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MattB 01-20-2014 08:36 PM

The Double Nickel Project - 1955 Flying Cloud
2 Attachment(s)
Purchase and recovery:

About fifteen months ago we purchased a 1955 Flying Cloud, after a search of about six months for a vintage trailer. About three years ago we had purchased a new Flying Cloud, but having purchased only one airstream, it took me a while to realize that my irrational desire for classic aluminum trailers had not been satiated. Fortunately, SWMBO was at least willing to go along with me to buy this trailer in October of 2012. She had also talked me off a ledge on buying a 65 Safari in much worse shape a few months earlier. It always good to take a deep breath when tempted to buy one of the first trailers that you see.

But when I saw this one for a reasonable price and only a few miles up the road from our home for on the interwebs, I asked SWMBO if she would take a look. I looked at the pictures sent by the owner and they looked OK, albeit without interior furnishings. No problem, I wanted a blank slate. This was not a restoration, this was a renovation with modern amenities that I had in mind. But I knew that given the year, the size, the name, the whale tale, I would not want another (just like my lovely bride, SWMBO).

Did I mention I was orchestrating this overture from Afghanistan? With a bit of planning, I was able to call my wife when she went to inspect. It looked OK (described by the wife as, “It’s a POS, why do want it again?” most things seemed in order… Except I asked her about the door (I had sent her a big list of things to check), and she said, “Well, it’s laying down inside the trailer.” Me: “What do you mean?” Her: “They ripped it off the side.” Me: “What do you mean, ripped it? Like took off the hinges?” Her: “No, ripped out of the metal.” Me: “Why didn’t they just pull the hinge pins?” Her: “Don’t know.” Me: “Tell them the price just went down about $500.” After working out a new price, signing a purchase agreement, and exchanging cash, it was ours.

Now part of my willingness to take on this project was the inspiration that I took from listening to the VAP (thank you Tim, Colin, and Rob) but my SWMBO, being smarter than me, short circuited the whole recovery mission by having a tow truck come, load it up and haul it to Airstream NW in Covington, WA, about six miles from the purchase location, where they expensively, but with great service, made sure it was roadworthy in anticipation of our family move two months later. More than I wanted to spend, but I was in Afghanistan at the time.

Within two months, my wife had cleverly convinced my native state of South Dakota to grant a title, after a nationwide search for an old title, and it was ours completely legal and licensed. Sadly, I would not get to see it for two months, but I started preparing to fix the door so that we could have it ready when the family moved immediately upon my return from overseas.

I am very excited to create this process. Some of you may note a disconnect in the timeline, but I am catching up on my documentation now that I have more time to work on the trailer. I have read about every restoration thread on the forums and have been working on my plans for over a year, and not have detailed checklists, pictures, and instructions developed from months or reading and learning. What a great resource! If I have stolen your idea thank you, though rest assured that I have lots more questions before I finish. I like working on metal and wood, but am not much more than a shade tree mechanic, if that in terms of ability.

bwoodtx 01-20-2014 09:45 PM

Nice!! And it is a tail, too.

reinergirl 01-20-2014 10:00 PM

Really sweet! Best of luck in the Reno......and more pictures please ;)

MattB 01-21-2014 10:52 PM

More pictures and some questions
4 Attachment(s)
Once I got home, I went up to pick up the trailer right after Veteran’s Day weekend from Airstream NW. It was the first time I was able to see the trailer directly. I was surprised to hear that they see a number of vintage trailers in their shop for repairs and elements of restoration. The 1950 Liner or Flying Cloud sitting next to mine in their workshop backed up their claim. It was in much worse shape than mine, and mine was in not what you might call a survivor.

I towed it home with no door but I was surprised at the number of approving thumbs up and waives that I got on I-405/I-5/Highway 18 on the way home from Covington through Tacoma.

Since we were moving soon, I had to get the door rebuilt and the trailer ready to travel. It was not to be camp-able, but it would work as a rather handsome u-haul for extra stuff like propane tanks that the movers could not take. We have moved three times in as many years and we have the drill down.

