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SmokelessJoe 09-25-2005 08:15 PM

Contemporizing 1976 Argosy D - opinions please
1976 ARGOSY 24 Double
V.I.N. 24DV1922C

Essentially a one-owner vehicle, this trailer has been stored indoors for all of it’s Canadian winters.

It is in a perfectly useable state, but I want to “contemporize” it as a design and ‘life on the road’ project.

This will be accomplished largely with the use of industrial quality paint finishes, applied professionally, INSIDE and OUT, probably in the Pepper White and Black colours of my 2005 Mini Cooper.

I am not going to change the layout. It works for me. It will just be cool new paint, new lighting, new fabrics and new flooring.

If you want to see the Argosy as it is now go to

I want to haul the Mini on a flat bed truck, pulling my New Argosy.

The leading candidate for the job is the new Dodge-Mercedes Benz 3500 Sprinter, cab and chassis, probably in the 158” WB.

If hauling the Mini is decided to be impractical, maybe I will trade it in for a 118” or 140” WB Sprinter van, the new tow vehicle and the Argosy both painted Brilliant Blue or some such.

Good design is one of my interests.

That’s why I so much admire the iconic Airstream -Argosy shape and what Airstream has done in recent years with the CCD line.

I recognize that very little of the money put into this project will ever be recovered except by the pleasure of my having done it and being able to use it.

Looked at it another way, this will give me the cool, hard edged look of contemporary Airstreams, with their aluminum and stainless interiors, at less cost.

The deprecation taken on a new trailer or the money put into a wonderful old one are going to be a similar figure in the end so it’s really the adventure that makes the difference.

The exterior AND THE INTERIOR will be painted with a durable, two step automotive enamel.

( Maybe LATEX for the inside walls if I opt for a softer finish or find enamels unworkable)

The bathroom will be sprayed in a two-step epoxy.

There will be new faucets and shower hardware.

The small kitchen cabinet will be replaced. There will be a stainless back splash wall, a CoraLite or stainless counter and a new round sink and faucet.

Other things I think I want:

New tires and maybe new Alcoa wheels.
Banana wraps for the body
New ceramic toilet.
Macerator system for sewage.
System monitor updated.
In line instant water heater.
Industrial quality designer vinyl, rubber or linoleum flooring.
Air conditioner with heat strip.
New awning fabric at minimum; more likely a new Zip Dee
Fantastic fan.
Power jack.
New battery (batteries, if a way can be found to add additional ones).
Newer Inverter / converter system.
New aluminum LP bottles and new Airstream style cover for bottle area.
A new fridge ( or maybe painting the existing one)
going 110 v will be considered
Microwave and TV.
Additional halogen lighting.
new upholstery fabrics.

The truck possum belly will carry a generator or a deep battery system large enough to power the A/C. and have a proper patch panel for trailer hook-up.

There will be auxiliary tanks for fresh and black water; maybe a frame mounted LP cylinder for the generator.

The idea is self-sufficiency. I want to see the inside of a trailer park as little as possible.

Until now, I have been a person to do much of this sort of work by myself, sometimes hiring professional help. I’ve sprayed furniture, built kitchens, laid floors. The last four years seem like an endless renovation to one thing or the other.

But I’m 69 years old now. I had better hire others to do this project if I ever want to get out on the road.

I’m taking the trailer to WILTSIE TRUCK BODIES at Aylmer, Ontario.

They are old friends of mine. Twenty five years ago they built an entire European styled one ring circus for me; more than 20 pieces of rolling stock, some of the trailers 45’ long.

They do quality work and have a spray booth big enough for a highway tractor.

CAN-AM, the large Airstream dealer, is 30 minutes from Aylmer. They have already checked the systems out and made initial needed repairs. Can Am may be a source of supply and expertise even if they are sloppy about answering emails or returning phone calls.

The project will be done when it’s done. Then I am going to head out on a two or three year long first journey.

I have never lived in a trailer except long ago, in the circus. It was 45’ long and pulled by a big road tractor not driven by me.

I do not have real world Airstream Argosy experience.

Advice or comment, therefore, most gratefully received.


john hd 09-25-2005 08:49 PM

welcome to the forum!

first off, welcome to the forum!

i have to say your first post here is impressive to say the least! what a nice original trailer you have...some will tell you to leave it alone and not tamper with it.

but then, what fun would that be?

i have an airstream so i am not an expert on argosy, if you want to paint the interior consider using a product called "zolotone" it is an industrial finish the factory used for years.

you can use the forum search function to reseach zolotone and other interior finishes.

it sounds like you have a very unique project planned, please keep us posted on your progress. you have found the correct place to find out much information.

if you cannot find an answer just ask. there are many helpful folks here.

again, welcome aboard!


Janets Husband 09-25-2005 10:18 PM


Sounds like a great project and good plan.
I would like to add a few things you should consider.

"New tires and maybe new Alcoa wheels"
Make sure the wheels are rated for 2600lbs, not the light weight ones.

While in the axle territory you should have the axles checked to see that they still have a positive angle to them, check them with the weight loaded into the trailer you expect to carry on your full time trip.

"New ceramic toilet"
The Sealand Traveler is great.

"Macerator system for sewage"
Don't like them, too much chance of plugging up, Then What?
"Industrial quality designer vinyl, rubber or linoleum flooring"
Cork is warm and soft, check it out.

"New awning fabric at minimum; more likely a new Zip Dee"
Great Choice.

"Fantastic fan"
Make sure you get the Rain Sensor version.

That's my thoughts.

Cedars 09-25-2005 10:43 PM

But if you go with a MaxxFan, you don't need a rain cover! We have two; one front and one bedroom. both are reversible, have a three speed selector, temperature selecter, and come with a pop up cover! Was in a lot of rain last week, and never had a need to close the fans! We did choose to run in exhaust mode, however. LOL!! Our RV tech decided he liked them once he realized if the fan ever needs service for any reason, it can be done from the outside without having to take it apart from the inside, to access motor, etc.

Elizabeth in Iowa

clecogirl 09-25-2005 11:07 PM

I love Argosys - be sure to keep us up to date with photos

Stefrobrts 09-25-2005 11:16 PM


Originally Posted by SmokelessJoe
Twenty five years ago they built an entire European styled one ring circus for me;

I have to say, that line caught my attention! COOL! :D

It sounds like you have very methodically thought out what you want from your rig and what you need to do to get there. I have found that in restorations of all kinds, a clearly defined plan is half the battle.

I assume you have looked up the resto Airstream Life Magazine just finished on their Argosy? It also ended up a beautiful blue color, which I thought was rather brave since they are all off-white. It looked great. They also did a lot of neat upgrades inside.

I love your idea of towing with a flatbed that can haul a small, gas efficient car for trips around where you end up camping. My least favorite part of camping is having to drive the tow vehicle everywhere when we get there.

Do some searches on the forum, and look through the photo albums. There are some people who have done a lot of the things you are thinking about. You may get some new ideas from other people's designs.

Oh, and Welcome to the Forums!

SmokelessJoe 09-26-2005 09:02 PM

Contemporizing an Argosy
Thanks for the several welcomes to the forum

I’ve been lurking here almost daily since the Forum began 3 or 4 years ago and I am still constantly amazed at the amount and quality of the information traded here.

Discovering new ideas here is great - as is the discovery of someone else sharing your thinking.

About a year ago I came across photos Barry in Florida (Sneakup) had posted. “Wow!” I said ‘This guy’s spray painted the inside of his trailer - just like I want to do.”

(It was Sneakup who more recently encouraged me to join the Forum).

Some of you have mentioned my having a good plan.

I guess I have a plan but it’s a flexible one. I actually like what the late Joe Redington, founder of the Iditarod dog race up in Alaska once said:

“ If you don’t have a plan, that’s one less thing that can go wrong”

Thanks John in Madison for the “Zolotone” suggestion. I know about the product but I think it is more suitable for a
“ preservation” as opposed to a “contemporization”, if you know what I mean.

I’m thinking of using a Benjamin Moore latex (Old Prairie is the off -white colour) on the walls/ceiling with perhaps the urethane enamel of the same color on the cabinetry and tambours. The Pepper White of my little car is very similar to Old Prairie. Maybe we’ll try out some two-step auto enamel as well.

Thanks Gary, Janet’s Husband, for the several tips. Your comment on the wheels will have me check things very carefully. I knew nothing of that.

Andy Thompson, the Airstream dealer in Ontario checked my vehicle over personally and he says the axles are fine. He agrees that the whole trailer was remarkably well kept over the years. I got lucky.

Your comment on macerator hoses plugging up: is this personal experience and/or observation or is it your personal bias?

Elizabeth in Iowa, I will check into the MaxxFan too. I don’t know anything about them.

