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Old 04-12-2020, 02:11 PM   #1
New Member
1979 28' Ambassador
Join Date: Apr 2020
Posts: 2
One more time...how to paint the walls of my 1979 Ambassador?

Hello everyone - my very first post to Air Forums. I was gifted a 1979 Ambassador by my mother. I am working hard at cleaning and taking out items I don't need anymore. The walls are original. They are sticky and the front end is plastic. The bathroom countertop is in rough shape with discolored plastic like the front. I would love white - everything...including the faux brown doors and slidy cabinet things (can I paint those? will they work out). I need any and all help I can get. I have looked and looked at websites and need what type of paints work best. Oil based primer? What brand? Latex primer? Is the same primer going to work on the walls and on plastic? Should I use a latex paint over the primer? Or oil paint? Also, the wall paper on the bathroom walls are slightly peeling away. Should I try to remove? I know - so many questions.
With the "stay at home" order, I have plenty of time to research and when it gets nice I will have plenty of time to paint. I would love to hear from all.
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Old 04-12-2020, 02:26 PM   #2
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1969 18' Caravel
Greenville , whereEverIroam
Join Date: Dec 2017
Posts: 950
Images: 20
Congrats on your new-to-you Airstream! We should all be so lucky.

So, before you paint, try first to clean the walls. Not sure what kind of walls you have; many of that vintage are Zolotone (search the forums here on that) and if so, a good cleaning with Fantastic does wonders. If it is covered with what the community calls "mouse fur" you can try to clean it or remove it to expose the bare aluminum behind it, and there are threads here on how to do that and polish up the inner aluminum skin.

If you do decide to paint, a good quality latex interior paint will do fine. Bear in mind the weight of the paint can is weight that will be added to the trailer and every pound counts in decreased milage, increased tow weight, more wear on the tires, axles and suspension; not that paint weights a ton, but it all adds up, so if it cleans up nice, there you go.

I have found that taking a scouring pad or fine steel wool to some of the bathroom plastic removes much of the yellowing. Painting in the bathroom is challenging because of the moisture always there leads to peeling paint over time. They make a special plastic paint for this application, but if you can clean it up, it will mean less work and hassle in the long run.

You can paint the tambour doors on your overhead cabinets, but it will scratch off at the wear points.

Find ways to "add lightness" to the trailer and you will be a happier camper when towing.
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Old 04-12-2020, 03:25 PM   #3
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1972 25' Tradewind
1976 31' Excella 500
1974 31' Excella 500
1975 24' Argosy 24
Denver , Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 736
Here is what I learned and decided in my research: http://beahmstream.com/painting-the-interior/

Basically, after trying a LOT of things, I think that rolling interior latex is the best (and don't use cheap paint). It's forgiving and easy to touch up. That said, the most important thing of all is getting the walls really clean in the first place. Like, REALLY clean. Surface prep is key.
25' 1972 Airstream Trade Wind Land Yacht (heavily customized)
2006 Jeep Liberty CRD (diesel)
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Old 04-13-2020, 05:34 AM   #4
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1976 25' Tradewind
Currently Looking...
Flushing , Michigan
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 98
I cleaned the walls by scrubbing them with “Krud Kutter”, using a stiff bristle brush, then after rinsing well, wiping all down with mineral spirits. Next step was to roll on “Kilz” as the primer and stain blocker, followed by rolling on two coats of Sherwin Williams oil base “All Surface Enamel”. Things that needed to be sprayed were done using “ Krylon Fusion”. The results have been very satisfactory.
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Old 04-13-2020, 08:03 AM   #5
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1979 28' Ambassador
Join Date: Apr 2020
Posts: 2
So, here is a little bit more information. The walls have the vinyl covering and the end caps are ABS plastic. Also, this trailer will not be traveling, so weight is not an issue. I am turning it into a "tiny home" at our country land.
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Old 04-13-2020, 08:40 AM   #6
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1968 24' Tradewind
1968 26' Overlander
Kansas City , Kansas
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 435
One more time...how to paint the walls of my 1979 Ambassador?

For my vinyl coated walls I’ve had success with:

1) pressure washing followed by degreasing with super clean (3 parts water, 1 part super clean). I used a stiff round bristle brunch chucked to drill to scrub the walls until the plasticizer which has leached out of the vinyl onto the surface is gone.

2) surface prep with Savogran(R) trisodium phosphate (1 cup TSP to 1.5 gallon water)

3) fresh water rinse

4) dry time

5) one coat XIM UMA bonding primer (used 0.75 gal in my 21’ long interior)

6) two coats PPG Break-Through acrylic interior/exterior paint (V51-410, used 1.75 gal)

7) Interior temps were kept above 50F during painting and for 24 hrs afterwards in a low humidity environment.

