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Old 01-17-2018, 07:15 PM   #1
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1970 29' Ambassador
Santa Rosa , California
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1970 New to us Ambassador reality check

Hi All,
My wife and I purchased a "time capsule" 1970 Ambassador a week ago. After the initial layer of dust and filth was removed, we found that most original items are still there. Instead of a renovation, I am now thinking more in the direction of restoration -- at least to usable condition.
Today I got my first of what I'm sure will be many reality checks. I knew that the floor in the back end of the trailer was soft, but I haven't started tearing into much of anything yet...
I unwrapped the rope that was around the bumper, as well as the heavy duty extension cord and lifted the "door" between the bumper and body. We had purchased this Airstream via auction, so this was the first real inspection the back end/underside of the trailer. Below are some pictures (I hope) that show the rusted out brace for the tank(s) cover(s) and the portion of that cover that has given way... The other picture is of the poor at the rear of the trailer. It looks as if it is simply gone for much of the distance side to side...I will start to research replacing at least the rear section and quite possibly more of the floor.
I also need to replace one of the stabilizing jacks and one of the aluminum propane tanks. Anyone know of a salvage/parts yard in Northern California?

Thanks,
David
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Old 01-17-2018, 07:18 PM   #2
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1970 29' Ambassador
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1970 New to Us Ambassador reality check

I meant floor, not "poor"...

Thanks,
David
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Old 01-17-2018, 08:05 PM   #3
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1975 27' Overlander
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Hello from Colorado 02sheds : Your 70 Ambassador bought without an appraisal will be a big project and fun one at that. You are describing what most of these 70 trailers have; rear end rot and rear end separation.

You can do the "bumper bounce" test for rear end separation. Stand on the rear bumper in line with the left or right frame rail and bounce like on a diving board. Watch the intersection of the body to the frame rail. If it opens up while bouncing down on the bumper, that means the body ain't attached to the frame rail in the rear. It has separated.

I bought a 75 Overlander 27' last fall, one size smaller than yours. I inspected the trailer before the purchase. I had a very open and honest seller. I knew what I was getting into. My floor was rotted out all along the rear body of the trailer. The subfloor is bolted to the frame, and the body is bolted to the subfloor (and frame). Loose the subfloor and it all comes loose.

I have now fixed the rear end separation. I am renovating my trailer to modern convention. I'm not a big fan of some of the designs in the 70s, like a small grey water tank, or a noisy plunger water pump, or a oven on the countertop next to the sink, or 70s patterned fabrics. I'll try to improve on these features and many others. Many vintage Airstream enthusiasts like to restore their trailers to "just left the factory" condition. They become show pieces.

Yet another David
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Old 01-17-2018, 09:38 PM   #4
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1970 29' Ambassador
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1970 New to Us Ambassador reality check

Hi David,
Thanks for the response, and nice looking Overlander! I am sure that I will find plenty of info on this forum -- it is great!
Did you repair the floor yourself? How difficult was it? I remember reading something about Airstreams being assembled from back to front, so to get to the floor in the back I will need to disassemble the front and work my way back...is that your understanding? is there another way, or should I be counting on just that -- stripping the interior from front to back...?

Thanks,
David
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Old 01-18-2018, 12:43 AM   #5
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hello David, welcome to the world of vintage airstreams! if you are looking for salvaged rv parts check wrecking yards; some have rv's. there use to be a rv only yard up near sacramento. good luck. kurt
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Old 01-18-2018, 07:11 AM   #6
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1970 27' Overlander
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I purchased my 1970 Overlander last fall ! I have removed the interior including the bath, waterlines and the rotted flooring in the rear. Finally ready to start putting things back in. This is a long term project, it will not happen over night.
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Old 01-18-2018, 08:53 AM   #7
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1972 31' Sovereign
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Welcome! We renovated a '72 31ft Sovereign: took 4 summers to get her functional. We're still finishing up a few details. ( Minnesota winters are not conducive to renovation of a trailer outside. There's just something about -15 degrees...) If it's a '70, you will not have grey water tanks unless added aftermarket by a PO. There are many threads on floor repair and replacement here, including a whole thread devoted to renovation threads by various people. We gutted our trailer and replaced literally everything but the kitchen sink (it was in good condition). Others have replaced just rear floor so it is do-able.
Good luck and please report your progress. We LOVE pictures here!

