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Old 05-30-2015, 02:05 PM   #1
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1970 27' Overlander
Asheville , North Carolina
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Restoration "Master Plan?"

I'm not sure exactly where to post this or what to title it, but my basic question is "Is there a 'master plan' already developed and posted on an overall approach to a total restoration?"

By that I mean a kind of step-by-step plan to evaluate what needs to be done on any restoration project, and then a guide and checklist with decision trees on what to do and in what order to carry out the restoration in the most efficient manner.

Of course I realize that every Airstream trailer and owner is different, with different problems, different budgets, different goals, etc.

But it seems to me that someone out there is a the Airstream equivalent of a "business plan" for a new business start-up, or the equivalent of a contractor's blueprint and plan for rehabbing a fixer-upper house. You know, Step 1: Specify your goals with this restoration and describe how you plan to use the trailer. Step 2: Inspect the exterior shell and frame and outline potential problem areas. Step 3: Inspect axles, brakes and other running gear and if this then replace this and this. Step 3: Inspect the electrical system and if this do this and that, etc.

Or is this impractical due to the variety of models, issues, budgets and so on? Does it make more sense to just take the trailer to an experienced Airstream restoration and repair facility and have them do a thorough inspection, proposal and budget for restoration?

Thanks for any references to existing general plans and guides to restorations. I know there are hundreds of threads on specific interior and exterior restoration issues, but I'm looking for the big-picture blueprint of getting from point A to point Z, preferably with me doing much of the work or where I can't do it myself acting as a "general contractor" or "architect" ... if that doesn't sound too full if it?

P.S. I have ordered Tim Shephard's book on restoring a vintage Airstream, which appears to be highly rated by reviewers on Amazon and elsewhere.
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Old 05-30-2015, 03:26 PM   #2
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Not a plan of the work, but rather a list of priorities for planning the budget.

1 - Make it safe. Safe to tow, safe to use. Anything that can hurt you if left unrepaired/unreplaced is top priority. Budget the bucks for these items first. As long as it's safe, it can be otherwise an empty shell and you could still use it like an aluminum tent if you really wanted to start camping in it as soon as possible— and I've known people who have done exactly that.

2 - Make it liveable. Once the safety issues are budgeted, the basic creature comforts of the trailer should be budgeted. Roof leaks, plumbing, appliances, air conditioning, etc. This is all the stuff that separates an RV from a tent.

3 - Make it unique. Lowest on the budget totem pole is interior finishes, clever gizmos, decorations, etc. Those little personal touches that separate your trailer from all the others out there.
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Old 05-31-2015, 07:05 AM   #3
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That makes a lot of sense. Thanks.
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Old 05-31-2015, 04:53 PM   #4
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1978 25' Tradewind
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My master plan usually goes like this:

1. Analyze problem
2. Procure parts
3. Develop project work plan
4. Realize parts are lost
5. Hey, look! A squirrel!
6. Find parts but realize they don't fit.
7. Order correct parts.
8. Hide old parts so DW doesn't ask questions.
9. Wow! Another squirrel! How about that!?
10. Injure self.
11. Find band-aids.
...and so on...
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Old 06-02-2015, 07:20 AM   #5
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1972 27' Overlander
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I'm learning the hard way too. I have already been stabbed by a rusty staple and bled in there, tried to stand up and wacked my head on the protruding weird oven over the couch. Ouch. Went and got a tetanus booster since this seems to be beginning of a painful renovation.
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Old 06-02-2015, 08:01 AM   #6
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Old Army saying: No plan survives first contact.
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Old 06-02-2015, 08:38 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aquinob View Post
Old Army saying: No plan survives first contact.
Anyone who has ever watched an action/adventure movie knows that Plan A never works, and you always need a Plan B.

I've found it's a real time— and effort— saver to just skip Plan A altogether and go straight to Plan B as your first plan. Make a Plan A and a Plan B that you would fall back on. Then throw Plan A in the trash without trying it. Works well for me!
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Old 06-02-2015, 10:31 PM   #8
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My plan must have been, ''don't have a plan'' Do it the way you want,take your time and enjoy it.
I basically bought our 1980 to learn how to polish a airstream. Had a show car, harley,and a few other toys and most of all I enjoyed making them look their best.
I do plan on making it nice and liveable but most of all, nice and shinny. But so far I haven't gotten to that part yet.
I have a set of new axles waiting to put on, the furnace fixed and ready to put back in, the a/c working great, all the lights working, new pex plumbing, new dump valves, and in the process of getting the bathroom useable so if I ever do get to the polishing I will be able to clean myself up before I go in the house, but no polishing ''yet''.
All of that said,I have ended up doing things almost exactly opposite of what I had in mind when I started.
This forum has been almost priceless. I have probably spent as much time on here, and a few other sites learning how to do what I need to do as I have spent doing it.
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Old 06-03-2015, 06:06 AM   #9
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1974 27' Overlander
Portsmouth , Virginia
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I have restored 9 100+ year old houses. My 'plan' is always dive in head first and make it up along the way. I don't know half the time what I am going to do until I start tearing stuff up. What I do know is the always look awesome when I'm done. My 'plan' is to treat my Airstream the same way. Don't get caught up in the processes or planning just work your a## off until it's done.
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Old 06-03-2015, 06:40 AM   #10
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Okay. I think I'm getting the picture. Thanks.
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Old 06-03-2015, 09:20 AM   #11
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My guidance regarding rennovating a vintage Airstream would be to hope for the best and expect the worst, and plan a shell-off from the beginning.

