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Old 02-28-2012, 04:57 PM   #1
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Tell me if I'm crazy

So I've poured over these restoration posts for the last several days, and needless to say I think I'm hooked!

I'm absolutely fascinated with the process of taking these (sometimes) junky old trailers and turning them into something beautiful. With all of these posts being so specific, it seems like an overwhelming task. So I ask: How on EARTH do you do this yourself? There has to be a thousand things that all have to be just right for the end product to be anything resembling serviceable, and while I'm fairly good at following instructions, I'm terrified I'd miss something and ruin everything!

So here's my idea, tell me how realistic you think it is:

I use the next few weeks/months finding a serviceable (at least towable) trailer. I've read that a good frame/skeleton/skin/windows/door is a must, and everything else can be re-worked. I'd probably pay around $5,000 for one that's entirely usable, just needs some updating.

I get that puppy home and rip out what I don't want, which will probably be everything. It all had to go in there, right, so it should all come back out again without a sledge hammer. From what I've read, these pieces are useful to some so I should try and sell them if they are still functional.

This is where the terror begins. Now I have an empty shell and no clue how to get it back together again. So here's my completely novice idea of how I'd do it: First, design my ideal floorplan. Next, price out the big pieces I'd need to buy (sink, water heater, appliances, lighting, fixtures, shower, etc etc). Then I'd identify if there were any repairs I couldn't do myself due to lack of tools/expertise and get quotes for those jobs. Then I'd begin the removal of the old stuff, setting aside things that would be useful in my remodel and things that I could potentially sell. Then I begin to reassemble, using the input of you fantastic forum members as I go, and taking lots of pictures!

So, lets talk resources! While I have very little technical expertise, I am fantastic at following instructions. My dad was a carpenter, so I have some familiarity with basic tools and construction. Hell I might even drag him into this project with me. He always did say we didn't spend enough time together!

So there you have it. Resources... words of wisdom... a slap in the face to wake me up from this pipe-dream.... let me have it! Also, is a $50k budget realistic? I know a lot of things will depend on my own personal taste, but unless I go with the most-expensive-tricked-out-option-available, is it realistic?
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Old 02-28-2012, 06:17 PM   #2
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Welcome! Fabulous to hear your enthusiasm. I think your plan is totally doable. But a handful of caveats:

- You'll likely need to do some frame and floor repair. That might not be as fun to work on as the new furnishings. Some folks farm that out to a restorer.

- You probably want to take out the inner skins. Things live (and die and do other things) in the insulation in the walls. That's yucky. More non-fun stuff.

- This can all take a while. I know of folks who had a huge shop and lots of tools and restoration expertise - and it took them 6 months to rebuild a 70s Tradewind. That's definitely on the quick end of things.

- That price is certainly doable if you do a lot of the work yourself. Parts typically can add up to $10k-$15k, and that's not including buying sheet aluminum for body repairs.

- DON'T THROW ANYTHING OUT. Or sell it until you're done. (Even I regret getting rid of the ugly dinette ends that I had replaced - someone else eventually wanted them, in the exact color I had.) You never know when you need that piece of unobtainium to make something work.

- Finally, do you like camping? Always wanted a trailer? I have a good friend who loves the project (boats and cars, in this case), but gets bored when it's all done. If you're going full custom, make sure it's something you want. I'm not one to be a stickler about resale, but it is a factor.

Tom
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Old 02-28-2012, 07:46 PM   #3
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If my budget was $50 K, as you state, I would sure consider buying a new one or one a year or two old. A lot easier, and you can resell it if things don't work out. It takes a huge amount of time to rebuild an old one, especially gutting and starting with a new floor plan.
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Old 02-28-2012, 08:19 PM   #4
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If my budget was $50 K, as you state, I would sure consider buying a new one or one a year or two old. A lot easier, and you can resell it if things don't work out. It takes a huge amount of time to rebuild an old one, especially gutting and starting with a new floor plan.

