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57BB 03-14-2013 05:20 PM

A Work That Is Progress---Rescuing a 1964 Overlander
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I found my 64 last summer...abandoned next to a river in central Illinois. The owner had passed away and his daughter inherited it. She and her husband didn't realize her father owned this trailer even though it was kept about a mile from their home. They told me that it must have sat for 5 years unused and they thought he was the second owner.

I have no idea what I was thinking, but I bought the trailer, hooked it up to my Honda Ridgeline and pulled it back to Washington, D.C. Of course the tires on the trailer were over 25 years old and of course two of them blew on the way back...but luck prevailed and I made it home.

Overall the trailer appeared to be in good shape. I knew enough to be dangerous since I also own a 57 Caravanner... But I have never really done much work to the 57 aka Ethel, I left that up to Frank Yensan's very capable hands. I figured I had gotten lucky with the 64, AKA Lucy as I had with Ethel. WRONG.

Lucy needed and is in the process of getting a complete facelift. Frank has been a huge savior in this project of mine by providing guidance, a helping hand and most importantly by teaching me the art and craft of Airstream restoration. So Lucy's exterior has been pretty well sealed up, I've carefully taken all of the windows apart and restored them keeping the original glass in each frame. All the running lights have been replaced and soon I'll install the new tail lights.

I decided after a few months of consideration to take the interior apart so that I could repair plumbing problems and to deal with ALL of the damage done by the MANY mice that had made Lucy their home while she lived by that river in Ill. I never would have believed that those critters would be so industrious and that they would actually make nests in virtually every space between the two skins of the trailer! They did. So, my plan to originally just remove cabinetry, and the airliner bathroom plus the lower skins of the interior were foiled as I found ample evidence the buggers had made happy homes through out the skin. I decided to remove everything and now have.

My training is as an architect with a good amount of my work involved with historic with the knowledge I have with taking a building apart and putting it back together again I decided to apply the same techniques to Lucy's deconstruction and eventual reconstruction. At this point aside form the progress on the exterior I have managed to save ALL of the interior cabinetry. There were three pieces that had been badly damaged and have been recreated, the rest is all sanded and awaiting warm weather for staining and lacquer. When the skin is reinstalled on the interior it will have a zolatone finish, the floor will be a solid sheet marmoleum, I will update the electrical; adding a few additional 110V outlets, cable, and a wired surround sound system. The original airliner bathroom will be restored and reinstalled, including I hope the swirlomatic toilet :) the belly is coming off too, probably in the next month, the underside will be cleaned, elevator bolts replaced as needed, POR painted on the frame, and new axles!

I'm trying my best to rescue the trailer modernize it where necessary, i.e. all new plumbing, some LED lighting, but it will feel like it is a strong survivor from that bygone era when complete. If there seems to be an interest in the work I'll do my best to post progress photos and stories as I go along. Just let me know!

My immediate problem is in the interior of the exterior skin. I'm hoping that what I think must be a common problem with this era Airstream has a sensible fix. As the photos show the interior of the end cap has a black, sprayed on joint sealer, at all of the panel joints. These joints appear to be leaking, and have for years on both end caps. The rivets are all tight. The exterior joints really can't be sealed with acryli-r because they are so tight. I need to reseal the joints from the interior. So, my question to the forum is, what do you all recommend as a long term joint sealer for this condition?

I'm looking forward to anyone and everyone's suggestions and as I said if there is interest is following my progress under Frank's watchful eye just let me know!

reinergirl 03-14-2013 06:00 PM

I'm in the same boat! Previously I have tried mechanical methods of removing the black stuff, no luck.... Nasty adhesive remover that dissolved my gloves but didn't make a dent on this black stuff.:(

I really wanted to remove it because I planned on sealing every seam/ rivet etc from the inside with vulkem and I was concerned the Tempro 635 wouldn't stick to the black residue.

