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Old 06-03-2014, 07:04 AM   #1
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1968 28' Ambassador
Doylestown , Pennsylvania
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Newbie Building out '68 Ambassador Shell

First of, someone people tell me I'm not nuts taking on the project

I bought the Ambassador to build a crash pad to park on a lot in Philly. I need an inspiring and inspired place and the only thing Philly offers are colonials blah.

It is a shell. Was gutted all but the bathroom prior to me purchasing it, all the bits are in it, just not attached. The old insulation is scary fiberglass. The old electric and plumbing are borderline dangerous. The floor is rotten in some parts. The body has a dent in the front which can be rolled out from the inside and on the wheels (I suspect the reason the floor rotted in that area) there a hole to the outside that needs to be soldered. Also, it needs windows to be cleaned up (i guess duct tape was the in thing to do?!) maybe the less efficient windows replaced. Then washed and polished. It is fine because I want to modernize it anyway.

Any suggestions where one should start?

I am figuring I want to do radiant electric heating, solar electric and solar water heating, some gray-water or composting system. Want to put a queen size bedroom in the front, then kitchen and dining/office by the door, then foldout bunk-beds, then bathroom. I REALLY want a soaking tub. Probably go with IKEA for cabinets, nice kitchen (no oven, is it really needed?), 2 burner, small drawer fridge and freezer, drawer dishwasher. [I do meal prep for the week on the weekend then fridge or freeze it]. I am thinking of using Great Stuff to insulate it. Spray it in after plumbing and electric are in and then shape it.

Advise would be greatly appreciated!

Also, are there google sketch up models? Or blank blueprints? Or do those need to be measured and drawn for layouts? Or do people just start doing?
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Old 06-03-2014, 07:23 AM   #2
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First, get the leaks fixed. Do that first before you start on anything else. Airstreams are aluminum. They are NOT soldered. I suggest you spend time here on the forums researching past threads of the areas you need to fix. Most everything that can be done to fix an old Airstream has been discussed here many times and at great length. Once you have the leaks fixed, fix the floor. It is not hard but must be done correctly to keep the integrity of the trailer. I don't think you have really understand just how much work is ahead of you (if you do it correctly). My 68 was in dire shape when I purchased it and I spend over 2 years working on it. Nothing about fixing an old Airstream is "rocket science" but you do need som level of skill in plumbing,electrical,sheet metal work, and carpentry. Best of luck with your project.

One more thing, the windows in a 68 are special curved glass. There are a couple of sources if you need new glass. Plexiglass will leak. If you do think you want to scrap the old windows, don't trash the frames or the mechanisms, folks are always looking for the clamps that pull the glass shut at the bottom.
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Old 06-03-2014, 07:43 AM   #3
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About the windows. Do you know anything about why they put duct tape around them? I assume to reduce air movement? That would mean they need to be either resealed or caulked?
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Old 06-03-2014, 07:51 AM   #4
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re

Oh, something I forgot. VOLTAGE...

How much does it matter for America, use and resale?

I want to do solar (and typical trailer) would be DC but appliances and fixtures are pretty limited. I can do an inverter from solar to 110 V with American appliances, more choices but less efficient. Or I can do 220 V with European appliances, which are more efficient and come smaller sized.

(I am an instructor for BPI Energy Auditing and NABCEP PV certifications)
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Old 06-03-2014, 09:15 AM   #5
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You have a lot of questions, but all the answers are here somewhere on the Forums, you just have to search and search. Also, buy the back episodes of The Vintage Airstream Podcast (The VAP). The early episodes especially, had a lot of good information about working on these old trailers.

So quick responses to your questions, as above, start by making it water tight. Then go from the ground up, wheels, axles, frame, floor, wiring, insulation, inner skins, and then you can start pondering the interior layout (keeping in mind that your interior design will also dictate your wiring).

There are lots of threads about insulation and the relative merits of difference approaches. Spray-foams usually get booed.

