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The “Sneaky Pete” Airstream

Or otherwise known as the “shiny tiny” part 2

A new trend is emerging among interior design minded road fanatics. The Airstream trailer is a very popular design. And everyone recognizes them!

Based on a 1954 Airstream Flying Cloud Trailer that once served as a hunting and fishing lodge in Oregon, this completely restored and reimagined trailer (Orvis Timeless Airstream) features a hand-polished exterior, a lush interior that makes liberal use of wood, copper, and leather, all-new running gear to ensure a safe ride, and all the creature comforts you’d expect from a modern tow-behind in a classic package. (Source: uncrate.com)

Based on a 1954 Airstream Flying Cloud Trailer that once served as a hunting and fishing lodge in Oregon, this completely restored and reimagined trailer (Orvis Timeless Airstream) features a hand-polished exterior, a lush interior that makes liberal use of wood, copper, and leather, all-new running gear to ensure a safe ride, and all the creature comforts you’d expect from a modern tow-behind in a classic package. (Source: uncrate.com)

Inspired by innovative airplane designs, the first Airstream trailer was introduced back in 1931. They were built out of aluminum and intended for only the mightiest

of road warriors. Their aerodynamic, rounded metallic designs gave them their badass futuristic demeanor. They’ve since diminished in popularity, but a creative Airstream uprising is just on the horizon.

Lately we’ve been seeing more and more people converting these old-fashioned, outdated contraptions into lavish, comfortable collage1-161road wagons complete with beds, kitchens and even bathrooms. In fact, they’re becoming so popular that even Hollywood star Matthew McConaughey has his very own Airstream trailer that he invested over 200k in.

Here are the benefits of owning an Airstream trailer:

  1. They’re handcrafted in America and built to last a lifetime.
  2. They handle well on the road
  3. They make a great instant hotel room
  4. They are easily recognized as an RV and accepted in RV Parks and campgounds
  5. They can be used for guests at home
  6. They are customizable to ones needs
  7. Their retro look and sleek, aerodynamic design makes for good gas mileage
  8. They put you in an elite community of dedicated Airstream owners

 

We are moving several windows and instead of doing a patch at the old location, we chose to cut out a large section of alumimum.

We are moving several windows and instead of doing a patch at the old location, we chose to cut out a large section of aluminum sheathing to blend the old with the new.

A little catch-up.

The new trailer was built to be the same as the old trailer with few modifications. One being we used a heavier gauge steel to minimize bounce in the frame. We salvaged old parts such as the axles, custom rigging for the axles that allowed for drop pans for the water and waste tank, and the trailer tongue/hitch steel.

Jim is routing out the edge of the plywood as the wall frame require 5/8" sheathing and the Purebond hardwood plywood is only available in 3/4"

Jim is routing out the edge of the plywood as the wall frame require 5/8″ sheathing and the Purebond hardwood plywood is only available in 3/4″

After it was all welded back together, the frame went to the paint booth and painted with a Low VOC primer and paint before it was moved into place to be pushed under the shell. We also ripped Purebond hardwood plywood for the perimeter, front bow, and rear bow. We attached the bow plywood to the shell for rigidity. Since the original floor was 5/8 plywood and we were using ¾”, we had to plane down the edges to fit into the wall channels of the frame.

We used 2 forklifts to lift the shell while we pushed the frame under the shell.

Airstream Lift

Airstream Lift

After lowering it, we pulled the temporary steel supports and bolted the shell to the frame. We then installed the perimeter plywood and screwed that to the trailer frame.

The next step was insulating the floor perimeter with John Mansville foam board followed by installation of the rounded skirt aluminum. The drop pan housing followed shortly after with insulating the water and grey tank before lowering them into place.

In floor Heat

In floor Heat

 

Since we are doing a heated floor system, we installed a false floor for laying the mats and heat cables on. The heat tapes are under the floor so we used the reflective foil to bounce the heat to the flooring of the Airstream . One of the requirements was not to install the heat tape under cabinets and another was do not cut, knick, or damage the heat wires. Once they were installed, we poured a light weigh concrete over the wires and temporarily installed the plywood flooring, followed by building the toe kicks boxes of the cabinets.

