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Old 08-01-2016, 01:57 PM   #1
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1957 22' Caravanner
1965 26' Overlander
appleton , Wisconsin
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1957 Caravanner Full Monty

I am jumping in head first into the dream of owning a vintage Airstream. My wife and I have spent a bit of time debating the right timing of taking on a project like this. We had looked at a few here and there on the side of the road but were never all that serious. We were more of wait for the right one to come along and then we will know. I assumed this would be a project to keep me busy when I retired and then we found her.

Through word of mouth we heard of a guy with an old metal camper that he used to hunt from. He was too old to hunt anymore. He wasn’t looking to even get rid of the old metal camper. He figured nobody would want it and it would deteriorate into the ground. I thought, “What is the worst that can happen?” So we went to look at it.

As we drove up my wife and I couldn’t contain ourselves. What it beauty it was. Parked over 20 years ago was a 1957 13 panel Airstream Caravanner. Not only that but it was perfect. Not a dent in the side and protected from years of oxidation.

Much more to this story and what is to come. For now, how about some pics?
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Old 08-01-2016, 02:05 PM   #2
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That's pretty lucky! I'll be watching your story unfold��
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Old 08-01-2016, 02:27 PM   #3
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Looks like you have a seriously nice starting point!

After you dig her out, be sure to put a good eye on the frame. Sitting that close to the ground invites moisture.

Good luck. Looking forward to some interior pics.
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Old 08-01-2016, 02:52 PM   #4
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1957 22' Caravanner
1965 26' Overlander
appleton , Wisconsin
Join Date: Jul 2016
Posts: 137
After a couple trips to come up with a game plan to get her out of the woods we made our first attempt on July 3rd. The PO said “just hook it up and she will pull right out!” Yeah right. He says, “I greased up the bearing real good and put new tires on when I parked her” Ok, sounds great, but it’s sunk into the ground. “It’s not sunk into the ground, its leveled” Hmm, might not be so bad after all. But… it’s been sitting here for over 20 years. It will not come out that smoothly.



It was a 70 mile trip to get her home. We brought trailer tires with matching bolt pattern. We contacted everyone we could along the way in case we needed to abandon, park, and regroup. We were set.
What’s the worst that can happen?


We hooked up the F350 after a little WD40 on the hitch, seemed to clamp in place, gave a tug, and…


She popped right out of the ground.



Tires must be shot. Check the air pressure. Should be nothing??? 20 PSI on the right and 28 PSI on the left. After 20 years there is still air in the tires! We had a tank and topped each one to 35. Let’s head out.


We figured to go a gentle 35mph all the way home. My brother in law says, “She tows fine I am going to get going” So off he goes, 65 MPH all the way home. I was in the chase vehicle (no trailer lights).

We got home with not one single problem. Parked it and stared at her for hours


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Old 08-01-2016, 10:15 PM   #5
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A very lucky find! 57-58 Caravanners are the best of all vintage trailers, sez me. You have a lot of labor and $$ in front of you, but the end result could be outstanding. Do her justice -
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Old 08-01-2016, 10:44 PM   #6
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Great first Chapter to your story! Now, just be sure to follow up with your progress including lots of pictures.

Best of luck with your project!

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Old 08-01-2016, 11:42 PM   #7
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That's a great story so far. Great find and best of luck!

New tires next time though!
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Old 08-02-2016, 08:30 AM   #8
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1957 22' Caravanner
1965 26' Overlander
appleton , Wisconsin
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And then we named her...

What I love about many of these AS stories are that names that go along with name. I name everything. This would be no exception. Since we found her deep in the woods of the Upper Peninsula I figured a good Finnish name would be the right choice.

So meet Sylvi a Finnish name meaning “from the forest”.

Here is where we found her…
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Old 08-02-2016, 09:57 AM   #9
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What a great start!!!

If you hadn't made all those plans and taken the equipment Murphy would have surely shown up.

This thread is your ongoing story. You could even change the title to a 57 Caravanner named Silvi. (Not that you need to)

Those hours of staring is pure love. Welcome to Alumiholics Anonymous.
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Old 08-02-2016, 12:02 PM   #10
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1957 22' Caravanner
1965 26' Overlander
appleton , Wisconsin
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Originally Posted by Hittenstiehl View Post
What a great start!!!

If you hadn't made all those plans and taken the equipment Murphy would have surely shown up.

This thread is your ongoing story. You could even change the title to a 57 Caravanner named Silvi. (Not that you need to)

Those hours of staring is pure love. Welcome to Alumiholics Anonymous.
Thanks all for the feedback.

Surely if I hadn't taken so many precautions it would have been a disaster. I didn't know if when we hooked it up the axle would still be in the ground or the entire frame. Having a couple loggers on my side was a huge bonus. In their words, "We pull stuff out the woods all the time."

Alumiholics Anonymous... I get that. You could add Airforums Anonymous. By the time I am done reading about all that I will need to I expect to find the end of the internet.

I fully expect this to be my ongoing journal. I will hit up the specific categories if I need more specific advice (axles, windows, polishing, etc...) but reference the project here.

Stop back, more chapters and pics to come.
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Old 08-02-2016, 12:54 PM   #11
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1957 22' Caravanner
1965 26' Overlander
appleton , Wisconsin
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Perspective

I know I am going to get a lot of feedback on the challenges I have coming. That is OK. I really appreciate it and encourage it.

