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Old 04-28-2004, 09:34 AM   #1
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Novel questions

Hello, everyone,

I am not an owner of an Airstream, but I'm writing a novel in which the main character inadvertently inherits one in the early seventies (I think it will be a '63 Bambi). The trailer then sits in her driveway (unused) for 22 years. After that, the character (a single woman) wants to fix it up and use it again. I have several questions and am hoping that someone here would be kind enough to answer some or all of them:

1. What impact would the elements (snow, in particular) have on the trailer for that long? It sits beneath a huge Weeping Willow tree, so it is partially protected from rain/wind. The main character lives near Toronto, so the winters are cold and damp and can last from November-May. Is there anything that could prevent damage? I don't want her to put a tarp or tent over it (I want her to be fairly unaware of potential damage, doesn't even think to protect it).

2. Can she clean/polish the body herself? Or would she find someone else to do it...? (She does not have access to the Internet to find a group like this.) If so, how long would it take her?

3. A general question that shows my complete ignorance: what size vehicle is needed to tow a 16' Airstream? Could she drive an old station wagon and be okay?

Sorry if any of these questions are stupid. Any and all help is MUCH appreciated. I haven't been in an Airstream (yet -- I'm looking for someone in Toronto who may have one and can show me around), but I LOVE them.

Cheers,
Scribbler
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Old 04-28-2004, 10:12 AM   #2
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Scribbler, I'm a beginner Airstreamer but ...

... i DO know plants. A weeping willow would beat that poor little trailer to death. Those branches are like whips in the wind, and they shed like you wouldn't believe. I regularly pick up 6-foot branches in my yard. Those don't feel good to a trailer.

The novel sounds wonderful. Can't wait to hear how it all works out.
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Old 04-28-2004, 10:23 AM   #3
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Wow!

A novel about an airstream!!! Airsteams are making their way into
all sorts of art forms. How about a T.V. show about a talking Airstream?

" WIIIIILBUUUUUUR "
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Old 04-28-2004, 10:48 AM   #4
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I agree with Summerkid about the weeping willow. The only tree nastier is a cottonwood. Polishing is good, but 22 years under a weeping willow will require a major effort just to clean the skin. Under the tree will be worse than exposed, it won't get a chance to dry up/out. 22 years unused is a disaster. Leaks, heat, cold, humidity all take a toll on the floor and cabinetry. Research this forum about floor and frame repairs. Snow probably won't hurt it, the roof line tends to make it slide off quickly. Tires and brakes will be shot. I would expect it to be in pretty rough shape, good luck to her.

John
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Old 04-28-2004, 11:04 AM   #5
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Novel questions

Greetings Scribbler!

Welcome to the Forums!

Quote:
1. What impact would the elements (snow, in particular) have on the trailer for that long? It sits beneath a huge Weeping Willow tree, so it is partially protected from rain/wind. The main character lives near Toronto, so the winters are cold and damp and can last from November-May. Is there anything that could prevent damage? I don't want her to put a tarp or tent over it (I want her to be fairly unaware of potential damage, doesn't even think to protect it).
Since '63 would pre-date the standard use of Plasticoat to protect the aluminum, the coach would likely be trarnished to a near-charcoal-gray. I agree with Summerkid in that the willow branches would be unkind to the trailer as would the sap if my experience in parking an Edsel under a weeping willow is any indicator of such things. So far as damage from snow and other elements, leaks would be possible and if ventilation were lacking mildew of the interior could be possible - - floor damage from leaks would also be another real-world possibility under such conditions.

Quote:
2. Can she clean/polish the body herself? Or would she find someone else to do it...? (She does not have access to the Internet to find a group like this.) If so, how long would it take her?
Given the size of the coach it wouldn't necessarily be out of the realm of possibility, but it would be a big job. The original literature of the era suggested poishing by hand with Met-All, followed by an application of Glass-Wax, with a final protective finish of Walbernize (a kind of wax/protectant product).

Quote:
3. A general question that shows my complete ignorance: what size vehicle is needed to tow a 16' Airstream? Could she drive an old station wagon and be okay?
A '63 Bambi when fully loaded would have been under 3,000 pounds Gross Weight. The period literature illustrates the Bambi being towed by a similar vintage Chevy II Nova. The combination that always struck me as being 1960s "quirky" was a '63 Bambi with a '64 Studebaker Wagonnaire (retractable-roof station wagon).

Good luck with your research! The premise of the story sounds like it will make for a very interesting book that I would like to read!

Kevin
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Old 04-28-2004, 11:05 AM   #6
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Thanks for the input...

Well, it's certainly not too late for me to change my character's habits concerning the Airstream (or the tree -- I hadn't thought of the poor trailer being battered like that). She does use the trailer -- i.e., she spends time in there (she's a recluse), but it doesn't go on the road with it at all.

Any other comments? (And thanks again!)

Scribbler
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Old 04-28-2004, 05:11 PM   #7
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Speaking strictly from a writing standpoint, you could obviously employ a neighborhood-kid-type character as a vehicle to do any work you feel your main character wouldn't be inclined to do. It could even be interesting to see her reactions as she watches the trailer slowly transform from grubby eyesore to gleaming space pod.

Your main character's removal from some of the more externally visible elements of that process would inevitably give the reader - through her eyes - a more dramatic, 'caterpillar to butterfly' scenario, rather than following as she does all the work herself.

Another nice side effect is that this could speed things up at a point in the novel where (I, anyway) could become bogged down with restoration descriptions, a possible turn-off to those interested more in the adventure than in restoration lessons. Just a thought.

Imagining your book, I'm thinking of a cross between "Rebuilding the Indian" about motorcycle restoration, and ""Under the Tuscan Sun". Good luck, can't wait to see how it turns out!
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Old 04-28-2004, 05:38 PM   #8
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no, no bredlo... think "Perfect Storm"...

