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Old 04-02-2014, 12:54 PM   #1
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Trestrey's Avatar
1961 16' Bambi
Rowley , Massachusetts
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 16
'63 Bambi with a sanded exterior. Am I doomed?

Hi Folks,

I have been plugging away on a full renovation of my 63 Bambi. I have been lurking here for months, and would truly be lost in this project if I did not have the experience of so many folks around here to draw from. Many thanks to everyone!!
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So, here is my situation. I got a good deal on my 63 Bambi from a couple of artists who live on a farm here in Massachusetts. They had moved back east from California with it about 10 years ago, where they had acquired the Bambi from some crazy back-woods folks that had spray painted it camouflage, and had done some other modifications (fenders etc.). Anyway, I am not 100% sure it was them, but I think the artist PO's removed all the camouflage spray paint with an abrasive tool like a rotary sander, or something similar. I have had the trailer for months now, but am just getting around to focusing in on the exterior skin. There are a number of openings on the trailer that I want to patch up with aluminum patches, and I have finally gotten around to trying out the variable speed polisher to prep the areas before applying the aluminum patches.

So, here are the first of many questions I expect to have for this community:

1. First off, I haven't completely tried to strip the exterior skin with Eldorado PR-5044 to remove any clearcoat that might still be on there. I did the toothpaste test I read about on here, and I got blackening, so I am assuming the clearcoat is off in at least some of the panels. Even so, I applied Citristrip to a few panels where I saw this cloudy white paint/clearcoat/residue on the exterior, and left it on there for about an hour and a half. Upon removal, the white was still there. The ineffectiveness of the Citristrip might be due to the 50 degree temp I was doing this at, but I still expected something to happen.

Can anyone tell me what they think this white paint-like stuff is? How the heck do I get if off?
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2. I did all steps described above in preparation to test-compound the area around a hole where the PO had a 3-Way Fridge installed. I removed the old vent cover, and clamped it to interior, just to keep the inside of the trailer protected from the elements. When I began compounding with F9, the skin started to shine, especially on in the area where the vent frame's eyebrow had been covering the exterior skin. In the neighboring area, where the PO had sanded or whatever they did, I was not getting the same shine, and could clearly see the contrast in shine between the two areas, side-by-side. After a few passes in this sanded area, I was seeing improved shine, but clearly the scratching was is still there in a very noticeable way.

I am wonder from folk's experience, what I am dealing with here. I am pretty determined person, so if there is a mirror shine to be had on this trailer, I will work it until it gets there. I just want to know if the mirror finish is a lost cause with this sanding damage, and I should just aim to get it nice and shiny, and live with the scratching that will always be somewhat visible. I won't be devastated, I just want to know what I should expect.
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Thanks in advance to anyone who can help me out. I really appreciate it. This trailer has become my unhealthy obsession. ; )



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Old 04-02-2014, 01:25 PM   #2
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1956 22' Safari
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Conifer/Evergreen , Colorado
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I hate to be the bearer of bad news...but, if a PO did sand it with an orbital sander, there is a pretty good chance they went through the Alclad layer and the difference between your polishing effort on a sanded panel vs a non-sanded area is the result.

Alclad panels are made with an alloy of aluminum for strength sandwiched on both sides with a very thin layer of more pure aluminum which allows it to have the bright polished mirror finish. Aluminum panels with out the Alclad layer are still able to be polished, however they will not get as bright or retain the finish for as long. This has to do with the other alloys in the aluminum that are more susceptible to oxidation.

Also, it is pretty unlikely that you ever had clearcoat on your '63 as it wasn't really even an option until '64 and didn't become standard until a couple of years later. The "cloudy white paint" could be a primer the PO used prior to painting it camo or if it isn't budging with stripper, it could be the result of an acid wash gone bad. Regardless, these should both be able to be polished out, but it will be a big job with less than perfect results if the Alclad is gone. It will look "better" but will always be more of a maintenance task to keep it looking good. The problem is, unless all of the Alclad is removed, it will always look splotchy - the areas with residual Alclad will remain shiney and the rest will look darker & duller.

One idea would be to have the trailer painted with a silver automotive paint - it will look consistant and the paint will fill in the scratches. I've seen several silver painted Airstreams and they do look good. Would I take a trailer with decent skins and paint it? No, but for one with the kind of scratches yours has, it would be a good option.

Good luck on whatever you decide to do...gotta love those little trailers! At least you aren't dealing with this issue on a 31-footer!!!