Low and behold, this weekend I was stripping one of the compartment hatches with Citrastrip and eyeing the black stuff I swabbed some on. It literally dissolved it . My brush turned black it worked so fast. Admittedly I only tried it on two patches so far but it worked awesome. Citrastrip to the rescue yet again!:). I need to buy stock in this stuff!:D

My plan is remove the black stuff and reseal it with Tempro 635.

colberjs 03-14-2013 06:15 PM

I will be disappointed if you do not keep us up-to-date with pictures and details. I enjoy watching these transformations take place and could really use the motivation to resume work on my own '64.

Rideout 03-29-2013 06:32 AM

I strongly second that, colberjs! I've been fighting the urge to remove the interior skins on this Avion. I am rather afraid what might happen since I'm not completely sure how she's all held together. I have the flooring out, so if I remove the interior skins, she won't collapse on me, will she?

Please, 57BB, do continue to post progress!

batman 03-29-2013 11:50 PM

Hi 57..
If you were a rodent, wouldn't you chose an Air Stream to live in ;). Ask frank, I am sure he can tell you some rodent story's.
Wait until you remove the belly skins. Mine was filled with pine cones :lol:.
Kudos for saving your original interior cabinetry, etc.
The "problem with the inside of the exterior skin". That black tar like stuff they used all over the place. I think it must have been used as adhesive (for fiber glass insulation) and seam sealer because it is not just on the seams.

Take a close look at each rivet in each rivet line, and look for any oxidation around the edges of the rivets. Look for signs of water at every seam. Oxidation or signs of water means a leak. Re-buck any or all rivets needed at this point. Then try using a metal or plastic scraper to remove the black tar material at each seam. A freezing spray might help Poop Freeze - YouTube :)
Then you might try a liquid rubber like this seal the seams from the inside. Eastwood and others make painable sealers also. They work good for the wheel wells also. Mine had some issues at the corners. Not any more.

Best wishes on your rescue project. 64 is a good year, however they have there quirks.
Can't wait for more updates and photo's, plenty of photo's.


Roadrunner 03-30-2013 05:39 AM

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Has anyone used FlexSeal on the inside seams of their Airstreams? I'm wondering if this would work...seems easy enough to use and it is flexible and guaranteed to seal.

Indiana, PA

WBCCI 4871

batman 03-30-2013 08:35 AM

Looking closly as possible in the second photo. You have what looks like the back side of a old style "Olympic" rivet line on your end cap. It is a little difficult to see in the photo. However my 64 Safari had the same type of rivets in 2 places. I thought they were Buck Rivets at first. Then I was re-bucking and found out these were not bucked but were actually a type of Olympic style rivet. They leaked like Niagra Falls inside the end cap. I found that one of the end cap panels had been replaced using these. I drilled out the olympics and sealed the panel with TemPro 635 and buck riveted it back in place. No more leaks.

Look very closely at the back of your rivets. It looks like you may have these leaky things on yours also.

You say your rivets are tight. However I see a lot of oxidation along the seams. That indicates it is leaking there. I would clean it up and re-buck that line. Then seal it.

After you get the back sealed up nice. I would use Captain tolley's around all the rivet heads and seams on the outside, it will wick in better than most other products. Then a little Par bond on the larger cracks.

57BB 03-30-2013 08:29 PM

Wow and thank you all for the very astute comments! I have progressed beyond the advice given, for the most part. After careful consideration and observation I realized the black asphaltic material was used to seal the windows to the body frame and the end caps to the main body. A secondary use of the material in a more paintable form was to adhere the electrical wire and provide adhesion for the insulation batts in the end caps. To me removing this material is neither necessary nor wise...for the most part it is still functioning....I also fear that coating this material with any kind of solvent would permanently weaken whatever was left of the material. As well i wouldn't be surprised if it has asbestos as a component in it's mixture. With all this in mind I decided to seal the exterior seam with Acryl-R and seal the interior seam with an auto body seam sealer made by 3M. I had previously sealed most of the seams with AR with good success. It's supposed to rain tomorrow so we'll see...

