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Old 05-14-2012, 05:46 PM   #1
New Member
1959 22' Custom
Mountain View , Arkansas
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 3
What am I getting myself into?

Ok I have finally decided it is time to start on my 59 tradewind. I keep saying in a few weeks Im going to start the project, but a year later and nothing has been done. I own a custom cabinet shop, and God has blessed me with alot of work and instead of hiring alot more people we just work alot of nights and weekends just to stay out of trouble with builders and customers. Well we still have alot of work, but Im thinking my Saturdays and a night or two a week I can finally start my airstream.

Now that the long intro is over here is my questions. My camper originally had two bunk beds in the middle of the trailer, curb side, and the tub, shower, vanity, and toilet in the very rear. I am going to put a full or maybe queen bed,if it will fit, in the rear. Then put the toilet and just a shower pan in the middle on the street side. I want to put a larger black tank than the small original, and also add a grey water tank. So finally the question. Where do I start? Do I get my tanks first? If so, Is there a good size others have used in their upgrades? I think I need to move the black tank to under the trailer, is this the way others have done it?

I have searched the web for hours, and cant find anything that describes in detail what they have done. And the few I have seen were later models that already had both water tanks and they werent changing the layout.

If I can figure out what tanks and where to mount them im sure the other stuff will work itself out. Thanks in advance for any and all help.

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Old 05-14-2012, 06:06 PM   #2
4 Rivet Member
1955 22' Flying Cloud
mapleton , Utah
Join Date: Oct 2011
Posts: 464
Hi Brad and welcome to the forums!
All the information you need is probably here already you will spend a rediculous amount of time looking it up though Its kinda addicting.
As far as the floor plans go you will probably find just what you want, or something close enough at Airstreams website or any number of other places here in the forums. First things first though- how are your floor and frame? if you are going frame off there are many more options available for tanks. I am currently doing the frame on a 55 flying cloud 22 ft with a very similar floor plan to your desired plan. If you wish to put tanks below floors it usually requires minor frame modification and reinforcement, also try to keep the weight of the tanks as close to the axle as possible for best weight distribution. Are you planning to keep the original leaf springs and axle? you will get many different opinions here but the originals are easily rebuilt to modern specs and very durable IMHO.
The part I am anxious to see is your cabinetry- should be first class from the sound of things. Ask lots of questions measure and record everything you do and take lots and lots of pictures. We love pictures here in case you havent figured that out already there are quite a few build threads of mid to late 50's units that should be of help along the way. Oh, dont throw anything away that you might even conceiveably want later because that will be the one part that nobody has anymore!

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Old 05-14-2012, 06:17 PM   #3
2 Rivet Member
1971 31' Sovereign
Watson , Louisiana
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 42
Brad, you and I are in the same exact situation. Custom cabinet shop, too much work, too little time to work on my Airstream. I am in the frame repair stage right now on a 31' Sovereign. Like you had the mid bunks and rear bath. I have a design I love were I am going to do a mid bath because I want the privacy of a rear bedroom. I too considered a queen or a king bed but I am settled on separate beds. After checking with the wife on separate beds I decided it was more efficient to do separate beds because I don't have to have small walk ways down both sides of a bed but 1 large one in the middle. I also don't have to sacrifice trailer length providing a walk way in front of the bed. The problem with a mid bath is that the wheel wells get in the way but I am working around that.

My advice on where to start is to get the frame and shell done then lay out the interior using cardboard for walls to get the "feel" for the new layout. The tanks will fall into place but check where they will go so you don't have any plumbing through frame rails etc.

As a custom cabinet builder be sure to stay on the light weight side. I saw pictures on this forum where a member had custom cabinets built in a Sovereign and they used cabinet plywood with MDF doors. The cabinets had to add at least 1500 lbs. to the trailer weight. I am going with Cypress because it is plentiful here, strong and light weight.

Good luck and keep us posted.
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Old 05-14-2012, 07:52 PM   #4
New Member
1959 22' Custom
Mountain View , Arkansas
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 3
Thanks for the quick responses! I have checked most the frame in the rear and it looks great. I will have to pull the rest of the belly pan down to check the rest. As far as the floor goes, it is in really good shape with the exception of where the kitchen sink was and were the front door is. No problem to brace and patch. I posted several pics last year when I first got it. Some that the previous owner took before he gutted it, and some of it gutted that I took.

