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Sinking76 11-22-2018 05:39 PM

The 76 Overlander Refurb Experience
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So Iíve joined the team. Two weeks ago my wife and I nervously brought our first Airstream home. I didnít plan on bringing it home that day, but one thing led to another and before I knew it, my little truck was squatted down, one brake light worked, and my mirrors were way to small to see what was coming. We were grinning ear to ear.

Iím not sure how many owners itís had. Someone paid a chunk for it new, so they must have enjoyed it for several years. In 2002, someone fixed it up, because the Dometic fridge and A/C are from that year. A nursing student lived in it for a few years, and itís all happened in Kentucky. Sold new from Murphy RVs in Mt Sterling. The interior has been untouched to this point, but we want to build a camper around the original floor plan, but make it special for us along the way.

Weíve cleaned it some, and Iíve just begun to dig deep and see what works, whatís rotten, and how it all fits together. Iíve spent twenty years making one off furniture for all kinds of places around the US, and fixing up all sorts of old stuff in my spare time. My studio is on our farm, so I have a good deal of spare time. Back to the Overlander.

Iíve found the dreaded rear sag, but the damage is contained to the last 4 inches of the subfloor, still, the whole bathroom is coming out for a full refinish and fresh plumbing.

I also pulled out the green shag carpet today. Donít know if it was original, there was tack strip around everything, so I guess it could have been replaced at some point.

Although nasty, the subfloor is in fine condition. Still trying to figure out what the new flooring will be. Gotta work on the big stuff first.

Along the way, Iíve also confirmed that the axles are shot. I guess thatís to be expected. Thankfully, the original ďSilver Key DeliveryĒ binder stayed around for 42 years, along with manuals for every appliance and option on the coach.

This will be a long process. Iíve never posted an entire project before, but itís just wood and metal and plastic. Everything can be fixed, and this forum is a wealth of information, so it should be fun. Luckily, I even built a new shed this summer. She fiits right in.

Iím gonna need a bigger truck.

DremStremer 11-22-2018 06:28 PM

Welcome to the Forum, Mark. It looks like you found a nice Airstream to restore. I'll enjoy following your progress.

Sinking76 11-23-2018 02:50 PM

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Today was rear bulkhead and bathroom fixture removal day. Nothing special to report here. My rotted floor looks just like everyone elseís. I did find it interesting that Airstream built the entire wraparound tubwall/vanity before they carried it to the rear and installed it. Either that, or they employed some very small people who could install rivets in places otherwise inaccessible to us normal sized folks. Iím betting they assembled it first. My son and I managed to get the entire assembly contorted in such a way that I could reach in through the rear hatch and get the rivets that held all of it together.

At any rate, got the tub and all the other plastic parts removed without breaking them or the drain pipes. I did have to use a reciprocating saw to cut the inside of the tub drain flange to relieve pressure on the seized threads. Eventually, that came apart too.

The bathroom setup seems a bit more convoluted than necessary. We will never be full time R.V. folks, so we just donít need the storage compartments on top of storage compartments that were original. Although photos were taken, Iím not sure I will ever get it all back just the same. I may remodel it a bit. Still, thereís no reason to break stuff, so everything was saved except the crumbs of vinyl insert that covered the rivets in the extrusions.

It looks like the entire drain/vent system can be removed for floor replacement with just a couple of cuts. I see no need to replace drain pipes, as long as nothing is broken.

All that work wore me out, so I closed it up tight, set off two bug bombs (saw a couple of roaches-I really hate roaches), and called it a day.


dbj216 11-23-2018 06:33 PM

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Wow Sinking76; you are on your way. Impressive you tore down the bath without breaking anything. That takes some patience and careful work. Like you, I believe Airstream subassembled the bathroom in big pieces and carried them in before the walls were assembled. There is an old saying on these Forums that all interior parts will fit through the entry door, like the fridge.

The body on your Overlander appears very good from the front view. And yes, you will need a larger truck someday.

You are starting down the path that I did last year. Here is a photo of my bathroom before and after it was disassembled. I'm well on my way to getting it reassembled, which is taking much, much longer than taking it out.

I'm signing on to your project thread. I like 70s Overlanders. Heck, I may be able to answer a question or two you may have.


