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Old 09-25-2011, 04:09 PM   #1
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Red face 1970s fake Cabinetry - what to do?

Jim here in Northern Virginia. I am researching vintage Airstreams for purchase this winter and rehabilitation in the Spring.

A big question I'm facing is that I strongly prefer the real wood cabinetry of the 1960's models and would enjoy refinishing the cabinetry as part of an overall restoration. However, I also really like the idea of a separate grey water tank in a post 1973 model.

I've read some posts on what to do with the crappy 1970's fake wood laminate, mostly involving painting, but I just can't seem to get past my desire for the richness of real wood. Is the solution as extreme as replacing all the cabinetry and bulkheads with custom made replacements, merely repainting or covering the interior wall vinyl?

I guess my vision could be summed up as wanting an affordable late 1970's 31 ft model, but then creating a rich interior wood theme (complimented by leather upholstery, brushed stainless appliances, nice fixtures, etc) a nice cork floor, improved systems, etc..

Any thoughts?

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Jim of Virginia
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Old 09-25-2011, 04:46 PM   #2
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Have you looked at a 1970's model to make up your own mind or just relied on the opinions of others? Take a look at the interior pictures on Vintage Airstream Home picture archives.

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Originally Posted by JBSVirginia View Post
Jim here in Northern Virginia. I am researching vintage Airstreams for purchase this winter and rehabilitation in the Spring.

A big question I'm facing is that I strongly prefer the real wood cabinetry of the 1960's models and would enjoy refinishing the cabinetry as part of an overall restoration. However, I also really like the idea of a separate grey water tank in a post 1973 model.

I've read some posts on what to do with the crappy 1970's fake wood laminate, mostly involving painting, but I just can't seem to get past my desire for the richness of real wood. Is the solution as extreme as replacing all the cabinetry and bulkheads with custom made replacements, merely repainting or covering the interior wall vinyl?

I guess my vision could be summed up as wanting an affordable late 1970's 31 ft model, but then creating a rich interior wood theme (complimented by leather upholstery, brushed stainless appliances, nice fixtures, etc) a nice cork floor, improved systems, etc..

Any thoughts?

Cheers
Jim of Virginia
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Old 09-25-2011, 04:57 PM   #3
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I replaced all of the cabinets in my '74 Argosy 26'. Check out my blog. I just finished the upper cabinets in the berthing area, haven't posted any pics of that work as of this date.
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Old 09-25-2011, 04:59 PM   #4
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I hate the stuff too. And plastic. Dark fake wood laminate and plastic must have been luxury items back then. I remember double knit polyester was quite popular as well.

Sounds like you are going to redo the interior anyway.
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Old 09-25-2011, 05:04 PM   #5
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Hi Jim,
If you like the look and feel of real wood, I think you should be looking for a trailer with real wood cabinetry. If there is something special about the '70s that you have to have like a gray tank, it can be added to older trailers without too much problem. Keep in mind that '73 was the first year for gray tanks in Airstreams, but a very small eleven gallon gray tank. I have added two 25 gallon gray tanks to our '72 Ambassador and they fill up very quickly. I personally like the "fake" laminate wood in the early '70s trailers. The interior of Abby looks almost brand new 39 years later.
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Old 09-25-2011, 05:58 PM   #6
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Mine is a 1976 center bath. It has all birch cabinets.

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Old 09-25-2011, 06:09 PM   #7
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I like the cabinetry in both my 70's trailers. It's easy to clean. It's light weight and strong.
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Old 09-25-2011, 06:13 PM   #8
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Hi Jim, I had written on the forum about the work I did replacing the wood panels and also covering the plastic panels with 1/16" Red Oak Veneer. I started in the front sections replacing the panels with new wood and then staining with Minwax 215 Provential which matched the fake maple. Then the back sections I used the Veneer and would up covering the plastic laminate with the wood. My Tambour overhead panels were in good shape so I kept them and wanted to match the original. I replaced the sliding lower panels with new wood tambour and stained them with the Minwax. It didn't cost a ton of money to do and the final product had the real wood feeling of the 60's trailers. Bummer was the trailer was stolen 2 months after I finished all of my improvements. Attaching a few pics for you to see.
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Old 09-25-2011, 06:37 PM   #9
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If you're going to do this, you should buy an Airstream for much less money than one that has all the original interior. The biggest thing you should known is that all Airstreams leak...and the plywood sub-floor will have water damage. Also, the wheel wells will be cracked. Plus, the Axles will need to be replaced, (15 year old or older), and it may have issues with "rear end seperation".

So, the plastic 1/4 plywood will be the least of your worries! Trust me...I have gone thru all of the above and more!

Come and see me at my Thread...Plus, TOPS thread has lots of good information. If you go to my Thread, start on page 1, which shows what the Old Girl looked like a year ago. Good luck my friend, and have lots of beer on hand...

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Old 09-25-2011, 07:32 PM   #10
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Wow, Thanks!

All -

Thanks for all the great responses. I definitely see the utility of the fake veneer (I'm guessing it's easy to clean, long-lasting, light, strong and flexible, etc.), I guess I hoped that there might be a way to creatively upgrade.

