Day one The coach is here, Drew is on putting together parts for the motor and we are cleaning out out our misc. building to cover the coach. My 62 Lincoln and 60 MGA will have to find new shelter. Anything worth doing is worth planning, we spent several hours with Rick talking about what his view of the renovation was, what can be done and what things can cost. Next week we hope to start on the mechanicals pulling off the wheels, rebuilding the brake system, bearings, seals and all of that. The motor needs to come out shortly to give the machinists and builders time to do their magic. Come back again and follow our progress.
3.7.05 Ricks old Onan waffle iron pusher is out and on the ground , step one in installing the new water cooled Honda is pulling out the old Onan. The unit did work but it looked like only on one cylinder (would not hold running even one roof AC unit. No reason to put good money into an old bad running generator. Having reliable 110 power to me is something you do not play with and no one is going to count point off from the uniqueness of the coach because the original generator is now pushing up daisy’s. Honda knows how to build small motors and having a water cooled unit is like the difference in a reptile and a mammal, the water cooled motor is to a tighter tolerance and a more reliable design. We are going for quality here so a Honda generator is a must.
3.30B Took a bit to get the coach in a hole & propped up but here we go, mechanicals are first and front suspension and brakes start that off. Ray pops the wheels and bearings first. The bearings look good but that does not mean they will be reused. It means ther should be no damage to repair in the hubs and with new bearings & seals properly installed the front wheels can be relied upon to stay on. Each component of the front suspension and brakes will be inspected with this mindset. The steering box, while not showing signs of leaking, but you know Rick will drive an hour and it will fail– its just the way of the world— it will be renewed. Rotors will be turned, calipers, bearings & seals replaced and then it will all be pressure washed and painted– then we go on to the suspension members.
OK, here we go, new calipers, bearings, seals, hoses. New master cylinder and lines . We still may have some suspension issues but we’ll pick that up on the alignment. The main point here was Brakes & bearings. So now, the coach can flame out, drop the body off and shoot the motor through the grill but the brakes and bearings will be fine!
Pulling the grill we find some pretty old, clogged coolers All of this will come out as we get in to extract the motor and will be renewed. This is a bunch of the stuff you never see but you sure know about them if they fail! Thats what we want to never happen and thats why it all comes out.
The coach has been prepped, the manual consulted, techs have been briefed so its all ready for the big show— the 454 power plant and transmission come out tomorrow. We will be dismantling the front of the coach, removing first the oil cooler, AC condenser & radiator (all will be renewed) to reach in and pull out the power plant. Hope to do a “blow by blow” on the work. Come back during the day to follow the progress.
OK, the day is here– but were is my tech? If werkers would do what they so they will, life would be a great deal smoother. Thats OK, Nathan and Jason will shift gears and take care of this. Step one is to get the coach in the bay, jacked up and ready for the work Bless their hearts, Rick actually has an Airstream service manual complete with engine removal instructions . They did their best and just how DO you explain how to remove the front of the coach to remove the motor without scaring people off. Reminds me of a Shoe comic I read in the Sunday paper. Shoe was headed out toward the old garage where his Grandads fliver had been parked since the clutch went out many years before. Shoe explained he had the manual & tools— figured he could follow the directions & get it running. OK, here we go—- Step one—- Remove motor! We knew the motor had to come out from the front and that piles of stuff needed to be parted to get in there. Thats fine, it will all be renewed anyway. So, with the coach up on jacks, the bumper removed— we go in. We’re also removing the plastic cracked bumper valence for the painter to fix.
The condenser is out— trash, the radiator is out—- trash, brackets, hoses, belts, shrouds, yada, yada, yada Ahhhhh there it is hey, we can touch it, hey, I think she’ll come out with a little more digging The machinist is biting at the bit, “finally something other than those darned 455’s”. Hey, hey, watch that! Dennis builds Chevy motors in his sleep as he says— great but don’t go to sleep. We will again be adding low RPM, high torque aapecs to this 454, the tranny will get its bulletproofing and we should have a great power train. Tomorrow the motor comes out, come back for that.
