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Old 08-21-2012, 07:47 PM   #1
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Here goes nothing! Our first Airstream: '65 Overlander Int'l

Hi! I'm Kristin and I'm new to Air Forums thanks to the new addition to our family as of this past Saturday. My husband Jason and I have a (borderline unhealthy) addiction to rescuing both animals and cool old things that need some love and restoration. We have four rescued dogs who are our children, and are nearing the end of our first year of marriage and the simultaneous near-completion of a year-long renovation of our 1920 craftsman home in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Being that our marriage has not only survived but thrived during our various insane home improvement projects (a complete bathroom gut job, complete kitchen gut, plumbing and electrical hell, stripping 100 years of paint from woodwork, stripping and refinishing 100 year old pine floors) we took the plunge this past weekend into Airstream ownership after finding one that seems to suit us perfectly on Craigslist. Enter our 1965 26' Overlander International.

The sellers were a camping enthusiast couple who bought it three years ago to restore but just had too many other projects going on. Despite having already carefully gutted most of it, they decided to pass her on to someone with more time. We "adopted" her for a reasonable $3500 and were given not only the original paperwork for the trailer (title, owner's manual, warranty certificate, appliance manuals, and handwritten notes and "tips" from past owners) but all the cabinets and parts that had been removed came home with us too.

She's going to need a total gut and refurbish, but we're cautiously optimistic about the frame and shell condition and reusing many of the cabinets as well as the bath tub. She has a rotted subfloor right inside the door from a gasket that looks like it hasn't been replaced since '65, but thankfully very little was ever modified in this trailer. No new paint, flooring, or appliances that we can tell. Everything looks to be original - including the axles and wheels, unfortunately. A few dents to the front end, missing light lenses, a broken window, some scratches and rusty tongue/steps/bumper, and a badly peeling clearcoat that will need to come off, but we're planning to polish her someday anyway.

We've been scouring the forums obsessively trying to fill in any gaps in our DIY knowledge when it comes to the differences between renovating houses and travel trailers, and we can't wait to get started this weekend removing the rest of the interior fixtures and ripping up floor and wall liner. Any tips are much appreciated! We are in awe of how detailed some of the restoration threads here are and really appreciate the wisdom of all the experienced Airstreamers here. We'll try to post pictures as we go and may cry out for some help now and then, but we're hoping it will be a hugely rewarding experience just as our home renovation has been.

Thanks for reading, and here goes nothing! Also, we're going to be buying all new appliances and mostly new fixtures, so if anyone needs parts for their trailer please message me and we can try to help!
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Old 08-21-2012, 08:12 PM   #2
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Good luck looks like a nice rig to restore.
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Old 08-21-2012, 08:19 PM   #3
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Hi Kristen and Jason, and welcome to Airstream Forums! Your "new" baby looks great and I can't wait to read along as you two do a resto on her.

The Forum members here are wonderful and are very willing to share any knowledge they have, just for the asking. I know I ask my share of questions.

Oh, and everyone here l-o-v-e-s pictures of restos!

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Old 08-21-2012, 08:27 PM   #4
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Thanks for the encouragement, Deb! I'm told often that I take too many pictures, so everyone here should have plenty to see! Where abouts in Ohio are you? I spent most of my years in the Cleveland area and just moved to Tennessee about 4 years ago.
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Old 08-21-2012, 08:27 PM   #5
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Welcome and congrats on the new rig. Look like you two have rolled up your sleeves and jumped into a real project. Good luck.
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Old 08-21-2012, 08:28 PM   #6
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Thanks, Rumship and Kevin. We're very excited. Everyone we've shown her to in person thinks we're crazy, so it's good to hear some encouragement from others with prior Airstream experience here!
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Old 08-21-2012, 08:30 PM   #7
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new Airstream

You love dogs and Airstreams? You people are truly blessed!!!
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Old 08-21-2012, 08:38 PM   #8
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Haha, Collapso. Yep, we are complete suckers for abandoned dogs and now Airstreams in need of adoption. Our house was a charity case too..it had been empty for two years and was in need of some serious TLC. Our ultimate dream is to full-time in the Airstream with our dogs someday.
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Old 08-21-2012, 08:50 PM   #9
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ummm, well you ARE crazy... But you're in good company here. Your baby looks a lot like ours not so long ago. We love pics so don't worry about posting too many (not possible here!). Welcome to the family!

Kay
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Old 08-21-2012, 09:12 PM   #10
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Kristin

You are not crazy. Looks like you found a very good 65 to redo. The shell and windows appear to be in real good shape. The rest is just par for the course. Having restored an older home, I would not expect you to be unaware of what you will be getting into.

