Is My Dream a Nightmare?
Hi, all...I am heartbroken, sick to my stomach, depressed, scared...you name it. I feel like someone might feel who searched all his life for the perfect mate, married her, then 10 days later he discovers she only has a few days to live. Here's my brief story...
My previous post, "It's Official...Airstreamin', not Dreamin" tells of my discovery and purchase of our first, brand new (to us) 1967 International Overlander. I've even posted some of the pics of this dream craft. At the tiime of first viewing this AS I noticed the rivets had gone from the trim around the wheel opening on the streetside. Looking closer, I could see the aluminum somewhat slightly crumpled, wavy, or bulky. The curbside seem acceptable: No missing rivets, but slight waves just above the wheel opening. My estimation was that once the rivets on the streetside were replaced it would take out the waviness and crumpled look on that side. I WAS WRONG!
My mind quickly searched all the things I had read for months on this forum. I could only retrieve topics like "tail droop, rear end separation, tail sag...etc." Many of you already know where I'm headed, don't you???
Almost instantly I felt sick to my stomach. I had just depleted my family's savings PLUS took out a small signature loan to pick up this jewel. Now, from what everyone says, my AS has a bad case of tail end droop, separation, whatever you call it. I'm almost 100% sure that's what's causing the crimpled look on the sides around the wheel openings. Now, all of a sudden, it makes perfect sense when the previous owner used 3 cans of expandable foam in the rear storage compartment that houses the waste tube, etc. I thought is was for insulation purposes or keeping out unwanted field mice, etc. What a retard I was!!!
I know. I'll get a whole host of you saying, "Don't be so hard on yourself. It's still a good deal. It's a sweet rig and worth fixing. It can be repaired. It'll take a few thousand dollars, but when you're finished, you'll have a classic AS that's top of the line and beat out every other trailer on the road." And I would agree.
However, the bottom line is I'M OUT OF MONEY! I can't afford to jeopardize the financial stability of my family by sawing off the limb we've already crawled out upon. My options? I guess sell it to the highest bidder and hope to get everything I put into it. (I JUST purchased $500 worth of replacement parts that would make it really cherry!).
Thanks for sharing this "buyer's remorse" with my family. I'll let you know the date and time of the funeral.................:sad:
Slow down, don't jump to conclusions. A couple of things -
1) Your unit (aside from a few bumps on top) looks fairly complete and clean. You were looking for the most turn-key vintage trailer out there. Unfortuneately, it's a bit of a fact that almost anything 20-30yrs old will need some fixing.
2) I don't think the early year AS's had much of a taildrop history- this was mostly the 70's era trailers with the rear bath and grey and black tanks. All that tank weight back there wasn't good for the frame rails. I think you only have the black tank, right? While your trailer did spend some time in Fla, I don't think rust would be too much of an issue being most of the time in Tex. I think the foam was for rodent, cold abatement - however, I'd poke the wood under the sink cabinet (if you can get to the floor) to check for softness. Not sure how it would cover up a separation. However, the rear of these AS's are notorious for leaking.
3) Try these tests. Have your kids (or wife) go into the bathroom - this will be a fun time for them. Have them jump up and down in there, while you walk around the rear of the trailer. IF there could be separation, you'll see the rear of the trailer flex up/down vs. the middle of the trailer (viewed from the side), or the buckles and waves move. From the rear, you should see the bumper/compartment move up/down, and possibly the rear shell not move. Most of the cracks in the frame are visiable right around the axle frame area. Look at the frame visiable, and look for cracks. You are a body man per trade. The reinforcements / fix (look in the forums for pics) is just a L-brace welded onto the frame - you should be able to either weld it yourself or have someone do it for you for fairly cheap.
4) Your problem may not be the main frame rails, but rather from outriggers that separted off from the main frame. (Search "this is going to be expensive" by steph roberts). Uwe may chip in here and tell me if I'm off base or not.
5) The rivets may of sheared from a wheel imbalance problem.
5) Photos speak a thousand words - can you post some?
PS - I think you need new yellow clearance lights for the top of the trailer (front). Teardrop ones would look cool!
I think you have a great starting point. I wouldn't sell and start over - I know money is tight, but honestly, almost any vintage unit will cost additional money in repairs. If the systems are working (water, fridge, AC, electrical) and had been replaced currently, that's some significant money ahead of the game. All of these systems WILL have to be replaced some time in the trailer's history. If you can get it rolling safely, it looks like your family can use it as is. A lot of us could not say that (I couldn't really use mine for about a year) when we bought our trailers.
