Argosy tail rot
Okay, so I admit part of the allure of this Argosy was that it promised not to be as much work as all the completely gutted Airstreams I looked at. For one thing, paint doesn't have to be worshipped with a buffer. :)
It was supposed to be a simple project... or at least that was the lie I told my friends. A little flooring here, a new built-in bed there, some shelf liner, a microwave...we'd be on the road in no time.
HA! If only such lies could come true. I supposed having a 1500 s/f "garage" with 10' eaves gives away my tendency to collect tools - even if I only use them once or twice. That probably makes me a shoe-in for owning anything Airstream.
So I put her up on 8 jack stands and liberated the 38 year old axles. New axles are on order.
I did some minor surgery to look under the shower.... not pretty.... I have some very minor floor rot near the front door. The kind that screams out for a puddle of West System epoxy to make it all feel better (and solid).
The tail is worrisome though. As best I can tell the floor under the shower is a lost cause and aqua-express appears to be a feature that was installed on the rear of my Argosy.
So I am at a cross roads. My belly pan looks like someone took a 3/8" circle saw to the rivets. To be sure there are a few holding it up there, but by and large they are all corroded away. I'm not sure what happened. There is some surface rust on almost everything I can see frame wise. No big deal, and not entirely unexpected.
I *really* wanted to avoid re-manufacturing the trailer. Confession - while I do enjoy working on it, I wanted to camp in it... not under it.
One road leads to project hell where I do a shell off and probably don't camp for over a year.
The other road involves dropping the belly pan (which really has seen better decades) and deconstructing the bathroom to get at the rear 4 feet of floor. I really think the rear 3 or 4 feet is the part that needs replacing.
The part under the frankenvolt (univolt) is fine... the parts under the kitchen etc are fine. It's the curb side behind the wheel well and under the shower that appears to be the worst.
I had planned on replacing the black tank, adding a grey tank, and redoing the plumbing anyway.... so I'm not too far off.
The insulation is in far better shape than I expected. What I have seen has it's share of spider webs, dust, and nasties*®. However it's still pink and has a little fluff in it.... nothing I'd really want to touch, but not as bad as one might imagine.
So my dilemna is how to tell if I need to do a shell off or if I can get by with replacing the bathroom floor that is rotted. The bulk of it is solid, it seems like the shower itself had a leak for a while... or the trunk seam stored it's water under the shower. Can't really tell til I dig out the rest of the bathroom.
Picture One has a good picture of the rivets in the bellypan.
It looks like the bellypan is one long piece of aluminum and that it covers the banana wraps that cover the edges. The bellypan doesn't seem to be on there very well and it would make more sense to replace it with sections anyhow.
What should I be looking at to decide shell on/off?
If the holes in the belly pan are about the size of a dime around the rivet and washer. And that is the only significant problem. It can be reattached.
I took a hole saw and cut some 1 1/2" washer from a sheet of fiberglass. Like you would use to line a shower. I bought some fender washers about the same size as the fiberglass washers that I made.
After drilling out the old pop rivets. I used 3/16" x 1/2" pop rivets. Put the fender washer on the rivet then the fiberglass washer. Then installed the rivet. The fender washer covers a larger area in supporting the belly pan and the fiberglass washer cuts down on the electrolysis effect of the dissimilar metals touching.
Think of it like an Oreo cookie, with one side being the belly pan, the Fiberglass washer being the creamy filling and the fender washer being the other side of the cookie.
Hope this will help.
I also would like to avoid setting up a trapeze to swing my trailer from.... it's just not what I bought a trailer for.... as amusing as it seems. And trust me, it's tempting. :) I weld, have steel laying around, and own a forklift. But alas, I bought the camper to go camping and I enjoy parking in my garage.
I am assuming the Argosy trailers are built the same way the silver ones are. There is a plate that goes under the rear of the trailer in front of the bumper. This plate funnels water into the rear floor area. This area is also the main structural attachment between the frame and the shell. The floor goes between the frame and shell so unfortunately to repair the rear floor, you have to get into the structure a little. There is an L-shaped steel plate that is riveted to the shell and attached to a cross member with 1/4" screws. There are also a couple of bolts the go into the frame rails at the back. Many times the L-shaped plate is rotten and you have to fab a new one and preferably buck rivet a new one back in.
