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Old 04-06-2021, 02:35 PM   #1
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1972 31' Sovereign
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Starship SN72 Restoration Thread

This is the official restoration thread for our 1972 Sovereign International Twin Bed Rear Bath. Purchased in Albuquerque, NM, in February, 2011. There were a couple precursor threads to this:

1) Fateful thread that ended up putting me in Albuquerque at the right place and time: https://www.airforums.com/forums/f22...an-219276.html

2) Getting it home, or at least trying to: Previous thread about getting this 1972' Sovereign home:
https://www.airforums.com/forums/f18...et-219403.html

So we have it back in Tucson. The kids are really into rockets and SpaceX so we have named it Starship SN72 after the SpaceX rockets that have (up to this point in 2021), been exploding in spectacular fireballs on landing. SpaceX claims to have met all their objectives with each launch, though, for whatever that's worth. They certainly like blowing things up. Let's hope that this one doesn't meet a similar fate. We aren't going to fill it with methane and liquid oxygen, just in case.

This post is just going to be "As Found" and I'll follow up with other milestones to make this more readable.

After taking out the carpet and looking at the systems, this seems to be the state of things:

Subfloor: ok. There is a hole in the front corner, a soft spot under a street side window, and some crunchy around the toilet.

Frame: ok, from what I can tell. I can see the frame in three places and there is rust but everything looks solid.

Plumbing: a disaster. It looks like all the copper has burst at one time and they've replaced some of it with pex and patched it in places with black or clear plastic tubing with double hose clamps. Remnant copper is still between patches!

Rear end: I didn't think it sagged but there's a slight downturn halfway through the bathroom and I don't know why. There's no rear-end separation. It looks like they previously dissected the shower to repair the plumbing back there (which seems strange since I can access it from the rear access panel or from behind the Univolt).

Electric: Lights and fans work when plugged into car but there's no battery and I haven't put one in.

Bathroom: A PO dismantled the shower and put it back but used fat headed machine screws instead of rivets and giant brown 1" caulk lines. The rear end floor dips a little halfway through the bathroom and a puddle forms on the rear side of the tub drain. Toilet seems to be in good shape.

Hot water heater: Untested.

Black tank system: Untested.

Freshwater tank: Untested. The water pump is amazing, like it came from Willy Wonka's factory. The strainer needs obvious replacement. I couldn't get the external water fill lock open (I have zero keys) so I drilled the lock out.

Axles: New Dexter with 32 degree down and 3" lift

Tires: New-ish (1 yr) from Sam's Club as per PO

Exterior lights: Seem to work though lens covers faded, missing, bulbs broken, missing

Cabinets: Decent but tambour doors in various shape. Only one is missing completely (the long one in the living area facing the gaucho/door).

Windows: One vista view window is shattered, with glass sitting on top of the interior pane. Estimate $700+ for Oasis to just fix it. Some windows have obviously been reinstalled and very sloppily caulked with silicon. The front window is missing its latch attachments. All window seals are dry-rotted.

Furniture: No cushions. Thin wood covers over storage compartments are brittle and cracked but intact. Not sure what the gaucho is supposed to look like but I wonder if the back support is missing because there is nothing to support back cushions for sitting.

A/C: No idea

Vents: Cranks work, one is missing a handle. the one with a fan works.

Suburban Furnace: No idea, not going to use it. Guessing not working because PO had installed a second gas furnace wall-mounted by the front door.

Dometic Fridge: Not sure but the frame is bowed out in the middle between the freezer and fridge so neither will shut with a seal.
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Old 04-06-2021, 02:37 PM   #2
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New axles, shocks, brakes, and lift

After struggling with leaving her in Socorro to get new axles on, ordering them from Colin Hyde and doing it ourselves, and having it done here in Tucson at Oasis RV, I ended up biting the bullet and bringing it back to Tucson and had new axles installed with a 32 degree down angle and a 3" lift. Very quickly blew our budget for most things with that decision but it was done quickly and well. Looks like she is ready to do some boondocking! I've attached a photo in the yard at Oasis RV when I picked her up.

Attached before/after to show the change in clearance.
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Old 04-06-2021, 03:03 PM   #3
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The Motto and The Plan

After looking it over for awhile we have a plan. After looking it over, the Starship has a real motto, too, from one of the mugs left in the overhead cabinet:

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be!

