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Old 10-13-2017, 04:12 PM   #1
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1975 Airstream Discovers Aluminum Extrusions

Here is a bit of vintage trivia for you.

I have mentioned before how pleasantly surprised I was at the interior of my 75 Overlander. I was expecting a bunch of thin warped low density particle board laminated with fake wood trip plastic film. I have found every cabinet is built with aluminum extrusions and strong ones at that. This interior has held up well. It was "restored" 10 years ago and I don't know the extent.

I have the Airstream service manual with this trailer. In the back of the manual are 103 different extrusion part numbers. One hundred and three by my count! I find that amazing. Each one has to have a rather expensive extrusion dia made. The extrusions include everything from bulkhead wall attachments, cabinet frames, curtain hangers, bathroom door hanger, lots of different trim pieces, et. al. It cost a lot to tool up the mid seventies trailers.

David
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Old 10-13-2017, 06:08 PM   #2
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Interesting.
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Old 10-13-2017, 07:36 PM   #3
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And no doubt they still have those dies collecting dust off in some forgotten corner of the factory.
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Old 10-13-2017, 07:41 PM   #4
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And no doubt they still have those dies collecting dust off in some forgotten corner of the factory.
Hi

Likely not. I doubt they did their own extrusions. The tooling (if it exists) is more likely sitting at an extrusion outfit. Since it is specific to the machines at that plant, you leave it there. Given what's happened in that business since the 1970's, the tooling probably was scrapped when the plant went out of business.

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Old 10-14-2017, 11:16 AM   #5
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Hi

Likely not. I doubt they did their own extrusions. The tooling (if it exists) is more likely sitting at an extrusion outfit. Since it is specific to the machines at that plant, you leave it there. Given what's happened in that business since the 1970's, the tooling probably was scrapped when the plant went out of business.

Bob
Could be that they ended up in China with the rest of the machine tools from the US ?
On a different but related, I recently read an article about manufacturers having a difficult time finding competent workers for their plants due to high incident of drug use in the state. Ohio has the second highest overdose death rate in the nation . That could explain the shoddy workmanship on some trailers coming out the AS factory.
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Old 10-14-2017, 12:12 PM   #6
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And no doubt they still have those dies collecting dust off in some forgotten corner of the factory.
No.... the other poster is right... Airstream did not make their own extrusions... they contracted and bought them... that is why they don't have ones that need replacing... Most of their extrusions were anodized... to the color they wanted... and that is where the EPA got into it... saying.. if you want to contenue making them... you will have to get a permit from us to do so... at a price that put most of the suppliers out of business...
... and those who did pay the extortion money... found that the next year they had to comply with more restrictions... to the point that they didn't make any money... and we all know ... you don't do things unless it is profitable...

I think its great to have a pres that sees this happening to our country... and bringing back the work here rather than over their... where they make the money... and come here and buy us out... with it... Too bad the Demo's are on the take... from foreighn gov's. and are trying to fight the current admin... bringing it back to the USA...

Its not just AS that gave up... the GA aviation industry suffers the same... along with the steel industry... and our own country making it... to better specs...

then again most whine about the price of things.. like AS's.... and head over to the importers ... who sell cheap...

The NEW AS... reflect this by not using expensive parts today... and they reflect this in the interior of the trailer... I recently went to a RV show where they new AS were... my first comment is... wow.. now I know what the inside of my beer can looks like... Plain Jane.. so to speek... cheap looking... and where is the creature featurs... when they went from a habatat to a 3 season camper... really... No winter time camping...

No thanks.... I agree....
I'll keep my older 85 excel ... it has real wood and rich looking interior..that functions well...
I never was one to keep up with the JONESES' ... but I get tired of them newbies saying.. 'well we bought a brand new one... didn't want a old used one that we would have to work on... really... " Gee getting to the bottom line... while the replacement of appliances... and restore'n it... is expensive... the cost of purchase and the appliances.. is less than going out and getting a new one... as most of the parts are re-useable... Those that arn't are updated and replaced at the owners choosing... so to speak...

