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Dwwalker18 03-13-2019 09:57 PM

The Walkers' Arctic Renovation: 1967 Tradewind
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Hello Forums!

I've been lurking in the shadows for about a year now, and have been learning so much about this amazing obsession, er, I mean, hobby. So first and foremost, thank you for your unknowing help.

Last May, my wife and I discovered, and then acquired a 1967, 24ft Tradewind in Cantwell, Alaska. After finding a friend to help us tow it back, we brought it, now named Otis, back to North Pole, Alaska. And yes, there is a Santa Clause house and the light poles are shaped like candy canes.

I started our full-monte shell-off reno last year, and and now that Spring is finally here I've decided to share my progress with you all! I plan to use the next couple of weeks to catch up on documenting the last year of work.

A couple key lessons I have learned so far, to share with others in my situation who may stumble upon this thread:

1. Interior Alaska is not the best place to do a full-monte reno of a vintage Airstream. Summer is too short, winter is too long, Amazon Prime isn't two days, and many places won't ship (and if they do its not cheap!).

2. Spend a ton of time reading up on other peoples experiences, especially as you approach major events in your renovation process. Why do I say this? So you don't make mistakes that are a pain to fix later. I may have made a few that I'm kicking myself for now (I'll share these in my next post).

3. Having a vehicle that can tow your project around before your start it is advisable. We don't, and we are both trying to figure out what vehicle to get and at the mercy of others until we get a different vehicle.

Ok, I think thats more than enough for now. Looking forward to sharing this journey with you all!

Dan and Octavia

DryFly 03-14-2019 12:09 AM

That is Impressive! What did you install for insulation in the walls and floor?
Also, surely you don't use this in the Alaskan winter - or do you have a truly mondo heating system with all water lines, including drains, heated?

Dwwalker18 03-14-2019 12:32 AM

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DryFly, wish I could take credit, but that is Otis as we drove it away. It currently has no insulation, plumbing, walls, heat, etc... This is what it looks like at the moment:

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Dwwalker18 03-14-2019 05:05 PM

Shell Removal
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When we first acquired Otis, we really didn't know the adventure we were about to embark upon. We knew right away the hot water heater and refrigerator needed to be replaced. The electrical was also not... safe. Finally, we discovered some rear end floor rot and all the fun that comes with. At first I was only going to replace the rear floor under the bath. So that meant taking everything out.

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Then I started taking off the belly pan and removing all that 60 year-old insulation.

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That exposed the state of the frame, which wasn't too bad except for in the rear. I still didn't think I needed to take the shell off, and only planned on replacing the rear floor.

I think we had some rainy days which gave me the chance to do some more research or something, because at some point I decided to go for it. Build Gantries, shell off, replace the whole floor, go crazy. This is a learning experience, right?

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A couple things I wish I had done better during this phase:
1. Build the gantries wider. I cheated out and tried to make them as narrow as I could, and that was a mistake. It made for pulling the frame out from under the shell, and then putting it back, much harder.
2. I used several ratchet-straps to lift the frame from the shell. This worked alright, but I definitely wish I had used something a little less make-shift to make it easier.

Next Up, frame and floor upgrade!

Slats 03-14-2019 07:06 PM

Dan -

Well, now you've gone and done it. Welcome to the aluminum asylum, where the inmates landed after thinking that emotion can successfully mate, without consequences, with reason. But it is not a bad place to be. The other inmates are genuinely friendly and helpful. There is a surprisingly comforting lack of the usual internet snark here, although there are some strongly held and voiced opinions about such world-shattering choices as batteries, tow vehicles, tires, polishing, not polishing, staying true to period (or not), disc or drum brakes, toilets (to compost or not, that is the question), etc. But then you already know all of that, if you have been lurking for a while.

It will be fun following along with you and your project. I'll try to gently chime in if I see a train coming down the tracks that you might not, but other than that, my comments will be as positive and encouraging as possible. As a prolific asker of dumb questions, I can assure you there are none.

TouringDan 03-14-2019 08:32 PM

The Walkers' Arctic Renovation: 1967 Tradewind
Welcome Dan and Octavia. Glad to have you with us. I love the photo of your Tradewind with the evergreens and the snow capped mountains in the background. Is that the location where you are living? If so, good for you.

You sure have done a lot of work in the past year while you have been lurking. Nice looking gantry setup.