Tomorrow came, as we knew it would, and the motor is out, which we knew had to happen. . She was a good ole motor but now we make it better, faster, strong— sounds like we should name it “Steve Austin”, but that will be the goal. The AC condenser & radiator show the expected signs of age , that green stuff isn’t floride, no thats deterioration– no telling how long the radiator could have lasted like this. Reliability cannot rest on such a weathered important part.
Kinda looks like that cave from the Indiana Jones movie , boy did Airstream “shoehorn” that 454 in there– no problem, the tranny will be out in the morning and then rebuilding starts. The motor is apart and showing no harm , what a perfect condition to get a motor in for rebuilding. Why do we wait til something happens to renew major components like this. Yes, I understand it is not a small job rebuilding the drivetrain and it seems like a waste if it’s running OK — consider this though—- isn’t it less hassle and most definitely cheaper to do this sort of work at a time of your choosing as opposed to paying “Bubba & Scooter” to attempt to get you home from the side of the road. This work is the perfect preventive maintenance.
I’ll take you to Boyds performance machine shop to drop off the motor and to Allens for the performance tranny rebuild.
Been very busy lately, sorry for not posting. The motor is broken down and has been delivered to the machinist , that pile of black iron and the boxes contain the rare “unobtanium” that we call the original 454. No substitutes here! The parts are in good hands– this is the sort of stuff they work with The tranny is at Allens, the coach was fitted with a “gear vender” which Allen is very familiar with— great. The tranny will be back by the end of the week — bulletproof. Wish the motor could come back that quick, it will take a little more time. We will now start working on the on board air ride system and the rear brakes & bearings. More fun stuff to follow.
Today was a good day, Ray pulled apart the rear wheels. All looked good— and thats a great time to renew the wear parts— that is before they tear up and do damage! It will cost less doing it this way (no new drums, rotors or other pricey parts). GM intended for parts to be replaced before their life span was up to maintain the vehicle systems at top performance. This is the way the machines we built to be treated— preventive maintenance! Yes, it may hurt to take apart a perfectly good running motor but hey, why take a chance when the odds of age are against you. We will replace the shoes, cylinders, seals and fluids– clean up the parts and put her together.
Hope to survey the air ride suspension system (looks like a Granning style) and come up with a system. Come back again for that.
As promised, Allen & the tranny return. Allen is a man of few words but said when I asked him how it went, “Oh, you won’t have any trouble with THIS transmission!” We have the Allison converter here so now his work is done. Wish they all could do their magic that quick!
Tomorrow I’ll show pics of the air ride set up, well at least what we will start from and some of the ideas. Right now thouth, before going in, let me give you our assessment of the direction. The coach uses an all wheel air ride system, currently though there are only Schrader valves to pump the bags up. This is a great opportunity to update the entire system (in that its all out). Originally, the air compressor and components were located in the generator compartment. With the bigger Honda water cooled generator going in, we will need every inch. We will relocate the system in the next compartment down, give it a service loop for maintenance access, all new components and anew control panel. We may keep the bags themselves but everything from there on will be new– why? 1-because we can, 2-there will be NO old components to rely are OK, everything new,3- to make the system more reliable & convenient. Have there been improvements in technology over the past 25 years or so? You betcha!
The air ride system in the rear is not a “helper” system, it has had trailing arms made and the air bags are actually the main component of the suspension. (height control valve set up) Too complicated to rely upon, we will simplify the system while upgrading it.
The air tank and compressor set up are too small for my taste– I want this thing to go up! We’ll fix that.
Between the weather, employee troubles and well, just too much to do– its taken a bit to get on track but here is the air ride system complete and ready to install. Let me lay out for you what went into the design. Of course it has to work but beyond that, it needs to be able to be worked on. One of the things I hate about some wiring is that looking at it does not make sense. This system is designed on a “bread board” style where components are in line & labeled . The components are not buried inside a compartment where it takes a contortionist to get at them– in fact, this system will slide out in tact and operational for maintenance. The oversized air tank and more than ample compressor will have no trouble furnishing the front & rear air bags.
