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Old 06-27-2021, 06:36 AM   #1
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1987 34' Limited
Hantsport , NS
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Shell Off 1987 34' Limited - C channel questions

Greetings; terrific site with unlimited expertise. Resources such as this forum allow for projects that I'd not have taken on otherwise. Much respect for the community members who restore these iconic tubes.

We purchased our "Limited" 11 months ago as a former air bnb, put on new tires and had the bearings repacked, brakes checked, then 1000 miles home with no hiccups. Nicely decorated, but when we began digging in the corners it became evident that the OSB subfloor had a few weak spots. Actually not bad in most places given the age, but a few side-bath mishaps over the years had claimed this section of floor completely....suspended ceramic tile was all that separated the toilet and most of the bath floor from the black tank. I wish I could say that I enjoyed the dismantle, but where we wanted to save as much as possible, it was one rivet/screw at a time. I do realize that the advantage of a complete redo will be knowing the trailer and the systems!

Despite using gantries to lift the shell, we framed it in to provide support and weight, and set the wooden cross members down on jackstands. I'll tie it to ground anchors as we live in a wind tunnel. I'm hoping to get it back together before hurricane season.

Now, finally, the frame. I've cut off all of the elevator bolts, heavier bolts at the front and rear through points to the frame, dug out and removed the flooring bolts, and after taking many, many measurements, am about to remove the subfloor so I can get a better look at what frame repair is required. A local machinist fabbed up 16 outriggers over the winter using 1/8" metal, as I know that many are missing the bottom structure so anything that is weak will be binned and new will go in.

I'm a bit puzzled at the C channel layout. For example, right side wheel well is 100" between channel ends, whereas the left side is 99 1/4". The left side has gaps between the channel ends and the outer edge of the black inner fender liner of 1" for each edge (I acknowledge we are dealing with plastic and that it may be deformed). As well, there are gaps between the C channel pieces (7 in total including the large oval ends) that are upward of 1 1/2" in some cases. The gaps between the edges of the door frame and C channel on both sides is almost 2" for each. Only one C channel joint is flush. Each of these openings provides a potential rodent/insect entry point between the bellypan and the wall space, and of course moisture/water.

I'd like to put this back together as close to how it was originally configured. Each gap enlarges the margin for error, and it would be good to avoid a new floor setup that won't accept the shell due to the smallest of math mishaps. I've read that it happens.

Question: is there a downside to fabbing small aluminum channel pieces to fill the space in these gaps between C channel? Just sloppy manufacturing work, using what's on hand in the bin, or intentional for a purpose?

Question: any pro tips on ensuring that the new floor and c channel fits exactly as did the old, particularly where most outriggers will be new, therefore I'll not have those original exact elevator bolt capture holes?

I'm hoping to get the front and rear oval OSB pieces out intact so I have those as templates. The rest will be iffy as it's one big piece and rotten in the centre where the bath was.

We are using Coosa so it'll be measure, measure, measure.....then cut. This had been an agonizing decision until Covid drove the price of marine grade plywood + epoxy skyward. Now it makes sense, not to mention I'd like not to have to worry about moisture again once this is back together.

Thank you, and Cheers!
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Old 06-27-2021, 09:45 AM   #2
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I suspect the gaps are common place. Had a couple on my 58. I would fill the gaps.

On your outriggers I would add a flange to the ourside edge. I did mine with aluminum, some have done plastic and few did metal. That factory edge with wear through the belly pan with time.

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Are you positive your axles are still functional? If original they won't be.
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Old 06-27-2021, 11:46 AM   #3
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I wouldn't obsess over the gaps in the C-channel. Reason is, the C-channel's main function is to provide the link between the shell and the outriggers, so as long as there is an appreciable amount of C-channel fore and aft of a bolt that secures the C-channel, subfloor, and outrigger together, you are probably just fine.

good luck!
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Old 06-28-2021, 02:54 AM   #4
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Never hurts to ask the questions before it goes back together. Belegedhel: what I suspected but I found it curious that there were gaps this large. All other aluminum work fits snugly.

57vintage: Nice idea on the flange. I intend to fit new axles (may take the old ones off to clean up the frame then back on, but wanted to get the sub-floor replaced and the shell back on first.

Many thanks for the replies.

Cheers.
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Old 06-28-2021, 03:02 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daytonacoupe View Post
. . .
. . . Now, finally, the frame.
. . .
. . . am about to remove the subfloor so I can get a better look at what frame repair is required.
. . .
You are at a crucial "Go" -- "No Go" fork in the road, as you likely appreciate IMO.

