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Old 01-14-2004, 12:31 PM   #1
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total overhaul need advice

hello and thanks out there to the folks who answered my other posts.

i have a 1963 safari that my husband and i are making and/or customizing to be groovy and wheelchair accessible. not the traditional type of wheelchair accessible you might be thinking of -we are both architects and young. most people imagine sterile looking bathroom equipment and electronic devices and such. no way, that is not us. here is what we want to do and i need to know where to start first. we are still unemployed from graduating over a year ago (yes i know we live in oregon) and i would like to overhaul our trailer in the next two months. (great project for our portfolios!!!) and if we never find work at least we will have a place to live!!!

what we need/know and want:

1.)we already know his power chair fits through the doorframe, but we would like to lower the frame on an airbag suspension system so when we pull up into a campsite we can drop down the frame and attach our ramps (the lower the incline the better) and he can wheel up inside without assistance.

2.)we have ideas for interior design, but that is a long way off so i won't talk about now and i'll get to the matter at hand:

exterior condition:

the body of our airstream is in good shape. some dents. needs polishing and minor work.

interior condition:

the floor is totally gross. it had major interior damage from desert mice and whatever other animals were living inside. i have gutted the entire thing and now i am at a crossroads. and it still smells.

WHAT DO I DO NEXT???

we want to take off the interior panels.
change electric
change plumbing
change insulation
strip panels
rivet panels back on
change out plywood floor
frame????(don't know about condition)
install a new floor
the windows leak and i have the parts to reseal
the roof vents leak
the air conditioning area leaks

I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO TOUCH NEXT!!!

Can anyone offer me suggestions and/or a plan of action and timeline. I am pretty much working by myself in rainy Oregon. I can try to schedule a friend or two to help on a sunny day (if i ever see the sun again)

I can probably borrow the tools i need from family and i have access to a welder.

WE NEED TO MAKE A STEP BY STEP HANDBOOK.
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Old 01-14-2004, 12:49 PM   #2
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Talking Major project

You have taken on a major project and my suggestions are two...

1. The cost could be prohibitive as opposed to investing in a coach in better condition. Put another way, it might be less expensive when you figure the cost of repairs to sell yours and find one in better shape and end up with a lower investment.

2. Most of us here don't take our own advice though and thusly you should fix the worst items first and " if it ain't broke don't fix it" or at least fix it last. Some items can be lived without, i.e. no a/c.

Another #2...if you have the help and money search and read the older posts and almost all your questions will be answered.

We like to help...jem
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Old 01-14-2004, 12:58 PM   #3
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thanks jem.

we do have some money put aside for the project. we knew it was going to be a big overhaul, but we decided to purchase this one anyway. we knew we would have to take the whole thing apart to do the things we wanted to do, so we were aware of that. its ok, we love the safari and the challenge. i have been reading the other posts, too. i have been getting bits and pieces of what to do, but can not seem to find a "make sure you do this before that" type of thing.

take care! i went to usf in tampa. my family lives on clearwater beach.
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Old 01-14-2004, 01:20 PM   #4
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To take Jem's point just a bit farther - it will cost little, if any, more to do what you are trying to do with larger coach. If I was in your situation, I would want more space than a 22' has available.

But, moving right along....

The "kneeling" coach is a problem. If I remember correctly, '63 was about the time Airstream went to the torsion axle. The torsion axles have no space left to drop. If you have the leaf spring axle, you will need a good suspension shop to set it up for you, but the maximium drop available is whatever is currently between the axle and the bottom of the frame. And it's not much! There have been some posts on this topic - do a search on "air bags". Most of the hits will concern motorhomes, but you should be able to find the ones you want.

When you say the floor has "major" damage, are you talking cosmetic, or structural? It is not uncommon for a total floor replacement to be necessary in a coach such as you describe. Do a search on "floor rot" and "floor replacement" or "replacing the floor".

You aren't going to believe how much wiring there is in your coach. You just will not believe it. One thing that should be stressed is that the interior panels are structural members. You need to carefully block up the frame all around in such a way that it does not sag at the ends or in the middle before removing the interior skins.

The smell is fungus and mold. You've got to get at it and kill it. But if you gut the coach and remove the panels, you will be able to get into all the little nooks and crannies.

Frames can be repaired, even replaced. As I recall, most of the posts on frame work are contained in the posts on floor replacement.

Good luck!

Mark
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Old 01-14-2004, 01:24 PM   #5
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I think the reason it still smells is that the floor may be rotted, the insulation is "bad" and the fact that animals had made it their home.