 

We now have a list of what will be going into this airstream, that I am calling

“The Sneaky Pete”

  • New Trailer
  • Custom layout
  • Relocate 3 windows
  • Relocate door
  • Add window to bath
  • Add 2 skylights
  • Move rear bath to center of Airstream
  • Natures Head composting toilet
  • Move water tank and grey water tank top between axles
  • DC Lighting
  • AC Appliances
  • Electric in-floor heat
  • Insulate airstream with Johns Manville Foam board
  • Subflooring to be Purebond Hardwood plywood
  • Character grade hickory paneling
  • Maple cabinets
  • Quartz countertops
  • Antique copper end caps
  • Ceramic floor and ceramic bath
  • Custom lift bed frame/mattress
  • Built in benches
  • New stove and microwave
  • LG Washer Dryer Combo
  • Electric fireplace
  • Flat screen TV
  • LED Lighting
  • Panasonic Whisper Quiet Air Exchanger
  • Dakien Heat Exchanger
  • New canvas at awnings
  • Polished Exterior
  • New Underbelly and side pan wraps

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The Shiny Tiny; Airstream Update

The Shiny Tiny, part 1

In October, 2016, we received a phone call asking questions about building a tiny house that resembled an RV as they did a lot of relocating for their work and wanted to be able to stay at RV parks. However, they were experiencing a lot of pushback from RV parks about tiny houses, with one park owner saying “if it looked like an RV, say an Airstream, there would be no questions or issues.”

They then asked if we could renovate an Airstream to a nontoxic unit. They admitted that they called numerous places and no one could or would take on the project. They then asked, if I would consider doing it for them. I cautioned them that it would be out of our norm, but since we knew about nontoxic and chemical free tiny houses, we would do it. We set the budget and started looking for an older Airstream that could be gutted and rebuilt.

Criteria;

  • Price had to be under S15,000
  • No major denting of the roof
  • Few major leaks, All airstreams leak.
  • Within 500 miles of the shop
  • Not a “shiny turd”
  • No tail separation

A “shiny turd” is an Airstream that has been polished but not updated in any other way. It is shined up to get a higher sell price from unsuspecting buyers.

Shiny Turd

Shiny Turd

Another key difference is that a restored, renovated, or modernized Airstream will have documentation to prove that trailer has been repaired, a new axle installed, or the flooring replaced. A “shiny turd” will have none of that. A shiny turd is like a sign that says “buyer beware.”

Tail separation is when the tail end of trailer frame has separated from the main trailer, usually in connections to the trailer frame at the axles. A simple way to check this is to stand on the bumper and move up and down while noticing if the body of the trailer also moves or just the frame does. It is costly to fix and at this point, we were not considering rebuilding the trailer.

What we found was a 31ft 1983 Excella Airstream in fair condition. There was dent in the roof, the top was balding, it smelled slightly musty, and some of the appliances did not work. Since we would be gutting it down to the shell and tossing everything, the trailer appeared doable for the project, so we made a deal.

1983 Excella

1983 Excella

We towed it to the shop and started gutting it to the shell, and found that the floor had rot, which since all Airstreams leak, it was not a surprise. What we encountered next did surprise us. We removed the flooring and found the musty smell was strong. The pink fiberglass insulation in the floor had absorbed moisture with mouse droppings scattered on the top. Mice!!!IMG_20161117_103714750

Upon removal, we found that the underbelly had holes that allowed mice to get inside as well as many mouse carcasses. Upon closer examination, we decided to do a separation of the shell from the trailer so we could work on both. Once we had separation, we could see the holes in the frame from rust and corrosion as well as broken welds in outriggers. The trailer needed some major work.

After consulting with the buyers, it was determined to rebuild the trailer with heavier steel while reusing the axles, step assembly, tongue and hitch, as well as tank enclosures.  The rebuilt trailer cost $800 more than trying to fix the old frame.

The trailer was built for the Airstream in the background making sure we followed the old trailer design so that the shell could be reattached. This Airstream is being modernized to a nontoxic chemical free status. The couple chose the Airstream model over a tiny house as it would be accepted in RV parks for long stays without question.

Some have said that there is not much left of the original and while that is true, the most important parts are left; the RV certification and the shell which says I am an RV, and an Airstream! And it will provide a “safe” home for the owners to live in year around.

The new trailer

The new trailer

It has been said that you have not renovated an Airstream until you stood on the ground while inside the Airstream.

Stood on the ground

Stood on the ground

Airstream has a lot of different meaning for its’ parts such as “banana peels”

The floorplan;

Airstream Retorfit 5_2

If you want to follow the place we post pictures of the build click on the link Airstream Build

Come back for the next update to learn about that and more.

 

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