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!