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Old 05-13-2021, 06:25 PM   #1
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1970 29' Ambassador
Beautiful Santa Rosa , California
Join Date: Dec 2017
Posts: 412
Oops, I did it again !!! 1977 Sovereign

I went to buy alloy wheels a few days ago from a guy that changed out his 15 inch wheels for 16s...

The guy asked me a number of questions about which model the wheels were going on, etc., then asked if I wanted “another”...

“Another what?” I asked. “Airstream”, he said. Two days later, a deal was struck and I have towed home this “beauty”...

What is really strange is that the windows on this coach seem to be okay (and there are no obvious signs of water intrusion, but almost the ENTIRE subfloor seems to be rotted...

The coach sat for a LONG, LONG time... maybe there was a system that developed a leak? The other weird thing is the lack of mold, as if the wood rotted from beneath... possible?

Sorry about the photo orientation.


Thanks,
David
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Old 05-14-2021, 12:38 AM   #2
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Hey Dave,are you a glutton for punishment or what? Did you finish your other AS? I guess we vintage guys and gals are a bit strange. Good luck and keep us informed. Kurt.
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Old 05-14-2021, 12:49 AM   #3
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1970 29' Ambassador
Beautiful Santa Rosa , California
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Hi Kurt,
I definitely was not looking... and the riddle of the seemingly watertight windows and totally rotten subfloor is still on my mind. Hopefully, I will learn more tomorrow as i rip out the ghastly carpet.

I was fortunate to gain some clarity this week, however... I am now going nearly full circle on the Ambassador, and essentially restoring the twin bed interior and rear bath. Instead of the gaucho, I'll install a dinette/bed setup.

That way, if we have to flee (I had never heard of "Fire Season" before 5 years ago), we will have a coach that will fit the 4 of us, plus pets...

More updates tomorrow

Thanks,
David
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Old 05-14-2021, 04:08 PM   #4
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1961 19' Globetrotter
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Here you go. Looks good. What's one more
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Old 05-14-2021, 04:09 PM   #5
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Old 05-14-2021, 07:54 PM   #6
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1970 29' Ambassador
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Hi Hitten,
Thanks for fixing the images! I am amazed and surprised by the huge number of differences from 8 years and the different model...
I will post pictures tomorrow showing the subfloor in all its rottenness. The mystery of how it got so much water may have been solved... the front vent cover was broken open at some point (maybe decades ago), allowing rain to pour in for however many years. I still don’t understand the lack of mold...


Color me Confused,
David
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Old 05-16-2021, 11:09 PM   #7
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1970 29' Ambassador
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Hello, rotten subfloor!

Hi All,
My brother is visiting for a few weeks, and quickly solved at least one mystery -- why did the floors rot out when pretty much the entire interior looks okay (no mold, for one thing)?

It turns out that the vent cover on two of the roof vents were broken, allowing rain to pretty much pour in. Pic below...

We ripped out the nasty ocean blue carpet and began to understand the scope of the subfloor damage. I also removed the toilet and the rotten floor around it to get a starting idea of how bad that area is (pretty bad)...

I will likely try to replace the subfloor with the shell on, so I will need to study some of the posts on that process to see if there are major differences between the 1970 Ambassador and the 1978 Sovereign.

I am still enthusiastic about this project, even if my enthusiasm has been somewhat tempered by the task ahead.
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Old 05-17-2021, 08:33 PM   #8
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1970 29' Ambassador
Beautiful Santa Rosa , California
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Free Gaucho, entertainment center !

Hi All,
As I continue to clean out the front area, I am offering up parts to those who might want them.

I will be posting the gaucho couch cushion and frame I the classifieds along with the entertainment center (including a Motorola radio/8 track player in excellent condition) in the classifieds, but if anyone wants to claim them (shipping is out of the question), they are welcome to them!

Now I will be attempting to replace the floor with the shell on... interesting times ahead!


David
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Old 05-30-2021, 07:20 PM   #9
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1970 29' Ambassador
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Minimum removed to replace floor?

