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Old 05-14-2020, 08:11 PM   #1
Periodic Table+Latin
 
1979 31' Excella 500
Air Force Base , Georgia
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 11
Itís a (not) a bird! Itís (not) a plane... itís an Aluminum Penguin!

First post from a long-time lurker who has finally pulled the trigger and gone and bought an oldish Airstream. Specifically a 1979 Excella 500. Interior is mostly stock, save for some soon-to-be donated mini blinds (I have an irrational hatred of them) and flooring, exterior looks amazing to my novice eye, and the dreaded butt sag appears to be minimal. Oh, and ďeverything worksĒ except for the plumbing ... but the AC is aftermarket and was a poor install.

Purpose
To create a lovely aluminum ďglampingĒ setup for our family; 4 kids, 2 dogs, my amazing spouse and the overly eager ďI can fix thatĒ me. We homeschool, I have a crazy work schedule, so we want to go stay at parks and such whenever Iím around and do so without dying of heat, bugs, or crushing the pocketbook.

The Plan
Clean it. Fix it. Use it a LOT!
In terms of fixing it, weíll be developing the priority list for repair/replace/create in the next couple weeks as COVID has made my schedule somewhat less hectic. Eventually Iím going to pull a ďFull MontyĒ and replace all the ply with Coosa, tweak some of the interior layout, and put in a nifty electrical setup with deplorable solar and such.

LETíS DO THIS!
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Old 05-14-2020, 08:25 PM   #2
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1966 22' Safari
1955 22' Flying Cloud
Fredericksburg , Texas
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 1,257
Welcome, good to have yíall with us. Make it road worthy, make it safe for you and the family, and head out and make some forever memories. The adventure of the journey is the fun. Take care and be safe.
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Old 05-14-2020, 08:47 PM   #3
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1966 24' Tradewind
1995 34' Excella
Lynchburg , Virginia
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 3,540
Itís a (not) a bird! Itís (not) a plane... itís an Aluminum Penguin!

Looks like about a 31í. This should work well for your family.

A friend of mine (Re-Pete) has a 92 Airstream and is doing a full Monty with the shell off and replacing the OSB floor with Coosa board.

Get her campable and go camping as much as you can with your family. Put off the complete rebuilding as long as possible because sometimes it just seems to take forever.

Dan
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Old 05-14-2020, 10:58 PM   #4
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1979 31' Excella 500
Air Force Base , Georgia
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 11
@BubbaL- Many thanks for the kind welcome! That is indeed the plan.

@TouringDan- I’ll go look up Re-Pete’s thread unless you’d like to post a handy link? We are going to postpone the full rebuild as long as practical, hopefully camping within the next couple weeks, but a rock guard for those expensive wing windows, replacing broken lights, and a “working” toilet (even if we have to flush with a jug) are initial priority repairs. New axels $$$ are on the short list after that to keep the popped rivet count low.

Anyone know a good place to order axels from in S GA/N-central FL? I’ll admit to being slightly lazy and not looking super hard yet... saw B&B Trailers in St Augustine but that’s about 3 hours out. :shrug: Maybe we just go camping near there to place the order and come back again to pick up. Doesn’t sound terrible but it’d be nice if anyone has a closer recommended shop.

We’re gonna teach these kiddos to build their camping setup! Worn and creaky with aspirations to learn how to do the kind of the kind of work that https://www.airforums.com/forums/mem...ium-10842.html and folks like him do.
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Old 05-15-2020, 04:07 AM   #5
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2016 25' Flying Cloud
z , Texas
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Congratulations , Welcome
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Old 05-15-2020, 09:44 AM   #6
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1972 29' Ambassador
Boynton Beach , Florida
Join Date: Dec 2013
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Just looking at your pics... are you sure that your axles are bad? I changed out mine, and put in a lift kit, and the body on mine sits at about the same place as yours. Maybe check out the Buyer's Checklist sticky and see if you find the symptoms.

Otherwise, I used Colin Hyde to get my axle/brakes combo. Some have had problems dealing with him, but I was quite satisfied with his service. This is not a project to be taken lightly. I've read on the Forums that some amazing individuals have done the swap solo, but I can't imagine how! Those axles are really heavy! It took 3 dudes and some bracket mods to get them in place.

