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Old 09-30-2014, 11:19 AM   #1
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Manco's Avatar
1963 26' Overlander
Missoula , Montana
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 4
1963 Overlander Project

I wanted to share photos of my new (to me) Airstream project. It's a 1963 26 foot Airstream Overlander. I also wanted to start a thread because I'm a newbie and have a few questions.

The story so far is...
I'm a forestry student at U of M and have been looking to build a tiny house, or live in a trailer or something to save myself a bit of money. I ended up looking for an Airstream because I figured it would hold its value if I fixed it up.

Three weeks ago I saw an ad for a trailer for sale in north Washington. So i saddled up my little Nissan Exterra with 215,000 miles on it, drove out, and pulled this guy 300 miles back to Montana.

I've broken down the restoration down into "phases" as I get the money to finish each one. The first phase was to gut the trailer, tear out the floor, clean it, and get it in good enough shape to sleep in. My plan is to live in the trailer as I finish it.

Phase 1

The inside was in pretty bad shape, plus the floor was rotten and probably had some asbestos and other nastiness in it.

I started gutting the trailer, keeping a few pieces to use as a pattern for when I make new cabinetry ect.

I ended up pulling out about 4 pickup loads of guts out.

Once it was empty I started on the floor

The floor was in bad shape! Everything was rotten, the installation was all shredded and chewed up. I found a couple mouse nests, and a few hundred pine cones!

Clean floor! I didn't want to drop the belly pan, so I just wore a respirator and pulled everything out by hand into garbage bags.

At about 1AM, finally down to the frame. Shop vaced out the last bits. I used a TPS solution to clean the walls, floors, everything. Then sprayed bleach to kill any hantavirus, then washed it out again.

I grabbed some cheap plywood from our used home resource store for about 25$. It's going to be a temporary floor until I get the insulation and marine plywood I intend to put in. I'll use it as a pattern when I get the more expensive wood.

Phase 1 took about 4 days, I was tired!

Ive been sleeping there the last couple weeks. I'm getting ready to start Phase 2.
Reattaching the belly pan where its starting to fall off, patching any holes or leaks with Vulkem polyurethane sealant. Laying down reflective polyurethane on top of the belly pan, then putting an R30 basement insulation between the frame. Over that I'm bolting down marine grade plywood from a local lumber yard. Its about 70$ per 4x8, but i'm never pulling out that floor again!
Over the plywood I'm putting down laminate underlayment and I have some old hickory flooring that's going in on top.

Anyway that's my project. Advice would be appreciated, and also any tips on the best way to attach the belly pan to the steel frame.
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Old 09-30-2014, 09:16 PM   #2
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1963 26' Overlander
Hollis , New Hampshire
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That doesn't look like a 1963 overlander! Looks more like a 64 ambassador. Can you post the serial number to the right of the entrance door?

Look here

Ps you do know it is critical that the final floor goes under the c channel that is the perimeter of the floor, right?
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Old 09-30-2014, 10:28 PM   #3
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1963 26' Overlander
Missoula , Montana
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 4
It is badged as an Overlander Land Yacht, but the windows on the east side are similar to the ambassador.

The serial is M 4 S 5074 3780

Yes since the 1/4 particle board I am using now is so pliable I was able to slide it into one c channel, flex it in the middle and slide it into the other side. But with the harder plywood i'll either have to lift the walls or do like a 1/3 cut and slide both pieces in. Probably the later.
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Old 10-01-2014, 04:58 AM   #4
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1986 32' Excella
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Canton , Georgia
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I. A me on the say both of those things, reinergirl! The floor in an airstream is a critical structural piece, please be careful -- you must not tow until you get the edges bolted into the c channel.

Fun project!
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Old 10-01-2014, 07:18 AM   #5
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1991 34' Excella
1963 26' Overlander
1961 26' Overlander
Central , Mississippi
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She's definitely a '64. 5 segment endcaps and the door drip guard/door-in-door hinges are unique to that year.

A nice straight trailer! Like the others have said, take time and make sure to reattach the walls to the floor/frame properly. Right now you risk having the entire shell flop to the ground around the frame.
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Old 10-01-2014, 07:22 AM   #6
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1976 23' Safari
1962 22' Safari
1961 16' Bambi
Philly burbs , PA
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Chassis looks to be in good shape. Plenty of room, too. How was towing this AS? For the new floor, I would seal the edges top and bottom a foot in. Nice find!
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Old 10-01-2014, 08:04 AM   #7
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Houston , Texas
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A few words on your floor replacement: You can slide the new subfloor into the channels as you mentioned above, but you will still need to remove your lower inner skins and the belly pan edges in order to access the old rusty bolts that go through the frame, the floor, and the C-channel. If you are going to go through all that, you might as well lift the shell. The marine grade plywood you are talking about putting in is, IMHO not worth the expense. The value of Marine ply is that it typically has more layers, and less voids than regular plywood. To my knowledge all plywood is put together with "waterproof" glue, so the marine grade gives you a higher quality of plywood, but it will still rot if consistently exposed to water in a leaky trailer. I would recommend buying ordinary plywood, but coating the bottom, edges, and at least 12" in around the perimeter on top with a few layers of poly or penetrating epoxy.

Good luck--you have a lot of work ahead of you before the snow flies!
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Old 10-01-2014, 08:41 AM   #8
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1965 26' Overlander
Edmonds , Washington
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I'm currently remodeling a '65 Airstream and I'm not too far ahead of you in the process. Keep in mind that you'll need to run any plumbing and electrical you want under the floor before you seal it up. For an idea, we're adding the following down there:

Two fresh water tanks;
One grey water tank;
Water tank heat pads;
All plumbing between tanks, under shower, and under sinks;
LP Gas plumbing;
Hydraulic brake lines through conduit; and
Electrical routing conduit;

It'll probably delay putting on our floor by at least a month, since it's a part time project, but it'll save a lot of room in the living space.

If you're going to go R30 in the floor, you might consider pulling the skins off the walls and upgrading there, too. Our in-wall insulation was shot, and the electrical conduit had several shorts. If your floor is well insulated but the walls aren't, you'll be living in an oven whenever the sun is on the trailer.

All that said, if you're just going for cheap, you can get away with not doing a lot of that.

Another step that's delayed us by a week or two was grinding off the rust on the frame, then galvanizing and painting the frame.
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Old 10-01-2014, 10:30 AM   #9
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1963 26' Overlander
Missoula , Montana
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Huh, well if it's a '64 that makes it 50 years old, that's a nice round number!

Is there a diagram or another thread that shows how the frame, the floor, the c channel are all connected? Maybe from the side, so I can better understand how it needs to be bolted together?
I was hoping to leave the shell on, and have read a few threads of people doing shell-on restores.

Towing it went fine, no problems. It is a straight trailer, no dents or tears in the shell so I was really happy to find it.
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Old 10-01-2014, 11:12 AM   #10
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1959 26' Overlander
Western , Massachusetts
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Originally Posted by Manco View Post
Is there a diagram or another thread that shows how the frame, the floor, the c channel are all connected? Maybe from the side, so I can better understand how it needs to be bolted together?
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Old 10-01-2014, 12:06 PM   #11
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1976 25' Tradewind
, Florida
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Interesting thread keep us updated and posting pics as you progress. Just finished a shell of on my 76 Tradewind, new frame and all, so I know you are working hard.

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Old 01-06-2017, 01:24 PM   #12
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1963 26' Overlander
Tulsa , Oklahoma
Join Date: Jun 2015
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Is this a CA made model? If so can you tell me your floor width? And if so that can you tell me how you took the messurement? Eg interior wall to interior wall or full size of subfloor.
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