Love my airstream... the adventure contenues...
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Old 10-14-2017, 02:57 PM   #7
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I love the finishes and the quality of my '69 but that new Globetrotter sure looks nice!
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Old 10-16-2017, 12:51 PM   #8
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This is why during my restoration today on my 77 I’m restoring/reusing all of the extrusion that was used back then and upgrading most of the hardware to aircraft quality. AN bolts, screws, nut plates and so on. People say do not throw anything away while you are restoring these babies. There is a reason why. All attach points of the heavier cabinetry to the inner shell cannot/should not be with common screws. I have read many blogs of overhead cabinets ending up on the floor after a basic HWY trip. Say not to cheap manufacturing. Love the old coaches. ❤️��
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Old 10-16-2017, 07:07 PM   #9
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Here is a photo of the curtain hanger extrusion. It has a molding extrusion on top of it. The twin bed lower curtain rod extrusions are also big and rather stout pieces. All of the tambour doors run in extruded grooves. The gaucho and bed frames are all aluminum with aluminum "boxes" behind the tambour doors. The finger pulls in the tambor doors look like an extrusion. The galley cabinet is an extrusion work of art.

My wife's 86 is similar construction, except for the hickory cabinets.

I mainly see 1/8 pop rivets holding the cabinetry to the walls. I see sheet metal screws holding the cabinets to the subfloor. I have found several severed pop rivets as I examine the trailer. I repair as I go.

David
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Old 10-17-2017, 05:55 PM   #10
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The curtain hanger is a work of art. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 10-17-2017, 06:29 PM   #11
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1975 Airstream Discovers Aluminum Extrusions

The 70s Airstreams were rugged in their simple and durable construction, kinda prone to decay and bending floor down.

But they did have some very cool extrusions. The cabins were impressibly constructed. The interiors hold up.
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Old 10-17-2017, 07:29 PM   #12
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Your assessment of the 70s trailers is what I'm now thinking. I looked at a 79 International 29' that had the floor layout I liked. I was surprised how ratty the interior was; warped and delaminated. Maybe the heat was a factor. The overhead cabinet bottoms had 2" bows in them. The tambour doors were delaminating and stuck. So I was quite leery when I looked at this 75 Overlander. But to my surprise is was pretty darn good. I don't have much renovation to do to the interior. The bath vanity and cabinet are thermoformed ABS and they show some cracks and ill fitting pieces.

But the subfloor, frame remain an unknown on this trailer. I do have about 3/16' rear end separation on the street side only when I do the bounce test. If I weighed a hundred pounds more, it would be worse. I have a little bit of sag in the floor from the rear axle back. Soon the belly pan and insulation from the rear axle back are coming down and we shall see what we shall see. I'm likely to do the rear cross member replacement procedure including loosening some rear exterior skins to gain access to the C channel.

However the aluminum extruded cabinet framing and overall construction of the interior seems quite good to me.

David
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Old 10-17-2017, 07:46 PM   #13
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Your assessment of the 70s trailers is what I'm now thinking. I looked at a 79 International 29' that had the floor layout I liked. I was surprised how ratty the interior was; warped and delaminated. Maybe the heat was a factor. The overhead cabinet bottoms had 2" bows in them. The tambour doors were delaminating and stuck. So I was quite leery when I looked at this 75 Overlander. But to my surprise is was pretty darn good. I don't have much renovation to do to the interior. The bath vanity and cabinet are thermoformed ABS and they show some cracks and ill fitting pieces.



But the subfloor, frame remain an unknown on this trailer. I do have about 3/16' rear end separation on the street side only when I do the bounce test. If I weighed a hundred pounds more, it would be worse. I have a little bit of sag in the floor from the rear axle back. Soon the belly pan and insulation from the rear axle back are coming down and we shall see what we shall see. I'm likely to do the rear cross member replacement procedure including loosening some rear exterior skins to gain access to the C channel.



However the aluminum extruded cabinet framing and overall construction of the interior seems quite good to me.



David


On my 72 Sovereign, I ended up replacing the last four feet of frame and the last sheet of plywood.

