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Old 01-13-2019, 02:43 PM   #1
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1978 Sovereign Frame off

I've tried twice to begin a blog on my frame off project. When I go to submit the new thread, after having typed on in for a number of minutes, It cycles me back to the login. When I do that I get a blank screen and all of my work is lost and nothing is posted.

What am I doing wrong? Is the system timing out?

Help
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Old 01-13-2019, 07:38 PM   #2
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There you are. I have no idea what might be wrong. I think I will go to the Knowledgebase and see if I can start a thread. If so, then see if you can make a post to it.

If the problem persists, we can ask the administer to take a look.

David

PS:

Well, your thread is here, and both you and I have now posted to it. I've not had the Forums time out on me. I do use a laptop as I'm not smart enough to use a smart phone or tablet with all their "apps, or apples" as they're called. Maybe that's a reason for the lost posting.

I happen to stay logged into Air Forums. I believe a guy has to sign up and log in before you can make a post. Make sure you are in fact logged in to the site.

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Old 01-14-2019, 01:50 AM   #3
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1978 Sovereign Frame off

Greetings wcronin4!

You didn't mention whether you are accessing from a laptop/desktop computer or device that utilizes the Forum app, but what I am going to suggest only applies to laptop/desktop computer access. I suspect that your connection is timing out because of inactivity as I had a similar problem that was intensified by my DSL connection. What I have learned:
  1. When logging in, be sure to check "keep me logged in".
  2. When keying in something that may become somewhat involved, do that in a word processing document -- Then Copy and Paste it into the Airforums window.

Good luck with your project!

Kevin
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Old 01-14-2019, 04:26 AM   #4
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Thanks for the help

Thanks for the help. I will use Word for the longer pieces and copy and paste. It will serve another purpose: I’ll have s record of my blog entries on my computer.

Am I in the right place to start a conversation on my project?

Bill
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Old 01-14-2019, 05:25 AM   #5
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Old 01-14-2019, 08:51 AM   #6
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Introductions

Intro
At the suggestion of another Air Forum member, I am beginning to blog about the 1978 Sovereign 31’ frame-off project. I am mid-way through the removable of the interior in preparation to remove the shell from the frame. I have completed the removal of the upper and lower cabinetry and current engaged in the removal of the bath.
The Project
I have named my Sovereign “Faith,” because it will take a great measure of it to complete this project. Faith is very tired and worn out AS. She has lived her life in the Florida heat and humidity and every interior plastic part is broken, brittle or unrepairable. She must of have been used as a full-time home for an extended period because everything in the interior is covered in a layer of grease. The front plastic cap is toast, the Fiberglas bath is badly discolored, and its integrity, given the condition of everything else, is suspect. The badly rusted hot water heater located behind the toilet was the source of water intrusion, so the back bath floor is severely water damaged and the frame work underneath is completed rusted through. While I bought Faith knowing that she would need major frame work, I was hoping to use more of the interior to retain the AS look and feel. See “Fantasy vs. Reality” below.
The axles are gone, but is towable for short distances. No brakes. The front window is missing, and several of the windows have a glazed appearance.
So why would I knowingly buy an AS is this condition? Two reasons: First, the shell is in remarkably good shape. There are only a couple of small dings that can be easily pulled out. Having looked at many candidates many of them were pretty banged up on the outside. Second, even in its current state, it is “un-messed with.” Too many project AS’s I looked at had been hacked up by an unskilled person where they did more damage than had they just left it alone.
My Skill Level
We have had two previous travel trailers that required major structural repairs. I tackled both of those projects and found I enjoyed the challenge.
I also have a background of building street rods, and doing major renovation work on classic cars.
People describe me as a jack-of-all-trades as I am familiar with plumbing, electrical, carpentry and cabinet making.
One would think that I am as prepared as anyone to undertake this project. See “Fantasy vs. Reality” below.
Fantasy vs. Reality
I have wanted to redo an AS for a very long time. It is on my bucket list. At 71, in my mind I feel I am capable of doing anything, then the 71 year old body reminds the brain that in “reality” I have limitations.
As I considered this bucket list item, I realized that time was running out. If I was going to accomplish this goal, I needed to be about it. Then I found Faith on Craig’s List and I took a flyer.
I was hoping to reuse much of the interior assuming that I could clean it up and apply paint. That was a romantic notion. As I removed everything from front to back, I realized that not only were the parts too worn or decayed to use, I kept saying to myself, “I want something nicer than this.” Once I got past this inflection point, decisions about what to keep and what to pitch became easier.
Another reality is that as much as I like to do the work myself, because of my age, and the limitations of some of my skills, I will have to sub out parts of this project to others, in particular repairing or replacing the frame.
Why a Frame off?
I knew when I bought Faith that major frame work was a possibility. In truth, until I get the floor up and remove the under belly, I have no idea how bad the frame damage is. But this is a Florida AS. Everything I can see shows significant corrosion. When I consider what I will probably spend to rebuild this trailer, and when so many of these Sovereigns from this time period have so many frame issues, it just makes sense to me to begin with a solid frame and new axles. That is important to me. If there is a different prevailing view, I am open to discussion on it. But I am planning on the worst.
Current Status
As I mentioned, I am half way through removing the rear bath.
Intimidation Factor
When I consider all the work ahead, this project is a little intimidating. Okay, it is a major intimidating. I’m finding that if I focus on the task in front of me and leave the future challenges to be dealt with as they arise, it isn’t so overwhelming.
Questions?
I have a ton of them, but this is getting long, so I will address those in posts to follow.
Goal
I hope to connect with others who have walked this path before. There is safety in numbers. I’d like to share my experiences as I go, in the hopes that it will help the next guy who pulled that AS out of the weeds and wants to make something out of it.
So, looking forward to comments, suggestions, ideas, etc.
I’ll post below, two pictures and a video. One is an exterior picture, and one is a pic of the current status. The video (sorry for the poor quality) was taken the day after I brought Faith home. The PO had already taken the front console loose and I had removed it prior to the video.
Bill
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Old 01-14-2019, 09:20 AM   #7
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Vent pipe removal