The entire system will be controlled with this panel . Well, thats not entirely true, the dual gauge will show front air bag pressure and rear pressure when in manual mode. The rear air bags have 2 height control valves which will automatically bring the rear suspension to proper level. There will be an “auto” switch added to turn on and off this leveling feature. We are also adding a “system hold” feature that will shut down the compressor and lock the rear system out keeping it from leaking down in the event of a system failure. The manual up/down switches, dual gauge and the 2 new switches will all be integrated into Ricks new dash– when thats built. This is a simple, easy to understand, trace and repair system, no diagrams should be needed, its all pretty straight forward and thats the way I like them!
The coach has been plumbed so we should be able to drop this system in and plumb it up, I’ll take pics of that for you then. And here is the system installed in its compartment. Like a glove, the entire system fits into the outside compartment where the dump hose used to live. Some may say, “Why not put the tanks under the coach to save space”. Not interested in the space as much as I am in retaining the integrity of the system. Pulling the tank or other components under the chassis exposes them to all that nasty road stuff, so what do you think wipes out the usefulness of a system? Yes, the weakest link and that will not be my new air ride system! Besides, the new maserator system will eliminate the dump hose and the transfer switch on the shore power will do away with the receptical there in that corner. So,the new technology not only increses the usefulness of the system, it also provides its own shelter— a win-win. If we had a motor, we would go up and down— hey, we’re working on that.
The radiator is back from its treatment and we’re now preparing to receive the rebuilt 454 motor. This radiator is unlike your average car unit, it is designed to cool a motor under constant load. It is a “14 fin per inch” core, 4 row, 1/2″ tube high efficiency design. It was “cored” in that the upper and lower cans are reused but the main core of the radiator is totally replaced. The Dash AC condenser was pressure tested and although it is original and will be reused, the odds are good that it will give more reliable service. We will see how it performs on or check out run when the motor is installed. The condenser can be replaced easily so this bet is a good one.
Other issues to consider before reinstalling the motor is : Tranny which we have had rebuilt along with the “gear vendor” overdrive unit , carb remanufactured, fuel tanks and hoses replaced and of course things like starter, PS pump, alternator, AC compressor, belts, hoses, clamps among other things. Remember, the end goal is not simply make the thing run but to make it run well and for a long time— attention to the details is the name of the tune.
Can you believe it– look what backed onto the lot this morning could it possibly be it, quick get out the camera— the custom built Koba 454 motor is here!! Oh yes, the wait almost turned into an ice age but I know the wait was worth it . The motor was built specifically to produce low RPM torque. Every detail was attended to internally to make this the best hunk of steel for the job.
Now that we have all the parts, its “stuff it in the hole” time. Of course first we need to clean up the hole and Nathan has degreased the engine compartment & frame. Next the entire undercarriage is undercoated with a high build rubberized material to stop further corrosion, insulate the floor from heat, water and dirt, fill small voids & gaps and of course make it look really nice.
9-22.05 It’s a big day The motor she runs Its not just a motor and its not just running! This is custom engineered and built to yank this silver bullet like the bucket of rivets it is! And ain’t she clean Think for the screwdriver down the carb. as a sucker for doing such a good job. It’s sitting there running in its cam, strong, smooth and whole. Every detail, this is not just a beauty, it has the muscle too. Keith Black hyper-utectic pistons, our Kryptonite cam, double roller chain hey and chrome valve covers to boot! Look, I love to restore classic vehicles but you need to look at this like Bob Vila looks at an old house— “bring it back to life but make it new too”.
Oops— Looks like one part we had checked and reused—- fooled us The oil cooler is leaking. Hey, look at it this way, its the last thing out so it’s easy to get to. A perfect example why we do what we do, I mean where do you draw the line. The cooler was pressure tested good. It’s about the only part that was not renewed and even it went out! Don’t you love those new hoses– spared no expense spared– well we will say that tomorrow.
We’ll be back with you then. Tomorrow the details of the motor will be done, the brakes bleed, tires put on and then it pulls out for a wash. Like I said, this was a big day.
And they said it could not be done! This is a water cooled 6000 watt Honda generator mounted in the original generator compartment. This water cooled mammal will deliver all the power for 2 roof AC/heat units, microwave and whatever A/V goodies we install in the coach. Stable enough for delicate electronics this is state of the art for this application. The compartment was modified to fit the unit, insulated to the interior with a leaded foam material covered with a heat barrier foil material– hey, it looks good too!
