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Old 08-19-2014, 03:39 PM   #1
1 Rivet Member
1987 25' Sovereign
Irvine , California
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 6
Removing interior vinyl panels: rivet-removing tool? What's underneath?

Hi everyone,

Sorry if this has been posted before! I've been trawling the forum and can't find the information I'm looking for, but if it's already been covered, I'd be very grateful for pointers.

My husband and I just bought our first Airstream: a 25ft Sovereign from 1987 with rear bedroom. We're beyond excited. At the moment, it has hard vinyl wall panels throughout the interior (pic attached, though it might not be the most informative. Will try to get a better one later.) I've seen lots of information about how to paint them, which we might do -- but if there's wood or aluminum underneath, I'd love to get down to that. There's information here about removing other types of vinyl and plastic interior covering, but I can't find anything about these hard panels. Does anyone have any advice? I think my main questions are:

1. We've been trying to remove the rivets using just an electric drill, and they're not budging. I'm attaching a close-up of one of them here. Is there a rivet-removing tool I can get? Or are we just doing something wrong? Any tips/tricks?
2. Any ideas what might be underneath this hard paneling on a 1987 model?
3. You'll see that the rear has quite a built-out plastic end-cap, and it's even more built out on the front. Ideally we'd like to get rid of this, so you can see the shape of the Airstream. We've been looking into things like Larry B's beautiful aluminum segmented end cap. But we'd have to get the end cap off first. Can anyone see any reason why we shouldn't try to remove one of the very bulky late 80s plastic end caps?

Thank you so much! I feel like I'm already learning so much from all you wonderful people.
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Old 08-19-2014, 03:51 PM   #2
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1976 31' Sovereign
Missouri City , Texas
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 1,233
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That looks to be a regular pop rivet. You should be able to drill that out with an 1/8" drill bit. If the interior panels are similar to what is in my 1976 Sovereign then they are aluminum section coated with a coating that Airstream has been using for years. You may be able to remove the coating to get down to the aluminum, maybe others will join in on that topic. Good lick with your refurbishing.

Don Hardman
1976 31' Sovereign
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Old 08-20-2014, 08:34 PM   #3
1 Rivet Member
1969 21' Globetrotter
Dexter , Michigan
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 19
There is nothing underneath the vynle wrapped alum. Just the ribs, insulation, wiring etc. (and probably some dead mice, etc)

Ditto on the drill bit. 1/8" bit. Use a sharp one, press harder.

I am resto-modding a 1969, and I took all the skins off, and the end caps. Mine had vnyle, and I only have them around here for template for the new alum skins.

I just took the caps off. It was certainly harder than the skins, but it wasn't all that hard. I can see they are going to be harder to put back up. Our plan is to fix some minor holes, etc. and paint them. I would not have taken them down at all if not for the need to evict any further rodents and remove old insulation and re-wire. In other words, you can repair in them in place.
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