You can see in the picture that a vent pipe into the ceiling, is preventing me from removing parts of the bath. Any advice on how to remove that without disturbing the vent cover on the roof?
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Old 01-14-2019, 09:22 AM   #8
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vent pipe

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Old 01-14-2019, 10:45 AM   #9
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I'm assuming there is a wall that has been removed that used to conceal the vent pipe. Big box home improvement stores carry rubber couplings AND COVERS that clamp onto the ABS vent pipe material in various diameters.

What you could do is carefully cut the pipe where it goes into the roof, and put a cap on it to keep water and critters from coming in. When you are ready to hook it back up, use the same diameter rubber coupling to connect to the pipe, or just glue in a new ABS coupling to reconnect the plumbing.
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Old 01-14-2019, 03:23 PM   #10
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Stay the course with the resto! Awesome that you are saving an Airstream! Personally, I like originality, but that's not always possible. I scoured the country for 2 years restoring my 1976 Sovereign back to original.
Are you tossing the washroom as well? I still need a lower door.
Note, if you are doing the frame, remember to reinforce the rear frame if you are keeping the rear washroom floorplan with the tanks in the rear.
All the best! We are all rooting for you!
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Old 01-14-2019, 04:38 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by TobyJH View Post
Stay the course with the resto! Awesome that you are saving an Airstream! Personally, I like originality, but that's not always possible. I scoured the country for 2 years restoring my 1976 Sovereign back to original.
Are you tossing the washroom as well? I still need a lower door.
Note, if you are doing the frame, remember to reinforce the rear frame if you are keeping the rear washroom floorplan with the tanks in the rear.
All the best! We are all rooting for you!
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Old 01-14-2019, 08:06 PM   #12
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Hi there wcornin4; What a great introduction to your project and Faith the old Airstream. I believe you are going to build a great Sovereign. I'm 71 and find working on these old trailers a great retirement hobby and good exercise. A day in the shop makes me tired at night.

I looked at a 79 Ambassador 28' some years ago as a possible project. It had rear end separation and rotted out subfloor in the rear like so many of 70s Airstreams. But I passed on the trailer as the interior "laminates" had badly delaminated and the "MDF" (I think) had warped significantly. I was disappointed with the interior and went home without it.

Your description of your 78 Sovereign seems similar. However my 75 Overlander 27' from Louisiana did not deteriorate like that 79 Ambassador. Sure, there was plenty of mold and mildew everywhere, and the "soft goods" from the foam to the curtains were beyond help. Smelly. My Overlander had rear end separation and some rusty and broken frame members. But the plywood laminates were in good shape, no delam of the melamine. I really like the aluminum extrusions Airstream used to build the interior. Just today I was admiring the pantry shelves in the galley, all 4 of them. The Airstream tech who built them did excellent work. And they are surrounded by aluminum extruded parts. Cool.

I wonder if there was some design or manufacturing change between 75 and 79 that created the delamination and warping problems?

I believe you will find your vent pipe pretty easy to remove. Many folks remove and reseal the "cap" on the roof. The caulk can crack. I actually cut my vent pipe and replumbed it in ABS as I added new tanks underneath. I cut a lot of the ABS drain plumbing out of my Overlander, and all the corroded, green, split, complex copper fresh water plumbing. It was time for new plumbing "while I'm at it".