From all I've read, a 26ft of that age is not prone to the rear end problems of the longer 70's coaches. You may have a cracked frame from the trailer hitting a pot hole. I had that with my 67 17ft Caravel after dropping into a hole in the road. I simply took it to a welder and had a piece welded onto the frame. From what I know, it's still going strong. Don't panic yet.
why don't you get some people from your church to give you a hand? bring it up in your next sermon.
Inspect before you pay...
Not to sound harsh, but your profile lists you as available for trailer inspections... That being said and carefully reading your post, it appears you have the same problem occurring around both wheel openings.... I did not read your previous original post you referred to, but who you purchase from is equally or greater than what it is you purchase - Airstreams or anything else. I recently received a couple messages from a Forum member who purchased an Argosy & apparently paid in full before Christmas with no delivery yet. She was freaking out. Whatever you are having problems with was there most likely before you purchased this. I don't think "Buyer Beware" applies as much as "Buyer be Informed". I sympathize with your dilemma but don't make it worse by acting now before you inspect. There is good advice in the two previous posts & I would follow it.
Take it with a grain of salt.
I'm a newby to but all Ive read hear is the tail droop run's in the 70's models like prev. stated. The reason we bought vintage was because they were a whole lot cheaper than a new Airstream and made a whole lot better then all the new other brands.
We to ran into some problems the prev. owner failed to tell us or he didn't know (ha ha) But we also knew when we started looking at these older models we were going to run into problems. So what we do we take them on one at a time and my family understands we may eat beans for a few day's in order to get a new piece of plyboard for the floor that week.
We also learned there are alot of things you can learn to do in order to save money, like putting the floor back in and not hiring it to be done.
Don't give up, I was at that point last week when we found out about 4ft of our floor was rotted out, but after chatting with the folks here I felt much better and we are on the way fixen that floor.
Slow down, do a little inspecting, and if worse comes to worse, just sit on the project until you can save up the money to do it right. I did a complete floor replacement on the front half of my trailer, and the actual cost was about $500 with me doing all the work except for the welder I hired to fix the frame. It's not easy work, I won't lie about that, but it's certainly do-able. I think my previous car restoration experience enabled me to take it all in stride, as you should too. Your trailer is 90% good, so don't let that 10% frustrate you too much.
I also had the knot in the stomach when I first discovered my problem, but we worked through it, and now it's good as new and ready for another 35 years on the road. Yours will be too. Don't be too quick to pass it off to someone else!
Breathing Easier Now!
First of all, if I could start an "Airstream Support Group" at my church I probably would.;) Also, if I can drop a biblical hint or two in one of my sermons....I just MIGHT (ha!:o )
When I first inspected the trailer I did the "jump up and down on the rear bumper" method. I could see the bumper separate no more than 1/2" on either end, less in the middle. I weigh only 165 (give or take a few oreos), but thought that would have been enough weight to provide a good test. My offer of inspecting other trailers in my area is genuine, but limited, and certainly NOT PROFESSIONAL. I had a fine man and his wife help me turn down a trailer 1200 miles away. They were my "eyes" and I would tell them what to look for. I only want the opportunity of returning a similar favor for someone else.
Thank you all for your kind words of wisdom. Since last night I have been processing this situation over and over....much like many of you have on your own crafts. I know the 60's did not have the frequency of tail droop or separation problems as the 70's, but some indeed had some problems. I found an AS Service Bulletin (#146) on one of the forums here and printed it out. Makes perfect sense when it comes to "Shell to Chassis Separation." I'm thinking (not knowing) I may have other issues that may be way out of my family's budget. Of course, it will take my removing the bottom pan(s) for a more intimate inspection to know 100% for sure.
Let's say I pull the pans down. Exactly WHERE and WHAT am I looking for? Some mentioned cracks in the frame. Others mentioned rotted wood. Can't see the frame until I remove some covering. The floor in the rear compartment still seems strong with the exception of a small place (size of my palm) where the HW heater blew. I saw all of this at the initial and secondary inspections before buying, but all seemed acceptable to me at the time. What I did NOT know was the ripples or waves in the side panel above and around the wheel openings. How could a former body shop owner have underestimated the cause of those ugly things? I guess when you want an Airstream so badly, and you find one within your budget, and your kids are running up and down the interior's galley, and your wife loves the blue oven door...you just gotta spring for the dough!
Here's what I plan to do later today: Go home, put on my grubbies, take some photos of any and all related areas, post those, then let all of YOU (my dear friends) have at it. I am enamored by your kindness and your thoughtfulness. I will TRY to be patient, but even preachers have their limits, amen?:innocent: I'll get back with you in a few hours. THANKS!