Well, it was not as bad as I feared. I got most of the bathroom pulled out. What a cluster of crappy construction. I took a number of photos hopefully they will help others.
- The shower foundation is flimsy.... literally
- The shower leaked and this is what caused rot on my coach.
- The toilet sits on some particle board on top of the tank... amazing, but not surprising.
- I "explored" for rotten floor with a hammer and found plenty, but not what I had feared.
- The only access to the shower valve is by removing the plastic panel it's part of... not mission impossible, but not a stroll in the park either. Oh yea, and there was a water leak there too, so it had to come out one way or another. lol. That could have contributed to the rot as well.
Pics are on Flickr Argosy Coach - 1973 - 24 foot - a set on Flickr
Now the trick is for me to repair and reassemble it. I have an itch to make it a mid-coach bathroom and a rear bedroom with queen size bed. It's all I can do not to shred the inside and start over.... lol.
I took several pictures of the unibomb/univolt. Mine was equipped with vintage toilet paper and rat droppings.. For a lovely campside fire. Needless to say the future of my coach does not include a unibomb. It also doesn't include a 7.5 gallon poo tank either. I'm planning to relocate that to under the coach and add a grey water tank.
I think I mentioned the frustrating shower valve thing in a PM. I haven't gotten to the point of yanking out the bathroom walls yet, but I know that's in the relatively near future because there's some rot under mine as well. At least you'll be able to exorcise the last of the copper that way.
I think 24 is a little short for a mid-bath. Usually in that size range it's either across one end or jammed in a corner, and if you jam it in the corner there are access issues for the bed. I'm on the low-priority "hunt" for a rear-bed 28' or 30' Argosy so I can take that all apart and still camp in the 24... ;) The nice-nice-nice thing about the center-bath Argosies is that they get pano windows at all 4 corners.
Hi Hotpuppy: I have purchased a 1973 26' Argosy. It looked OK at preliminary inspection at the sellers home, however things must have changed after towing it home from Ohio. After removing the belly pan which looked like a top of a salt shaker I was looking at two cubic yards of mud wasp nest. After removing it I found rusted away outriggers and badly corroded frame. At first I was going to repair it knowing that few years down the line I will be back at it. I decided to take a plunge and go all the way. The reason for it with me was rather simple. I am a luckiest fellow to have a wife like Margaret. She is everything in this world to me. She absolutely loves camping more than any other activity. That in itself was a sufficient reason to go Full Monte. Shell came off, new 6" Stainless Steel frame was built over first winter. New Dexter Axles, rims and tires. New black and gray tanks. 1500 BTU Carrier low profile AC, 30.000 BTU heater, Pex water system. New 4.5 Cub Feet Fridge. 17 sheets of African Okume plywood for interior with 5 coats of finest Marine varnish. New beds, sofa, closets. New Intellipower 9200, two Group 31 Deep Cycle batteries in sealed SS enclosure. Every shread of silver coated marine wiring inside and out. All new LED lighting. New Epoxy Paint job. All documented on the forums if you wish to see my posts. Latest addition this past winter was a electric over hydraulic leveling system capable od lifting all wheels 3" off the ground which works flawlesly. As you can see one must have a reason and the drive in order to make such immense decisions. Do you love trouble free camping? Will you still be doing it ten years from now? How important it is to your lifestyle? When you choose to read my posts you can get a better idea what you will be facing when you go Full Monte. On the other hand you may prefer just to repair it so it is operational, but try to avoid doing anything twice. Good luck in your undertaking in whatever you decide. If you have question, I will try to help. Thanks, "Boatdoc"
Hello.. Great trailers Argosys... looking thru some of your pics... you also need an outrigger replaced where the hole is also... a project for sure... been there and know it... love what we have now.:D
Ah, the familiar tale of woe (familiar because I am experiencing it myself). I too bought a "fixer-up" trailer, and am now just turning the corner toward reassembly in a full-monte.
