Door Removal, Panel Removal, Panel Installation, & Roof Vent Removal - Part 4

As we mentioned in part 1, we had a lot of working going on the last couple days! Here’s what was on the docket:

Ahhhhh, part 4. So looking at our 1959 Ambassador, there are 3 roof vents. The mid and rear are both two cylinder twist to turn fan roof vents. At the front on our land yacht is what Airstream called the Astradome. The Astradome is 14” wide and 25” long. All three originally had aluminum covers on them. Today there are reproduction plastic and aluminum Astradome and 14”x14” vent covers. These can be seen below. Click on them to go to Vintage Trailer Supply.

Moving forward our venting situation is going to be a little bit different. First, we’ve elected to replace the original Airstream vents with old 12V fans in the them with newer Fan-tastic vent fans. These fans have a lot of modern options; wall switches, smoked lids (to let in light), gray color trim to match the aluminum, rain sensors that close the lid when water is detected, and they move a ton of air. Now, we’re going to replace the rear and the front vents with Fan-tastic fans. You probably remember me telling you that the original Astradome in the front was 14”x25”. Well, if you did, you’d be correct! We’ll be building a patch to make the 14”x25” hole a 14”x14” hole. That video to come. We’ll also be removing the middle original fan and replacing it with a full-sized air conditioner from Dometic. We’ll update as we get to that part. More videos and explanation on how to remove the roof vents will come next week. Until then, CHEERS!

Door Removal, Panel Removal, Panel Installation, & Roof Vent Removal - Part 3

As we mentioned in part 1, we had a lot of working going on the last couple days! Here’s what was on the docket:

Today we’ll talk about the new panel installation! We wrapped up our rear lower street-side panel installation finally! We had it tacked in for a long time but hadn’t finished the buck riveting and getting everything aligned. Well we finally did it. I don’t know what the problem is with some of these things. I hope someone that’s reading this can sympathize. When I work through something in my head and I can’t quite feel comfortable with the process, I have a hard time finishing something up until I can get my mind completely wrapped around it. This time it was with this panel.

We got all the buck rivets and the sealant/adhesive on the top all into place and set and I couldn’t wrap my head around getting the bottom all straight while keeping the panel from bucking while also following the contour of the rear corner. Well, it all worked out just fine. We tacked in the bottom of the panel in the gap where the rear panel will go eventually, and tightened up the bottom as tight as we could go. Then we made sure that the top of the panel was straight and aligned. Drill a couple holes, plug in some clecos and voila! we’ve got a panel aligned. The last stage was to get the buck rivets in at the top and cleco in the bottom to the bottom C-channel.

All in all it turned out perfectly. I’m super happy that the dents and crumples are gone and we have a new shiny panel all in place. I should probably not stress out so much about it being perfect.

More tomorrow about the roof vent replacements. More to come on the rear panel in place as well!

Door Removal, Panel Removal, Panel Installation, & Roof Vent Removal - Part 2

As we mentioned in part 1, we had a lot of working going on the last couple days! Here’s what was on the docket:

  • Remove and strip down the door-in-door door (Part 1)

  • Panel Removal (Part 2)

  • New Panel Installation (finally finishing it) (Part 3)

  • Beginning Roof Vent Removal (Part 4)

While we were taking the door off, we realized that the panel behind the door had some dings in it that would never look right after polishing. This was likely from years of abuse. There’s one piece of engineering that I’ve never been able to understand when it comes to Wally the Airstream. 99% of the things that they did in 1959 on these things, I agree with. Here’s one I don’t. The door has a suicide opening. Meaning, if you’re looking at the door, the hinges are on the left side. Now there’s a really good reason for this, the door opens from right to left and thus, the hinges don’t have to go where the 2 Hehr Clearview windows are stacked to the right of the door. It also means that when the door is open, it opens to the side where the old furnace and refrigerator stood and doesn’t block the windows. Ok, fine makes sense… But what doesn’t make sense at all is that if you accidentally don’t latch the door well enough, keep in mind Airstreams have a tendency to flex and change over time, when you’re cruising down the road at 65mph, if the wind catches the door and flings it open, you’ve created a hinged missile with a path of destruction for both the door handle and the panel to the left of the door.

