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Kartwheel68 07-30-2019 09:30 AM

1975 (I think) Overlander project
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Hello, my name is Brian and I am about acquire my grandparent's Overlander International. I live in the Atlanta area and the trailer is in Pensacola Florida, my grandparents bought it new in 1975 but I guess it could be a 74 or 76, I will find out for sure this weekend. I am going to look at it much closer this weekend to look for all the things I have learned here that are issues with these trailers. My grandmother was absolutely fanatical about taking care of the inside, even though it was parked at her house, she would not even let guests use it as a "bunk house". Everything is original, even the shag carpet. The last time she used it was about 8 years ago and at that time everything still worked. The trailer was stored outside in humid Florida, but it was at least parked under a cover with only the front open so it was out of the direct elements most of its life. It was damaged during hurricane Ivan and a tree fell on the cover, also damaging the Airstream. We fixed that damage in 2005 but there are obviously some leaks because when I looked at it about a month ago there was quite a bit of mildew on the inside. I dont have any current pictures but I do have a couple I took right after hurricane Ivan when we cut the tree and cover away to get the trailer out and fix the damage. I plan to replace the carpet with some kind of hard flooring, and replace all the fabrics, and fix any structural/electrical/plumbing issues and make any modernization upgrades I can that are out of sight, but I want to keep the interior as original as possible because I want to keep it as I remember as a kid, and also because that is what she asked me to do. I'll have an update after I get back this weekend and some better pictures.

dbj216 07-31-2019 07:02 PM

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Hi again Kartwheel68: We meet again here in the Overlander knowledgebase. Hurricanes are awful things. Thanks for the pictures from 2005. This Overlander will need lots of TLC. I'm proof that even an old geezer can do it, and I'm sure you can too.

My Overlander was a southeast trailer also. Lots of mold and mildew on every surface. It felt greasy, sticky. Mine had floor rot in the rear, rear end separation, some rust spots on the frame, bad axles, crummy plumbing, old appliances and on and on. A very long list of needs. But overall, my Overlander was generally in "good condition". I stayed in it pulling it home to Colorado.

You might like reviewing my "project thread". It is quite long, but you can see rear floor rot, rusty frames, bad water tanks, lousy axles, funny plumbing, mildew walls and many other warts. Like you, I did not change the interior design or cabinetry very much. I did have to rebuild much of it as it was loose or rotted. But the melamine was still well laminated to the underlayment and not too warped. I've seen 70s trailers with delamination on most surfaces. I suggest you stay up all night reading it. :)

A 1975 Overlander will have the new, square 3 element tail light assemblies. See photo of my rear end. :blush: So will a 76, but the 74's had round tail lights. That feature might help you with the year ID. If you post your VIN number, you can identify the model year of the trailer (which is not the build date, there were plenty of 75s built in 74.) I think it was in 76 that Airstream went with a new frame design and 1/2" plywood subfloor. This may be another identifier. I don't consider this design an improvement.

So maybe you have post #1 of a multi year odyssey rebuilding this family Overlander. Grandma will be pleased.


Kartwheel68 08-01-2019 07:35 AM

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Hi David.

As a matter of fact, I am about half way through your thread and it has already given me some good ideas. I wont copy all of your improvements, but I do like a lot of them, especially relocating the batteries and moving the waste tanks forward.

My Mom lives right down the road from my Grandma's place and she went to open it up and start cleaning the inside. She also gave me some information about how my Grandparents used it. She said they never towed it with any fluids in it, my Grandfather was almost fanatical about that. They would go from Pensacola to the Smokies and only fill the fresh water tank when they got to the campground. They didnt usually stay at campgrounds with sewer hookups but they did always stay at places with dump stations and he always emptied all the tanks (even the left over fresh water) before they left for home. I am hoping since he was so careful about not towing with any weight in the back that maybe I might not have the rear separation issue, or if it is separated it will not be as bad as some I have seen. She also said he was almost fanatical about sealing it around vents and the AC and did it about every other year. He passed away in 2000 so not much maintenance has been done since but up to then I think it was cared for about as good as you could expect.