With the generator operational complete, we will have a tail pipe bringing the exhaust to the edge of the coach body later. Now I’m turning to the interior of the coach. First we remove the dash , The steering wheel is badly dated as are the gauge clusters, switches and lights. No problem, lets pull it all out and do something new . We will have new bezel panels made and all new hi tech gauges installed. The rest of the dash will be broken down, repaired and refinished.
Break on this action and lets move over to some body work issues. As you all know, the lower plastic corners of the coach are very delicate and brittle from the years, our body shop worked hard to rebuild these sections to a quality look Today, these 2 lower side sections will be installed here and the rocker panels will be painted to match. The color matches the seat vinyl which will match the new dash we will be installing.
OK, we’re going inside now, the dash is first but before the dash comes new windshields. And when that happens, we will have the chance to dye the dash. Oh, speaking of dash– take a look at this, its the new dash cluster for the coach. Custom made to fit, this dash incorporates the new on board air ride controls and additional gauges, it will fit in the original surround.
Before the dash can be installed, the dash structure itself needs to be refinished– before that can be done well, the windshields must be replaced. Why? The dash tilts at a great angle to the bottom of the windshield and you can see that after years of “plastic under glass”, the surface is toasted and the color is burned away. The windshields must be removed to access this area . Rick wants this job done right so we called in our glass guys to first pull the old windshields out so we could access the dash for refinishing . This is a custom mix vinyl dye product named “UCV-2”, a lacquer based plastic dye this material will etch its way into the old plastic recoloring and texturing it to our new finish. This job is done, now we move inside to finish off the color job before we start wiring.
Not install quite as the GMC, it was easier to totally remove Ricks das as to refinishing it in place. It is thin vacuum formed plastic which by the limitations of the process makes it easy to remove. Another bonus here will be the chance to clean up the years of funky wiring, dust, dirt and funk before the dash face is reinstalled. I will also have a straight shot at wiring in the new dash cluster and it’s accessories.
The dash itself is stripped and cleaned then prepped before it’s color change. It’s easy to see what the years of sun has done to the color. Good news, the plastic is not fragile which many times occures after years of UV exposure. We are securing the cluster surround to the dash before it is reinstalled to give as much solid support as possible. So here you go, it’s ready to go back in Before it goes in however, I will wire up the new dash cluster and thats what will happen today.
Prewiring the harness to accept the new dash is much more ordered with the dash actually out of the way. Sone circuits must be added, others taken out. The heater controls may be the worst in this dash and may only be ornamental, the cables are snapped and the panel too. With that all wired and checked out, the dash can go back on. Took off the funky velcroed on pad, new cars have cleaner dashes, the radius of the vacuum form part was nice, I’m sure we will end up with some sort of overlay on the front to frame out the AC vents though. The steering wheel will have to go, it’s already looking pretty bad.
So, secured, the dash is ready for it’s facelift A far cry from the buckskin colored plastic look of the original, this dash has the look of new. Like I said before, that steering wheel has to go, we’ve got a brushed nickel and leather 18″ wheel that I think will look good. It will go on next Of course we’ll have to do something about the “GMC” center logo. The in dash air ride system seems to work, we’ll have to add an arm to the original height control vale (did not have one when it was brought in) to put it into motion.
We have been in so many directions around here that I have neglected this page. We have been posting progress on the “Daily Pose” and you may want to go there and see some of the things we post there but I want to catch you up with where we are on Ricks “Shiny One” so bear with me while I do that.
After pulling the interior down to it’s “root mean”, it’s time for some build ups. We are actually moving the galley from the driver side of the coach to the pass. side, cutting it down a bit as well. First the new galley counter and cabinet needs to be designed and roughed in. The frig will remain in the same location but beside that the closet was removes and the galley counter installed. Overhead will be a microwave cabinet with the sink in the counter top. We will have no stove or oven. The design of the coach will be less of a “live in” and more of a “travel” unit. There are simply too many microwave dinners and Taco Bells to want to bake a turkey in this coach!