Here is what I know or expect. I expect this is going to be expensive. I have no reservations about that. If it gets really pricey it will just take longer. I expect that I could go out and buy a camper for less than this project will cost. If it doesn't I win. I want what I want. I can’t buy that. So, I just have to create it. It is going to be a lot of work. I assume a couple thousand hours. If it is less than that I win again. I have no time frame. I assume this is going to take a really long time. There will be no short cuts. There is only one way to do things right and that way takes much longer. I have time. I have no plans to have this done for any event or use. I retire in 20 years. If I beat that I win.

I consider this project my therapy.
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Old 08-02-2016, 05:10 PM   #12
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Man that thing is gorgeous. I love all the side windows.
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Old 08-02-2016, 05:20 PM   #13
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You sir are one lucky man! But... Change the tires..


Sent from my iPhone using Airstream Forums
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Old 08-02-2016, 05:21 PM   #14
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1957 22' Caravanner
1965 26' Overlander
appleton , Wisconsin
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Man that thing is gorgeous. I love all the side windows.
I couldn't agree more. The great thing is that I never knew much about the specifics of the models. It was only after we committed to this beauty that I even knew how old it was or what it was. I had to look up what it meant by 13 panels. It truly is random luck that we found her.

Now I cant stop dreaming of what is to come.
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Old 08-02-2016, 05:30 PM   #15
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You're so luck you didn't have to cut trees! My Bambi II sat in the woods 20 years & had to be cut out. But the tires held air, just like yours!! My project took 2 1/2 years of pretty diligent work. I enjoyed every minute of it! And the best part is it's exactly how I wanted it & I can use it knowing every inch of it. Enjoy your project -- glad it's home safe!
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Old 08-02-2016, 06:36 PM   #16
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1957 22' Caravanner
1965 26' Overlander
appleton , Wisconsin
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Originally Posted by Becky B. View Post
You're so luck you didn't have to cut trees! My Bambi II sat in the woods 20 years & had to be cut out. But the tires held air, just like yours!! My project took 2 1/2 years of pretty diligent work. I enjoyed every minute of it! And the best part is it's exactly how I wanted it & I can use it knowing every inch of it. Enjoy your project -- glad it's home safe!
Becky-

I guess I left that part out of the story. One of the reasons I brought loggers with me WAS to cut out trees. We had one cutting and three of us hauling out the mess. We took some liberties with the tree trimming so we had no issues maneuvering out or scratching the panels. You could have taken an 18 wheeler through there.

Right on for your 2 1/2 year project. That takes some real perseverance. I hope to be done in 3 years but that is with me touching every inch of this project.
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Old 08-02-2016, 08:13 PM   #17
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I'm in year three of my resto-mod. Of course, it probably has something to do with my habit of admiring my own work with a beer for copious amounts of time. Looking forward to following your progress and congrats!
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Old 08-02-2016, 08:30 PM   #18
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1957 22' Caravanner
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I'm in year three of my resto-mod. Of course, it probably has something to do with my habit of admiring my own work with a beer for copious amounts of time. Looking forward to following your progress and congrats!
Ha, I know how that goes. If I can stay focused or my three kids don't need me much I may make this happen.
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Old 08-02-2016, 08:42 PM   #19
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I hope to keep this thread as a journal and post in topics for specific questions. That way if others are looking for similar answers they can find it a little easier than reading an entire journal and getting way off topic.

I have some questions about removing the shell. If anyone can help take a look over here.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f36/...ml#post1830134
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Old 08-03-2016, 08:37 AM   #20
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Removing the shell

Quote:
Originally Posted by jjmtb View Post
I hope to keep this thread as a journal and post in topics for specific questions. That way if others are looking for similar answers they can find it a little easier than reading an entire journal and getting way off topic.

I have some questions about removing the shell. If anyone can help take a look over here.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f36/...ml#post1830134
Hey jjmtb, the thought of pulling the shell is way more intimidating than actually pulling the shell. It's a lot of work, but nothing is particularly difficult:

1. Gut the interior
2. Pull the inner skins. The rivet drilling tool from Vintage Airstream is a must have tool.
3. Discard all of the old insulation
4. Remove the lower belt on the front and rear of the trailer. It should be screwed on
5. Drill all of the rivets, including all of the rivets around the wheels. There are some blind rivets that are a PITA that you have to find and drill from the inside. You'll know when you've got them all because the shell will easily pop free.
6. Truss the shell so that when you pull it off it will retain its shape. I just used scrap lumber and 1"x2" - the trussing doesn't need to be beefy, just triangulate everything to ensure the shell keeps its shape.
7. Park the trailer where you want the shell to live for awhile
8. Build two gantries. Use 12' 4x4 for the verticals and a 10' 4x6 for the horizontals. There are plenty of examples throughout the forums. Get two chain hoists from Harbor Freight, attach them to the gantries and drop them through the front and rear air vents. On the inside of the trailer use a 12'x2"x8", drill two holes large enough for the hooks of the chain hoists to drop through and use a couple of 1"x8" galvanized nipples to lock the hooks in place.
9. Lift the shell. If you've gotten all of the rivets it will come off easily. You've probably missed a blind rivet or two.
10. Pull the bottom end out, put some plastic down and set the shell down
11. Tie the shell down to the ground! The shell in this state is very light and fragile, if you don't tie it down a big wind could come along and end your project.
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