Anyway, given the condition of the floor and what we can see of the frame, we are going to patch and treat it for now and see if we can get a couple years of family use out of it before evaluating a frame-off restoration, really cleaning, repairing, and painting the 50-year old frame and replacing the subfloor with composite. But that's down the road. In the meantime, we are mixed between maintaining vintage and making it more functional. We are leaning towards vintage because it seems like the cool thing to do and possibly cheaper, though that remains to be seen. We are coming at this from the standpoint of backpackers and car campers so at the very least this is a hard tent on wheels. Our ultimate goal is long-term boondocking but we are so far away from that right now. Our first "big trip" is a 30-day, 5,000 mile adventure this August. That said, here's the tentative plan:

Phase 1: Spring 2021
- Clean, clean, clean
- Remove the Suburban and ductwork
- Remove oven
- Replace all freshwater plumbing
- Test blackwater tank and make plans if necessary
- Install a composting toilet and drain liquid to black tank
- Update electrical with new battery and new converter
- Assess fridge - can it be fixed? It won't shut because the center bows out
- Replace/fix exterior lights and covers as needed
- Patch/seal floor
- Install new floor (vinyl or cork)
- Install bunks over read twin beds
- New cushions everywhere
- Upholstery
- Fix vista view window
- Assess stove
- Service/recertify propane tanks
- Assess propane system

Kind of winging it as we go along. Bigger short-term questions are around the fridge and what to do about the electric system. We want to go solar with lithium but not sure if can start off with that kind of budget. I removed the Univolt and we don't have a battery so I kind of need to do something to do some more testing.

Added some photos of post-carpet removal of the interior, the post-furnace cabinet shot, and my 8 year-old helping prep the new exterior LED lights for installation.

Here's a post showing more detail on the furnace removal: https://www.airforums.com/forums/f28...ml#post2480280
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Old 04-06-2021, 03:10 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aaryno View Post
This is the official restoration thread for our 1972 Sovereign International Twin Bed Rear Bath. Purchased in Albuquerque, NM, in February, 2011. There were a couple precursor threads to this:
February, 2021. Missed the 30-minute edit window.
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Old 04-06-2021, 04:12 PM   #5
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Welcome to the wacky world of air streaming, especially vintage air streaming. In keeping with starships motto, I can truthfully say everyone here on the forum have seen much worse .

I think your strategy is a good one, especially with the kids being the age of they are right now. It makes all kinds of sense to take advantage of the trailer right now and get some wonderful experiences in before they become insufferable teenagers wanting to spend the least amount of time with you as possible. Later, with a lot more experience under your belt camping and discovering what you really need and would like in the trailer, you can tackle a really cool resto if you’d like, plus perhaps the kids might actually be old enough and skilled enough to contribute some helpful manual labor. I know that last bit is a stretch but anything is possible.
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Old 04-06-2021, 04:45 PM   #6
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It looks lovely, fun, a typical Airstream puzzle and vintage money pit.

You will make a lifetime of memories especially with young kids.

Road safety and water tight are priorities while the rest follows. If those two are complete you can still camp in it.

Since your coming at this from being campers you will likely transition easily to camping in the silver starship. You probably have most of the equipment also.

If boondocking camping a porta pot tent with lugaloo doubles as a bathroom/shower. Campgrounds have nice facilities. A extension cord from the campground pedestal can work for limited electric while a generator or jackery/goal zero helps with electric. Solar lamps provide evening lights in trailer. Camping chairs and propane camping stove will take care of meals.

We've camped happily and successfully in our empty shell for longer than we should have.
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Old 04-06-2021, 05:08 PM   #7
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"It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be!"

You motto gave me a laugh, love it. My restoration is a work in progress. I've broken the work down into separate small projects to avoid becoming overwhelmed. While I'm working on each project it feels every bit as bad as I thought it would be. But, after each project is completed I think back and say "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be."

I look forward to watching your progress as you get your Airstream ready for traveling.
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Old 04-06-2021, 05:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skyguyscott View Post
Welcome to the wacky world of air streaming, especially vintage air streaming. In keeping with starships motto, I can truthfully say everyone here on the forum have seen much worse .

I think your strategy is a good one, especially with the kids being the age of they are right now. It makes all kinds of sense to take advantage of the trailer right now and get some wonderful experiences in before they become insufferable teenagers wanting to spend the least amount of time with you as possible. Later, with a lot more experience under your belt camping and discovering what you really need and would like in the trailer, you can tackle a really cool resto if youíd like, plus perhaps the kids might actually be old enough and skilled enough to contribute some helpful manual labor. I know that last bit is a stretch but anything is possible.
We have four kids in this adventure. Youngest is 3 and the oldest is 11. We have homeschooled the last year and I have an ace in the hole with my incredible wife leading the way in their instruction. My role involves teaching the math (my degree, thankfully), plant biology, and airstream restoration.

They did a cross-country test trip in the minivan this spring while I stayed back to log hours and it was a resounding success so we are really excited and optimistic about our upcoming run as a part-time traveling family.