Ask any questions you may have. We are all here to learn and will help you any way we can.

We sure are glad to see another Tradewind being renovated to give it another 50 years for the owners to travel with it and enjoy it.
Tradewinds are the best, especially 66-68!


Hittenstiehl 03-14-2019 09:06 PM

You described it so well, the asylum is a friendly place.

Dwwalker18 03-14-2019 11:57 PM

Dan, Unfortunately that is not my yard, but the previous owners property when we first picked it up, about a 3 hours drive away. We really love the rear bath, and plan on keeping that part largely the same, just with a little face lift! I

Slats, I first realized I had fully committed to the asylum a couple weeks ago when I found myself thinking of things Iíd do differently on the next Airstream. And I donít even have a towable aluminum tent yet!

I have no doubt we will lean on the community through this project often. Neither of us have used a travel trailer for camping before, let alone own one, so our knowledge of the systems and best camping practices is limited.

ke6gkv 03-15-2019 12:15 AM

welcome to the silver nut house! jokes aside, welcome to airstream lover's forum.many great minds here that share thie wisdom with those of us still learning. looking forward to you re-build progress. kurt

centennialman 03-15-2019 06:49 AM

This is an awesome thread and kudos to you for taking on this project! I look forward to more posts and pictures of your progress. Will you be re-wiring the Airstream? Yours has the aluminum wiring used back in that era.

gklott 03-15-2019 09:16 AM

Excellent thread. Thanks for sharing. Please post more.


Dwwalker18 03-15-2019 12:02 PM

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Originally Posted by centennialman (Post 2220286)
This is an awesome thread and kudos to you for taking on this project! I look forward to more posts and pictures of your progress. Will you be re-wiring the Airstream? Yours has the aluminum wiring used back in that era.

I will definitely be re-wiring. Once I started digging around I wasnít very comfortable with the wiring and plumbing. Iím not an expert on either by any means, but the way the batteries and shore power were wired into the trailer was concerning. I also plan on re-wiring to replace the aluminum with copper, and add additional circuits so itís easier to isolate and trouble-shoot any problems that might arise.

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Unfortunately the plumbing wasnít any better, and was a beautiful arrangement of copper, PEX, and garden hose. That has all been removed and I will replace with PEX. I failed to take any pictures of that work of art, unfortunately.

Dwwalker18 03-15-2019 01:21 PM

Frame and Floor Repair and Upgrade
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After removing the shell and subfloor, I was able to assess the frame. Aside from the cross-members under the rotted rear subfloor, it was in much better shape than I expected. I hired a welder to come out to the house to replace the cross members, and add a small hold-down plate, similar to in the front, to help strengthen the rear end.

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After using an angle grinder and brush cup way more than I ever wanted to, and having a few close calls with it, the frame was ready to be treated and painted with POR-15. Wow that stuff is intense! Went right through the clothes I was wearing and I couldn't manage to get it off my skin for about two weeks after! But, the frame looks great!

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While the frame was being worked on, I was able to use the old subfloor as a template to make the new one. I decided on using 3/4 OSB. I treated the bottom with some leftover deck stain and seal I had laying around. I used Mini-Wax Wood harder around the edges to help seal them. Ideally, I would have used penetrating epoxy, but this being Alaska I wasn't able to find any that wouldn't cost a fortune to ship. I figure the original plywood floor lasted for 50 years, so this should too.

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I did my best to patch up the original wheel wells, which are usable but far from great. Looking back, I wish I spent the extra money and time, and tried to find a fabricator to make new ones. I rushed because I was running out of time before winter, and needed to get the shell back on before the first snow.

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Things I've learned or would do differently during this phase:
1. I wish I had a way to flip the frame over. Working on my back with the angle grinder was hazardous. Painting on my back was just annoying.
2. I wish I paid more attention to the door. The PO had replaced that section of subfloor, and I didn't realize the small cut out for the door frame. Thats one of the things I need to go back and fix.
3. I put no sealant between the frame, wheel wells, and subfloor. Something else I need to go back and fix once the snow melts.
4. I didn't address the rear-end "seal" before I put the shell back on. Right now, the subfloor is exposed. Thankfully I haven't re-riveted anything yet, So I should be able to lift the shell enough to slide a piece of aluminum (see below for a snapshot I took from another thread) to help make the seal.

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PatLee 03-15-2019 01:30 PM

Just writing this so I get future updates on this inspiring project.

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