Sinking76 11-25-2018 07:15 AM

Thanks David- I read through your entire thread about your 75 before I started removing the bath. Since all of our camping has been done in a tent or VW Westfalia, I’ve had trouble wrapping my head around how the various holding tanks all work. Tearing down and rebuilding the back of the Overlander will be a good education.

I really like the 75 setup better than the 76. The 76 has little room left for bathing with its abs ceiling and big, useless cabinet at the back end of the tub. While I had planned to repair, paint, and reuse my original bath plastic, I’m now leaning towards building a new setup with less plastic and more pure functionality. Looks like I’ll have plenty of time to consider my options while fixing the subfloor and frame...

Yesterday, I took advantage of a beautiful November day in Kentucky and worked on replacing the main door lock. It was broken when we purchased the coach, and after ordering the correct repair parts, I managed to break the pot metal housing trying to remove two little roll pins. Unwilling to drop $750 for a new lock, I opted for the chrome TriMark R.V. lock for $65. Spent most of the afternoon carefully retrofitting the lock and fabricating the patch panel to cover the big hole in the door. Proper aluminum, rivets, and Cleco kit came from Airparts. With all the use a door gets on any camping trip, this seems to be a great solution. I’ll post photos of the lock install later.

Minno 11-25-2018 09:25 AM

Wow, I think I've NEVER heard anyone say they have too much storage in an RV! We packed as much as we could in ours. That trip to Alaska in a few years is going to use it all up, too. Looks like a good project!
There are many threads here with info about renovations and restorations that have been done. They make for good reading on a nasty day, and have a wealth of info about what to do and not do. We did a lot of reading before and during our reno, which helped immensely. Our thread has helped others too.
The International Airstream Club Rally next summer will be in Virginia. Might make a good day trip to come see the Vintage AS Club section and tour some trailers.
Good luck!


dbj216 11-25-2018 06:17 PM

The old KT lock on my 75 Overlander still works thank goodness. I understand they are expensive to replace. The door lock on our 86 Limited was replaced some 20 years ago. I don't know what type of lock it is, but it is a lever opening type like the KT lock is.

The sixties trailers had a Bargman lockset featuring a door knob and either a knob or lever on the inside. These old locks are also expensive to replace. I paid about $150 for a used one just for the parts.

It does grate me some to know a perfectly good exterior door lockset costs about $60 at any hardware store. Why Airstream locks have to be so special and expensive is beyond me.

Post a picture of your new lock when you get a chance.


TinCan Don 11-25-2018 07:18 PM

Hi I am subscribing as well. I am planning the reno on our 1973 Land Yacht in the future and I am interested in how you will create your new home.

Sinking76 11-30-2018 05:48 PM

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A bunch of stuff arrived, so I spent most of the day getting the Overlanderís 12 volt system sorted out. The old ABS shelf for the Univolt and the water pump was broken and beyond repair, so I fashioned a shelf for the water pump out of a couple of license plates and said good riddance to the Univolt.

Thereís too much going on behind the stove in this model. Fuse block, converter, water filter, and water pump. Iíll most likely move the water stuff under the sink when I re-plumb the coach.

I used the 45 amp Boondocker and a Bluesea fuse block. Along the way, I added a couple of chassis ground connections (not in photo) that werenít there as I found it. When I tested it, more stuff worked than before. Good deal.

I forgot to get the correct ring terminals for the car battery charge wires, so I havenít hooked them back up yet. When I tested the new system, the radio/8 track didnít work. I was amazed to find that it runs off of the big blue and white wires. The manual confirms the wire colors, but it seems silly to tap into a 10 gauge wire for a little stereo system...

Then, I went to work on the stair light and the three way galley light switch by the door. The three way switch was toast, so I scavenged one from the bedroom lamp and now I have galley lights. The step light needed a new socket, so I riveted one to the shade. One thing I canít figure out- the step light has a white ground wire and a black hot wire. Is the ground wire just redundant, a in case the shade doesnít have good contact with the shell? Is it supposed to be riveted to the shade? Or sandwiched between the shell and the shade under the top screw?

Got the scare light working too, but it will need a rebuild or replacement. Pretty rusty in there. Probably leaks too.

The only other weird thing is the pink wire and white wire with a stripe laying behind the range. Iím assuming these are for an LP leak detector? Theyíre hot all the time.

