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Old 05-15-2021, 08:44 PM   #1
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1981 31' Excella II
Tallahassee , Florida
Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 43
Journey of a Thousand Miles

Hi, I'm MaryPat. I'm married to Darrell. This thread is to document progress with our 1981 Excella II & also to keep myself motivated. The past couple of years I've discovered that this renovation is like a journey of a thousand miles. My challenge is to work on it as frequently as possible. But with each new step in the process, I find myself paralysed by decision fatigue and/or the fear that comes with learning a new skill. This fear leads to procrastination. Then my procrastination draws on from days into weeks. So in the hopes of getting this sucker done, I'm committing to setting daily small goals & trying not to get overwhelmed.

We brought our Airstream home in September 2018. She was the first one we looked at, & we decided to buy her because we liked the center bath layout. In retrospect, our reno would've probably been easier if we had kicked a few more tires. She needed a good bit of repair work to the rear frame, so we decided to do the full Monty, shell off, new subfloor. Click image for larger version

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To date she has been gutted, with much of her bits & pieces saved in our old chicken coop. We removed the shell, & sent the frame to the welder to be repaired & painted. They did a mediocre paint job,so I repainted her. Meanwhile, I took apart, cleaned, polished & reassembled all her double-pane windows.

I've reinstalled the steps. I've repaired, re-galvanized & painted the tank pans. Currently I'm patching the shell - where there used to be an antenna, where the awning anchor got ripped out, weird patches on the exterior roof, etc. I've riveted the fixed windows back in place. This week I installed a new lock on the door, re-insulating, fixing a BB gun hole & patching holes left by a deadbolt.
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My goal this month is to finish buttoning up the shell, get the belly pan riveted back on, install the subfloor, tanks, insulation & marry the shell & trailer back together. Y'all pray for us! If you've read this far, thanks!

MaryPat
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Old 05-15-2021, 10:55 PM   #2
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1981 31' Excella II
Tucson , Arizona
Join Date: Jun 2019
Posts: 11
Wow!

MaryPat, what amazing work you've done!!

Here's to your future!
Lynne
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Old 05-16-2021, 05:24 PM   #3
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1981 31' Excella II
Tallahassee , Florida
Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 43
Journey of a Thousand Miles

For months our shell has been on 2x12s, resting on its c-channel, still embedded with a strip of plywood. Now that we are getting closer to installing the new subfloor, I need that c-channel.

So our goal today was, after bracing the sides, to lift the shell about six inches. I thought that my hubby would want to move the gantries back over the shell & lift it that way. Since half our work area is a narrow alley, he chose to muscle it up instead. He braced the shell side to side. Then Darrell lifted each corner by the bracing board & I slid in one remnant pine flooring boards at a time. We leveled the shell up (the ground is very slightly slanted) then he beat stakes into the ground, screwing them to the cross-members. This set-up is pretty solid.
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Should someone else use this technique to lift their shell? I have no idea. Since he didn't want to bother with the gantries, my suggestion was a jack. But he said setting it up over & over was too time consuming so he just muscled it up. But Darrell is a carpenter with 35 years experience so I totally trust his judgement. He can build anything, & he is one strong dude.

I managed to get one c-channel off before dinner time. So my goal tomorrow is to remove all of the c-channel & remove the plywood left in the channel.

Have a great evening,
MaryPat
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Old 05-16-2021, 06:27 PM   #4
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1955 22' Flying Cloud
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MaryPat/Darrell, glad you started a thread on your rebuild. You have a ton of the crummy stuff behind you. It may seem overwhelming now, but when you start going back with parts/pieces, the progress becomes obvious. Progress is what encourages us to continue on. I was a commercial bricklayer for many years. When my boss would give me blueprints for a building with a quarter million brick, I felt overwhelmed. He would just say spread your crew out and build one wall at a time until itís done. You eat an elephant one bite at a time. Keep the progress going and continue to post the pictures. Following along
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Old 05-17-2021, 04:49 PM   #5
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1981 31' Excella II
Tallahassee , Florida
Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bubba L View Post
MaryPat/Darrell, glad you started a thread on your rebuild. You have a ton of the crummy stuff behind you. It may seem overwhelming now, but when you start going back with parts/pieces, the progress becomes obvious. Progress is what encourages us to continue on. I was a commercial bricklayer for many years. When my boss would give me blueprints for a building with a quarter million brick, I felt overwhelmed. He would just say spread your crew out and build one wall at a time until itís done. You eat an elephant one bite at a time. Keep the progress going and continue to post the pictures. Following along
Hey Bubba! I love that saying about eating an elephant one bite at a time, it's super-relevant to working on an Airstream. They are such beautiful trailers, but until you take one apart down to the aluminum studs, you don't fully realise all the tiny details involved in the systems.