You liked my idea of having the Mini on a flat bed pulling the Argosy, Stephanie!

I haven’t seen this done yet. Does anyone out there know of anyone who has done it?

I did write Rich about his Airstream Life Argosy paint job.. He’s given me information on the undercoat he used along the belly line.

If I haul my Mini on a flat bed the Argosy will be painted the same Pepper White and Black colours as the car for sure.

If I switch to the Sprinter Van as puller idea, then the trailer will be painted the exact same colour as the van: yellow, blue, maybe green.

I’ve wanted for a long time to see coloured Airstreams (maybe the original Argosy was just the first one?): yellow ones, green ones, Robin’s Egg blue ones. They paint airplanes, don’t they?

I expect that as much time will be spent searching the Internet and questioning the Forum as will be spent rebuilding the trailer.

Maybe I’ll re-post my Manifesto to specific sub groups for more information as I go along.

Thanks to all of you.


Torii 10-17-2005 09:46 AM

Sprinter Tow Rating
Do you happen to know what the tow rating is on the sprinter? I wonder how they would do as a tow vehicle...


azflycaster 10-17-2005 01:15 PM

Here is a link to the specs. It looks like 5000 lbs max for all models

overlander63 10-17-2005 04:00 PM

1 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by SmokelessJoe
1976 ARGOSY 24 Double
V.I.N. 24DV1922C

If hauling the Mini is decided to be impractical, maybe I will trade it in for a 118” or 140” WB Sprinter van, the new tow vehicle and the Argosy both painted Brilliant Blue or some such.
The exterior AND THE INTERIOR will be painted with a durable, two step automotive enamel.
I’m taking the trailer to WILTSIE TRUCK BODIES at Aylmer, Ontario.
They do quality work and have a spray booth big enough for a highway tractor.


Sergei, if you would like to see what your Argosy 24 will look like painted blue, here is a photo of Airstream Life's Argosy 24 after it was painted blue:

juel 10-17-2005 04:18 PM

It looks great. Why would you want to change that?

balrgn 10-17-2005 06:01 PM

Looks nice, I have one, same year, Check out my website.


SmokelessJoe 10-17-2005 06:34 PM

T, Azflycaster,Terry, Juel, balrgn:

Here the little guy is, just before I take him to the scales tomorrow and then begin Step One of the remodel on Wednesday at Wiltsie Truck Body in Aylmer, Ontario.

Terry, thanks for the photo of Richard’s old Argosy. I’ve seen some pictures on his blog and he’s told me about the undercoating he used along the belly line.

I like his paint job but mine will be two-tone, the exact same Pepper White and Black colours as my Mini except in reverse, with White above the belt line on the Argosy.

The Sprinter will be BLACK, the Dodge grill replaced by the original Mercedes Benz grill used in the rest of the world.

The Sprinter is relatively new to North America but was introduced in Europe over 10 years ago and is now sold in 110 countries. It is the largest selling vehicle of its type in the world.

I plan to use the 158” wheel base 3500 C dual wheel cab and chassis model to carry the Mini and pull the Argosy.

The GVWR is 10,200 with a curb weight of 4536. The Mini weighs 2557. The factory tow package is rated at 5000 lbs.

I am assuming the Combined Rating should be 15,200.

Juel, I know the trailer looks great and I am very lucky to have found one in such great shape.

Why change it?

I suspect there are two camps out there; let’s call them the “preservationists” and the “contemporizors”. I fit into the last group.

I think either stand is equally valid so long as you get enjoyment from your view.

You can have a Victorian building and treat it in different ways. One would be to lovingly recreate the past with heavy drapes, flocked wallpaper and carved banisters.

The other would be to respect and admire the Victorian shell but do a stunning modern interior. White plaster walls, halogen lighting, modern materials.

Again, each way is equally valid so long as you enjoyment living with the result.

Current purchasers of the Airstream are split pretty equally between CCD enthusiasts and Classic advocates with Safari owners taking up the middle ground.

People have different tastes and enjoy different things.

I might spend the equal of a new CCD on this but that won’t bother me.

I sat in a CCD International for a couple of hours recently. I liked it a lot but it was Christopher Dean’s idea of what my trailer should be, not mine.

I also thought that I could equal the fit and finish of a new model.

John hd wrote earlier in this thread that “.some will tell you to leave it alone and not tamper with it.

but then, what fun would that be? “

I agree.

Or maybe, like Terry says “change is inevitable”

The forum is another enjoyable part of this project. Thanks to all for your views.


SmokelessJoe 10-17-2005 07:28 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Let's see if I have figured out how to send this...

balrgn 10-18-2005 04:18 AM

Very nice!
Hey, make your treasure into anything you like.

Keep us posted on your progress!!! I'll be continuing on my '76 soon, now it is home from camp :D

SmokelessJoe 11-22-2005 05:05 PM

It’s time for an update. A lot has happened in the month or so that we’ve been working on the trailer.

A lot in the year since I first saw the little Argosy as well.

People who know me know the story but I haven’t told it to the forum yet.

I first hear of the trailer when friends called last year at this time to say they’d seen a neat old Argosy for sale in a small town front yard near Ottawa.

I drove the five hours to see the trailer the next day but in the couple more days I spent trying to figure out what I would do with it and how I’d pull it, somebody else bought it.

I was crushed but guessed my lesson was that if ever I saw a trailer this good again I had better be prepared to “pay and pull” instead of “hymn and haw”.

Last July, in Ohio on my way to Texas, I heard again from the original owner. The new guy had decided to sell the trailer, never having used it!

It was 18 days before I got back from the Texas trip but, again, I drove straight to Ottawa and this time got the Argosy 24.

It continues to be a charmed experience.

I don’t have a puller yet so the Wiltsie family moved the Argosy the 500 miles to Can Am in London, Ontario for me.

I had previously asked Andy Thompson there to quote the remodel and he eventually did. But this first trip was to have the wheels, brakes and bearings checked as well as giving me a complete report on the on-board systems.

Andy is a very nice guy but his place suffers from micro management or communication problems or something. I can’t put my finger on it but I wasn’t happy.

Examples: Andy had quoted on the ceramic toilet I wanted and advocated an electric ignition water heater as opposed to the in-line heater I thought I wanted.

When the toilet and water heater were both found to be leaking, Can Am charged $377 to “fix” the old one rather than install the $375 ceramic model quoted. To make things worse the toilet still leaked.

They also installed a regular heater instead of the electric ignition he quoted.

Andy apologized and undertook in writing to replace the items labor free if I choose to do so within 18 months.

The upshot was that I decided to have the work done at Wiltsie’s rather than sharing it.

I’m so glad for that now.

There’s no set way for a restoration or remodeling of an Airstream or Argosy it seems. Most here undertake the work themselves. Some of my favorite projects have been Barry’s sprayed white Airstream in Florida (Sneak up), Uwe’s Overlander in California and Rich Luhr’s Rolling Thunder Argosy. There are dozens of others as interesting.

The amount of knowledge and learning that gets passed along here is fascinating.

Some others use dealers and/or RV places or restoration shops.

My way may be another way and it’s deeply personal.

I don’t have the knowledge, the training or the tools to do the job myself and I’m at an age where I don’t want to invest in those things. I want to get out on the road in my trailer.

But I know what I want and that’s why it’s so good to be back home in Aylmer.

Frank Wiltsie was a small town cabinetmaker when the local Carnation Milk plant asked if he could build a couple of trucks to pick up milk cans at surrounding farms.

The result was the founding of WILTSIE TRUCK BODY in 1954.

By the time I came along, both 25 years later and 25 years ago, asking Frank to build me a slick European style One Ring circus, his sons Bev and Russ were out on the factory floor.

Today, 80 year old Frank still lives next door to the plant, Bev and Russ run the place and Frank’s GRANDSONS are out on the floor!

It’s a good sized small business with a core group of about 25 craftsmen building dump trucks, snow plows, delivery vans, hoist trucks, paddy wagons, fire trucks, truck boxes and everything else you can imagine in between.

There are 25 bays with huge overhead doors and cranes, a truck sized spray tunnel, even a separate building for sand blasting.

This is not a place you would ordinarily associate with an Airstream.

But these are guys who’ve worked in sheet and stock aluminum, various woods and steel all their lives. Millions of rivets have been drilled out or bucked in here.

Some of the men were here when the circus was built and have fond stories of the time. Younger guys have grown up hearing their stories.

One of the old timers is Pat who painted the circus and who is looking forward to doing a beautiful job on the Argosy.

Phil is the other guy working on the trailer. He’s a musician who left the road for the sake of a family life and a steady paycheck.

What a wonderfully multitalented man he is. Phil may never have seen an Airstream or Argosy up close up but he intuitively understands how to take one apart, jack it up, and put it together again and what makes them so special.

