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Old 02-25-2008, 01:28 PM   #21
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I think a donor frame may be the only way to go man-hour wise.

eBay Motors: 76 Airstream Trailer, Stripped to the Floor (item 120221825876 end time Feb-22-08 17:48:55 PST) <-- there are frames out there, but I couldn't recommend this particular one.

Not meaning to tease you at all, I just don't move very fast on my AS stuff BUT I am tempted to offer the frame from a 1972 29' that has shell damage I am slowly stripping for parts, though I have not opened the belly pans up on it yet. The trailer was in a low speed uncoupling at some point, it may be wracked beyond use other than cannibalizing.
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Old 02-25-2008, 03:32 PM   #22
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1. Is there still an opportunity to walk away? (This is why I would never buy an older Airstream without bringing along a drill, a rivet gun, and some rivets)

2. If not, it can be restored.

3. While a "new" frame may save you welding time, I would think it would more than be made up in stripping the inside entirely, removing all the inner walls, partitions, and aluminum skins so that the shell can be lifted off the frame. (But I've never done it before, so I can't speak to how easy or hard it may be.)

4. I tend to believe that in the hands of the right welder, the frame can be restored to where it will give the necessary support where it needs to. (These 70s units started out with light frames to begin with, as the shell provides so much of the support.)

5. You still have a really nice shell (right?) with a center bath floor plan (which is nice).

6. If it were me, I would immobilize it and put it up on 8-12 blocks (kinda like a ship in drydock) so the axles could be dropped and you could access every square inch of the frame. (Drop the fresh water tank as well, as you'll probably find some more issues there as well.) Then, I would take a wire wheel to the whole thing to determine what is salvageable and what isn't. (I would take a pointy hammer to suspected weak areas to determine strength.) I would paint it with a good rust paint (POR 15 or the like) and then start my frame restoration/repair.

Some spots will require more, some less, but a welder familiar with structural things can probably help you out a bit. (I'd be careful about adding too much additional weight, though.)

Better yet, buy yourself a mig welder for a couple hundred bucks and you'll be an expert when you're finished! (You'll have more than paid for the welder and you'll still have it in your possession when you're through.)

Now, keep in mind that I'm a pizza maker, first and foremost, so I'm sure my advice has its pros and cons, but this is essentially what I did with my Sovereign, which, like your Ambassador, looked like it had lived at the beach all its life. I ran into way more rust on it than my first one, all I could do was deal with it.
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Old 02-25-2008, 03:53 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PizzaChop
6. If it were me, I would immobilize it and put it up on 8-12 blocks (kinda like a ship in drydock) so the axles could be dropped and you could access every square inch of the frame. (Drop the fresh water tank as well, as you'll probably find some more issues there as well.) Then, I would take a wire wheel to the whole thing to determine what is salvageable and what isn't. (I would take a pointy hammer to suspected weak areas to determine strength.) I would paint it with a good rust paint (POR 15 or the like) and then start my frame restoration/repair.
Ron,

Great ideas!

Might try my hand at welding after all. I'm more concerned right now about the axles plates than the rest of the frame. Rebuilding that part of the frame would be difficult. I wouldn't want to replace the axle plate out but as you suggest a good welder could advise.

What do you mean put it up on 8-12 blocks. What kind of blocks and where would you support it. With the amount of scuba diving this frame has done it certainly needs dry docking for awhile!

Perhaps this is opportunity I need to gut the interior and customize. Yesterday after removing the front banana skins I notice floor rot in the front area too. So at least part of the front floor will need to come up too. If I take the front area down to the frame too...I'm just inches from lifting the floor on the the whole enchilada.

Lifting the shell off couldn't be any worse than what I'm dealing with now. Could it? Probably would need to build some kind of frame to hold it?

Todd
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Old 02-25-2008, 03:58 PM   #24
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Frame Hunting

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wabbiteer
I think a donor frame may be the only way to go man-hour wise.

eBay Motors: 76 Airstream Trailer, Stripped to the Floor (item 120221825876 end time Feb-22-08 17:48:55 PST) <-- there are frames out there, but I couldn't recommend this particular one.

Not meaning to tease you at all, I just don't move very fast on my AS stuff BUT I am tempted to offer the frame from a 1972 29' that has shell damage I am slowly stripping for parts, though I have not opened the belly pans up on it yet. The trailer was in a low speed uncoupling at some point, it may be wracked beyond use other than cannibalizing.
Wabbiteer,

Yes, a donor frame is certainly an option. I didn't expect I would be able to locate one so easily. Thank you for suggesting this. Please keep me advised about what you find in the condition of the frame you are stripping.

Todd
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Old 02-25-2008, 04:20 PM   #25
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Quote:
Lifting the shell off couldn't be any worse than what I'm dealing with now. Could it? Probably would need to build some kind of frame to hold it?
You can't really answer that until you've done it both ways.
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Old 02-27-2008, 09:03 PM   #26
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Thanks for the frank input from everybody here.
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Old 02-27-2008, 09:08 PM   #27
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Thanks for the frank input, private and otherwise, from everybody here about the frame on my first AS. I have really appreciated the support, kindness and humor from you all.

