I’m not sure if an Airstream restoration is ever really finished! It seems there is always some new fun gadget to add, new technology comes along, not to mention the decor. I’m so indecisive I’ve already made two sets of curtains! But, after almost two years, we are calling it done. I published a YouTube video of the restoration process we did on the Overlander and enjoyed the comments and feedback we received so much, I made one for the Safari as well. It’s a little long, so if you would like to skip the video and just see the after pictures, they are below the video link. Thanks for following our progress and Happy Trails!
Ok all you Airstream lovers…. I want to share a very cool trailer with you. If you didn’t already know this, my husband Dan and I have an upholstery shop (Matney’s Upholstery). We recently worked on a 1975 Sovereign that our friends at A & P Vintage Trailerworks transformed into one retro cool trailer. The owners had some great ideas, design choices, and a vision of what they wanted and A & P delivered! The huge front booth style dinette they built needed custom cushions and bolsters designed, not only for comfortable seating, but to fit over the drop down table that makes into a bed. The rear goucho and dinette were covered in dove grey Sunbrella with Volt Spark Sunbrella on the pillows. I love the way this trailer turned out. Dan and I LOVE 70’s trailers and thought this one was fantastic! If you aren’t a fan of the original wood grain laminate then you probably aren’t going to dig this trailer, but you have to appreciate how it all came together with all the modern choices. We are all proud of the way it turned out and know the new owners are too. They just did a write up about it in D Magazine so…see for yourself! UPDATE: A & P Are on fire! Another great article in RV Life Magazine!! Congrats you guys!
With the shell off, the next step was to remove the old floor and start on frame repairs. We knew this trailer had spent some time in the Florida Keys so we were holding our breath and expecting the worse. What a pleasant surprise to see that the only bad area was right at the front door. The floor was bad there so this was no big surprise. We originally thought the door was leaking and causing the problem but after we took off the inner skins we could see that the door hinge was a bad leak source too. We ordered two new outriggers and the right hand step outrigger from Out of Doors Mart. We replaced all the belly pan strapping that runs between the outriggers also. Dan welded some angle iron in the frame section behind the axle to attach the pan that will hold up the new grey tank and in the back section for the new black tank as well. He also added a piece of angle above the black tank in front of the toilet area. This was a pretty large unsupported area of the floor in a heavy traffic spot so we decided it was worth the extra weight. We did the same across the front to support the weight of the fresh water tank and the new location for the battery. When the welding was complete, we used a wire wheel on the frame, cleaned it, and used Metal Prep everywhere. After a day in the sun drying we pulled it back under the car port and brushed on the POR-15. We love this stuff! It covers great, levels out, and dries rock hard. Next we brushed Sterling Silver Topcoat on the bumper, steps, and A-frame. We weren’t exactly thrilled with that though. It dried really fast making it impossible to get a smooth finish. The next day we sanded it all and tried spraying it. The good news was no brush marks but, once again, it dried too fast and has a rough finish. It’s not great but we are calling it “good enough” …for now anyway!
The new 5000 lb. axle and the new waste tanks should be here in a week or so. In the mean time, we can get the new floor cut and ready to install, run the new brake wire, clean, repair, and paint the inner fender wells; and start making an electrical plan. Our initial plan to keep this trailer original has been scrapped. We want to make it better than original! Someone once recited a Wally Byam quote to me that was something like, “Don’t make changes, only improvements”. That’s our plan…to make the improvements that we feel we need to do to be comfortable, and to make the necessary upgrades to keep our ’66 Safari on the road for another 48 years!
Hope to see you all at the HOTCU Halloween Camp Out at the LBJ Grasslands! We, of course, won’t be camping (BOO), but we will be visiting all weekend. Trick or Treat!
When we raised the shell on the Overlander, it was a nail biter. It wasn’t just the raising and securing of the shell, it was the fear, for weeks, that a big storm would blow in and off it would go…like a tin can rolling across the highway! This time was a very different experience. We removed the skins and braced the shell as if we knew what we were doing, then before I knew it Dan started pumping those jacks, and it was up. Now we have the shop space to keep it inside while we work on the frame and install the new tanks and floor, so we have no worries of wind and hail storms. It was a long day but…it’s up and off!
Stripping the clear coat from an Airstream is one of those things you really don’t want to do, but must do if you want to polish it to a mirror shine. When we stripped the Overlander, we used the Aircraft Stripper you can buy at any auto parts or home improvement store. It works fine, but dries out quickly so you have to work fast and do it in sections. Once the water hits it, it wants to seize up, and whatever you do, don’t get the tiniest speck on you! We decided this time we would try a different product. As I mentioned in my last post, we chose to use PG Aerospace PR-5044 Peroxide-Activated Stripper from Vintage Trailer Supply. We weren’t certain how long to leave it on so we decided to do a test area first. This is after one hour and rinsed off with a water hose. It was about 90 degrees out and the trailer was parked in the shade. Woohoo! It doesn’t take much to get us excited! We were out the door and headed to Lowe’s to buy some covers for our paint rollers.
The directions say it can be sprayed, brushed or rolled on but, it’s so thick (bananna pudding) I don’t see how you could spray it. We put on some old clothes and chemical resistant gloves and rolled it on. It went fast and only took about 2 1/2 gallons to get a good thick coat on. We even put it on the bumper, step, tongue and wheels that had several coats of paint on them. After about an hour we pulled it out away from the building and used a pressure washer to rinse it off. Stripping a trailer is a messy job but this product made it much easier and no pain!
The new marker lights, window clips, gaskets, and door latch came today. It’s official, the restoration of our 1966 Safari has begun! We should be camping by Spring! 😉 Ha!
We may have been camping on a vacant lot but, to us, it was another little piece of Airstream Heaven! The campout with The Lone Star Vintage Airstream Club and The Heart of Texas Camping Unit in Dublin, Texas was a blast. Between visiting with friends, meeting new people, the St. Paddy’s Day parade, the Carnival, and all the great food at the potlucks; we came home stuffed and exhausted but very Happy Campers!
There were so many beautiful trailers I couldn’t put my camera down! Hope you enjoy the photos!
In a few days, it will be one year since we started the process of bringing a neglected 1976 Airstream back to life. It’s been more work than we ever imagined, cost way more than we thought it would, and has been the most challenging and exciting project we have ever done. We are really happy with the way it turned out but there’s two things we should have done differently. The first thing is the flooring. The VCT tile we used looks great and we don’t have any complaints, but Marmoleum would have been awesome! The second is the axles. I have no idea why we didn’t replace them when the shell was off. Sure would have been easier! We plan to order them in the next couple of weeks though. Live and learn!
Our first official camp-out is planned for Halloween weekend with The Heart of Texas Camping Unit at Fort Richardson State Park in Jacksboro and we can’t wait! Happy Camping!