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Old 01-04-2011, 08:56 PM   #1
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1954 25' Cruiser
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Will a torsion axle fit a '54 AS?

My new to me 1954 Cruiser has the original axle w/leaf springs. I plan to completely refurbish the trailer so I'm sure the weight will increase. Based on that part of my plan is to upgrade the axle. I like the idea of a new modern torsion axle but don't know if these are basically a remove the old and replace with new on a 1954. Would it just be a bolt in replacement or would any modifications be required on the 54, in order to install a torsion axle?

Thanks. Don...

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Old 01-04-2011, 09:24 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by 54Cruiser View Post
My new to me 1954 Cruiser has the original axle w/leaf springs. I plan to completely refurbish the trailer so I'm sure the weight will increase. Based on that part of my plan is to upgrade the axle. I like the idea of a new modern torsion axle but don't know if these are basically a remove the old and replace with new on a 1954. Would it just be a bolt in replacement or would any modifications be required on the 54, in order to install a torsion axle?

Thanks. Don...
Remove the old parts from the frame, and weld the new axle in place.

That's it.

Andy
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Old 01-04-2011, 09:29 PM   #3
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Hi Don and welcome to the forums.

I switched my '57 Caravanner from leaf to torsion. You can see some pics of that in my thread link at the bottom of my post.

Not a big deal to do. You'll have to have a mounting plate made up and welded to the frame and then it's a bolt on from there.

cheers,
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BTW, nice looking airplane. Old homebuilder here too, Long EZ many years ago.
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Old 01-04-2011, 09:48 PM   #4
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Andy, thanks.

Steve, the airplane was a great adventure...but it's done nd I need another aluminum project so here I am.

I found the pics of your axle install, looks relatively straightforward. How did you know exactly where to weld those plates on the box frame? Do the plates come with the axle?
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Old 01-04-2011, 09:56 PM   #5
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I found the pics of your axle install, looks relatively straightforward. How did you know exactly where to weld those plates on the box frame? Do the plates come with the axle?
I ordered my axle from Colin Hyde and he sent drawings for the mounting plate. I just used the old axle centerline to determine where the new one mounted.

-steve
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Old 01-04-2011, 10:02 PM   #6
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Idea: Perhaps having the original axle overhauled. I thought about replacing mine until I took it apart and saw that is was in amazing shape after 60 yrs. Not to mention the craftsmanship. And I may be speaking out of turn but they just don't make stuff like they used to.

All the best,

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Old 01-04-2011, 10:14 PM   #7
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The tortion axles bolt to a vertical plate that is welded to the frames, and I'm almost certain your '54 would not have that plate. It would take some fabrication.
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Old 01-05-2011, 02:26 AM   #8
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Don,
Whatever you do, don't weld the torsion axle onto your chassis. The correct way to do it is to fabricate mounting plates, like the 60's era & newer Airstream's & have them welded to the chassis by a competent welder, then bolt the new axle to the plates. That way, you or a future owner will be able to easily remove the axle if anything happens to it thoughout it's life. As Steve said, I can supply you with a drawing to have the plates fabricated free of charge & you can order an axle through me or another supplier. Welding a torsion axle on could cause internal failure to the rubber cords & will definately void the warranty. I have done numerous conversion/upgrades like this & they work really well.
Good luck with your project,
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Old 01-05-2011, 06:06 AM   #9
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Welding a torsion axle on could cause internal failure to the rubber cords & will definately void the warranty.
Absolutely correct and vital to note. Welding directly on a torsion axle mount can transfer enough heat to damage the rubber.

Weld mounting plates to frame. Bolt torsion axle(s) to mounting plates. Alignment of the plates needs to be carefully measured, as there are limits to how much you can align the axles once they're bolted in.
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Old 01-05-2011, 08:54 AM   #10
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welding axles

As long as the raised axle mounting bracket is installed on the torsion axle, that part of it can be welded onto the frame.

Airstream did that with most of the 1961 Henschen axle installations.

Henschens original warranty was not voided in any way if that bracket was welded to the trailer chassis.

It would be near impossible to generate that much heat from welding the top part of the axle bracket, unless the welding was done with a torch, to ruin or even disturb the rubber rods.

That was Henschens warranty policy for the entire almost one half century in business.

As a matter of fact, the shock brackets were always welded in place, on the torsion arms, by Henschen, after the axle was assembled. Photo's on our web site, clearly show that.

Understandably, if any welding is done to the axle tube, that indeed will void the warranty.

Andy
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Old 01-05-2011, 10:07 AM   #11
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The shock mount is attached to the arm, which is a high mass piece allowing heat to travel in many directions. This distributes heat over a large volume. The mounting bracket is a low volume plane that transfers temperatures easily over 450F 2" away - within reach of the rubber cords. This was highlighted to me just last week in welding class, as we were being warned about damaging engine mount rubber through heat transfer.

The symptom of heat damage would not be visible or observable, but is a change of axle rating as the cord melts and slowly re-solidifies. Any time rubber goes through this process it loses elasticity.

There are other reasons not to weld directly. Airstream did this for less than a year before adding the mounting plates - a very rapid design modification considering this is Airstream we're referring to.

Airstream often does things that axle manufacturers do not support or encourage. For example, Dexter strongly cautions against the use of torsion axles where three axles are used, and will not honor warranty claims for triple axles.

Axle side mounting plates that will fit Henschen and Dexter axles are available directly from Dexter. #10 is part A/P-166-00 and #11 is part A/P-167-00.