Most of all Phil understands my vision and wants to see it realized.

In less than a week Phil had removed all the exterior molding and everything from the interior of the trailer, all carefully labeled and stored.

In another week, he had removed the belly pan and sanded and sand blasted the entire frame and undercarriage. Pat gave it 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of a black urethane based metal finisher. The frame looks like that of an Airstream in a showroom now.

Now we are moving into stage two, reversing things and starting to put it together again.

There will be a lot of time spent on the Internet and on the forum. We have to size and install bigger holding tanks. Supply a new toilet. Design and install a new bathroom. Learn about inverters/converters/generators. New kitchen. Etc.

Here are some photos of the project at this stage. I’ll report from time to time as we proceed.

For the three weeks before we began the remodel I stayed at the nearby Red Oak Travel Park in the old Argosy just to check out trailer life.

Red Oak was a beautiful, well-kept place that had me questioning my negative assumptions about trailer parks.

Now I’ve rented a neat place for the winter in nearby Port Bruce on Lake Erie. It’s quiet, (250 fulltime citizens), 9 minutes from the Wiltsie shop and 2 hours from my Toronto home.

The project has had a charmed life from the beginning. I’m enjoying it a lot.


SmokelessJoe 11-22-2005 05:13 PM

10 Attachment(s)
here's PAT (sizing things up at the door) and PHIL (jacking up the Argosy) and varoius shots of the results to date.

SmokelessJoe 11-22-2005 05:15 PM

2 Attachment(s)
undercarriage cleaned and painted everywhere

juel 11-22-2005 06:32 PM

My 78 24ft Argosy is ivory with envy. Wish I could take this good care of him. You will have so much fun. I know I have done a few things to "The Big Twinkie", but certainly nothing like you will be doing. It's still fun isn't it. Camping is even more fun. Sometimes I just go out to the yard and sit in my Argosy and dream of the coming Spring while admiring my handy work. You will be able to do that a thousand times over.

CanoeStream 11-22-2005 07:46 PM

Sergei -- Nice tow vehicle!!! (3rd pic down on the left) I knew these older trailers were lighter, but...

Ahhh, what can be accomplished with a Hensley!! :lol:

SmokelessJoe 11-22-2005 08:04 PM

Bob, do you mean the Mini Cooper?

( photo taken at the place where I am staying this winter while working oin the trailer)

The Argosy will be painted to match the Mini but the car will ride on the flat bed of the Tow Vehicle.


SmokelessJoe 12-26-2005 02:52 PM

Dear Diary
Dear Diary:

I went to see the Sprinter salesman before Christmas.

I’m not saying that I drove home with cold feet about my Mini Cooper on a flatbed pulling the Argosy idea but the thought of spending $50,000 on a tow vehicle would probably make anyone consider things very carefully.

Perhaps I should take time for a Reality Check?

I am 69 and before I know it, if I’m lucky, I’ll be 75.

Maybe loading and unloading the Mini, even driving one, is a better idea when you are 55.

Shouldn’t I consider the option of a van, not just the flatbed plan?

Often when I’m conflicted or uncertain I sit down a type “notes to myself”

Like these:

Sprinter Cab and Chassis flatbed, hauling MINI and pulling Argosy


Super Cool idea
A unique dream project that I’ve been planning for 4 or
5 years and told everyone about (I bought the Mini
with this plan in mind)
Have your Mini and use it too


Giving up on a dream is an emotional hurdle to
More ups and downs, as we used to say in the Circus
Two vehicles to maintain, insure, license, operate
(savings on insurance and licensing about $2500 annually- $12,500 over 5 years)
Limited to one passenger
Flat bed to build
Two vehicles to steal (maybe together)
Too much consumerism? Do I really need a “toy

Sprinter Van pulling Argosy


May not be totally dull and ordinary, but definitely
lacks the pizzazz of a Jet Black Flatbed
Giving up my Mini – do I really want a VAN for daily use?


No ups and downs, less to do helps preserve my energy
Sale of Mini helps fund the project
Savings on insurance and licensing about $2500
annually- $12,500 over 5 years)
Savings on Mini maintenance, probably $1000.
Extra seating in case family members, grandchildren
want to come along
Ready made large cargo space vs. need to build possum
Lighter load perhaps equals more miles per
No flatbed to build
A van can be a mini motorhome for day excursions
whereas the Mini has more limitations
Less operational cost (insure, license, maintain,
Less exposure (leave one unit behind to steal instead of
High seat driving comfort – it’s getting harder and harder to get in and out of the little MINI

Maybe forum members can offer some advice?


dieterdog 12-26-2005 06:10 PM

Hi Sergei, loved your pictures. sorry i cannot offer advice, as i am starting from ground zero with my Argosy. can tell you that a larger, higher tow vehicle is very comfortable on long driving days,,,, donna, dieterdog

Foiled Again 01-28-2006 09:24 PM


Originally Posted by SmokelessJoe
Dear Diary:
....High seat driving comfort – it’s getting harder and harder to get in and out of the little MINI

Maybe forum members can offer some advice?


I have a dear friend who has collected classic micro cars including a 53 Nash, a 56 T-Bird, and my personal favorite a BMW Izetta. He just LOVES to go to Beemer rallies and watch the snobs DIE when they realize the "Erkel car" is actually a BMW! They puke their Brie!

He is a realist and has slowly been selling off those cars as he ages, not because of finances, but because - as you say - it gets harder and harder to get down into them and back up out of them. The Izetta will probably be the last to go as the whole front opens up.

It happens to us all. Do what you want, but if you want to use your Argosy to it's fullest, get a full sized tow vehicle.

Note from Me: I've always driven compact cars until I got "big dawg" my 2500 Suburban to tow my 22ft CCD (yes it's more than a 22 really needs but... you've heard of aluminitis haven't you. Who knows what the future holds?) It took a week or two, but I've actually gotten so used to the big truck that I leave the LEXUS sitting. One thing I do notice is that very, very few people give me the finger... or try to cut me off or intimidate me. I am actually a very ladylike driver, and will let any fool have the right of way rather than end up talking to a local law enforcement official while waiting for the tow trucks to arrive.

It doth amuse me mightily that intimidation is not necessary when one is driving a big honkin' truck with wheels the size of your mini-Cooper.

Just my 2.5 cents.

Tin Lizzie

SmokelessJoe 01-28-2006 10:19 PM

Tin Lizzie and others:

This thread popping up tonight made me re-read my “Dear diary/ Notes to myself” from a month ago.

I don’t know where all that pessimism masking as a Reality Check came from.

I suppose I have decided to listen to my inner voice.

Yesterday, in Michigan, I bought the brand new 2006 Sprinter 3500 Cab and Chassis Dual Wheel that will haul my Mini and pull the trailer.

It will be built by May. It’s JET BLACK and really cool.

All day I’ve been wondering about how I might harness some of the interesting Sprinter options to provide electrical power for my rig.

The Sprinter has an optional power take off that can run a belt driven generator.

It also has an optional High Idle Function that can keep an optional 200 amp alternator charging a battery bank as fast as an inverter can drain it.

Maybe I should post those musings separately to see what advice I might get.


Foiled Again 01-28-2006 10:48 PM

Enjoy it!
Bop til you drop!

Tin Lizzie

uwe 01-29-2006 08:42 AM


Originally Posted by SmokelessJoe
Tin Lizzie and others:

This thread popping up tonight made me re-read my “Dear diary/ Notes to myself” from a month ago.

I don’t know where all that pessimism masking as a Reality Check came from.

I suppose I have decided to listen to my inner voice.

Yesterday, in Michigan, I bought the brand new 2006 Sprinter 3500 Cab and Chassis Dual Wheel that will haul my Mini and pull the trailer.

It will be built by May. It’s JET BLACK and really cool.



Sergei, sounds to me like you have a very good plan to spend the rest of your life. ( may it be long and fun filled!)
Frankly, I was a little saddened by your earlier post where abandoning your otherwise great ideas was mentioned.
Many of us would do the same thing, were we not compromised by time, family needs, financial woes, or whatever else usually gets in the way of doing exactly what we want. You having this option is a great asset! Use it!

SmokelessJoe 01-29-2006 02:57 PM

Tin Lizzie, Uwe and others who sent messages off line.

I appreciate your support.

Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computer recently said

“ don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice”.

I liked reading that, I suppose because I usually do listen to my own inner voice despite the noise.

This time I got confused with what my own voice was. I was making myself believe that I should be practical.

There was no “ noise of others’ opinions” actually. It was just me doing a trip on myself.

Two people in particular put me back on path.

One was Russ Wiltsie, in whose shop I am remodeling the Argosy. He’s a very soft-spoken guy and one day he said, his eyes searching my face for a reaction “ will you be happy with a van as your daily vehicle?”