FYI Eric's "The Love Shack" thread is a good read IMO:

https://www.airforums.com/forums/f22...ck-183431.html

Thanks for the new thread, good luck, and have fun . . .

Peter

FYI
FWIW
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Old 06-29-2021, 03:41 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by OTRA15 View Post
You are at a crucial "Go" -- "No Go" fork in the road, as you likely appreciate IMO.

FYI Eric's "The Love Shack" thread is a good read IMO:

https://www.airforums.com/forums/f22...ck-183431.html

Thanks for the new thread, good luck, and have fun . . .

Peter

FYI
FWIW
Yes, I did read Eric's thread, and I'm on a similar path. This all started with what I thought would be a small floor repair. A textbook example of "...while you're in there..". I expect that every screw, nut/bolt, and fitting will be dismantled, which is close to where I am now.

I removed the sub-floor, propane lines, and brake wiring yesterday, pb blasted the shock and axle bolts, and began wire wheeling/grinding rust. The frame is bare now. I'm finding not only rusted outriggers but the bottom lip on some of the cross members are weak. The material isn't robust to begin with, so 35 years enveloped by damp fiberglass pink in a sealed bellypan could be worse. Once cleaned up, a welder will assess what repair the frame needs. I'll replace most of the outriggers (have a box of 16 newly fabbed ones out of 1/8" steel on hand). The cross members may be fine with patching, albeit it with longevity being the goal.

I'll add a few photos when the frame is cleaned up.

Cheers.
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Old 06-29-2021, 04:23 AM   #7
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Great update . . . thanks!

Best wishes for your journey . . .

Peter
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Old 07-01-2021, 05:46 AM   #8
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Wire wheeling and grinding rust on the frame with PPE in a heat wave. Sporting....

Two quick questions for the brain-trust. I'll need to replace a section of the frame rails at the rear due to corrosion. Is the extra material welded under the main rails at the rear a form of reinforcement to avert rear end sag, or 'skid plates' to address bottoming out the overhang? Perhaps both?

I'll be replacing most of the outriggers. They and the cross members are not affixed with complete welds. The pics I've attached illustrate gaps at the top horizontal face at the main rails of each, and some gaps are quite large. Is there a reason these top sections are not welded - perhaps to save time grinding the welds flat so the floor fits flush? Or for more flex?

I cannot imagine doing this work with the shell on.

Cheers!
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Old 07-01-2021, 10:23 AM   #9
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The welds look similar to what I found. Also, very few of my crossmembers were perpindicular to the frame rails.

Just a thought: If you plan on adding or changing the type of tanks, this is a good time to decide to move crossmembers to accommodate the new tanks Also to make sure subfloor joints land on cross members, if they don't already.
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Old 07-03-2021, 05:53 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by 57Vintage View Post
The welds look similar to what I found. Also, very few of my crossmembers were perpindicular to the frame rails.

Just a thought: If you plan on adding or changing the type of tanks, this is a good time to decide to move crossmembers to accommodate the new tanks Also to make sure subfloor joints land on cross members, if they don't already.
I think I'll have the welds reinforced on the top joints that are now open and grind them flush now that it's apart. Crossmembers appear to be perpendicular. No plan to change the tank size or configuration. I cleaned and leak tested the 3 tanks that came out and they are fine except for a 4 inch deck screw that had been run through the top centre of the black tank during a redneck subfloor repair. I'll plastic or JB weld the small hole. I do plan to add flat bar as you recommend where the joints for the subfloor will land so there's decent capture on the edges for the bolts. I'm installing Coosa 26 so will put the floor on before the bellypan, and will through bolt/double nut the floor to the frame vs using screws. A bit more time involved but thinking if I do it the hard way it should not have to come apart again.....in my lifetime.

My trailer has no hold down plates at the front and rear, only pieces of 1/4" rectangular washers to reinforce the nut capture in the C channel in these areas. Despite a tired subfloor there is no evidence of frame separation/sag at the rear. I'm also reading up on the flashing fix to avoid water ingress from the bumper into the back floor area.

