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Old 09-20-2020, 03:22 PM   #1
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Collaborative vintage airstream renovation guide

Mark (SteinVT) and I (Atomic_13) were discussing the viability of publishing a book to help those who are considering or are presently renovating a vintage airstream. Airforums is an excellent resource to learn about the process and get specific questions answered. However, like any forum, it takes substantial effort to piece together the requisite knowledge to take on a renovation project of this scope and complexity.

We see value in collaborating with others who have experience completing a vintage renovation. I would be remise to not point out that Tim Shepard (cohost of the Vintage Airstream Podcast with Colin Hyde) did a great job chronicling the renovation of his '60 and 71' Airstreams in his book titled "Restoring a Dream" (amazon LINK). A quick search also revealed a few other renovation books by Chris Peterson (Camper Rehab) and Daniel Hall (Streamline Aluminum Trailers) It's hard to tell from the amazon listing but it appears that Natasha Lawyer may also cover renovation as part of her book (Tin Can Homestead).

Of course, a lot has changed over the recent years with composite flooring, solar, lithium batteries, and a substantial increase in interest in boondocking. I believe there would be great value in collating the hard-earned first-hand expertise of forum members who have taken a renovation from start to finish.

Looking back on my renovation, I would have greatly benefited from a resource that discussed:

1) Getting it home (locating, inspection, purchase, recovery)
2) Financial considerations (example renovation costs, cost of ownership and upkeep, insurance, storage costs, etc)
3) Project management (methods to keep the project moving forward on time and budget)
4) Considerations for use and motivation to finish the job (restoration versus renovation, interior design considerations, boondocking versus hooked up, stories that highlight various types of airstream travel) [note all of this can significantly inform the direction a renovation takes...]
5) General renovation (multiple chapters of specific content applicable to most trailers, including but not limited to content about the chassis, shell/windows/vents, electrical, cabinetry, flooring, plumbing/holding tanks, LP, appliances, and upholstery)
6) Era specific chapters (nuances of various years of trailers)
7) Towing (with particular consideration of the impact of trailer layout and design and its influence on tongue weight, trailer sway and towing safety)
8) Gear lists (outlining items often used while air streaming, note it helps to have an idea of what you'll need to store in the tow vehicle and trailer when considering layout)
9) Maintenance and upkeep (of course Rich Luhr has a book about this for modern airstreams)

So, our questions are as follows:

1) Is there sufficient need/interest for such a resource? (i.e. does the existing published books or information on Airforums meet the needs of renovators?)
2) If there is a need, what approach to writing the book should be taken? For example, should we limit this to a select group of authors (6-8 experienced renovators) or rather create some form of community Wiki to initially capture a wide range of expertise and then convert it into a publishable resource?
3) What's the liability risk to the authors? I noted Tim Shepard took the "I'm simply telling you a story about my renovations" approach. Would the authors be at legal risk?
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Old 09-20-2020, 03:49 PM   #2
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Excellent idea that will offer long lasting guidance for decades to come.

Although modernizations have occured many of the basics remain the same.

We have the books you mention and really appreciate the Hall book and the podcasts.

We keep a folder of all the materials from vintage academy, make notes at rallies, take photographs of others clever solutions and try to bookmark online articles.

This forum likely has all various stages and systems covered throughout the threads, just not easy to piece together.

I would appreciate a compilation or collection of ideas and expertise. There isn't usually just one correct answer but often a consensus of best practice to lead us rehab folks in the correct direction.

Go for it, we'll preorder a copy for sure.
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Old 09-20-2020, 04:14 PM   #3
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I believe that would be a good thing. In keeping up with a lot of the renovation threads, there are a ton of innovative ideas floating around. I believe having one primary source to explore these ideas, versus spending days re-reading many past threads, would peak the interest of do-it-yourselfers. Most DIY books lean heavily on illustrations to promote better understanding. Sounds like a helpful project.
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Old 09-21-2020, 03:43 PM   #4
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I think it a sound idea, especially if you think about the questions that arise here from people looking to buy or just bought and ready to start. None of us can really claim expertise to all the areas/systems that a full renovation takes, so combining knowledge base is helpful to all.

