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Old 12-07-2023, 02:41 PM   #1
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1963 28' Ambassador
Downingtown , Pennsylvania
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Battery and Electrical Set up for 1963 Airstream Ambassador

I purchased 1963 Airstream Ambassador that I'm restoring. I can power it up using the plug, but one of the previous owners cut the wires to the battery. I did some research on the electrical system and I would like to keep it the same for now without rewiring it. I know the battery if it is hooked up only would be charged by my truck. How do I upgrade the existing hook up, so I can charge the battery without the truck. Also, what type of battery would I need.
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Old 12-07-2023, 04:00 PM   #2
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The simplest/ least expensive would be a simple converter and dual lead-acid battery setup.
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Old 12-08-2023, 10:34 AM   #3
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Welcome to the forums, let's start with the basics, when you say "power it up using the plug" do you mean you plug a power cord between an outlet and the trailer and then the 120v outlets in the trailer become "live". What do want/expect to work from the battery? I would be hard pressed to imagine a '63 vintage trailer that doesn't need a comprehensive electrical update for both utilty and safety. Pics of the major electrical components would help a lot. Battery, and fuse boxes, outlets, power plug etc. Often one of the biggest challenges is what previous owners have done, both good and bad. Ask lots of questions.
Good luck, Mark D
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Old 12-08-2023, 11:01 AM   #4
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Basically, Airstreams are designed such that everything below the waist is 120 VAC (think about electrical outlets) and everything above is 12VDC (think overhead lights) with few exceptions. AC is usually roof mounted and is AC… while the furnace is mounted low and is 12V/propane. The water pump is also mounted low and 12VDC.

There was originally a “converter” which connected shore-power (AC, either 30 or 50 Amps) to the 120 VAC items…and which also converted the shore power to 12VDC for the lights, fans, furnace, and battery charging.)

What some previous owner did to it will have to be investigated to determine what you will need to accomplish for your purposes.
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Old 12-08-2023, 07:10 PM   #5
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Welcome to Airstream life with a vintage Airstream.
Step one would be to locate the battery (batteries) and the converter (battery charger). If you don’t have one or they are old I would purchase a 45 or 55 amp Progressive Dynamics from Amazon and also get a new rv battery and install them. This will allow you to have both 120v ac and 12v dc power in your Airstream.
Good luck.

Dan
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Old 12-09-2023, 10:05 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxite View Post
Basically, Airstreams are designed such that everything below the waist is 120 VAC (think about electrical outlets) and everything above is 12VDC (think overhead lights) with few exceptions. AC is usually roof mounted and is AC… while the furnace is mounted low and is 12V/propane. The water pump is also mounted low and 12VDC.

There was originally a “converter” which connected shore-power (AC, either 30 or 50 Amps) to the 120 VAC items…and which also converted the shore power to 12VDC for the lights, fans, furnace, and battery charging.)

What some previous owner did to it will have to be investigated to determine what you will need to accomplish for your purposes.
This is a 1963 so AC was either 15 or 30 amps definitely not 50 amps originally.
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Old 12-09-2023, 06:46 PM   #7
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1963 28' Ambassador
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Originally Posted by mrdes8 View Post
Welcome to the forums, let's start with the basics, when you say "power it up using the plug" do you mean you plug a power cord between an outlet and the trailer and then the 120v outlets in the trailer become "live". What do want/expect to work from the battery? I would be hard pressed to imagine a '63 vintage trailer that doesn't need a comprehensive electrical update for both utilty and safety. Pics of the major electrical components would help a lot. Battery, and fuse boxes, outlets, power plug etc. Often one of the biggest challenges is what previous owners have done, both good and bad. Ask lots of questions.
Good luck, Mark D
Yes, when I plug the power cord in I'm able to use the lights and outlets. When it is completely renovated I plan to use it as a crafting area. I may also use it when traveling. I do plan on redoing all of the electrical eventually. I am just trying to figure out what is currently set up. I know the 1963 Airstreams electrical is different from the other years. Here are some pics that I took today. It has an old battery in it, but the previous owners cut the wires for some reason.
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Old 12-09-2023, 06:53 PM   #8
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1963 28' Ambassador
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Forgot to add the pic of the plug
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Old 12-09-2023, 08:29 PM   #9
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RE: Battery and Electrical Set up for 1963 Airstream Ambassador

Greetings lynnaberry! Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Airstream ownership!