Hi All,
I suspect that I know the answer to this question (that everything must come out), but will throw it out there anyway... what is the minimum that has to be removed for floor replacement in the front and rear of a late 1970s Sovereign?

I realize that the obvious things like furniture/fixtures need to come out, but what about the walls and overhead storage lockers? It has been a while since I removed the walls from our Ambassador, and I am trying to remember if I pulled items like the storage lockers because they were attached to walls or if I pulled them because I planned on removing the interior skins.

As usual, any help will be greatly appreciated!


Thanks,
David
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Old 06-08-2021, 09:16 PM   #10
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1970 29' Ambassador
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Why so little insulation?

Hi All,
As my excavation continues, I am finding a surprising lack of insulation under the rotten subfloor.

At first, I thought that maybe the coach was assembled that way (it was made in California and looks as though it has remained here for its entire life), but then I found that fiberglass had been installed, because there are remnants that are trapped between the floor and frame.

What surprises me is how little else there is, at least so far. My theories range from a previous floor replacement (but why is there remnants then?) to belly pan removal (the elevator bolts look original, so what would be the goal there if not to replace the floor? This has me stumped... any opinions are welcomed!

I’d also like to know if both boxes out front are for batteries... I found the Univolt apparatus, but one of the front hatches is open and empty and the other is still locked and I have not figured out how to remove the plastic box inside yet... nor photo orientation, apparently...

Thanks,
David
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Old 06-08-2021, 10:42 PM   #11
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1980 24' Caravelle
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Hello Dave,the boxes are both for batteries. Should use a standard storage key, same as your Ambassador. As far as what to remove: only bottom side panels. If rot goes under walls,then they go too. Good luck. Kurt
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Old 06-09-2021, 12:29 AM   #12
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1970 29' Ambassador
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Hi Kurt,
As always, great info! Now if I can figure out what those two cables/hoses are in the battery box that is currently open...

Thanks,
David
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Old 06-10-2021, 08:03 PM   #13
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1970 29' Ambassador
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Shell Totally On floor replacement

Hi All,
Total, utter madness has crept into my brain regarding how to replace the floor on this (actually 1978) Sovereign.

Against the advice of at least one wise Airstream expert, I am going to remove the floor without taking off the banana skins (or belly pan, and hopefully without removing nearly as much of the inner panels. How? By cutting and removing the inner skin at roughly 12 inches above the floor, which will give me plenty of room to remove or add fasteners while installing the new plywood. While there will be drilling and splicing aplenty to put it back together, the teardown will avoid removing the window screens (which mean removing the knobs on the lifters, etc...) I spoke to another member on the phone who has actually done this a number of times with great success :-). The key for the replacement floor will involve somewhat wide (14 inches) plywood sections that will be joined using the cabinetry/carpentry technique of a backer, lots of glue and several
screws at each seam. As far as the inner skins, the seams will be hidden except for in the closets. if the backer aluminum/rivets combo does not provide enough stiffness, I can add a cross member and tie it to vertical ribs.

The start of the process is pictured below. On another note, I still have not figured out how to remove the plastic battery boxes to get at the front hold down section. Any tips there will be appreciated!


Thanks,
David
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Old 06-10-2021, 11:33 PM   #14
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vallejo , California
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Hello again Dave! The cable should be your battery connects: the hose is likely for venting. You may have to take the inner skin off to get behind the boxes. I looked at my 1 box and from behind is the only way. Good luck. Kurt
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Old 06-10-2021, 11:39 PM   #15
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Hi Kurt,
Okay, will do !!!


Thanks,
David
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Old 06-11-2021, 06:44 PM   #16
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1975 27' Overlander
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Hello California David. Colorado David here. There is nothing like another vintage Airstream in the fleet to get a man back on these Forums. Maybe you have your Ambassador nearly done?

I worked all winter on my son's 69 Globe Trotter 21'. It is a pretty well built trailer in my view. The first year of the new body style. I changed the floor layout to a mid bath configuration and a rear and big twin bed. There is also a front U dinette that converts to a queen sized bed. The trailer sleeps three.