Iíll need to get power over to my fridge too. The PO replaced it in 2002, and just ran two wires under the belly pan straight from the battery. Not cool. Iíll have to find a better way. Maybe rout a groove in the floor, or maybe I can tap into the 12 volt receptical on that side. It just runs the control panel, so that should be simple.

Iíd like to hook the old shunt up so the battery meter works, but I coiled those wires up out of the way for now.

All in all, a great early step in the refurb. The coach lost 30 lbs (40 if you count the enormous mouse nest and spent acorns I cleaned out) and is much safer.


dbj216 11-30-2018 07:49 PM

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Off and running you go. I gotta love the aluminum shelf you made for your water pump. My trailer had an aluminum road sign used to cover a hole in the subfloor.

Boy, our trailers are built differently. I see a significant change from 75 to 76. Here is a photo of my water pump under the cook top in my trailer. It was on a plaltform, but I relocated it to the subfloor under the fresh water fill pipe.
The converter, fuse panel and battery were in the rear of my trailer. I too had very brittle plastic holding up the converter in the rear of the trailer. I believe your battery is in the front of the trailer. I have moved my battery to the front of the trailer also. In 75 it was still in the rear.

My trailer does not have any three way rocker switches. My wife's trailer has a lot of them. Maybe 76 was the first year for those 3 way rocker switches. I have several of them in the 86 that are on their last legs. I have not found a source for replacement 3 way rocker switches. If you find one, let me know.

I think it is a good thing to provide additional grounding. My trailer has only 1 12v ground to the interior skins that I have found so far. It is not unusual for Airstream to provide a separate ground wire to a simple light. Maybe it is due to the gasket of the shade insulating the circuit. My license plate light at the rear of my trailer is wired the same way. Same with the marker lights on the exterior of the trailer.


Sinking76 12-01-2018 07:09 AM

You’re correct. Airstream made drastic changes between 75 and 76. My battery, along with all the other stuff is under the galley. The battery door is between the entry door and the wheel well. The plastic box needs some help. It doesn’t appear to be available new for a 76, so I’ll have to patch it, or rebuild it out of aluminum.

I may be mistaken, but VTS has an “on-on” rocker switch #VTS-185 that looks to be a direct replacement for the three way switches. Little plastic switches were never meant to last 40 years. I’ve yet to figure out the three way switches in the bedroom area. There’s one on the light fixture, but I don’t know where the other one is...

Interesting too, there’s even a rocker switch in the bedroom that turns the radio off and on.

I’ll sort it out one piece at a time...just like Johnny Cash.


Sinking76 12-01-2018 11:23 AM

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Earlier in the week, I got the TriMark lockset installed. I ordered it from Amazon and figured the rest out. Not too much trouble, except the bolt is shorter than the old KT lock. There are probably other ways to remedy that, but I made a steel catch from 1/8 angle and drilled and tapped the door jamb to install. Since the latch could only be 1/8 wide, I was afraid aluminum would eventually break from the stresses of door use. The outside repair panel was my first AS riveting job. Donít judge too harshly. Still need to shave the rivet heads smooth. I had to use normal pop rivets for the two on the edge of the door, as the Olympic ones wouldnít expand properly.

Also scored a new in the box Fischer LP valve just like the original. The new one is dated 1986.

57Vintage 12-01-2018 02:52 PM

Olympic Rivets
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Not sure this will work for you, but I found if I 'aim' the Olympic rivet so none of the three legs are pointed directly towards the underlying edge the rivet will expand OK. I assume what happens are the two legs bend slightly sideways when they expand against the obstruction.

Attachment 328880

Sinking76 12-02-2018 06:11 AM


Originally Posted by 57Vintage (Post 2185445)
Not sure this will work for you, but I found if I 'aim' the Olympic rivet so none of the three legs are pointed directly towards the underlying edge the rivet will expand OK. I assume what happens are the two legs bend slightly sideways when they expand against the obstruction.

Attachment 328880

Thanks 57Vintage. I appreciate the tip. This type of rivet is all new to me.