Mom noticed while she was cleaning up that there seems to be a leak in the vent in the front living area, she said right in the middle of the floor there was a damp spot and the floor felt "spongy" so I fully expect to have to replace that area of the subfloor.

Mom sent a picture of the build date tag, 8-22-74, which from my experience with vintage motorcycles and cars, it seems almost every manufacturer of anything anywhere in the world seemed to move over to the next model year production in either July or August. I will find the VIN number when I get down there this weekend. I am certain I remember the rear lights being rectangle and not round, and then Mom sent me this:

dbj216 08-01-2019 07:47 PM

Hello Brian: That is the same owner's manual that came with my 75 Overlander. I'm betting it is in fact a 75.

It is good practice not to tow with water weight in the rear of the trailer. However, I always tow with about 5 gallons of water in the black tank. Black tanks like to be wet and sloshed around while towing.

The fresh tank is just in front of the axles. I usually tow with about 50% of freshwater in that tank. Our Airstream is the cleanest restroom we have found while traveling. Heck with fuel stop restrooms. A corn field is better than those.

You will certainly learn more about this trailer once you have a chance to thoroughly inspect it. I inspect while doing a "detail" cleaning and make notes like: This faucet doesn't work, That tambour door is stuck, this ceiling vent doesn't work, that light switch doesn't work, the tires need replaced, oooh oooh, the trailer has rear end separation. It's a good way for me to learn my new trailer.

Keep us posted on your "recovery mission".


Kartwheel68 08-03-2019 07:22 PM

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OK, here are some pictures of what it looked like this morning when we pulled it out from under the cover.

Some good news, the trailer passed the "jump on the bumper" test with flying colors on both sides. I have not removed the skins on the bottom (I am going to later), but I do not think I have the rear body separation issue. I will inspect the rear frame area as I plan to relocate the gray and black tanks and replace them with larger tanks.

Some more good news. I pulled up all the carpet, removed all the bed pads, and opened every outside hatch to look at the subfloor as much as I could. There does not appear to be any rotten subfloor under the bath as seen through the big rear access door. There was a small spot forward of the toilet along the wall, but it was small. There was no sign of any water damage to the floor in any of the other access doors, nor under the main bed. There was no sign of water damage to floor at the rear of the street side wheel well, but there was some in front of the street side wheel well, it looks like it may have come from the "chicken wire" mesh below the refrigerator/furnace compartment. There was no sign of water damage under the galley sink. Basically, from the galley rearward the floor looks very good.

Now for the expected "not as good news". The frame members that exit the body to make up the sewage hose storage area and rear bumper have significant rust. They seem solid still, and I hope this is only rusty because water rolled off the body onto this part and it is isolated to this area, but I will find out one way or the other when I pull the bottom skins of. I have to inspect the gray and black tanks also, and inspect more of the floor under the bath.

The only area with significant floor damage is from the door forward. The two forward roof vents have caps that are not solid aluminum. I guess to allow ambient light in, the vent caps have a center square section of translucent white plastic, both of those two front vent caps the plastic is broken and allowed rain to go directly into the trailer. Water appears to have been leaking from both of the forward most small upper windows (the double pane ones with the peeling solar film), but since that front vent is also in line with those windows, water could have run down the sides from that roof vent.

More expected, not so good news, the axles are definitely bad and will need to be replaced before I tow it back to Atlanta from Florida.

Kartwheel68 08-03-2019 07:36 PM

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Some more pictures.

dbj216 08-03-2019 08:08 PM

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Thanks for the great pictures. I think your initial assessment sounds very good indeed. I am surprised it did not fail the bumper bounce test judging from the frame rust exactly at the body to frame bolts. Maybe the cover over the rear of the trailer protected the area well enough. When you pull down the belly pan aluminum and get the dead alligators out of there, you might find more frame rust. What ever Airstream painted the frame with back in 75 wasn't very good. You folks know how rusty the 70s era cars can be at times, especially from Minnesota salt roads.

Your trailer has vista windows in the living room where mine does not. These windows really get sun damaged. And the plastic "sky lights" on the vent lids break with UV exposure. You Overlander is a double bed model where mine is a twin. The double has more closet space.