Check the floor for rot and replace it entirely or at least the portions that are damaged. That along with removing the wall panels, which will make changing out the electrical, plumbing and insulation much easier. this way you can determine if the smell is from the wood floor &/or the insulation which may have absorbed animal waste. Yuck! These two projects really need to be done together, to be out with the old!

The ideal would be to find a place to work on it indoors during your rainy season, so you can protect it from further water damage from your leaks, until you can get around to fixing those.

Sounds like a big project!!! Good luck!

Shari
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Old 01-14-2004, 01:57 PM   #6
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Total Overhaul

A couple of items for your checklist:
1. Do you intend the home to be mostly stationary? If you only plan to move it from job-to-job every couple of months, and have full hook-up available, you can simplify the plumbing and electrical requirements. One of the most expensive decisions you need to make is whether you will be 'boondocking', which requires lots of 12volt power and grey tank/black tank capacity. If you are going to be park-bound with hook-ups, you can use less expensive 120V power, and standard (apartment size) appliances.
2. Look at the major appliances that need replacement, such as refrigerator, furnace, toilet, water heater. Know what these cost in both 12V, propane, and 120volts. Again, the cost will depend if you are parkbound or boondocking. If you are comfortable with the cost at this point, proceed with the floor replacement.
3. Take off the lowest interior panels so that you can inspect the floor, and how well it is attached to the body. If all the channels and floor at the bottom are rotted and corroded you will need to replace the floor. Do not take off the upper sections of the interior walls, they are important for structural stability if you need to lift off the chassis to repair the floor.
4. If the floor and attachments are in good shape, you are VERY LUCKY. At this point I would go ahead with the interior restoration, check the axle brakes and tires, and hit the road.
5. If the floor is in bad shape, you will want to check the axle, running gear, brakes, and as much of the frame as you can see. If the running gear and frame need major work, I would consider doing a 'frame off' restoration, because it is easier to repair the frame and running gear if you are working on a bare frame. If the floor is bad, but the frame and running gear are ok, you probably want to consider a floor replacement with a simple "lift and slide-in" method others have described elsewhere.
Hope this helps you get started. Much admiration for a young couple starting a great adventure. Our first trip next year will be to Vancouver WA to visit my folks.

Don in Wayzata
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Old 01-14-2004, 01:59 PM   #7
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we like the 22' so we are quite happy with the size, but thanks anyway...

the floor does not seem "rotted", just old and musty, but once we redo it, we don't want to do it again! (as you all probably understand)

i have peaked under some of the panels and the insulation looks ok, but you never know

the smell is probably mold-

as far as the window seals-

do i replace them now on a sunny day? is taking off the interior panels going to cause problems with redoing the window seals first? i was thinking about replacing the window seals first, then resealing the vents and the ac unit. at least it would be more water tight before i mess with the interior. unfortunately, i don't have a place to work on it inside.
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Old 01-14-2004, 02:25 PM   #8
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Did you check your last Post on the Suspension? I had a couple ideas that I think will work to help lower the coach and are reasonably economical especially if you can weld.

I love chalanges like this. Wish we were on the same side of the country and I would lend you a hand. I have done some work on odd projects for others with chalanges. I almost went to work for a gentleman who owned a buisness specializing in this sort of work. I applaude you and your husband for not sitting around and taking on a project like this. It's unique but I don't see any reason why you can't do it.

Onpersonal experiance with the floor and the smell. It's the wood and it's the insulation under the floor.

Do you have soft spots?
Where?
Have to looked in the belly pan?

My wife and I just replaced the floor in our 59. It is no small job. It took 4 times as long as I thought it would. It took 5 times the amount of money I expected. Most of that is because Plywood prices have gone through the roof. Reguardless I am pleased with the end result and I am confident our coach will have another 40years in her and I don't regret taking the time and money to do it.

There is 3-4 of use currently doing ground up restorations on older coaches. Mark, Greg and I have a post that will show you whats inolved if you find your going to have to do the full Monty.
http://www.airforums.com/forum...&threadid=6554

That's worse case. I was pretty lucky and only ran into one major frame problem with a rusted out crossmember. Mark didn't do to bad. He had some A-Frame repairs and he also did some custom work to add a grey water tank. I wish I had done the same but ran short on time. Greg is building a new frame.

That post is worth looking at because it will give you an idea on wht it's going to take to modify the suspension to make the coach kneel to ease the access ramp lenght and angle.

One thing I thing will make this work best on a Airstream is it's already a low to the ground coach. The way it is constructed is gain 2. You should have no problem adding a set of tracks under the door for the ramp to slide on and stow under the coach. I think you could get the coach to kneel down to an entry hight of 13-15 inches. I think you should be able to get a reasonable angle on a ramp 4-5 ft in lenght. That will make the ramp managable weight and size. A little creativity and you can get it to pull out about 10 inches and drop about 4-5 and make a step for nore access.
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Old 01-14-2004, 02:39 PM   #9
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Floor rotted?

