Tuesday, July 28, 2009

These are some of the beautiful Airstreams that were attending the Four Corners Units Vintage Restoration Rally in Albuquerque New Mexico in April.

I'm partial to the whale tails.

Look at all those shiny panels!

This one looks kind of nondescript.

I took this picture because it was also a 1964 model.

Then I found out it belongs to non-other than Fred Coldwell, our esteemed Airstream historian.

I learned a lot from Fred both in the seminar he presented to us and just sitting and chatting with him. He's a very generous guy with his time and information. If you ever run into him you will find out what I mean.

This one has a really cool spare tire cover, though it's a bit banged up. This is the first one like it I've seen.

There were some really interesting interiors also but I was too busy visiting to take pictures. One of the seminar presenters is also a cabinet maker and he has a beautiful hickorywood interior with a custom layout.

We attended seminars on Zolatone application, riveting, solar power, exterior panel replacement, cabinetmaking, air-conditioner replacement, polishing, axles and suspension, refrigerators and the difference between the trailers made in Ohio as opposed to California. The last was presented by Fred Coldwell and was based on a report made in the mid sixties by Airstream. This was the most interesting part for me because it was done at the same time they were building my safari. We saw the different layouts and how they reflected which factory built them, and learned that the wheel well cutouts were at different heights from each factory, which makes old the idea that you can tell the condition of the axles on an Airstream by how much tire is showing.

Now, on to uglier things:

I took pictures at every step of the dismantleing of the safari but I won't bore you with all 350 of them. This is the back after removal of the cabinets. I've exposed the vent pipe for the black tank and the water heater, along with the whole electrical mess in the back corner.

This is what the ceiling looks like from above. It was a real pain to remove this piece. It's two large pieces buck riveted together. It measures about seven by twelve feet. I ended up having to drill out the bucked rivets to get this out of the trailer. I was told later that these probably came in through the front window. There's no way this came in through the door.

Miles of pink insulation. This part was in the best shape of all of it. Hardly any mouse trails.

This was also my first look at the wiring.

It looks great! There was only one place that I found a problem. The guy who drilled for the interior panel rivets hit a 110volt line at the back, but he was lucky in that it never arced across the wires. The drill had stripped through both insulated wires and marked the ground wire too.

Here's a look at the inside of the shell just after stripping out the insulation.

Wires, wires everywhere.

I got a wiring diagram with my safari so I pulled it out and went through the whole thing at this point. It was a perfect match, which suprised me. I thought it was strange that there was any diagram at all for something like this, much less one that was correct. I even found the coil of wire in the ceiling for the air-conditioner option, which I don't have.

Now this was a real b!t3h to remove. The rivets were numerous, and some had been replaced with stainless or something like it. I broke two drill bits just on this one piece. After drilling for an hour or so, I couldn't find anymore rivets, and it wasn't budging so I grabbed hold of the top center edge and pulled down with almost all of my weight. It finally popped loose. Then I had to take a break and let the fiberglass dust settle. Good time for a Black Dragon Stout, from our local brewery. We get it by the growler, which is just right for two, unless there only happens to be one person around. Then it's perfect for one!

Here's the obligatory shot of the stanky mess under my floor, and yours, if you haven't cleaned up down there recently.

This is a shot looking forward. You can see the "A" frame and crossmembers. The umbilical cord connections are in the section where I pulled out some of the insulation on the right. There was a good coating of protective RUST over the whole frame.

The insulation was so deteriorated that I was able to vacuum it up with a shop vac.

Here's another shot looking towards the rear. You can see in this one how I cut the floor into pieces and pulled them up one at a time. Then I pryed up the strips that were left and broke or cut them out. next came the bolt cutters to remove the old floor bolts. Then a good cleaning.

You can see the one intact piece of insulation in this picture. I don't know why this one held up when the rest of it went to crap.

And yes, that is a chicken strutting by the back hatch.

This last picture is where I was at about two weeks ago. I wire brushed the frame, used a jasco rust convertor, and then primed and painted it with fire engine red rustoleum. I really like a red frame. It looks fast just sitting there.

This is the first piece of flooring going back in. I used 5/8" smooth-faced siding with rabbeted edges. This comes in 48-1/2" widths, so you can keep the seams on center with the existing bolt holes in the frame. I glued all of the seams when I installed each piece, with titebond III exterior wood glue. The panels were cut to size and shape, then sealed with water-based floor finish. Then I primed the edges with Kilz primer and painted them with some old exterior latex paint I had on hand. That's why the lovely lavender color!

I had to lift the shell a little bit to get the floor under it . That's why the jack is there. I put another 2 x 4 horizontally at the top of the one in the picture that spans the frame members of the shell. This made it easy to lift as needed. I did the same thing at the back when I installed the last piece of the floor last weekend.

I hope you are all doing well and enjoying the work presented here. I have a short-term goal of taking this to Burningman in four weeks, so I am on a fast track towards having it usable. I'm working on the shell insulation now, and getting the additional wires into place for some things I want to add in the future like speakers and a drop down tv. I also have a new Progressive Dynamics convertor/ panel/ charge wizard in hand. I can't wait to get to that part of this project.

Good day to you all.



  1. I like what you are presenting, and don't mean this in a mean way, but why make it so hard to read with the 1 letter lines?


  2. Hi Rich,

    I have a '62 Safari and am trying to figure out how all the systems work. I was wondering if you have a digital copy of your owners' manual or know where I can get one? A manual would be a huge help.



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