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Old 09-27-2003, 08:32 PM   #1
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Smile Architecture student wants to find out more about Airstream construction

Hi All,
I am an architecture student in Toronto, Canada. Owning an airstream would be a dream for me.

I am currently working on a project and have selected to study the construction of the Airstream camper. I am trying to find out more specific information on the construction of it. I have visited the airstream website and read through the factory tour portion where they describe the process of building an airstream. What I am looking for is more nuts and bolts details.

Here's couple things I am looking for and hopefully you can help me out on my research.
1. the size of the steel structural memeber on the inside. I think there are 3 different sizes, one is the main frame, one is the ones going horizontally and the ones for the chasis/floor
2. what shapes are those structural members (u channel, c channel, square section?? etc?)
3. how is the actual skin rivet onto the frame? is it what you see on the outside of the skin is where they rivet onto the fram on the inside??
4. the curve of the airstream. I read somewhere that the curve had stayed the same since the very beginning. what is the radius of it and why that particula radius??

That's couple things I can think of right now. Also if there are pictures of the airstream being gutted, that would be great too if I can use it for my project.

Thank you very much for your help

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Old 09-27-2003, 09:27 PM   #2
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First the frame
This is a 1959 model 24' Tradewind.
The main frame is 4x2 closed rectangular tubing, 14 ga.(.081") Frame rails are 56" OC
The cross members are 14ga (.075")c-channel, 2x4x1, with the 2" dimension directly under the floor seams. The crossmembers are 24"OC.
Floor is 5/8 plywood. 4x8 ft sheets run crosswise with corrugated steel joiners. Joins are centered above the crossmembers. Flooring is attached to the crossmembers with approx 100 flathead 1/4-20 elevator screws.
The length of the plywood floor is 21'. Radius of the corners is 22". Total width of the floor is 88".
The body is .032" aluminum 2024T3. Main ribs are 1.5" x 3/4" c-channel, nom .062" thick. Yes, the outside rivets do indicate location of ribs. The front and rear stucture is lighter weight formed aluminum channel, probably .032" and is not structural.
The inside shell at the fore and aft curved section is fiberglas composite where the compound shape is difficult to manufacture in aluminum. The straight interior wall sections are aluminum sheet.
This trailer has a sprung mass of 2800lbs with furnishings. Running gear is a single axle leaf spring design with electric brakes.
I will be glad to provide more information if you send me a PM (private message with your e-mail address.
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Old 09-27-2003, 11:40 PM   #3
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That's one h*ll of a project you're undertaking. WOW ! ! Only difference I see (other than the windows fore of the door because I have a booth where as you have, or had, a couch) is the interior end caps on mine are aluminum just like the exterior. What is your month and year of manufacture? Mine is 9/58 and serial number is 24T-0114.

4CU 2699 / AIR 10 / TAC AZ-1

I'm haunted by aluminum.
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Old 09-28-2003, 06:33 AM   #4
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Serial Number?

The S/N on mine is 249082. I guess that means of the 24 footers, it is number 9082.
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Old 09-28-2003, 06:43 AM   #5
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The size of the frame members is going to depend upon the year and model.

The interior skin is riveted with "pop" rivets, and so they cannot be seen from the exterior.

Subject to correction, I believe the current roof line radius dates from the 60's. But I have been wrong before.

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Old 09-28-2003, 07:10 AM   #6
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Oreo , I think there have been about 4 changes to the curvature "the radius may have stayed the same im not sure"of the roof mostly due to manufacturing processes, The person you need to contact is a gentleman named Bud Cooper . He is the unofficial Historian of vintage Airstreams ,He has an engineering back ground as well, the other source I would use is Airstream itself call and ask for tech support they have been very helpful to me in the past, Airstream still supports the vintage trailers if you can believe that !Bud Cooper can be reached here........... Bud Cooper #26019
1401 S. Cage Blvd. #600
Pharr,TX 78577 ............ This is straight from the Vintage Airstream website of Contacts and Officers .I would also pick up a copy of this book ,while it does not contain much in the way of engineering specs, it does give the flavour of why things happened the way they did .I hope this helps you Tom
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Old 09-28-2003, 10:08 AM   #7
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Talking Thanks

Thank you for all the replies.

Thanks Tom, I will try to contact Bud Cooper. I have that book and just love it. It's a great book on Airstream I have to agree.
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Old 09-28-2003, 01:20 PM   #8
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What book? There's a book? I'll need to buy one too!
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Old 09-28-2003, 02:35 PM   #9
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The book is on the history of Airstream.

Airstream: The History of Land Yacht by David Hunt and Bryan Burkhart.

I like the book but unfortunately doesn't have too much information I need for the project
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Old 09-28-2003, 06:40 PM   #10
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I'm an architect, and i've spent waaaay too much time designing the renovation of my AIRSTREAM, and much too little time constructing it.

If you need a digital 3d model of an AIRSTREAM, you free to use mine. It isn't perfect, but it should get you close for a school project. I built it with a ton of layers in AutoCAD, so you can turn on/off as you need to see various components.

It doesn't have any demo layers, so all you'd be getting is a version of where mine is headed.


sample imagery using AutoCAD and AccuRender:
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Old 09-28-2003, 07:04 PM   #11
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Nice Rendering!!


Nice work!! I too am an architect. Is there some kind of affinity that attracts architects to an Airstream? The International CCD is designed by an architect and the marketing director at Airstream is an architect. Seems to be a few on this forum as well.

I've measured my Airstream but have not taken the time to draw it yet. I'm mulling over just getting it in shape or considering a total re-design but am puzzled how my Lake Minnetonka compatriot, MarkDoane, can be working on one outside with an impending Minnesota winter.


If you want that Airstream book, the B. Dalton, downtown Minneapolis, has a copy on its shelf (as of last Friday). The Ridgedale B. Dalton's might carry it as well.
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Old 09-28-2003, 07:22 PM   #12
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Talking WOW........

Great Rendering Christopher!!!

That seems like a fun project even just designing it and creating the 3d model of it. If you really don't mind me using the model that would be awesome for my project. How big is the file?? If it's less than 1MB, can you email me the file at THANK YOU SOOOOOOO MUCH!!!! Greatly appreciated.

I really envy you all. It would be a dream for me to have an airstream to renovate. Too bad I am all the way up in Toronto, or else I would have put a "for hire" sign up right away.

Thank you very much for all the replies, I am more than excited right now.

Thank you,
Oreo (Wilma)
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Old 09-28-2003, 07:35 PM   #13
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I've got most of my '59 tradewind done in 2D on Autocad 2000. Well, mostly just the frame and floorpaln and plumbing, in 14 layers. I spend about 2hrs dreaming up new layouts and floorplans for every hour I spend working on the physical object. The ratio will get worse as winter approaches.
Boy would I like to get ahold of gerbermania's 3D rendering. Thats a fine piece of work.

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