That sounds like a good idea. I am always amazed when someone posts pictures here, and people spot things I never would have noticed. I'll bet that will get you a lot of good feedback on your problem.
JB, Before you get too upset check this out! My 1967 Safari has some slight wavy areas on both sides behind and just above the wheel wells. I also noticed small splits in the exterior skins (less than 2") behind both wheel wells and missing rivets. My trailer only being 22' long got me to look harder at the wheel wells than elsewhere. I removed the roadside goucho, the flooring just behind the wheel well is warped upwards from below. I then looked under the trailer to discover the belly pan is bent upward just behind the wheel well. It appears that this damaged area may have been caused by tire blow-out some time in the past life of my trailer and that bent the outriggers on both sides of the coach. not hard to figure that the outriggers being forced upwards will give you missing rivets and wavy sides! I am in the process of repairing this at the current time. I want you to know that I too initially jumped to the frame seperation conclusion, but after further inspection have found the real problem to be much less of a challenge to repair. (And I am not a body man). So take another look at it and get a different prospective on what may be the real cause. You have a real find in that trailer and with a little TLC, will have many years of enjoyment out of it........P.S. Don't try to do it all at once! Make it a labor of love and it will pay you back ten fold.... Ed
Lets not get too carried away - - - - as mentioned send of some pictures - my first question is - do you have a place to work on it? Yes = 99% of problem solved (well maybe not that much - just trying to cheer you up a bit), then let us take a look at pictures - this is more labor than money to fix this - anything on your trailer is fixable so as mentioned above lets take it one step at a time - initially, I would crawl under there with a straight edge - you can feel the frame through the belly - as mentioned above I would highly doubt a cracked frame rail - maybe some welds have come loose on some cross members - or the out riggers - very easy fix - anyway, take your straight edge and move it along the main frame rail and you should be able to tell if the frame is bent - I'm sure you have done this on cars......push up and down along the belly and see if you can tell if anything is bent.
Seperation can/will happen on any of these trailers - my floor looked great, until I tore into it.....and I have frame seperation on my 58.....
I may bit a bit criptic - at work with phones ringing etc, but take some pictures lets take it one step at a time and figure out whats going on - then we will give you lots of opinions :) on how to fix it....
Ripple Effect: Pictures & Inspection Results
Okay...here's what I've done.
1. I had the wife jump up and down in the bathroom while I watched for any separation between the bumper and shell. YES...about 1/2 inch. While I was at it, I took a look at the ripples on the sides while she continued her jumping. Saw no visible effects on the ripples.... The cause and cure of the dreaded ripples is probably NOT separation, but could be droop (caused by crack in frame?) or busted outriggers (which I have yet to learn what these are...hint, hint:o ).
2. Next, I put a floor jack under the exposed frame leading to my bumper. Jacked it up to see if it made any difference in the ripple effect....NONE.
3 Next, I took TEN pictures (max allowable) for your viewing pleasure.
a. The first two are of the ripples on the street side.
b. The next two are of the ripples (much less apparent) on the curb side.
c. The next two pictures are of the inside floor of the bathroom. Both are under the sink in the same area as the previously replaced HW Heater.
d. The next is a picture of the case of expandable foam used by the previous owner (to keep out field mice, etc.?).
e. The next picture is a crack in the ceiling panel located by the wall that divides the kitchen from the bedroom. Someone suggested this could be a result of unbalanced running gear rather than the result of droop.
f. The last two pictures definitely show prolonged trailering with unbalanced running gear. These are pieces of metal (in front of and behind the wheel well) that have worn through the skin. Wondering...is this part of the outrigging that some of you mentioned?
Well....take a good long look and let me know what you all think. Sorry about my initial response to this bleak discovery. My wife felt I was a bit over-dramatic and over the top. I told her that's really how I felt, and I would get plenty of sympathy from YOU. :rolleyes: Can I get a witness?
You make some very interesting observations. You also helped me remember that the previous owner indeed had a blowout on his last trip home, thus the brand new tires. From reading your post it sounds like I MAY have the same situation as yours (hopefully!). Take a look at the last two photos and the ripples, then let me know if yours looks like this. Can you post pics and let me follow your progress of repair?
This is what I would do
1. What I mentioned above with straight edge
2. I think you have more rot than you think - its looks pretty rotted along that back edge - which is why you are seeing the "separation" at least this piece of flooring will need to be fixed.
3. To my way of thinking, the rot along that edge has caused things to loosen up a bit - if the PO used the trailer over rough roads - the body was flexing and therefore you see what you see......an unsupported frame is about as stiff as a rubberband.....