My two cents: build the gantries, lift the shell, flip the frame and do all your underside work with the frame upside down. You describe a lot of work (grey tanks, frame fixes, frame painting, belly pan repair) that will go much easier if you just take the plunge. I know that people patch rotten floors all the time without doing a shell-off, but with the quantity of tasks you have planned, you are just doing a shell off without romoving the shell (aka "the hard way").
I see you live in Houston. I bought 4x12 sheets of 6061 aluminum at a supplier called Trident for a very reasonable price compared to ordering it online. I replaced my entire bellpan for a few hundred $
I plan to do some more investigation before I have a final verdict. Right now it looks like the rest of the floor is fine. The outrigger in question is present with some rust, but otherwise is serviceable.
The next step is finishing the interior removal and then peeling the belly pan this weekend. That will tell me definitively what I am looking at. From there I'll make a decision about shell off.
I wanted to avoid shell off because at that point I will end up reworking the whole darn thing with a new floor plan.
Well, I spent a few hours tonight removing the belly pan, insulation, and taking pictures. The belly pan wasn't held on by much. I had not realized just *how* lightweight the construction was in Airstream trailers. lol. LIGHT-weight. There is some surface rust on the cross members and exterior frame, but nothing to be worried about. In fact, nothing that can't be painted with osphor and then painted with primer and rustoleum.
Pictures: 1973 24' argosy belly pan removal and inspection - a set on Flickr
The real miracle is that the brakes ever worked.... what a joke. I took pictures so other owners know what is hidden behind the belly pan.
The plumbing is interesting.... took alot of pictures of that as well.
I will need to remove the panels that go from the side down to the belly pan... or at least loosen the lower edge of them. That will let me inspect the last of the floor.
Essentially the construction of an Argosy is 2 decent steel rails running the length of the trailer. Every 2 to 4 feet is a cross member. There are two 2x4's that run the length of the trailer in the middle, space about 18" apart. On top of this is 1/2" plywood that is spliced together with stapled splices.
The only substantial floor damage on my trailer is where the shower was. It looks like just bad assembly and bad design. The panels have an open seam facing up to catch water and funnel it to the bottom of the trailer.
I think for now I'll be replacing the affected 3 square feet of floor and putting it back together. I still have half-a-mind to completely re-arrange the trailer. A rear queen bed is calling my name with a small bathroom in the middle and a custom aluminum shower pan. It would certainly simplify the plumbing. No worries, I will be plumbing the trailer more like a boat then a house. It's laughable to use such oversized pipes on a trailer.
Before you argue with me just realize that everything you eat passes through a 1" tube already..... Hence the old saying on boats, if you couldn't eat it, you shouldn't flush it. Wise advice for RV's as well. Most boats use 1/2" drains for sinks. I tested this a long time back on a sink in my shop. I plumbed it with 1" pipe and it actually is one of the best draining sinks I've ever seen.
Anyhow, I will be installing a macerator pump on the toilet. I happen to have one that never got used when I owned a boat. I plan to enjoy the conveniences of camping, not the chores of plumbing.
Wow, what a job! The nasty stuff we get into in restoring these things. We do jobs that you couldn't pay someone to do, like cleaning up vermin infested insulation, wood, get into wiring, plumbing in spots not fit for man nor beast. It might not be much consolation, but you ain't alone. Why is this fun? I don't know, but I am still doing it, like you will be too. It's a disease, I think called aluminumitis.
Sigh.... well, it has turned into a shell off project. I spent some time looking for rot and found it in the front and a few other places.
I stripped the trailer interior today... here are the pics:
1973 Argosy interior removal for shell off refurbishment and remodel - a set on Flickr
Lots of nasty stuff came out... .
I also created a sketch of what I think I want to do for a floor plan.
High points of the sketch:
- Queen size bed in the rear with basement storage. Probably gas shocks or something else to lift the bed to get under it. Not sure on that... could just be tilt and prop with a stick too. :)
- Closet on the curb side. Need to think on this. There is a window there.. so it might wind up being some drawers and overhead storage. No big deal, I don't need hanging space to be honest.