I lined up appointments with two independent local welders to check out the frame. The first one was here a few hours ago and definitely agreed that this frame is toast. Not even worth attempting a repair. He even considered it probably dangerous. So we have a consensus Houston! Will have an estimate from this welder for a new frame in a few days. Still have to schedule the second welder.
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Old 02-28-2008, 09:55 AM   #28
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Smile A little help

It does look like a big job but by the time you start whittling away it you'll be Rally bound before you know it.
Here are a few guides for parts I have put together and may be of some help.
When it comes to Outriggers there are four in the 5 inch group that are still available. They will work just fine for your trailer.
Airstream Special- Outrigger Guide

Also, when it comes to replacing the shocks, you may want to spray the shock mounts on both ends with a good penetrating oil and let soak. Then in a few days, do it again then hit it with a wire brush before you try to get the nuts off. This may allow you to get the nuts off without ringing off the treads with the nuts. Here is a video we put together to help on the shock replacement.
Airstream Shock replacement guide

I hope this helps.
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Old 02-28-2008, 10:43 AM   #29
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Cost of Frame for 75 Ambassador

What's a new frame for a 75 Ambassador going to cost? I'm just wondering before these bids arrive. I'd like to have some numbers to negotiate with at this point. I spoke with a local trailer shop (not a welder) about a new frame and was quoted $6,000 which doesn't include the labor for removing and replacing the shell! I was stunned. At that price looks like I'll either by buying a welder or returning this rig to it's lonely spot under the mesquite tree where I found it. My guess is about $2,000 - $2,500. But I'm probably just shooting in dark at a moving target...
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Old 03-04-2008, 03:46 PM   #30
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While waiting on bids from the welders. I laid out and cut the plywood to replace the floor in the event I am unable to have a frame fabricated.
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Old 03-04-2008, 03:50 PM   #31
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Here's a few photos of the old floor laid out on top of the new plywood taken from the curbside and streetside.
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Old 03-06-2008, 01:34 PM   #32
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Rear Hold-Down Plate

This is the rear hold-down plate. Note the condition of the plate. Also I have included a few photos showing the condition of the bolts "holding" the rear shell to the frame. I'm suprised there was no apparent rear-end seperation. The angle of the hold down plate appears to be greater than 45 degrees? Not sure why this is but I'm wondering what might be to replace this plate with of the same angle? The angle iron I have found at the home depot is 45 degrees.
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Old 03-06-2008, 02:11 PM   #33
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The original is made of Galvinized steel. I replaced mine with a thick piece of aluminum that I bent up
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Old 03-06-2008, 02:20 PM   #34
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I seem to recall seeing some angle aluminum at Lowes. I'll look to see what I can find in aluminum that is bendable to get the angle.
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Old 03-09-2008, 07:56 PM   #35
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Cost Estimate New Frame

Finally heard back from one of the welders Friday and he estimates the cost of a new frame, material and labor, using somewhat heavier steel at between $2,000 to $2,500. It seemed from his expression that he was surprised the cost would be that high.
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Old 03-09-2008, 08:10 PM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monocoque
Finally heard back from one of the welders Friday and he estimates the cost of a new frame, material and labor, using somewhat heavier steel at between $2,000 to $2,500. It seemed from his expression that he was surprised the cost would be that high.
IMHO.....this is NOT a bad price for a complete frame rebuild if they will be doing it to spec of the old frame. You may be able to negotiate them removing the shell and placing it back on for you as well into that price.

For my 22' safari..the shop wanted $3500 for a new frame and subfloor (Including removing and replacing the shell). Your trailer is 7' longer, so the price looks good to me.

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Old 03-10-2008, 06:55 AM   #37
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Quote:
For my 22' safari..the shop wanted $3500 for a new frame and subfloor (Including removing and replacing the shell). Your trailer is 7' longer, so the price looks good to me.
SM,
Did they ever complete it at that price?

Todd,

I'd be really leary of letting a shop remove the shell unless they had some real experience with an Airstream. It's one thing to bring them a naked frame and have them duplicate it, but quite another when you get into all the disassembly required for removal.
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Old 03-10-2008, 07:51 AM   #38
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Ron,

Six months in, they had still not started on my frame because they were busy with more "Important" cutomers. They had also damaged a part of the trailer, and lost the rear door enroute. Since I had sold the trailer, I picked it up from them after they had gutted it. I have since left a pretty nasty BBB complaint.

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Old 03-10-2008, 10:56 AM   #39
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The welder who made the bid is only a welder --this isn't a full service trailer shop. He lives near my house and I was referred to him by friends who knew I was looking for welder interested in fabricating a frame. Ron, you're right I wouldn't trust him to remove the shell nor do I think he would want that part of the job. He does the work out of his house. So removing the shell falls to me.
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Old 03-17-2008, 12:13 PM   #40
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Point of No Return

It seems, fortunately or unfortunately, I have reached a point of no return with the Ambassador and will indeed be going ahead with a full monte, driveway shell-off, frame replacement. Thanks to all here who helped me reach a decision. It wasn't an easy choice. But I'm happy to say this AS isn't going back under the mesquite tree where I found her any time soon. I say point of no return because I jumped in this weekend and spent about 6 hours stripping everything in the interior except for the bathroom and kitchen which happens next weekend. So the end of the interior strip is now within sight. Interesting discoveries: Guess what was lurking on the wall behind that refrig and vent? Also the plastic wheelwell cover is cracked...something I'll have to replace or repair. Here's a few pics of the progress. What does one do with an 32 year old refrig?
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