Typically the way these trailers are wired, you have two systems, 12V DC and 120 AC. The 120V powers the converter, outlets, TV, refrigerator and Air conditioner. The lights, and fans (ceiling and furnace) are powered by the 12V DC. If you want to have heavy appliances like dishwashers, trash compactors, whirlpool bathtubs, then these would likely be powered by the 120V system. The solar is just used to charge the 12V batteries. Some people rig up an inverter so that small items like laptop computers and lcd TVs can be powered from the 120 V outlet, but you are going to have a hard time providing enough batteries and charging to run heavy appliances this way.

Your brainstorming about how you will deck this trailer out sounds very heavy. Be aware that the trailer is just not designed to support massive weight (ie., multiple large batteries, heavy appliances, home-style cabinetry, whirlpool tub, granite counter tops, etc.). Your frame may well require some repairs anyway, but unless you want to build an entirely new one, think a little lighter.

You have a big project ahead of you. Most importantly, manage your expectations, and take it a bite at a time. It may take you years to complete.

Good luck!
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Old 06-03-2014, 09:35 AM   #6
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As stated above, you have two energy sources, the 12VDC systems that could possibly run from energy developed by solar power, and 120VAC.

If you add in LP gas as a potential energy source, then you can be completely self-sufficient with NO 120VAC, IF you can do without air conditioning.

An LP gas refrigerator (often referred to as a 'refer' here) only requires a small amount of DC power to operate, since the gas takes the heavy burden of cooling it. The DC voltage is only to power the "brains" for it the PC board.

Gas will also power a three-burner stovetop to cook with, and even an oven and a water heater.

Current draw for an AC unit is far too heavy to run from most solar sources on a travel trailer though. Similarly, while the trailer's furnace DOES run on gas, the current drawn by the frequent use of the fan makes it only good for three-season living (not PA winters) from DC sources. A regular 20A 120VAC line would give sufficient power to run all the interior lighting, the furnace through winter, and might keep up with the heat loss if skirting, proper ventilation and insulation are installed.

You don't mention the source for energy for the radiant heating. If it is 120VAC, you will of course need a lot more juice than just a single 120VAC 20A line.

Please explain what the following phrase means?

"Oh, something I forgot. VOLTAGE... How much does it matter for America, use and resale?"
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Old 06-03-2014, 10:05 AM   #7
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Any suggestions where one should start?


Start at the city's building and code department and assure that your vision is permissible. Check the state Health Dept. laws also as they may take precedence over city law with respect to water and septic systems.


You would never be allowed to do what you propose in the small Michigan town that I live in. You would receive an “order to cease and desist”, and an “order to vacate”. Perhaps Pennsylvania is more lenient?


BTW, You have a “travel trailer”...
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Old 06-03-2014, 12:48 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by ALUMINUMINUM View Post
Any suggestions where one should start?


Start at the city's building and code department and assure that your vision is permissible. Check the state Health Dept. laws also as they may take precedence over city law with respect to water and septic systems.


You would never be allowed to do what you propose in the small Michigan town that I live in. You would receive an “order to cease and desist”, and an “order to vacate”. Perhaps Pennsylvania is more lenient?


BTW, You have a “travel trailer”...

VERY good point. Many places do not allow a TT (travel trailer) in a residential area AT ALL, while others may allow you to store an unoccupied one.

ALUMINUMINUM is absolutely right in saying this is the FIRST thing to check.
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Old 06-04-2014, 08:19 AM   #9
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Philly defers to PA Manufactured Housing laws (which encompass modular but they umbrella all under manufactured) and that defers to the federal law and HUD. Which is great because the deep south country between Philly and Pitt is mostly trailers.

Also, I saw 2 Airstreams parked permanently (with permanent shade structures) on lots is the less pleasant areas of the city. They looked well maintained and lived in and they set in what looked to be micro farmsteads. [sometimes hipsters are super endearing]
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