I was able to remove the bath plastics without ruining them. I had them painted by a "hot rodder" local shop in town and reinstalled them. They look okay to me.

Hey, you might enjoy staying up all night and reading Minno's project thread called "Little Girl Refurb" or something like that. Theirs is a 71 Sovereign, and they completely rebuilt the interior. You can see their design approach and the excellent cabinet building they did. It is located in the Knowledgebase in 71 Sovereign category.

Let the fun begin.

David
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Old 01-15-2019, 05:11 AM   #13
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Thanks

David, Toby, rmkrum

Thanks for your ideas and suggestions. Tackling the removal of the lower bath section today.

I know the inner skin has to be removed to get access to the bolts that hold the shell to the frame. Does the floor need to be removed? Can the shell be lifted off with the floor in tact? I know the underbelly and “banana panels (?)” have to be removed. People continually refer to the C channel. Is there a cross-sectional view somewhere that illustrates how each piece fits together?
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Old 01-15-2019, 06:27 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wcronin4 View Post
David, Toby, rmkrum

Thanks for your ideas and suggestions. Tackling the removal of the lower bath section today.

I know the inner skin has to be removed to get access to the bolts that hold the shell to the frame. Does the floor need to be removed? Can the shell be lifted off with the floor in tact? I know the underbelly and “banana panels (?)” have to be removed. People continually refer to the C channel. Is there a cross-sectional view somewhere that illustrates how each piece fits together?
The floor and C channel (along the curb and street sides) will stay on the frame and the U channels (around the two ends) will stay on the shell.
The banana and belly wraps will need to come off to gain access to the elevator bolts in the U channel. Which means the lower trim comes off first.

Once I got my lower interior panels off and saw the condition of the insulation, I opted to remove the rest of the interior skins.

Ian
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Old 01-15-2019, 07:29 PM   #15
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The extent of disassembly kinda, sorta depends on your assessment of the repairs needed. I removed the old axles from my trailer, then removed the belly pan and stinky insulation from the fresh water tank all the way back to the bumper. I also removed the waste water holding tanks. Now I can inspect the frame and subfloor from underneath the trailer. Make sure you inspect the axle plates also for cracks or buckling.

The rear most 6" of plywood subfloor was rotted away from rain water. The rear frame cross member was rust. Both the black tank and tiny grey tank were broken. The street side frame rail has some rust holes. My trailer had classic rear end separation where the subfloor rots under the c channel and along with the bolts holding the body to the frame.

Because of this moisture damage, I had to remove the bath fixtures for access to make the necessary repairs. That has been done and my repaired frame is ready for another 40 years of traveling around.

Here are some photos of my mess. Generally speaking, the trailer part stack up at the rear is 1) frame rails, 2) rear cross member, 3) rear body hold down plate, 4) plywood subfloor, 5) aluminum C channel.

Also here is a photo from my service manual showing some detail in the body attachment features including the "c channel".

David
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Link to my 1975 Overlander Improvement Journal:
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Old 01-15-2019, 10:15 PM   #16
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I will be following along as I planned to be doing something similar to our airstream next year. I hope to pick up some good ideas as well.
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:52 AM   #17
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Bath Removal

When I first looked at the rear bath, I thought it was going to be difficult to get out. It started out that way until it occurred to me that the whole assembly could be pulled away from the read wall enough to get behind it to gain access to all the rivets that held the three pieces of the lower bath assembly together.

I started out trying to separate the three pieces in place until I realized that there were rivets I couldn't get access to. Once it occurred to me that I could pull the whole assembly away from the wall, it was an easy removal. Once all the plumbing was taken off, it came away from the wall easily.

I provided pics below of the removal in stages.

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Old 01-16-2019, 12:37 PM   #18
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Process for Lifting off the shell

Thanks Ian for the info on the C channel.

I am nearing the stage where everything has been removed from the trailer, except for the floor and inner skins. Once I am at that point (2-3 days) I will move the trailer to another location where the body will be lifted off the frame, about 10 miles away.

My first question is, once the inner skins are removed, can the trailer be towed without installing bracing? I raise the question, because I would prefer to remove the skins here at my home, before taking it to the location where the shell will be lifted.

Ian - if I read your reply correctly, the U channel runs along the bottom of caps at both ends, the curved section. The C channel runs along the bottom of the main body.

Because of the corrosion I am seeing everywhere else, I am assuming that the bolts that are used to connect the shell to the frame are all rusted and will need to be cut out.