4. Those cutouts are caused by the outriggers rubbing on the skin - no biggy there....that could be imbalanced - lots of miles on the trailer - or loose skin that is flapping against that outrigger.
A word about outriggers...
The frame is constructed with two lengthwise steel chanel members about 5 ft apart with the u of the channel pointing in toward the center of the trailer. Obviously the floor is wider than 5 ft hence the need for the outriggers which are frame members that attach to the outside of the main channel and extend from the channel toward the sides of the floor. There also are cross members that connect from side to side between the main channel members. My unit is a 1973 so there may be some differences between your frame and mine but the principle of the outriggers is the same.
The ends of metal that I see sticking out are indeed outriggers. I had one sticking through like that at the front of my curb side wheel well. I discovered that it was broken loose from the main frame and needed to be re-attached. Eventually I plan to replace the piece of aluminum in that location too. It connects along the bottom of the floor and to the bottom of the main channel in my vintage trailer so it is not all that large of a piece.
The attached photo should give you some idea of what it looks like. This shot was taken with part of the plywood floor removed. It shows a spot just behind the street side wheel well. You can see the wheel well, an outrigger, the main frame and a cross member all in the one shot.
By the way I had a welder that makes house calls come and do some welding on my frame to fix a few things. The welder that Stephanie used was the same guy I used. To get to your outriggers you will have to remove some of the beltline trim and take off part of the banana wrap (part of the belly pan that connets around to the bottom of the wall. Again your model might be different than my '73. In any case it is not all that hard to get to.
If your trailer has been over some bad bumps it could have contributed to what we are seeing.
Hope this all helps.
Skin ripples are subject to the weather i.e. the skin being heated by the sun.
On my computer screen, I see your pictures arranged in rows of three. In your top row, the middle & right hand pictures appear to be the street side skin. The right hand picture has the sun hitting the skin. The middle picture does not. The skin in the sun does not appear to be rippled as much.
My Overlander exhibits the same characteristics. Even after addressing all floor issues I could find and reinforcing select parts of the frame. I did not consider it a problem then, and after almost 6000 miles of camping trips do not consider it a problem now.
Don't write your Airstream off because of your perceptions. To do so would simply give the next buyer a real deal on a vintage Airstream. I get the feeling you would be inclined to point out warts to potential buyers.
While I took no pictures that emphasize rippled skin, you may be able to detect it in my photo gallery. To get there, click on the photos tab, and look me up under member pictures.
Ripples In The Skin
J B, Mine Are Not That Prominient, But In The Same Areas As Yours Are. So Check Inside The Wheel Wells And Under The Trailer.
Also From Your Early Pictures You Have Some Damage That Was Done To The Front Corner Of Your Trailer By A Po. That Could Have Caused The Ripples In The Sides From Say An Abrupt Stop By Running The Front Corner Into A Tree Branch Or Other Foriegn Object (corner Or Overhang On A Building?) That Stopped The Coach Violently.
My Best Guess Is That It May Be A Combination Of These Two. The Best First Thing To Check Would Be The Damage To And Around The Wheel Wells Under The Trailer. If Blowout Damage It Should Be Apparent Under The Coach. Remember Losing A Tire At Speed Can Cause The Tread To Beat The Heck Out Of The Skin And Belly Pan Around And Inside Of The Wheel Wells.
The Outriggers Refer To The Short Extensions Of The Framing Outside Of The Boxed Area Of The Frame. The Pictures Of The Metal Protruding Through The Outside Skin Of The Trailer Do Appear To Be The Ends Of Outriggers. This Will Need To Be Repaired For Sure As They Are To Support The Upper Shell Of The Trailer Not Primarily To Hold The Side Walls In Shape. Basically These Trailers Upper Shell Is Supported By The Floor Which Is Supported By The Frame And Outriggers, Then Enclosed By The Skin And Bellypan.
If The Floor Fails On The Outside Edges From Water Damage Or Dryrot Then The Shell Will Flex More In Those Areas. Take An Icepick And Probe The Floor Area Around The Inside Walls To See If The Floor Is Solid, Especially Around The Areas Where Your Wrinkles Appear.
While You Are Checking This You Can Also Inspect The Inside Area Of Your Wheel Wells To See If There Is Any Damage/seperation From The Exterior Skin And Interior Skin. Check For Daylight Or Put A Worklamp Inside The Wheel Well To See If You Can Easily See Light On The Inside Of The Coach. Ed
I think your floor may be a bit more rotten then you orginally thought (as per the earlier responses). I see that you battery compartment is close to the streetside ripple (I wouldn't worry too much about the curbside part). My theory is that the body may be sagging down a bit on the streetside vs. the curbside from the rotting by the battery compartment, rippling the skin in that area - and/or that your outriggers aren't attached to frame anymore, again, letting the body settle a bit. Your kitchen crack leads me to think this is the case also.
