Demo, Framework, Shell, Bellypan, + Axles

On April 26, 2016 we purchased a 1972 Airstream International Sovereign. My husband looked online for months obsessing over them + when we finally found one we agreed on. He jumped at the opportunity to go buy it the next morning. We bought it from a guy in Mississippi who had it for about a year. He had hopes of renovating it during his retirement and living in it with his wife while they built their dream home on a river in north Arkansas. His wife didn’t like those plans, so we were the lucky ones to take it off his hands! Zach + my dad drove it back to Arkansas with no problems. Only thing that was missing after the 280 mile drive were 2 old Chevy hubcaps(seen in the picture above). The guy had mentioned he just had the bearings packed on the axles after he drove it home. The reason he did that was because when he got home he realized he was missing a tire and rim. 

Right away we started the gutting process while the Airstream was parked in our backyard.

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My husband dove into reading airforums.com to try and figure out what to do next. It was overwhelming, honestly. There were many forums + so many opinions. But if you have time to scroll, this is an excellent source to gain knowledge and read mistakes from others. It took about 3 days to gut + we were feeling good about the process. But, Zach does say that he wishes he would have taken pictures and kept some things here and there along the process. But most importantly, he says take LOTS of pictures. At first glance our frame seemed sturdy. Zach even stood on the bumper and jumped up and down and everything seemed great. We kept going back + forth with how extensive we wanted this reno to go. I wanted new everything (new frame, subfloor, electrical, belly pan, etc). My husband wanted all this, but knew he would be the one doing all the physical work. Once I finally got my way more demo started to happen. In the long run he was very thankful we decided to redo everything. When he removed the subfloor + shell, our rear end fell to the ground. Apparently there was a leak in the bathroom and everything seemed together, but the shell was the only thing holding it all together. Thankfully Zach is a welder so he was able to weld and fabricate braces to make it secure and make new outriggers. Our outriggers were toast! He also swapped out our original and basically non-working coupler for a new, welded on Bulldog Collar-Lok coupler. 

While we were at it we decided to splurge + get new axles. Zach chose Dexter Torflex axles that we bought locally, but the vendor has stores in many different places and online at www.nueratrailerparts.com. He chose to buy axles with a 22.5 degree down angle so it would give the Airstream more ground clearance for those pesky parking lot curbs/drop-offs and when/if we go boondocking down some uncharted roads. Once he finished the framework + new subfloor he installed the insulation under the floor. Between the old subfloor + belly pan there was pink fiberglass insulation. We had such a hard time deciding what we wanted to do. We decided to go with 1" foam boards and drill it to the backside of the subfloor with wood screws and fenders washers. For our trailer we only used 4 total boards. Next, it was time for the shell to reunite with the frame. Since my dad had a crane(which we used to lift the shell in the beginning) we used the crane again to lift the shell once more. And once shell, axles, and subfloor were in their desired locations Zach installed a new belly pan. We bought the aluminum from www.airpartsinc.com. Very reasonable and was at our door in under 4 days. And very friendly and helpful people to work with. With a new belly pan the next order of action was to install the new stabilizing jacks. We had all 4 original jacks attached to the Airstream, but one obviously was left down from the previous owner and was no longer serviceable. So Zach took to the interweb to find us new ones. And that he did. At a much cheaper price than the original jacks. These jacks are from the same brand as original, only difference is the crank handle does not extend out to the side like the originals. The crank handle on these hides further in. But there's pros and cons to everything, and with these we will gladly take that little con. The 24" jacks were a perfect fit with a quick cut-off of roughly 6 inches Zach thinks from the slide-in supports. And they look great too once in place. Make sure to click the 24" jacks from the same buyer.

 

--If we had to do it over…We would more than likely build a gantry system for the shell. AND before we decided to put the shell back on we’d flip the frame over + add the new belly pan. It was a pain in the B-U-T-T for Zach to complete the new belly pan once the shell was on. Lots of charlie horses and uncomfortable positions to hold the sheets in place. Help yourself and buy some Clecos from airpartsinc.com when you buy your new aluminum belly pan. Having a pneumatic air riveter helped TONS! Zach's hands were worn out enough. So buying this thing of beauty was a no brainer- and a smart decision.

Astro PR14 Air Riveter
Astro Pneumatic Tool

This is our buck-rivet gun kit that was used to fasten the belly pan to the shell around the skirt of the trailer. It's very fun to use. Do a couple of practice runs on some scrap aluminum before going right at it.

 We felt so accomplished, but still overwhelmed with how much was left!

Below are products we used that we recommend!

The product below works wonders! Zach applied this coating with a brush easily. And as he was applying all the rust spots converted to a dark black color. What's even better about this product is that there is no need to paint over it with a metal paint. But, Zach did use a black metal paint just in case. Can't be too sure! We definitely recommend this product!