If this is the case, then the following is the order I will follow:

1. remove the inner skins
2. Remove Wheel well covers
3. Take up the floor inside the sections in front and back bounded by the U channel. Leave the plywood bound by the C channel
4. Cut the bolts holding the U channel to the frame.
5. Remove any obstructions in the way of removing the belly pan, ie. jacks and gas lines
6. Remove the belly pan. Question: There is a box covering the fresh water holding tank. Does that come off with the belly pan? Does it need to be taken off first? Can this box be removed without having to lower the holding tank?
7. Remove the screws holding the awning frame to lower body
8. Remove the trim covering the rivets holding the banana panels.
9. Remove the banana panels.
10. Drill out the rivets holding the C channel to the shell.

Is this correct?

If correct than I'm ready to lift off.

Three choices:

1. Build a super structure inside the shell to lift the shell off with jacks.
2. Build gantries and lift it from the top.
3. Hire a crane to lift from the top.

The area I have available to lift the shell is gently sloping and is not level. The slope runs down from back to front, with a two foot drop in 30 feet.
Might this sloping create some challenges for gantries???? for jacking???
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Old 01-16-2019, 01:09 PM   #19
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fresh water tank cover and belly pan removal

In my most recent post, I posed a question with regard to a cover over the fresh water holding tank and its relationship with the removal of the belly pan.

Here is a pic. Questions follow.
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Does this tank cover have to come off first before the belly pan can be removed?

Is the tank cover attached to the belly pan and will it come off with the pan?

When you remove the tank cover (I see bolts holding it in place) will the tank come with it?
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Old 01-16-2019, 01:42 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wcronin4 View Post
Thanks Ian for the info on the C channel.

I am nearing the stage where everything has been removed from the trailer, except for the floor and inner skins. Once I am at that point (2-3 days) I will move the trailer to another location where the body will be lifted off the frame, about 10 miles away.

My first question is, once the inner skins are removed, can the trailer be towed without installing bracing? I raise the question, because I would prefer to remove the skins here at my home, before taking it to the location where the shell will be lifted.

Ian - if I read your reply correctly, the U channel runs along the bottom of caps at both ends, the curved section. The C channel runs along the bottom of the main body.

Because of the corrosion I am seeing everywhere else, I am assuming that the bolts that are used to connect the shell to the frame are all rusted and will need to be cut out.

If this is the case, then the following is the order I will follow:

1. remove the inner skins
2. Remove Wheel well covers
3. Take up the floor inside the sections in front and back bounded by the U channel. Leave the plywood bound by the C channel
4. Cut the bolts holding the U channel to the frame.
5. Remove any obstructions in the way of removing the belly pan, ie. jacks and gas lines
6. Remove the belly pan. Question: There is a box covering the fresh water holding tank. Does that come off with the belly pan? Does it need to be taken off first? Can this box be removed without having to lower the holding tank?
7. Remove the screws holding the awning frame to lower body
8. Remove the trim covering the rivets holding the banana panels.
9. Remove the banana panels.
10. Drill out the rivets holding the C channel to the shell.

Is this correct?

If correct than I'm ready to lift off.

Three choices:

1. Build a super structure inside the shell to lift the shell off with jacks.
2. Build gantries and lift it from the top.
3. Hire a crane to lift from the top.

The area I have available to lift the shell is gently sloping and is not level. The slope runs down from back to front, with a two foot drop in 30 feet.
Might this sloping create some challenges for gantries???? for jacking???
Yes, U channel is under the fore and aft of the trailer and C channel runs the length of each side. you'll need to remove all the bolts and screws in the U that attach it to the floor and all the rivets that attach the C to the shell. The wheel wells were a pain as removing the wheel well trim was pretty difficult. It is in 2 pieces, the first came off fairly easily but the second piece that sandwiches the outer shell and the wheel well covers (ideally) was hard. I ended up getting what rivets out I could then used a stout putty knife and a hammer to encourage them off.
The other thing is to free up all the white sealant from the C and the shell. I did this by going down each side from the outside with the same putty knife in between the shell and the C. This also ensures there are no forgotten rivets.
Leave your subfloor alone for now.

For removal, I'd do gantries even with the slight slope. You'll use them for your frame work as well. 2' drop over 30' isn't that bad, but I'd have to see it to make a judgement call. That brings me to the belly pan question... only take off what you need to detach the shell from the body:
- lower belt line trim
- belly and banana wraps
- gas lines
- front and rear hold down plates (rear is probably toast, I was able to get to my bolts with a sawzall)
- rivets from the C
- bolts and screws from the U (I used large vice grips and bent the bolts back and forth, they snapped eagerly. The screws were hard to find, where I couldn't get them out via screw gun, I used a chisel and hammer and made them get out.
- shore power cord.

As for towing without bracing, I couldn't tell you, but I've read about many folks doing it. The strength is really in the shell, the inner skin add very little integrity.
I'd do it, but again, use your judgement.

I probably missed or forgot something.
Have fun with the inner skin removal, wear protection... it'll be gnarly.

Ian
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