- Shower incorporates a seat over the wheel well. The idea is to have a 32x36 shower. Toilet is next to it. Shaving would be done in the shower and hand washing would be done in the "kitchen" sink.
- Fridge stays put. Microwave goes above it. More storage above that.
- Oven (or cooktop) and sink are in basically the same spot... however they flip sides. This consolidates the plumbing. Might make for some interesting vent work on the roof. I think it will work okay.
- Water heater and space heater stay where they are.
- Front is remade into a booth seat based on restaurant dimensions. Features a 45x30 table with a 6 inch drop leaf. This makes for a nice table for having a couple of visitors.
- More storage under the seats of the booth.
The trailer is intended to support one couple, no kids, and entertain one other couple.
Water tanks would be located under the floor between axles. Probably Fresh, Gray, and Black from front to rear. I'm looking at 40 gallon fresh and 40 gallon gray, and 25 to 35 gallon black. Looking at macerating the black. Might also consider a 40 gallon mixed tank.
I have owned a couple of sailboats in the past and my last camper was a truck camper. I'm comfortable with the bed and bath access/dimensions.
The twin bed is too small for two adults to sleep in it. And frankly, if you are going camping with someone.... well you need to be able to be cozy. :)
I may put the inverter and a pair of sealed batteries under the front seat. Not sure on that yet.
I've been following your thread with interest as I'm going to look at a "76" Argosy 24 this week. It has already been partially gutted and I suspect will end up looking similar to your Argosy. Are you intending to replace the inside skins with new naked aluminum? What are your plans with the frame? I believe you said you are going to lift the shell? Will you also remove the upper skins and remove the insulation? I've heard that Argosy's have less chance to leak because of the outside paint. It will be interesting to see what you find if you do remove the overhead skins. Thanks for the great documentation...
Impressive lot of work. I've done a partial Arogosy, a total Scotty and a total Avalair, almost done. In all of them, do you get the same feeling I did, that is, they were all made to look good out of the show room, not designed to last, even though many do? Also, just a few caring design changes, would have made them to last indefinitely, that is water flows downhill, design them that way! but, then we wouldn't be having all this fun!
Good luck and keep up the pics, I never took enough.
I plan to put the interior skin back mostly intact. Although I really appreciate the Airstream look I think the polishing is too much for me personally to keep up with. lol.
So far I haven't found anything really striking on the interior as far as leaks. It looks like the following things may have leaked:
- Awning attachment points. (they used dissimilar metals)
- Air Conditioner mount
- Front windows
- Around the door.
I would encourage you to download some of the pictures and take them with you if you think you might have similar problems. Overall, I think the Airstream is well built, but suffers from the same things every other RV does.... it's built as cheaply as possible for it's design. Airstream is well built though.
My goal at this point is to get to the "aluminum tent" phase as quickly as possible.
I didn't make much progress today. My back is sore from yesterday and I'm unable to locate my dremel. I ordered a Black and Decker RTX tool from Amazon.
Speaking of Amazon - they sell 1/8" "jobber" drill bits under the champion brand that are extremely durable and cheap. I have yet to break one drilling out hundreds of rivets.
The last post was typed around 3pm and I forgot to submit... lol. Went and took a much needed nap.
After dinner I went out and put in some time on the Aluminum Sin.
I found that a sawzall and dremel multi-purpose tool were the best tool for bolts and elevator bolts in particular.
Pictures are posted to Flickr - 1973 Argosy Elevator Bolt Removal - a set on Flickr
- Watch your blade depth carefully. I didn't have any issues here.
- Use the multi tool to "carve" wood if you have trouble getting the blade in.
- If your blade starts to dull, use a pair of shears to carefully cut off the dull end of the blade. Most of the time I find that I only wear out the end of the sawzall blade. I found that I can trim the blade down to get more sharp teeth at the end and improve the lifespan of my blades.
Btw, this is one of the harder projects I've used my Harbor Freight CAT set on (Cheap A** Tool Set) lol. I've been really impressed with battery life and performance. Very similar to my other tools at a fraction of the cost.
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