Kay
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Old 01-18-2018, 09:31 AM   #8
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1970 27' Overlander
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I may postpone work for a few days !
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Old 01-18-2018, 11:50 AM   #9
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1970 29' Ambassador
Santa Rosa , California
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1970 New to Us Ambassador reality check

Hi David, B, Kay, K,
Thanks for your responses! I am very grateful for all of the knowledge that is shared on this site!
Kay, I have been reading about your journey with Little (Lil?) Girl with great interest. In our case, I am under a bit of a time constraint. We have an 11 year old son who will likely not want to camp with his parents by the time he is 15 (if not sooner
My goal is that because the trailer is fairly complete, (with some notable exceptions) I will attempt get some of the most urgent items addressed and take on further renovation/restoration as time allows. I am definitely in the camp (so to speak that these beautiful coaches are to be used as well as admired.
With that in mind, I am planning on a rear floor replacement as one of the first major projects to get the coach ready for some camping in late March/early April. I grew up in Wisconsin and am very familiar with the seasonal aspect of the weather in the Midwest (not to mention that in most parts of the country it actually usually rains during the warmer months), so I feel doubly lucky to live in an area (Northern California) that boasts not only spectacular scenery and camping but temperatures that allow me to get after this -- as long as I stay dry, even while we are in our rainy season.
I am probably going to go with a shell-on approach for the rear sub-floor replacement, but there is much to learn before I even start removing the components for the bath in order to get to the floor, and I have to admit that, while very versed in construction and in possession of most tools I will need, I am still a long way from experienced in terms of what I will attempt.
My first few steps (if I have read the posts correctly) will be to strip the bath fixtures, tub and connecting walls as I move towards removing the floor... does this sound correct?
Thanks again for your posts. I look forward to hearing any (and reading as many as possible) specific tips to hopefully gain from your collective experience!

Thanks,
David
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Old 01-18-2018, 12:04 PM   #10
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Boynton Beach , Florida
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2002sheds View Post
Hi All,
My wife and I purchased a "time capsule" 1970 Ambassador a week ago. After the initial layer of dust and filth was removed, we found that most original items are still there. Instead of a renovation, I am now thinking more in the direction of restoration -- at least to usable condition.
Today I got my first of what I'm sure will be many reality checks. I knew that the floor in the back end of the trailer was soft, but I haven't started tearing into much of anything yet...
I unwrapped the rope that was around the bumper, as well as the heavy duty extension cord and lifted the "door" between the bumper and body. We had purchased this Airstream via auction, so this was the first real inspection the back end/underside of the trailer. Below are some pictures (I hope) that show the rusted out brace for the tank(s) cover(s) and the portion of that cover that has given way... The other picture is of the poor at the rear of the trailer. It looks as if it is simply gone for much of the distance side to side...I will start to research replacing at least the rear section and quite possibly more of the floor.
I also need to replace one of the stabilizing jacks and one of the aluminum propane tanks. Anyone know of a salvage/parts yard in Northern California?

Thanks,
David
You should probably buy a new jack: https://goo.gl/svXtZN The treads strip out on the old ones, making them difficult to turn. I like the good old BBQ-type propane cylinders, you get a new one every time you exchange it.

Changing out the floor (if that's all that's wrong) isn't that big of a deal- it's all of the stuff that sitting on top of it that has to be removed is the problem. I'm assuming you've got a rear-bath? All of the old fiberglass will probably break when you pull it out, sorry to say. You basically pry up the U-channel on the edge, and use a sawz-all to cut the bolts holding the top to the bottom. Use your skillsaw to cut out the bad parts, and slip in the new (treated) plywood. Many are the descriptions of this process here on the Forum.