The information about the Olympic rivets vs real buck rivets is interesting, however I'm not sure how to tell the difference. I'll bring this up with Frank to get his take on the rivets.

Overall this trailer sat for 20+ years and so it wasn't jiggled around on the road. It had no rivet damage and really only leaked at the end caps. Taking the trailer apart has been a good thing as I've been able to clean and eliminate all the mouse junk. At this point the shell is very clean and ready for the next step of long as all of the leaks are fixed :)

In three weeks she'll be going into Frank's indoor facility for the belly pan removal, cleaning, frame painting, replacing three sheets of plywood, new wiring harness, new grey water tank, and replacing the axles. If that all goes well we'll move onto the interior but I don't want to jump the gun on that yet LOL.

One project I recently completed was cleaning/repairing and restoring the jealousies....I think they turned out pretty nice :) I'll have to post photos tomorrow since I somehow managed to misplace the ones I took :(

57BB 04-01-2013 05:23 PM

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Here are some photos of the before and after of the jalousie window project as well as a photo of Lucy in her present state.

Frank's Trailer Works 04-02-2013 07:33 AM

I will be checking into these old school Olympic rivets mentioned first thing in the morning. I am stuck home today with a sick kid...
I have not noticed this. I doubt they were used however. The trailer has not had any replacement panels done so the inability to buck was never there. Are you referring to the dark reddish area in the photo of long roof seam? That is dried mouse offerings. The end cap photo is of bucked factory rivets.

batman 04-02-2013 09:12 AM

Hi Frank,
I hope I am mistaken it is a little difficult to see, but in photo #2 it shows the back side of 3 rivets. Check these out very carefully. The backs look to perfectly squared off 90 degrees and no bulging at the sides to be bucked rivets.


Frank's Trailer Works 04-02-2013 09:32 AM

looks like a bucked rivet to me, but I will check tomorrow for sure.

Phrunes 04-02-2013 09:43 AM


Originally Posted by Roadrunner (Post 1279644)
Has anyone used FlexSeal on the inside seams of their Airstreams? I'm wondering if this would work...seems easy enough to use and it is flexible and guaranteed to seal.

Indiana, PA

WBCCI 4871

No, but good idea. You know, you can use that stuff on your undercarriage and turn your car into a boat. Honestly...I saw it on the commercial. Hahaha

Frank's Trailer Works 04-02-2013 10:11 AM

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Here are some more photos of Michael's trailer. It had a little rear end rot. Repairing it lead him to the slippery slope of a full on, full monty he is now doing... (sorry if I gave away a secret)
Attachment 182338

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He has been doing an incredible job I might add. Everything he takes on results in very professional results. He even shot his first rivets the other day when we put on a new awning rail. I did the bucking while he got the experience.

57BB 04-21-2013 04:47 PM

So at this point it looks that the leaks/seams are sealed...I'm setting up a work space to make repairs, stain and otherwise make ready for the original cabinetry to be reinstalled...all while waiting for Frank's time to open up for some serious work to begin on the underbelly of Lucy. I've decided to replace two additional sheets of plywood in addition to the rear sheet we already replaced.

I come from the school of if the original material remains functional there is no need or good reason to replace. Hence why I'm reusing the original cabinetry, glass, plywood...etc. also the original trailer configuration made it light weight for its size which is important to me. I kind of wonder why folks renovate the older trailers making them much heavier than they were originally? To each his/her own :)

I'm curious what others think about two issues I'm struggling with; air conditioning/heating and flooring.

For flooring I was considering Forbo's Marmoleum, in sheet goods...meaning no seam. The pro for this product is that it looks authentic (at least for 50s and very early 60s coaches...not sure about a 64), it is anti microbial, is a completely natural product and it is very easy to care for. The cons are: price about $1800 installed, and that a sheet of luan underlayment has to be installed for the warranty to apply.