Sinking76 12-27-2018 02:50 PM

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The journey continues after a couple of weeks away. Iíve removed the black and gray water tanks and the rear subfloor.
Tank removal was straightforward, except for having to cut off the POís welded on hitch contraption. I canít imagine what one would want to tow behind an Airstream. Anyhow, a bunch of bolts around the tank pan were removed, vent pipes wiggled free, and the Thetford valves removed. The pan out the back.
The tanks appear in good condition. I think with new dump valves, they will work out fine.
I then set to work on the floor. The sawzall came in handy to cut the bolts off. It still took a lot of looking and fiddling to free everything that holds the floor and walls together. The only tough thing is that it appears the center outside panel has to be partially removed to replace the steel angle/channel that runs under the rear hatch. I can barely tell what itís supposed to look like due to rust.
The frame looks in decent shape. Most of it just needs POR-15 and will be fine. A couple of spots will require more attention.
Also removed the bathroom interior end cap. I didnít know there was nothing under it. Rookie move. But, it was bulky and not what we want, so Iíll replace it with aluminum or copper for far more headroom in the bath.
This is definitely a bigger job than i imagined, but itís coming along well. Everything is fixable.

dbj216 12-27-2018 07:15 PM

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Happy Holidays Sinking76: You have made good progress. Your rear bath looks like mine did last year, holes in the floor and all. I ended up replacing the waste water tanks on my trailer as I wanted more water storage capacity. I moved the grey tank forward for a bit better weight distribution.

The rear cross member was a U shaped channel. I replaced it with a piece of square tubing. From the rear cross member on up, next comes the subfloor, then the rear body hold down plate, then the "c" channel. I replaced the cross member, the subfloor at the rear, and rear body hold down plate. I did not have to remove any exterior skins under the cargo door. I did remove that dang sheet of aluminum that bridged the body with the bumper hatch.
That piece is a main cause of the rear floor rot.

Here is a photo of the old rusty parts and then the three new parts I made to repair the "rear end separation".


Sinking76 12-28-2018 06:48 AM

Happy Holidays to you too David-

Thanks for the description. I’m not finding anything that looks like the c-channel along the back. The hold down plate is present, but needs replacing. That’s the piece that is impossible to remove without pulling the skin back, unless I remove the entire rear frame crossmember. It looks like mine goes crossmember-subfloor-hold down plate- then aluminum channel. The aluminum channel looks ok (it may not once I get the hold down plate out of the way).

I also removed the 4” wide aluminum that causes the end rot and plan to leave it out. My question is, what keeps the water out of the bumper storage compartment without that piece? My tank pan extends all the way back to the bumper. It looks like I’ll need to do some re-engineering to shorten the tank pan, otherwise, water will run off the back and straight down into the pan?

A better option would be to create a bumper storage compartment that is separate from anything forward, but then, the waste dump pipe would be in the way.
I think once I get everything out of the way, I’ll have to do some head scratching and figure out the next move.

Being that this is my first coach, I’ll consider replacing the tanks, but I’m kind of guessing, as I don’t know how much waste storage we really need.

Thanks again for the help

RichHog 12-28-2018 09:03 AM

Dealing with similar problem on my 72 Safari. Water leaked from the back end and we tore out flooring and had to build new frame support and seal off the back. My removed parts look like yours.

dbj216 12-28-2018 07:10 PM

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You are wise to leave out that decorative piece of aluminum in my view. Let the rainwater run off the rear of the body and not be directed to the subfloor. I am doing the same thing. I expect lots of rain water in the bumper "storage compartment". But on our trailers, it isn't a storage compartment, it is a "waste water drain pipe" compartment. I don't care if my sewer pipes get wet. I have before, and will drill 1/4" holes in my belly pan to let the water drain out. Here is a photo of the "gap" that leaving that aluminum piece out will create.

I also moved the dump valves in such a way that they do not penetrate the subfloor. So I will reach into the "waste water drain pipe" compartment and pull open the dump valves.

I added a barrier along the rear cross member to keep varmints out of the belly pan area.

Maybe my approach will give you some ideas.


Minno 01-01-2019 11:05 AM

Both end caps inside the trailer have no support ribs behind them. Something to keep in mind when you're planning, especially to "hang" something there. We lucked out and were able to snag a new front end cap from Out of Doors Mart, last one they had a few years ago on clearance. We reused the rear one minus the cabinetry that was originally on it for more room.
I've seen some beautiful aluminum or wood pieced end caps people have done.


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