Another thought I had in reading through the above postings, may also be in a mid to high level discussions/list of the differences/difficulties that various versions/years have. What I faced with a late 50's versus an early 80's model would be advantageous to the person looking at buying used. Perhaps this topic should be separate from your original goal and dealt with later.
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Old 09-21-2020, 06:56 PM   #5
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I like to check out the "new members" Forum category. I look for folks who just bought a 50 year old Airstream and have little knowledge on what they bought. Some ask about desirable years. Folks considering renovating or restoring a vintage Airstream would benefit in an "overview" of the scope of the project they are embarking.

I don't know if "how to do it" detail is needed. There are just too many variables in each project seems to me. I often advise newbies to start a project thread like many of us have where specific approaches and problems can be discussed, and Forums members can chime in with "free" advice.

I think "history briefing - pros and cons" would be helpful to people getting into the hobby. 13 segment send caps, whale tail body design, leaf spring axles, 7 segment end caps, door within a door, dura torque axles, Corning windows, new body in 69, alclad aluminum skins, 70s trailers, grey water tanks when. Is there any year or feature that is desirable, or undesirable?

There are always folks who want an idea of cost and time to renovate. Maybe there should be a likely proposed budget for a shell off renovation.

Count me as one supporting the project.

David
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Old 09-21-2020, 07:22 PM   #6
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Just for clarification are we talking about a for profit venture or is this for the betterment of the community?

In my opinion a wiki style document makes the most since.
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Old 09-21-2020, 07:59 PM   #7
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A few years back I restored a 1960 BMW R50/2 motorcycle. Lucky for me there was a comprehensive aftermarket manual written by The Barrington Motor Works. Everything in one place written by one of the top restorers in the country. Originally published in 2010, it has now on it's third edition. Unlike the BMW service manual, this one was filled with tips and tricks on dealing with an old motorcycle.
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It is truly a service manual as there are the typical chapters for each sub-system. This was the type of manual I would have loved to have when I first started on the Safari. Instead I listened to ALL of the VAP podcasts and read the forums for hours and hours. I agree with David, a project thread on these forums is invaluable. It is so nice to be able to ask a question and get an answer. That should never go away, but as I continue to read, I find the same questions asked and answered again and again. Maybe this would help streamline some of this process.

I agree that all of our trailers are different, but when you get right down to it, they are remarkably similar. Steel, aluminum, plastic and wood held together with countless rivets and screws. Compared to the technology embedded in a modern car, they are incredibly primitive. I don't think a sub-system based format would prove to be too difficult. Just add notes for specific years as required.

Lots of great ideas, all of them. I think the first task on a project like this is to brain storm ideas, just like what is happening here. So keep them coming. - Mark
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Old 09-21-2020, 08:56 PM   #8
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Mark, I agree there should be categorized sections depicting different phases of a renovation. Airstream structure is basically the same until you get into the modernization of the electrical and technology components. It’s going to take time and continued collaboration for y’all to come up with a detailed renovation guide. Looking forward to helping out any way I can. Take care
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Old 09-21-2020, 09:27 PM   #9
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I think this is a good idea worth exploring.
If there were a book about restoring Airstreams in 2010 when I brought the first one home and quickly found out it needed serious repairs, I would have bought it. I'd still buy one, but I love books.
The same questions do get asked over and over. They are the same questions I asked 10 years ago. But ya know, that's how the forum stays operational. Newbies clicking on ads.
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Old 09-21-2020, 10:05 PM   #10
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Renovation/Restoration Guide

