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Old 11-11-2005, 02:16 PM   #1
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What Type of Restoration is Your Type?

A very close friend of mine and I have an ongoing argument. I'm curious how other people feel about this. I think there are only two positions on this argument, but I'm curious to see if others feel differently.

Obviously you must have a love of vintage or antique items first.

This is from a discussion we've had about the refrigerator for my Airstream which I'm stripping down to bare-metal and having rechromed and enamled back to its original color. He thinks I should just clean it and stop there. Here are our arguments:

Position #1
I just think your are totally losing 50 years worth of character on something if you are trying to make it look brand spankin new

Position #2
I think that I'm restoring 50 years worth of character and making it live on as the item that the designer originally intended it to be (not some rusted, dirty doorstop)

What's your take on this?

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Old 11-11-2005, 02:23 PM   #2
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Position #2

Keep it going, to enjoy for another 50 years!

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Old 11-11-2005, 03:04 PM   #3
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Hey, do whatever will make you happy when you just sit out there this winter and look around your trailer. That's what I do. I just cleaned my frig., but I'm too poor to do much else right now. However, I will admit that I bought a little electric frig. to serve as an end table and great place to put my food without worrying about the old frig. getting cool fast enough or just quitting in the middle of a great week-end. Lost my old A/C unit on one great trip and had to head home. Since both were original to the 78, I decided to be safe. The old frig. works great once it gets started, so it's still in there where it should be. Did refinish the front of it. Can't download pictures of the refinishing because they are too big, but these pictures will show you the other wood refinishing on the walls.
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Old 11-11-2005, 03:19 PM   #4
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I find myself in the Position #2 category

Here's the Fall 2004 AirstreamLife article writen to address this exact issue. Fred takes it a bit further and adds another two categories:

Preserve (Position #1)
Restore (Position #2)

BTW...our trailer is the second example. I think our trailer falls somewhere between Restore & Refurbish...some things are totally restored and others are refurbished slightly.

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Old 11-11-2005, 04:14 PM   #5
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Great article!

Wow, I must be pretty blind-sided by my own opinion! I should have realized that there are two other positions. That is an amazing article, by the way. I really enjoyed it.

So it does seem to jive with my utterly obsessive nature that I would be a "restorationist". And actually, in reading that article, I think it has swayed my direction for my current trailer. I kept thinking about replacing mechanical components (so long as they're not visible) with more modern ones; things like making the refrigerator 12 volt, adding A/C under the floor, and re-wiring the trailer.

However, I'm starting to think that it would be much better to restore it back to original condition with historical accuracy. It's a pretty rare trailer anyhow and in remarkable condition already.
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Old 11-11-2005, 05:18 PM   #6
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What I looked at was the purpose of the trailer - show/museum piece or go camping and use it for what it was originally built to be used as. I liked the looks of our trailer, but I'm also a lover of conveniences and love to camp regardless of the conditions. Thus our rebuild was done to make it look much like a 1951 but with modern conveniences. I hid the microwave and the A/C in cupboards so when we need them we pop open a door and use them, when we are done we close those doors and you'd look in the trailer and see a restified '51. I bought a sealand toilet, porcelain unit that looks more like a '50's toilet than the plastic ones, but conveniently also is much more like a normal house toilet. I'm looking for vintage 110v lights to convert to 12v but they have to be just the right art deco lights. Then I'll gut my existing 70's style 12v lights in the trailer and use them in the older lights. This allows us to have the older look we were attracted to with the trailer, but go camping with the rest of our friends with newer trailers and enjoy our camping experience just as much as they do.

So you get to the point where you have to make a decision - are you going to use the trailer to camp and enjoy without regrets, or keep it as stock as you can and live with the lack of some of the nice things we've all become accustomed to. A very individual choice, no one is ever right or wrong when they do this because they own their trailer, and can do with it as they please. If you do modify it, to satisfy the concern about originality when that may be relevant, put every part and piece you replace in a box, label it, stick it in storage, and when you need it to be a mirror of the year it was made you can do so. Which ever way you go your trailer will look great, people will admire it and want to see in it, they will have a thousand suggestions and comments, and no matter what you've done the vast majority will walk away and say man, what a neat trailer. You will have fun either way and that's what this is ALL about. Barry
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Old 11-11-2005, 08:33 PM   #7
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I'm with Shari. I'm between Restore and Refurbish as my best description.

Our Coach was a basket case and nothing is in good condition. all the original appliances are gone except the heater (death trap) and the Princess stove.

We had to frame off and in doing so put down a vinyl floor that will eventually have wood down in the visible areas.

Every bit of the wood is damage heavily except the vanity over head. Most has some water damage and delaminating. Other was modified and damaged along the way. Basically I will be using whats left as templates to build new.

Now we LOVE the floor plan and our goal is to open that door and it look like you just stepped back into the 50's. Our coach has also been in the family since 1982. It was Chili's dads coach that she inherited and we want it to be something to remember her dad by.

The princess stove we will keep. The floor plan we will keep. We plan to go a little lighter finish but we love our wood. The wood floor will be the little touch to put it over the top. The counter top will be either a modern Formica in a solid or we might go with something that looks vintage...still up in the air. Our overhead might just get some frosted doors like a CCD to replace the well worn wood ones. Some back lighting to put a little subtle light in the coach at night. We will use some moder light fixtures like halogen Pucks for counter lighting.

