Airstream Forums

Airstream Forums (
-   1965 - 1969 Overlander (
-   -   Aluminitis has set in... New to the forum/would love feedback. (

OliveRivets 01-12-2015 01:11 PM

Aluminitis has set in... New to the forum/would love feedback.
2 Attachment(s)
Hello everyone,

We recently found a 68 Overlander International 26T wasting away on an old homestead near the Virginia State Line. My close friend and his coworkers had purchased it from a local missionary around 6 years ago, as he was looking to move to Iraq to continue his ministry.

I approached them and made an offer...and they took a bite!

Next step removal from the over 100 acre forest through small streams and muddy trails, steep hills and high grass...Success!!

Fast forward.. I have now removed the all but the interior wall skins and half of the sub floor..

Here is the pressing question: Should I do a complete "shell off" to replace the floor or only replace the more severe areas.

I cant wait to hear all of your feedback/ stories/ hindsight.

have a great day!

Belegedhel 01-12-2015 02:07 PM

Welcome to the Forums!

My recommendation is to take the plunge, build the gantries, and go for the shell-off. You can then use the gantries to flip your frame, work your bellypan, install tanks and axles, etc., etc.. I see threads written by folks who attempt to do major floor replacements without lifting the shell, and it just looks like so much more hassle than just popping the shell off. Have a look at the thread below on page 1 for examples of things that can be done after the shell is off, and a diagram for building gantries.

flygrrl 01-12-2015 03:12 PM

What a cutie! Welcome!! The axle(s) is/are probably toast and if the frame needs work a shell-off is probably the best way. I can't wait to see what you do with her. Does she have a name yet?

flygrrl 01-12-2015 03:15 PM

Oooo, a '68, is that a Corning window year? I can't tell if the windows are curvy from the pics.

OliveRivets 01-13-2015 05:45 AM

Thanks to all for your feedback. Yes it has the curved glass. how many saturdays (with good weather) would it take for 1 or 2 people to remove the shell?

64airstream 01-13-2015 06:03 AM

Welcome to the forums and we hope you enjoy the restoration process. Having a second person helping is always good when rigging and lifting, but the necessity depends on your setup.

I agree with the previous recommendations. If you've already removed half the subfloor, taking the shell off is probably appropriate. You'll also be pulling the inner skin walls (at least the lower sections) to access the C channel and bolts. That will give you a good feel for the insulation, rodent damage, etc. We're working on a 68 Overlander right now, also, but minimal floor damage, so our shell is staying on.

We're finding some unique characteristics of the 68, like aluminum wiring and sprayed on floor insulation, that add to the adventure. There is a great deal of experience and knowledge among the forum members and we've found almost anything we encounter has been resolved before. The "Search" feature is a great tool.

Good luck and enjoy the project and then enjoy your Airstream,

Roy and Marie

Msmoto 01-13-2015 06:08 AM

Gosh, how exciting....maybe if time permits I can drive down to Wake Forest and grab some photos..... I will be following this closely.

Oh, Aluminitis, an illness similar to what Porsche folks suffer from as well.....

My best,

OliveRivets 01-13-2015 07:34 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Has anyone heard what is best,material wise, to replace the sub-floor?

FishinHatteras 01-13-2015 07:43 AM

Welcome neighbor. What a find, and good luck on your project. I too would love to see her. So much to learn, and I can't wait to see her develop.
Will you try & restore her original items, or give her a modern touch?

OliveRivets 01-13-2015 08:03 AM

Thanks! We will have modern systems and materials but with an older world feel. I dont want it to feel like a doctors office.

Cant wait to get her frame and floor sound... then its game on.

To everyone: What are the 5 biggest pitfalls or distractions in restoring?

OliveRivets 01-13-2015 08:07 AM

1 Attachment(s)

Belegedhel 01-13-2015 08:13 AM

So, in answer to some of the questions that have popped up so far in this thread:

Time required for a shell-off:
If you build gantries, expect to spend the better part of a day buying materials, cutting the wood, and assembling. You will also need three chain hoists, 1 ton each is more than adequate.

To prepare the trailer for the lift, you will need to remove enough belly skin to get allcess to all of the bolts that go through the outriggers. These bolts need to be broken off or removed, the lower inner skins need to be removed to reveal the tops of said bolts, and any other screws going through the C-channel into the subfloor need to be pulled out. All of the rivets that attach the shell to the bellypan (and in some cases, the C-channel) will need to be drilled out or sheared. This is a good full day of work as well.

After this, the lift is relatively simply: position your gantries over the front and rear ceiling vents, remove any ceiling AC apparatus, and run a 4x4 post from the front-most rib to the rear-most, and pull against this with the chain hoists. you may want to wrap it in towels ore moving blankets if you are pulling against your interior upper skins.