Here's my reasoning on that: I've been inside several of the newer models, and I simply don't like them. I'd end up wanting to customize them anyway, and there's no guarantee I'd be able to get my purchase price back in resale. So I buy an older, used model for around $5k, do my research, and dig in. The time factor is largely irrelevant, as I will soon have a great deal of free time on my hands. In the end, I sincerely hope I don't spend all $50k, but that is my limit. If I end up with a result I'm truly happy with, and I've only spent 20-30k, I'd be ecstatic!
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Old 02-28-2012, 08:34 PM   #5
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You may want to take in a vintage airstream rally and visit some old trailers. Then go through some new ones. For me, my 1968 Globetrotter was an easy decision. Less than 10K, and a year and a few months later its restored. When your done you will know every inch of it and feel very secure in your travels. The 20' trailer can park almost anywhere. Whatever skills you lack, you will always have the AirForum to assist you in striving ahead. If you enjoy working with your hands then a vintage is the way to go. Be careful though, Aluminitus is a disease only earned by years of removing old rivets and broken drill bits.
Randy
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Old 02-28-2012, 08:43 PM   #6
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We found that doing ours in stages let us get to know the trailer and what sort of spaces we wanted to have in it. We bought one that was not a total wreck inside - dirty and ugly, but serviceable.

We pulled out anything fabric or soft that could hold odors. There had never been rodents so we kept the interior skins on. Then we fixed all of the necessary mechanical parts. Then we started camping in it.

We've changed our plan from what we originally had in mind. Camping in it gives a much better idea of what parts of the layout work for you and which ones don't. You can pull out and change a bit at a time and still enjoy it for camping.

My husband does the mechanical/electrical/plumbing stuff and I do the wood and fabric parts. We have a garage full of tools and are pretty handy in our areas of expertise. For the past two years, we've spent probably at least two weekends each month working on the trailer, and countless hours planning, designing and researching. We've given up social opportunities and hardly ever go out to movies and such. The trailer is our togetherness time. Even with that, we have another couple of years, at a slightly less frantic pace maybe, before we'll be done with the stuff we've had our eyes on since the beginning.

I'd recommend starting with something fairly functional and doing what you need to do as you go along. Once you've gotten a feel for Airstreams and how they camp and how to work on one, then you can decide if you want a project as huge as what you are describing.

I'd hate for you to bite off more than you can chew and get turned off to the lures of aluminum. But only you know your work style. If a clean slate is where you need to start, go for it. Research, research, research.
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Old 02-28-2012, 08:58 PM   #7
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Go for it!
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Old 02-28-2012, 09:35 PM   #8
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Of course you're crazy! But, you have a lot of company here.

I say go for it too. Sounds like you have a pretty good idea what you're getting yourself into already. Just take it one step at a time, and plan ahead on things like wiring, plumbing, etc. You know, the stuff that's really hard to change once you start building things. You'll learn lots of new skills, and those things you don't want to learn, or are beyond your skills, you can hire out.

A $50k budget should do you very, very well. We've spent about $23k so far, and we pretty much have all the big ticket items purchased. Now to get them all installed...

Good luck! Keep us posted, and post lots of pics.

Chris
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Old 02-28-2012, 09:54 PM   #9
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A $50k budget should do you very, very well. We've spent about $23k so far, and we pretty much have all the big ticket items purchased. Now to get them all installed...

Can you give me an idea of the direction you're taking yours, and what you purchased/from where? Like they say, there's no need to re-invent the wheel if you don't have to.
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Old 02-28-2012, 11:01 PM   #10
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I would look at a bunch of them, so you get a feel for the floor plans and what you want. You also get a feel for what you get for the money. I think that it is best to spend more money for a solid trailer that has been well cared for. The most important thing is to buy what you really want. After all is said and done, you don't want to get your trailer completed and then say, gosh I have a 67 Globetrotter and I redid it my way, but I really wish that I had a 72 Tradewind. I would go to all the rallys that you can so you can look at a variety of vintage trailers and can talk to the owners. It may take 6 months to a year to find the right trailer and then you can start your restoration work. All the looking and education will be time well spent and you won't be sorry.