I am not entirely familiar with the 1963 models, and I do know that there were a number of changes to the 1964 models. My understanding is that the Univolt Power Converter did not become standard until the 1964 model year. Prior to adoption of the Univolt, Vintage Airstreams typically had light fixtures with both 12-Volt DC bulbs and switches as well as 120-Volt AC bulbs and switches. The battery was only charged when connected to the tow vehicle. The 12-Volt DC system often utilized round, (house-type) glass fuses. The two early 1960s (pre-1964) Airstreams where I have seen the 12-Volt fuse panel, it was under the on the wall under the front window in the cabinet below the front lounge (there were two fuses).

The shore power cable that is in your photo definitely is not original. The original was either hard wired to the 120-Volt AC fuse box and stored in the rear bumper storage compartment or utilized a 30-AMP Bargman connector -- the connector that would be found in the side of the trailer would have looked something like the photo below (a matching female end would be found on the heavy duty extension cord that would make the connection safely):



The end the plugs into the electrical supply source should look something like the cable end in the photo below:



While it is possible to operate most systems in your Airstreams on a 15-AMP connection, that does not apply to the air conditioner (particularly the Armstrong Bay Breeze). That Armstrong Bay Breeze was built with commercial grade components, and could well be worth the cost of rebuilding. An RV Technician isn't likely to be of much help, but a commercial refrigeration service technician is more likely to be familiar with the cross-referencing of parts and techniques of dealing with this type of equipment.

Unfortunately, you are likely to be dealing with a jigsaw puzzle in trying to piece together what prior owners have done with the electrical based upon your photos. Hopefully someone with a similar 1963 Ambassador will respond as that would be a more likely source of information that will apply directly to your trailer. Sadly, there weren't any Owners' Manuals or Service Manuals in 1963. The first Owners' Manuals weren't published until 1964.

Good Luck with your project!

Kevin
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Old 12-17-2023, 06:51 AM   #10
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Welcome to the Forums. Your '63 looks exactly like the '61 Ambassador I am in the middle of restoring. Both exterior and interior layouts are the same. I've recorded my complete rebuild and you can click on the link below to see what I have done thus far.

Regarding your electrical, it is more than a little scary. You appear to be powering it through an external outlet using a cord with a male end on both sides. So if you plug it into shore power, the other side is hot with no protection. This is dangerous.

Also scary is the previous owner cut the battery cables when it would have been easier to just remove the clamp. Makes me think he didn't want anyone to connect it back up.

My suggestion his to have someone with a good understanding of electrical systems go through it thoroughly before you connect it to any power. I would not plug it in again before that. Good luck - Mark
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Old 12-17-2023, 12:20 PM   #11
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Totally agree with Mark S, time for some one with a good amount of electrical knowledge to get involved, sooner rather than later. One of the biggest issues I see is that you have the 2 prong plug outlets that were standard for the day, they cannot provide the needed ground. Along with that, the wiring in the walls is only 2 strand, again, no ground. Will it work? maybe. I would start by replacing the 120v inlet with a standard 30amp RV unit. Next, get a 30amp RV power cord. You may need an adapter for that at the plug end. Next, new wiring to a new 120v power panel (fuse box, like the current one but able to be grounded) , the small ones at the big box stores are usually under $30. Then, consider running some wiring to a few new outlet boxes with plugs. It's simplistic but an RV can be thought of as a big extension cord end. Caution, grounds and neutrals (white and bare copper) are not connected together in an RV fuse box. Consult an electrician.
Good luck. Mark D
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Old 12-17-2023, 06:38 PM   #12
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1963 28' Ambassador
Downingtown , Pennsylvania
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steinVT View Post
Welcome to the Forums. Your '63 looks exactly like the '61 Ambassador I am in the middle of restoring. Both exterior and interior layouts are the same. I've recorded my complete rebuild and you can click on the link below to see what I have done thus far.

