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Old 08-18-2020, 11:59 AM   #1
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1977 31' Sovereign
Ottawa , ON
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Our 1977 Sovereign Full Restoration take-over

My wife and I made an impulse decision to get into airstream renovations and purchased a project trailer that someone else had been working on and then gave up on (young family got in the way). Our idea was that by taking it over they would have done some of the more difficult tasks (like repairing the frame and taking the shell off, etc) and we could focus on putting it back together as we liked.

While I do think they did a lot of things right, there are some things they didn't do correctly in my opinion and so we have a bit more work on our hands than expected. But it will still be a fun project I'm sure! It will be a slow going project as it's parked at my father-in-laws and we won't be able to get out to work on it until the weekends in most cases, but I'll try to post pictures as we go. This past weekend was our first time out there taking a look over what we got.

They spent a lot of time on frame repairs, adding in an L bar running the length of the frame on each side
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putting on new axles and raising the height of the frame a few inches
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Then they got a little hasty in putting the shell back on, resulting in the bubble up on the front passenger corner.
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They also put in some new holding tanks, but we may end up replacing these depending on our final layout.

I'm sure I'll be asking lots of questions along the way! Thanks in advance for any help.

On a technical note, I notice my pictures are often being attached upside down... how do I prevent that?
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Old 08-22-2020, 06:54 PM   #2
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1977 31' Sovereign
Ottawa , ON
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Spent a second day going over the trailer and mapping out locations for the major stuff, i.e. bedrooom, kitchen and shower. We are going with a non-traditional layout, inspired by this picture:

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With the hallway on one side so only a narrow set of cupboards on that side, giving the bathroom more space. I'm a tall guy so having the shower closer to the centre of the trailer will mean less bending or squatting for me.

When measuring it all out we were happy to learn that the placement of the tanks work perfectly for our intended layout. I think though the previous owner intended to have a composting toilet because he joined the two (black-coloured) tanks underneath that I assume were intended as a large grey water storage. But the second black tank is perfectly in line with where we intent the regular rv toilet to go. The only issue is that with the steel bar they added to give the frame extra ground clearance the drain for the black tank is inaccessible. I think I can just lower the tank a bit though to clear that... there is still plenty of ground clearance (because of the added height).

Also because of the added frame piece the side wraps don't quite fit the same anymore. I'm thinking that I'll need to add a wedge to the outriggers to give the side wraps something to back against. See my horrible paint drawing for explanation:
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I think this will mean that the side wraps will need to be a bit larger though to accomodate. I was planning on making new side wraps anyway because the old ones are very corroded.

I'm gonna be skimming through the forums to try to find what aluminum I need to try to get for this, and then look for advice on power tools for cutting aluminum. Feel free to chime in here with any advice or comments on things so far!
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Old 08-22-2020, 08:04 PM   #3
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1972 27' Overlander
Heinsburg , AB
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Welcome tvi0, and congratulations on your purchase. Isn't the picture thing irritating; I've been told to reduce the size of the picture (in megapixels) and they load better. I am working on a '72 overlander and this site is a wealth of info. I personally have nothing to add in the frame/tank queries, but would love to see some before pics of the interior. I have your inspiration picture pinned (pinterest) as well. I wish you many delightful discoveries on your airstream reno; I look forward to tagging along.
CC
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Old 08-22-2020, 09:55 PM   #4
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Welcome to the forums, looking forward to following your progress.

Not sure I'm following your concern about the additional reinforcement and needing a filler for the belly pan. Your first photo shows the added reinforcement, but the outriggers go to the bottom of reinforcement. The only place I see what you've drawn is the lift for the axles.

Anyway, I would just add a piece of angle or square tubing to fill in the space at the bottom. It gives you a place to attach the belly pan and it adds strength to the outrigger by triangulating the space.
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Old 08-23-2020, 09:37 AM   #5
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1977 31' Sovereign
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Originally Posted by 57Vintage View Post
Welcome to the forums, looking forward to following your progress.

Not sure I'm following your concern about the additional reinforcement and needing a filler for the belly pan. Your first photo shows the added reinforcement, but the outriggers go to the bottom of reinforcement. The only place I see what you've drawn is the lift for the axles.

