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Old 12-30-2011, 11:12 AM   #1
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Lightbulb First Post - Strange Structural Question


I would like to use an Airstream for a project I am working on but I'm not sure if it is going to work. I think that somebody here will know the answers.

I have not purchased a particular trailer yet for the project but the one I am looking at right now is a 1970 31' LandYacht.

I would like to use the Airstream to build a pop-up cocktail bar. I need to know whether:

A - the floor frame is strong enough to support the two large ice machines that will be fitted at the front end. Each machine may weigh around 800kg, currently waiting on exact specs, hoping they are not that heavy.

B - Whether the roof frame is strong enough to support a roof deck that would potentially hold about 15 people (although only when stationary not during travel)

I have made vehicles in the past with roof decks that held that many people on the roof of a standard cargo van reinforced very simply with 3/4" flooring ply and had no problems but I don;t really know much about how the roof of the airstream is constructed.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Old 12-30-2011, 11:44 AM   #2
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I believe the answer is no to both questions.. The floor frame support is only a pair of rectangular section steel tubes, and the 31' trailers with rear baths experienced floor sag in rear as frame flexed.. In addition, flooring is only marine plywood bolted to frame rails.. I suppose it could work with reinforced additional rails and a stronger subfloor, but last part of your message indicates possibility of travel, and that would be a problem.. That trailer already has a high weight load on hitch, and adding 3,000+ pounds to front half of trailer would almost double the empty weight, and most of it would be on hitch..

As for roof and frame, a single kneeling on roof can partially collapse roof if not careful and using scaffolding or wooden planks to spread load across wide area.. The internal structure is like an aircraft, with bent-metal "ribs" riveted against external skin, and then to internal skins, but structure is egg-like in that any serious external load will start deformation leading to permanent failure.. Putting a platform and several people on roof will help flatten the curved structure...

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Old 12-30-2011, 12:15 PM   #3
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If the location is fixed you can support the frame in several places. I would think you would need something under each ice machine to support it. You could support your deck on steel pillars hidden behind some sort of wall etc. The roof could be made to hold that kind of weight but you would need a complete new structure to do it.

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Old 12-30-2011, 12:22 PM   #4
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Without devulging my exact reasons, I have looked at a similar issue with regards to the roof. Basically, in you are striving to do what you speak of, you will no longer have an "airstream" It may certainly look like one, but the required structural reinforcements will eliminate all the positive features that are incorporated in the monocoque construction techniques employed by Airstreams.

The floor weight could be accomplished, but the more likely solution would be to place the machines over new heavy weight axles.

Regardless, you are looking at some significant addition of steel both above and below. I do believe you can do it and make it look like an Airstream. It's just not going to act like one!

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Old 12-30-2011, 12:43 PM   #5
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Wisey, the trailer you are talking about weighs dry either 4910 or 4960 lbs. I don't have the cargo capacity, but it must be substantially less than the 3,520 lbs. of 2 ice machines. Furthermore, cargo must be distributed across the trailer with the most over the axles.

Add 15 people (15 x 150 lbs. = 2,250 lbs.) and the total goes up to 5,770 lbs. and that isn't taking into consideration anything else in the trailer.

The Airstream structure for what it is intended to do is very strong, but it isn't intended to support all that weight. A platform with independent legs that support it might work—it could be assembled and the trailer backed under it. It would take some design creativity to make it look attractive and it being a rectangle over a rounded Airstream might look very strange.

The trailer can be used for food and drink businesses and they often have been, but the roof isn't anywhere near strong enough, the axles can't handle all that weight and if it moved with those ice machines at the front, the tongue weight would mean towing it with a Mack truck (or something similar). You could use a separate truck to haul the ice machines and outdoor tables and chairs—a big enough, powerful enough tow vehicle could handle that and the trailer, but it will be a very big and powerful truck. If you reinforced the floor and frame rails and put on axles that could handle the weight, you would have to have the ice machines in the middle with the weight balanced in all directions. Any of these solutions seems to be very expensive and it would be a long time before you could make any money selling cocktails. It would be easier if the trailer was never to move, but even that would be a challenge.

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Old 12-31-2011, 01:11 PM   #6
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thanks for all the quick replies. I knew this would be a good place to find out the answers.
unfortunately it looks like we will have to go back to the drawing board for this project.
thankyou for your help.
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frame, modifications

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