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Stargirl 11-09-2018 11:23 AM

Stargirl the Airstream - 1968 Overlander Overhaul!
I purchased a 1968 Airstream Overlander in February of 2018 with the plan of moving in immediately. I had no Airstream knowledge, no restoration/handyman/general construction skills, and worst of all, no money. I had paid a "trailer restoration company" to make my trailer livable with the last of my funds. I was returned a trailer with no functioning plumbing, electrical, or propane systems, terribly installed appliances, flooring, and furniture, obvious evidence of mouse infestation (literally a nest IN THE OVEN), old water damage, and leaks EVERYWHERE. After contacting the "business" to get my money back, there was no response. The lawsuit is still underway. If you ever hear of a Michael/Mike/Myke Enrico of AM Recon down in SoCal, run run run away!

I was pretty stuck. I wasted a lot of time and more money trying to repair these essentially irrepairable issues. I got the inside looking OK, only to be frustrated over and over by more blown plumbing pipes, more kinked propane lines, more rotten subfloor, etc. Seven and a half months post-purchase I decided to gut the entire thing and start from scratch.

This thread is just to keep me honest and organized on my restoration. I so value the depth of knowledge I've found on these threads. Sometimes it's hard for me to not feel bitter working on my Airstream, since I feel forced into this massive renovation I know will (at times) be way over my head. Having this community, especially the posts of all your beautiful finished trailers!, will be so helpful in keeping me inspired and motivated.

dbj216 11-09-2018 07:38 PM

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Hi and welcome to the vintage Airstream hobby. Sounds like you got robbed. You will feel much better doing the work yourself.

You are starting on what sounds like a huge project. I did extensive work on a 66 Trade Wind, but not to the extent you are talking. Even at that, I would budget some $15k and maybe well over 1000 hours to renovate your Overlander. These vintage Airstreams are not for the faint of heart. They are fun and valuable when completed if they still look and feel like an old Airstream.

You'll have to post some pictures of your Overlander when you get a chance, especially before the tear down as pictures can be helpful in answering questions. Take notes, label everything, organize parts, and don't throw anything away as pieces you take out are valuable patterns for making new parts. I identified every part with a Sharpie as I tore out my bathroom. For example "molding around the tub - lower". It is helpful a year later when I am putting things back together.

Folks here can be helpful in your project. Many have done what you are about to do. Here is a photo of my 75 Overlander 27'.


TheGreatleys 11-09-2018 09:20 PM

Welcome. Sorry to hear about your experience. It's going to be a big job, but if it's something you want...

How do you eat an elephant?

Hittenstiehl 11-10-2018 12:17 AM

Summer3 do sorry to hear of this happening to you.

I have heard of them as a relative was getting some work done a couple of business bays down the strip mall. The relative sent me a pic of an Airstream outside. I looked the company up, as you never know when you need another resource, but didn't see and history of Airstream knowledge.

Bubba L 11-10-2018 05:27 AM

summer3, I can only imagine how disheartening and discouraging it could be to go through what you have. All I can say is get a game plan, tackle the critical issues, and safety first. Like Greatly said, one bite at a time will get it finished. Good luck and ask the questions, Bubba

ALUMINUMINUM 11-10-2018 09:49 AM

Look at what you have…
The good news and the bright side is you have a 1968 Overlander, This is a very sweet-spot in the entire history of Airstream trailers. We don't know how well researched your decision was to buy this trailer, but you've stumbled on to a really good size and year. If you think that you have invested more than it's worth, JOIN THE CLUB. Most of us have an unrecoverable amount of time and money in our trailers.

You say that you have no skills or knowledge of trailers. 1968 is one of the easier years to rebuild. Parts are available, nothing is complicated. The 1968 Overlander will teach you everything that you have to know. Team up with it, move forward, and forget about the orifices that screwed you. Your bad feelings will wane, and your learning will strengthen you, it'll become fun. You can make up for lost time and money with knowledgeable purchases and decisions. Instead of buying an $800 water heater at Camping Whirl, buy a scratch and dent off eBay for $250…

Your best spent $20 is to become a supporting member, and post ten pictures of areas that concern you. Pictures are the key to knowledgeable responses from Airforum members.