The old galley location is great real estate for the AV system so a cabinet for that has to go in. The flat screen will be surrounded by this opening, above will go the original systems monitor panel and Honda generator remote We have a shallow counter against the wall as maybe CD & DVD storage. We are cutting out much storage in favor of an open feeling interior so every little space will count.
The rear twin beds will give way to a master bed sleeping crossway and the overhead cabinets will be stripped and reworked for added headroom. The bed will be custom built with memory foam and a lifting center section to access the under storage area. .
Come back later for more to bring this page up to date
Here’s one I have been dreading— the door would not lock. Never could get the key to lock it and from the inside, the lock pin was very stiff. Of course I had to fix that before I started loading Ricks coach up with AV stuff so with no one here early this morning— I went “diver down”. Taking the entry door lock out I went to the internet to ID the mechanism. In the old days, I would start making calls and pulling open catalogues– today you just let your fingers do the walking! OK, here is the Bargman site—- what do you mean they are no longer made!! Oh great, so now I’ve got to be a locksmith and fix it. OK, lets pull her apart and see how she works. Look at that, the stop is broken Look at the other stop just above in the pic and you can see the trouble. This made the slide go out too far and stopped the inside pin from easily locking the mechanism. A little file here and there and that works for me. Now whats with the key lock. Ok, that pin sticking out at the lower area is the key lock pin, it was worn out and would not hit the slide. What you see is a 3/16 rivet sleeve pressed onto the lock pin which built up the piun to hit the slide. Cut off the rivet sleeve to clear the inside plate and I think she’ll fly there Orvil! Now the big test, reinstall the mechanism— shut the door and lock it with the key and lets see if it actually locks! Sure enough, I can’t get in the coach— but wait, if I can’t get in and the lock will not open—- wonder if a can opener will work on the aluminum! A turn of the key— wait, wait, what do we have? Hey, we have an opening door Yahoooo, we have a functioning lock again! Fewwwww, I was worried about that one. So you guys with a broken lock of which they do not make– take heart, it’s nothin but a thing!
After it’s long wait, the dash is coming together. Not looking like much right now the core of the dash is in and wired up. The in dash radio is in and today will be operational. I am also installing the dash mounted flat screen for the back up camera and it’s switching controls. The main dash cluster is complete though . Sorry Rick, I know the steering wheel is the original Airstream one but it’s gotta go! Thought I would install one of the 18 inch “big boy” wheels we use on the GMC. I’m staying on the dash today bringing it to completion.
Alaya has stripped out the acc. in the bathroom and shower to have it ready for the repair and recolor. Check out the fading of the plastic panels. The original color was obvious after the mirror was pulled down.
I am staying on the dash, bringing it to a conclusion. Next we have to deal with the pass. side of the dash itself . The dye gave it a color but it will be difficult to finish out the AC vent holes and add the circuit panels I will need to. We also have a lower section that holds the AC controls. A little head scratching and figuring and here we have it , I brought over some of the light grey vinyl that is in the coach made up some pads and using new vents made 2 panels or for the lower AC control panel and one for the main panel. The opening to the left of the center vent will have the AV control switches. This dash is looking much better and should be done today.
Here’s an interesting little “diddy” I added to Ricks coach. The GMC’s we work with have a “boost” circuit which ties the 2 12 volt electrical systems together momentarily. This give you the opportunity to have more current for starting the generator, main motor or to simply have more current available if needed– the Airstream coach does not. Now, sure I can add just what the GMC has but the GMC circuit has a critical flaw: What happens if the one electrical system that the boost circuit pulls it’s power from is so depleted that it will not fire the solenoid and don’t think that has never happened! Ricks boost circuit uses an old generator remote switch which will allow for 2 sources to fire the solenoid , push the buttom down and the old run light will come on verifying you have current and the solenoid kicks from the living area battery, push the switch up and you can access the engine battery circuit to pop the solenoid and the same light comes on to verify operation. Cool hey? The white stuff on the bezel is the flakes from routing out the switch hole. I mounted this switch right next to the ignition switch– it made sense to have the circuits close to each other. If you “Airstreamers” are interested in having this circuit on your coach, give me a call.
