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Old 09-03-2009, 07:10 AM   #15
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1978 31' Sovereign
Texas Airstream Harbor , Zavalla, in the Deep East Texas Piney Woods on Lake Sam Rayburn
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Originally Posted by HarleyLeo101 View Post
We just purchased a 1978 28' Ambassador. ... An estimate to strip, polish, and clearcoat comes in around $6800. Given the many would buy the polishers and do it yourself? How many have done this? Thanks for the advice.
At what price to you value your personal time?

First, you start with a typical ragged out 1978 Sovereign:

Then, three years and one hurricane later, you end up with this:

Yes, that pathetic little twig of a tree in the first picture is one and the same as pictured above.

The problem with a "turn key" polish bid is the differences in the owner's and the bidder's individual definition of "polish". Differing definitions of "polish" will quickly turn into a spitting match between the two parties and both will feel as if each took an economic loss. In my opinion, better to work by the hour, then, if you don't like what you see, either start over or accept the job 'as is'.

You can get 20 foot polish (looks great on a cloudy day from 20' away) in a hundred hours or so, but to get a really mirror job with NO swirls visible in the sun it will take three or four times as long.

The intial polish job on the 30' Sovereign required $2,000 in supplies (all in) and a total of 480 hours of labor (a combination of paid for semi-skilled, some of my own) in 2007.

2008 maintenance (on the exterior polish) was $600 in supplies and 140 hours of labor in total.

So far, in 2009, $250 in supplies and 70 hours of total labor are in washing and polishing. Expect to "touch up" the polish every three to six months. I HAVE found that the more the aluminum is "worked" the easier it is to touch up.

Some owner's will spend more or less time than others in doing the same job. My investment in time is probably on the upper end of the scale, but the hours ARE accurate. I will probably NOT do another such project, but I am pleased with both the exterior and interior work on the '78.

There is no clearcoat, I have not been able to convince myself that ANY product will stick to a "mirrored" polished aluminum surface. I have talked to several manufacturers, but all have backed off of a claim to provide satisfactory performance when I explained the application.


"Suck it up, spend the bucks, do it right the first time."

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Trailer '78 31' Sovereign

Living Large at an Airstream Park on the Largest Lake Totally Contained in Texas
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Old 09-24-2009, 02:34 PM   #16
Well Preserved

1993 21' Sovereign
Colfax , North Carolina
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 20,330
Originally Posted by overlander63 View Post
It's extremely shiny. I'll ask the owners' permission if I can take and post a photo of it tomorrow. If you see a photo, the answer was "yes". If not, it was "no".
Here are some pictures, better late than never, the shine actually works against a good picture:
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Old 09-28-2009, 08:10 PM   #17
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1979 31' Sovereign
1950 22' Liner
Powhatan , Virginia
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 520
Blog Entries: 51
First, all of your polish photos above look tremendous!

As far as to the original poster, we have a 1979 and it polished up mirror finish so your 1978 should as well. We started back in March after we got our 31' and I have put in 350 hours on the polishing as well as some other outside maintenance and re-painting the emblems, etc. I wore my ipod out as well while working on it. We had just 30 years of oxidation/buildup and the clear coat was failing on the roof down to about middle of the windows. I couldn't image 50-60 years worth of buildup some of the members here have polished out. I still see spots where I could have done better (like the fridge access door vents, where the blue vinyl sticker stripes were, front end cap where I was learning to polish, etc.) but am pleased with the outcome of my "therapeutic" time spent. I can see where someone would charge $6500 for the work although I have always been a DIYer, even if my hourly rate on this was something like $1.

Before and after shots:

Sorry for the pictures... just so proud of the outcome.
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Old 09-29-2009, 03:06 PM   #18
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2016 27' Flying Cloud
Georgetown , Texas
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Bowmans ---- what a beautiful job! I would post photos as well. A great job to be proud of. It inspires me to just bite the bullet and get started on the same for our 1988 Excella.
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Old 09-07-2016, 06:07 PM   #19
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1973 31' Excella 500
Vicksburg , Mississippi
Join Date: Jul 2016
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I'll do it for $6700.
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Old 09-07-2016, 07:17 PM   #20
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1978 29' Ambassador
1974 25' Tradewind
1974 27' Overlander
Indiana , Pennsylvania
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 669
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Update: It's Finished

Didn't expect to see such an old post resurface. I decided to tackle this project on my own. I think I've used every technique available. Like others, I am very pleased with the results. Therapeutic? Well maybe. When you are on the other end of a Dewalt polisher you really don't think about anything else but not damaging your aluminum skin or fall off the scaffolding. Our "78" polished up nicely...and if that wasn't enough, I followed it up with a "60" Overlander, "74" Tradewind and have a "74" Overlander waiting to be polished.

This has to be the dirtiest job I have ever seen. One word of caution...eye protection, hearing protection and DO NOT BREATH THE ALUMINUM OXIDE! Use a mask of some sort. Thanks for all who challenged me so many years ago to "go for it".

Bob "Roadrunner"
Indiana, PA

WBCCI 4871
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Old 09-07-2016, 09:30 PM   #21
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2003 22' International
South Bend , Indiana
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 78
There ain't enough weed to smoke to pay $6k for a polish job. I would do them all day long for half that. Clear coating after polish would be tricky at best so that may be a large
Part of that expense. Do one side quarter and it will keep you entertained all year. Some great polishers out there for sub $2k and even less.

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