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Old 04-12-2020, 10:54 AM   #1
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1977 31' Excella 500
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'77 Excella 500 31' Off Road Build

Hi all. Posting this here because in general, everything will be repaired or replaced. This is the start of something that I've thought about for a while - but never thought it would actually happen. To the date of this posting, I've had the airstream for 7 months and this is the progress.

First day I picked it up:


Side shot in all her glory before getting torn apart:



I'm in the process of building a new frame for this thing and will catch everyone up to that point in a few posts.
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Old 04-12-2020, 11:40 AM   #2
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The next move was getting it to its final location for the remodel. Had to get it 250 miles with no lights, no brakes, and a tire that goes flat in a day.



Managed to make it without getting pulled over or have a blowout. This trailer already has damage from one.
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Old 04-12-2020, 11:43 AM   #3
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Looking forward to hearing about what you mean by "off road." Also interested in the frame you're building. I've got two 31' 1976 Excellas right now, but one has 15 feet chopped out of the middle, so essentially it will be a Bambi when it's finished. I'm considering building the frame, and I'd love to make it relatively "off road" capable, so very interested in what you're doing.
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Old 04-12-2020, 11:46 AM   #4
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Next came stripping out the entire interior. Nothing could be saved and EVERYTHING was covered in this really awful smurf blue color.

I think a crackhead got paid to paint the interior of this thing.







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Old 04-12-2020, 11:50 AM   #5
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Out came the walls and the pink insulation...







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Old 04-12-2020, 11:56 AM   #6
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At this point, it was time to start addressing the tanks and belly pan. Surprisingly none of the panels were hanging down and the fresh water tank was completely full... Luckily the black and gray tank weren't

Fresh water tank "fell" out




In the process of taking the belly pan out is when I started finding this...
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Old 04-12-2020, 12:01 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kidjedi View Post
Looking forward to hearing about what you mean by "off road." Also interested in the frame you're building. I've got two 31' 1976 Excellas right now, but one has 15 feet chopped out of the middle, so essentially it will be a Bambi when it's finished. I'm considering building the frame, and I'd love to make it relatively "off road" capable, so very interested in what you're doing.
Thanks for checking this out... Plan is to build a frame that's slightly shorter than the original (will lose rear bumper and "wet" storage in the process) and also run Timbren axle-less suspension with 4" of lift. About as off road as you can get with 31 feet of trailer.

Frame is going to have 1/4" 2x5 square tubing for main frame rails and 1/8" 2x5 cross sections and outriggers.
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Old 04-12-2020, 12:06 PM   #8
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1977 31' Excella 500
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After finding all that rust in the belly pan and also how rotted the floor was, I realized this was now a shell-off restoration project.

Started building an interior structure to lift from.





Used a bunch of floor jacks to start the lifting process.



Starting to see some separation

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Old 04-12-2020, 12:22 PM   #9
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used 4x4's and cinderblocks to keep the shell elevated for the time being.





After getting the frame pulled out, used a pressure washer to clean it real good. Unfortunately there was so much rust that the pressure washer had enough force to poke holes.



Frame is also buckled and bent







More rust



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Old 04-12-2020, 12:33 PM   #10
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So that brings it up to date with where I am now. Picked up the steel for the new frame and because of the coronavirus, am waiting on etrailer to get me my axle parts.





Will be running the Timbren 5200lb axle-less suspension with 4 inches of lift built in. Have heard good things about them and hopefully this trailer will be sitting much higher than it was before.



Will have 6-lug hubs so I can keep my mag wheels and 12" electric drums on all 4 corners
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Old 04-12-2020, 12:43 PM   #11
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Trailer Plans

Probably should've put this sooner but oh well...
  • Build new frame
  • Set up trailer height for oversized tires
  • Cooper STT Pro's on original wheels
  • Coosa board for subfloor
  • Solar system with at least 600watts of power
  • Lithium battery bank
  • King bed in the rear
  • Full bath
  • Full kitchen
  • Plan to live out of this thing full time
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Old 04-12-2020, 01:35 PM   #12
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Following. Looking forward to your progress.

Ian
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Old 04-12-2020, 03:59 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GPurcell View Post
Thanks for checking this out... Plan is to build a frame that's slightly shorter than the original (will lose rear bumper and "wet" storage in the process) and also run Timbren axle-less suspension with 4" of lift. About as off road as you can get with 31 feet of trailer.