Be cautious about determining whether the floor is rotted. I did'nt think my floor was rotted until I got the panels off and looked at it. The most critical area is in the rear right at the junction of the wall and the body. Remove the access panel in the belly skin and try to poke a screwdriver in it, right where the floor joins the wall.
This area is critical because the 2 inch strip under the wall is all that holds the body to the floor. The rear is the area that gets the most abuse due to flexing of the frame as you bounce down the road, and it's also the area most likely to have water damage from leaks in the bathroom or rear window.
Here's a picture of my rotted floor behind the toilet.
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Old 01-14-2004, 03:03 PM   #10
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well i will go investigate the floor further...

the reason i think the structure might be ok is that the airstream was sitting in tucson since 1973 (and maybe before, but i only know back until then) - sometimes inside and for quite a few years outside. so the only real rain it is getting is currently (thank goodness)

we went down to tucson to pick it up and bring it back. we replaced the tires/brakes/towing equipment and it towed beautifully except we did lose a window due to a dryrotted seal- we might be moving back down there in a couple of months so that is why we want to work on it quickly

rich has moved around in there and he and his chair weigh about 550 (the chair weighs about 375) and the floor was fine in the main body

the funny story is that we just got married this past summer and we asked everyone to chip in for our airstream fund instead of buying us gifts - we love to camp and camping is not very wheelchair accessible friendly - so we had enough to buy the A/S we liked and do the repairs- we did not take a honeymoon yet, but we are planning on doing so in the airstream this summer!
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Old 01-14-2004, 03:54 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by nevisstudio
we like the 22' so we are quite happy with the size, but thanks anyway...

the floor does not seem "rotted", just old and musty, but once we redo it, we don't want to do it again! (as you all probably understand)

i have peaked under some of the panels and the insulation looks ok, but you never know

the smell is probably mold-

as far as the window seals-

do i replace them now on a sunny day? is taking off the interior panels going to cause problems with redoing the window seals first? i was thinking about replacing the window seals first, then resealing the vents and the ac unit. at least it would be more water tight before i mess with the interior. unfortunately, i don't have a place to work on it inside.
I hate to say it but I think you may find the window seals and gaskets are not the source of your leak. I think your coach runs the same hehr 1009 style windows as ours. They could have no seals and unless it was a driving rain they would not leak. The way they are lipped they simply do not leak. The seals are for air not water.

Here is where I think the problem is. When the coach is constructed the window frames rivet in from the outside. Now that I have the coach apart I see the water is coming in above the acutal window an it's mechanisim. With the window garnish in there the water would appear at the bottom of the window sill and apear to come in around the window.

Where I think I have isolated the problem to is the sealent used when the window frame is installed into the body. The sealent used is about the same thing as plumbers putty and 40 years of the sun beating down has dried it out. The same material is used to seal the rain gutter to the body.

Because the gutter is so tight to the top of the window frame you can't easily get in there to use Velkem. I have not had a chance to resolve this because My windows that leak have damage (actually they have been removed and I have plexi in one and a window A/C in the other) and I'm atempting to find replacements.

It appears to properly fix this problem will require removing the gutter, digging out the sealent on the top and sides of the window frame, pump some Velkem in with a syringe, install gutter with velkem.

Other place to check foir leaks is the vent of the plumbing on the roof. There is a foam rubber gasket that will dry out. The water cane get between the inner pannels and make it to the floor and you neve see it. www.inlandrv.com can help you with that seal. www.airstreamdreams.com can also help with some of the vintage stuff.
Eric
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Old 01-14-2004, 04:03 PM   #12
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Late 50`s Chevrolets had an air ride suspension system; and i think some present day heavy trucks also have same; for ideas.
I seriously doubt the practicality of this Herculean task without mega bucks to support the project. And what about a return on your investment?.
I sincerely hope that you find meaningful employment soon.
Dick
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Old 01-14-2004, 04:20 PM   #13
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i know its herculean, but we think it will be worth it! when you are in a wheelchair and want to travel, what a better way to go! traveling is tough for us and we are only 30. we plan on keeping this one forever! does anyone have an idea on cost estimates? we can always scrap the fancy stuff for the future and try to do most of the work ourselves.
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Old 01-14-2004, 04:26 PM   #14
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"when you are in a wheelchair and want to travel, what a better way to go!"

Of the wheelchair-campers I have seen, the vast majority of them have been in Airstreams. Perhaps the low step-up is a major factor?

Mark
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