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Old 11-08-2002, 11:42 AM   #1
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Post Airstream Framework & Skeleton

There is a picture on page 74 of the book AIRSTREAM the History of the Land Yacht by B.Burkhart & D.Hunt copyright 2000.

I hope it can be reproduced here. There are other fairly good pix of the unerbelly (with trailer upside down)pg.81, sidewall insulation pg.70, and in-frame sidewall wiring pg.54-55.

It was a mock up for promotional purposes.
Is it a true representation in anyones opinion? In the picture it appears that the (foundation) frame is possibly galvanized steel and the rest of the skeleton (upper-framing) appears to be aluminum.

The two different metals obviously come into contact with each other.
There possibly appear to be welds.

Can aluminum be welded to steel?

Are the contact points candidates for some type of predictable corrosion?

I would like to see this thread expand to cover all variety of frame questions and problems etc. From my reading there seems to be much corrosion and structural strength questions, mystery and perhaps potential trouble within our floors. Maybe this'll help if the pix could be posted.
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Old 11-08-2002, 12:51 PM   #2
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Aluminum can't be welded to steel. The only welds on my motorhome were in the heavy aluminum channel the made the framework for the front. I doubt if the frame is galvanized unless it is done as a unit after welding and there has been enough talk here of frame rust to make me think it is not so. Welding galvanized gives off poisonous fumes. Everything above the floor was aluminum and riveted.

There will be corrosion where aluminum and steel meet, and the aluminum will loose everytime. Water and salt will accelerate the corrosion. You need to consider the age of these, varying levels of maintenance, storage, etc. Some from areas of the country that are hot and dry will not have the rust and corrosion that the ones from the north that have been towed on slushy, salty roads. Others have sat for years with leaks, windows or vents open. It is impossible to make sweeping statements about conditions and problems in anything this old. My motorhome is an antique vehicle under Michigan law, has been for 3 years. There are more variables since construction that enter into the equation than during construction and design.

Very few RV's other than Airstream, Avion, Spartan, etc. have survived the years these have in the numbers these have. Very few of the cars from the 60's and 70's survive. It is not suprising to find steel that is 40 years old that may need replacing. Cars from this vintage often have to have floor pans, quarter panels, etc. cut out and replaced, rust on steel is a given. You can find one that has had all the work done and pay top dollar or investigate the one(s) you are looking at carefully and decide of it is something you are capable of repairing. Airstream never claimed these would last forever, but if you compare the numbers of Airstreams surviving with those of stick and staple construction it is evident which is better.

Pictures from the book you are referring to are copyright, and can't be used without the permission of the authors. If they were posted here without that permission there would be all kinds of headaches. I have tons of pictures of my motorhome renovation, other members must also. If you have anything specific I am sure some one would be glad to post for discussion.

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Old 11-08-2002, 03:00 PM   #3
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John thanks for the reply. You are prob'ly right about the copyright. I gotta believe the publisher would give us permission, I'll try to find out. There is no picture credit page that I could find in the book. Many of the pictures I mentioned appear to have come from Airstream. (Undoubtedly with permission).
I also gotta believe this would be an excellent forum for the pub to publicize his book. We'll have to see. Wonder if we had to have permish to use that WBCCI logo avitar?

John I will visit all your photos, thanks.
The shell then is riveted into the perimiter channel. Which must (I guess) sit on the outriggers and cross the frame at 4 points. Is the channel aluminum or steel? Is it riveted to the outriggers? Steel or Aluminum rivets?
I am hoping frame preservation will be my burden Not frame restoration!

Now as far as the brands you mentioned including Airstream being the finest in the field, I don't think there is any doubt about it. And surely I don't think they were built to last forever. However with good care, common-sense and factual knowledge they should be able to last the lifetimes of me and the next lucky owner.