As many members have, you've started an appropriately titled “Thread” specific to your trailer. A few examples of how well this works…

There are not enough “improved”, “big-fixed”, “renovated”, “restored”, "overhauled" 1968 Overlanders on the road… You can help.

DavidsonOverlander 11-10-2018 05:22 PM

Did you name your trailer after the character in the Jerry Spinelli novel of the same name?

chrisetmike 11-10-2018 05:44 PM

Sorry to hear about your experience. It is a hard work but it also comes with a lot of satisfaction. We love our 67 Overlander.
Good luck!

prairieschooner 11-10-2018 06:53 PM

When you are done it will be time to find another source for help. & Don't get rid of ANYTHING!!! Hopefully this will turn out to be a "good thing".
Remember you only lose or make money when you sell!!!

Stargirl 11-10-2018 11:33 PM

@davidsonoverlander After the book! It was my favorite when I was younger and I’m patching all the exterior holes with stars :)

Thanks so much everyone else for the encouraging words! Will try to post pictures soon!

ke6gkv 11-11-2018 12:15 AM

sorry to hear of your prolem. as others have said, you still have your overlander[my favorite size/model] you will be able to make it youe own. there is no time-line but your own. 2 plus years on my 80 caravelle and 90% done. take your time, go camping in it, have fun. kurt

DavidsonOverlander 11-11-2018 05:31 AM


Originally Posted by summer3 (Post 2178408)
@davidsonoverlander After the book! It was my favorite when I was younger and I’m patching all the exterior holes with stars :)

Thanks so much everyone else for the encouraging words! Will try to post pictures soon!

That's a great name for your trailer! I read Stargirl to my students and my own children, and I could certainly imagine Stargirl living in an Airstream.

I wish you all the best with your project!

Stargirl 12-18-2018 12:34 PM

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Here I am attempting to upload some images again...

Stargirl 12-18-2018 12:50 PM

An Update
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I finished gutting the Airstream a few weeks ago. There were many nests and dead rodents pulled from the insulation - but I knew there would be. Boy there are a lot of rivets on an Airstream!! I took down all the interior panels with no help but it will be a 2-3 person job to get them back up. Especially those ceiling panels that run ~16ft. Also was very skeptical about fitting the end caps through the tiny door but with a little bending and finagling they both got through unharmed! I am redoing all plumbing, electrical, and propane so luckily I didn't have to be careful when removing those systems.

After the first rain of the season (so I could mark all the leaky areas) we made room in the barn to store the Airstream. It will be much nicer to work on in a dry space. I did have multiple leaks (though not as many as I was prepared for) in the seams of the exterior aluminum. I'm not sure exactly how to go about sealing those... do I remove the blind rivets, seal, and then re-rivet? I'd rather not have to do that, but the leaks are coming from underneath those sort of C-bracket bars along the interior of the exterior skins (you know what I mean, right?).

Essentially all the windows leak. I guess with a '68 that's expected. I've done a lot of research and have a few things to try before I resort to just installing drip caps. The horror! No, really, I don't see why people are so vehemently against them.

There is some subfloor rot, just at the end caps. Now I had actually already patched some rot in the front before I decided a full monty was necessary. The back curved subfloor piece (bathroom) has to be fully replaced. BUT maybe I can get away with never having to mess with the c-channel/banana wrap/elevator screw mess....maybe. My next post will go more into this, and belly pan adventures!

Stargirl 12-18-2018 01:17 PM

Belly Pan Adventures!
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I finished removing the belly pan this weekend! NASTY JOB. Essentially the same thing as removing the interior wall panels, but on your back looking up getting rained on by nasty insulation, dirt, trash, rat/mice/rodent poop and carcasses, a couple poops entirely to big to be from any kind of rodent, a cologne bottle, glittery nail polish, and a fork. Yes - all those things were found in the belly pan! But let me tell you it was REWARDING! The entire time I've been gutting the trailer it's sort of been like hm I wonder if this is necessary/worth it. But seeing all the junk in that belly pan I knew it WAS worth removing it!