Exsys, its great to have another "dust eater" on here. As for the cabinets, I am very excited to get started on them. I actually built all new doors for the original cabinets before the camper was mine. My friend was going to have me skin the originals and I built walnut framed door and drawer fronts with aluminum center panels! They look awesome! But now that I am totally changing the floor plan I will have to see if I can use any of them. I dont know if my old pics from my old post are somewhere on here, but let me know if you want me to post somemore.

If I need to modify the frame for my tanks of build my own tank straps or whatever thats fine. I have a decent amount of metal working tools and equip to do about anything. I build custom hot rods during the winter months if we arent to busy in the cabinet shop. No rods this winter, but several in line. I will drive what I have until this airstream is DONE!!! No new projects!! I just wish I had of known in advance about this airstream and I would have built my hot rod shops doors a foot taller so I could fit the airstream in there and work on it in the ac. I have thought about trying to take the tires and wheels off a try to roll it in without the the belly pan rubbing.

As for the axle I am thinking about putting something that has trailer brakes so I can stop it easier with the old chevy truck Im wanting to build to pull it with. My '03 chevy just wouldnt look right to me pulling a old airstream
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Old 05-14-2012, 11:29 PM   #5
2 Rivet Member
1971 31' Sovereign
Watson , Louisiana
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 42
I would like to see pictures. They really say a lot about a project and what it takes to do them.

Yes, I am a fellow dust eater but not in the true sense. A majority of my time is spent on the business end with design, customers, vendors, etc. but I do work in the shop and go on all installations. I do what I cannot pay someone else to do.

I have the same idea for the cabinet doors. I want to make flat panel doors and use brushed aluminum roof flashing between the flat panel and the frame to have the aluminum panel look and because it would be lighter, faster and easier than making raised panel doors. I am thinking about doing the same for interior (bath, etc.) doors. Some upper cabinet doors I would do lexan in them to show cabinet lighting inside.

I have heard of some people placing the black water tank on top of the floor creating a raised platform for the toilet bringing it to a height found in commercial bathrooms. Support from the bottom seems better to me than straps but I am not at that point yet. I am sure I will do below the floor tanks but it would be interesting to do a black water tank below the toilet and a grey water tank below the shower properly air trapped of course.

I also have the same problem with the shop. With 2700 square feet and 14 foot ceilings I can't pull the Airstream into the shop because the doors are too low. Though much of the shop is for cabinet manufacturing I could use it on the weekends especially when it comes time for doing the cabinets and wood work. I may have to add on at least a lean-to to work on it when the weather is not so good.
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Old 05-15-2012, 12:05 AM   #6
3 Rivet Member
195Pilot's Avatar
1975 31' Sovereign
Pierre , South Dakota
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 133
I owned a custom millworks shop for 37years. Retired in 2007.We manufactured custom windows, doors and moulding. To much work not enough good employees and 7 days a week just to keep up. So I know where your coming from.
I just bought a 31 footer rear bath 3 weeks ago.
Here's what I have learned: You truly do not know the condition of an Airstream until you pull the belly pan and remove the insulation.
I read a lot and went prepared to inspect, with knife, and Ice pick in hand.Found a 6 inch square at the door,(no door gasket) and the back of the trailer 6 inches along the very back and again no gasket on the cargo hatch. No sag and no rear end separation.
Trailer home and removed the belly pan. ALL THE FRAME IS RUSTED OUT, holes on the frame rails from a-frame to rear bumper,outriggers gone, most of the cross members totally rusted out, all hidden under belly pan and insulation.
Start with the frame just as the foundation of a house, after you have a good foundation under you then you can build your dream airstream.
This is my plan
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Old 05-15-2012, 11:03 AM   #7
New Member
1959 22' Custom
Mountain View , Arkansas
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 3
Well now I am thinking tonight I may need to go out and pull a little more of the belly pan down and do some more inspecting!! But I will let you know how it turns out. I expect it to be ok, but who knows. The frame looks great around the rear plumbing area, but thats the only place I have looked. Here are a few pics that I posted last year.
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