I feel there is a definite need for an overall guide like this! The possibilities for every system for all Vintage trailers to be discussed is and should be developed within a guide to help all seeking the knowledge based influence of several authors who would be willing to share tips and tricks of the trade in general rebuild/repair as well as updating and upgrading of Vintage trailers. There should also be discussion on unique models and years to make new owners of Vintage trailers aware of specific differences of trailers as posted above! Such things as curved Corning windows, Door-in-a-Door models, Thirteen panel and seven panel endcaps and much more need to be included as well as discourse on the different types of wiring upgrades that some vintage trailers need to make them more safe. Also the basic information on new types of insulation and better sealants must be included. I would be willing to do a pre-order myself just to gain more knowledge of what experienced restorers are recommending for use on my unique Mid-Sixties Vintage trailer to bring it up to date and to carry it beyond even my use in future. We have all heard the horror stories of botched repairs/remodels that have looked good at first glance but then after the fact turned out to cost unsuspecting buyers loads of money to fix or have lead them to abandon their Airstream Dream! You guys get to work and let me know when I can order one! Good Luck, Ed
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Old 09-22-2020, 12:57 PM   #11
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Thank you for the feedback about our proposed project! I'm excited to learn that there is support for a guidebook and that you believe many (both new and established renovators/restorers) would see benefit in this work. Mark and I visited offline a bit today and plan to meet soon to further flesh out the project's objectives and discuss some of the logistics that we'd need to consider before moving forward.

As summary of what we are hearing thus far (note, we welcome continued input and perspective):

- There appears to be a current gap to fill regarding a detailed guidebook for airstream renovation/restoration.

- Several support the reference to include sections/chapters detailing the various phases of a major renovation/restoration.

- It was appropriately noted that this shouldn't be a step by step guide as there is too much variability between trailers and what they need as well as individual preference. Honestly, this is where the forum is really helpful to new/active renovators/restorers to get detailed support and advice.

- It would be of interest to highlight era specific nuances as well as comparing/contrasting various approaches to the same problems/tasks.

- There is strong support for this to involve multiple authors which supports expertise being represented across the spectrum of trailer years and specific tasks (e.g. electrical, metal work, etc)

- The precise approach (guidebook versus Wiki) needs considered further. At present Mark and I see value in a guidebook. That is not to imply that a Wiki couldn't also be created and would certainly help inform the development of a guidebook. An important consideration we have is to make sure we don't detract from the objectives of this forum (it's owner and our moderators). If we redirect forum members to an external Wiki, that potentially would undermine the beloved community we all enjoy here on AirForums. Before establishing a Wiki, I think it would be important to visit with Janet H and colleagues.
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Old 09-22-2020, 03:21 PM   #12
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I think you've broken down the categories rather well. I look forward to seeing what feedback/suggestions come from the moderators regarding the forum's position. Personally I'd like to see this within the forum's website in some manner. We wouldn't have started this discussion without it, let alone have met each other, to a great extent.

Besides from a practical sense, updates, corrections, addendums are much easier electronically than in print.

I think it needs to be some type of sub-section, like the Technical Section Forum, but not structured as threads.

Not that I'm against a printed version, I'm old enough to prefer reading from paper than the screen, but in this day and age how practical/economical is it to try and publish? My thought would be to do what many of us do now. Locally print the information desired from this forum on my printer. Save the pieces/threads/sources to Word/Adobe etc. that are pertinent to my needs.

Look forward to being part of this regardless of the product structure.
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Old 09-22-2020, 03:34 PM   #13
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I haven’t read all through this thread but if you need a graphic designer, I offer my services! Sounds like a neat project!
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Old 09-22-2020, 06:55 PM   #14
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I think there are benefits of such a "Airstream renovations for beginners" within Airstream Forums. I don't know exactly what a "sticky" is, (bubble gum stuck to your shoe?) but maybe a sticky offers general information and is a "administrator controlled" document, not a discussion thread.