I enquired into new axles. A local supplier tells me that Dexter refuses to take orders until the fall. Covid fallout. I called another who is further away and they are receptive to receiving the Order Form. An axle will come out today (seized bolt gods willing) for measuring, and I'll take it to them to double check my numbers. The fellow I spoke with has not heard of a #11 5200lb axle being derated to 3500lbs, but I've read on here that the 12" brakes and heavier spindles are the way to go, so for the small price delta, I prefer not to go with a #10.

Cheers.
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Old 07-13-2021, 09:39 AM   #11
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The subfloor was carefully removed in sections to preserve the patterns for the replacement. I expected the ripe outriggers and found a few cross members that will need to be replaced. The biggest disappointment is finding a very weak left side main tube in front of the axles. The best fix will be to replace the left rail entirely as well as the last 4 feet of both rails. I'm sure that the labor to properly scab in fixes would be more than buying new material and installing new material. Longevity is also a consideration. I guess that one can't be too harsh on 1/8" 2'X5' tubing reaching end of life at 35 years, particularly in the land of snow and road salt.
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Old 08-30-2021, 06:44 AM   #12
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The frame required a new left side main rail and axle plate, 5 cross members, and all but one outrigger were replaced. The right side rail received one patch and the last 4 feet are new. I capped the ends of the rails and drilled a small hole for moisture to drip out. I'll be sure to keep the holes clear.

Wire wheeled/grinder over the entire frame and welds top and bottom, then degreaser, metal prep, and 2 coats of POR 15. If I did it again I'd flip the frame. The outriggers had been fabbed last winter and painted with primer. Photos attached.

Now on to the floor. I've wire wheeled the C channel and there are a few weak spots at the last 4 inches of each piece that butts up against the wheel wells. Aluminum directly on steel + road salt/moisture = the weaker metal loses. I'll see if the welder can repair them. New stuff is reasonably priced, but an outrageous shipping cost. When putting things back together I've been told that duct tape over the mating joints before fastening them will protect the aluminum. I'll also paint the bottoms. I've included a photo.

In somebody's contribution to the wheel well threads I had seen the addition of a vertical metal lip around the perimeter of the frame at the wells. Instead of sandwiching the plastic wells between the subfloor and the frame this would allow the wells to side into and be fastened to the outside of the frame at the lip. I've had it copied as per the photo. You'll have to squint to see them. I regret having not been more clear about 2"-3" as the welder fabbed it at 1.5" and my floor is 3/4". So, I'll only have 3/4" to work with when bolting the wells to the lips.

I've been so focused on getting the rust issues remedied that I overlooked planning the subfloor layout/install until this weekend. The old OSB was one 36" piece at the front, then one continuous piece to the rear. Assuming that all cross members were either 24" or 48" apart after the initial 36" front piece, I purchased 8 sheets to cover approx. 30 feet of frame. This weekend the tape measure taught me that the rearmost piece is 26" from the last cross member, then there's a mismatch of spacings that is close to 48" but not close enough after the rear wheel well to accommodate the tanks. And....the rear most outriggers don't line up with the crossmembers. I'll need to get creative to ensure that seams and the biggest possible cuts land on supports. If I did another one of these (which I won't), I'd add extra outriggers and if possible another crossmember (providing there is no interference with the tanks). I find it bizzare that the rear most outrigger is so far from the rear frame support for the back of the body, unlike the front that has a small outrigger just aft of the front of the body frame support. At first I thought that rear factory outriggers must have rotted off leaving no trace, but looking at photos of the frames online this appears to be relatively standard.

I'm taking a few days off to catch up on other chores around the property.

Cheers
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Old 09-01-2021, 05:54 AM   #13
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The aluminum repair to the C Channel has turned out well so I'll reuse those pieces.

The Coosa Bluewater 26 is nice stuff to work with. Light, and although dusty, the product cuts with ease using a skill and jig saws, leaving no burrs or splinters. A good quality breathing mask is a must.

Four sheets were measured, cut, and fit yesterday. Where all but one of my outriggers are new, there are no old holes to help line up the C-Channel where the pieces had been through bolted before. Thankfully I had enough OSB in the crucial areas set aside to help replicate what had been there before. The first front cross member was not replaced, so I could set up the front rounded piece on the original C Channel holes through the cross member. Unfortunately the rear most cross member that the Channel sits on is new, so no holes to ensure an exact to original fit. I'll rely on measures that were taken of the floor/Channel from end to end before it was removed.

