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fiftysafari 04-12-2019 11:01 AM

1955 Safari Renovation
Hello Airstream Dreamers,

I am a Dreamer just beginning the restoration/renovation of my '55 Safari that was built in the Ohio factory.

First up - Floor replacement.

I started tearing out the old floor in sections - starting at the front.
*Set my circular saw to depth of the old floor plywood (about 3/4 inch) to make cuts across the middle and width then continued the cuts to the walls with a hand saw & chisel as needed.
*Discovered quickly the bottom wall panel needed to come off to access the numerous screws and bolts that attach the plywood to the u-channel inside the walls. The prospect of removing wall panels was very scary...but in practice not so bad!
*Finally the two sections of plywood came out. Seriously rotted around the edges.
*Observations - the fiberglass sheet insulation in the walls is still in great shape:wally:
- the insulation under the floor is a mess
- lost count of gnawed nuts under the floor hauled in by critters
- Frame looks very good
*Plan - patch holes cut in belly skin and re-rivet as needed
- clean & Por15 the frame
- install new floor in sections with exposure 1 3/4 inch plywood treated with epoxy sealer & paint.

I will do my best to post pictures and descriptions of my progress.

David - Village of Valley View, PA

prairieschooner 04-12-2019 11:29 AM

Best of luck! follow my signature link to my restoration efforts, they may be helpful.

Bubba L 04-12-2019 07:14 PM

Lots of luck David. The 55 Safari is a pretty unique design. We have a couple of friends who have the Ohio built 55s. There are a lot of threads documenting shell on floor replacement. I would still take all the interior skin out. The insulation may appear to be in good shape, but the wiring insulation may have been gnawed on. Anyway, exposing the interior framing gives you the opportunity to upgrade insulation and wiring. Good luck and have fun.

dbj216 04-12-2019 07:52 PM

Welcome from Colorado: These 50's Airstreams are well worth the effort to renovate or restore. They can be quite valuable. These Airstream Forums will be quite useful to you in your Safari endeavors.

You might have, and might like starting a project thread in the Airstream Trailer Knowledgebase. Find this category toward the bottom of the Forums page. Then find Safari, and finally your year range. You will likely find lots of good information there. I think you would find it fun if you document your progress on your Safari along the way, both the problems found and the progress made. Forum members with similar trailers and interests are likely to follow along and be of significant help along the way. They've been there, done that.

I'm working on a 75 Overlander 27'. Twenty years newer and completely different than your Safari. But they both have rotted subfloors, bad axles, rusty frames, bad plumbing, furnaces that don't work, electrical problems, etc, etc.

Let's make them good again.


fiftysafari 04-12-2019 10:43 PM

Dear Bubba
Encouragement and advice is appreciated!
I took a peek at your Flying Cloud restoration.
Your talent and skill is well beyond mine...but I'll try to live up to your standards of Airstream repair.
These babies are worth some effort.
My 55 Safari was remodeled at some point years ago.
The front kitchen/bathroom/dinette was removed and replaced with a rear bathroom, a long counter with sink under the side windows, and a gas stove hookup.
The trailer has gas/electric refrigerator, gas space heater, water tank, water heater and toilet.
I plan take out the old toilet & install a composting toilet.
Also complete rewiring of 120V and 12V systems.
Thanks again Bubba, for your advice.

goransons 04-12-2019 11:57 PM

Good luck on the project! Post lots of pictures. 55's are a fun year to work on. If you are going super original let me know if you are in the hunt for specific parts I can look through my stash, if you end up with hardware you decide to not use, likewise let me know!

57Vintage 04-13-2019 12:17 AM

Looking forward to seeing your progress. Lots of good information and ideas can be found here.

fiftysafari 04-14-2019 11:43 AM

2 Attachment(s)
photos of my 55 Safari

Counter top removed - water tank and water heater exposed for removal.

water heater...this is a bear to remove...any advice?
/Users/davidroberts/Pictures/Photos Library.photoslibrary/resources/proxies/derivatives/14/00/146b/UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_146b.jpg

fiftysafari 04-14-2019 11:47 AM

2 Attachment(s)
55 Safari - unpolished exterior

fiftysafari 04-14-2019 11:56 AM

2 Attachment(s)
55 Safari

Removal of front floor section
Frame is in good shape
Flooring badly rotted along edges

fiftysafari 04-14-2019 03:38 PM

3 Attachment(s)
55 Safari

Toilet is coming out.
The flush pedal least it opens & closes ...of course the gaskets are shot.
That is the ground I see through the toilet base. More fun ahead.

Bubba L 04-14-2019 04:20 PM

David, you may want to take a hammer and tap along your two main frame members. Back then many of them had open ends at the hitch. Water would get inside the frame member and rust from the inside out. Ive heard of some who have taken a smaller tube and slid inside the larger one and puddle welded along the tube. I dont think it was all that common. Hopefully yours is as good inside as out. And dont throw anything away until youre finished. Good luck

fiftysafari 04-14-2019 05:11 PM

Bubba, I am notorious for not throwing anything away. But advise well taken.

The frame seems solid up front.
I will use the tap test as I expose more framing.

fiftysafari 04-16-2019 05:41 PM

4 Attachment(s)
55 Safari interior is about stripped out for the floor removal / replacement.
The hanging bunk bed is a handy shelf for my tools.
The Norcold fridge comes out. Rear view of workin's.
Serious floor rot under the fridge.

Bubba L 04-16-2019 08:09 PM

The old fridge would be a great candidate to convert to a two way with the Isotherm. You could also lose about 75 pounds of propane stuff on the back. Just a thought.

fiftysafari 04-17-2019 07:18 AM


Originally Posted by Bubba L (Post 2231868)
The old fridge would be a great candidate to convert to a two way with the Isotherm. You could also lose about 75 pounds of propane stuff on the back. Just a thought.

I was hoping I could repair the old Norcold somehow.

So...what is an Isotherm???

Bubba L 04-17-2019 07:40 AM


Originally Posted by fiftysafari (Post 2231985)
I was hoping I could repair the old Norcold somehow.

So...what is an Isotherm???

Its called a compact classic icebox conversion kit by Isotherm. It has a small compressor about 6x10x8 that sits on a shelf and connects to your icebox. Somewhere on our thread I showed the installation and testing. Its not cheap, but works really well on AC or DC. On our fridge, the stack and other related propane parts were too iffy for me to overhaul and feel comfortable.

Bubba L 04-17-2019 07:41 AM

But, if you can overhaul it and get it working well, then that would be my first choice. Good luck.

fiftysafari 04-17-2019 09:46 AM

Well I am tempted to plug it into 120V and try it out...
What are potential risks?
Overall the Norcold seems sound, at least visually.

dbj216 04-17-2019 08:50 PM

Hi from Colorado: The gas absorption "work'ins" in the back of your old fridge uses 120v for a heat source. Plugging it in to 120v poses minimal risks. You should be able to feel the "heater" get warm. If the thing still has ammonia in it, you should be able to feel some "cool" in the ice box. If the "work'ins" are not workin, then nothing happens.

There are outfits who rebuild these gas absorption cooling units. You may find an "overhauled" unit that would fit in your old fridge.

Bubba's conversion to modern isotherm is likely better approach.


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