I also had some frame sag behind the rear axle.
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Old 10-18-2017, 06:00 PM   #14
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Your 75 Excella 500 was the top of the line trailer. I bet it has a lot of extrusions in its interior construction, and I bet it was pretty luxurious.

I wonder if that trailer has any rear end separation or sag? I wonder as I perceive the frame to be most stressed with the 31 footers with rear baths, rear 10 gallon water heaters, rear waste water tanks, and rear batteries all with a longer lever arm. Add water intrusion between body and rear hinge plate and we have a problem.

Did you have to strengthen the frame on your 75 Excella 500 also?

David

PS I'm hijacking my own thread!
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Old 10-18-2017, 11:56 PM   #15
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It seems to me that after the early 70's AS they started to strengthen the rear frame from the wheel trucks to the rear... they added another Channel piece which took care of the sag problem... and no they didn't have to take the body off the frame...or floor.. instead they did the reverse by lifting the rear... causing it to go the other way... then they welded in the channel pieces on each side... took care of it... and from then on others said that the new design after 76 was much better.. but...several things you need to keep in mind

By keeping the holding tanks empty you will help to keep rear sag... by not overloading the trailer at the rear half... will also help keep rear sag down...

I have heard of several other 80's 26-31 footers.. that have been abused i.e overloaded, too hard a tire pressure and several other factors... are still having sag problems... but then again... you can bend anything ...if you abuse it... so its not necessarly the trailer... etc...

Airstreams need to ride soft.. and have good axles.. so a couple of things that need to be evaluated... I had a 73 31 rear bath.. w/6gal water heater... and never had a problem... but then again I dumped the tanks in the morning every day when on the road... and kept the tires on the right tire pressure... (45lbs for mine) and kept all the heavy stuff in the center closets... with lighter stuff to the rear ones... AND.. no attachments or carriers on the rear bumper..
I also weighed the trailer so I knew what each wheel /axle was carrying... that helps also to keep it balanced.. and not tail heavy...

Went many a mile that way.. and when we sold it.. i..without any mod kits added... it was solid...

the adventure continues...
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Old 10-19-2017, 05:57 PM   #16
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Thanks GM Airstream: If my trailer had a 42 year history of good care like your Airstream, I probably wouldn't have any sag. Airstream did have some design flaws that contributed to the problem including the inadequate rear body sealing, and extra weight at the rear of the trailer.

I was towing my Overlander home and encountered the dreaded wavy stretch of concrete. My tow vehicle and trailer were "porpoising" rather badly for maybe 10 miles. I slowed down, but this only slowed the frequency of the bouncing. I bet the "g" loads on the rear frame rails were pretty high. I'm sure new axles, new shocks, soft tires and the like would help. So would a solid rear crossmember to body attachment and so would less weight in the back of the trailer.

Center baths are much more common now which allow better placement of waste water tanks. Fifty pound batteries are better located now along with 50 pound water heaters.

David
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Old 10-19-2017, 06:48 PM   #17
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Thanks GM Airstream: If my trailer had a 42 year history of good care like your Airstream, I probably wouldn't have any sag. Airstream did have some design flaws that contributed to the problem including the inadequate rear body sealing, and extra weight at the rear of the trailer.



I was towing my Overlander home and encountered the dreaded wavy stretch of concrete. My tow vehicle and trailer were "porpoising" rather badly for maybe 10 miles. I slowed down, but this only slowed the frequency of the bouncing. I bet the "g" loads on the rear frame rails were pretty high. I'm sure new axles, new shocks, soft tires and the like would help. So would a solid rear crossmember to body attachment and so would less weight in the back of the trailer.



Center baths are much more common now which allow better placement of waste water tanks. Fifty pound batteries are better located now along with 50 pound water heaters.