Regarding your electrical, it is more than a little scary. You appear to be powering it through an external outlet using a cord with a male end on both sides. So if you plug it into shore power, the other side is hot with no protection. This is dangerous.

Also scary is the previous owner cut the battery cables when it would have been easier to just remove the clamp. Makes me think he didn't want anyone to connect it back up.

My suggestion his to have someone with a good understanding of electrical systems go through it thoroughly before you connect it to any power. I would not plug it in again before that. Good luck - Mark
Thank you for your advice and I will check out your restoration.
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Old 12-17-2023, 06:39 PM   #13
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1963 28' Ambassador
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Originally Posted by mrdes8 View Post
Totally agree with Mark S, time for some one with a good amount of electrical knowledge to get involved, sooner rather than later. One of the biggest issues I see is that you have the 2 prong plug outlets that were standard for the day, they cannot provide the needed ground. Along with that, the wiring in the walls is only 2 strand, again, no ground. Will it work? maybe. I would start by replacing the 120v inlet with a standard 30amp RV unit. Next, get a 30amp RV power cord. You may need an adapter for that at the plug end. Next, new wiring to a new 120v power panel (fuse box, like the current one but able to be grounded) , the small ones at the big box stores are usually under $30. Then, consider running some wiring to a few new outlet boxes with plugs. It's simplistic but an RV can be thought of as a big extension cord end. Caution, grounds and neutrals (white and bare copper) are not connected together in an RV fuse box. Consult an electrician.
Good luck. Mark D
Thank you for your help and advice! Much appreciated!
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Old 12-18-2023, 05:05 PM   #14
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Needs an upgrade

I have a 1963 Globetrotter so I am very familiar with the "63 electrical systems having upgraded mine. There are two separate electrical systems a 12V dc and the 120V ac . The two breakers in your box mean you have a 30 amp system. If you have a vent and exhaust they have a fan that will run on either 12vdc or 120 ac because of the dual switch they are wired to. That's also why you have two bulbs in every light fixture , one is a 12Vdc bulb and the other is a 120V ac bulb. . I would suggest working on one system at a time but I would start on the 120ac first. It needs to be made safe. You'll need a proper shore power cord , new breaker box ( GFCI breakers will solve your two prong outlet issue), and a new converter for the 12V side. I would also replace the old outlets . Then it's a matter of checking the 120v circuits . any issues there will mean pulling interior panels to fix the problem. On the dc side you'll need a new battery , a battery switch , the converter, and a fuse block for connecting circuits. I like marine stuff like Blue Sea brand for the 12V components. Looks like you have a project on your hands but it's not insurmountable , pretty basic stuff on a '63.
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Old 12-19-2023, 08:17 PM   #15
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1963 28' Ambassador
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I have a 1963 Globetrotter so I am very familiar with the "63 electrical systems having upgraded mine. There are two separate electrical systems a 12V dc and the 120V ac . The two breakers in your box mean you have a 30 amp system. If you have a vent and exhaust they have a fan that will run on either 12vdc or 120 ac because of the dual switch they are wired to. That's also why you have two bulbs in every light fixture , one is a 12Vdc bulb and the other is a 120V ac bulb. . I would suggest working on one system at a time but I would start on the 120ac first. It needs to be made safe. You'll need a proper shore power cord , new breaker box ( GFCI breakers will solve your two prong outlet issue), and a new converter for the 12V side. I would also replace the old outlets . Then it's a matter of checking the 120v circuits . any issues there will mean pulling interior panels to fix the problem. On the dc side you'll need a new battery , a battery switch , the converter, and a fuse block for connecting circuits. I like marine stuff like Blue Sea brand for the 12V components. Looks like you have a project on your hands but it's not insurmountable , pretty basic stuff on a '63.
Thank you! This was very helpful!
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