This especially a problem when that Bargman 77 vertical lock that’s on the outside of the door is impossible to find replacements if it slams into the skin. Even better, it’s made of poured metal and a little brittle 60 years later. More than that, when one does show up on the market, they’re about $1400 for the set. So, yea. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

So, back to the original story, our hinged missile clearly made its way into the wall a few times as there were quite a few dents and as the aluminum is 60 years old, we decided, since we’re now Airstream panel fabrication specialists, to replace it with new.

First step, decide where to run the new panel. This is the bottom curb-side panel that stretches from the door frame back to the rear lower cap on the exterior. As I didn’t need to replace the whole stretch and I didn’t want to have to un-rivet and re-rivet all of the bottoms of the windows, I elected to go to the stud that is just to the right (aft) of the windows in mid-cabin.

Second step, drill out all of the rivets.

Third step, Cut the panel with our electric shears and pull it down.

Here’s a video of the process:

Time to order some aluminum from Airparts! I’ll be back with Part 3 tomorrow!

Door Removal, Panel Removal, Panel Installation, & Roof Vent Removal - Part 1

Today was a busy day. Kyle had Jackie’s dad Don along to help today. We got a lot done today. Here’s what’s on the docket:

  • Remove and strip down the door-in-door door

  • Panel Removal

  • New Panel Installation (finally finishing it)

  • Beginning Roof Vent Removal

We started off by getting the door off the side of the Airstream and getting it laid down on a work surface. It looked like the door had been reattached at some point as evidenced by the use of low-quality steel pop rivets. This doesn’t work on a lot of levels. First, steel rusts. They had already begun to rust. Second, Pop rivets look terrible compared to buck or Olympic rivets. Third, they look awful. Fourth, they look awful. So, we drilled out the pop rivets and got the door laid out. In the process of looking more closely at the door, it was decided that both the interior and exterior skins of the door would look a lot better if they were new aluminum. So, here I am (Kyle) putting a large order into Airparts for some 2024-T3 AlClad .032 Aluminum. I’m getting pretty decent at this. Truth be told, I need a bunch of stuff from Airparts as you’ll see in the next couple couple paragraphs. Here’s a video of stripping down the interior panels from the door-in-door model.

Part 2 to come tomorrow will be about the surprise panel removal we made today! Stay tuned for more!

Building the Scaffolding for Roof Work

Without the interior skins attached to the studs inside, the exterior aluminum isn’t strong enough to hold weight on the roof. So, to be able to polish the roof and replace the vents and add an air conditioner, we needed a place to work from. Enter scaffolding. We looked into buying metal scaffold but it’s too wide and too expensive. So we made our own.

Here’s the video of the build process at 30x speed.

A 360 Degree Walkthrough of Wally the Airstream

A few people have asked for a walkthrough of Wally the Airstream, so Jackie and I make a 360 degree video and uploaded it to YouTube! If you have VR goggles, check it out!

If you don’t have VR goggles, you can drag your mouse around or, if viewing on a smartphone, you can move your phone and look around a bit!

Well HOWDY! It's been a while! Some updates!

Well HELLO! It’s been awhile since our last update so we thought it prudent to give some updates on what’s been going on! Kyle’s been traveling a lot for his dayjob and Jackie’s been taking care of everything else at the homestead. Unfortunately between all that and the holidays, it hasn’t made for a lot of time to work on Wally. We did however acquire a lot of new parts that get us dangerously close to having everything we need.

We were able to buy a super awesome Suburban furnace from a guy locally. We picked up the Suburban SF-35FQ which normally runs about $500 for $240. The guy we bought it from was in the middle of a schoolie reno, got a divorce and had to give up his project. We were super stoked to get his furnace and promised we’d make good on it in Wally the Airstream! You can link to the one we got below! It’s a ducted unit so it’ll be perfect for getting heat into the bathroom and bedroom!

We also picked up a few fun things Airstream for Christmas! Jackie got a sweet new Airstream sweatshirt, we got a new ornament for the tree, and we got some free pink flamingo wrapping paper from Airstream with our order!

We also got our Dickinson P-9000 propane stove. This is going to go in the bedroom, likely, and we’re super excited to get it. It’s just as beautiful as we had hoped! Check out more info here. It should give us enough heat to keep the bedroom warm without having to fire up the furnace all the time.

