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Old 01-18-2012, 02:36 PM   #1
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1964 28' Ambassador
thousand oaks , California
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 2
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Need advice on exterior work, please help!

hi fellow airstream friends, i am new to this site and have a question that i assume has probably been asked but i could not find it....i have a 1964 airstream and as much as i would love to have it chromed i dont have the money nor patience to chrome my 28 foot gem. as you know there is a clear coat on it that in time has began to fade making it an eye sore. my question is are there any methods you guys have found or used to do a 1 step process to cleaning it up? im not necessarily even committed to making it look original, i dont mind more of a brushed aluminum look if it helps speed the process of "cleaning" up the exterior. any help will be much appreciated! thanks in advance!

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Old 01-18-2012, 03:45 PM   #2
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1956 22' Safari
Vintage Kin Owner
Conifer/Evergreen , Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 11,740
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First off, welcome to the forums! You'll find all kinds of helpful information posted here.

Secondly, Airstreams are not "chromed". They are made with aluminum - most with a clearcoat finish, that eventualy fails as it sounds yours has. The "super-shiney" Airstreams you see are polished. You can search for lots of varying methods of acheiving that mirrored finish that is mistaken for "chrome". It is a lot of work, but can be done as a DIY'r...we did. Another option some have found to be acceptable to spruce things up without polishing is to just strip the old clear coat off. As you probably have on yours, it turns "milky" when it fails. Depending on how bad it has failed, the aluminum may still pretty pretty nice underneath the clearcoat. The problem is when the clearcoat has failed in patches over time and the bare aluminum has been exposed to the elements and oxidized irregularly. That can not be easily fixed...after removing the clearcoat, you either have to:

1) polish
2) wait for everything to oxidize to an even patina
3) soda or walnut-shell blast

Take a look at the search results for these different options to get a better idea of what is involved. In the meantime, enjoy your new baby!


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Old 01-18-2012, 05:49 PM   #3
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1967 30' Sovereign
Leavenworth , Kansas
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 382
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Talking Old Aluminum is Best

Welcome to the world of old Aluminum. All of us vintage owners have had to make the decision - just strip the clearcoat or go all the way. After three years of work on the inside of our baby, it was time for the outside decision. It didn't take us long to make it though, we saw too many beautiful gems at International that year, so we began our polishing. It isn't easy, but it sure is worth it.
Like Shari said, do a search on these forums. There is a wealth of information here. But I have one more suggestion. Plan on attending the Vintage Restoration Rally this year!
Beth and/or David

67 Sovereign, double bed, rear bath-"Moby"
2005 Dodge Ram 2500 Hemi, Quad Cab-"Ahab"
"Vintage trailer, vintage owners"
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Old 01-18-2012, 05:56 PM   #4
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1966 22' Safari
Weatherford , Texas
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 1,146
Minimum work strip and polish

Paint stripper will get the clear coat off. Many brands out there with different characteristics with respect to environmental friendliness, how fast they work, how sensitive to temperatures, etc.

We stripped our '66 Safari during a Texas summer using Aircraft Stripper by Rustoleum. Had to work early mornings to keep it from drying out in the heat. Chose that particular brand for faster working times due to working in the heat. Others have used different strippers and also had good results.

Some of the aluminum was original finish bright after the clear coat was stripped off, some of it wasn't. We did the rest with a Cyclo polisher, yellow wool pads, and Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish. It's not the mirror finish some folks get, but it was less work also, and the trailer looks good.

Work a fairly small area at a time. Clean thoroughly after stripping. Stripper can work its way into the joints in the aluminum and cause corrosion.
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Old 01-27-2012, 07:31 PM   #5

2003 25' Classic
Zanadude Nebula , WNY
Join Date: Jun 2007
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Thumbs up

We decided not to polish our first Airstream.... 63 22' Safari

No polish just a good cleaning every month or two.

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AF #1

"Sticks & stones can break your bones...and hail will dent your Airstream"

So when is this..."old enough to know better" supposed to kick in?
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