The folks on the forum are great. Welcome- you are now one of us. Your life will be forever changed- for the better.

I have a 66 and love it. Your bathroom looks just like mine. My toilet is not working so well, and I am planning on replacing it with a composting type since I only have a black water tank- that will now become my gray water tank. I have switched all interior overhead lights to LED. My fixtures look similar to yours. You may look at the thread "to LED or not to LED, posts 37-40 for details and photos.

Anyhow, glad to have you with us and join us in learning, having fun and camping.

Dan
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Old 08-21-2012, 09:23 PM   #11
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Great find! Welcome to the forums and the "world" of Airstreams! Glad to have you join up on the forum, it is a great place to ask questions and get lots of good suggestions! As you disassemble parts to repair or replace, take a zillion + 1 photos.... you will need them numerous times as you put things back in order, or look to see where something was or where it was originally hooked up!

Have a good time!
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Old 08-21-2012, 09:24 PM   #12
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Nice trailer, I will be watching to see what you do with it.
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Old 08-21-2012, 09:53 PM   #13
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Thank you all so much for your kind words and support! We're hoping to preserve a lot of the trailer's history by keeping the cabinets mostly intact, but bring her up to the current decade (and make her greener) with LEDs and electrical and plumbing improvements. Will definitely check out that LED thread for guidance. We want to do a composting toilet as well, and use the black water tank as a gray.

Our Airstream can only get better from here!
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Old 08-24-2012, 10:58 AM   #14
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Tongue jack woes

Well, our first project on our trailer wasn't without its hiccups, but past projects on our old house had us well prepared for the unexpected on our Airstream.

Our tongue and sway bars were horribly rusty and the old electric tongue jack inoperable. We set out to take everything apart, grind off rust, clean it all, and apply rust inhibitor.

Every nut, screw and chain was rusted into place of course. We used about a half a can of WD-40 and almost broke a couple sockets, but managed to get it all apart. We ground down the rust on all the flat pieces and will be soaking all the smaller bits in rust remover. The aluminum propane tanks are safely stored in our garage out of sight of any scrap-happy thieves.

After a good cleaning we painted the tongue with black Rustoleum (we don't have any POR-15 yet and it'll be a while yet until we're ready to paint the trailer frame, but when the time comes that's what we plan to use). Our truck is black, so we figured it would look fine and be easier to maintain than the old silver color since she'll be sitting uncovered outside. We'll polish the aluminum tanks someday and it should provide a really nice contrast, especially with the chrome bumpers on our Silverado. Oh, I also forgot to mention that we have the original brass fire extinguisher to mount on the front! Can't wait to clean that up and see if it still works.

All was going well enough until we bought a new tongue jack at Camping World. We measured the upper hole in the trailer tongue, but didn't realize the lower would be a smaller diameter. The tongue jack we purchased fit the top but not the bottom hole. We didn't really want to grind the lower hole any larger, so we're going to look around locally for another one. We thought maybe Tractor Supply or another RV store would have something that fits. Worst case we can always grind the lower hole.

For now our trailer is living the hillbilly life, resting on wood blocks and automotive jack stands. Any suggestions for a tongue jack are welcome. We want a manual crank rather than another electric. We work out regularly and actually like the exercise! I believe the bottom hole is 2" but for some reason online RV stores don't like to give a jack's diameter in their product specs.

This weekend we finish taking out the bathroom fixtures and remaining cabinets, then start in on wall and subfloor removal. I'm really dreading drilling out all those rivets and figuring out how the tub/sink/toilet is hooked together. Any and all tips are appreciated!
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Old 08-24-2012, 11:15 AM   #15
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Wow! You're in the same spot we're in. We just picked up a '77 Sovereign Land Yacht in similar condition (I'm betting... the brains behind the Kevin and Jessica projects is and has always been Kevin!) We also love vintage - restoring homes, etc. My hubs is a master woodworker (& with my love of air conditioning - it also doesn't hurt that he's A/C certified) and a pretty handy perfectionist. Being that I'm not Kevin, I have no advice or helpful things to say other than GOOD LUCK and keep the pics coming!!!!
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Old 08-24-2012, 11:39 AM   #16
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Axis Product, Inc (axisproducts.com) has a good selection of tongue jacks for travel trailers. They've got an e-bay store.
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Old 08-24-2012, 11:44 AM   #17
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Jessica,