You can feel your way there by getting out the buyer's inspection checklist, going through everything, making a list of what needs to be repaired, and then tackling it one project at a time, starting at the "deepest" level of disassembly and working your way out. Or you can do the following:

1) Spend up to two years looking for the trailer that is in the best shape, with the best price, with the best floor plan, only to drive too far to look at a trailer, and buy it out of desperation, as you don't want to go home empty handed.
2) Remove the interior including all inside skins and insulation--store it in a temporary shed (that will become permanent).
3) Build a set of gantries--you'll need them.
4) Lift the shell (using the gantries) from the frame and set aside.
5) Use the gantries you built to lift and flip the frame.
6) Remove belly pan, gas lines, etc., and set aside.
7) Perform all repairs on the frame, address rust and paint (again, lifting and flipping in the process).
8) Install new floor on frame.
9) Flip, insulate the underside of the floor, install retro-fitted grey tanks.
10) Install belly pan with frame still upside down.
11) Install new axles (with frame upside down, using the gantries as a crane).
12) Pressure wash the interior of the shell--make every effort to get rid of the mouse piss and old insulation--this is your only chance.
13) Lift the shell, wheel the frame back underneath, and set the shell back in place.
14) Complete reconnection of shell to frame.
15) Replace all door and window seals, plumbing vent seals, perform any shell patches, panel replacements, AC replacement, etc. (use the gantries as scaffolding to access the roof of your trailer).
16) Seal the inside of the shell, every rivet, every seam.
17) Spray primer on the inside of the shell to not only protect from corrosion, but to seal in funk.
18) Write a mysterious message to the next restorer on the inside of your shell (I like "Abandon all hopy ye who enter here...").
19) Rennovate/install any awnings and ensure that any new shell penetrations do not leak.
20) Confirm that your shell no longer leaks.
21) Assess wiring in the shell. Rewire if necessary, realizing what a PITA it will be, trying not to nick any wires.
22) Strip the clear coat off your shell if needed.
23) Polish the areas around the trim, emblems, clearance lights before reinstallation.
24) Thoroughly investigate every kind of insulation known to mankind and then install the pink fiberglass stuff anyway.
25) Reinstall interior skins after thoroughly cleaning them--paint the backsides with primer to encapsulate the old stank you can never wash off.
26) Rebuild electrical distribution system (battery, fuse board, etc.).
27) Layout your future cabinetry.
28) Begin to run water lines, realizing some of them will go under/behind furnishings
29) Start from the rear of the trailer and rebuild the interior furnishings, cabinetry.
30) Lay down new flooring.
31) Rerun the gas lines.
32) Finish installing appliances.
33) Do the blinds/drapes/upholstery.
34) Finish whatever polishing you want to do on the exterior
35) Seal every exterior seam
36) Discover new leaks and throw a fit
37) Throw away all the receipts, as it is just too depressing to know how much you just spent.
38) Count the gray hairs/hair loss that has resulted from the years you have spent on the project.

There you go!
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Old 06-26-2015, 12:44 PM   #12
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Asheville , North Carolina
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Thanks for all the good advise, wisdom and humor.

I did want to follow up briefly and say I bought and read Restoring a Dream: My Journey Restoring a Vintage Airstream by Tim Shephard. It's essentially self-published and available from Amazon. Shephard also does the Vintage Airstream Podcast series.

While it's not exactly a "master plan" to restoring an Airstream, it comes pretty close. It briefly discusses his 1971 Safari, but most of the book is a step-by-step recounting of finding, buying and restoring a 1960 Ambassador 28'. This restoration is what the author calls a "Modernization Restoration" -- that is, using the basic Airstream qualities while upgrading amenities with modern technology, so it's not a true restoration that brings the trailer back to its original showroom condition.

Obviously every restoration is different, but this covers all the major areas, one per chapter.

I highly recommend it.

Bottom line, the author paid about $3700 for the Ambassador and ran up another $3300 or so in costs to get it the 2,400 miles to home. Cost for parts and appliances for the restoration ran about $33,000.