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Old 04-02-2014, 01:37 PM   #3
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
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Welcome to the forums! The whitish looking stuff might just be heavy oxidation, but as mentioned above, if the sanding went through he Alclad, and it is uneven, you may get heavy oxidation in some places, and less in others. Alclad or no, it will be hard to buff those scratches completely away, though there are plenty of people who buff out the "milled" finish on some 70's trailers to a mirror finish. At any rate, don't let it discourage you, start by working to get a "first cut" all over, and then you can evaluate how even the shine/coloring looks, and make a decision from there. Even with only a first cut, your trailer will look pretty shiny, unless parked next to one with a mirror finish.
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Old 04-02-2014, 01:44 PM   #4
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1961 16' Bambi
Rowley , Massachusetts
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 16
Thanks Sahri,

You are confirming what I suspected. I can't bring myself to paint this thing. I will probably end up putting the time in polishing it the best i can, then if I decide it looks crummy, I'll contemplate painting it. I am not certain that they used an orbital sander, I just see some consistent swirl marks in it throughout. I have watched a number of youtube videos for polishing technique, but nothing really addresses a situation like mine. If I were to do multiple applications of F9, when will I know I am at the best condition I am going to get? What would be a good indicator?
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Old 04-02-2014, 01:56 PM   #5
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1960 28' Ambassador
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1998 25' Safari
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If you are going to do interior renovations, it would be easy to just replace the exterior panels, when the inside is empty. You can replace all the bottom panels on a Bambi much easier and probably cheaper then trying to polish out the mess.
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Old 04-02-2014, 02:27 PM   #6
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1961 16' Bambi
Rowley , Massachusetts
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Posts: 16
Zow! Replacing the exterior panels seems intimidating to me at this point. I think i would probably be fine getting a "milled" polished finish before taking that on. I will have to see what things look like after a complete "first cut" as Belegedel suggested above. If it doesn't sit well with me, I might take this on, while the inside is still open.

I am replacing the interior skin panels already, as the PO had put a LOT of weird cuts/mods into them. It just seems like too much time/effort to do all the interior patch work, just to have my final product look like it was repaired band-aid style. Here is where the interior is at. I have completely cleaned out all the old fiberglass since these pics as well.
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Thanks again for all the feedback. Sometime I feel like I am on an Island working on this thing!; )

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Old 04-02-2014, 03:19 PM   #7
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1965 26' Overlander
Tulsa , Oklahoma
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A guy here in Tulsa is wet sanding his 58 overlander w/ 600, then 1000,& finally 2000 grit. The look is pretty cool! You are going to have to wet sand all the scratches before buffing anyway so see if you like the look! You're pretty much screwed at this point so why not!
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Old 04-02-2014, 05:42 PM   #8
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Honestly, I guess if you have the supplies you're only out your time but that trailer was definitely sanded with an orbital sander and with a pretty aggressive grit too.

Have you seen a painted silver trailer? They really do look original if done well! And there is way less maintenance, paint has come along way in recent years....

See how it goes.....
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Old 04-02-2014, 05:48 PM   #9
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I vote for paint as well. A nicely painted trailer looks very good, and unless you're obsessed with the idea of a mirror finish (I prefer a less shiny finish myself), you could have it painted and be back on the road with a lot less effort.

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Old 04-02-2014, 05:54 PM   #10
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1975 31' Excella 500
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If I had that trailer, and I couldn't really polish it because of the sanding, I wouldn't be painting it silver, I would be painting it with a cool bright and tastefully classic custom paint scheme.

If you can't polish, look at is as freedom to be different than the crowd.
The fact that I am opinionated does not presuppose that I am wrong......

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Old 04-02-2014, 06:32 PM   #11
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I agree with J. Morgan - I've seen several silver painted Airstreams - they look great, but: they're not Airstreams. They're something else, kind of like a faux Airstream - or an Argosy painted silver instead of cream.

Why not go custom paint job and have something different, original, and really neat that stands out!

Either a solid color (cheaper) or a design. Imagination!
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Old 04-02-2014, 06:32 PM   #12
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I've seen some of the AS paint jobs - white with color accents - etc etc - very cool if done right - good luck
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Old 04-02-2014, 07:09 PM   #13
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1964 17' Bambi II
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Strasburg , Pennsylvania
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I have spent about 20 hours polishing the areas on my Bambi II around marker lights, tail lights, emblems, etc in order to get things back together and watertight. I previously polished a small silver Scotty camper, but not to mirror shine.

I start by scotch-brighting the area along with PPG Final Scuff paste to get rid of much of the oxidation. I then go through the recommended Nuvite polishing process ending with the finest grade and a Cyclo polisher. I am having success, but it is slow going.

A buddy stripped the paint off of his '65 Scotty camper hoping to be able to polish it as well. It came out silver, but some severely damaged skin panels (read: orbitally sanded from factory perhaps to help the original paint stick) were unable to be polished in a satisfactory manner. He ended up painting his trailer again.

Do what you like- without a doubt it is your trailer. Make it your own. Try polishing it if you like and see how it goes. The results might be OK even if not a mirror shine, but I would caution you will spend hundreds of hours doing so and might not be happy with the end results. I would try some small sections and see how it goes- which is what you are already trying. If it is not to your liking, I would go with the masses' opinions and paint it! In the end it will still be a Bambi in better shape than you found it and there is quite literally nothing cooler than that!
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Old 04-02-2014, 07:30 PM   #14
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Another cool creative idea would be to do a wrap like they do on buses. I've seen several SOTF trailers that have been wrapped - looks way cool! I may do my Scotty when I'm at that point.


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