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Old 04-25-2014, 01:18 PM   #1
3 Rivet Member
Anchorage , Alaska
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 168
I can't get the shell down :(

I posted a rather fancifull post earlier, but this is my more immediate and more serious problem.

I am doing a shell-off restoration of the 1963 Bambi. Been a few years since I have had time to work on this project. Last time I got as far as setting the shell back on the floor/belly wrap assembly. The shell has been sitting for a couple of years, with just gravity holding it on the frame/floor/belly wrap. One of those years was a record setting snow fall here in Alaska. So it should be firmly seated.

I cannot get the shell all the was down on the frame. The ribs on the inside are all the way down on the floor/C channel. I could use a 4" strap and a rachet if I thought it was floating above the floor, but it sure seems to be all the way down as far as it will go. I did use 3/4 plywood for the new sub flooring, so even if the shell is all the way down to the floor, it will still be an 1/8"(?) of an inch higher than before. But it seems to be at least a full inch to high.

The only thing I can think to do, is to shorten the ribs by an inch at the bottom, they seem to be the only thing holding it up.

I don't mind snipping things here and there to get things back together, but it makes no sense that such a dramatic surgery should be required. Any suggestions as to what I may have done to the floor/frame that would require the ribs to be shortened?

I swear I have double checked everything that might be holding it up and can see nothing. Any specific places to double check?

(disregard the aluminum flashing in the front pic, that was just used as a guide to help the shell slide over the outside of the "C" channel/floor. I should pull it out now that is down)
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Old 04-25-2014, 03:10 PM   #2
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It could be one of three things ( or more ;>) 1. Possibly your floor wood is just a little bit to big, not allowing it (the body) to fully come down. 2. The body is a little cockeyed. 3. It is possible, esp if you have turn the frame upside down to install and or work on the frame, that the frame is now a little bit "sprung" . Best solution for that is ( was for me) to jack one end of the frame up and it MAY side up to where the frame and body are all the way seated. Do one side at a time ,then add a few screws to mate the C channel in place with the body until you can rivet it correctly. Then do the other end.
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Old 04-25-2014, 03:50 PM   #3
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Houston , Texas
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So, just to confirm my mental image: You lifted the shell, installed the new floor, installed the c-channels on the floor, and then set the shell back down. The ribs seat into the C-channels, yet it appears that the entire shell is an in or so higher than it should be. Correct?
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Old 04-25-2014, 03:53 PM   #4
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Trailers bend and move. I had a similar issue when I replaced the back half of my floor "frame on". After a massaged it (beat on in and jacked on it!) it all came together.


I then had issues with interior cabinets and bathroom not lining up!

I have a feeling I was dealing with a lot of stress that was changed by reinforcing the frame.

I would take it easy and become "one with the shell". I know that sounds like utter BS, but think geometrically what might be going on to prohibit the alignment.
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Old 04-25-2014, 04:05 PM   #5
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If I may, let me sound a cautionary note here. You may find out just exactly what's hanging it up when you start feeling around between the shell and the floor with your fingers. Be careful there!!
"Between what matters and what seems to matter, how should the world we know judge wisely?" - E.C. Bentley, Trent's Last Case
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Old 04-25-2014, 06:11 PM   #6
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Anchorage , Alaska
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yes Belegedhel

Frame was sandblasted and POR15'ed. New marine plywood, and "C" channel, and belly wrap, then the shell lowered back down. (a little more complex than that, but basically....). And to be sure, the frame was flipped back and forth in the process. and the shell spent at least one winter braced and on cinder blocks. so plenty of opportunity for each to flex.

What puzzles me, is that from the inside, all the major ribs are seated at the bottom of the "C" channel, but from the outside it seems I have another inch at the wheel wells, (not sure where the shell should finish in relation to the front an rear frame, but it seems to be high by and inch as well front & back.)

It really seems that if I force the shell any lower, I will be putting force against the ribs themselves, in an effort to lower the skin !!
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Old 04-25-2014, 07:09 PM   #7
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It does not take much

I have found that sometimes it is better to embrace things rather than fight them.

From my experience, a whole trailer is unique in the way it was put together, on the day, by who was working on it and how it rolled out the factory door.