A photo of the old and the new (first piece), and the 4 sheets that were laid down yesterday. I'm no carpenter so the math was scrutinized many times before powering up the saw. Once the remaining 4 sheets are fit I'll finalize any required adjustments, then will need to find somebody with an electric planer or router to take 1/8" off the sides and 1/4" off the front and back radius pieces. I'm not keen on forcing open the aluminum Channel to make it fit. I had measured the OSB at 3/4" in a number of places that appeared to be dry, but found an old piece with 5/8" stamped on the bottom. Next will be securing the Coosa to the cross members using elevator bolts and stainless nyloc nuts, then the C Channel and stainless bolts / nyloc nuts through the outriggers.

I really agonized over the cost of the Coosa, but Covid sent marine plywood prices so high that factoring in the expense of epoxy and my time, not to mention finding somewhere dry to lay out and treat 8 sheets, the extra premium added some pain, but made sense.

Cheers.
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Old 09-04-2021, 07:11 AM   #14
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Regrets for the length!

As I follow 2ndbottle's Shell Fitting Issues thread I am agonizing over how to fit the last piece of subfloor to accurately land on where it had lived previously. The frame is level and it is exactly square. I added a cross member to the very rear of the rails and will use this to build a sturdier storage compartment for the black tank hose.

I don’t have front or rear hold down plates to orient the ends, although I’ve had 1/8” aluminum pieces fabricated with the 17 / 107 degree angle (depends on orientation) that I plan to install when she goes back together. Starting at the front cross member, the first 36” long piece of floor and c channel is placed in exactly the same bolt holes as the old piece had resided in….even if the outrigger holes barely captured a corner of the bolt. From there every piece is 91 Ĺ inches wide and 48 inches long….until I hit a 12 inch span between the axles that allowed me to use the left over piece from the front. Then we are back to 24 inch cross member spacing until we get to the last one, which is 26 Ĺ from the rear of the trailer. Overall, for the 30’ 3 3/4” run, I get by with the 8 sheets of Coosa subfloor…providing I don’t make a mistake or get sloppy with a cut! Each piece is centered in the frame.

Then I get to this last piece, with an added complexity that the outriggers where the last and second last pieces land don’t line up with the cross member they share, neither outrigger is an equal distance from the last cross member….and I have to build the rear curve into the puzzle. I do have the old piece of disintegrating OSB floor, which gets lighter every time I handle it (shreds when it sees a saw). Where the last cross member is new, there are no former holes to situation the c channel or old piece of floor to take the final measures.

So, I spent a lot of time lining up the old piece of floor and c channel with old bolt holes in the second last cross member and the pieces of metal support that links the cross members at the centre of the floor. This put the centre of the rear most piece of c channel and old floor 3/8” right of the centre of the frame. It also caused the c channel to sit at a slight twist forward on the right side so the bottom edge doesn’t align straight where it sits along the rear cross member. If I move the c channel so it is flush and centered on this last cross member instead of angled slightly forward on the right, while ensuring that I don’t booger the 30’ 3 ĺ” run from front to back, I’m concerned that I’ll not get the trailer back over the c channel at the two rear corners. Will it not pull back the right side and push forward the left? Although in my view the out-of-oval is being tweaked to more proper proportions at the floor, I’m wondering if straightening up the geometry on the floor is likely to carry a penalty when the shell lands back on the frame?

Should I retain the twist to the right? Am I over-thinking? I’'ve included a photo that illustrates how far to the left I’ve moved the rear c channel to centre it. The hole through the channel used to line up with a hole down through the left frame rail, although barely captured on the left side. It just doesn’t feel right to put it back as it was with a slight bias toward the right.

Once the last piece is fit the edges will be routered.

I do have a few questions for the experienced, as I see that more than a few folks find the mating of the shell with a new floor to be ‘sporting’. I really appreciate comments on a few thoughts:
1) Put back the rear piece of channel and floor with that tweak to the right, or centre it
2) fasten the c channel down through the outriggers and floor with bolts before you bring the trailer together (and use the wedges to shoe horn the skin over the channel; or,
3) screw the channel to the floor so it is on, but don’t bolt it down until the shell is back on? It seems this option would provide more flexibility to manipulate the pieces and line things up, but perhaps too much play?

I’ll think a bit more about that last piece before cutting the new material. Input is most welcome.

Cheers
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Old 09-04-2021, 10:13 AM   #15
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Looking at your photos, if the shell is easily elevated why not do a trial fit. Mate up your last piece of subfloor to the piece in front but don't cut the rear corners. Cleco the rear U channel to the shell, sit the shell down and see how everything lines up. Then decide if you want to 'correct' the twist or leave it be.