The other person was George, the son of my best friend, who came to see me on New Year’s Eve.

I told him that I had decided to get practical. He shot back “Get real, Sergei. Owning a trailer isn’t a practical idea in the first place! Follow your dream. Go back to your plan. It was too cool”

From that moment I got back with the program.

Next, I want to post some ideas here about harnessing the Sprinter’s power plant to provide electricity for my rig, hoping that some of the technically minded here can give me advice.

Uwe, if you’re out there, I particularly want to hear your suggestions.

Thanks again.


SmokelessJoe 01-29-2006 03:36 PM

Harnessing the Sprinter's power

When I bought the Dodge / Mercedes Benz Sprinter part of my new rig - to - be in Grand Rapids, Michigan Friday, I learned that there were three interesting options available that I didn’t know much about.

This advanced European truck is still new to America. American Car Salesman, great as they are, don’t really know anything about this vehicle.

They will learn in time by watching what (and why) their customers buy but right now many of them have never seen some of the options available and don’t know how they are used.

The options I’m talking about are:

200 amp generator $USD 603.00

Auxiliary Belt Drive $297.00

(this power take off develops 9.38 h.p. and is designed to run a compressor or generator)

High Idle Function $USD 729.00

I had decided to mount a generator on the new truck. The intelligent choice, a diesel drawing fuel directly from the vehicle, is not an option because no small, quiet diesel plant seems available.

The choice narrows to Onan, Yamaha or Honda LP plants because gasoline would add an unnecessary and volatile third fuel to the traveling mix.

I had also decided that I need an inverter because I want to use a 9 cu foot 110 volt LG residential fridge.

I am not enamored of the regular LP fridges, partly because I resent the RV industry oligarchy getting away with charging as much as $3000 to $4000 for a fridge of archaic design and styling.

The LG is only $500.00 Cdn., so light I can lift it off the ground in a bear hug, fast to cool, contemporary and stylish. It is easily replaceable and doesn’t need to be level.

The problem with the inverter is cost, efficiency and the heavy weight of the battery bank.

So I’ve been asking myself ‘ why don’t we mount both the inverter and the glass mat battery bank ON THE TRUCK, charging the bank with the 200-amp alternator?

According to Sportsmobile, a major converter of Sprinter C Vans in Austin, Texas, you can even run an A/C off the inverter while the truck’s diesel motor is under factory installed HIGH IDLE FUNCTION. See:

We will need some way to maintain 110 v to the fridge in the trailer while towing but that should not be insurmountable.

I want to explore this idea because it is unique, takes the weight out of the trailer, and takes advantage of the Sprinter’s diesel motor and advanced technology.

The Sprinter diesel runs more quietly than the Onan Micro Lite generator!

Another interesting concept might be an under the hood belt driven generator. See here:

Another friend, who builds Sprinter conversions in Ohio for a living, wrote, “I have heard that the only real issue is getting the hertz to remain constant. A 3 hertz loss or gain can ruin electronic components” when I asked him about these generators yesterday.

I don’t know the implication of that. Can anyone out there help me understand?

I couldn’t roust anyone at the Tendaire factory this weekend so I don’t know what a belt driven generator might cost.

The cost of optioning a Sprinter with High Idle Function and a 200-amp generator plus buying an inverter and batteries is comparable to buying a generator.

(Much cheaper, actually, if I concede that I have already decided to buy an inverter).

The idea is to have just one high quality diesel motor do all the work around my rig.

I am anxious to have comments because, if I am going to add some options to the truck, I need to do it now.

These trucks take 7 months to deliver and I am sneaking into the line-up.


3Ms75Argosy 01-29-2006 07:02 PM

Sounds great but..
How long can your battery bank power up the refrig at night? If you're drawing battery power from an inverter, I hear that it uses up your battery power almost instantly for high draw items (like AC or a fridge).

I'm assuming the prices for the RV fridges you quote are for Cdn $$'s? I think the most expensive fridge at camping world for my trailer is about $1200 US. Although I agree it's robbery (and I bought mine from a rebuilder for about $500 - with no electric boards to worry about), I have to admit being able to fire it up with propane and not use up my batteries has it's pluses.

I love your sprinter plan. Are you getting the cab only model with dualies on the rear - or are you deciding to use the van model?
Tell us more!

SmokelessJoe 01-29-2006 07:55 PM


The draw from the LG fridge is 1.5 amps. In defrost, which I assume does not happen often, it can draw up to 4 amps.

The most expensive Dometic fridges on display now at Camping World near Buffalo, N.Y are almost $4000 USD. I admit that these are the top of the line 3 way models.

I think RV fridges, for what they are, are overpriced and old technology. Maybe this is because there are just two major manufacturers. Same with toilets.

The idea behind the High Idle Function on the Sprinter is that you can run the truck’s diesel motor for as long as you want in order to have the big 200 amp alternator charge the battery bank.

The Sportsmobile builder (see his site above) claims the inverter will maintain adequate power even to an A/C on this basis.

I would like to deploy these Sprinter features so that the diesel on the truck will, in fact, provide the power for the entire rig.

The Sprinter motor runs more quietly than an Onan Micro Lite generator.

I bought the Cab and Chassis in the 158” wb 3500 dual wheel version. It’s Jet Black. I treated myself to a sunroof. I hadn’t seen a sunroof on a cab and chassis truck before.

The Argosy will be painted Pepper White and Black, to match the Mini Cooper.


uwe 01-29-2006 08:30 PM

I wonder what the continuous safwe output is of a 200A Alternator.
MB Diesels sip fuel at idle, not sure about increased idle speed. A 200A power supply and a beefy inverter could probably provide some serious power to the trailer. Kick up the idle for cooling, and have a 1 ton driving generator.
Also, the automatic transmission ight not like extended idle times. I think this entire concept needs deep research. It would be brilliant if everything came together without a hitch.

3Ms75Argosy 01-29-2006 10:11 PM

Cool rig!
I REALLY can't wait to see more pics of your trailer, and of the tow rig when it comes.

Depending on the output of the generator, running your fridge and AC with the motor on will be fine. My question is more if you are boondocking, even the quietest motor will need to be turned off after 10:00 pm at most places. Not a problem if you overnight in a place with electrical hookups. With the motor off, the inverter will draw the batteries dead in no time.

I can't remember if in your orginal post you stated that most of your camping will be boondocking or not.
I 'm curious too about the generator. I'll look at those sites more carefully too.

SmokelessJoe 01-29-2006 10:18 PM

Uwe and Marc:

I will ask RoadKingMoe and other technically sophisticated people here for help with this too.

Did you check out the Sportsmobile Texas web site I listed above?

I am assuming that Mercedes Benz offers these fairly expensive options because they can do a specialized job, I’m guessing for police departments, engineers, military construction, etc.

It’s unlikely they would produce and sell something that would harm an idling transmission.

The appeal to me is in harnessing the diesel in the Sprinter to become a work horse for the whole rig.

I may stay at a trailer park occaisonally, if I find a nice one, but I am an urban explorer more than I am a nature lover so I imagine myself parked behind somebody's barn near Memphis while I am downtown with the Mini.


3Ms75Argosy 01-29-2006 11:13 PM

reading the site listed, it states you can use your AC for about 2 hrs, and then both aux batteries will be drawn down (you also have a third battery for the truck, right?) using just the inverter and the batteries. Fuel consumption (using the truck as a generator parked)is on the higher side at fast idle. You get 1.25gallons of diesel burned for each hour at high idle (1,500 rpms.) I can get anywhere around 4-8hrs of of use for one gallon on my Honda Eu2000. The cost for the inverter (and second battery) alone is $1,400. YIKES! My generator was around $900. I'm guessing the startup voltage requirement of the Colman 12,500 AC to be around 2000 watts. My colman 13,500 will start with the EU2000 and cool on low, but that's really pushing it (everything off). I'm sure I'll hear about browning out the coils too, but in the heat of central CA, I had no choice when boondocking. I really wish I bought the Yamaha 3000, but am happy with the Honda (but I digress).

I don't know, I think a propane fired generator might be the ticket.

SmokelessJoe 05-25-2006 12:28 PM

Diesel Powered Trailer
I would like to complete my trailer using diesel instead of propane, which I don’t like.

I’m thinking of a Wallas Ceramic Diesel Cook top.

Some type of small hydronic heater kit (Red Dot, Heater Craft) and a water heater ( there are a couple of interesting coolant heaters at West Marine) would provide space heating and hot water.

They would both be powered by one of those ingenious, small Webasto or Espar Hydronic Coolant heaters, producing about 15,000 btu.

The space in the Argosy is less than 1000 cubic feet.

Has anyone done anything or seen anything like this?

Does anyone have an opinion on the relative merits of Webasto and Espar?