Look into the Sharkbite system for plumbing PEX tubing. Yes, the fittings are expensive, but you really have to wiggle to get into some of the places, and probably don't want to have to torch the pipes together. If the probs are in the drains, look to clogged vents are ream out everything with a rental snake.

Seeing as you're in S. Georgia, get that AC running as best as possible if you want to camp this summer. You'd think that the skin reflects the heat, but it ain't so.

If I had my resto to do over again, I'd probably think about ways that I could make things more modular for ease of transportation outside and troubleshooting. It's tempting to add all sorts of gizmos "for comfort", but they mostly fall apart and need servicing. Usually right when you're making camp after a long drive! Eternal maintenance is the price of recreation! I would build in a nice 2 burner campstove with its own propane source that I could haul outside easily.
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Old 05-15-2020, 09:56 AM   #7
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2007 30' Classic
Oswego , Illinois
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I agree, not sure you require axles. More inspection needed beyond height.
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Old 05-15-2020, 04:25 PM   #8
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1979 31' Excella 500
Air Force Base , Georgia
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 11
Axels, rock guards, and AC drains... oh my!

Got the electrical plugged into the house. Going through and cataloging what does & doesnít work. AC works! Totally a kludged-in setup though and itís draining off the skin all the way down the side... thatís going to get to the top of the priority repair list quickly. Suggestions welcome!

Axels look to have negative pitch, havenít ramped it up yet to see the drop but really not interested in dragging the back end or rattling everything into worse shape. Still very interested in someone in FL/GA that I can order through for local-ish pickup. Looking at the 32 degree start down angle but wondering if it effects the fore/aft position and clearance of the wheels and tires? No one seems to have mentioned it but itís a question that popped into my tiny brain.

Top priority is actually a rock guard so I donít break any of the expensive double paned windows! No existing mounts for it... really tempted to buy a Harbor Freighter pop rivet kit and fabricate something out of angle, Lexan, etc... Becky B (Iíll have to find that thread again) style. Sounds like Inland is having issues, Outdoor Mart for the hinge, bar to hold up, and hold downs?

Not sure if the last picture is going to be good enough, but the electrical cord is looped off the side of the reel. Real tight squeeze to get a hand in there and canít reach back far enough to get it re-seated. Anyone have tips for getting that darn thing back on the reel?

Weíre looking at whatís open for a nearby weekend shakedown trip! Kids are really eager to try it out.
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Old 05-15-2020, 09:52 PM   #9
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1966 24' Tradewind
1995 34' Excella
Lynchburg , Virginia
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 3,540
Definitely order your new axles/brakes from Colin Hyde. He knows axles/Airstreams and will get you the correct axles with shock absorbers. You donít want any mistakes here and his prices are good.

Dan
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Old 05-16-2020, 06:39 PM   #10
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1979 31' Excella 500
Air Force Base , Georgia
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 11
Reel cover, bed supports and awning foot

So I managed to convince all the parts guarding the reel cover (under the street side bed) to a) not fall and smash my nugget and b) allow me access to said reel cover. Are the reels, cover and access door an aftermarket modification? Some poorly done pop rivets on the door and the cover being wedged in there and bent/gapped make me think so but the rest of the install looked decent. Something Iíll have to work on when we do the ďFull Monty.Ē Got the electrical cord unbound and re-coiled properly.

The bed supports are a mess, thereís a storage tray under where the bed hinges up that was mangled and the supports are about 1/2Ē thick by 2Ē wide ply stood on end with screws into the end of it. Going to make some 2x2Ē bracing to replace tomorrow. Looks like someone cut into the wheel well cover to get at the freshwater line, Iíll be fixing that eventually too. Some of the plumbing is visible... looks like hoses clamped onto copper, then copper, then hose... yeah, very kludgy. Looking forward to running some PEX. Anyone had good luck with mail order suppliers for that lately?

The rear awning foot rivet has pulled through the skin. Can anyone point me at a good thread on fixing that? Rivet size, type, & source? Bigger rivet tool needed?
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Old 05-16-2020, 06:47 PM   #11
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1990 25' Excella
Sisters , Oregon
Join Date: Jul 2013
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Love the irrepressible can do attitude, especially vs. the frequent whining from the new buyer group. Better an excited enthusiast than a discontented consumer. Buy used!