Any pitfalls to doing the lifts?
There is usually at least one rivet that you missed when removing rivets. If anything seems to be hanging up, run a putty knife in between the riveted layers all the way around the trailer to ensure that all rivets have been removed, and nothing is hanging up. Once you lower your shell to the ground, it is a good idea to anchor it so that a strong wind won't blow it around (yes, they are that light).

Any kind of mechanical lifting has its inherent dangers, ie, don't stand under a suspended load, keep an eye on your gantries, chain hoists, slings, etc., so you can see if something is fixing to break. Keep fingers/hands out from between the suspended shell and the frame. A hard hat isn't a bad idea when operating the chain hoists, as if one of them lets loose and falls on you, you have a good chance of getting a busted skull out of it.

Best material for replacement subfloor:
There are many threads that engaged in this debate. The suggestions range from high-tech honeycombed aluminum panels that are only available from NASA to rot-proof artificial fiber board to marine grade plywood. Keep in mind you want to avoid any kind of "pressure treated" wood, and also realize that you may want to install flooring over your subfloor that will need something to stick to. Note also that Marine grade plywood is not inherently water proof, it just has more layers and less voids (ie., it is better quality), but at a comparative enormous expense.

My recommendation would be to use a decent grade of conventional plywood and paint the entire underside, especially the exposed edges, and about 12" of the perimeter on the top sides with ~3 coats of polyurethane. I look at it this way: the plywood floor you have in there now lasted around 40 years, and it had no waterproof treatment at all. Seal up the wood so that it absorbs less water, and seal up your shell so that it isn't leaking, and your plywood floor should outlast you.

Also put some thought into your holding tank situation before you launch into your shell-off. Your trailer was not manufactured with grey water holding tanks. If you want to install some, then this is the time to do it (when you can flip your frame over and work from the bottom side). Installing axles is also a lot easier with the frame upside down (as is reinstalling insulation under the flor, and the belly pan).

Good luck!

OliveRivets 01-13-2015 08:26 AM

Thanks so much for your details.

Belegedhel 01-13-2015 08:36 AM

5 biggest pitfalls/distractions in restoring?

1) In-over-your-head syndrome: This occurs when you buy a trailer thinking you will change out the upholstery and do a little redecorating, and before you know it, you discover you need to do a shell-off and replace the frame. This is why you routinely see people selling gutted trailers.

2) Project fatigue: I bought my trailer 2 1/2 years ago, and it has been my full-time hobby ever since. I still have at least a year of work to do. It is easy to get burned out on "doing it right" while your brother in law is going camping in his old beater RV every other weekend.

3) Scope creep: Similar to #1 above, but in this syndrome, you don't feel like you are in over your head, but you find yourself saying "as long as I am here..." Examples include: "As long as I am working with the bellypan, I think I will replace the existing material with brand new aluminum (add a month to the project). "As long as I am reinstalling my interior skins, I think I will replace them with brand new, shiny aluminum" (add 3 months to the project). And so on....

4) Decision Dilemma: I swore I would write into my imaginary pre-nup that my wife and I would never build a house from scratch, as there are just too many decisions to be made. The Airstream "from scratch" rebuild is just about as bad. What is the layout, color scheme, "feel", etc., etc., etc.? Those folks that "keep it original" have one thing going for them: they know exactly what it should look like when they are done. Those of us "starting with a blank canvas," but not dead set on a particular look yet, have a lot of thinking to do. Sometimes this sort of thing delays the project for months.

5) Aluminitus: So you are 6 months into your first trailer rennovation, and you have already decided that this may not be THE trailer for you. You keep working on it, but you are unconsciously keeping an eye out for that 13 panel 50's vintage trailer that better fits your "dream trailer." Before you know it, you have two project trailers haunting your existence. Only one thing to do at this point: buy a farm, move to the country, and start farming Airstreams. Before you know it you have a dozen trailers on your lot, and you are entertaining going into business as a trailer restorer. Meanwhile that first trailer is still only 6 months into the rennovation...

I could keep going.....

SuzyHomemakr 01-13-2015 11:00 AM

As for flooring, I've been lovin' my 3/4" Eurolite ply, which is 60% lighter than regular exterior grade plywood. It's not Lloyd's rated okume, but lots cheaper ($95/sheet), and has few voids. I didn't have to do a shell-off, as I only needed to replace a small section of floor under where the bathroom was. I soaked everything down with Thompson's Water Seal before installation.

If you're popping rivets out, I found that an old scratch awl with a broken tip works great. Mine is about 1/8" at the tip, for the big rivets.

I wish that I'd invested in a pneumatic riveter when I'd started. I keep telling myself, "Not many more", but there always seems to be riveting to do!

Once your project is even vaguely road-worthy, grab your old camping gear and take it out. Helps to avoid burn-out, and you get to spend some time just cogitating about the various details that will make the trailer your creation.