I hope I am mistaken in getting the idea that some of us don't want to publicly discuss the shortcomings of Airstreams. As if it were a personal affront or some such. Not so! I know I will be a better Airstream owner and eventually have a better Airstream the more I know about all Airstreams... "inside,outside,and in between the walls"... warts and all. Thank goodness folks like you are willing to share,all facts, the good and the bad.
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Old 11-08-2002, 04:58 PM   #4
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The picture below is the right rear quarter of my motorhome with the bottom channel. The floor slid inside the channel, the aluminum bottom channel sits on a 1x2 steel tube framework welded to the chassis. On the trailers (as I understand because I never pulled a body) the wood sits on the frame and the channel sits on top of that. Self tapping screws through the channel and wood held the body to the perimeter. Short wood screws went through the top of the channel into the plywood. More self tapping screws were countersunk throughout the floor into the framework. The trailers used a frame with stringers and much the same method of attachment.

I don't think there is any real reluctance to discuss the problems in Airstreams. There may be a debate about the frames and problems, but the discussion is definitely there and very lively. All the posts about leaks in windows, univolts, water pumps, vents, etc. are really discussing problems. I found a ton of stuff I can't understand in my restoration. Some of it was poor engineering, some poor assembly, some the technology of 30 years ago. These are restoration projects and with any project like this with an unknown history there will be many surprises.

There are also limitations because this is a mass produced item. I spent 14 hours making the tube grill you see in my avatar, another 20 making the headlight surrounds. Material costs were over $250 and another $250 to chrome the grill. That could never happen in a production situation. If you look carefully you will see the original plastic grill below what I made. It took only a few minutes to mold and a couple bucks worth of plastic and served the same purpose. As with everything there are tradeoffs.

I will give you one more thing to think about, and it is directly related to quality. My first 'real job' out of high school was working for Apache camp trailers, long since out of business. It was a very cyclical industry, I was hired in June, laid off in August. I would think Airstream would be somewhat the same, demand would be high in the spring and summer, lower through the rest of the year. Employment would rise with demand, there is a training period, and quality drop during this period. Factor in an unknown 30 year maintenance history and problems can be across the board, just make it better than it was when you got it.

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Old 11-08-2002, 05:23 PM   #5
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Nothing made by mankind perfect....

Being a technical person, I am always irked by people who complain, "Why didn't they do it this way, or why didn't they do it that way." They did it that way because that's the way they felt was best or most profitable at the time they did it. Microsoft writes buggy operating systems and applications, because that is most profitable for them. (This message was typed while my computer is operating on Mandrake Linux 8.1) If you don't like the way Airstream makes or made their products, go buy a Jayco! If you don't like GM, buy a Ford or a Dodge. If you don't like Burger King's fry's go to McDonalds. Sorry, getting carried away........!
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Old 11-08-2002, 06:09 PM   #6
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Well Pick not being a technical person but a non-apologeticly curious one, I am always 'irked' by people that don't know the difference between a complaint and a good question!
One of us seems to have vulkem on our spectacles. I have always looked forward to your posts as I have confidence in their accuracy. Your last above one is the exception. Heck I had even contemplated staying overnite at your place.
It is ludicrous to imply that I or anyone else here expects perfection.

In the construction/remodeling /refurbishing business we always did 2 things. We priced in a bit of a cushion, and we advised clients that there can be major change-orders requested depending on what we find as we demo (tear away roofs, floors, walls, foundations etc).We and the client would be foolish not to anticipate and ASK what might be unseen. That is the advantage to the contractor in cost-plus bidding.

What and all I am trying to do here Pick, is LEARN. I hope to do this for myself as well as others like me to come. If this irks you, then...well now I'm getting carried !

BTW the picture mentioned above on pg.74 does not show the wood-floor and I stupidly didn't project it between the channel and the foundation frame. It obviously is a "barrier" between the dis-similar metals. I am now assuming the belly pan is the source of the most Aluminum to steel contact. I also am assuming that plain old rusting is the frame's worst enemy.
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