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Old 03-07-2008, 09:06 PM   #1
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1976 31' Sovereign
Cicero , Indiana
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It has begun...

About 2 years ago, my wife and I decided to venture into the world of RV's. We have always loved camping with friends but have never had our own camper. We started looking around at run of the mill campers, and although they were convenient and easy to find, we never really liked any that we saw. One day my wife informed me that as she was growing up, her Uncle had an Airstream and she always wanted to have one. Since this was our first venture into camping, we didnt want to invest alot of money into a newer one. We wanted to get our feet wet with something more affordable and one that we could invest time into and renovate. So we turned to eBay and found a 1976 Sovereign that was in our price and happened to be less than an hour away. Once we got it home we started looking into what we needed to do to get it into camping shape. The more we looked the more we thought about just biting the bullet and going for a full restore. Once we came to that conclusion, I turned to the internet to try and gather as much information as I could about what we were getting into. Thats when I found this amazing site. I have poured over the restoration forums on this site for the last year and a half marvelling at all the craftsmanship out there and soaking up priceless information about Airstreams. With folks like Jim & Susan, malconium, uwe, jcferguson, SmokelessJoe, Zeppelinium, PizzChop, Ken J, AMerryCan, markdoane, Andy at InlandRV, and many many others I have gained a wealth of information about Airstream renovation. We feel very confident with our decision to got all out on our remodel thanks to the information shared on this site. Like many others here we wanted to share our experience so that maybe others can get the kind of information we have recieved from this site. Now on to the renovation...
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Old 03-07-2008, 09:07 PM   #2
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1976 31' Sovereign
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IT has begun...

We started gutting the interior about a year ago. We got most everything out and started working on windows and we decided that having the the camper outside wasnt going to be much fun as the temperature fluctuation here in Indiana ranges from 0 in the winter to 95 in the summer. We wanted to be able to work on this this inside. We called around to a few places that offer garage space for our size of trailer but quickly found out that the length of time it would take to do this that this would not be an option. Then I eyed my garage. At first I would have told you that there was no way that a 31' RV would fit into my garage. I started taking measurements. The more I measured the more exited I got. Since we have a 2 car garage, I could angle it in and I just might have enough space to fit it in. Now I just had to work on the height. Since we were doing a complete renovation anyway, I decied to take off the AC unit and see where that got me. After about an hour I finally got it snuggled nicely into my garage. I felt like I had conquered the world.
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Old 03-07-2008, 09:07 PM   #3
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1976 31' Sovereign
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It has begun...

Now that we had it inside, weather could not be an excuse for not working on it. I started removing the interior walls and all the wiring/plumbing. Then I moved to the unbeleivably awful belly pan removal. I do not envy anyone that has undetaken this task. That had to be one of the nastiest places on this earth. I think I am still cleaning up residue left over from that mess. Finally we moved to the flooring. At first, I thought this was going to be a pain due to all the rusted bolt heads that were sunk into the plywood. But as I started, it wasn't too bad. I am now at the point where I have most of the frame exposed and I will start the sandblasting process tomorrow. Soon enough we will have a freshly POR'd frame and the new flooring going in. I am having a ball with the renovation and thanks to fellow Airsteamers, I can share my experiences with others.
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Old 03-11-2008, 07:38 PM   #4
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1976 31' Sovereign
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Setback

Had a minor setback over the weekend. I tried using my brother in law's sandblaster which is a small generic one that could not keep a steady flow of sand. So after messing with it for a couple hours, I finally gave in and decided to schedule a day to rent a commercial one from the local rental place.

Tonight I thought I would try and mess with posting pictures. I hope this works. The first picture just shows the exposed frame. The second picture is a visual on a question I have. When I went to remove the black/grey water tanks (we have a rear bath), I noticed that the galvanized hold "trays" that the tanks sit in were attached to a steel frame that had hinges welded to the forward egde of the assembly and then welded to the frame of the Airstream. The rear egde of the tank framework had a piece of angle iron with a hole drilled in it which attached to another angle iron piece that hung down from the RV frame. Essentially it looked as if the tank frame could swing down to give access to the tanks. In the photo you can see half of the hinge that is still attached to the tank frame. Is this common on Airstreams or is this a thing that a PO migt have done?
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Old 03-11-2008, 08:11 PM   #5
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1975 31' Sovereign
Indian Springs , Alabama
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Ok so do you have the so called sagging problem because I think I do......
Help I don't know what to do

Chantel
B'ham Alabama
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Old 03-11-2008, 08:20 PM   #6
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grakkin,
It sounds as if you got in with both feet. Good for you, and yes - the forums have saved many of us $$ and time.

