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Old 09-10-2008, 07:40 AM   #1
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Renovation of gutted 1965 Caravel

I guess we have a little catching up to do.


We bought a gutted Caravel late last year with the intent of a renovation much like the original design. We never would have considered renovating the trailer without the information on and the support of this forum. Welcome to the Frontpage - The Vintage Airstream Podcast has also been invaluable and thoroughly enjoyable entertainment. (Yes, Frank, we have donated and will again.) We plan to document our progress – and we know you love pictures.


I’ll try to remember to add links to threads that were especially helpful, starting with the major renovations in this link: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f44/...ons-35399.html


So far, we have gutted the PO’s modifications, removed all the interior panels, insulated the upper half, popped the top, replaced some c-channel, cut and welded frame members to make room for grey tanks, installed the belly pan corners (ugh!), dropped the top, bucked it and nearly finished a panel replacement.



We did quite a bit of the heavy lifting – literally – while my son was home this summer. Now that he’s no longer available, I will step back and document things. I’ll try to pull the pictures and story together over the next weeks as we try to get the “aluminum tent” ready for a shakedown cruise in mid-October.


Here are the first two pictures: as-found and today. It doesn’t look that different, but the floor is now rock solid, the shell has only one pesky little leak and the interior is nearly ready for a rebuild.

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Old 09-10-2008, 07:44 AM   #2
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As found interior

Here’s the interior as-found.


All the parts that were gutted from the original trailer were available, but were stored outdoors. We took everything for patterns, but the plywood was so delaminated that it was unusable. We’ll reuse some of the original mahogany. The PO replaced the axle with a Henschen from Inland and replaced the plywood floor, so it towed home like a dream.

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Old 09-10-2008, 07:59 AM   #3
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Leaks Everywhere

We were debating about removing the interior skins. The PO had cut all the wires at the grommets and riveted new conduit on the walls. I’d hate to put this much work into the trailer and have that look.


Then the first good rain hit.


I’ve heard Rob from the VAP say that “they all leak”. I didn’t believe the PO when he said it didn’t, but I didn’t expect a flood! The first big rainstorm resulted in water everywhere. That was the last straw for the interior panels.


We gutted all the changes made by the PO to the interior and removed all the panels, wiring and insulation.


There were 17 separate leaks! The tops of the windows were the worst, especially fore and aft. The new fantastic fan leaked like a sieve. The Caravel logo was one of the worst spots, shown in the picture below. The four corners of the trailer – the vertical seams where the round ends stop and the flat walls begin were also bad spots. It looks like pop rivets were used to hold the domes in place before they were bucked. These raise areas also leaked badly.


There were plenty of trails left behind as show in this picture of the back of the Caravel logo.
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Old 09-10-2008, 08:04 AM   #4
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No more internal panels

Here are some pictures of the interior that give a good idea of the end and side internal structure.



I have a lot more. If anyone wants high resolution copies emailed, PM me. There will be more pictures of internal ribbing when I document the insulation.

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Old 09-10-2008, 09:21 AM   #5
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So far the trailer looks like a great candidate for what your doing. I too was surprised at the leaks and issues you find when you remove the inner panels. Corrosion, bad rivets, etc. That was the right move. You won't regret it later when you're sleeping soundly during a rain storm and not worrying about leaks.
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Old 09-10-2008, 01:34 PM   #6
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Leaks

Craig-

You're right. Actually, it was pretty cool being in the trailer as Hanna passed over. It was great to see dry spots almost everywhere.

We used quite a bit of vulkem on the outside and, with the skins off, sealed the seams with Alcoa Gutter Seal. Definitely paid off.

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Old 09-10-2008, 02:41 PM   #7
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John,
What areas did you use Vulkum vs Gutter Seal?
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Old 09-10-2008, 04:30 PM   #8
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Vulkem vs. Gutter Seal

1956Safari-

I used Vulkem on all external seams and Gutter Seal on all the internal ones. I had heard somwhere that gutter seal flows well into the seams. The Vulkem went on well on the external seams using plastic syringes that I picked up at West Marine.

After doing the internal seams, I heard on the Vap that GSM uses Automotive Seam Sealer on the internal seals. It's another good alternative.

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Old 09-21-2008, 07:47 PM   #9
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Wow John, you've done some great work! I'm sure its a relif to see it all going back together again. We missed Hanna but had a long visit with Tropical Storrm Faye. The Caravel didn't leak but our house did! Keep up the good work and keep us informed!
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Old 09-23-2008, 04:21 PM   #10
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House leaks

cosmos-

Keep after the house leaks! We just finished some repairs to a decades-old water leak. You can do a lot to an airstream (or two) for what it cost!

I'll keep posting when I can. We're scrambling to get the aluminum tent ready for a leaf peeking trip.

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Old 09-23-2008, 04:23 PM   #11
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Insulation Choice

The next step was to insulate the walls. Easy until you start reading the threads on this forum -- so many options.

The best two threads I found on insulation choices are by Zeppelinium and Malconium. Links are below.