There are other options, hardwood floating snap lock...less expensive but neither authentic nor could it be installed under the cabinets. Cork is a very intriguing option. It is reasonably priced, easy to install, easy to clean, is anti microbial and has a variety of looks. Frank Lloyd Wright used cork flooring tiles in the bathrooms at Falling Water and other homes. The flooring at Falling Water has survived in fantastic condition since 1937+/-.

I'm leaning towards cork...thoughts or experience?

I'll break down my question concerning A/C and heating as simply as possible. I could install a dometic heat pump. It's efficient, reasonably priced and well regarded. But I would ALWAYS need electricity for both heating and A/C. I'm leaning towards getting just an A/C unit (possibly with an electric heat option) and a propane furnace. I'm curious to know what others prefer and what manufacturers they recommend. I have/will boondock and winter travel is very possible.

Everyone's interest and opinion is well appreciated!

57BB 05-02-2013 04:25 PM

Day 2 in the Shop
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Frank and I attacked the belly of the trailer today! It was probably the single most disgusting thing I've ever participated the end of it all we both stunk like the inside of that belly pan!

But, as disgusting as it was the amazing part is the condition of the underside of the trailer. There is virtually no damage whatsoever to the frame! In fact it really isn't going to take much effort to clean it up as is and then move on to putting it all back together. YAY!!!

The actual pan was pretty chewed up, not literally but it had enough cuts, holes and patches that I decided to bite the bullet and install a new pan...the .032 was ordered this afternoon. Two modifications we discussed and decided to do are to; install a 7 wire junction box that will be accessible under the gaucho (instead of the original patch in the pan non-protected "box" LOL) and to add a spare tire yoke under the A-frame....I'm tired of having to chuck the spare tire in the back of my truck so this last change will be a true luxury for me :)

Should be picking up the repaired window frame tomorrow and will work on restoring the last of the windows, clean the frame and hopefully paint it, maybe even get to the plywood.

Photos below are:

The first photo is one of the least gross images I had of the mess that dropped out of the belly when we dropped the skin. YUCK!

The second photo is of one of the three places in the forward area of the trailer where the plywood had rotted away, this one is at the stud just forward of the door.

The last photo, showing Frank breaking bolts, also shows just how clean the frame is...sorry its sideways but I'm not sure how to rotate photos on this site...

mistral blue 05-06-2013 10:39 AM

Lookin' Good

Originally Posted by 57BB (Post 1289239)
I'll break down my question concerning A/C and heating as simply as possible. I could install a dometic heat pump. It's efficient, reasonably priced and well regarded. But I would ALWAYS need electricity for both heating and A/C. I'm leaning towards getting just an A/C unit (possibly with an electric heat option) and a propane furnace. I'm curious to know what others prefer and what manufacturers they recommend. I have/will boondock and winter travel is very possible.

Everyone's interest and opinion is well appreciated!

I'm loving the progress in this thread! You're doing a terrific job. :flowers:

My wife, 12-year old son, and I have a well-insulated, 24' Argosy and we also roll with 2 mid-sized dogs -- so all together we tend to generate a lot of body heat. For cool weather camping here in the northeast, we rely primarily on one of these. Perfect for fall boondocking IMO. Set it on low an hour before sundown, crack open a vent or a window, and you'll have a toasty trailer waiting for you after happy hour. We have never had a furnace.

When it gets really cold, we'll plug in something like this and like this in addition to running the cat heater (I forget which ones we actually have). The only problem we have yet to satisfactorily solve with this setup is the one of condensation. The windows, vents and door can attract LOTS of moisture.

What I should probably do is get some more Reflectix and make cutouts for the windows and Fantastic vents before we do any more sub-zero camping ... maybe I can cut out a Reflectix blanket for the door too ....