You really need to have reference points or know where to find some ( be it the doorway, outrigger to C channel bolt hole, an original corresponding hole on the corner floor C channels with the shell, or the vertical steel plate at the front-bearing in mind the holes will have risen with the shell because of the thicker floor but the steel plate holes will be vertically aligned at least). The thicker floor should not affect the C channel reference so much, as the shell and the channels get raised together. You do get a slightly deeper underbelly as a result of a thicker floor though.

Often the C channels were pulled in or out as they were originally fixed ( making for no two corners to be exactly the same) to keep the circumference of the skin tight, and as a result could have been under tension and that tension released as the shell came off. I do not know how you created your corners on your floor, but if you used the C channels as templates as they are, free standing, it may not necessarily equate to the the shape they took when they were connected to the shell and floor originally. Even a slight deviation can result in the circumference of the floor being different to the circumference of the shell.

Did you do any work to the steel frame of the trailer? An outrigger ending slightly different to what it was originally, can throw things out. It was a matter for me, to let go of getting everything straight and square and symmetrical to a degree, the reality is that some frames I have seen look like they have been put together fast and loose sometimes, and that is all part of the charm. So you are better rolling with it.

There are lots of things that can affect how the shell sits after replacing the floor, a drilled out rivet bur for example, it could even be down to the new ply bending under load differently to the original.
Another very important reference point is the door, if you can release the corner C channels from the floor, cleco them to the shell while everything is "floating" on the floor still, and use the front vertical steel plate as a reference, and slowly work your way around keeping in mind that if you make the corners too tight/ too loose then the door opening at floor level will shrink / expand, and the door may not work. Just take your time and remember sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.

As a last resort, I have trimmed the bottom of a rib in an area where there was nothing else to do after checking all the reference points I had. But I would be reluctant to trim them all without checking the corners and circumference and doorway, and anything else I could think of that may have made the the footprint grow or the shell shrink. It was better to use the old shell holes on the skin with the old holes on the C channels as a guide to how everthing sits and then checking the door.

Well done on getting back to your Airstream, you are doing a special thing.

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Old 04-25-2014, 07:18 PM   #8
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Couple more questions: is the frame just sitting on the wheels, or is it supported in several places with jack stands and leveled? If it's on its wheels, I would recommend setting the frame rails on no less than six jack stands, shimming it until it is level front to back and side to side, and then see if it fits any different. If it is on jacks, have you double checked both the level ness of the frame, and the straightness/flatness back to back and side to side?
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Old 04-25-2014, 09:09 PM   #9
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Anchorage , Alaska
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I saw a question about how I determined the dimensions of the new floor. In my case the old floor was only completely rotted away in a couple of places in the edge areas. So I used the old plywood as a template to trace the new floor, and just continued the lines for the missing areas. Then the "C" channel was attached around following the edge. I am pretty sure it was about as exact to the old floor as humanly possible

For those that may follow, a couple of words of advise: I left the belly wrap material a bit high (wrapped, riveted, and then cut off well above the height of the "C" channel), thinking that the extra length would provide additional assurance that water would not travel from underneath into the walls. This is completely unnecessary, and the material sticking up higher than the top of the "C" channel can interfere with the rivets still on the ribs, hatch openings, etc.

If you replace the belly wrap, trim the wrap material flush with the top of the "C" channel. Secondly, clean off the old "black tar" adhesive originally used on the shell, it is probably going to interfere with the effectiveness of the new caulk/adhesive, and it certainly is not slippery when it comes to putting the shell back down.

To update.
I found some extra tall wrap material that could have been holding the shell up. Jacked the shell up a bit, and trimmed the material, but it did not seem to make a difference, shell still settled into the same place. I had used some flashing material as a guide to get the shell down around the belly wrap when lowering. Some of this flashing material was still in between the sections (see the pic's of the front) and I pulled them out to get max room. I put a ratchet strap around the whole trailer to put some downward pressure on the shell, and went for a low speed trundle around the neighborhood, hitting every manhole cover, gutter, and uneven surface. I think if it were just a manner of flex, everything would have settled into a "happy place".

No help

I think my next effort will be to run a steel "slim jim" around between the skin & wrap, and mark the areas where its tight and see what I see.

thanks to all for the encouragement and advise !!!
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Old 04-25-2014, 09:47 PM   #10
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So it sounds like your trailer is sitting on the wheels, which suggests that the front and rear of the frame, not being supported by the shell, and the monocoque structure could be dropping to create that gap at the front and back. Try putting a jack under each corner and lifting the ends of your frame, and see if that doesn't help.
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