So the frame on this Airstream International wasn’t really bad, but it did leave allot to be desired. Some spots were totally rusted through while some looked new. The support for the waste tanks was totally rusted away. There was a crack on each side of the main beam just behind the rear axle. (Damage from towing for decades with zero shock absorption due to bad torsion axles). At least we found out why the tail was sagging.
We spent days wire brushing the rust away. It was really fun and satisfying for about 10 minutes.
I borrowed my buddy’s welder and bought some steel beams. In the end we added over 100 feet of new steal beams, reinforced the main beams almost the full length of the trailer, Added 2 new beams over the axles that extend toward the rear, replaced several outriggers and installed a beam down the center to attach the new sub floor.
We also moved the grey and black water tanks forward to just behind the axels. This seemed like a good idea rather that having a ton of shit cantilevered way out in the back pulling the tail down. We are going to put our bedroom in the rear.
In a past life, I think Tiangong was a rental camper. Based on its tattoos; it has at least been to Oklahoma. I currently have a power washer I can borrow. I thought spraying off the mold would be nice, but I couldn’t stop there. Although definitely not the priority I have started stripping off the old damaged clear coat. The tang scented CitriStrip seems to do the job quite well. I’m glad we didn’t get that Argosy with the thick paint.
We picked this trailer because the exterior was in great shape. It had all the windows and no major damage to the exterior skins. The tail of Tiangong sags; So does the shell around the edges in places. The first step in our renovation is to get the frame beefed up. In order to do that we first have to remove the subfloor so we can see how bad the frame is damaged.
To speed up the survey of the frame I cut holes in between the steel frame. This allowed me to get a look at the frame and still have a little wood to walk on. The old self tapping screws were very securely rusted in place. I tried muscle to remove them and quickly moved on to pretending I was an oil company drilling for black gold and drilled through the subfloor right next to the screw and flooded the mine shaft with WD-40 then let it soak overnight. Perhaps WD-50 would have worked on all of them; I ended up grinding many of them on both sides of the frame and punching out the little pancake of the bolt still rusted in the frame. What seemed like mostly rotten wood was a real pain in the ass to get out.
Like a lot of vintage trailers, ours was mostly gutted when we brought it home. It seems a lot of people start these projects and then give up. The bathroom was gone as was all the furniture except the kitchen sink and stove counter. So that had to go. We also removed the furnace, water heater and the A/C unit from the roof. I think we might replace the rooftop A/C unit with a skylight.
After a few weeks of looking, we have purchased a 1974 Airstream International! $3500, and its a wreck. 🙁 This is either a really bad idea or a really good one. I’m not sure which right now. A different kind of adventure for us, but it’s still an adventure, nonetheless.