With as much as I've learned the last two months just reading these forums I figure I need to give back and share our experience with this 49-year old. It is pretty intimidating to see the incredible handiwork that some streamers are able to craft into their trailers so I figure if I just keep reading and reading and reading I'll know everything.

Oh, this is a fun one. For the kids' maths I have started giving them Amps/Volts/Watts problems. For a class project we are going to diagram out the new electrical system. But in terms of real work, they can kinda be partners for a bit here and there but mostly not that helpful :-)
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Old 04-06-2021, 05:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hittenstiehl View Post
It looks lovely, fun, a typical Airstream puzzle and vintage money pit.

You will make a lifetime of memories especially with young kids.

Road safety and water tight are priorities while the rest follows. If those two are complete you can still camp in it.

Since your coming at this from being campers you will likely transition easily to camping in the silver starship. You probably have most of the equipment also.

If boondocking camping a porta pot tent with lugaloo doubles as a bathroom/shower. Campgrounds have nice facilities. A extension cord from the campground pedestal can work for limited electric while a generator or jackery/goal zero helps with electric. Solar lamps provide evening lights in trailer. Camping chairs and propane camping stove will take care of meals.

We've camped happily and successfully in our empty shell for longer than we should have.
I haven't even started to think about water tight. Maybe it's the megadrought denial. Every window seal is severely dry-rotted right now. That would DEFINITELY be a project the kids would like to be involved with.

Thanks for tips for solar/etc. We're going to take it out in a couple weeks, rain or shine (ha! as IF it might rain here...), and do just that. We should have bunks made by then (maybe steel frame if I can get my mom to weld me two) and cushions, if not upholstery. Ice chest, sleeping bags, camp stove and folding chairs all good to go. Looking forward to that first trip. We probably won't be within miles of a plug but I think we will set up electric and a converter by then, too. Just hesitant about going with a cheap-o battery just to have something vs. biting the bullet and starting on a one-way path toward the solar goal by putting in our first lithium battery.
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Old 04-07-2021, 09:51 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aaryno View Post
February, 2021. Missed the 30-minute edit window.
For a moment I thought Iíd find a longer running Reno then my own.
Enjoy it!
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Old 04-12-2021, 09:46 AM   #11
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Quote:
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For a moment I thought Iíd find a longer running Reno then my own.

Enjoy it!


hilarious! hope thatís not the case yet we are going to live with some issues that wonít be fully addressed later so...
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Old 04-12-2021, 12:03 PM   #12
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Starship SN72 Restoration Thread

weekend update. kind of a busy weekend with other non-Airstream things, as happens with a family of 6. I did rip out all the old plumbing and I got a LOT of satisfaction out of seeing all the generations of repairs lying in the dirt.



As always, learning a lot more from doing than reading these forums but it sure does help to have a foundation of half-knowledge as I go along.

Finally understand how the black and grey water system works. I debated about using the black tank as a place for the grey water to back up but decided to just keep the black tank black and do a grey water tote if we are at an established camp site. We will prefer dispersed camping in which case well put a hose on the grey water to move the water away from camp.

As far as that goes, I noticed thereís no cap so iíll need to get one with a hose attachment. Also understanding that iíll need a bucket when I open the cap...

The new pump, strainer, and accumulator tank arrived late in the week abs after a couple trips to Loweís I mostly figured out the new plumbing with pex and shark bite fittings. It turns out the pump came with a strainer so i get to return some more things. I thought i got all the extra pex fittings but i still need to go back for some elbows and things for attaching the sink and kitchen hoses. Apparently 1/2Ē on a hose connector can mean multiple things... I also decided to lay out the plumbing nice and neat along the back wall and wrap nicely around the wheel well so there are about 10 more elbows I need. This also doesn't include the hot water drain (another tee and elbow).



Something I read in another thread really helped me understand this plan: Think of the water system as a spine with the water tank on one end and the city water on the other and ribs are the various outlets: sinks, shower, toilet, hot water, and the hot water is its own system as a side-branch. iím assuming the second drain hole next to the tank is for the hot water so iíll run it out there.

I nicked one of the air hoses on the tank with a blade so iíll have to repair that before i can top off the tank. i couldnít open the water fill anyway so i drilled out the lock. probably going to have to do the same to the fridge compartment. ultimately will replace them all because i donít have keys...

Not quite done with this part but wondering if you all can tell which is before and which is after:




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Old 04-12-2021, 12:43 PM   #13
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Starting to hit the phase where a lot is happening all at once but there's still some uncertainty about the rear subfloor so I am probably going to remove the tub and rear cabinet and evaluate what to do back there before we get too far along. Other than that, the plumbing is basically done and I'm going to hook up some electricity and try it all out as soon as everything is connected. My dad is going to be in town with a new water heater. Not sure if I should stick with the 50-year old Bowen (if it works) or install the new tankless that my dad is bringing. Not even sure what kind it is.