So is it possible to simply attach 1/16" wood veneer to the existing cabinetry? Will it peel or crack with the motion of the trailer?

The look that seems popular is to re-face many of the interior walls with aluminum sheeting attached with rivets. I wonder if I should take out all the cabinets, repair major issues like the sub-flooring (thanks for the tip on water damage!), have a professional deal with the axle and the rear end sag, then slowly work on upgrading the systems, then reinstall the cabinets and then deal with things like upholstery. Seems like a mammoth task, I see an Excel spreadsheet in my future.

The funny thing is, I saw the Classic Rides series where they installed aluminum wall sheeting for back splashes, but then I saw the movie Thor on DVD, and Natalie Portman was living in a restored Airstream, complete with nice natural woods and the aluminum walls! Funny coincidence.

Best

- Jim
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Old 09-25-2011, 07:56 PM   #11
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1970 Sovereign?

One quick follow-up, I looked at the excellent model archives (thanks for the link!) and I wonder if the '70 Sovereign might be a "sweet spot," i.e., real wood that I can bring back, add a grey water tank as mentioned, along with modernizing the systems. Most importantly, it's a 31' beauty with plenty of space for my wife, two kids, dog, and fun!

It looks like '71 was the jumping off point into plastics and vinyls into the seventies.

- Jim
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Old 09-25-2011, 09:31 PM   #12
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I ripped all that old plastic out and replaces with red stained birch. You can read about it here: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f226...ml#post1038029 Start at the end of the thread and go backwards. It's a really long thread.

Others have painted the plastic with good results.I just didn't like all that plastic.

You have a long road ahead of you. Good luck.

Jim
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Old 09-25-2011, 10:10 PM   #13
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I have listen to the debate of solid wood, real wood, laminante and so on for years. At the end of the day it's really the type of look that you want to enjoy. However as a furniture designer, a owner of a cabinet shop and more importantly an airstream, there is no comparison to the benefits of the 70s laminante. Solid wood, real wood is old time thinking and incorrect. Both for home use and especially in a airstream. To start with the weight along of solid wood is a problem. Then what about extreme changes in humidity & temperature, this is all wrong for solid wood. Through todays technology you can have any old world looking cabinet door, light weight, non fading and will never be a need to refinish.
Home Page look at deco-form all made with foil.
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Old 09-26-2011, 07:10 AM   #14
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I've been looking at this superb Anniversary edition design:

custom vintage Airstream trailers

I wonder if it's possible to start with a 1970's Sovereign and install a similar look and feel, lining the interior walls with the aluminum sheeting and rehabilitating the cabinets with a nice veneer such as deco-form, replacing hardware, new counters, appliances, etc.. A big project, but could be a lot of fun.

Do you guys see any show-stoppers in this plan?
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Old 09-26-2011, 08:08 AM   #15
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Hey Jim, the wood veneer was a pretty easy update to the plastic. I lightly sanded the plastic and then the adhesive makes a strong bond to the veneer. I am not a carpenter or highly skilled at wood work. I just took it slow and measured carefully many times and cut out a template for each panel. I also used trim plastic from Alsa that was a burled wood effect for the edge trim that was on all of the edges. There are many things that are desirable in the 70's trailers, the curved three panel windows in the front and they were built very lightweight. When I was done I had covered over all of the plastic trim and redone the orange formica counters and front table. It was fun to do. After the Tradewind was stolen I determined that I wouldn't go through that process again and that a newer 2006 trailer wouldn't require all of the TLC i had put into the vintage.
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Old 09-26-2011, 08:30 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JBSVirginia View Post
I've been looking at this superb Anniversary edition design:

custom vintage Airstream trailers

I wonder if it's possible to start with a 1970's Sovereign and install a similar look and feel, lining the interior walls with the aluminum sheeting and rehabilitating the cabinets with a nice veneer such as deco-form, replacing hardware, new counters, appliances, etc.. A big project, but could be a lot of fun.

Do you guys see any show-stoppers in this plan?
Lots of people have done this, to one extent or the other, and there is no reason you can't do it too provided you have the time and skills, or the money to pay someone else. I gutted my '72 of the trashed interior, and re-built it using a combination of some of the original metal moldings and new birch/maple wood. PM me if you want more specific info. It was indeed fun! -tim
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Old 09-26-2011, 10:49 AM   #17
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Hi Jim,

"Different strokes for different folks". I like real wood cabinets so when I found our 65 Safari we fell in love with the red Mahogany wood. It was never varnished or painted but only oiled. I recommend that you add a grey tank - the job is not that hard. You can also carry a 25 gal. blueboy.
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Old 09-26-2011, 04:27 PM   #18
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All it takes is skills, time and money. Looks doable to me. One thing to think about is the steel frame. Trailers today weigh a bunch more than the '70's models. Sometimes twice as much for comparable models. You might keep that in mind.

Dave Winick has produced some great stuff. New and restorations. Google his name. You'll be impressed with most anything he's built. A true artist.

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Old 09-26-2011, 04:52 PM   #19
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Old 09-26-2011, 06:01 PM   #20
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Are we related?

Hey Daniel B,
You look like my long lost brother.
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