Frame is going to have 1/4" 2x5 square tubing for main frame rails and 1/8" 2x5 cross sections and outriggers.

You probably already know this, but be aware that there actually needs to be some flex in the frame or you will start popping rivets and possibly creasing panels. I've been researching building a frame from scratch for a couple months. My original thought was "as solid as possible," but evidently that's not the way to go; there needs to be quite a bit of flex for these monocoque designs. I'm also looking at "deck over wheel" possibilities, but I don't want to increase my center of gravity too much (though I do want to raise everything quite a bit to increase clearance by as much as possible). I am also looking at water tank solutions mounted inside the cabin, both to minimize damage from below (rocks, logs, etc.), but also to keep things from freezing in the winter. I am aiming for a Colorado high altitude winter build, so everything needs to hold up to remaining in use at sub-zero temps.
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Old 04-12-2020, 05:55 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kidjedi View Post
You probably already know this, but be aware that there actually needs to be some flex in the frame or you will start popping rivets and possibly creasing panels. I've been researching building a frame from scratch for a couple months. My original thought was "as solid as possible," but evidently that's not the way to go; there needs to be quite a bit of flex for these monocoque designs. I'm also looking at "deck over wheel" possibilities, but I don't want to increase my center of gravity too much (though I do want to raise everything quite a bit to increase clearance by as much as possible). I am also looking at water tank solutions mounted inside the cabin, both to minimize damage from below (rocks, logs, etc.), but also to keep things from freezing in the winter. I am aiming for a Colorado high altitude winter build, so everything needs to hold up to remaining in use at sub-zero temps.
Yup! You'd be surprised how much flex is in these long pieces of 1/4". For that reason is why everything else is 1/8" steel. Original plan was to have it all 1/8" but the shop inaccurately took inventory. So I got upgraded to 1/4 at no cost

The idea of deck-over would be cool... but ya I feel that would be too high. There's a lot of stuff out there about water tanks inside! More so in vans than in trailers.
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Old 04-12-2020, 05:57 PM   #15
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Following. Looking forward to your progress.

Ian
Thanks for checking it out! Still a very long road ahead
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Old 04-12-2020, 06:55 PM   #16
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Original plan was to have it all 1/8" but the shop inaccurately took inventory. So I got upgraded to 1/4 at no cost

I love it when that happens!


Quote:
Originally Posted by GPurcell View Post
The idea of deck-over would be cool... but ya I feel that would be too high. There's a lot of stuff out there about water tanks inside! More so in vans than in trailers.

I've got multiple builds with tanks inside (and even when I do tank-in-the belly, I try to convince people to go additional "auxiliary" tank inside for freezing temps). The new factor for this (personal) build would be tank inside plus higher center of gravity if I go deck-over for off-road advantages. I had the shell on a deck-over trailer for transport from where I bought it, and it seemed like with some tweaks I could make it work; I just need to think about weight and distribution issues.
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Old 04-12-2020, 07:10 PM   #17
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I love it when that happens!





I've got multiple builds with tanks inside (and even when I do tank-in-the belly, I try to convince people to go additional "auxiliary" tank inside for freezing temps). The new factor for this (personal) build would be tank inside plus higher center of gravity if I go deck-over for off-road advantages. I had the shell on a deck-over trailer for transport from where I bought it, and it seemed like with some tweaks I could make it work; I just need to think about weight and distribution issues.
Hmm if that's the case I may need to go buy some more tubing... Give it more height but not quite deck-over status
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Old 04-12-2020, 07:20 PM   #18
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...and also run Timbren axle-less suspension with 4" of lift. About as off road as you can get with 31 feet of trailer.

I'm really interested in how this works out and hearing about your "real world" experience with the Timbrens on an Airstream. I haven't been able to find ANY information from someone who's actually used them (only conjecture). I just hate that I'm going to have to wait until you're finished to know!
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Old 04-12-2020, 07:21 PM   #19
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Hmm if that's the case I may need to go buy some more tubing... Give it more height but not quite deck-over status

Bear in mind that the build I'm talking about is half the length of yours.
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Old 04-13-2020, 07:50 AM   #20
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Bear in mind that the build I'm talking about is half the length of yours.
That's very true!
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