If, unfortunately, the plasticizer continues migrates through your new paint you can topcoat with Minwax PolyCrylic. I’ve had mine painted for 2.5 years with no issues or need for this step.

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My end caps were textured (fore) and glossed(aft) fiberglass and I used the same approach outlined above. I defer to other regarding ABS but I’d be considering an automotive bumper paint like Imron 3500 (read the label and use appropriate PPE prior to applying).
Brian's AS renovation:
Tow vehicle: 2019 F250 Lariat 6.7L CC SRW
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Old 04-13-2020, 09:00 AM   #7
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1972 31' Sovereign
Lexington , Minnesota
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 3,752
We redid our bathroom and cabinetry, so I can't help there.
For our walls, clean and RINSE very well. We used Bondz primer, and 2 coats of exterior latex paint. It has held up for 10 years now with no issues here in freeze/thaw Minnesota.
I agree that prep is the key.

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Old 04-13-2020, 11:31 AM   #8
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1969 29' Ambassador
Macomb , Illinois
Join Date: Oct 2018
Posts: 17
Mousefur. What a great name! Down the Road 69 had this stuff everywhere but the end caps. My chemical preference is the foam version of Bar Keepers Friend, a brush and paper towel to wipe away the mess. After a through cleaning, I decided I like the "grass mat" texture of the vinyl. Your experiences with paint encourage me to pain the ceiling. Again thank you Forum Streamers.
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Old 04-13-2020, 05:54 PM   #9
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2006 34' Classic S/O
Fort Worth , Texas
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,371
"Mouse fur" is a product called Ozite (Motor Home-RV Ozite) – Textile Specialists since 1864. It is used not only on the walls, but also the ceiling.
To re-glue if it comes loose: Use 3M Super 77 Spray Adhesive.
For cleaning: Find a supplier of carpet cleaning products and ask for a specific product for cleaning polypropylene and follow the directions on the label.
Airstream now recommends SD20 Degreaser. Spray on brush off. I would use a vacuum with a brush preferably a powered brush.
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Old 04-13-2020, 06:13 PM   #10
2 Rivet Member
1981 27' Excella II
Clovis , California
Join Date: Jul 2016
Posts: 28
Interior paint experience

Hi there - I tackled the interior of my 1979 Excella a couple of years ago. Same thing - “sticky” vinyl walls, plastic features and original tambours. To boot, I was also covering up some older real wood cabinetry that was ok to keep & painting new cabinets. Somehow I wanted it all to be the same - clean & light (cream, not white though)
We stripped everything we didn’t want, then went to town on cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. We took days to wash down every square inch with Krud kutter, then rinsed, then went over it all with denatured alcohol. We used a Killz primer on everything.
Then I attended a craft class on re-doing cabinets with chalk paint & wax. This stuff is recommended for all surfaces so I thought it would be a good solution to all my diff surfaces. I did one coat & didn’t like the job I was doing so I asked a friend to spray it all. He came in with a high quality interior paint (in eggshell finish) and sprayed it. It came out beautifully - he said my primer & very expensive chalk paint job had made a great base and had “neutralized” all the surfaces. We made the cabinets different by staining them with an antique wash. I probably went at it overzealously & w/o much experience but I love the results - it hasn’t chipped stained or yellowed. Good luck on your reno - I hope you have a blast doing it & enjoy it for years to come.
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Old 04-15-2020, 10:09 AM   #11
1972 27' Overlander
Heinsburg , AB
Join Date: Jul 2018
Posts: 187
Atomic and Lisa; thanks for posting the pictures. Both of your airstreams are just stunning. Good tips on the painting.
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Old 04-16-2020, 01:47 PM   #12
1 Rivet Member
1969 29' Ambassador
Macomb , Illinois
Join Date: Oct 2018
Posts: 17
Thanks guskmg for a better understanding of mouse fur. The '69 Ambassador's walls were covered with a mold like substance that cleaned up with a lot of scrubbing. I appreciate Lisa's wall and cabinet experience. My walls are are in pretty good shape but the ceiling panels not so much. My goal is to bring back what I can and fix what is necessary. The forum's wisdom has helped in uncountable ways.
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Old 05-15-2020, 10:23 AM   #13
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1987 32' Excella
Merritt , British Columbia
Join Date: Sep 2016
Posts: 1
We saw several videos of people using a heavy duty primer like Kilz. Just make sure you have some ventilation as it is
a little fumey! Worked so well over all surfaces in our 1987 Excella. Then we used a really good quality Semi Gloss in a very slightly tinted white. It is super for clean up and I hope it will be really durable.
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