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Old 08-13-2018, 08:44 AM   #1
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1971 31' Sovereign
White Pigeon , Michigan
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71 Sovereign Renovation

Hi everyone!
I have decided to try to keep a thread of my renovation both to get feedback and also to have a place to look back at what I did if I need to!
I bought my Airstream in March. So much has happened since, but most of it has been deconstruction. I'm going to try to remember everything that we've done so far, but I may leave things out, so feel free to ask questions and I'll answer to the best of my memory

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Old 08-13-2018, 09:00 AM   #2
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1971 31' Sovereign
White Pigeon , Michigan
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First Steps

The first thing we did is take out all of the interior. We removed all of the dividing walls, curtains, counter, closet, etc. to get down to bare bones. As I'm sure many of you know, this is easier said than done. If I had a dollar for every hidden rivet that caused us trouble I would have a much bigger budget for my renovation!
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Old 08-13-2018, 09:43 AM   #3
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1975 31' Excella 500
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71 Sovereign Renovation

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Old 08-13-2018, 03:16 PM   #4
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Old 08-14-2018, 06:13 AM   #5
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1971 31' Sovereign
White Pigeon , Michigan
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Panel Removal

Next was taking out the panels and getting rid of the NASTY insulation. I had mice trails and acorns galore in the walls and belly pan. SO GLAD I decided to take this renovation so far. I know I never could have gotten rid of the smell without replacing all of the insulation. This was a multi person project with the huge overhead panels, but it was so cool to see the progress after this. It felt like we were actually getting somewhere!
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Old 08-14-2018, 06:36 AM   #6
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1971 31' Sovereign
White Pigeon , Michigan
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Lifting the shell

Next (and quite a bit of time later) came the BIG EVENT. This was so scary. We drilled out all of the rivets we could find, and started lifting the shell. We decided to use gantries, but instead of buying the wood for the supports, we used trees. That's southern michigan for you! It ended up working really well though and I was really happy with how it went. We struggled for a while because we couldn't get the shell to pop off. Turns out we missed a couple rivets on the tie down plate that were hidden from view. Popped those and the shell came right off! Such an awesome and terrifying experience all in one! We pulled the trailer out from under the shell and lowered it back down. keeping it level.
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Old 08-14-2018, 07:09 AM   #7
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Youíre making great progress. Pulling the shell is a big milestone. We picked up our 55 a couple of years ago north of you in Mt. Pleasant. On the way back home, every time we stopped for gas, I think a couple of squirrels or chipmunks hopped out and started heading back north. The old insulation is nasty stuff and treat it as such. Keep up the progress and post pictures as you go. Good luck, Bubba
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Old 08-14-2018, 08:15 AM   #8
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Great progress. Love the tree part. Except for the hole y'all cut your floor looks to be in amazing condition. Why did y'all pop the shell? Anyway love the pics. Subscribed.
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Old 08-14-2018, 01:32 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by rugjenkins View Post
Great progress. Love the tree part. Except for the hole y'all cut your floor looks to be in amazing condition. Why did y'all pop the shell? Anyway love the pics. Subscribed.
We pulled the shell for a couple reasons. One was the back half of the subfloor. You can't really see it but it was in rough shape. So rough that we don't think we'll be able to get a template from it to match the curve. Looks like lifting the shell a little and tracing for us! it also had some rear end separation issues from what I could tell, and I wanted to add grey tanks. We also wanted to know what shape the frame was in. Thankfully, there are only a couple rough spots and mostly on the outriggers which are easy to replace. We thought that taking the shell off would just make all of those processes easier. It definitely has so far.
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Old 08-14-2018, 01:42 PM   #10
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1971 31' Sovereign
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Shell is off!

Once we removed the shell, we moved on to completely stripping the frame. Removing the subfloor was a much harder job than I anticipated, and the temp the weekend we did it was 88-90, so we were struggling. I think it took two weekends, but we got the bellypan dropped and we were down to the frame (mostly). The bellypan material is in really rough shape. There were several questionable patches and the metal itself was corroding and starting to get holes and things, so we decided to scrap it and buy new material when we put it back together. Unfortunately I don't have too many pictures of that particular stage.
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Old 08-14-2018, 01:52 PM   #11
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1971 31' Sovereign
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Up to Date

I believe that pretty much brings us to where we are now. This weekend, my dad installed the new outriggers I ordered to replace the ones that weren't in great shape. My mom and I worked on the panels. I decided I wanted to strip the vinyl. I have heard of the adhesive coming through and honestly I didn't want to risk sticky walls. I also think I may leave some of the aluminum bare for accent in certain places. However, this job SUCKS!!! I have had 3 people ask me today if I hurt myself because I'm so sore from squatting over those stupid panels with stripping chemical all day. We got the vinyl off of all of the biggest panels and most of the small ones between this weekend and a couple weekends ago when we started the project. Now we just need to recoat for a much shorter amount of time to get the adhesive pattern off. Thankfully that has been relatively easy so far. Hoping that continues!
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Old 08-14-2018, 05:40 PM   #12
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AWESUME work!!!
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Old 10-08-2018, 12:56 PM   #13
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1971 31' Sovereign
White Pigeon , Michigan
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Advice needed please!

