Progress: 1977 Airstream Overlander

Last weekend I actually remembered to grab my camera along with the milk crate of tools we carry to the wayyy back of our shared backyard (we live in a duplex with some super kind and understanding neighbors) and grab some shots of the progress in our latest Airstream project. I'm pleased to say that despite having a busy few weeks after returning from our sojourn out west for spring break, we're still moving right along.

I'm sharing these images five days post capture and we're about to get back out there tomorrow and Sunday (the best way to celebrate Mother's Day, in our opinion). We're moving some things around in our schedule to better accommodate weeknight working, especially as the days are getting longer and the weather is warming considerably - 80 degrees is my JAM. We're buckling down and getting serious - because we've set a date to be finished (May 2017, if not sooner), and when I say finished - I mean finished. Solar, propane, hot water, the build, AC and heat, polish, you name it, it'll be done, son.

We learned quite a few things the first time around that have been invaluable so far in the planning, budgeting, and work itself. For example:

  • It might be cheaper to go with an older Airstream initially, but before you know it you've spent twenty grand and don't have enough cash flow to put in things like hot water or heat.
  • Make a complete budget up front and then triple it.
  • Set a reasonable timeline and then triple it.
  • While Airstreams are, on the most basic level, similar to all other Airstreams - they are all individuals and have their own set of quirks and issues (kind of like people).

We have received some comments about the crazy fast progress we're making on the demolition stage, and we aren't denying it. There's a big difference in us tackling demo nearly two years ago on our '57 Overlander and us tackling demo on this gal. We aren't fearful and questioning, we do have an entire, complete gut-job-and-rebuild under our belts. We are able to jump right in and work - there's very little standing around with bewildered looks on our faces, minus that little section of subfloor in the image below (street side, behind the wheel well). That one was an absolute bitch to get out and it was a total team effort. While we've had this Airstream three months to the day, the images in this post are about 30 hours of work overall and not one penny spent. It's pretty much night and day compared to our first renovation - getting to this point took us several months of consistent working weekends and weeknights.

This past weekend we finished removing some stubborn sections of subfloor, started removing the old hydraulic brake system (see that vacuum reservoir in the image above - the black tank with a hose on the right side?), removed the old defunct A/C unit, removed the broken step to repair, removed the decorative blue striping on exterior (this was super easy - just popped rivets and peeled away), made some exterior repairs, and started the removal of the belly pan to remove the tanks.

The exterior is in pretty great shape - it looks rougher than it actually is, simply because it's dirty as hell and the Plasticoat is degrading up on top. We worked on a section of exterior skin (to the right of the door), where someone, at some point, shoved some new subfloor into the shell, which caused the C-channel to bend and that panel to bubble out. It was a pretty simple fix to pull in the shell and straighten out the C-channel. I'm always amazed at the quick "fixes" we find inside these old beauties that do far more harm than good and don't solve the problem, just merely cover it up.

Overall, we are just pleased as punch with the condition of the trailer - our lists are long, but everything is doable and we are excited to tackle each thing. This weekend our goals include:

  • Dropping the belly pan
  • Dropping the tanks
  • Grinding rust off the chassis
  • Removing broken propane lines
  • Wrap up removal of hydraulic brakes (we will replace with electric brakes down the line)
  • Remove old fans (five total)
  • Remove and store wheel wells
  • Hopefully renting a pressure washer and giving everything a good wash (inside and outside) and a bleach (inside)

These are the final things we need to accomplish to wrap up demolition and prep the trailer for repair and rebuild (read: start spending that paper). We are beyond excited. Trailer work days are, without a doubt, our favorite days of the week. I'll be back with another update next week - and check below if you're looking for info on useful tools for subfloor demo! We've had a lot of questions about what we use and how the hell we got it out so fast - so take a peek if you need!

For fun, a shot of Ellen ripping out subfloor with nothing but brawn. We are both getting some serious muscle back - we joke that if we just renovated Airstreams for a living, we'd be super ripped year round.

Subfloor demo:

  • angle grinder: cutting bolts
  • Dremel: for those hard to reach bolts in corners
  • vice grips: fantastic tool for removing rusted screws stuck in the chassis - break the wood away, latch that shit on and it works beautifully and quickly
  • crowbar, wonder bar
  • cordless drill with #3 Phillips bits and a 1" hole saw: use the saw to drill holes into the subfloor, then slide a crowbar into the hole - hit with a rubber mallet to pry the subfloor out of the C-channel
  • circular saw - we know some people use jigsaws, but with a circular saw you can set the depth of your blade and not hit chassis - pretty great for breaking up the large pieces of subfloor, which are much more manageable in small bits
  • beer
  • good music