I ripped out my rear bath, and moved it to the side. The RV queen bed that I built in its place acts like a spar to make the rear end more solid. Hopefully your frame is still intact, and this relatively simple fix will suffice.
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Old 01-18-2018, 01:26 PM   #11
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1970 29' Ambassador
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1970 New to Us Ambassador reality check

Hi Suz,
I should have mentioned earlier that your posts were the first ones I read from start to finish. Just enough snark to make me push the laptop in front if my wife a few times, exclaiming "you HAVE to read this" ;-) Very entertaining AND informative.
In fact, your approach/layout is very much what I would like to do with this coach. I feel as though I would be biting off more than I can chew, however, with somewhat limited time (we are planning on taking "Retha" to the California coast (a whopping 45 minutes from us) in late March/early April. I will be in a spot of bother if she is not ready, as my wife agreed to us buying this AS with that trip in mind. Still, if the tub breaks (as several of you have suggested it will), I may be looking in doing more sooner than I thought.
I know that it may be too ambitious, but I really would like to at least pull the interior skins and replace the subfloor before camping, if possible. There were definitely critters in this coach, and I have cleaned the visible stuff. I would feel much better if I knew that the whole thing was rid of the smell and any other traces of previous inhabitants.
Did I read correctly that the reason that new plywood can be slid in through the rear of the trailer (while jacked up slightly) is because the C channel is further forward on the frame? I realize that I will learn a bunch more as I dismantle -- I am just trying to marshal my forces, tool-wise. I am also planning out my time for what promises to be an exciting "dig"...


Thanks,
David
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Old 01-18-2018, 06:34 PM   #12
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1986 34' Limited
1975 27' Overlander
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Hi 02sheds: I recommend you assess your Ambassador from the ground up and then decide on the "must do" projects. Your first assessment was rear end separation. Did it pass the bumper bounce test? If not, fixing that is important as towing with the rear end separated isn't the greatest. You will likely have "rear end sag" also as your frame rails start to bend. You need to check the plumbing and electrical systems. Then appliances and the like. Unless you can verify replacement, the original axles are likely as hard as a rock and not providing any suspension anymore. But maybe not the top priority.

Yes, many folks have repaired rear end separation on these vintage trailers, including me. It is a class A project for sure. I had to hire a mobile welder to complete the project as I don't have a welder or the necessary skill. I have about 200 hours in the project.

I disassembled my bathroom carefully and did not break any parts. This is necessary to gain access to the rear subfloor and more importantly the frame to body hold down bolts (2 of them). I believe any cabinets or parts inside the Airstream can be removed by themselves. They fit through the entry door. I did not gut my trailer to gut the bathroom.

You will also need to remove the belly pan under the rear of the trailer to gain access to the rusted out rear crossmember. Here you will find the cause of the "old trailer smell". And you will likely find other stuff that needs fixing "while your at it". I certainly did.

David
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Link to my 1975 Overlander Improvement Journal:
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Link to our 1976 Renovation Project:
https://www.airforums.com/forums/f221...ct-202081.html
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Old 01-18-2018, 08:07 PM   #13
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1970 29' Ambassador
Santa Rosa , California
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1970 New to Us Ambassador reality check

Hi David,
I totally agree. Based on what I can see, the bathroom floor is definitely in need of replacement. I am certain that the entire back end is sagging...
Axles also do not look great, but that can come after getting the floor fixed.
I am also grateful to learn that the fixtures mat survive. It sounds like I will need a bit of luck as well as using some caution as I pull them out. For now, I intend to keep the same layout. I am also glad to hear that replacing that floor may start to knock down the smell..
I hope to start stripping the bathroom fixtures over the weekend. Glad to hear that they can fit out the main door, if needed.
Thanks for all of the encouragement and pointers -- I will need them all !