I have attached the floor plans that my wife and I are considering. My concept was to start with the floor plans originally in the Flying Cloud models of that era, because they would have similar constraints and parameters due to venting and window layout. For example, there are other 22’ models in the mid 50s, but the Caravanner, Safari, and Spaceliner are quite different. But I didn’t want them exactly the same, and I wanted to incorporate some of the ideas I have seen on the forums and blogs, such as the 54 FC that was made for Orvis. I prefer a separate bath and shower, and I think the trailer is big enough to provide both. SWMBO was adamant and so that design necessity was settled.

Once I saw the rear bath floorplan for the 57 FC, we thought we could do that, but the rear window is just too low for it to be acceptable for us to set it up to our preference so I went back to the bed across the rear layout. I also like the dinette to extend a bit to allow some couch-like area.

With no interior overhead cabinets included, I was concerned that I would not be able to find any. Fortunately, I found someone locally in western Washington with two available, and two more later on from another private seller, and so I will be able to add them with the polished aluminum finish that I think looks so cool.

I have a couple of questions (actually about two pages worth, but only two questions for now). As I said above, it will seem that I am skipping around a bit, but I am still trying to finish the design so that I can work on the areas that are ready now.

- I am looking for a design to enclose the belly pan while the tanks hang down below the bottom of the frame. I want to have waste tanks that are a bit bigger than what will fit entirely in the frame, and leave a nice, neat appearance, and a nice neat, relatively unexposed drain valve cover. I expect them to hang down no more than 4” below the frame. Is it necessary to have a pan fabricated by a shop, or possible to extend a frame and cover with sheeting? Any ideas?

- Does anyone know where to get the small flat steel or hard aluminum rivets that hold the corners of the interior window sills together? Several appear to missing, and I would like to give some of the window components more integrity. They are about 5/16” in diameter, and about 1/8” or less in depth, and very shiny.

The lovely old propane tanks came with the trailer, but they were just painted and not aluminum. Fortunately the door handle and latch still work great even though it was ripped off. I also love the center circular overhead light, and would love to find the appropriate new bulb and components to refurbish it and get it going up there.

MattB 01-21-2014 10:54 PM

More Pics yet
4 Attachment(s)
Some more pics from the purchase. And once I figure out how to attach a .pptx file, I will have the floorplans.

rumrunner 01-21-2014 11:21 PM

just in case nobody said it yet--55 whale tails rock!!
seriously though, there are several of us here in the middle of renovating our 55's so do some searching, a lot of reading and ask lots of questions. You'll be amazed at the answers you will get and they will save you from making lots of mistakes (cause we already made them)
Also, if you can possibly make it to the resto academy in Albuquerque in May I guarantee you will be glad you did.

Colin H 01-22-2014 09:09 AM


Originally Posted by MattB (Post 1406576)
Some more pics from the purchase. And once I figure out how to attach a .pptx file, I will have the floorplans.

Hey Matt,
Cool trailer! As you've been listening to The Vintage Airstream Podcast | Vintage Trailer Restoration , you know that I have a 55 whale tail FC in the shop that we are doing a complete restoration on. You can follow the blog that's attached to my website. We have done some creative things to allow 30 gallons of grey tanks & 30 gallons of fresh water tanks in the bellypan cavities without having anything hang below the bellypan. The layout in this trailer is pretty unique & may appeal to you.
Good luck with your project, it'll be lots of fun!

eljay 01-22-2014 10:36 AM

Nice project! and I think you should nominate your wife for sainthood.

Silver Bambi 01-22-2014 10:52 AM

I have a 55 FC with the same factory floor plan as yours. I am very interested in what will be your finished layout. I also decided to keep the bed across the rear. I plan to move the toilet to the street side wall and eliminate the bath area extending into the center of the trailer. This will provide a clear view through the center.

truckasaurus 01-22-2014 11:23 AM

Awesome FC's, My Overlander project has tanks that hang down and has the chassis extended around. It functions really well but ultimately I will try the built in approach on my next trailer like that which Colin uses as it avoids the extra visual distraction from the belly area.

