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Old 01-05-2011, 11:40 AM   #1
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joesurds's Avatar
1975 29' Ambassador
Tampa , Florida
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 6
So I have been renovating my 75 ambassador and I keep getting overwelmed with the stuff I need to do to it... not that I mind practically building it from scratch, but that I never know what should be next in the rebuild without screwing mysellf ov er later down the line. So currently the whole thing is gutted and I have removed the lettering and emblems to repaint them and I feel like I should polish the shell now since none of the painted items are in the way... so my question is how exactly do people polish their airstreams without removing everything? Everyone seems to post about what tools and polish they use just not actual technique or strategy they have for polishing different areas. So anyone who has help for me here would be much appreciated Thank you for your time.

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Old 01-05-2011, 12:00 PM   #2
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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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Remove everything you possibly can...lenses, light mounts, insignias, stone guards, stripe inserts.

It's amazing how the stripper liquid will penerate even the best tape job...don't leave anything on you do not want to be ruined by the stripper.

I did leave the awnings on, but it was a PITB to polish around the supports.

Have you inspected the frame yet?

In hindsight, when I did the rebuild on the '78, about the only thing I would have done differently would have been to remove the shell from the frame and build a hell-for-stout frame and running gear...would have included more water capacity (both fresh and grey - haven't yet had a problem with black capacity) and built in more storage and systems room.

I would recommend to finish absolutely everything under the floor prior to starting anything on the shell or the interior - if frame repair or replacement is necessary it's much easier to access the underneath with the shell bare and the interior gutted.

Do you know the condition and capacity of your tanks? No time like the present to build in what you need or repair as necessary.

Don't plan on doing another, but as much as we enjoy the '78 trailer you just never know when I may break down and "do it better".


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

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Trailer '78 31' Sovereign

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Old 01-05-2011, 12:04 PM   #3
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1965 22' Safari
Vassar , Michigan
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I polished mine about a year ago and at the time everything was removed. I did not have much in the way of painted items. The word Safari and Ser. # plate were removed. The airstream name plates front and back were replace with new. I did purchase a Dreamel rotary tool which really helped with tight places. When I did some touch-up polishing this fall I loosened awning arms to get under them and taped up windows, name plates etc. The worst part of the total job was the compounding. 45 years of corrosion took a super human effort. Now that the entire trailer has been polished once, I am finding it much easier to redo an area. I get pretty close with the cyclo and then move in tight with the dremmel. Not much info here but hope is helps some.

Everyday is a Saturday
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Old 01-05-2011, 01:35 PM   #4
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1956 22' Flying Cloud
Durango , Colorado
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Location: 1975 25' Tradewind
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I think most of us when restoring a trailer and we are taking stuff off polish that area before putting those things back on - that way when you get around to polishing you don't have to worry about those things which are covered back up - hope this makes sense....

Ken J.
1956 Flying Cloud
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Old 01-05-2011, 06:49 PM   #5
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1975 29' Ambassador
Tampa , Florida
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 6
Hey Ken, ya that was my general strategy, just polish the area and then put the pieces back on, I was just seeing if there was a better way.

Tkasten, good call on using the dremel for polishing small spaces. That good old dremel has come in handy so many times so far.

87MH, yes I have inspected everything pretty well. I have had the airstream for a couple years now and it has taken me this long to gradually take everything apart. My AS had water damage in the rear bath and I had to rebuilt the last 4 feet of frame with the holding tanks. Luckily a friend of mine was able to weld for me. In my redesign of the bathroom I am going to add another grey water tank for just the shower. I will post up some photos of my progress so far...
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Old 01-05-2011, 08:40 PM   #6
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2002 25' Safari
Dewey , Arizona
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The letters on the 70s trailers are a big pain when it comes to polishing. I do a lot of hand polishing around them, but it never looks good enough to me.


Wally Byam Airstream Club 7513
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Old 01-05-2011, 10:51 PM   #7
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1975 29' Ambassador
Tampa , Florida
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 6
Azflycaster, ya thats what I was worried about. And you have to take off the inside endcaps in order to safely remove and put back the letters so I am going to go buy a polisher and clean it up before I put the letters back on. That's the hard part, trying to stay one step ahead and do everything in the right order so you make it easiest on yourself...
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Old 01-05-2011, 10:55 PM   #8
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Tampa , Florida
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Re painting the letters
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Old 01-06-2011, 07:48 AM   #9
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1964 17' Bambi II
Vintage Kin Owner
Schererville , Indiana
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I used to have a '76 Overlander that I polished. I took the letters off like you have. I reinstalled them with rivets. Regular rivets....didn't take the inside off to put them back on. I just put some Vulkem in the rivet hole & popped them back on. Worked for me.

After I painted the letters (like you have pictured), I sanded the ridge that sets up above the letters so they were silver again. After that I clearcoated them. They looked pretty nice!

You learn a lot as you go when you polish, that's for sure. It's quite the job!

1964 Bambi II
1988 Avion 32S
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Old 01-06-2011, 09:10 AM   #10
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1958 22' Flying Cloud
Folsom , California
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Step 1: take the trailer to someone and have them polish it.

I have spent so much money and time learning and experimenting that for me, its not worth doing it myself. I could spend an entire summer polishing. I would much rather spend the time working side jobs to pay for the trailer to be polished.

Just my opinion.
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Old 01-06-2011, 11:27 AM   #11
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1975 29' Ambassador
Tampa , Florida
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 6
Beckybillrae, thanks for the pointers on the lettering. Now I am really glad I started using this forum, so many people have good ideas that help as I am working rather than thinking after the fact "I should have done it THAT way..."

Mattkroff, well I completely understand you on that route. Polishing is a pain, but I would rather do it myself the first time just to see what goes into it... I can always subcontract later... ;-)
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Old 01-06-2011, 11:39 AM   #12
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1956 22' Flying Cloud
1953 32' Liner
1955 22' Safari
Valley View , Texas
Join Date: Jan 2006
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I learned the hard way

A couple things...more as I type...that come to mind.

Get a scaffold with at least two working levels. Don't even think of a step ladder.

Polish the top first...avoids dragging the power cords over polished areas.

Seal the seams after the polish. I tried the other way and it sucks.

Keep it clean in the work areas.

Use a cheap spray bottle to apply your mineral spirits with....the kind with a finger trigger.

Definitely use micro fiber rags. There is no substitute.

Don't go for perfection on the polish job. Have fun with it.

"If it can't be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted
then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production."
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