SmokelessJoe 05-27-2006 08:00 PM

Waste Management System
This thread traces the discussion on holding tanks and the development of the “Waste Management System” that finally emerged:

lewster 05-27-2006 08:55 PM

Brilliant plan

I've been down your road....sort of. We had a 2002 MINI in black and pepper white, just like yours! Had panoramic sunroof and a bunch of other goodies. I have been running a 2004 Sprinter for 2 years. With 50K miles, I have only changed the oil about every 12,500-13,500 depending on what the maintenance computer says.

I think your concept is GREAT! If you want a fine diesel fired hydronic heating and hot water system, look at Vehicle Systems, Inc. They make the Aqua-Hot, Hydro-Hot and a new smaller unit which I can't think of the name at the moment. They utilize the Wabasto diesel burner and are a very efficient unit.

Look into a battery bank of 6 volt golf cart AGM batteries. They have a much higher draw-down capacity and many more charge-discharge cycles than normal 12V batteries due to the much thinker plates. They are connected in series/parallel for 12VDC. The generator/inverter system is also a sound one, IMHO, especially when you couple it with the 200 amp alternator.

The big Prevost bus conversions use this type of system, but the 600HP Detroit Diesels run a 450 amp alternator. The motor weighs as much as your MINI!!!:lol: The coaches are all electric with domestic appliances, electric cook tops and Aqua-Hot heat/hot water systems.


Let me know if I can help you in your quest!:D

dieterdog 05-27-2006 11:31 PM

Hi Sergei,, all sounds great,, good to see you post,,, cannot wait to see the finished product,, too bad about Mother Nature,,,,tis the nature of the beast you know,,, dieterdog

SmokelessJoe 05-28-2006 08:40 AM


Interesting coincidences those, .... Black and Pepper White, Sprinter.

There has been a diesel powered trailer discussion here, including your earlier contribution.

Did you see it?


lewster 05-28-2006 09:06 PM


Originally Posted by SmokelessJoe

Interesting coincidences those, .... Black and Pepper White, Sprinter.

There has been a diesel powered trailer discussion here, including your earlier contribution.

Did you see it?



Saw it, read it, but forgot that I said essentially the same thing there as here. Must be a case of early old age!:lol:

SmokelessJoe 06-01-2006 11:52 AM

Xenon lighting
2 Attachment(s)
We cut eight 2 5/8” holes in the centre panel of the trailer for the Zee-Puk Xenon down lights only to find that the original wiring for the unit runs all through that space.

So we did what we should have done in the first place: popped out the entire centre panel.

You will need help to do this. It’s one 20’ long piece of aluminum.

If you install new lighting this way, you can more easily run your new circuits and also avoid damaging the original wiring.

Two photos show the panel removed and the aluminum J mold extrusion that the centre panel snaps in and out of.

Four 18 w pot lamps to each 12v dimmer. The dimmers are by FriLight of Sweden.

Removing the panel also shows us that there is a nice 20” x 30” clear space near the front door, exactly were I would like to install a skylight.

We will price out the European caravan models against the marine type WEST MARINE sells here.


lewster 06-01-2006 01:25 PM

Looking Good
Hi Sergei,

That will be a nice effect! I happen to know where you can get a screaming deal on a new Fantastic Fan with thermostat and rain sensor:D :brows: :blink: , now that you have the ceiling open. Check the classifieds:cool: .

3Ms75Argosy 06-01-2006 03:46 PM

Now you're cooking! Are you saying that West Marine sells skylights? Please tell us more after you make your choice - I'm interested too!

That center panel... does it snap out of the tracks after the skylight screens are dropped? Did you have to remove the roof AC for this to happen?

As far as the lights - are you mounting them first to the panel, or are you cutting holes in the panel while it's out, pulling wires, and then mounting them after the panel is back up, or mounting them first and then putting the panel back?


SmokelessJoe 06-01-2006 09:08 PM


Part of the rationalization for spending money on the LG “Art Cool” split air system we are installing (instead of a traditional RV rooftop) was that I would not be spending money on Fantastic Fans for the two traditional Airstream roof vents.


West Marine sells hatches, which I thought could easily serve as a skylight. On reflection, I think one of the elegant European skylights, which are purpose built and will not need to be adapted, will be best.

You can see the SEITZ Midi Heki Roof Light, made in Germany by Dometic, I believe, here:

We cut all eight 2 5/8” holes for the pot lamps in the original ceiling and found that all the Airstream wiring runs behind that panel.

Running new wiring or placing the fixtures in the cut outs was going to be difficult so we snapped out the entire panel.

I recommend that anyone thinking of installing pot lamps in the ceiling take the panel down, as we eventually did. It will be easier and you will not risk damaging existing wiring.

I don’t have a rooftop A/C but after removing the trim pieces for the vent openings the panel will pop out fairly easily. Phil, the truck body builder doing the work, says the panel will snap back into the J mold just as easily as it came out.

We have run new circuits for the pot lamps (all the original Argosy lighting is being abandoned) and roughed in for two new12v dimmers.

When we put the ceiling panel back, the wiring will hang out of the cut outs, just like it would in residential or commercial construction. The lamps are not surface mounted but rather recessed. They will snap into the openings.

Since removing the panel, and because I want to move some outlets slightly, we are now going to replace all the existing 110v wiring. Strip it all out and pull new. (A new service panel was always the plan).

We are completely revitalizing this trailer. Only the lovely iconic aluminum shell will be original when we finish.


3Ms75Argosy 06-01-2006 10:11 PM

Thank you for the details! I can't wait to see more. What do you have planned for the interior skins? Will you repaint them, or replace with aluminum or....?
I like those skylights too... will you build a short curb to accomidate the curve of the roof?

I can't remember... you did get the Sprinter already, right? How do you like it so far. Have you had a chance to tow with it?

SmokelessJoe 06-02-2006 07:23 AM


After we finish the wiring, re-run some plumbing and install the skylight, we will replace the centre panel and paint the interior.

The bath will be an EPOXY in Pure White and the rest a top grade flat oil by Benjamin Moore, in the colour Old Prairie.

Then we will lay the entire floor in ONE SHEET of MAROLEUM, colour LAVA.

The Skylight is 19.5 inches wide and 27.5 inches long. The roof is almost flat at the peak. If required, we will build a small curb to seat it.

The Sprinter has arrived in America from Düsseldorf. We get it on JULY 6.

Things are moving along, slowly but surely.


lewster 06-03-2006 07:12 AM

Sounds great Sergei,

I'm sure you will keep us posted on your progress. I can't wait to see your Sprinter! Have you decided how you will get the MINI on the Sprinter.....ramps or a tilting flat-bed? Hey, then you could pick up a few extra bucks here and there as a classy tow truck (just kidding:D ).

SmokelessJoe 06-03-2006 10:38 AM


The flat bed will be made of aluminum and designed on the spot, as we go. I don't think we will devise a tilting mechanism but who knows. We expect this to be in August and/or September.

If I feel comfortable driving the car up the ramp, we will do that. If not, I will use a boat winch, like WEST MARINE sells for winching boats onto a trailer.

That way the car can be pulled up backwards and driven straight off the deck, down the ramps.

That way may be easier for an old man.


SmokelessJoe 06-11-2006 07:37 PM

Need help from European member / Sky-light
Is there a European member out there that would be willing to help me get the MIDI HEKI sky-light made by Seitz-Dometic?

See it here:,674,1346.aspx

These are not available in America.

I am looking for a member in Europe who will help me locate one at an RV supplier.

Perhaps I can pay the retailer directly by VISA.

The European friend will probably need to trans-ship the skylight to me.

Many European suppliers seem unwilling or unable to ship globally.

I will appreciate any help with this.


lewster 06-11-2006 08:00 PM


Originally Posted by SmokelessJoe

The flat bed will be made of aluminum and designed on the spot, as we go. I don't think we will devise a tilting mechanism but who knows. We expect this to be in August and/or September.

If I feel comfortable driving the car up the ramp, we will do that. If not, I will use a boat winch, like WEST MARINE sells for winching boats onto a trailer.

That way the car can be pulled up backwards and driven straight off the deck, down the ramps.

That way may be easier for an old man.



Check out the marine windlass winches that Carefree of Colorado makes. They might serve your purpose for winching up the MINI and as one of their dealers, I can save you some $$$$.

SmokelessJoe 06-14-2006 11:56 AM

new MARMOLEUM floor
2 Attachment(s)
This is the new MARMOLEUM floor.

It’s wall-to-wall and seamless. We think it will be a joy to keep clean.

Because the interior has been stripped, we had the luxury of doing it this way.