Not sure what you are sandblasting. Steel is OK, the aluminum will stretch if sandblasted.

Good luck with the project!
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Old 03-11-2008, 09:21 PM   #7
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Welcome to the Forums. We're glad to have you with us. Best of luck on your project. This is THE PLACE for Airstream info.

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Old 03-12-2008, 06:40 AM   #8
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1976 31' Sovereign
Cicero , Indiana
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Quote:
Not sure what you are sandblasting. Steel is OK, the aluminum will stretch if sandblasted.
I am sandblasting the frame. Just trying to get rid of some of the crusty rust and old loose paint. Im trying to do my best to keep the sand away from the aluminum.
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Old 03-12-2008, 07:12 AM   #9
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Great project. You have the same AS that I do. I just couldn't wait to use mine and do a complete restore. You really jumped in with both feet. Do, or should I say, did you have the rear bath or side bath? I don't think the side bath models have the rear sag problem so common in the rear bath ones. Ours seems to have excaped that. Also, do you have the vista-view windows? We are in the planning stage of repairing those and it's a nerve racking thing to contemplate. Please give us more pictures if you can.
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Old 03-12-2008, 07:41 AM   #10
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Why remove the belly pan first?

Quote:
Originally Posted by grakkin
Then I moved to the unbeleivably awful belly pan removal. I do not envy anyone that has undetaken this task. That had to be one of the nastiest places on this earth.
I may be missing something but why do most people remove the belly pan first? I am a little behind grakkin with my project

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f36/...ion-40309.html

but I this is what I have been doing:

1st - remove lower interior skin and remove or release banana wraps after stripping interior cabinet and fixtures

2nd - remove plywood floor and support the walls with 3/4" blocks on outriggers

3rd - remove insulation from floor with the use of a pick up tool and garbage can

4th - use shop vac to clean up rest of belly area

Last - remove belly pan if necessary

I would think this would eliminate most of the nasty things falling in my face. I have already found one snake skin and a lot of rodent residue.

The only reason that I can think of for "removing" the belly pan would be to be able to POR-15 the bottom edge of the frame.

Is there anything wrong with this process? I am a newbie AS'r but I have searched this wonderful forum for weeks and have not seen this procedure done this way. I just wonder why?

Vernon
Crosby, TX
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Old 03-12-2008, 09:24 AM   #11
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1976 31' Sovereign
Cicero , Indiana
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Quote:
Originally Posted by juel
Do, or should I say, did you have the rear bath or side bath?
I have a rear bath. I dont think I have much rear sag if any at all. The rear frame of mine is in much better condition than the front was. I think maybe a previous owner left the door open for extended amount of time as most of the frame corrosion is in that general area.

Quote:
Originally Posted by juel
Also, do you have the vista-view windows?
We do have vista views. Ours were really bad. The sealant or butyl caulking that was used between the plexiglass interior pane and the glass outer pane was oozing all over the window. I have taken one out already to see how hard it would be. It wasnt too difficult. Once I had it out I noticed that there was a film on the inside of the glass. Almost like a tint but a tint wasnt very noticeable. It was flaking off so I took a scraper and removed the rest. What Im not sure of is (a) was this film just a tint or UV blocker or (b) a lining that would help keep the glass together in the event that it cracks. I havent figured out yet how I am going to out these back together yet. I will post pictures of the frame with the window out and the glass when I get home tonight.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vhord
I may be missing something but why do most people remove the belly pan first?
The reason I removed the belly pan was because the thought of working on the frame while trying to balance myself on the crossmembers didnt sound too appealing. With the belly pan off, I can stand on the floor and comfortably get to any place on the frame. I think member malconium had a thread where he did a floor replacement without removing the belly pan. Ill see if I can dig that up.
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Old 03-12-2008, 07:17 PM   #12
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1976 31' Sovereign
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Here are the pictures of the vista views I promised to post. The first picture is one that is currently in the AS. The second picture is one removed and cleaned up. As I noted before, there is a thin film that is peeling off the glass on every one of my vista's. I have managed to clean up all the film off of the one that I have removed. Does anyone know what this film is? Also, is there a thread somehwere that has ideas or techniques about how to reinstall these? There is a grey putty like material that is oozing out of the perimeter of the glass in between the outer glass and the inner plexiglass. I think I read somewhere that this is butyl tape. Is this stuff still available or is there an alternative?
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Old 03-12-2008, 07:22 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grakkin
<SNIP>I think I read somewhere that this is butyl tape. Is this stuff still available or is there an alternative?
butyl tape in various demensions is available from any RV loaction that does repairs or has a parts sale department. It's very cheap by the roll.