Once you've made that decision and have the shape you want scripe the subfloor piece for the final cut. Not the quickest way to finish the subfloor, but you may find the final fit of the shell goes a lot faster.

I realize the axles are off, but sliding one back on to move it shouldn't be too bad, IMO.
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Old 09-04-2021, 01:07 PM   #16
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Looking at your photos, if the shell is easily elevated why not do a trial fit. Mate up your last piece of subfloor to the piece in front but don't cut the rear corners. Cleco the rear U channel to the shell, sit the shell down and see how everything lines up. Then decide if you want to 'correct' the twist or leave it be.

Once you've made that decision and have the shape you want scripe the subfloor piece for the final cut. Not the quickest way to finish the subfloor, but you may find the final fit of the shell goes a lot faster.

I realize the axles are off, but sliding one back on to move it shouldn't be too bad, IMO.
Appreciate the suggestion, thanks. My round channel are also C as opposed to U but the trial fit could provide a general orientation. I had taken a lot of photos when I dismantled the trailer but most of the floor pics vaporized from the cloud when I exceeded the cloud account memory capacity. I wonder if the channel was installed with little regard to perfection and the shell was compelled over it, or if it was intentionally tweaked to the right to accommodate the shape of the shell. If I rotate it to the right where it had been it drives the straight end of the channel in on the right and out on the left. I read somewhere that the completed frames were slipped under the completed shell and made to fit. When I measured the c channel widths from the outer flanges they varied as I moved down the trailer. Iíve found a lot of the elevator bolts through outriggers and cross members are hit and miss so precision isnít throughout. The floor cut inside the round channel is also not pretty - either tweaking of adjustment cuts or a dull blade.
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Old 09-04-2021, 03:22 PM   #17
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I'm not surprised with the lack of symetry. Mine was the same way. I made floor templates before I pulled the shell, so they would be the correct size for the new subfloor pieces. Each of the rounded corners were different.

When I went to build the interior aluminum end cap (original was fiberglas) I found out my window was off center by over an inch. Had to custom cut each piece to create the illusion of symmetry by making the pieces land on the frame window opening at the same point side to side.
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Old 09-04-2021, 09:02 PM   #18
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I agree that these trailers were not Mil-spec precise when they were built. When we had our original fit issue on the front curves (we probably had one on the back as well, but since it went down first there was no tension in the shell) we lifted the shell in the front, cleco'd the curved C channel to it and dropped it back on the subfloor to trace and trim. Our rear 3/8" frame bolts lined up perfectly, but I drilled and tapped the ones at the front as they didn't line up perfectly over the angled portions of the fram rails on one side. Also, all our frame rails are boxed in, so we had to drill and tap at the front. I had access holes cut into the rear.
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Old 09-04-2021, 09:14 PM   #19
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From what I've read and studied, exactness, precision and symmetry had not been a major focal point at Airstream.

I have read where owners are repairing something behind the scenes and say this had to have been repaired by a previous owner and not original. They refer to pieces of support wood being different types of wood and raw cut and different sizes. Screws and bolts are often varying styles and sizes and sometimes just barely long enough to capture the adjoining piece of wood.

Your frame is looking terrific. Probably better than the original.
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Old 09-05-2021, 06:04 AM   #20
2 Rivet Member
 
1987 34' Limited
Hantsport , NS
Join Date: Jan 2021
Posts: 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2ndbottle View Post
I agree that these trailers were not Mil-spec precise when they were built. When we had our original fit issue on the front curves (we probably had one on the back as well, but since it went down first there was no tension in the shell) we lifted the shell in the front, cleco'd the curved C channel to it and dropped it back on the subfloor to trace and trim. Our rear 3/8" frame bolts lined up perfectly, but I drilled and tapped the ones at the front as they didn't line up perfectly over the angled portions of the fram rails on one side. Also, all our frame rails are boxed in, so we had to drill and tap at the front. I had access holes cut into the rear.
It sounds like I may have a similar challenge as you experienced but at opposite ends. I've been able to use the front main rail to get the new piece of subfloor and c channel onto identical mounting points. I was able to save the original first X-member and the right side first outrigger. It starts at the right place. At the back my 3/8" frame bolt is the one that's off, and putting the old floor piece 'on' both bolts skews the rear piece and c channel 3/8" to the right of centre.
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