Anyway, I would just add a piece of angle or square tubing to fill in the space at the bottom. It gives you a place to attach the belly pan and it adds strength to the outrigger by triangulating the space.
you are correct, it isn't all along the frame, just where the lift for the axels was added. I'm wondering if instead of trying to change the shape of the side wraps I just bend some aluminum around the piece that lifts the axel. It may look a bit strange when you go underneath but at least from the side the side wraps will look normal.
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Old 08-23-2020, 04:27 PM   #6
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If you don't have any tanks/plumbing that has to be accessed in the area of the lift tubing I'd just rivet a belly pan piece between the tubing and forget it. I would consider closing off the ends of the lift tubes to keep out moisture though.

One suggestion on your belly pan pieces, that I think is just one of those little details that helps minimize moisture inside the belly pan. Start at the rear and work forward on permanently attached pieces. That way any overlap of panels of adjacent panels (front to back) the 'face' of the overlap (side to side) is to the rear, not facing forward. Access panels might not be overlapped depending on design (mine don't, personal choice).

Another thing I did was put a bug proof vent on the permanently installed belly pan pieces to allow any moisture to escape. It's a little aluminum house vent I found on line. They're 1" in diameter.

https://ventmastersstore.com/product...saAo0REALw_wcB

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I used a dimple die to create a low spot for the vent to set in.

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(You're looking at it from the top, which would be inside the pan)

The ears fold over and I epoxied them down.

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Finished look (upside down on bench) Then I epoxied around the outside edge to seal.

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Placement takes a little planning as you have to consider where your outriggers/frame rails are. Example: one piece of belly pan may cover several outriggers (front to rear) do you want a vent in each section or just the one adjacent to the wheelhouse. Just be sure you position so the louver is facing rearward and not forward to act as a water scoop.
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Old 08-24-2020, 04:07 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Camper Crazy View Post
... but would love to see some before pics of the interior. I have your inspiration picture pinned (pinterest) as well. I wish you many delightful discoveries on your airstream reno; I look forward to tagging along.
CC
Currently the interior is gutted, no interior shells at all. That's the way we bought it.
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Old 08-24-2020, 07:50 PM   #8
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Welcome from Colorado t1v0: You got yourselves quite a project. From the pictures of the frame and outriggers, it appears someone did a good job on the frame repairs. There isn't enough photos for a good assessment, but what I see looks good.

We've just finished a significant renovation on a 76 Sovereign 31' over the winter. There were a lot of Airstream changes between 75 and 76 model years seems to me. The 76 has 1/2" thick plywood with the frame strengthened to accommodate. Although we found the plywood was still pretty flimsy. The 75 had 3/4" plywood which seemed more solid. What type of subfloor does your trailer have?

Seems to me there is no side wraps around the wheel wells. Your axle lift block may not be a factor. We lifted our new axles by using the 32 degree down start angle and the 1" high profile mounting brackets. The side wraps were not affected by this change. The wraps are riveted to the main frame rails, or in your case the new angle iron welded to the bottom of the frame rail. Will be fun drilling those rivet holes. See photo.

It is great news the new tank sizes and locations will work for your planned floor layout. That is a major decision factor in designing the trailer.

I'll be in the peanut gallery following along and cheering your successes, and offering condolences when something doesn't work out right. It happens to all of us.

David
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Old 09-08-2020, 01:05 PM   #9
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1977 31' Sovereign
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So I spent a bit more time on it this weekend dropping one of the black tanks. The way it was configured by the previous owner it seemed that they were planning on only using grey tanks, and having a composting toilet I guess. Since we are planning on parking this predominantly we are reverting back to a normal rv toilet.

The issue was that the cleanout on the black tank was blocked by that new iron that is raising the frame. So we dropped the tank (was a bit of a process) and will mount it lower to allow for us to connect to the cleanout.

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As I'm sitting here thinking about how to finalize the drains I'm looking at the sewer connection piece, such as
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It looks like it would do the job and the attachment points should work for where my plumbing would come from.

One of the random ideas I had though was about draining the black tank. Obviously that is the more foul of the two so making sure that we get all particulate out of it makes for a less smelly tank. I've seen things that go in the tank and spray it out from the inside, but as we are mostly going to park this thing I was toying with the idea of having an alternate drain from the grey tank directly into the black tank to help flush it out a bit. I'd still attach it up to the hub above for normal operation, but maybe add another knife valve and a line going into the black tank. When I'm parked I would have that open so that it drains into the black tank and then into the sewer directly from there, giving it a bit of extra water to clear it out with.