I’m subscribed.
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Old 05-16-2020, 07:31 PM   #12
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1979 31' Excella 500
Air Force Base , Georgia
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 11
Lots of recommendations for Mr. Hyde! I’ll certainly chat with him.
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Old 05-16-2020, 07:36 PM   #13
Periodic Table+Latin
 
1979 31' Excella 500
Air Force Base , Georgia
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by John&Vicki View Post
Love the irrepressible can do attitude, especially vs. the frequent whining from the new buyer group. Better an excited enthusiast than a discontented consumer. Buy used!

I’m subscribed.
My lovely wife and I have been talking about this for years... no exaggeration. We’re really looking forward to make this our own and have zero fear of the work it means. No whining here... just a slight bit of admitted laziness with forum searching. I’ve got a zillion and one questions and not as much time to spend searching the forum so anytime someone has a handy thread reference I’m all ears!

Thank you for your compliment and hopefully we can provide some value back to the community, or at least amusement. ;-)
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Old 05-17-2020, 03:10 PM   #14
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1979 31' Excella 500
Air Force Base , Georgia
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 11
Zip Dee Awning bottom bracket and under bed re-enforcement

I found a good thread with info on the Zip Dee rivets

https://www.airforums.com/forums/f442/zip-dee-rivets-67918.html

I need to fabricate a doubler panel for that area to re-enforce it... which requires some sheet aluminum, rivet gun, Olympic rivets... my lovely bride is amused how excited Iím am to go shopping.

I made a small stiffener for the under bed area. 2x2 and fasteners I had on hand, with a pocket screw into the floor so I can remove it later without being a contortionist. Now I can put that area back together so we can get on with many other tasks. Best way to eat an elephant and all...
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Old 05-18-2020, 07:28 PM   #15
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1979 31' Excella 500
Air Force Base , Georgia
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 11
Bed brace interference, AC drip and ducts

So you make one thing better only to cause other problems...:sigh:

My new bed brace fits in nicely and supports both the bed above it and the back of the tray very well. Buuuuut... the trays will no longer slide all the way into the under bed storage. The lip of the original storage bins is hitting my new brace and not allowing the roll door to close all the way. Of course I didnít realize this until I had finished fully installing everything back in. I think Iíll get in there tomorrow with the oscillating multi tool and cut a notch to allow the tray back in.

Red circle on the picture shows the area of interference.

I got the interior cover worked off the AC, found what I believe is a drain line, now I have to get up on top and see if I can connect it to the tray under the evaporator. That should stop the interior drop AND the water running down the side of the trailer. Iím going to gently blow it out with some low pressure air first to make sure itís clear and locate the bottom end. Iím also planning on some ducts to help aim air at the twin beds and towards the front bed. Right now the intakes and output have no separation so I need to do something, might as well practice my very dated sheet metals skills from high school shop class, with .032 aluminum and pop rivets, so Iím ready for future work. Started reading some threads on that. As always, suggestions welcome...

Donít mind the ugly upper storage fronts, we took out the cardboard and batting and are making some replacements. Everything fabric covered came out and is getting replaced.
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Old 05-18-2020, 07:33 PM   #16
Periodic Table+Latin
 
1979 31' Excella 500
Air Force Base , Georgia
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by SuzyHomemakr View Post
Just looking at your pics... are you sure that your axles are bad? I changed out mine, and put in a lift kit, and the body on mine sits at about the same place as yours. Maybe check out the Buyer's Checklist sticky and see if you find the symptoms.

Otherwise, I used Colin Hyde to get my axle/brakes combo. Some have had problems dealing with him, but I was quite satisfied with his service. This is not a project to be taken lightly. I've read on the Forums that some amazing individuals have done the swap solo, but I can't imagine how! Those axles are really heavy! It took 3 dudes and some bracket mods to get them in place.

Look into the Sharkbite system for plumbing PEX tubing. Yes, the fittings are expensive, but you really have to wiggle to get into some of the places, and probably don't want to have to torch the pipes together. If the probs are in the drains, look to clogged vents are ream out everything with a rental snake.

Seeing as you're in S. Georgia, get that AC running as best as possible if you want to camp this summer. You'd think that the skin reflects the heat, but it ain't so.