Thanks,
David
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Old 01-19-2018, 12:43 AM   #14
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1975 21' Globetrotter
Lincoln , California
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David,
My wife and I bought a Globetrotter '75 vintage 6 months ago. We live near Auburn & Lincoln off Hwy 80. We have pulled most of the old "Erector Set" out and will get the rest, rear bath out this weekend. I have subfloor rot a couple places up front and will see what it looks like under the bath soon. I've been going back and forth with removing inner skin, Need to remove Vintage Smell issue. We plan a custom replacement that fits our needs. I have a deadline for Lake Almanor Memorial weekend. Would like to discuss our trials and errors. There is a RV dismantler in Sacramento a friend of mine has used but I have yet to visit. RVDoctorGeorge.com 1142 Dixieanne Ave Sacramento, CA 95815.
Gary A
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Old 01-19-2018, 07:34 AM   #15
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Hey, if you can use it and repair it as you go, I'm all for it! Little Girl was definitely a gut job project due to partial gut before we bought her, and the disrepair inside. We had planned on that, though, which is why she was the perfect purchase for us. We think the odor was a combination of insulation in the walls, soft stuff in the trailer (mattresses, etc) and the floor due to mice in the trailer. We definitely had mice runs and storage facilities in the wall cavities (and a snake skin in the water heater).
Yes, you will need to dismantle the bathroom to take the rear floor out and repair. We did total shell on floor replacement of the whole trailer. Shell off would be easier, but then you're dismantling the whole thing, and time would not be on your side.
If you can instill camping in your 11 year old now, he'll go when older. Our kids used tents (for more separation from Parents) when they were teenagers when we camped. Now the oldest 2 camp with their children. Youngest hasn't convinced her hubby yet. It'll come.
Good luck!

Kay
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Old 01-19-2018, 07:55 AM   #16
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Hi Gary, Kay,
Thanks for the responses! Gary, we are not too far from you. I will send a pm with my cell number -- maybe we can share tips.
Kay, I am so glad you wrote what you did. We have a great relationship with our son, but I worry that he will go the way I did, which was to not be very close with my parents for about 5 or so years. Every kid is different, though...
We also had critters in the ceiling/walls. I am less sure about the floor. I hope to repair the rear floor and pull the interior skin to clean everything, re-insulate and put it back. Do you have any recollection of how many hours went into those two phases? I am trying to budget my time...


Thanks,
David
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Old 01-19-2018, 09:02 AM   #17
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Take your time!

I'm in total agreement with the other posters that said roadworthiness was paramount with Airstream reno. The wife and I traveled around in our project for two years before it was "completed". As long as you have a safe trailer, and it doesn't stink on the inside, I believe that I have all of the Forum's permission to tell you "Go out and have fun with your family". You can always cook on a Coleman stove and poo in the woods!

Even if your trailer is a hollow shell, it's still better than a tent, you have all of your stuff with you, and fodder for hours of design debates. Perhaps this is a good way to bond with your kid? If everyone has a say in the design, you can hack something together, try it out, and have further design discussions about the outcome. You can share learning new skills together, as you point and sketch and tape cardboard into place. If you collectively decide on a decorating theme, say "Star Trek" or "Old West" or " Gilligan's Island Shack", even the unhandy can have fun searching for fabric patterns, or bric-a-brack to include.

As you get further into your trailer, more nastiness will show up. It's the nature of this sort of project. If every discovery is a "setback", keeping you from an unrealistic goal, that is a sure recipe for burnout, my friend. Keep a steady course, laugh at your mistakes, and revel in your triumphs!

