to the original construction that are pretty amazing in their own right. The stainless steel of the original range and kitchen sinks, after a good amount of cleaning and scrubbing, is pretty near dazzling in my book. And even the old Thetford toilet – all I will say is this: bringing it back to full functionality was a pretty humbling experience. But, having done so, I wonder how many of the new models, Bravura, or whatever, will still be looking good and functioning in a decent manner in 2043. We’ll see.

So, that’s it. Sorry for droning on, but that’s my way. Soon enough, I will start putting up individual posts about repairs and modifications I have made to the trailer.

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Old 01-18-2009, 03:41 PM   #2
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Jeff, welcome to the Forum. As a lawyer, thankfully retired, I didn't think you went on too long. After all, it's people like us who give the word "brief", new meaning.

Looks like you're doing a good job and there's nothing like diving in and learning the hard way. There's a book published (I think) by Woodall's that explains how everything works and is very useful in understanding the essence of trailers. Check Amazon, it's probably there, every other book is.

I think we stayed at that same campground last September for one night, even possibly in the same spot. At the time there was no snow. It looks better with snow. I believe you are at the only RV campground close to Park City, next to the interstate and with all the deluxe pads for motorhomes above and the spots for riffraff like us at the bottom.

So, Jeff, are you practicing law there, or are you there for Sundance and skiing?

Keep up your story. I think it will be interesting and informative.


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Old 01-18-2009, 06:13 PM   #3
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Jeff, Welcome.

I redid an Overlander back in 2002 that I was living in full time. Every step had to be carefully planned to be started and finished in one weekend. I think mine was a little more livable right of the bat--good kitchen and bath.

First thing I did was cut the tub in half (made it into shower only) and moved the bedroom aft 12" to give me more room on the kitchen counter. Later I rotated the sink sideways. Together, those two moves actually created some real countertop space.

When I moved the beds aft, I also converted from a twin to a double.

Good luck, even big efforts can be tackled!

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Old 01-18-2009, 06:17 PM   #4
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If you aren't happy with doing the lawyer thing I think you have great potential as a writer.
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Old 01-18-2009, 07:27 PM   #5
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Welcome to the forum. Thanks for posting the pictures - they say a lot.
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Old 01-18-2009, 08:21 PM   #6
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Welcome. You are a brave soul for jumping right in and doing it just before the Park City winter. Glad you're here. Keep up with the restoration.

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Old 01-18-2009, 10:13 PM   #7
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I saw the word "triage" in your post title and thought it was going to be from someone from the medical field! Good luck getting your new 'partner' whipped into shape!
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Old 01-19-2009, 04:18 AM   #8
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Really enjoyed your writing. I will also live in my projects when finished so it was good to get a first hand report.
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Old 01-19-2009, 05:36 AM   #9

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Thumbs up Verbosity Welcome.....

Originally Posted by riggsco View Post
And, procrastinator that I am,
As you have probably already gathered, I tend to go on a bit when writing -- I'm a lawyer by trade, so probably predictably -- One more thing about me. As a white collar type, I am anything but a mechanical do-it-yourselfer. The last time I actually built something was probably in 5th grade shop class.

So, that’s it. Sorry for droning on, but that’s my way. Soon enough, I will start putting up individual posts about repairs and modifications I have made to the trailer.


Welcome Aboard

(Gene, looks as though you've got some friendly competition)

Procrastination?....I don't think so!! You just got your priorities in order right from the beginning. Qudos on a terrific start to your aluminum adventure. Your writting is terrific, pictures outstanding and the work looks first rate. Looking forward to many more posts.

AF #1

"Sticks & stones can break your bones...and hail will dent your Airstream"

So when is this..."old enough to know better" supposed to kick in?
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Old 01-19-2009, 09:23 AM   #10
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Very nice job on the sink and range. How in the world did you get it looking that good (range)? What's your secret?
I have a '75 and would love to get mine looking like yours. Mine is pitting and there is rust under the folding top.
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Old 01-19-2009, 07:30 PM   #11
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1974 27' Overlander
Park City , Utah
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I can't say there was any big secret. This was one of the easiest things I have undertaken. Other than ordinary cleaning and scrubbing, I used some stuff called Stainless Steel Magic that I found browsing the aisles at Home Depot. In a silver spray can. Costs about $5 a can.

My range still has a few pits and all, but with every cleaning it looks better.
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Old 01-19-2009, 08:08 PM   #12
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jeff - lotsa guts, jumping right in there like that. congratulations to you!! sounds like you've got a good handle on getting it all done. and, BTW, i don't think you have any idea what real procrastination is. danalee is right - you're a good writer, keep it coming.

j. foxworthy describes a Texan as one for whom 60 degrees is 'chilly'. SO TRUE. Your snow is beautiful to look at, but I just couldn't do that. Obviously your furnace must be in fantastic working condition.
I love that old time rock & roll.
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Old 01-19-2009, 08:22 PM   #13
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1974 27' Overlander
Park City , Utah
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Hi to all,

Thanks for the support. I should have expected no less from fellow airstreamers on this site. A few more specific comments:

Thanks to anyone and everyone who complimented me on my writing. As a lawyer, most of my writing tends to cause the exact opposite response.

Gene, I still practice law. I have sort of commuted between Park City and Los Angeles for the last 5 years or so, after I moved my two kids here with their mom. Among other things, Park City is a wonderful place for kids to grow up. My Airstream replaces the condo I was renting here.

Zep, I can't believe how similar our ideas are, right down to cutting 12" off the bathroom. When I am done, this former double - rear bath will have a closed off, private bedroom up front and an open air kitchen - living room stretching 12" past the current bathroom wall. I'm going to check out your profile and, with your permission, steal a few ideas I'm sure.

Most likely, my next few posts will cover my odyssey through the Airstream's plumbing system. As I mentioned in my first post, this consisted of 4 or 5 weeks of trying to fix a broken system piecemeal -- one made up of rubber hose, plumber's epoxy and ancient copper pipe, swollen by repeated freezings to every inside and outside diameter other than anything standard -- followed by tearing out the whole system and replacing it all with new stuff. If I had to give this little story a title in hindsight, I would call it "When in Doubt, Rip it Out!" See attached photo.

Oh, to Gene, yes, I'm sure this is the same campground/RV Park. It's called Park City RV Resort, the only RV Park in Park City. It's a great place, I think. Longer term tenants, like me, are sited on the lower levels of the grounds, which I really enjoy. It's secluded, quiet, and on certain cold, crystal clear winter nights, I can see the moon rise and set through the ceiling porthole windows in my Airstream -- one of those little, but very special things about Airstream living, at least for me. And I have to give thanks to the owners -- Doug and Jane. They've put up with a lot of hammer-banging and late night power drill grinding from me, not to mention the one, or two, ok, the many, temper-tantrums from me trying to get a half inch pipe fitting onto a pipe swollen to one-half plus one millionth of an inch. All things considered, they definitely rate a plug here. If you're ever passing through Park City, stop in.....

More to come,

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Old 01-19-2009, 08:30 PM   #14
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About stainless steel


Since I'm camera-mad about this project in general, I thought I'd make your life a bit easier in case you are motivated to go out looking for Stainless Steel Magic. See photo.

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