Under it all will be modern water heaters, a Microwave we hope to hide, complete redo and upgrade of the electrical system, Pex plumbing but where the pipes were visible we will sleeve it in copper pipe to keep the "look". We want vintage look but modern function.
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Old 11-11-2005, 09:04 PM   #8
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I was going to suggest that ankornuta was describing two aspects of only one side of the coin earlier today when InsideOut Shari sent in Fred Coldwell’s Airstream Life piece.

His article is the best I’ve seen on the ongoing discussion.

The point is that there is no right or wrong way to do an Airstream. All the views are equally valid.

I was lucky to find a 1976 Argosy Double in remarkably good shape for its age. When we started to dismantle it a few weeks ago I had a pang of recognition that a trailer in such good shape would have also appealed to the preservationists among us. It was not a pang of remorse. The same reasons that made it such a good candidate for preservation also made it so for the modernizer.

Whether you preserve an Airstream or Argosy or contemporize one you save an Airstream.

Civic planners know this. Not every historic building can become a living museum. That’s why encouraging modernization and new uses for old buildings is now so widely understood to be imperative to saving the built stock for us all.

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Old 11-11-2005, 09:37 PM   #9
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Smile Have fun with it!

We also are between restore and refurbish. We were very lucky in that in our '60 Overlander, all of our original appliances were beautiful and worked! All of our woodwork was fairly good as well. But behind those cabinet doors are a microwave, toaster, coffee maker and everything else that makes a trip a vacation.

Other campers we have had, have had different issues. Some yearned to start life over as something totally new, while others just needed someone to love them for what they were.

Farmers have faced these same questions in recent times is regards to their barns. Leave them as they were built...maintaining them if the funds allow, and build a new metal pole barn in their shadow to use ....and eventually the funds run out and the barn falls in. Or hire a barn "remodeler"( a professional who has had much experience in refurbishing barns to meet the modern needs of agriculture) and keep history alive.

In the end, it's your baby and your decision. Have Fun with it. That is what it is really about!!!!


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Old 11-12-2005, 07:35 AM   #10
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Our 1963 Overlander was sought out especially for it's size and style.
The plan for the 1963 was to have a 1963 look inside and out, perhaps with some modern touches. But we had no intentions of keeping it original or restoring what little there was left of it. Like 59 toaster, we had little more than delaminated plywood and broken cabinets to work with.
Our layout does somewhat lean on the original, with a rear bath, side bed, and front living room, but we did major changes to everything else. It has all new, generously dimensioned fresh and grey tanks. They are installed inside a modified frame, to carry the weight safely. The black tanks is also new, and almost doubled in size. We did a concealed a/c under the bed, and have purchased all new appliances. The drive train is all new, and features 6000lb Dexter axles with hydraulic disc brakes.
The electrical system now resembles that of a new trailer, with dual batteries, a converter/charger to keep them charged, and 12V lights and fans. For the interior appointments we chose maple and birch, keeping the wood in a color tone no darker than honey. Everything in this trailer besides the inner and outer skin, and parts of the frame, will be new.
I am still working on the project, and it is documented in a thread called "a 63 for me".
I would cosider our efforts to be a modernization with traditional roots.
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Old 11-12-2005, 03:24 PM   #11
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Fun camping with preschoolers was the goal

Originally Posted by 59toaster
I'm with Shari. I'm between Restore and Refurbish as my best description...
My goal was to make restore my Overlander to full operation. Reading up on modifications, I found cut & dried definitions for restoration & refurbishment.

Although I restored all my original appliances to operation, my choice of flooring and soft goods (upholstery, curtains, etc.) visibly categorize my efforts as a "refurbishment".

I'm not complaining though; The whole idea was to have an Airstream we would enjoy camping in.

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Old 11-12-2005, 04:49 PM   #12
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I have to stick with Tom and Uwe as I had litte to nothing to start with. I am trying to keep the feel of a 1967 coach. Like Tom I am restoring my appliances as they are all in working (or close to) order. I am cheep too.
I am altered the floor plan from a mid full to mid twins with bunks.

Classify my work as you wish. I want to camp in style and comfort.
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Old 11-21-2005, 12:19 PM   #13
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Off the Deep End of Restoration

After reading more peoples' views on this topic, I agree to a point that there is no right or wrong way to maintain a trailer (or anything else, for that matter). However, I can't help but feel that there is some historical obligation to restoration. On my trailer, for example, I've gone so far as trying to find original asbestos floor tiles to replace the damaged ones (as a side-note, they're really not unsafe unless you grind them up and inhale them). I feel that it is very important to return this trailer to it's complete original condition.

But at what point does maintenance of an object interfere with the use of that object? For example, if someone buys a brand new Airstream (or any other product) and upgrades some component of it, are they in some way interfering with an (eventual) historical obligation to preserve that object in the manner in which it was designed and constructed? But I suppose that argument is purely academic.

What annoys me is that I saw a 1957 Airstream in the Peterson Auto Museum that had halogen lights above the galley area! Argh. In my opinion, if something is being put in a museum as a show piece of originality it should be totally historically accurate. But on that note, even though I am restoring my trailer back to from-the-factory condition I still plan to use it for camping.
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Old 11-21-2005, 12:47 PM   #14
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Do what makes you happy. I had people give me a hard time about pulling out original appliances that didn't work and replace them with new appliances with modern safety features. Did I ruin my trailer? Not in my opinion, and that's the only one that counts.


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