My belly pan was in three sections: one under the black water tank in the back and then one on each side running the rest of the length of the trailer. I decided not to cut the pan into pieces because I think it will be reusable. That made the work a little more tedious. I had to carefully label and pull the brake wiring (which is brand new, but going to be moved up into the pan). I also had to deal with the axels, which the aluminum sheets of the belly pan run above. I unriveted all the sheets (note that most of the rivets in the belly pan are larger than the interior rivets, but still pop rivets) and then scooted one piece at a time to the middle of the trailer and pulled them out the front. It was important to shift the metal to the middle of the axels because they got so easily snagged on the axels/cutouts right around there. The way to go about this is to have someone at the front pulling and someone underneath the trailer at the axels to guide. I also highly recommend a tarp underneath the trailer/section you're working on so that you're not directly on the ground and so that cleanup is easy.

I should mention that I pulled the propane piping, which was fastened to the underside of the underbelly (as in, nothing between the propane system and the road). This really puzzled me and I thought that it couldn't be original to the trailer. But I have learned that they do this in case there is a propane leak so that the fumes don't get trapped in the underbelly and trailer. That makes sense, it just also seems like that much exposure would make a leak way more likely in the first place.

So far (but I'm not trying to jinx myself) the frame looks solid. There is minor surface rust that should be fixed with a good wire brushing. And I would like to brush and reseal (if that's the correct terminology) the frame. However I would also like to avoid taking out the subfloor. All but the curved ends is in really solid shape still. No rot, no sagging, no real sign of age - though of course it is 50 years old now. Does anyone have advice on this? Can I replace the subfloor insulation (spray foam it looks like) and take care of the frame just having the belly pan removed and not the sub floor?? I know it would be dirty and tedious but possibly better than dealing with the dreaded c-channel. I've said before and will never deny that I'm afraid of the c-channel.

Anyways the next step is to cut out the curved end subfloor sections. Maybe then I'll have a better idea about if the entire subfloor needs replacing. I'm also going to begin sealing the interior with some vulkem. Happy Holidays! :)

Joyflea 12-18-2018 02:48 PM

Looks like fun . Glad I’m past that . Have fun and when you get depressed step back , breath deep , and relax and start over in the morning. Think of it as a bunch of little jobs . Doesn’t seam as hard . Keep up the good work . Blue

Bubba L 12-18-2018 02:51 PM

You’re well on your way. Glad your framing is in relatively good shape. There are a lot of discussions here concerning how to seal the exterior joints. Even with the ribs and stringers on the inside, it can be done. There are spray sealants that can be used for the inside and on the exterior, we’ll be using Capt Tolleys and Parbond. There are also multiple discussions on replacing the subfloor without removing the shell. The rivets for the belly pan are the large head pop rivets specifically for the belly pan. VTS is one source for them. Everyday it will become a little more fun. Good luck.

mkcurtiss 12-18-2018 03:42 PM

I also have a 68 Overlander.....I am watching with anticipation each step of your process....My Airstream is mostly original and seems solid, but I have not removed the belly pan, and do plan to do so eventually.....I want to paint the frame and anything else under there that is not aluminum......

Good Luck in your exploration !

Caffeinated 12-18-2018 04:10 PM

Subscribing to this thread. And rooting for Summer!


dbj216 12-18-2018 08:00 PM

The 1968 trailers are one of the best model years, goofy windows aside. It is the last year of the "twinkie" shaped body. The 69s had a different body, different windows with drip caps I might add. Check out Aluminuminum's posts on the Corning curved glass windows. He knows how to seal them up correctly. The 68 windows are better built than my old 66 Trade Wind windows.

The "c" channel is nothing more than the attachment piece between the body exterior and interior skins and the frame.

You might find working on the trailer a bit easier if you put it on jack stands and drop those axles. Maybe they need replaced anyhoo.

Remember the vintage Airstream axiom #12. It takes about 10 times longer to reassemble the trailer than it does to tear it apart. Be ready for that. It's a long slog.


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