David


The water heaters I pulled out of my 72 and 75 were WAY more than 50 pounds full of water and “stuff”, I say at least 150.
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Old 10-19-2017, 11:15 PM   #18
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The water heaters I pulled out of my 72 and 75 were WAY more than 50 pounds full of water and “stuff”, I say at least 150.
Wow... that strange... a 10 gal water heater should have about 80 lbs of water in it added to the tank and frame... while the 6 gal water heater would be 48 lbs plus the frame... so big difference... in weight...
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Old 10-19-2017, 11:49 PM   #19
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I was towing my Overlander home and encountered the dreaded wavy stretch of concrete. My tow vehicle and trailer were "porpoising" rather badly for maybe 10 miles. I slowed down, but this only slowed the frequency of the bouncing. I bet the "g" loads on the rear frame rails were pretty high. I'm sure new axles, new shocks, soft tires and the like would help. So would a solid rear crossmember to body attachment and so would less weight....

Yep well as to the "porpoising" if you do a analysis on the pulseing... you would find that the up down action is not as bad as you thought.... but slowing down stop the ramping up/down to a lower frequency and less moment... however... the trailer is like a teder-todder... and as the rear wheels on the TV go up... the balance point is the wheel trucks...or axle... which also has its spring and shocks... which then also dampens the action...as the rear of the trailer goes down... so its more the action of... TV's rear wheels/shocks etc...the action at the rear of the trailer is not as great by the time it gets to moving back their... I have been on such roads.. and have thought about the movements and moment going on... and after some engineering... its seems more amplified... due to the TV reactions as well... that what the trailer really is going through... mainly because the frame is not solid.. and has some spring to it...

What really does the damage is the trailer wheels bouncing through the ruts and potholes in the road... and while the wheels have give... the axle has give due to spring.. and the shocks try and dampen out the pulses... the moment up down on the rear.. is at it worst When you add more weight in the rear.. you have a larger mass weight to lift per second... than what you would if you didn't... thus keeping the liquid holding tanks near empty.. is more ideal than with 'em full... i.e on mine its a 30-20 gal tanks... thus at 50 lbs full.. that comes out to be 450+ lbs extra (almost like having 3 people standing in the bathroom while your going down the road).... at the rear of the trailer... which if empty won't be their... Thus, any weight you don't have to carry is just less action on the rear framework... it has to support...

But, if the PO didn't take care of the trailer... its metal and can be fixed... which is a good thing for airstreams... and they have kits that can be placed in to stiffen up the framework...

We got to see a friends purchase.. that had the dreaded sag... helped him drop the under sheeting (alu pan) . from the rear of the wheel truck axle plates.... the welder crawled under.. jacked up the back of the trailer on stands... and welded in the stiffners... (In his case it was a 1/8 in full depth C type channel and a L stiffner under the bottom of that...etc...)... when done it was as solid as a rock.. and he didn't have to pull the plywood floor... as the new fraim work provided the stiffening... Some oversized pop rivets... and a change in the fiberglass insulation... Addition of modified power cable that ran from the front to rear... for the gen set hookup from the TV PU... 3 sets of Coax for the ham radio... and some underpinning light wires... the under pan was back up in less than a hour... so it went real quick...

So the sag is not as deadly if caught in time.... the way we spotted his was that the skin at the back of the wheel wells... was starting to bulge a little.. and we did the bumper jump test...

His trailer is solid as a rock.. and AS should have taken care of it.. but they are back their and we are out here.. and you know how they will argue about how its not their fault...so to save time... it was taken care of... along with a few new things added to custom'iz it... as he wanted... The new ones don't have anything on his ... AS engineering left some question as to how they did things.. but once you have a good basic trailer... being metal.. it can be made into a darn good environmental habatat for the owner to enjoy for a long long time...

Yep some of the folks who got box trailers... thinking that AS are not that good... have their share of problems too... heck its a RV... and we all know what that means... (here is a clue... its similar to a money pit)

The adventure contenues...
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Old 10-19-2017, 11:51 PM   #20
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Wow... that strange... a 10 gal water heater should have about 80 lbs of water in it added to the tank and frame... while the 6 gal water heater would be 48 lbs plus the frame... so big difference... in weight...


Both of them came with the trailer, and both of them were heavier empty than their replacements. I think there might have been some mineral deposits too.

But what I really remember is that they were really heavy coming out of the trailers.
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