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Old 12-03-2020, 07:41 AM   #1
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1995 34' Excella
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Do I Paint My Airstream?

I have purchased a 1998 30' Airstream Classic where most of the clear coat is worn away but the body panels are in perfect condition. I have removed all the remaining clear coat and most of the caulking. I was going to attempt to remove the oxidization and put the Airstream clear coat back on, to get back its 1998 look, but after reading many threads in this forum I've come to the conclusion, it is not going to look good, original or last. After reading many hours of posts I am more confused and much much less confident then before I began reading posts with no knowledge. The differences and or contradictions of advice or experiences are not helpful in building confidence in making a decision on restoring to the 1998 look. With that belief, it seems I have few options.

First, I could have it polished to a mirror finish which I personally find so unattractive. Then I could sell it to someone who likes that finish and do a better job purchasing one with a good skin and clear coat.

Second, I could leave it without a clear coat, try to find out "exactly" (Step by step, what products, applicators, and methods) on how to remove as much of the oxidization and skin damage as possible and have a 3 times a year process to maintain it. I would be good with this option, but once again too many difference of opinions to have confidence to move forward.

Finally I could have it sanded and painted, which can bring it very close to the original 1998 look. I have seen some airstreams that were painted and they look awesome. The immediate issue I have with this option is not knowing a person or company that has successfully done this and could guarantee an expert finish with lasting results.

So really it comes down to options two or three for me. Since I can't find someone to hold my insecure hand and lay it all out for me step by step in full details, or find and hire a company that will clean the oxidization up for me, option two is unpredictable and therefore I think option 3 is the winner.

I live in South Western Ontario Canada and would like to know,

1) Does anyone have first hand knowledge of a person or company, preferably close to where I live, that has completed with great success the painting of an airstream, and can share their information?

2) Does anyone have first hand knowledge of lessons learned with painting an airstream?

3) Does anyone know the cost estimate on a 30'?

Thanks in advance for reading my post and any specific contribution you can provide. Cheers!
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Old 12-03-2020, 08:06 AM   #2
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I know this is no help. But, I saw an Argosy a couple of years ago that had been painted with an Airstream matching silver paint. In talking to the owners, I didn’t believe them when thy said it was a painted Argosy, not a silver Airstream. They did convince me. It was a beautifully done job. I would discuss with some reputable auto paint shops. The challenge is removing the clear coat and the type of paint that sticks to aluminum. Maybe anodized? Good luck
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Old 12-03-2020, 08:15 AM   #3
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Welcome Aboard 👍

Our 1st AS was a '63 Safari, for the first three years my intention was to 'polish'.
I finally just cleaned well with Simple Green and green scrubby pads and let it 'patina'
For the following 15 Seasons I NEVER regretted not polishing.👍

Bob
🇺🇸

The year we sold it....
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Old 12-03-2020, 08:22 AM   #4
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You might want to reach out to BigAl from Mississauga. I saw his painted rig at a rally several years back and it was impressive.
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Old 12-03-2020, 08:26 AM   #5
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I would paint it. I painted my aluminum boat and it lasted.

several years ago, i read where someone used a Citrus based water soluble paint stripper to remove the clear coat. They than polished theirs.
The Airline paint their planes and it lasts.
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Old 12-03-2020, 08:30 AM   #6
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You could always clean it up and wrap it. This might accomplish your objectives, and it would allow you to change the color or remove the wrap in the future if you choose. There are gloss silver wraps available too if you want to keep more of a traditional Airstream look.
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Old 12-03-2020, 09:39 AM   #7
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We stripped the remaining clear coat off our '72 with aircraft stripper, cleaned off corrosion with Purple Polish, and Walbernized it. We get occasional questions from other 'Streamers how we polished it. It has a nice patina we like, and we don't have the annual high gloss polishing to do. We try to Walbernize annually, but didn't make it this year.

We tried the citrustrip, and other nontoxic strippers, but they did not work on our clear coat. Aircraft stripper is not especially fun to use, but it worked very easily.


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Old 12-03-2020, 10:35 AM   #8
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1998 34' Excella 1000
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Call Andy at CanAM in London. They know a paint shop that will do Airstreams. He showed us one when we were there a couple of years ago and it looked great.
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Old 12-03-2020, 10:45 AM   #9
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I spent 8 years painting aluminum in the Air Force. Check local airports and find someone that paints planes. They should know what’s necessary to properly paint your AS. It is different than painting a car.
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Old 12-03-2020, 10:51 AM   #10
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Ditto CanAm
One of our members let his classic motor home for an advertising campaign and they messed up the front end finish
I was unaware the front end was painted until it was pointed out
Some years back (1998???) Airstream had a problem with clear coat and under warranty they painted the affected trailers with a finish that was very close to the aluminum look. I’ve seen one of these trailers and it held up better than the factory original finish
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Old 12-03-2020, 10:54 AM   #11
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1976 Argosy 24
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Looking to get my new to me Argosy repainted

Hi There I just bought a 1976 Argosy 24.
I just joined this group to get Ideas on fixing it up in the spring

I'm looking to for someone to repaint the top half of my 1976 Argosy 24. I'm in Toronto

From what I can tell it was painted back in 2008 from Beige to Airstream Silver. But the clear coat is peeling off the top. I attached a couple of pictures
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Old 12-03-2020, 11:02 AM   #12
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You don't have to put a finish after you clean up the oxidation. You might like the look.