We did end up taking out the oven and are probably going to put some ply up there. We will want the additional support that plywood offers, too, since we are building a lean-to bunk bed out of steel. The idea is a single post goes down at the hall-side of the bunk and then the bed is anchored into the former oven wall fore (plywood) and closet wall aft (which will be reinforced with lumber) and on the curb side with screws directly into inner shell. It appears that's how the bottom twin is anchored without any obvious trouble but it still makes me slightly nervous since someone will sleep under it.

I borrowed an orbital polishing tool and just ordered 7.5" twisted wool pads and several grades of Nutive (F7 to S). At some point when I'm flustered or stuck I'll switch to mindless polishing or perhaps recruit some child labor.

We also made an executive decision on the living arrangement and decided to abandon the goucho and go for a dinette. For our family size, it just makes sense. Plus I am going to try building an office space next to the fridge, so that whole long cabinet under the streetside windows will come out.

And, after being wishy-washy about the floors (have been thinking of cork or period-vinyl), have decided that the most cost effective solution is to use the free wood floors that are sitting in my father-in-law's carport. It will also be less of a sunk cost if I bite the bullet at some point and pull the shell off and really replace the subfloor.
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Old 04-12-2021, 01:57 PM   #14
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Starship SN72 Restoration Thread

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thinking about the more serious things like the sloped bathroom and rotten rear-end wood... inspecting a little closer i see that the subfloor is solid over the frame across the bathroom and even in the joint with the banana wrap but the top of the subfloor tilts through the bathroom. iíve read some about tail droop and rear end frame separation and iím still not clear what the difference is and what this is. i did the bumper test i thought but maybe iím not knowing what to look for. regardless, it seems that the frame must dip from the front of the bathroom to the rear bumper. so what to do?

my limited understanding from previous threads is that i need to pull out the bathroom floor and inspect the frame. likely it has sagged and needs to be jacked back up into place and secured. what do you think?

second image is
looking from the bathroom at bottom of the rear compartment where wood has completely rotted out and thereís no subfloor to fit into c-channel.

i think iím going to remove the bathtub and rear cabinet and see if that enough to start pulling out the subfloor...
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Old 04-14-2021, 12:28 AM   #15
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Starship SN72 Restoration Thread

so... this happened... picture has my dad who is in town for the week.

pulled the bathroom out to deal with the sagging floor. as always, i can read all about a thing like rear end separation and feel like i kinda understand it and then i peel back the corner wraps and bathroom elements and i learn more in 30 minutes than 6 hours of reading. i think i can just put a new piece of plywood back there and with the nice fresh wood, bolt the floor back up to the shell.
one thing that surprises me is that the c-channel along the sides (which has two up arms and one down arm) is different than along the back (which only has the two up arms).

as we were taking out the bathroom the rotten plastic in the sink shattered, meaning our renovation will also include building a new bathroom instead of cleaning up the existing one.
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Old 04-14-2021, 11:50 AM   #16
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FYI -- For continuity . . . a side discussion of curved/straight C-channel transition is here:

https://www.airforums.com/forums/f36...-a-221602.html

FYI
FWIW
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Old 04-14-2021, 03:50 PM   #17
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FYI -- For continuity . . . a side discussion of curved/straight C-channel transition is here:

https://www.airforums.com/forums/f36...-a-221602.html

FYI
FWIW


Thanks for bringing that in, Otra15. Next step is cutting the subfloor from the last crossmember going forward and pulling it out. another puzzle to figure out as we go along.
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Old 04-14-2021, 05:10 PM   #18
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Love the look on dad's face!
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Old 04-15-2021, 03:16 PM   #19
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took a long lunch today. Mrs. Starship is a little concerned that the renovation is still in the removing things phase and didnít expect to lose the floor. That said, we are both coming around to the we-can-redo-the-bathroom-however-we-want path that has opened up in front of us. Vintage was an objective but now a fleeting memory, especially since the goucho is gone and i donít think the fridge is going to work.

Now, as for short-term stuff, a question for the airforums hive mind. The C-channel under the rear access panel is completely rusted through at an elevator bolt. Luckily, itís on the straight part. I was thinking of getting a long slip of aluminum to splint between the two rear curved sections and leave the channel in place. Will that work?

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Old 04-15-2021, 04:50 PM   #20
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worth mentioning for the sake of following up on the not keeping things vintage... the bathroom plastics were so brittle that they cracked in multiple places on removal. was the least favorite part of the trailer anyway...
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