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Old 04-10-2016, 01:10 PM   #1
1 Rivet Member
 
1977 31' Sovereign
none , none
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 16
Beginning a Full Monty

Hello,

I bought a '77 Sovereign (rear bath) in NM a few months ago. It's condition was fair to poor; it was pretty much gutted except for the kitchen and bath. The plywood floor was exposed and had a couple of soft spots near the c-channel; not as bad as I expected though. It appeared to have no roof leaks. It had a definite rear sag; the separation was about 1" - 2".
The exterior had a couple of serious dents at the rear and quite a few dings. Tires were in excellent condition, axles probably not. The windows were intact, but the vista views, door and a couple of others had the typical issues of condensation and bubbles/flaking.
It had become a major resort for packrats and mice from top to bottom.
Also, a few repairs from the PO where screws were used to hold trim in place, etc.

I had decided I wanted to do a complete AS shell-off restoration and this was a good candidate. $2500 and it was mine. I estimated that in my free time I could complete the project in a year, give or take.

In the first three days I have done the following-
- Cleaned the interior (nasty)
- Removed the dilapidated kitchen and plastic bath
- removed the ductwork, plumbing (plastic and copper pipes)
- removed the entire interior skin, window trim, etc.
- removed the insulation (mouse condos all over especially the bath area)
- removed the wrap-around trim to expose the belly pan fasteners
- removed the belly pan rivets to expose the shell fasteners (belly pan was full of packrat nests)

I left the electrical wiring. It was in good condition and I will reuse what I can. The frame, from what I can see so far, in in pretty decent shape with several outriggers deteriorated; the main frame seems to be solid.

My plan is to rebuild the frame / floor, perform outer shell repairs and seals, rebuild what windows I can, ensure the outer skin is completely watertight, followed by re-insulation and a complete redesign of the interior space. I do plan on installing a rear bedroom and want to leave as much as the front area as I can open space, perhaps a wrap-around couch at the very front. I will be installing a Eberspacher 34,000 btu diesel boiler for radiant heat and hot water and as much PV solar as I can fit.

Btw, I also have an '06 Itasca Navion that I upgraded a few years ago with 440w solar, diesel boiler and 400aH battery bank- even a 600w wind generator, so I am not quite a novice... though this is my first AS.

I am planning on documenting the overhaul with pics etc as I progress.

Many thanks to those who have provided info regarding their own projects. I have researched extensively (even before I got the AS) and have found this site invaluable as a learning aid. I hope to share my out-of -the-box solutions as I move along.

jb
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Old 04-19-2016, 10:20 AM   #2
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1977 31' Sovereign
none , none
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 16
Gantry

I'm just about ready to remove the shell. Yesterday I purchased the lumber to fabricate the gantry.

Home Depot had a very poor selection of the 4 x 4's I was planning to use as the side support. I went ahead and got 4 x 6's instead; probably overkill but I will re-use the wood to build a Pergola around the hot tub when I am done. Also, I will use the gantry to flip / position the frame for reconditioning.
I will use two 2 x 8's bolted together for the load beam. I also picked up two 1-ton hoists from Harbor Freight as well as bottle jacks and some air tools (nibbler, shears, file and scraper) to work with the aluminum and frame. Nice additions to my air tool collection. Several years ago I got a very nice Quincy air compressor. I think it will be put to good use on this project.

Next steps- Construct the gantries, raise the shell and begin frame deconstruction / reconstruction.
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Old 04-19-2016, 10:58 AM   #3
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1994 30' Excella
alexandria , Kentucky
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 2,059
Images: 3
Good luck to you.
Take some pictures of the frame when you get the shell and floor removed. I am curious if the frame is cracked (behind the rear axle) or what has happened. This will be a good time to strengthen the frame or build a new one.
__________________
Steve, Christy, Anna and Phoebe (Border Collie)
1994 Classic 30'11" Excella - rear twin
2009 Dodge 2500, 6 Speed Auto, CTD, Quad Cab, Short Bed
Hensley Arrow hitch with adjustable stinger
WBCCI # 3072
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Old 04-19-2016, 11:14 AM   #4
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1973 25' Tradewind
Beautiful , Oregon
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 548
Good luck with the project. It is a big one. It will be rewarding in the end.

I don't know if you saw my quick round of a 1973 reno in your research it may provide some info for you.

good luck

Tony

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f44/...ab-143656.html
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Old 04-20-2016, 09:03 AM   #5
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1977 31' Sovereign
none , none
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 16
Thanks, I will try to keep documenting the process with pics and details. I will take a look at the '73 reno, thanks!

Wish I could work on this project full time, it is sporadic as it is. But I always look forward to getting back to it. I enjoy the work, it is fulfilling to see progress.
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Old 04-26-2016, 02:44 PM   #6
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1965 24' Tradewind
Orange , Texas
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 13
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These are a few pics of some before, during and semi finished (enough to camp in) steps taken on my sons 1977 31' Sovereign but not shown is all new axles, electric brakes and tired. When it's complete it will look even better.
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Old 04-26-2016, 02:45 PM   #7
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1965 24' Tradewind
Orange , Texas
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 13
I meant tires
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Old 05-01-2016, 01:30 PM   #8
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1977 31' Sovereign
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Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 16
Your son's AS looks great. I see you were able to replace some of the original innards. Did he remove the inner skin and re-insulate?