I have the next two week's daily work planned out on a calendar. If I complete each job, we will be putting the shell onto the frame on Memorial Day. Each day is another bite of that piece of the elephant. Then I'll move on to wiring. I have to take it in small chunks. When I think about the entire project, I get overwhelmed. Thanks for the encouragement.

MaryPat
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Old 05-17-2021, 04:59 PM   #6
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1981 31' Excella II
Tallahassee , Florida
Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 43
Progress 5/17

Today's accomplishment was removing the c-channel. It was a rough day & I have a sore back but I'm very happy to be finished.

Tomorrow I'm prepping the back center for new aluminum. The area just above the bumper is corroded.

I'm tired & it's time to make dinner. Thank God for frozen buffalo wings. Pineapple margaritas afterward are the award to celebrate finishing today's job.

Peace,
MaryPat
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Old 05-19-2021, 09:50 AM   #7
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1981 31' Excella II
Florence , Alabama
Join Date: Sep 2016
Posts: 51
It is going to look great! We have an '81 Excella II, 31', and we love it, so I know you will too. Ours didn't need a frame-off, we just reno'd the inside, replaced the axles, and several other bits along the way. These are great units and we've traveled thousands of miles in it with a family of 5 (plus the occasional friend). About to head out on an 8 month journey...



Do you plan to use the bits you removed from inside the camper, or are you open to selling anything? There are two elusive parts I need that I cannot seem to find anywhere: bathroom sliding door handle, and some drawer rollers for the bedroom. Let me know if you're interested in parting with them.


And if there's anything we can help with, we're always happy to compare notes.
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Old 05-23-2021, 08:06 AM   #8
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1981 31' Excella II
Tallahassee , Florida
Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by losfeliz View Post
Do you plan to use the bits you removed from inside the camper, or are you open to selling anything? There are two elusive parts I need that I cannot seem to find anywhere: bathroom sliding door handle, and some drawer rollers for the bedroom. Let me know if you're interested in parting with them.

And if there's anything we can help with, we're always happy to compare notes.
It's possible that I have the sliding door handle. The door is in the rear of the chicken coop so it may take a while to get back there. I'm sure I don't have the drawer rollers unfortunately. We didn't keep any cabinets.

MaryPat
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Old 05-23-2021, 09:03 AM   #9
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1981 31' Excella II
Tallahassee , Florida
Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 43
Putting away the rivet gun for now

Well I think I have finally finished all the buck riveting on the exterior. Woohoo!!! Thanks of course to my riveting partner, Sophia. She is my 16 year old daughter & she held the bucking bar for every single rivet we have hammered, We cut off the corroded bottom section of the back center panel & replaced it with new aluminium. In retrospect I wish the top rivet line was closer to the edge, but it's not a deal-breaker for me.
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While inspecting the shell for leaks, I realised that the rear bottom driver side corner panel had been replaced previously. The rivets weren't buck or Olympic, & the seam line had no butyl or sealant. So I drilled these rivets, sealed with butyl tape & re-riveted. It's not a pretty job, the frame piece was not absolutely true to the curve of the aluminium shell. I pondered what I was going to do about this situation for days, talking to Darrell about the options. I seriously considered ordering a new curved frame piece. But honestly I don't know if the frame piece is the problem or the shell. There are Olympic rivets in the upper curved corner shell piece, so this was worked on previously as well. So it's possible that we could order a new curved frame piece & still have an issue.

At the end of the day we decided to buck rivet the seam with the existing frame piece. It has some dimpling at the belt line, but it's a structurally sound, water-tight seam.

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My last repair was caused by the previous owner apparently leaving the awning up in windy conditions. There was a small tear in the shell aluminium which I already patched. But when I tested for water leaks I discovered that the nearby seam had some Olympic rivets that had the backs popped off. So we sealed the seam with butyl, & buck riveted it back together. (I dunno why this picture posted sideways.) I still need to reattach the awning mounting bracket.

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I also painted my wheel wells with truck bed liner. We decided to install the original wheel wells: exterior, insulation, interior & then for extra protection build a plywood box on top. Just in case we have a blow-out in future.

After putting away my tools I started sealing shell rivet backs & seams with TremPro 635. I went through three tubes pretty quickly so I ordered a bunch more - 20 tubes. I found it for $5.50 at Wholesale Glass & Supply online which I thought was a great deal. I should buy stock in this stuff & butyl tape.

Today I am putting the tank pans on the frame & hopefully beginning to install all the tanks. I have the fittings, tank valves & new sensors ready & waiting for me. Anyhoo, that's where we are at right now. Thanks for reading my ramblings.

MaryPat
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