Any thoughts as to why this might be a bad idea?
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Old 09-08-2020, 01:07 PM   #10
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1977 31' Sovereign
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Originally Posted by dbj216 View Post
We've just finished a significant renovation on a 76 Sovereign 31' over the winter. There were a lot of Airstream changes between 75 and 76 model years seems to me. The 76 has 1/2" thick plywood with the frame strengthened to accommodate. Although we found the plywood was still pretty flimsy. The 75 had 3/4" plywood which seemed more solid. What type of subfloor does your trailer have?
They put in 1/2" marine grade plywood, and epoxy'd it before installing. Seems like they did a good job of it from what I've read of other people's projects.
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Old 09-08-2020, 03:25 PM   #11
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1975 27' Overlander
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Many Airstreams have two tanks, black and grey, and one drain manifold. Some folks have a "portable" blade valve that connects to the bayonet fitting where the sewer hose connects. Then they can empty the black tank, close the portable valve, then open the grey valve and let grey water flow into the black tank for a better rinse. Finally open the portable valve and drain both tanks. I do this and it seems to work okay.

The component in the photo would allow a common connection with grey and black water. Some Airstream models have a single tank for both black and grey water. Some folks don't like this idea, but residental houses have a single septic tank, not two tanks.

Grey water accumulates much faster than black water. Using grey water to rinse the black water is a good idea many people incorporate. It is very important to keep the black tank wet, say 20% full, and never have it dry empty.

I added a larger black tank (30 gal), drained my bath sink into the black tank, and then added a much larger grey tank (27 gal) for galley and bath water. Here are a couple of photographs. You can see how my two blade valves are on the same drain manifold.

David
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Old 09-23-2020, 12:18 PM   #12
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Ok so I've decided to have the grey tank drain into the black tank, and then the sewer drain connects to the black. I'll use a knife valve between the black and grey (got a Valterra T1001 for that) and another knife valve off the sewer drain (T50 for that). I think that should work well.

Couple of questions along the way... They originally had planned for two grey tanks and connected them with a 1 1/2 ABS between them, and used these Valterra grommets to secure the pipe in the tank. These weren't secured yet so my question is what should I use to secure the grommet to the tank? Silicone caulk good enough? As per the Valterra site the pipe secures to the grommet with a hose clamp, but they don't make any mention of securing it to the tank. I can't think it's a strong enough connection to not leak without some kind of sealant...

Also, thinking about the connections on the top side. I'm assuming that is what these Flanges from Valterra are for? (https://www.valterra.com/product/3-spigot/). Anyone know if they come with plastic bolts to secure to the tank?

I'm more familiar with normal toilets which have a S-curve in them already so you don't need a trap under them... do RV toilets have the same? If not should I add a trap or is there some other sealing mechanism that RV toilets have to prevent the smell from backing up?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 09-23-2020, 07:21 PM   #13
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I'm more familiar with normal toilets which have a S-curve in them already so you don't need a trap under them... do RV toilets have the same? If not should I add a trap or is there some other sealing mechanism that RV toilets have to prevent the smell from backing up?

Thanks in advance!
The usual rv toilet just drops straight down into the black water tank. A blade valve closes the opening. There is an alternative, a macerating toilet. Which can be set up with a P trap so more options on placement relative to the BW tank. They are noisy and require a dedicated circuit for the motor (mines a 25 amp circuit).
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Old 09-23-2020, 07:24 PM   #14
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I have used rubber grommets for 1 1/2" pipe connections to my plastic tanks many times. So far, no leaks noted. The grommets require a rather precise hole drilled into the tank. I used my hole saw. The grommets are a press fit into the hole. It takes a while to work them into the hole. Then the pipe is pressed into the grommet and it really puts force on the rubber to plastic interface. No hose clamps needed. I do use a little byutle sealant just to make the parts slide together a bit easier, and fill any small irregularity in the parts.

RV toilets are gravity flush. Bombs away! The blade valve opens, empties the bowl, then closes and you fill the bowl to your liking.

You need a floor flange to connect the toilet to the floor. Then you need a 3" grommet to connect the flange to the tank. At least that is the method I've used.

David
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Old 09-25-2020, 08:21 AM   #15
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RV toilets are gravity flush. Bombs away! The blade valve opens, empties the bowl, then closes and you fill the bowl to your liking.

You need a floor flange to connect the toilet to the floor. Then you need a 3" grommet to connect the flange to the tank. At least that is the method I've used.

David
Perfect, thanks for this! Much easier than I thought.
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