Maybe we could author "chapters", have Airstream Forums edit and approve, and then have them posted in a "sticky". I can see 30 or more specific titles within this "sticky".

Airstream Forums is the place to go to learn all about Airstream trailers, from 1948 Liners to 2021 Globetrotters. Vintage trailers are what, 25 years old or older.

Many of you have visited the Vintage Airstream site, link below. It is certainly along what we are talking about. It hasn't been updated for a long time seems to me. But take a look and see what you think. It might be part of Airstream Forums bailiwick.

http://vintageairstream.com/

That said, I'm just some old guy in the peanut gallery. Others have better ideas.

David.
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Link to my 1975 Overlander Improvement Journal:
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Old 09-23-2020, 09:23 PM   #15
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Guide

My choice would be for you to stick with the booklet idea. I feel there is much more to learn after the basic systems booklet that can then be referenced on the Forums. Learning all trailer system tips and tricks would ( I think ) be easier to grasp by a guide in print. Wiki maybe later... and definitely don't take anything away from the great community we have here on the Knowledge Forums! Many great ideas and work arounds as well as helpful thoughts have always been a wonderful part of the Forums! I would have been lost without the help of many here and I don't mind saying so! However a hard copy systems work through of all systems would really compliment these owners posts and threads on this site. Keep up the good work and let me know when I can pre-order my copy! Thank You in advance, Ed
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Old 09-24-2020, 09:36 PM   #16
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Brian, I agree with Ed, Go for the guide book and I'm in for one.
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Old 09-25-2020, 07:18 PM   #17
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Books are nice. You gotta signoff on the final copy and hope you didn't miss something, you gotta find a printer, you gotta guess at how many to print and spend for the inventory, you gotta have some marketing to get the word out, and you gotta ship it to the buyer. A lot of work and expense for 10 books.

Or you can find a website, post the transcript, have it free for users, and maybe sell an ad or two if you get enough "hits".

I'll help with the project where I can.

David
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Link to my 1975 Overlander Improvement Journal:
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Old 09-26-2020, 04:57 AM   #18
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As a graphic designer with experience in wordy things, be sure to get a couple of good proofers on board. You can not proof too many times.
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Old 09-26-2020, 06:48 AM   #19
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Thank you for the valued perspective about this project. Mark and I met via zoom yesterday to consider your input and discuss our objectives and preferences. Our preference leans towards a printed guidebook. However, prior to committing to this in full we need to research the feasibility of that approach by doing some background research into the process, costs, and other potential barriers identified in the above posts.

Regardless of which approach we ultimately choose we are moving forward with drafting a detailed outline of the proposed content. We both agreed that this community may be interested in reviewing the outline and providing comments about what we propose be included. Once we hone in on the sections and chapter topics we plan to review past renovation threads and identify a list of potential contributors who have completed at least one significant renovation/restoration and also have a demonstrated ability to write. We also are interested in including individuals who have expertise in a select list of skill sets needed during renovation/restoration. Following this, we’ll invite individuals to be participate.

If you have interest, time, and believe you meet the above inclusion criteria please send me a direct message and we’ll add your name to the list. Alternatively, we’d very much appreciate nominations of individuals who you believe would be a good fit on this team. Regrettably, we will be unable to include everyone but we hope to recuit a pool of contributors who span the various topics, skills, and era specific content we hope to include in this work.

Thank you,
Brian and Mark
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Old 09-26-2020, 10:40 AM   #20
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Don't mind me...

Maybe a Chilton style how to book with some photos for folks who need to see a visual.

Kip - riveting
Tireman - wheels
Colin - axels
Overlander63 - history
Lou - Solar
Can Am - tow vehicles
Carey Bland - curtains
Marti's - awnings
Sailrite - sewing cushions

References to all the great rebuild threads here.

References to renovator businesses.
Timeless
P&S
Area 63
Hoffman Architecture
Silver Bullet Trailers
Ultimate Airstream

And so many more....
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