A strange pitfall? When you invite friends in to view your work-in-progress, they will probably feel that their identity is threatened by your project. They get nervous, shuffle around, and start telling strange stories from their past that have nothing to do with anything. I have to pour lots of drinks down their throats to get them to relax. Maybe it was the bloody axe and bone saw that I forgot to put away? Who knows... :)

Hittenstiehl 01-13-2015 11:21 AM

Oh Belegedhel, how we identify with those statements.

Got our first a 65 24' TW, in pretty good shape, with most of the furnishings, didn't do shell off maybe should have. It's a work in progress. Then thought we'll get a slightly bigger one, 62 28' AMB, and sell the first one. AMB is empty and has already had shell off but we have the interior.

Realized we got attached to the first one and didn't sell it but bought a new house so we could park them both there.

So we have two partials that still need a LOT of work. But we love it and we are using them to camp.

Belegedhel 01-13-2015 02:29 PM

Oh, you got it bad!

I could mention a couple more pitfalls/distractions of the rennovation:

6) Over-engineering: This is like scope creep, but on steroids. I just saw a post today where a member was looking to install an electronic solenoid actuated valve (where other folks just put a manual one), and then control it with feedback from tank level sensors. Cool idea, but it just gets in the way of making progress on the rennovation.

7) Social disconnect: I've grown accustomed to the glazed looks my friends and co-workers give me when I give them an exhaustive description of what I did last weekend or over the holiday break (hint, its all rennovation, all the time). Recently, they have stopped asking. I'm learning to limit me enthusiasm to sympathetic audiences....

Peggy Wilson 01-13-2015 02:45 PM

Priceless. We have read this out loud and both LOL! Soooo true!

64airstream 01-14-2015 07:27 AM


I believe Belegedhal has provided true words of wisdom in the 7 of "5 Biggest Pitfalls". Well done.

We've joined that second stage associated with pitfall #5. We finished (a relative term used to describe road worthy, and camp worthy) our first project over the winter 2006-7 and have enjoyed using our 64 Safari ever since. The project was so much fun specifically because of the pitfalls Belegedhal has described and, to this day, hasn't ended. Taking it a day at a time and thinking and re-thinking how to best approach a given situation or problem. Over-engineering, then stepping back into reality where a manual valve would do, but we can't give up the 6 bottle wine cooler or fireplace. Deciding to redesign the dinette into a full sized bed/sofa since we've removed the dinette... The project was so much fun, Marie bought another project in 2008, which has had to wait because of promotions and the new work challenges that they bring. I retired in June last year and we started on our 68 Overlander this winter. Do we plan to sell the Safari when we're done? No. It's perfect for the two of us as we tumble around for a few weeks at a time enjoying more of what this great nation has to offer. The Overlander, on the other hand, will be perfect if and when grandchildren start coming along. Enter stage two of pitfall #5. No time pressure avoiding project fatigue, just fun deciding, increasing scope, over-engineering and re-engineering. Oh, and those friends and relatives that gave us the "look" indicating they saw no potential in the 64 Safari during the winter of 2006 (pitfall #7), now look at the 68 and want to know, where is the wine cooler going? We're inspired every time we meet other Airstreamers on our adventures and every time a half million dollar diesel pusher super rig pulls into the campsite next door and it's owners immediately come over wanting to see our trailer.

By the way, we didn't find the forums until we'd finished our first project. You are way ahead already. Just remember to have fun and enjoy the process.

Roy and Marie

OliveRivets 01-14-2015 08:20 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Good morning!

Thank you all for sharing your own experiences. What a wonderful way to avoid years of frustration, not to mention cost savings!

Your thought provoking posts filled with humor and prose, will no doubt help many more who stumble on these "Aluminary" ramblings years from now.

I look forward to updating you all on the advances I make, and more than likely the few regressions that take place.

My wife, 3 daughters, 2 pups, and I await the "campable" stage...

Many memories to come..

Hittenstiehl 01-14-2015 08:51 AM

Nice Truck too!

64airstream 01-15-2015 07:59 AM

Great combination. Your rig will certainly draw attention.

Roy and Marie

OliveRivets 02-02-2015 06:24 AM

Hey everyone,

What is the best method for removing the exterior rivets that hold the shell to the c channel/ frame?


Aerowood 02-02-2015 07:54 AM

Hopefully you have an Air Compressor. Nobody has mentioned tools yet, the right tool makes a world of difference. The best tool to remove solid shank rivets is an pneumatic drill motor that spins at approx 2800 RPM. The drill bits are just as important as the drill motor, #30 135 degree split tip cobalt will last a long time and makes drilling out the rivets easy.

OliveRivets 02-16-2015 05:06 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Finally some snow in North Carolina!!Attachment 232552Attachment 232553

mark.s 07-02-2015 07:02 PM

This is hilarious. I've gone through all of this in my head.

OliveRivets 02-19-2019 05:04 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Attachment 333980

Finally a shine!

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:19 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.