MattB 01-24-2014 08:42 AM

A little follow up
All, thanks for the replies.

Eljay: yes, I too think I chose wisely. Why she picked me is the real mystery.

Gary: I wanted the clear view all the way to the rear. I'll post some more pictures and diagrams that I couldn't make work earlier later today, and how they changed a bit when I taped it out and mocked it up.

Colin: Thanks for taking the time to respond. I plan on modifying the frame if necessary to accommodate the tanks. I am looking at about 30-35 gal for the gray tanks, 25 or so for the black tanks, and 35-40 for the fresh water tanks. The fresh will go in the frame if I can make it work, but not a design constraint for me necessarily. I have based my initial tank dimension estimates off of other Flying Cloud frame diagrams and plans on the forums with actual measurements, but there is no way to know for sure until I get the floor off. I plan on adding a torsion axle system to raise the level of the trailer a few inches, so I can live with a clearance issue.

I have two real concerns depending on how the configuration is set up:

- How to incorporate the belly pan around any extension-straight vertical sides or a wrap that is larger than the original dimensions coming from the sides to the center line on the belly.

- Or, with the two joined tank setup for the gray and fresh tank, how well the capacity is fully used or fully drains when sitting straight and level. Have you or anyone had any feedback on this?

I have been following the Byam's '55 FC blog for a while, and taken a good number of ideas from it, and look forward to each new entry.

Thanks all.

MattB 01-25-2014 09:06 PM

The Initial Plan Part 1
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I have split this post up a bit in order to make the pictures appear in the right order, but her is some perspective on my planning. Warning if you are reading this thread, I am nothing if not methodical when it comes to this kind of thing. I still don't know how to attach anything but a photo.

There is a photo of the trailer from the 1955 Flying Cloud brochure I pulled from the Airstream website. This looks exactly like mine except that my wheel well does not slope at the top. The window configuration, and the markings in in my trailer (including the toilet base that remained) indicate that the trailer was originally in the floor plan below. I am not a fan of the toilet sticking out like this or the twin beds, but it is an efficient layout. For my planning inspiration, I had to look at other Flying Cloud models. I like the efficiency of the front kitchen Safaris of the era, but the window configuration in the Flying Clouds just doesn’t work for that.

Here is also my agenda for the restoration. I have detailed plans for nearly all of these elements, though I have only edited and refined the first six. Right now its about 50-60 pages worth for what is completed, and the rest will be another 50-75 pages all with text and photos. My wife makes fun of me, but it has haleped me get a realisting estimate and anticipate problems. I am also quick to point out that it does not cost anything to plan. Some steps run simultaneously. I will probably make a flow chart to clarify how the steps intermingle. Between the plan, my expense tracker, scanned receipts, and photo documentation, I should be able to get the value I expect from the insurance company.

MattB 01-25-2014 09:16 PM

Initial Plan 2
2 Attachment(s)
Our first plan was to try a rear bath which I found in the 57ish era FC brochure. We wanted a front dinette, and I thought it would make good use of the two curb side windows. Sadly, the height of the rear window just did not allow this satisfactorily for us.

MattB 01-25-2014 09:21 PM

Initial Plan 3
3 Attachment(s)
So, I was back to the bed across the rear, based on some of the ideas that I saw online, particularly the Orvis trailer done by Timeless Travel Trailers. We also like the idea of a wraparaound dinette. A couple of other key design constraints. SWMBO does not want a wet bath. I am also trying to keep the waste tanks as close to the axle as possible. I will not be putting an air conditioner on the roof. I am planning on placing a marine A/C unit (albeit at what appears to be a premium price, unless I can find a less expensive option) over the fridge. I rather like the existing range vent, and the roof vents for the fridge and tanks, so the fridge and range will not move from their original factory locations. I would like to put the fresh water tanks in the chassis, but I think I can fit it under the kitchen counter, dinette, or bed if necessary.

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