Next courses - pick with a razor or screwdriver around the edge of wood (as Malcom suggested) to see how soft that floor is. Where are those outriggers poking through again? Are they inback of the wheels? That may also indicate outriggers separated off.
I think if you determine the amount of wood damage (hopefully small), you can fix that part and be good to go. If the wood damage is right above the outriggers, then you don't need to peel back the belly skin at all. (search stephroberts "this is going to be expensive" post - she did the exact same thing - only in the front of her trailer. You'll get a better idea of what we're talking about.) If your wood is ok, then I suppose you can pull back the belly skin to get to those outriggers, but I think you may find that you're looking at pulling the rear interior bath/furniture out (really not THAT huge of a deal), pulling the wood out, and doing a 1/3 to 1/2 rear floor replacement from inside the trailer - and rewelding a few outriggers. Time will heal - money won't be all that bad if you do it yourself. There's plenty of help here (and documented already - see Malcom, Uwe, and Carlos's posts for ideas. Also search "body on floor repair").
The hardest part is taking the first step. You'll find that you'll learn more about these trailers than you ever thought you'd need - but they're really simple animals vs. cars to work on.
I notice the interior wall has started to push thru the ceiling. That is a sign the shell has started to settle down over the frame which supports the plywood floor which supports the wall. This is usually caused by the outriggers being bend or broken. It also can be caused by a bent frame pushing up on the floor at the wheel well locations but not properly supporting the shell toward the back. The localized buckling at the bottom of the outer wall of the shell just at the rear wheel well also is an indication the shell has started to bend. It is like a big sausage and if it gets bent up in the middle there is excess metal at the bottom and will start to buckle outwards. There is usually a flange that hangs down between the sets of wheel. Get under the end of the camper and sight down these two flanges. They should be straight. If they have a buckle, there was a bend in the frame and there was excess metal there which also buckled. If you see that, you really need to get the unit up on a set of ramps so you can pull the center part of the lower pan off and look closely at the frame. If it is just bent you may be able to take it to a place that does frame straightening for trucks and just bolt in on their jig and use a ram to straighten the frame. I would have some reinforcment steel either bolted or welded to the frame before I buttoned it up again. If you find cracks in the frame, you will have to have it it welded and reinforcements installed. It may just be the outriggers and you can have them straightened or rewelded for less money.
Thanks for the Homework Assignments!
WHEW! This forum is sooooo helpful! Thanks to you all for bringing me back to reality. I'm not as bummed as I was yesterday, but still concerned about the unexpected time and money that will need to get this rig the way I want it for my family. You've all been extremely encouraging. I'm impressed.:)
Here's some additional info that will help: The previous owner lived down a very rough, washed out country road. Every trip with the AS meant driving about 1/2 mile one way. This guy has pulled contruction trailers all his life, and being accustomed to that road, I'm sure he never pulled the AS down that rough road as gently as I did last week. Also, he was the one who hit the low tree limb that caused the dents on the top. Those aren't very deep, and he said he was not traveling very fast...only parking it. So, I doubt if the inside ribs were damaged at all.
KENJ: Do you think I can replace any bad flooring without taking SOME of the shell off? I don't see how unless I am able to jack up a section of the shell a bit at a time. I'm sure it can be (and has been) done. Not a simple, one-afternoon job, I'm sure!
TomW: You are correct. The first and second photos ARE the streetside. The second photo is merely a close up of the first. The third and fourth shots are of the curbside, and yes...ripples are not as visible. The sun is shining just right to minimize the rippling. And, by the way, I am definitely cursed with the "wart finder" gene. Sorry....my sweet wife says I need counseling for that, too. I'm a terrible salesman because I point out everything that is wrong to the buyer...How stupid is that?:blink: (I simply LOVE the looks of your Overlander, and enjoyed your site. Sure gives us hope, huh?)
BIGED52: Thanks for your words of wisdom, too! I will take your advice (and others) by checking the edge of all flooring with an ice pick. I'll also look for the light (something I tell others to do in my "profession":angel: ) as you suggested.
Marc: The outriggers have come through on the streetside only, at the front and rear of the wheel opening. I will also check into the post by STEPHROBERTS as you suggested.
Thanks to you all, I have much homework to do. I'll keep you posted on my discoveries and progress.:D
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