At the risk of oversimplifying a lot of very good work by two bright guys, I viewed the Zep tests as measuring how warm my trailer would stay in the winter while the Malconium tests measured how cool it would stay in the summer. [note: Zep says that there is more radiant heat testing to come].

Our camping definitely leaned towards "cooler in the summer", so we chose Malconium's bubble foil method.

There is so much information in this forum and sometimes it's hard to find. Some of the better information on insulation is in a thread called "Painting your Airstream red". Who woulda thunk?

In the first thread, note especially posts #59 and #82
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f474...red-13363.html
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f46/...cks-30196.html
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f46/...sts-40442.html
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Old 09-23-2008, 04:27 PM   #12
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Insulating the top half

We only insulated the top half in preparation for redoing the frame-off.
Here is what the top half looked like. Some wires go underneath the insulation -- wires that need to be accessed later were run on top.

This was back in March. It made an incredible difference in comfort!

We tried two different adhesives: Loctite and PL. The difference was night and day. In cold weather, the Locktite wouldn't cure. The PL was terrific.

For a 17' Caravel, it takes about 3 1/2 rolls of Reflectix and about 10 tubes of PL adhesive.
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Old 09-23-2008, 04:39 PM   #13
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Hanging Cabinets

Before putting the interior panels on, we added extra support to the overhead cabinets. One of the pictures provided by the PO was a 4x4 supporting the cabinet -- that wasn't happening again.

We set up to thru-bolt the cabinets by making an angled washer then gluing it and a nut inside the strong channel. We'll make a slot in the cabinets so that they can expand and ride on a set of 1/4-20 stainless bolts. That will hold them!

Here are the pix on the floor and installed. The blue tubing behind the installed bolt is plastic conduit with a messenger line installed for future wiring across the top of the trailer.
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Old 09-23-2008, 04:42 PM   #14
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Shell Off

After we finished the rough wiring and the insulation of the upper half, we reinstalled the interior upper panels. Then it was time to pop the top.

Given the warnings in the frame-off threads, we used so much wood to stabilize the shell that it weighed a ton! It was worth it -- it is really an eggshell.

Here it is in the backyard. Stuff is spread everywhere. The grass is just starting to recover 2 months later.
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Old 09-23-2008, 05:16 PM   #15
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Mike Welding

My son welded angle iron supports to hold grey water tanks.
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Old 09-23-2008, 05:22 PM   #16
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Ready to drop

We placed the shell back over the new floor to keep the rain off. We made a shield that we taped inside the shell to keep the floor dry.

All we needed to do was put the belly pan corners on. That was much tougher than expected.
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Old 09-23-2008, 05:31 PM   #17
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First bellypan attempt

I think I saw pictures in NorCalBambi's thread where he sculpted foam insulation then did some magic to bend the aluminum exactly how he wanted.

I'm not in his league by any means! This was the single most frustrating day of airstream ownership!

We started by installing foil-faced foam insulation, two layers, then cut it to shape. We then cut panels, using the old ones as templates to bend around them. If you look at old pictures, the old panels don't contour like our attempt.

We didn't know that at the time. After a few hours, here's the really bad attempt.

The first picture is before attempting to make the aluminum do what it didn't want. The plastic is the protective material that is partially off.

The second picture was the end of a bad day.
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Old 09-23-2008, 05:34 PM   #18
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Bellypan success

After looking at pictures the night before, we decided to remove the insulation completely and install the belly pan exactly as done originally. We did make one exception -- we cut the tabs a little closer than the Airstream guys did.

What a difference a day makes. The first successful panel took about 14 hours. The last took about 45 minutes. We insulated with fiberglass after bending them in place.

Here are two pictures of the setup and the final product.
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Old 09-23-2008, 06:29 PM   #19
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Bucking

The shell was tricky to get back in place. We dropped the shell on and cleco'd it in place, but the rear sagged. I thought we were level when we finished bolting all the plywood in place. Unfortunately, we removed the supports that kept the frame level.

The frame sagged like an airplane wing. We ended up having to jack up the back of the trailer to get all the cleco's to line up properly. Rechecking the level on the trailer, it was the right thing to do.

Bucking turned out to be easy and fun. We picked up the rivets at Aircraft Spruce, along with a 3X gun. A few bucking bars from eBay and we were set to go.

My only surprise was that lower pressure with a larger air tank worked best. If you need rivet advice, search Aerowood's posts.

Man, is this thing solid now!

Here are pics of Mike and I bucking.
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Old 09-23-2008, 06:37 PM   #20
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Panel Replacement

While we were on a roll, we decided to fix the street side panel. It had been scratched badly and apparently had a wheel blow-out. The tear in the panel from the blowout caused significant corrosion behind the panel.

Armed with our new tools, we tackled the job in a day and a half. Mike has a new vocabulary now: pancake drills, clecos, bucking bars, rivet removal tool, air nibbler and more -- especially after the belly pan fiasco above!

The rivet removal tool was great. It allowed us to get the old rivets off with minimal enlargement of the holes. We enlarged them from the original 1/8" to 5/32 and used the 5/32 rivets. The gold coating came off easily.

The pancake drill made easy work of duplicating the old holes from inside channels once the panel was in place.

Here is the before, during and after view:
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