I bought a 31' 1984 Excella about 10 years ago. I realized that it was too big for the camping that we like to do. I stumbled across a 1966 Tradewind that was in real nice shape about 2 years ago. I bought it immediately because it was the right size, I liked the layout, it had real wood cabinets, neat curved windows and was in excellent condition. The PO had polished it, installed a new water heater, a new awning and redid all the fluff stuff on the inside. I have since redone the electrical, the plumbing, replaced the fridge and am getting ready to replace the floor covering with either cork or marmaloneum. After that will be new axles and brakes, probably discs. I don't think that I will have more than 15k in the trailer when it is completed. When it is finished it will be as good or better in some respects than a new trailer. It will be better because it will have disc brakes, all LED lights, 4 6v golf cart batteries and a 1,500 watt inverter. I will probably install solar also, since I like to boondock at music festivals.

Sounds like you have the right attitude. Get ready for a fun ride. Your life will not be the same again, and that is a good thing. Good luck.

Dan
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Old 02-29-2012, 10:23 AM   #11
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Welcome to aluminitis, an uncurable disease, and this group of terminally infected nuts! At least we are friendly and helpful nuts...

Previous posts recommending attendance at vintage rallies are absolutely correct. Tour the trailers, talk to owners (always ready to expound on how they did anything or would do things differently next time), check out the layouts for the best for you.

For example, us older folks generally get up in the night for the necessary while younger folks do not. This can make a difference in the way you view a bed clear across the end of the trailer. If you are older, this means someone will have to crawl over the other (and probably wake him up) once or twice a night. We are changing the layout of our 55 FC to remove the bed across the back and instead move a small dresser across the trailer to allow us to have L-shaped twin beds in the back. Thus we can each get up without disturbing the other.

Some preferences cannot be known until you actually do some camping, but I would suggest a larger (26'? 28'?) trailer rather than a tiny one to start with. You can always take less stuff, but it gets hard to get more into a tiny one if you decide you want to stay out longer, take more grilling equipment, etc. Just my take on it, probably lots will disagree! And if you are a confirmed single, disregard all of the above!

Vivian
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Old 02-29-2012, 12:14 PM   #12
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You are getting excellent advice! 50K sounds like a huuuuge budget to me if you are not hiring out the work! You are in for many many many hours of fun.
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Old 02-29-2012, 04:21 PM   #13
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Can you give me an idea of the direction you're taking yours, and what you purchased/from where? Like they say, there's no need to re-invent the wheel if you don't have to.
Probably the best way to see where we're going to read our thread if you haven't already: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f185...urb-50967.html. In posts 289 and 292 I posted the plan drawings we've been working from.

In general, we're keeping the original floor plan (rear bath), but we did move the tub/shower and vanity from their original locations, and are building a full size bed instead of having two twin beds in the middle of the trailer. The last kinda big interior change is we eliminated the original wardrobes that were between the beds and the bath, which allows us to move the bed aft and extend the galley by 18 inches or so. The last big change we made is we added gray water tanks. Being a pre-1974 trailer, she didn't have gray water tanks originally.

It's been a fun 3 years so far. We figure we have 2 more years to go before we're completely done. Goal for this year is to have her road ready by the end of the summer.

Chris
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Old 02-29-2012, 11:33 PM   #14
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Probably the best way to see where we're going to read our thread if you haven't already: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f185...urb-50967.html. In posts 289 and 292 I posted the plan drawings we've been working from.

In general, we're keeping the original floor plan (rear bath), but we did move the tub/shower and vanity from their original locations, and are building a full size bed instead of having two twin beds in the middle of the trailer. The last kinda big interior change is we eliminated the original wardrobes that were between the beds and the bath, which allows us to move the bed aft and extend the galley by 18 inches or so. The last big change we made is we added gray water tanks. Being a pre-1974 trailer, she didn't have gray water tanks originally.

It's been a fun 3 years so far. We figure we have 2 more years to go before we're completely done. Goal for this year is to have her road ready by the end of the summer.

Chris
I started reading through your restoration thread and I have to say it was very impressive! How on earth did you know exactly what needed to be done for each step? You sounded like you do this sort of thing all the time

I personally wouldn't have known ANY of those fixes if someone hadn't straight up told me exactly what to do. I can follow instructions with the best of them, but something tells me there isn't a "Remodel your Airstream in 2437 Steps!" workbook out there anywhere.
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