The flooring runs under everything this way, even the shower pan.


dieterdog 06-14-2006 04:35 PM

HI Sergei,, love your flooring as you know Marmoleum is my favorite,,, looks wonderful,,,, will last a lifetime,,, best,,, donna

SmokelessJoe 06-15-2006 07:11 AM


Thanks. They look good.

The MINI weights 2557 pounds. My guess is that a 12' ramp will rise to 30" to give you some idea of incline.

Give me a recommendation and your price.


bhayden 06-15-2006 12:27 PM

Sprinter TV rating
The floor, neah the whole project looks stunning. Having a 24' Argosy I'm loving the pictures of the shell up rebuild. But I still don't how you're going to pull off towing all this down the road with the Sprinter. I love the size of these vans and since GM quite producing the Astro/Safari a couple of years ago I wonder what I'd replace our's with. One thing for certain I'd want more, not less capacity and the Sprinter is lacking everywhere but wheelbase.

Mercedes-Benz 2.7-liter turbodiesel engine at 154@3800rpm
243 pound-feet of torque @ 1800rpm
Payload capacities up to 3,011 pounds are available.
Towing capacity maxes out at 5,000 pounds.

Curb weight for the Sprinter 2557# for the mini + driver, fuel, etc. and the van's maxed. Generally that means a significant reduction in towing capacity. The stock Argosy 24 is ~4,000 dry and your talking about diesel gensets and supplies for living "off grid"?


SmokelessJoe 06-15-2006 02:02 PM


You may be talking about the Sprinter VANS. (The payloads range from 3308 to 4824 pounds, depending on model).

I have the 158” wb CAB and CHASSIS. The curb weight is 4536 and the GVWR is 10,200 pounds.

The Combined Gross Weight Rating is 15,200 pounds.

The renewed ARGOSY will come in around 5000 pounds.

It will be tight but I’ve bought the truck and we’ll see how things work out.

I am comfortable with all of this.

No diesel genset by the way. I’m going “under the hood”, using the Sprinter’s optional Power Take-off. The belt driven generator weighs 32 pounds. ( Well, I guess maybe that is a diesel generator but it’s using the Sprinter’s Mercedes motor.)

I think a diesel-powered trailer – cook top, heater, water heater, will weight less than standard propane set up.

The main component, the WEBASTO diesel fired coolant heater, weighs only 6.5 pounds.

There is experimenting going on here.

Thanks for your opinions.


bhayden 06-15-2006 02:42 PM

Spinter into the future
Looking at the specs for '07 it appears Chrysler is responding to the need for larger engines. After all, just about any province in Canada is way bigger than all of Europe. Shoot, we've got States the size of the whole continent! The 3.5 liter gasoline V6 is ho hum, but with the 3.0 liter V6 turbodiesel (184 hp (135 kW) and 295 lb-ft of torque) now we're talking!

When will 4 wheel drive come to North America:

SmokelessJoe 06-18-2006 08:51 PM

Another important person in my life story is gone.
FRANK WILTSIE, the Elgin County man who’d never even seen a circus but still managed to build me the most beautiful show ever to hit North American roads died, aged 82, in Aylmer, Ontario on Friday evening.

His sons Bev and Russ and grandsons Aaron and Bradley carry on the family business.

The funeral will be on Tuesday.

Wiltsie Custom Bodies are doing all the work on my Argosy renewal.

Frank won’t see the completed trailer but I will take along the Elgin County wisdom he often repeated:

“Build ‘er cheap; now THAT’S expensive.”


SmokelessJoe 06-24-2006 04:36 PM

A question about the “polarity light”:
3 Attachment(s)
We’ve stripped all the old cloth covered wire out of the trailer.

Removing the centre panels around the trailer makes it easier to trace the old circuits and “fish” new runs.

We have about half of the new BX armored cable run now.

See the photos.

The 3 circuits in the trailer were:

- a dedicated line to the battery charger

- another to the kitchen counter outlet

- everything else in the trailer was on the last circuit.

This last circuit runs from the panel to the “polarity light” and then to the rest of the circuit.

I’m guessing there is no longer any need, in this day and age, for the 1976 Argosy “polarity lamp”, right?

Should we abandon it and just wire the three circuits to the new panel?


(We are moving the city power inlet to the FRONT of the trailer to make it easier to connect to the Sprinter tow vehicle.

We’ll use the MARINCO 30 amp bayonet style used in current Airstreams.

The # 8 –4-wire Cab Tire main feed from the inlet to the new distribution panel will run UNDER THE FLOOR.)

bhayden 06-24-2006 07:39 PM

Love the pictures, keep 'em coming. It's like a How-to manual for my trailer! How come you got a polarity light in your '76 and I didn't in my '78? :(
All I have for indicators is a battery charge that's sort of like an old stereo VU meter with red/yellow/green zones. No indicator from the Univolt for AC, at least not that I've found. Everything is located in the closet, street side back in the bathroom. Given the "shower" arrangement I'm not thrilled about it all being back there where mosture can get to it.

Marine panels seem to be big on the reverse polarity protection. I'd think it would be worth having. You're plugging into unknown sources on the road and if someone goofed on the wiring you could end up damaging some expensive electronics. Ideally it would indicate "Polarity OK" which would then be an AC connected light. I did a quick search on line last week but need to look into it more. The marine supply stores surprisingly didn't seem too out of line with their prices. Some of the panels had switches for "shore power" and generator; even a generator start button which would be discusstingly civilized matched up with a propane Yamaha with autostart :). I think a low voltage alarm would be handy too, that's something that can be really hard on some equipment.


SmokelessJoe 06-25-2006 07:51 PM


I guess it couldn’t hurt anything to keep the polarity light but the fact that your 79 does not have one helps convince me the light is outmoded stuff.

In the days before the lugs on standard plugs being two different widths and in the days before 3 prong plugs / outlets were universal, it probably was wise to have the light.

It will be very hard for me to plug the MARINCO 30 amp 3 prong cord into a very old 2-opening device.

Good idea about the 120 v /12 v combined distribution panels. I will check the marine catalogs to see what there is.

Marine stuff will mostly work in trailer applications. They are both forms of mobility. Marine things seem to be better built.


bhayden 06-25-2006 08:51 PM

I think the point of the polarity light is that the outlet you're plugging into may be wired backwards. Who know's what "handy man" may have last worked on the wiring in the ma'n'pa campground outside Hooterville :). That's the reason all the marine panels have them; you pull into a slip in Mexico or the Carribean and "code" is non-existant.

I think it's not in my '78 Argosy because it was a way to cut cost. I don't have an indicator light from the Univolt or any sort of tank gages either. The other possibility is it was removed by a PO. I do have a GFI main breaker and I'm pretty sure those weren't around back in '78.

SmokelessJoe 07-03-2006 03:58 PM

Update on the Polarity question
3 Attachment(s)
I asked PM opinions of Uwe, Road King Moe and Tinsel Loaf and the consensus was that the light was outmoded but testing the polarity was a good idea.

TINSEL LOAF hit it right on the head: with a trailer polarity light, by the time you discovered that you had a problem, the damage would be done.

Why use my trailer as a polarity tester when I can carry an inexpensive plug-in one, like they all do?

(Maybe Airstream themselves figured this out in time).

Here are some shots of the BX runs tucked away in the roof and the shielded 12v lines, near were the Skylight will go in.


bhayden 07-03-2006 05:03 PM


Originally Posted by SmokelessJoe
TINSEL LOAF hit it right on the head: with a trailer polarity light, by the time you discovered that you had a problem, the damage would be done.

That all depends on how it's wired. I turn off my main breaker before I unplug and don't turn it on until after I'm plugged in. The polarity indicator "should" indicate a problem BEFORE you flip the breaker and power up anything powered by A/C in the trailer. Most marine panels are also equiped with a device to trip the main breaker if the wrong polarity is detected. If possible I'd sure prefer a light that says A/C good rather than "oops, too late":brows:

The talk of airconditioning has me thinking the most common problem is going to be under voltage. Sure I carry a VOM and can manually check it but what about durning the day. As it heats up more and more people in the park are turning on the airconditioners and as it heats up the resistance in the circuits increases. Depending on how the place is wired someone with 50 amp service next to you could have a big effect on voltage to your pole.


azflycaster 07-03-2006 05:23 PM

1 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by bhayden
The talk of airconditioning has me thinking the most common problem is going to be under voltage. Sure I carry a VOM and can manually check it but what about durning the day. As it heats up more and more people in the park are turning on the airconditioners and as it heats up the resistance in the circuits increases. Depending on how the place is wired someone with 50 amp service next to you could have a big effect on voltage to your pole.


That's why I have these......

SmokelessJoe 07-03-2006 06:14 PM

2 Attachment(s)

I don’t understand matters electrical so I have to ask around a lot. Eventually, I have to be guided by intuition.