Hope this helps the original poster.
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Old 01-12-2011, 05:53 PM   #12
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If you attach a torsion X to an A.S. frame that was designed for a leaf spring X without the added support of the vertical mounting plate you are expecting the frame to support the weight of the coach on a bearing surface of 3.5 inches, the width of the torsion beam. With the leaf assembly that same weight was spread out over the aprox 30 inches between the spring shackles. The frame rails are to light to withstand 5/8 bore holes to direct attach the the mounting plates welded to the new torsion X, and welding X to frame is debatable. For an extra 100 bucks in the plates you can bolt up like an original torsion X and forget it. No frame failure. We did this on one. A tip. Before removing the original X hold a plumb bob agianst the frame to find the ctr line of the X spindle, mark the frame for a referance point. The old spring X traveled almost straight up & down. The new torsion X travels an arch. Befor you cut the slots in the new frame plates to recieve the new torsion X be sure you have clearance for tire travel in the rear of the wheel well.
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Old 01-12-2011, 08:20 PM   #13
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For whatever it is worth, I had a 54 Safari. I replaced the original 4 inch drop axle with a straight 5200 lb Dexter axle, retaining the original springs and turning new nylon bushing for the spring eyes.
The reason I went to a straight axle is those trailers were very low to the ground. The axle cost less than a dropped hitch bar when you factor in the value of new brakes and drums

Also Andy is correct that in 61 Airstream did weld the axles in place. That is the way my tandem 61 tradewind is. Of course if I ever replace those axles it will take some fabrication to bolt the new ones on.

I find no particular advantage to the torsion axle other than increased ground clearance and have plenty of towing experience with both.
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Old 01-12-2011, 10:43 PM   #14
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....I find no particular advantage to the torsion axle other than increased ground clearance and have plenty of towing experience with both.
I suppose the advantage is ride quality.

The disadvantage is cost. Both in initial expense and over the life of the trailer. Torsion axles are way more expensive than a leaf spring axle.

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Old 01-13-2011, 05:48 AM   #15
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The torsion axle widens the suspension roll center out to the walls of the trailer, in effect. And, as it is independent of other wheel/tire combinations present, it is less susceptible to tripping hazards. It is, in other words, more difficult to upset the trailer; greater dynamic stability for a given load & road.

Better ride is just icing on the cake.

And, if we posit that this trailer is well-built enough to travel 200k or more over it's lifetime, in fact it is not more expensive, but cheaper, as the components of a conventional leaf spring arrangement are subject to greater wear & fatigue. The simplicity of the torsion axle is it's virtue in this regard. (That many do not do the maintenance and inspections of a leaf spring suspension -- taking it completely apart is necessary -- is beside the point).

Consider drum brakes versus discs as a workable analogy of initial expense versus performance and maintenance simplicity.

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Old 01-13-2011, 10:06 AM   #16
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Don good luck with your axle conversion. I'm sure if you can build that airplane, converting a spring suspension to torsion will not be a problem for you.
OH by the way
THANKS FOR THE RIDE .
Id love to fly again in a tail dragger like that.
Roger
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Old 01-13-2011, 03:52 PM   #17
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I agree with RickDavis concerning towability. The one we converted was a 1957??. It was about 15 yrs ago. It was used for a hunting trailer in northern Maine. A couple hundred miles of average paved roads then many miles of barely wagon ruts. On the worst back roads there was a benifit, especially ground clearance. On the paved roads we noticed very little differance between the two axle types. It was allways towed w/ 1/2 or 3/4 ton 4x4 pickups. No we did'nt ruin a classic, it was barely salvagable.
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Old 01-16-2011, 06:55 PM   #18
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Parts for leaf spring axle

I have a friend who has a 1960 18' Traveler. Can we still get parts for the axles? ie brake parts, maybe new back plate assemblies with new shoes and brake components etc. Spring and shackle bushings and so on.?
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Old 01-16-2011, 07:10 PM   #19
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I have a friend who has a 1960 18' Traveler. Can we still get parts for the axles? ie brake parts, maybe new back plate assemblies with new shoes and brake components etc. Spring and shackle bushings and so on.?
Very doubtful, as most of those parts are no longer available, and haven't been for many years.

Hub and drums have changed considerably, by using larger bearings.

Unfortuantely, typically, they won't fit the old axle spindles.

Many owners, either replace the axle with a spring type, or upgrade the trailer with a torsion axle, which is a far better way to go, as we all know today.

Brakes today, are totally different from 60 years ago.

Andy
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Old 01-17-2011, 08:12 AM   #20
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T G Twinkie,
Although the original brake components are obsolete, it is possible to install modern complete 12" diameter brake assemblies on early Airstream leaf spring axles. I rebuilt the axles on my 59 Ambassador International about 8 years ago & took a chance & purchased modern 12" brake assemblies. The original drums are retained but the original backing plate is completely removed in the conversion. Oddly enough, the center hole & the bolt mounting pattern & offset remained standard over the years so modern units are an easy "bolt on". Replace the bearings & seals easily by taking them to any local Industrial Bearing Supply shop so they can crossreference them with current manufacturers. This conversion has worked very well for me over the years, however unless you're a real stickler for originality, I would opt for a modern Torsion axle conversion. If you add up the cost & time involved to rebuild leaf spring assemblies, it makes more sense to upgrade to a Torsion axle as they are readily available through me or other suppliers. You will gain simplicity, greater ride comfort for your "Baby" & save about 100 lbs compared to the leaf spring version.

As noted in earlier posts, Airstream did weld early Henschen axles onto the chassis, however from my experience, it was limited to the smaller trailers, ie less than 24'. The axles on the larger trailers were actually bolted on, however not in the same fashion as everything since 61. The early bolt on axles had their mounting plates extending up on the outside of the chassis & bolted through the frame rail itself. This method made it difficult to replace without cutting into the bellypan. I would imagine it also made it difficult during production as well. Both of these approaches were obviously less than adaquate so Airstream went with the current method of side plates for the 62 models & newer.
Good luck with your upgrades,
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