We also went nuts with the Vintage Trailer Supply Black Friday and New Year’s Day sales! We got some aluminum rub rail trim, some j-moulding for around the wheel wells, and a couple awesome fantastic fans. The best part about the fans are that the interior trip is gray to match the interior aluminum we’ll be using and has an auto-close mechanism if it starts to rain. Click the links for details from Vintage Trailer Supply!

Kyle also visited CES in Las Vegas in January. Furrion and a few other suppliers that we are evaluating were present. Lots of great new things from Furrion as they had a 75’ Yacht and their giant 5th wheel on-site for product demonstrations.

That sums up a lot of the work we’ve been doing! Time to get Wally together and ready for camping season. The Polar Vortex is a great time to get the work done! More videos and demonstrations to come soon! Until next time!

Rebuilding Hehr 1009 Clearview Windows

The 1958-1960 Airstreams had awning-style Hehr Clearview windows. So, that means a couple things:

  • They’re pretty rare, however, parts are pretty readily available from Vintage Trailer Supply, so that’s nice.

  • There aren’t a lot of tutorials on how to fix them.

Ours are pretty ugly, they’re pitted quite a bit, they’ve clearly leaked quite a bit before, and some joker thought it was a good idea to seal them up with silicone caulk. Anyway, they’re ugly, we’re not in the business of having an ugly Airstream, so we decided to rebuild them.

Now, I’m going to lay it straight here (Kyle typing). It’s fun to tell people that we’re remodeling a 59 year old Airstream. It’s also fun to think about all the great times we’re going to have when we’re done remodeling our 59 year old Airstream. Today and these windows made me ask myself the following questions:

  • Are we ever going to finish this thing?

  • Why did we do this?

  • How much of a bath financially would I take on it if I just listed it and all of the crap I bought for it on ebay/Craigslist/LetGo/Facebook Marketplace/RV Trader/Star Tribune/Tampa Bay Times and walked away?

So, shortly thereafter, I came to my senses, Jackie encouraged me to stop being a little whiner and move on. Okay back to 3rd person…

Let’s talk about these windows. There’s essentially 4 parts to them:

  1. The aluminum frame

  2. The glass

  3. Double sided butyl tape to seal between the glass and the frame

  4. Hehr Clear-view Glazing Strip


Clearview Window

Schematic for Window Rebuild

1958-1960 Airstream Windows

The frames are old. They have quite a bit of pitting and some corrosion. The glass is old and brittle. As far as we can tell, they’ve never been replaced. The factory glazing strips were originally made of a vinyl. Over the years of use and UV exposure they have shrunk in some cases as much as 2”. (The new replacements that we bought from Vintage Trailer Supply are a silicone-based formulation and are not supposed to shrink.) Then, the aforementioned joker, filled the gaps with silicone caulk. SUPER attractive. Lastly, is the factory installed butyl tape. Where it didn’t leak, it’s super strong. where it did leak, it’s awful and broken down and flaky. Here’s some foreshadowing, flaky is good. There’s not a lot of flaky.

Here’s the steps we followed to rebuild the windows, with some tips for the things that we did wrong:

  1. First, we cleaned the windows. There was about 50 years of dirt and debris all over them. They needed a good scrubbing which we did with warm water and Dove liquid dish detergent.

  2. Second, we removed the old vinyl glazing strips and tried to clean up all of the silicone caulk that previously mentioned joker used to seal them up.

  3. Third, we took a razorblade from the back side and attempted to separate the glass for the old butyl tape from the rear. Overall we were pretty successful at this. However, we mentioned that the old glass was brittle right? Well, we broke two windows. Not that big of a deal, we have a glass shop right up the street and it’s somewhat unlikely the old glass is tempered anyway. So, we’ll just replace them. There’s nothing we could have done differently here other than be a little more careful to not flex the glass.

    *Could have done better: Our thoughts were that it would be easier to soak the butyl tape in a orange-based solvent (GooGone) to loosen some things up prior to trying to separate the frame from the glass. So, we soaked it in GooGone. This made an enormous mess and even worse, the GooGone seemed to reactivate the butyl tape and made it sticky and nasty and pretty much the worst thing on earth to work with. After learning this lesson, we found it easier to separate the glass and frame with a razor blade easier and cleaner while it was dry. You hope to get as much as possible on the glass rather than the frame as it’s much easier to clean it off the glass than the frame.