If trailers don’t have polarity lights now but polarity problems might still occur, how do careful people look after that? Apparently, by carrying a polarity tester and using it before they plug in.

That makes the most sense to me for another reason: I’m moving the power inlet to the front of the trailer. Unless I go to the trouble of rewiring the whole trailer, the warning light will not be next to the inlet anymore.

What I think I have learned from this is that I should buy a polarity tester and learn how to use it.

Here’s another electrical question for you (or anyone else out there that can help):

Pictured is the MARINCO Easy Lock inlet that I am going to install on the trailer.

The Marinco Easy Lock cordset for this device is 30A 125V 2 pole, 3 wire.

What kind of wire should we run from that Inlet box to the main breaker inside the trailer?

I would appreciate anyone’s advice about this.


bhayden 07-03-2006 07:01 PM

The Marine fittings are usually twist lock. Good reason for that since you're bobing up and down at the dock and don't want it falling out :) Bummer that that's not the RV standard. That means you'll need an adaptor(s) or a custom wired cord. As to what gauge wire that depends on how many amps and how far you want to run the power. Longer the cord, heavier the wire. Likewise, the more amps the heavier the wire. There's nothing wrong with going to a larger wire but going too small will cause voltage drop and overheating. For RV's it looks like 10/3 is pretty common for 30 Amps up to lengths of 50'. I'd keep it to 25' if you're pretty sure that'll be enough.

As far as location of the indicator lights it only seems prudent to me to turn on the breaker after you've hooked up the power and you're in the trailer to see if anything looks wrong. Maybe I'm just paranoid. Do most people turn off their main breaker when leaving?


SmokelessJoe 07-03-2006 07:52 PM


I think you’ve misunderstood my question.

The photos are of a MARINCO brand inlet on a new Airstream.

I am going to install the same type in the Argosy.

The Marinco matching cordset that patches into city power is rated at 30A 125V 2 pole, 3 wire. I’m not sure what gauge.


Somebody suggested #8 Cab Tire, 4 wire. Is this too big? Why 4 wire?

The polarity lamp on the 1976 Argosy was OUTSIDE the trailer, next to the power inlet.

(Most people don’t close their breakers when they leave home but you’re not paranoid, just careful).


SmokelessJoe 07-21-2006 11:02 AM

2 Attachment(s)
Most Argosy owners realize that a distinctive feature of the model was the steel roof cap, front and rear, on the otherwise all-aluminum trailer.

We are removing the original paint with aircraft stripper and this is a chance to show other owners what the steel cap under the paint looks like.


dieterdog 07-21-2006 11:29 AM

Great pictures Sergei,, always wondered what the Argosy end caps looked like,,, still love that trailer,,, wonderful job you are doing,,,, thanks for sharing,,, dieterdog

bhayden 07-21-2006 12:02 PM

End Cap Questions:
Cool, I'd thought the entire end of the trailer was steel, not just the curved part on top. Anyone know why they did this? I'm guessing it's because steel is easier to form without cracking or tearing than most aluminum alloys. It might be a little stronger depending on gauge. Did they galvanize the steel? If so that requires a special etch before paint (phosphoric acid??). Any sign of corrosion from dissimilar metals being in contact? What type of rivets, steel or aluminum?

It's geat to see what's inside my trailer without having to take mine all apart :)


SmokelessJoe 07-21-2006 12:41 PM

You always like the pictures, dieterdog.

Where’s my Airstream mouse pad?

The scratch pad I'm still using in lieu is REALLY dog-eared now!


SmokelessJoe 07-21-2006 01:52 PM

3 Attachment(s)

Yes, I’d always assumed the “end cap” to mean the entire ends. After I bought my trailer I realized this wasn’t so. Tapping on the metal quickly showed me that there were two different metals being used.

I don’t know why steel was used. Airstream caps are all aluminum now. Better techniques or materials eventually developed?

I don’t think the cap is galvanized. It doesn’t look it. The dull brown-black surface can’t be removed with stripper so it isn’t primer.

You can sand it off very easily so maybe its oxidization or another chemical process?

There is no corrosion from dissimilar metals that I can see. Maybe this theory is overrated?

I think the brown spots in the photo may be filler from a previous owners body repair. Just guessing.

All the rivets are aluminum and everything seems in good repair.

Once we sand it all down, prep the aluminum for painting and paint it, the little trailer will look pretty cool.

That won’t be for a few months yet so we have to prime the steel caps now.


3Ms75Argosy 07-21-2006 06:10 PM

good ol stripping...
but a metal paint scraper... YIKES! I used both aircraft stripper (on the steel sections) and the Hydrostrip (ICI product) on my trailer with good results... the Hydrostrip just came off with a hose easily. I used a plastic scraper at times to save the aluminum.

Interesting about your caps. Mine are definately galvinized, but not as dark as yours. No filler either.... except for one area of Brown bondo on the rear aluminum... I too think it was a PO thing - but maybe it was factory?

I'm curiuos how you got the end fiberglass piece off - did the midstrip holder have to come off first?

juel 07-21-2006 06:20 PM

We should all give dieterdog a hard time. She still cannot put pictures on her computer or send them in an email. She goes on some great trips and I'm still waiting to see pictures. Also great job on that Argosy. I really want to get another one to work on. Mine is down at the lake and I can't fix on him. I miss him. Have lots I could do, but if I get him out of the lake lot, then I can't get him back in by myself. I really enjoy going down there to my hide-a-way.

dieterdog 07-21-2006 06:48 PM

ok, Juel,,,, yep,, went to the International and just got back last night from a trip to the wilds of Idaho,,,, and Sergei,,,did get a mouse pad for you,, but not the anniversary one,,,, this one is in colors,,, and will not match your black and white theme,,,, will look online for what you want if it is available still,, was not last time i looked,,, sorry all,,, am a techno drop out,,, dieterdog

SmokelessJoe 07-21-2006 09:10 PM

Hello All:

Dieterdog, do you have my mailing address at Port Bruce?

I’m still waiting for my prize. It doesn’t need to match my trailer, just be from you.

Marc, that’s actually a plastic scraper in the photo. Mindougas, the guy doing all the hard work, did revert to a steel scraper in the end. The aircraft stripper that we’re using melts the scraper.

He’s being extra careful. There appears to be two layers of paint. The first is scraped off. Then he uses a stiff plastic bristle brush to get the bottom coat off. After that he will wet sand. He also carefully rounded the edges of the scraper.

It looks OK to me.

The rear fiberglass detail comes off by drilling out the 9 rivets along the top. Then there are two long screws that go thru the light fixtures to the body of the trailer.

These may not be original. Mindougas says it doesn’t look like factory work.


SmokelessJoe 07-27-2006 02:39 PM

stripping finished
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Mindougas says that the paint he scraped off the trailer weighed at least 50 pounds.

Next, polishing all the moldings.


SmokelessJoe 08-02-2006 05:55 PM

Protecting Aluminum
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Mindougas spent the day stripping, then polishing, the thirty-year-old rear bumper.

It’s starting to look good. (It's just propped in place for the photo.)

How do we protect the shine? Is there a clear coat, preferably sprayed on, that will last?


SmokelessJoe 09-23-2006 03:18 PM

Any PLUMBERS out there?
1 Attachment(s)
We are replacing the entire water system with PEX.

The attached photo is of the 30-year-old pressure regulator, set at 45 psi. Are there more modern, smaller sized regulators available now?

The check or overflow valve next in line after the water exits the regulator: what function does it serve?

If I’m describing the regulator as “30 year old”, perhaps implying a new one will be better, doesn’t that go for the water pump too?

The current one is a PAR type IV Model 36975-1060. Flow rate 2.8 US, 2.3 Canadian gallons per minute.

It doesn’t say what pressure. I assume 45 if the regulator was 45 pounds.

What is the best new pump out there?

Do I assume that if I get a pump rated at 65 psi that I will need a new matching pressure regulator in any case?

Thanks in advance for suggestions and help.


SmokelessJoe 09-24-2006 03:53 PM

Go here to see how several members helped:

BillyP 11-17-2006 05:38 PM

How's the project coming? Just checkin in :)

SmokelessJoe 12-31-2006 09:56 AM

It's Coming Along..
2 Attachment(s)
Hello Billy P:

So you sometimes feel Dazed, Confused and Broke as well, eh?

I’ve been lax in keeping this thread up. Sorry. I’ve also been spread around on a couple of new threads.

I will try harder in the New Year to pull those threads together and to up date people on my progress.

Often, the work seems frustratingly slow.

I know I said at the outset that I’d be “done when I’m done” but, truth be told, I think I also thought I might be down in places like Baton Rouge, Austin or Santa Fe instead of up here in the snow this winter.

Attachment 30251

Sometimes it helps if I look back at all that’s been done instead of thinking about what’s still to do.