Mine was missing the front plastic endcap, and I do not plan on reusing the rear bath endcap. I have not decided what route to take (have tons of work on the trailer frame, floor... complete rebuild) but have plenty of time to ponder. Also thinking about the shell and under floor insulation, would love to experiment with Aerogel but looks like it would cost over 5K.

Just finishing up on the gantry construction so should be able to pull the shell off by next weekend.
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Old 05-15-2016, 01:46 PM   #9
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1977 31' Sovereign
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Posts: 16
Update 5/16

Well, the gantrys are built and in place. I built them from 4x6's and 2x8's (some 2x4's too) and got the 1 ton hoists from Harbor Freight.

The shell is detached completely from the trailer. The ribs are now just resting on the trailer. Other than removing the AC it is ready to lift off.

The AC was a bear, I ended up cutting the rivets with a small but very strong and thin 2" mason's margin trowel by slipping in between the AC frame and the AS skin and hammering.
Then I used a bottle jack and adjustable rod inside under the forty year old Air Conditioner to apply pressure and release the sealant material. I used a block of wood on the AC frame underside to center the rod / jack on the frame to apply the pressure evenly. A few minutes later the AC released from the sealant. Only a small amount of pressure was needed, I was careful not to apply too much and distort the skin.
Both sides of the shell were attached to the frame member aluminum angle with buck rivets. I used the mason margin trowel and hammer to cut the rivets between the skin and frame. Worked really well, no hole or sheet distortion.

Now I am ready to install the EMC support structure to prevent the frame from distorting. Then the shell can be lifted off and will be stored until the frame work is completed. The frame rebuild should take a month or two depending on time availability.
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Old 06-02-2016, 05:30 PM   #10
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1977 31' Sovereign
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Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 16
The shell was pulled of last Monday. It went without incident. The gantries and hoists made it really easy. The 3/4" EMT tubes held the shell walls from bowing, it worked well. The shell was lowered onto 2x4's placed along the ribs and then the shell was secured.

Now my focus is on the trailer.

Now that the trailer is separated from the shell its time to begin the frame restoration. The first step is to remove the plywood subfloor...

I spray painted the subfloor where the original locations of the c-channel and aluminum rails were for future reference. I will be using the plywood sections as templates for the new subfloor.

I removed the aluminum rails that the 5/8" plywood flooring slides into at the edges along the sides of the frame; the sides of the shell attach to these rails. The rails are attached through the plywood and through the outriggers with square head bolts and nuts. Many of these were rusted and had to be cut off. The rails also had some screws fastened to the plywood.

I had to cut off some of the elevator bolts that were used to fasten the interior of the plywood floor to the frame. Some were not removable and were removed with a metal wheel on the grinder, most of them I was able to unscrew though.

Off came the floor from front to back...

Packrats here in NM love their condos, the gaps in the frame and pink insulation were extensively used by these amazing but destructive and messy creatures; their nests are constructed of cactus (mainly cholla) and are a real pita to remove...

The rear piece of plywood was separated from the frame (rear end separation). I am studying the rear separation issue at the frame to better understand what happened so when I rebuild I can prevent it from happening again...

The tanks appear to be in good condition... too bad for me a PO left a mess in the blackwater tank, have to figure out how to remove the petrified solids.

Frame appears to be in fair shape, some outriggers will have to be replaced.

On to removing the axles and shocks (they will be replaced), the remaining belly pan and the grey and black tanks.

Next stage will be sandblasting the frame and repairing or replacing the weak outriggers and other frame work. I will be able to see more after sandblasting removes the rust. I have a Quincy compressor and a harbor freight sandblasting hopper, hope it works well...
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Old 06-06-2016, 04:44 PM   #11
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1977 31' Sovereign
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The frame is all ready for sandblasting. I will use the gantries I built to flip the frame when I install the belly pan.

My helper Louis removing the axle tire bolts; tires are in great condition....

The worst rust is on the rear section of the frame.
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Old 07-11-2016, 11:39 AM   #12
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1977 31' Sovereign
Tallmadge , Ohio
Join Date: Jul 2016
Posts: 24
Doing something similar!

My wife and I just purchased a 1977 sovereign 31 rear bedroom this weekend. We plan to go all the way down as well, though not to the point of rebuilding the frame. It will be fun and challenging since we are newbies. I look forward to following your progress and your ideas as we do ours!
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Old 07-13-2016, 06:43 PM   #13
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1977 31' Sovereign
none , none
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 16
Thanks, and good luck with your project. I am taking my time with this renovation. I have not got to it in three weeks, been busy with the greenhouse I built and other work. I am currently putting in the greenhouse systems and sealing it up. I put an evaporative cooler in it and it keeps at about mid eighties, outside temps in the nineties. Should even be lower once it is sealed properly. I plan on putting in a 600 gallon tilapia tank soon...

Really want to get back to the AS though, next step- sandblasting. When I was younger the days seemed to last forever, now they are gone way too fast.
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Old 05-27-2018, 08:20 PM   #14
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1969 31' Sovereign
Jacksonville , North Carolina
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 15
Any progress?

Bump. 2 yrs, any more progress/updates?
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