So we've gotten some more things accomplished in the last couple weeks. I'm working on removing the old window seals so we can replace them, we welded and reinforced the frame where needed, and we're now in the process of coating the whole frame in POR15. As we get closer to being able to put the shell back on, I realize I have a few questions.

I've seen people having issues with the shell fitting back onto the subfloor after a full monty. I am replacing all of the subfloor with a composite that is about half the weight of plywood and will never rot (a very exciting thing for me). Unfortunately most of the subfloor that was there before (especially in the front and back) is rotted and would be very difficult to use as a template. Without having those to use and with the shell resting on supports but not necessarily level, how do I create a new subfloor that will match the shell? I'm worried if the shell is at all out of place from being lifted and I trace it as-is, it will stay that way when I lower it onto the subfloor.

Any words of wisdom about how to go about this?
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Old 10-09-2018, 07:24 PM   #14
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Do you have the corners C channel? They can be a good starting point.
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Old 10-10-2018, 06:32 AM   #15
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Do you have the corners C channel? They can be a good starting point.
We do. I just want to make sure that I put it back together in a way that I can be sure the shell is on straight and not warped.
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Old 10-12-2018, 09:14 AM   #16
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1971 31' Sovereign
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I haven't had a chance to post about my newest awesome opportunity so I thought now would be a good time. My family owns a small business related to boating and other industries where ropes need to be secured. We were invited to a pontoon show for one of the local manufacturers. While there, we got to interact with someone who was demonstrating one of the latest improvements to pontoon flooring. It's a composite flooring that is created in a honeycomb pattern. It's being used on all of the company's new pontoons, because it will never rot. Obviously with my project in mind I was very intrigued. I told him what I was doing and that I would be very interested in talking to him about the possibilities. They usually only work with manufacturers, but since they were interested in my project, they made an exception. These are the pictures of us bringing it home!

It's 3/4 inch so it's the same thickness as the plywood that was in there before. It will need to be bolted to the frame as well as sealed with an adhesive. It's about 1/2 the weight of plywood of the same thickness and will never rot or decompose if exposed to water.

I'm so excited to get it installed and very excited that I won't have to find a way to seal plywood!

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Old 10-12-2018, 09:18 AM   #17
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Wow! That is huge!
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Old 10-12-2018, 09:33 AM   #18
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At first I thought you were using Coosa board as your subfloor, but interested in seeing the results from your subfloor material. I was sure the OEM floors were 5/8", but I could be wrong.

If you can't make a template or accurately recreate the new subfloor from the old one, I'd suggest recreating as much as you can, remount the body, and fill in the rest afterwards.

Note: make sure you have the interior walls remounted before the snow flies, or build a snow roof over the trailer, as the outside shell will crumple under snow load without the interior walls giving it strength.

Cheers
Sidekick Tony

PS In one of your earlier pics showing the frame, it looked like one of the axle tubes was bent; now would be the time to replace axles....especially very old axles, as they have a 25 year life span.
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Old 10-12-2018, 09:44 AM   #19
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1971 31' Sovereign
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Originally Posted by Isuzusweet View Post
At first I thought you were using Coosa board as your subfloor, but interested in seeing the results from your subfloor material. I was sure the OEM floors were 5/8", but I could be wrong.

If you can't make a template or accurately recreate the new subfloor from the old one, I'd suggest recreating as much as you can, remount the body, and fill in the rest afterwards.

Note: make sure you have the interior walls remounted before the snow flies, or build a snow roof over the trailer, as the outside shell will crumple under snow load without the interior walls giving it strength.

Cheers
Sidekick Tony

PS In one of your earlier pics showing the frame, it looked like one of the axle tubes was bent; now would be the time to replace axles....especially very old axles, as they have a 25 year life span.
I've heard varying reports as far as subfloor. When we took the old subfloor out we measured and thankfully it was 3/4 inch. If I were planning on taking it anywhere right away I would definitely replace the axles. I'm planning on keeping it parked and living in it stationary for the winter, so that particular project is being postponed for now. I have a little bit of a tight budget so I'm focusing on immediate needs first.
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Old 12-19-2018, 08:44 AM   #20
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I am subscribing and am interested in watching how you go about the reno. We are planning the same process on our 1973 Overlander for a year from now
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