I found a huge difference between my 75 Overlander and my friends 76 Sovereign that we renovated. The frame is different, and the subfloor was half inch plywood in the 76. Not the greatest. Walking around in the 76 is like walking on a trampoline. It's pretty spongy. The laminates used in the 76 were also pretty poor quality and were warped and falling apart. Not so in my 75. We fixed all that and it is a solid 76 now.

Maybe you will start another project thread in the Knowledgebase under Sovereigns. I do believe these 70s trailers can be made into solid and comfortable Airstreams.

I hear you on wildfire season. We just had one 10 miles south of me. The first one of the season. It was small, and now fully contained. Burned maybe 35 acres. Downed power line so I read. An Airstream makes a good evacuation pod. Colorado had the biggest wildfire in it's history last fall. Awful.

Colorado David
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Old 06-11-2021, 08:21 PM   #17
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1970 29' Ambassador
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Hi Colorado David,
Great to hear from you! The story about how I came about this coach is pretty bizarre, and completely unplanned. In other words, I am nowhere near done on the Ambassador :-)

One major revelation did occur in all of this, though, and that is that the layout with twin beds in the mid (which is how both the Ambassador and Sovereign are set up) is almost perfect for accommodating 4 — our kid in one twin, my MIL in the other and my wife and I will sleep on the soon-to-be constructed convertible dinette... that will spare me the head scratching that I was doing while figuring out the conversion of the Ambassador to a mid bath. I have all of the original fixtures, so it will be a matter of putting them back in. But first, the Sovereign.

I am continuing with the madcap idea of installing a new subfloor from inside. Below is a picture of the front of the coach. I managed to get the battery boxes out. How do I get the plastic box housing the Univolt out of there so I can access the front hold down?


Thanks,
California David
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Old 06-12-2021, 02:07 PM   #18
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Hi All,
I am going to try to remember to track my time on this project for my own (and maybe others’) interest... today so far 1.25 hours. In guessing the number of hours previously, I will go with 8. This gives me a total of 9.25 so far, not counting the time spent posting and researching.

The blue plastic box is out, revealing the front hold down. The hold down looks to be in very good condition, but I am not seeing the connection yet between the hold down and frame. I will keep a close eye as I loosen two fairly large bolts, one on either side of the hold down. Maybe they will reveal that they are part of the structure...

My woes with picture formatting continue. I think I will try to post from my laptop from now on. Less issues than from my phone.


Thanks,
David
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Old 06-12-2021, 06:28 PM   #19
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We took an Airstream trip to California in May. Lake Tahoe is a crown jewel of the USA. Beautiful. We also enjoyed seeing Yosemite and Sequioa national parks. I was white knuckle driving California mountain roads. Narrow, blind switchbacks, and steep dropoffs. Tough driving with a 34' long trailer and a 22' long truck.

Now you folks have two old Airstreams; so do we. We were at a vintage Airstream rally last weekend, and it was great fun meeting likeminded folks and seeing their trailers. You might like such a thing too.

I assume you did the "bumper test" before you bought the Sovereign, or you now know whether you need frame repairs or not. Southwest trailers are usually in better shape than southeast trailers. But if you suspect you need frame repairs, belly pan time.

I "guess" I spend over 1000 hours on a renovation project. We'll see what you end up booking.

David
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Old 06-12-2021, 09:21 PM   #20
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Hi Colorado David, Kurt, All,

Tahoe is indeed beautiful -- I cant wait to get this beauty roadworthy and in that direction!

Another productive stint this afternoon. 5 more hours, putting me at roughly 14.25 so far...

The pics below tell the story. I think I am starting to understand what happened to the fiberglass insulation, and it looks as if I will need to finally learn how to use the welder I bought on a few spots on the frame. We'll see how the rest shakes out.

So far I am loving this method of floor replacement! Very rapid progress, with much less to put back...


Thanks,
David
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