57BB 05-08-2013 08:02 AM

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Well we have been very busy at Frank' Trailerworks the past few days! After the belly pan was removed an executive decision was made to replace it. New .032 All Clad arrived yesterday. The issue of heating was resolved, Dometic heat pump with a back up CAT heater...the grey water tank made it impossible to keep the original mouse den...I mean duct work in the floor LOL. I'm thinking about having Frank make a custom stow compartment on the curb side of Lucy where otherwise I'd need a patch from the original furnace exhaust. I think it's an interesting idea since the area it would access is the far recess of the sink cabinet and will provide a great little exterior storage area the Overlander didn't really have.

We found the wiring harness, such as it was lol, a collection of wires behind a patch in the belly pan that had been covered over by a stabilizing jack! See the photo below for anyone curious to know what the harness looks like. We also discovered why we could never get the street side brake/turn signal to Squirrel had chewed through the harness bundle in a couple of spots. So the new harness will end in a box under the gaucho with all new trailer wire!

The frame is just in fantastic shape! It's been wired wheeled and cleaned as have the hitch and bumper. Talking with a local auto paint supplier I decided to limit using POR15 to the hidden portions of the trailer frame (areas not exposed to UV). On the exposed portions of steel we'll use an epoxy primer designed for bare metal and to the receive the automotive base coat and clear match the tow vehicle.

Removing the axles was a challenge and took more time and physical effort than was expected. Since the PO kept the trailer next to a small river in Illinois year round and never winterized spent a lot of time being wet. The damage fortunately was limited to the axles fusing to the frame...well the bolts fusing. So out of 8, 7 had to be cut off. It took some real pounding to then drop them! See the photo ate the metal recycling spot...we took the proceeds from the recycling and had an amazing Mexican (authentic) meal in Fells Point...yum!

It appears that the 64 trailer had more than one or two anomalies in its construction. The axle and the frame is a bit off. Although the new Dexter axle should have just fit right in the original space instead the bolting flange is about 3/4" short. This required a small modification to the flange to extend it so that new bolt holes can be drilled into the frame....a piece of cake for Frank :)

More to come soon!

57BB 05-14-2013 02:35 PM

Prep and Paint
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Before the axles go on Frank and I prepped and painted the frame, hitch, bumper, step and wheels. I opted for a blue that will match my TV, a 2013 Honda Ridgeline. The color is really beautiful as it has three different kinds of "pearls" in it giving the paint a great deal of reflectivity and depth...a little hard to capture in a photograph.

FYI, we used POR15 on the portion of the frame hidden in the belly, the back side of the bumper. Our paint expert recommended using an epoxy primer on the rest. So the painting of the exposed metals was actually a three step job, primer, base coat and a clear coat. This way the metal bits will can be maintained much like a car's finish is maintained.

As well I started work on restoring the name plate, stripped all of the silicone and other gunk. Used the frog tape to mask out the letters.

Enjoy the photos! We're hoping to have the three new sheets of plywood bolted down and install the axles before the week is out. Stay tuned...

57BB 05-16-2013 05:07 PM

Forward Plywood--DONE!
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Frank started yesterday (I was out at my real job all day) and skillfully guided the most forward piece of new plywood into place, perfect fit! As well he stripped off all of the masking from the paint is this color beautiful!

Today we made mince meat of the second sheet of literally slide right into place with practically ZERO effort! Bolting down proceeded after we got it all in the correct position. Frank worked around the step area, installing a step light, new aluminum cap over the entry plywood. We lined up the C channel and were able to cleco the skin to the channel using the original rivet holes....again almost no effort involved. Actually I was amazed at how quickly and easily we managed to reconstruct the front of the trailer.

Just let me say publicly that Frank Yensan is an AMAZING craftsman. I am having a blast working with him on this project. His ideas and practical approach to Airstream restoration is a natural fit with my way of thinking. I consider myself on lucky Airstreamer to have Frank's Trailer Works just 33 miles from home!

Enjoy the photos; first is the clecoed street front, second is the entry detail, third is the nearly completed plywood install and last is the underside.

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