The list of what has been done in 14 months is fairly satisfying:

-Completely decommissioned; stripped bare inside and out (that’s always the fastest, easiest part).

-Frame and undercarriage sand blasted and painted.

-New, larger holding tanks. All new drainage, “waste management system”, sensors installed.

-All new 110 v wiring throughout in BX armor shield cable; new circuits for A/C and inverter system; new 12 v circuits added.

-Marinco power inlet installed.

-19.5” x 29.5” Seitz Roof light installed. A beauty.

-Wall to wall Maroleum flooring down.

-Bath walls and ceiling done in POR 15 WhiteCoat. New ceramic toilet waiting to go in. Shower fixture mounted “in-wall”.

-All new IKEA furniture through out. Dry fitted; weight considerably reduced. LG fridge standing by.

-Xenon pot lights installed throughout; Frilight 12v dimmer system from Sweden.

-LG “Art Cool” split air unit on hand; wiring and gas lines already run.

-All new IPEX plumbing completed stem to stern

-Diesel Powered Trailer achieved. All components sourced and installed. (Webasto Coolant Heater, Indel Water Heater, COZY space heaters, Tempo tank). Getting the hydronic system up and running is first on our work list for the New Year.

-Interior primed (2 coats) and painted (2 coats). Final touch up coat after furniture install.

-Cabinetry for the two gauchos, fold out table and galley counter being built by relative and member DavidsonOverlander

-All upholstery materials on hand; upholster semi-patiently waiting on me.

-Exterior paint removed with aircraft stripper. Prepped too. (Final prep to be done before painting in Mini Cooper colours ).

-Much insulation done.

-Winter work shed erected. Warm and cozy.

Attachment 30252

-Sprinter ordered last January, delivery taken last JULY. Drawing plans for ramp system right now; job to be quoted in the New Year.

So it’s much done; much yet to do.

These things always seem to take longer than one thinks they will.

I’m also off into new Airstream renewal territory for much of the stuff. It’s something like building a prototype. The models that follow will go much more quickly.

The trouble is that I ain’t going to be buildin’ no second ones, as they say here in Elgin County.

Happy New Year Billy and All.


dieterdog 12-31-2006 11:12 AM

Happy New Year Sergei,, dieter

SmokelessJoe 01-01-2007 07:20 PM

THANK YOU and Best Wishes
To all who’ve sent me encouragement and/or advice this past year, THANK YOU and Best Wishes for the New Year.

canoe stream
Clancy boy
Foiled Again
Frank S
Janet’s Husband,
Jim Clark
john hd
safari Tim
Tinsel Loaf

There have been so many that I will have missed some names. You know who you are- THANK YOU too.


3Ms75Argosy 01-01-2007 08:26 PM

Happy New Year Sergei!
But hey, can you post some pics?
I'm so interested in the whole enchilada.... but especially the skylight and Ikea stuff. I'd thought of their cabinets.... but they're so heavy.... I'd thought about hogging out their cabinets with big holes... is this what you did?

Where did you place the skylight... and where did you end up finding a source for it?
Can't wait to see more!

SmokelessJoe 01-02-2007 08:34 PM

German Skylight
3 Attachment(s)

Much information on and several pictures of the SKYLIGHT here, post #3:

I don’t know why I said in this post that I’d replaced the front vent with the skylight. I didn’t. It’s positioned just ahead of the front vent.

Attachment 30336Attachment 30337Attachment 30338

I’ve kept the two cool looking originals. The new German super vent/skylight is in the front lounge area. Light just cascades in. It’s really nice.

Tomorrow I’ll post shots of the IKEA furniture weight reduction.

I think you once asked about how I was going to get the new Xenon pot lamps back into the ceiling. I have photos of how we did that too.

I’ll post more stuff soon. Keep watching this space. You’ll have the whole enchilada.


dieterdog 01-02-2007 10:45 PM

Sergei,, love the skylights,,, great idea,,, well done,, Dieter

3Ms75Argosy 01-03-2007 11:10 AM

That hatch looks great. Incidently, this is almost the same (as in a modern version) of a "Wally hatch." Seems Wally liked a rectangular side opening hatch on the top of his trailers (see AS Life for an article on the Gold Wally Trailer.... there's a picture of it there). I'm curious why he didn't include that on his production trailers.

Can't wait to see more!

SmokelessJoe 01-03-2007 06:53 PM

Roof Light

I must have noted the Wally Byam hatch when reading Fred Coldwell’s piece in last summer’s Airstream Life but went back just now for a re-read.

It’s astonishing how similar that 1957 idea is to my brand new Seitz German made piece. They seem about the same size and shape and of similar construction. The lever handle mechanism to open the unit is almost exactly the same, from what I can see.

Do you know if current Airstreams have large, fully opening skylights like this?


bhayden 01-03-2007 07:10 PM

So, your contemporizing your '76 up to 1957 standards :lol:

Good to hear from you. Keep them pictures coming.... how about a Sergei cam :D


3Ms75Argosy 01-03-2007 07:10 PM

the newer trailers do have a nice large skylight, but it's fixed in place. I wonder if the German's read Wally's old artiicles in National Geographic?
Funny how history repeats!

SmokelessJoe 01-04-2007 10:04 AM

weight reduction method
5 Attachment(s)
Marc, others:

Marc asked to see some photos showing how I am installing the IKEA furniture used in my remodel.

All the pieces - bath cabinets, wardrobe and desk unit, galley, fridge box, and slide out pantry drawers – have been dry fitted and cut to the profile of the trailer.
Attachment 30404Attachment 30406Attachment 30405

Once the hydronic system is completed, we will install the furniture pieces.

The weight reduction method used is very effective. I estimate that cutting the frames down this way results in cabinetry no heavier than if built with stick construction.

Attachment 30407Attachment 30408

The centre, tall unit is an Ikea wardrobe that comes complete with double doors that slide over each other on cool aluminum tracks.

In my redesign, slide the doors to one side and you get the wardrobe; slide them to the other and you get a road office set up (under the window).

The desk surface will slide out, carrying my iBook and printer.

I stole that idea from forum member Zeppelium


3Ms75Argosy 01-04-2007 11:28 AM

this is what I had in mind for the cabinet carcasses - do they feel much lighter now? What will you place on the bottom of the cabinet box for supporting item?

Are you using the front dinnette?

Can't wait to see more!

juel 01-04-2007 11:53 AM

Hey, what a wonderful looking trailer. I never wanted to do that much to mine; however, looking at yours has made me envious. Mine is just cute, your's is going to be modern. There is a retired pilot in Austin, Texas, who has taken a 28ft Argosy and made it look like a plane inside. I have pictures if you'll PM me with your email address.

SmokelessJoe 01-04-2007 05:26 PM

You will see none of the cutouts, just a clean white surface.
Marc, Juel, all:

The cabinet frames are MUCH lighter. I couldn’t lift a unit before I started. I can easily lift the frames now.

Repeating from above, cutting the frames down this way results in cabinetry no heavier than if built with stick construction.

I forgot to mention that the interiors will be completely lined with white.040 aluminum sheet. You will see none of the cutouts, just a clean white surface.

I think I will use aluminum for shelving as well.

I have the gaucho at the front, with the foldout table model.

DavidsonOverlander is rebuilding the arms and back shelf of the front unit in birch. There will be slide out drawers under.

The table is being rebuilt as well. Marmoleum matching the floor will form the table surface, as well as the kitchen counter top.

Grant is doing all the birch cabinetwork, including the mid-ship gaucho to match the front one.

The upholstery will be in a GM Cadillac/Oldsmobile cloth called Dorchester Grey. A nearby couple is doing that professionally.


SmokelessJoe 01-05-2007 09:28 AM

Global Warming Warning
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Attachment 30434
We built a winter work shed for the Argosy. Full details here:

Attachment 30435
So far this year we’ve had only ONE snowfall, which quickly melted.

Attachment 30436
The shed stands surrounded by green lawn. Two days ago I swatted a mosquito in the trailer.

Like the plants and critters, I’m hoping the Argosy will think it’s spring … and perhaps hurry up and finish the job all by itself.


3Ms75Argosy 01-05-2007 11:39 AM

Hey Sergei!
Thanks so much for the updates...... now get back to work on her!;)

Seriously, can't wait for the next updates - always exciting to see someone's trailer reborn.
Enjoy the sun... still mossy on my north side here in the NW

SmokelessJoe 01-05-2007 04:02 PM


That’s what I say too.

I feel guilty whether I’m reporting progress instead of working or working but not letting people know what’s happening.

It’s a catch 22.


dieterdog 01-05-2007 05:26 PM

Sergei,, glad you reported,,, beautiful work,,, thank you for posting all of the pictures,,, no idea you were silently progressing so fast,, donna

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