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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:

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