  4. Fourth, you clean the glass with GooGone and a razor blade. Then, try to get as much of the butyl tape off of the aluminum frame as possible. Then, soak the remnants on the frame with GooGone and remove with a rag/paper towel a few hours later after it’s been softened. Warning: It’s a flipping mess.

  5. Fifth, clean off all of the GooGone with mineral spirits and as there was some old crusty adhesive in our frame pieces, we hit the frame with a wire wheel on a dremel to be sure that the new butyl tape has a great surface for adherence. We also elected to buff out the aluminum exterior frame at this point too since the glass is still out.

  6. Lastly, reapply the butyl tape, lay in the glass, and insert the new glazing strips into the frame.

When we type it all out, it doesn’t sound all the bad. It’s awful. We got about half-way through our 10 windows and it took most of the day. Give yourself enough time and make sure you bring your patience with you. It’s a long, frustrating process. But we’ll have some good looking, good as new, watertight windows for Wally the Airstream now.

Hehr Clearview Window Removal

It was time for us to get started on the windows. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, the gaskets around our windows were made from vinyl originally from the factory. At the time it was a great flexible material to use. Unfortuantely, over great periods of time, 59 years for example, vinyl begins to shrink. From the photos below, you can see that at some point the gaps in the gaskets were filled with caulk. So, it’s time to take out the windows so that we can re-seal and polish them up. The video below and shows how to remove the windows so that we can begin to get them in order!

The Aluminum Sourcing Saga

The Aluminum Sourcing Saga

Hey all! Sorry we’ve been so slow on the updates lately! There’s been a lot going on both good and bad! Kyle has been traveling a ton for his job the last few weeks so progress has slowed a bit. But, we’ve also had a couple of other small issues.

First, the sheet of aluminum that we ordered from Discount Steel for the street-side lower rear panel looked funny when it arrived. It’s the piece that we shared the video of Kyle cutting a couple weeks ago. It was dull, wouldn’t shine, and it seemed to look the same on both sides. It also didn’t match the piece that we had laser cut for the rear.

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Got a Haul of Supplies from VTS

Vintage Trailer Supply is a great spot, ok, top spot to get all the vintage Airstream parts. They have a little bit of everything and have great advice for the parts that you need per unit/year. They’re insanely helpful. Give them a look. Here’s an unboxing of some replacement parts for our renovation!

Cutting out the New Rear Street-side Panel

Cutting out the New Rear Street-side Panel

Here we're cutting the 0.040" 2024 T3 AlClad aluminum for the rear street-side lower panel replacement. Our previous panel was really beat up and rather than putting all the time on an English wheel to straighten it out, we elected to just replace the panel. This one is a little thicker compared to the original panel that was 0.032" thickness. After making a template from the old panel with cardboard, we marked up our panel and got to work! Here I'm using the Harbor Freight 18 gauge, 3.5 amp heavy duty metal shears. They cut through the aluminum like butter.

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Rear Laser Cut Aluminum Sheet Arrived

Rear Laser Cut Aluminum Sheet Arrived

As we had previously posted, we had a new piece of a aluminum cut at Discount Steel and we received delivery today. Those with a discerning eye will identify that the piece is like a U-shape that encompasses the rear window.  This isn't exactly like the original.  When Jim did the shell-off restoration of the frame and the flooring, the new flooring ended up being a tad bit wider than the original.  Because of that, the rear of the shell didn't fit exactly back together where it was originally riveted.  Now, most would say, "Hey, that's not good", well, in this case it's actually okay with me.  I like the idea of this new aluminum, which I purchased at a slightly thicker grade than original (.040 vs. .032) will support the window better.  Also, the rivet holes that were drilled in the rear are a little too big for my comfort in the original pieces so this new piece will cover them over.  All in a good day's work!

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Doing some exterior body work

 Doing some exterior body work

Wally had some dents and dings in his previous life! A few of them, we just weren't okay with leaving them where they were at.  One of the challenges of working with a 59 year old Airstream is the 59 year old aluminum skin.  While we have some AWESOME friends that have some amazing metal working skills (Rob is a master fabricator at Donnie Smith's in Blaine, MN), the metal is so old and oxidized that it has become brittle and a little more difficult than new to work with.  So, we're moving forward with removing the two rear panels that were the worst offenders and replacing them.  Drilling out rivets is fun! /sarcasm. 

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