Wow you're right, we're very similar! My husband and I are marketing and web professionals by day and have no master woodworking skills, but we grew up with handy parents and love to learn. Hopefully we can use the cabinets in the trailer to guide us if anything needs to be reconstructed. Thankfully the doors are all solid wood, so those can be saved if nothing else. We debated moving the bathroom, bed, etc but are settling on just leaving the layout the same. It gets so tricky with vents and side hatches and I don't want to be cutting and patching the shell a lot. Let us know what you're doing with yours! I can't wait to see it.
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Old 08-24-2012, 06:52 PM   #18
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Take LOTS of pictures as you take things apart, especially if you want to put those same things back together. We didn't do that, and, even though we're putting in all new, some pictures of what had been there would have been very helpful at times. I understand the bathroom reinstall can be very tricky without some guidance from pictures. Good luck!

Kay
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Old 08-27-2012, 10:02 AM   #19
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Almost completely gutted now!

Yesterday was our first day working on the interior of our Airstream (we're still working on a name for her). We set an achievable goal for the day: Remove all the remaining cabinetry (bedroom drawers, closet, both sets of curbside upper cabinets) and at least part of the bathroom. I'm happy to say we met that goal!

I had read about others' experiences playing "find the hidden rivets" and now completely understand their angst. I discovered Murphy's Law of Airstream Gutting: One person will get stuck holding up a very heavy upper cabinet that is held in place by only one fastener hiding behind something else you hadn't even noticed that of course has to be removed first. It was a good upper body workout at the very least!

We found a lot of water damage to the cabinets and floor below the plumbing vent in the kitchen (curbside), and even more in the bath area under the toilet and sink when we removed the steel plate below the battery and plumbing. Not sure if it was leaky fixtures or the rear access panel not sealing properly. The subfloor in the bathroom is basically only splinters of wood at this point, so we'll be making a new subfloor without a template. The black/grey tank looked shiny inside, so it may have been replaced at some point or just cleaned really well. We'll find out soon if it's salvageable or not.

I'm a little worried about the condition of the frame back there now that we've seen the subfloor rot, but we'll see how it looks when we start pulling up the floor later this week. A copper water line back there was completely corroded through, and the tub/sink drain PVC was broken clean through at an elbow where it empties in to the black/grey water tank. I wonder if this kind of shearing/break is normal for the age of the PVC, or would it have more to do with the axles being bad and lack of shock absorption causing too much stress on the plumbing? I don't think we have any rear end separation, but we'll certainly check closely for that given the damage to the floor in the rear bath.

We took LOTS of photos, so here's hoping everything goes back together easily when the time comes! It's supposed to rain this week so we want to try to get our wall panels out before then if possible so we can start sealing any leaks. Does anyone have a recommendation of what we can put over our plumbing vent holes to keep rain and bugs out until we can get plumbing back in them? They don't have any type of covers like ones on the fridge and oven vents; they're just holes straight up to the sky. Right now they're just duct taped closed from the outside. I don't want to put a tarp over our trailer and risk damaging the shell any more than it already is.

The other thing we're having to do more research on is removing the tub/sink/toilet surround. It looks like they may have to be removed in one piece, then taken apart from behind? I assume it's the horizontal strip of rivets that's holding them all on? And does this mean the rear window has to be removed too?

This has been such a learning experience, but a fun one so far. I can't wait to start putting her back together instead of just taking her apart.
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Old 09-03-2012, 03:50 PM   #20
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So many rivets, so little time!

We spent Sunday removing the last of the bathroom: tub, sink and toilet surround. Not too bad once we realized cutting the water supply lines and tub and sink drains was the only way to get the whole combo out. Once we slid it out of the rear corner of the trailer, we were able to disassemble it and remove the pieces from the trailer. We're going to keep the tub and reuse it, but get a new sink (centering it under the back window) and a composting toilet, so if anyone needs a sink and/or bath fixtures from a 1965 Overlander, we're happy to donate it if you can pay for shipping or pick it up.

Today we removed walls. So many rivets! I couldn't believe how big the ceiling pieces of aluminum wall liner are. I figured it was seamed in a few places. Wow that was fun to roll up and get out the trailer door.

We didn't find anything too gross in the walls thankfully; just some abandoned insect nests and some evidence we may have had some rodent residents at some points.

Can anyone point me to a definitive guide on removing a subfloor without a full shell-off restoration? We just don't have the space to remove the shell and drive the frame out from underneath or hoist it high enough to work under it, so we need to just jack it up high enough to put in the new subfloor then bolt it back down.

Thanks in advance for any help! We're having a blast working on our trailer but it's due in large part to the expert advice here!
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