Shephard did nearly all the labor himself, around 15 hours a week for 13 months. He figures that if he paid a professional shop to do the work it would have run around $51,000 in labor, not including the parts. So including sweat equity he estimates the total cost (in 2011-2012) was around $90,000, in the range for the cost of a new one. Ignoring the cost of his time it was around $40,000 out of pocket. But Shephard gives a lot of reasons why he prefers the vintage AS over a new one, such as lower weight and in some cases higher grade materials.

Anyway, it's a very helpful overview of what to expect in a major restoration job. I highly recommend this book. It'll either be of help in a restoration project or it will provide a healthy splash of ice water on your plans.
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Old 06-26-2015, 01:07 PM   #13
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San Diego , California
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Looks like a great resource that I should have taken advantage of! I don't think jumping in without some kind of big picture plan is advisable. If you're happy enough with the bones to avoid a shell-off job, there are things that need to be done in the right order to avoid wasting too much time.
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Old 10-03-2016, 07:09 AM   #14
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1977 31' Excella 500
NEW HARTFORD , Connecticut
Join Date: Sep 2016
Posts: 48
Is she'll off always required?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Belegedhel View Post
My guidance regarding rennovating a vintage Airstream would be to hope for the best and expect the worst, and plan a shell-off from the beginning.

You can feel your way there by getting out the buyer's inspection checklist, going through everything, making a list of what needs to be repaired, and then tackling it one project at a time, starting at the "deepest" level of disassembly and working your way out. Or you can do the following:

1) Spend up to two years looking for the trailer that is in the best shape, with the best price, with the best floor plan, only to drive too far to look at a trailer, and buy it out of desperation, as you don't want to go home empty handed.
2) Remove the interior including all inside skins and insulation--store it in a temporary shed (that will become permanent).
3) Build a set of gantries--you'll need them.
4) Lift the shell (using the gantries) from the frame and set aside.
5) Use the gantries you built to lift and flip the frame.
6) Remove belly pan, gas lines, etc., and set aside.
7) Perform all repairs on the frame, address rust and paint (again, lifting and flipping in the process).
8) Install new floor on frame.
9) Flip, insulate the underside of the floor, install retro-fitted grey tanks.
10) Install belly pan with frame still upside down.
11) Install new axles (with frame upside down, using the gantries as a crane).
12) Pressure wash the interior of the shell--make every effort to get rid of the mouse piss and old insulation--this is your only chance.
13) Lift the shell, wheel the frame back underneath, and set the shell back in place.
14) Complete reconnection of shell to frame.
15) Replace all door and window seals, plumbing vent seals, perform any shell patches, panel replacements, AC replacement, etc. (use the gantries as scaffolding to access the roof of your trailer).
16) Seal the inside of the shell, every rivet, every seam.
17) Spray primer on the inside of the shell to not only protect from corrosion, but to seal in funk.
18) Write a mysterious message to the next restorer on the inside of your shell (I like "Abandon all hopy ye who enter here...").
19) Rennovate/install any awnings and ensure that any new shell penetrations do not leak.
20) Confirm that your shell no longer leaks.
21) Assess wiring in the shell. Rewire if necessary, realizing what a PITA it will be, trying not to nick any wires.
22) Strip the clear coat off your shell if needed.
23) Polish the areas around the trim, emblems, clearance lights before reinstallation.
24) Thoroughly investigate every kind of insulation known to mankind and then install the pink fiberglass stuff anyway.
25) Reinstall interior skins after thoroughly cleaning them--paint the backsides with primer to encapsulate the old stank you can never wash off.
26) Rebuild electrical distribution system (battery, fuse board, etc.).
27) Layout your future cabinetry.
28) Begin to run water lines, realizing some of them will go under/behind furnishings
29) Start from the rear of the trailer and rebuild the interior furnishings, cabinetry.
30) Lay down new flooring.
31) Rerun the gas lines.
32) Finish installing appliances.
33) Do the blinds/drapes/upholstery.
34) Finish whatever polishing you want to do on the exterior
35) Seal every exterior seam
36) Discover new leaks and throw a fit
37) Throw away all the receipts, as it is just too depressing to know how much you just spent.
38) Count the gray hairs/hair loss that has resulted from the years you have spent on the project.

There you go!
As a mostly do it myselfer, this would be challenging. And I'm not sure it needs it. Are there ways around? I was thinking of replacing subfloor and addressing frame issues one section at a time. Also I plan to live in it not camp in it, so it doesn't have o be as road worthy as the next. Right now. It made it the 6 hour drive to my house, I think it will make the 10 hour drive to my final destination, of course I would perform all the pertinent checks before hand. But I'm trying to avoid additional expenses related to being hauled far and often at this point... Is that naive?
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