I like the project. Great start.
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Old 03-12-2008, 07:24 PM   #14
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1976 31' Sovereign
Cicero , Indiana
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grakkin
When I went to remove the black/grey water tanks (we have a rear bath), I noticed that the galvanized hold "trays" that the tanks sit in were attached to a steel frame that had hinges welded to the forward egde of the assembly and then welded to the frame of the Airstream. The rear egde of the tank framework had a piece of angle iron with a hole drilled in it which attached to another angle iron piece that hung down from the RV frame. Essentially it looked as if the tank frame could swing down to give access to the tanks. In the photo you can see half of the hinge that is still attached to the tank frame. Is this common on Airstreams or is this a thing that a PO migt have done?
Here are some more pictures describing this. Anyone have any input?
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Old 03-13-2008, 07:19 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vhord
The only reason that I can think of for "removing" the belly pan would be to be able to POR-15 the bottom edge of the frame.

Is there anything wrong with this process? I am a newbie AS'r but I have searched this wonderful forum for weeks and have not seen this procedure done this way. I just wonder why?

Vernon
Crosby, TX
Well at 4 a.m. this morning during a temporary "Airstream insomnia" period I realized a couple of "errors of my ways".

Even though I will probably wait to completely remove my belly pan until I have removed the floor there are at least two reasons for doing so.

First and most importantly, I realized that the plywood floor is the main bridge between the frame and shell. I think that putting screws in the floor instead of elevator bolts (which would have to be tightened from underneath) would compromise that bridge. I keep thinking about all the screws that I have seen pull out of low-boy trailer floors.

Second, if I neglected to paint the undersides of the frame it would bug me from now on. I would hate to know that I short cutted this job.
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Old 03-13-2008, 10:24 AM   #16
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Grakkin, your trailer frame looks to be in pretty good shape. Rather than sandblasting, with all that mess, you can pobably get away with wire wheeling the frame, then PORing it.

As far as the tank holder, that frame looks like it's toast. You can have one of those made pretty cheap, I would think. And yes, those little tabs out on the end are my trailer also.

Work looks good so far. Keep us posted.

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Old 03-21-2008, 06:30 AM   #17
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Looks Like A Modification By Previous Owner (PO)

Quote:
Originally Posted by grakkin
Here are some more pictures describing this. Anyone have any input?
It looks like a modification by a PO to make life easier.
Some like to drop the tanks to clean them, leaving nothing to chance.
After you drop a tank, especially if there is some liquid remaining, it is reasonable to think of an easier way of doing it.
Sound good?

R
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Old 03-23-2008, 08:34 PM   #18
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OK, another question about the vista-view windows. You and I have the very same trailer and my inside windows are glass and definitely not plexiglass. How is it possible that I have this and I can't find anyone else who does? I was hoping for the plexiglass and I was just going to pull them out and not reinstall. Now I'm faced with probably breaking those inside glass windows while trying to remove them. By the way, I think that film is just a tint and has nothing to do with keeping the glass on the outside together. DIY did a segment on removing the film when they rennovated the Airstream.
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Old 05-09-2008, 02:10 PM   #19
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The vista views on mine are glass as well. I havent had the guts to try and deal with them yet...too many other projects that I may have more success with first
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Old 03-17-2010, 03:07 PM   #20
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1976 31' Sovereign
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Well, its been well over a year since I last posted any progress of the renovation. It got put on the back burner for a while due to other projects around the house. I am finally finding time to put toward the Airstream.

The frame is pretty much the same as it was but with some wire brushing done to remove corrosion. I still need to replace 3 cross members and about 6 outriggers. I am going to make my own cross members out of angle iron and bar stock. Unless someone else has a better suggestion, I was going to buy replacement outriggers from Out of Doors Mart. I tried to come up with a way to fab my own, but I think the cost of buying them outweighs the time consumed in making them myself. The biggest hurdle is trying to find material similar in shape without having to cut and weld a bunch of stuff together to make it work. If anyone has any suggestions on ways to do this, I'm listening.

Last night I decided to tackle the wing windows. The double pane glass in them has condensation in it causing the windows to fog up. After reading other posts about replacement, I fired up the drill and started removing rivets. After 2 hours, I had the curbside wing window removed, frame apart, and the glass pried apart and cleaned. I still have some caulk/vulkem/butyl residue to remove, but I have Goo Gone coming to hopefully get rid of the last bit.

After reading Zeppelinium's post about double pane windows, I have decided to give it a whirl. I will be ordering the butyl tape tonight from DK after I make sure of the thickness I need. I will post some pics tonight of the window progress and a drawing of my thoughts on the cross member replacement.

Its good to be back working with aluminum again. Hopefully I can stay focused and make some good progress.
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