... remember how Sebastian Junger went on for PAGES about the intricacies of a brewing storm? Really, really technical info & I was on the edge of my seat the whole time! Scribbler could do that for Airstream restoration. Just think of all the plot elements, the drama! Corrosion! Dent removal! Those Vista View things you all talk about...

TOW VEHICLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 04-28-2004, 11:07 PM   #9
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Hi Srcibbler;

I think your idea is great - for a few reasons, one your are from Canada and so are we - and we have a vintage airstream too - We don't live in Toronto but my husband works in Toronto and drives in and out everyday.

If you are up for a 1.5 hour country drive you are more than welcome to come out and have a look. We are in the middle of restoring ours - her name is MoonBeam and she has a whimsical celestial interior decor theme - that was based on her era 1969.

While not the ever popular Bambi she is real cute none-the-less.

Quote:
I agree with Summerkid about the weeping willow.
As far as the tree - I think it is great - you see in any novel - that is fictional writing - you can create the perfect scenario.......such as.....

"she thought to herself as she watched the wind rustle through the tree how strange that the wind always seemed to blow the branches away from the trailer...... on that sunny day your character noticed sap dripping on the curved seam just above the porch light (or dripping over the warn and faded Wally Byam numbers)....she drifted off remembering her uncles stories of his shinny aluminum airplane from the 40's and how he took great care to avoid tree sap of any kind to the point of hanging parachutes from the low branches..... she summons bredlos "helper character" and together dragged an old heavy wooden ladder up to the tree.....and as she stood looking just beyond the spot where her bambi used to be she saw remnant shreds of cotton sheet that protected her bambi from the sap all those years.....what ever happened to that young boy...she turns at a familiar sound..........

Winters - no problem! keep your baby outside and she will never rust - in and out of the wet winters and they rust in seconds - cars that is. Just use the same principle

Have to keep an eye on the snow - not all of it falls down the sides and it can get pretty heavy piled up in the middle.

The humid summers are always bearable by the lake breezes???? so you will never have an issue with mold.

I can't wait to hear all about your book.

Feel free to PM me if you would like to have a look - or I could send you some pictures via e-mail.

However if you want to follow her progress just put a search for GT6921 and you will see lots of little things - detailed questions, MoonBeams decor saga, progress and dilemmas..... and it continues -and will do until she has her final shine......

She would'nt have inherited this bambi from a crazy old Aunt that lived in a forest with magical gardens and never without a big ole dog by her side...


Good luck with your Book - and if we can be of any help just let us know.
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Old 04-29-2004, 07:57 AM   #10
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You guys are so great!

Thanks for all the responses. I have introduced a young character (thanks bredlo, for the suggesion) who came sniffing around years before, asking about purchasing the Airstream (when he noticed it sitting idle in her driveway). She digs out his card again, and he will be helping her restore it. He will also be amazed that there isn't more damage from the tree or whatever else I decide to do (I like the image of the tree almost growing up around the trailer; my character is the neighbourhood "hermit" who lives in a run-down house with broken windows, stacks of old, faded newspapers in all the rooms, stray cats that wander in and out, etc.)

Thanks Kevin for the car suggestions! I think I may give her a '67 Chevy wagon (have to research to see how much restoration would be involved in bringing that puppy back into working order).

The problem is that she isn't the Airstream fanatic - her old lover is. They are separated for over 20 years, and when she finally finds him again, she wants to just show up with the shining Bambi towed by his old car.

GT6921 -- I can't believe your husband drives 3 hours each day for work! We would love to live in the country, but work is a problem. I just may take you up on your suggestion to come visit -- I'd love to. I'm trying to finish up the writing ASAP as I'm 6 months pregnant & want to get the book off to my agent before baby comes!

Scribbler
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Old 04-29-2004, 09:16 AM   #11
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Yep the price you pay for trusting your employer!

We both approached our employers to make sure we could work as a "remote" office - basically going in for meetings and various other administrative reasons. We got the go ahead from both so we bought this place and put up our other house for sale In the interim all the approvals are given to requisition the computer and modem and such. - 2.5 months later still no computer - so he decided to take care of the moving and have his holiday and then it might be ready by then.

It wasn't so he approaches his boss and she informs him that she has changed her mind that it would precident setting and not in the policy. (and yet there are lots of employees working remotely - and it it purely up to the supervisor!)

Yeh like we can do anything against the city - so he tried everthing he could to persuied her and her supervisor - even went to human resources and the best they did was to let him work a condensed work week 5days in 4.

They used the statement - "not our problem where you choose to live". and yet that was not the issue - she approved working remote - 1-2 days in and 3-4 days out. then we moved it was not the other way around! All his work except for meetings is done by phone, fax, e-mail and his work is mostly desk top.

We were pretty ticked off - and his health went to the pits with the stress of driving sitting inactive time mostly (Diabetic- Type I). After about 2 years and going on a pump his health settled and we are just coasting now til retirement.

But life goes on and it is too short to battle. When he is home in paradise everything else does not matter!

He's got over 20 years in so he is not about to leave or ruffle any feathers. (Just wish that boss of his had the integrity to stand by her word).

Like I said just give us a PM and we can make arrangements...
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Old 04-29-2004, 10:39 AM   #12
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Look! Sharon wrote her own novel!
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Old 04-29-2004, 11:11 AM   #13
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Could I sell it and make money so he can retire early
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Old 04-29-2004, 03:21 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by scribbler
I'm looking for someone in Toronto who may have one and can show me around), but I LOVE them.

Cheers,
Scribbler

Hi Scribbler,

If Lakefield is too far, how about Milton? You're welcome to have a look at our 1964 Overlander which we are in the process of fixing up.

Grant
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