I didn't like the oven in the wall so I got rid of that. Your trailer I think has the "walnut" veneer where mine is a lighter color for some reason.

I towed my trailer home 1000 miles with bad axles and no problems. Bad means the rubber rods are hard as hockey pucks. If you have good tires, brakes and bearings I feel the hard rubber is not a safety factor. It just is a rough ride for the trailer. Putting new axles up will mean about a 6 week wait, and then you might have to take them back down to work on the water tanks and the like.

Here are a couple of photos of my 75 as I found it. You can see the similarities.


OilnH2o 08-03-2019 08:48 PM

What an adventure!
You are on a great adventure! Take a look behind the commode - there may a clothes hamper with the original Airstream hamper behind what looks like a padded back rest. It will also show you the area near the plumbing that goes to the water heater. I'm looking forward to tagging along!

Kartwheel68 08-04-2019 05:54 AM

I had no idea about the clothes hamper, I will look behind it today. Thanks for the tip!


Kartwheel68 08-04-2019 10:49 AM

I got a new battery, and cleaned up/replaced the fuses and the fuse block clips for the 12V fuses. About 15 years or so ago my Dad replaced the Univolt with some kind of modern unit, it seems to be working. Once I got the 12V fuses replaced and fuse block cleaned up, everything seems to work except for the forward most vent lights. The small reading lights in the very front work, as do all the strip lights over the galley, bed, wardrobe and bath vanity sink. My Mom said my grandparents never ran the refrigerator on electric, she said they were told (not sure who told them this) that switching back and forth from gas and electric power would ruin the refrigerator. That seems illogical to me, but that is what they did. I did not try to turn the refrigerator on, nor did I try to turn on the water heater, AC or furnace but when I flipped the water pump switch on (for just a split second) it ran, so everything electrical that I tried worked. The Ammeter and battery test gauges did not work and all the tank gauges read empty, but they are empty so they may or may not be working. I am going to replace the original 12v fuse block to modern blade fuses and add a battery disconnect. So far so good on the electrical front.

I have to go back to Atlanta this afternoon, so the work is over for now, but I think it was a very productive start, and my parents are going to keep working on small stuff and cleaning the inside.

I will want a service manual, I did a search and found some old threads that said you could still order them from Airstream. Is that still true? If not I can order a photocopied one from eBay.


dbj216 08-04-2019 07:30 PM

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My trailer had this "clothes hamper" behind the toilet also. It has a rather complex double hinge arrangement so you can extend a padded "dressing seat" over the toilet lid, and then fold down the padded back rest and put your dirty socks in the storage space behind the toilet. There is little space wasted in an Airstream.

The hamper utilized the space between the toilet and the curved wall. I actually built a new one without a fold down dressing seat over the toilet. It does provide a bit more bath storage.


Camper Crazy 08-21-2019 08:31 AM

What an exciting project! Big pat on the back for your Mom for getting the cleaning started. My '72 with original interior intact, smelled aweful. Good luck, looking forward to following. Nice job on posting all the pics.

Kartwheel68 09-18-2019 01:52 PM

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I have not been down to work on the trailer, but my parents have been chipping away at it as they have time. My parents live about half a mile from my Grandmother where the trailer was, they brought it down to their house where it will be easier to work on. Dad has been removing the front goucho and the other parts from the front living area and Mom has been cleaning, she cleaned a small section of the outside also, and once she got the green scum and dirt off it looks in very good condition. Mom also found a bunch of paperwork for the trailer. I has their original warranty certificate, a business card from the salesman, and a neat little ash tray. I would guess new Airstreams do not come with ash trays today. I have ordered the service manual because Dad is chomping at the bit to start taking out the bathroom so we can get to the rear separation area, but he wants to have to service manual to have some guidance.

I was planning on polishing the trailer as many years ago the clear coat had already been removed, but my Mom thinks I should leave it as it is, sort of how old cars or old furniture is sometimes left with its "patina" instead of "over-restoring" it. If I polish it that will be the last thing I do after all the structural and mechanical work is done, but I kind of like the idea of keeping the "patina".

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