If I had my resto to do over again, I'd probably think about ways that I could make things more modular for ease of transportation outside and troubleshooting. It's tempting to add all sorts of gizmos "for comfort", but they mostly fall apart and need servicing. Usually right when you're making camp after a long drive! Eternal maintenance is the price of recreation! I would build in a nice 2 burner campstove with its own propane source that I could haul outside easily.
Yes, the AC is a top priority!

Really appreciated the idea of modular installations. I’m planning a u-shaped dinette/large bed conversion for the front and your comment gave me a good idea for that. Sides and front will be three main pieces, bolted together on the vertical supports, and screwed only into the floor. That should allow me to remove them more easily during future work. Thanks @suzyhomemakr!
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Old 05-19-2020, 08:40 AM   #17
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1972 29' Ambassador
Boynton Beach , Florida
Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 550
Quote:
Originally Posted by Al-lacrimae View Post
I got the interior cover worked off the AC, found what I believe is a drain line, now I have to get up on top and see if I can connect it to the tray under the evaporator. That should stop the interior drop AND the water running down the side of the trailer. Iím going to gently blow it out with some low pressure air first to make sure itís clear and locate the bottom end. Iím also planning on some ducts to help aim air at the twin beds and towards the front bed. Right now the intakes and output have no separation so I need to do something, might as well practice my very dated sheet metals skills from high school shop class, with .032 aluminum and pop rivets, so Iím ready for future work. Started reading some threads on that. As always, suggestions welcome...
Look for a tube on the street side, in the frame, that's where mine is.

Having picked up a 3D printer, I wish that I'd had it for my renovation. You can use it to make your ducts and separator thing. Maybe make friends at your local MakerSpace?

If you plan on doing any riveting, Harbor Freight makes a cheap air rivet gun that is well worth picking up sooner rather than later.
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Old 05-20-2020, 12:34 PM   #18
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1979 31' Excella 500
Air Force Base , Georgia
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 11
Carrier AC drain modification

Found the drain tube, put some weed wacker cord through it on a recommendation from another thread. It exits just forward of the street side wheel well. Going to put some screen on the bottom to prevent the mud daubers from crawling up.

Got up in the roof, pulled the AC cover off. Unfortunately the Carrier AC that was poorly installed is designed to just drain out onto the skin. Thereís only a piece of thick foam preventing the condensation from going through the cutout for cold air, between the lack of valid seal from that and any other holes that are hidden under the AC thereís significant water coming into the interior.

So my challenge is to connect the two existing drains into the drain tube, keep a slope, allow the connection to be disconnected for cleaning, and attach it to the pan with minimal lip so it actually drains out instead of overflowing, and route it through the foam ďsealĒ that currently exists.

Suggestions welcome...
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Old Yesterday, 10:24 AM   #19
Periodic Table+Latin
 
1979 31' Excella 500
Air Force Base , Georgia
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 11
Rock guard installation and Out of Doors Mart

My lovely bride decided that since weíre going camping next weekend, we should throw money at the problem in terms of the rock guard... rather then replacing windows or waiting for me to create something. So I ordered it from Out of Doors Mart. The rock guard is a kit with the hinge, holdup legs, hold down brackets and rubber hold downs, and all the screws and rivets needed for installation. What it doesnít include is the parbond, which I also ordered, and the recommended double sided foam tape, which I had.

Tools needed: measuring tape, drill, 1/8Ē bit, screwdriver, riveting tool with 1/8 tip, marking tool, and a second person for at least two parts of the process.

I followed the instructions at http://odmrv.net/RockGuardInstall/RockGuardInstall.php

but I messed up one of the hold downs by installing it backwards. At some point Iíll drill out the stainless steel rivets and reinstall it. My Airstream didnít have the rib they showed in the video, so I installed the hold downs along the seam of the two body panels. I also noticed that the hold down bracket piece that is installed on the rockguard is difficult to install because the two pop rivets arenít offset and interfere with each other.

I grabbed some replacement running/corner lights as well but those wonít work until I can get behind the overhead shelf in the trailer and reconnect wires. At least it looks better on the front for my neighbors!

I also want to give public thanks to the folks at Out of Doors Mart. I ordered on a Sunday, they called me Monday about a question I asked in the order, stuff got here quickly, and was very well packaged. High five to them!
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