BTW: As I've stated before, those design discussions can be very thirsty affairs, so be sure to lay in extra supplies!
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Old 01-19-2018, 10:15 AM   #18
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1970 New to Us Ambassador reality check

Hi All,
So true, Suz, so true. We have been camping in a tent trailer (an awesome, if cold Coleman from the late 1980's), so we are already equipped and used to cooking outside and using whatever facilities are near. And you cannot underestimate the value of the local climate (we are camping at the ocean, only 45 minutes away), which is almost always tolerable, if not downright pleasant.
I love the idea of getting the entire family's input on design. Ultimately, I think they will gladly sign up for a version of what you did, if not a near copy. For now, if I have some luck on my side and more patience than I normally possess, I hope to re-use the existing bathroom fixtures and layout. My wife and I will sleep up front on the gaucho, and our son (and probably guest) will sleep on the twins.
Since I know for a fact that critters were in the ceiling, I am guessing that the sanitary thing to do will be to pull ALL of the interior panels, correct? Any estimate at all of how long that takes? I am fairly efficient (and, in the words of Jeff Spiccoli "have an awesome set of tools"), but I have absolutely no experience in this. I would put everything back for now, in the interest of time -- if I have enough time :-) Otherwise, camping in the shell may be exactly what we are doing...

Thanks,
David
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Old 01-19-2018, 01:45 PM   #19
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Um, I want to say the walls came down in a morning or so. Be sure to label each piece with placement and "which way is up" as it comes down. Insulating for us was another probably day, and replacing panels another dayish. You will probably not be able to exactly line up holes to replace, but you can use the existing holes in wall panels to drill if holes don't line up with the holes in the ribs. Front and rear interior segments are a 2 - 3 person endeavor: they're floppy and hard to hold in place and rivet at the same time.
Putting up insulation kinda depends on what insulation you go with. We used fiberglass, and stuck it in place with spray adhesive until we got the panels back in place. I think Prodex or Reflectix takes longer from what others have posted. It is also more expensive but gives you more R value. We're more the summer camper types right now, so R value wasn't so tremendously important at the time we did our trailer. Money was.
I think your trailer is a little shorter than ours, so that would be an advantage time wise.
Every kid is different. They all want to go their own way at some point (which is what you're striving for. After all, you probably don't want them living with you when their 40). It's hard, though, when you see them leave. I think keeping communication open and being there is the most important thing. We have 3 children who are now 38, 35 and 30, and have given us 6 grandchildren. We have good relationships with all of them, even though it's been a struggle sometimes. Just keep loving him.

Kay
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Old 01-19-2018, 06:32 PM   #20
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1970 New to Us Ambassador reality check

Hi Kay,
Great advice on kids! I will keep it in mind -- especially as we hit the teenage years :-)
I also am very grateful for the info about the amount of time it takes to do some of these items. I will not be able to devote a lot of time strictly to this project for several weeks, so lining up my resources (including time) is very important.

So far, I have gotten the sense that it will take:

2 to 3 days to get the furnishings out, including the bathroom
1 to 2 days to remove the inner skins
2 days to replace inner skins
(I am guessing) up to 2 days to replace walls, cabinets, etc.,
for a subtotal of up to 9 days...

I also need to get a best sense of replacing the rear subfloor and install a new luxury vinyl plank floor (this stuff is impervious to mold or moisture, and is much thicker than regular vinyl plank -- think engineered hardwood flooring) throughout. I also need to service the wheel bearings and check/reconnect the electric brakes. I am guessing:

1 to 2 days to put in the new floor
5 days to replace the subfloor, including demo
2 days for the wheels and brakes
for another subtotal of up to 9 more days...

That would mean that with a steady effort (and no major supply issues, or "life" happenings) I could feasibly have this Airstream back on the road in around 18 days (or 3 -1/2 weeks in our house, since weekends are spent running to soccer matches, etc.).

Of course, nothing ever goes as smoothly as planned, but giving myself a month or 5 weeks seems reasonable -- at least right now

How far off are the estimates above? I understand that it can easily go much longer for any given phase, but are the SHORT END estimates at all realistic? I could try to get on it as soon as possible, knowing that there will be a disaster or 4 waiting for me. By taking this approach, at least I hope I will leave some time to make up for those unforeseen delays...


Thanks,
David
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