Paint will last significantly longer than clear coat and will give you easy options to clear up blemishes.

Painting should not change the value over a clear coat job
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Old 12-03-2020, 11:05 AM   #13
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Check out the article from The Family Handman (editors are fellow Minnesotans) and their restoration of a 1972 Avion. They painted it and it's stunning! Good luck and show us pictures of what you do!

https://apple.news/IMZJNGVRyRpCcdXG4aLylmQ/
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Old 12-03-2020, 11:06 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin245 View Post
You might want to reach out to BigAl from Mississauga. I saw his painted rig at a rally several years back and it was impressive.
I remember BigAl's trailer from the Moraine View Rally. As I remember the story Al bought this trailer from an Airstream dealer. The trailer was new and was from the vintage where Airstream was having problems with the clear coat they were using. At the time EPA emissions required changes in the clear coat formula that they used at Jackson Center. Eventually Airstream changed to the pre-finished Alcoa Aluminum.

From what Al told me, the trailer was under warranty and the dealer had the trailer stripped and painted. It really looks good. I'm attaching a couple of pictures.

Keep in mind that your specific model trailer is made with the pre-finished Alcoa aluminum and will not polish out to the mirror finish that you see on many vintage units. I have some pictures of a 34' Classic with the Alcoa aluminum and I have also attached them. This specific trailer was stripped and clear coated. It's a late 90's unit. The owner replaced the swings, installed new wheels and added the stainless steal rock guards. The work was done by P&S Trailer Service, in Helena Ohio. I saw the before pictures of this trailer and there were large portions of missing clear coat and deterioration. P&S guys used to have before and after pictures of the unit on their web site. Not sure if those are posted anymore. The owner lived in Missouri and the trailer was rescued from Florida where it had sat unused for years.

Jack
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Old 12-03-2020, 11:08 AM   #15
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No!

Painting any Airstream except an Argosy will devalue it by about 75%!!!. There is an episode of “Pawn Stars” which proves this. Removing the clear coat was ok. Polishing would be good for resale but it’s too flashy for me also. In my opinion your options are to just leave it and let a little patina take hold or you could “Brightener/acid” wash it at a Blue Beacon truck wash which give it a somewhat shiny but more natural look. An application of any paint or any sort of finish will make it look CHEAP!!!!!
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Old 12-03-2020, 11:15 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mykytiukr View Post
Painting any Airstream except an Argosy will devalue it by about 75%!!!. There is an episode of “Pawn Stars” which proves this. Removing the clear coat was ok. Polishing would be good for resale but it’s too flashy for me also. In my opinion your options are to just leave it and let a little patina take hold or you could “Brightener/acid” wash it at a Blue Beacon truck wash which give it a somewhat shiny but more natural look. An application of any paint or any sort of finish will make it look CHEAP!!!!!
Respectfully, I disagree. I have seen several silver paint jobs and it is very hard to tell it is paint. The information I have on value is value is not diminished by painting. I would be interested in seeing this issue of Pawn Stars. There may be some purists out there that don't like the paint, but from what I have heard it is a wash. Of course if you don't plan on selling it is a moot point.
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Old 12-03-2020, 11:28 AM   #17
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Cost wise you are looking at 5-7 thousand US dollars to paint an airstream. Check with truck shops for someone to paint. Trucks are usually painted with single stage paints that don't require clear coating and usually last 20 plus years with out issue.
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Old 12-03-2020, 11:30 AM   #18
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Quote:
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Painting any Airstream except an Argosy will devalue it by about 75%!!!. There is an episode of “Pawn Stars” which proves this.
Keep in mind that this was in the eyes of this specific buyer. I can guarantee you he would not sell it retail for 75% off!

Jack
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Old 12-03-2020, 12:07 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumatic View Post
Respectfully, I disagree. I have seen several silver paint jobs and it is very hard to tell it is paint. The information I have on value is value is not diminished by painting. I would be interested in seeing this issue of Pawn Stars. There may be some purists out there that don't like the paint, but from what I have heard it is a wash. Of course if you don't plan on selling it is a moot point.
I concur, I would think that a TV show that is nothing more than an entertainment outlet is not a viable resource by which to establish a value position. A quality paint job on an Airstream will go unnoticed by most who see it. I was surprised at just how good Al's rig looked. Of course, everyone has an opinion, and rightfully so. Value is based on a buyer's prerogative.
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Old 12-03-2020, 12:15 PM   #20
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ditto the airplane paint investigation

With the clear coat gone, your external skin is more akin to an airplane than a car - though recent Ford pickups use aluminum. But the point is that aircraft finishes applied correctly after etch and Alodine are some of the toughest finishes around. If you go that route, remember that buffing compound is not your friend for repairs; it wrecks the glossy finish.
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