Now with the radio putting out some soothing tunes, I’m on to getting the rear view camera and dash mounted flat screen operational. We have a “system on” LED lighted switch and one for turning on the camera and switching the flat screen input. Ok, push the button and Vwa-La—- wait what’s that? Are we picking up Mars or something!! Oh, OK, I see it I need to mount the camera Hey and you Airstream guys– think about getting a power wire and signal cable from the flat screen on the dash back to this night vision color camera– I don’t even want to go into it! Here we go now thats better. In the “on” position, the camera switch puts power to the camera and switches the input of the dash mounted flat screen, in the off position the flat screen will show—- whatever!
Finally, finally, finally, Ricks “toasters” are refinished and back where they want to be. and the hanging closet is up too Now with a little polish work and getting all of our grubby fingerprints off them, these overheads are about as sharp as you will find. Today we clean her out from the drop, tools and filings and see what we have.
It’s too cold for the bathroom refinish for now, the material needs to be above 65 deg. to “kick” but there is still much to do. I’m ready for the main flat screen install so stay tuned for that.
Next comes refitting the side panels up front to get the driver area ready for carpet. We have several issues that must go into these panels. In that there is no really good way to get into the walls of the coach, we have to create cavities behind the finished walls to run wiring and whatnot. As you can see, we have audo video wiring coming down from the front to back wire chase we had created as well as an air line to Ricks roof mounted air horn which we will connect to his air ride system. These wires all run forward and must be covered. Also, we have power wires coming from below and a speaker to mount so this as I said needs some thinking. I have created a 2″ cavity behind the final wall for the wiring, 2″ to also allow for the speaker magnet . The upper extension/spacer for the wall is covered black and recessed 1 3/4″ to create a “pencil caddy” or something. The panel gets 1/2″ of pad and the light grey vinyl cover and voila (did I spell it right) a finished side panel . The pass side is prepared so as soon as I have it in Alaya can go for the carpet.
Dawn came early, I waited for daylight so I could get in before the guys showed up. I wanted to get Ricks front area side walls in and the coach cleaned out to make way for Alaya’s working on his front carpet. It’s done and it’s not even 8AM We’ll take out the driver seat again to give room to lay the carpet. The pass side wall went well , the 2″ wall cavity gave room for the speaker and getting the wire to it. We will build a cover box for the new 40 Amp PD Dynamics power converter and a new 110 outlet will go in and that part of the job will be done. The driver side is ready except for some wiring clean up and that old steering wheel. You know it didn’t look that bad til we got the dash together! With that renewed and the carpet down– boy wait till that pic!
Yesterday Alaya got jiggy with the new drain plumbing for the relocated galley. With a GMC, we have to jack up the coach to get under there, this Airstream has some room to work which made Alay very happy. He was able to tap into the shower drain plumbing for the pass. side galley sink– that was a good thing!
Alaya has the front carpets cut and while Steve binds the edges he lays the finished pieces. , we’re going for a uniform color on the floor wether it is carpet or the antistatic rubber flooring. We’re playing the radio and running the rear camera, “burning it in” , if it will fail we want it to fail here and not later. I’m going in with his flat screen TV today and dvd player, you need to come back later to see that.
One of the final big projects on Ricks interior is the repair, prep and refinshing of his bathroom and shower modules. Kevin is on it now . First we have cracks in the mold to deal with First backing up the mold with resins and wood, the outer surface gets tiger hair and plastic boding agents. It’s then shaped to it’s finish ready for color. Then Kevin goes after prepping the rest of the surfaces with his DA (dual action) air sander then he “bags off the area and this is when the day ended. He’s already here to shoot the color in, so today is the day for that job. We are going with a monotone “bone” color finish that will match the Sealand marine application China toilet. Ccome back later for finals on this project.
I’m going over to Walters (our painter) today for some ideas on exterior striping. Here is what we have. We want to dump the blue in favor of something that will reflect the interior colors and style. Now you Airstream purists hold onto your hats, we’re not gonna destroy the retro look but I know Wally will probably not like what we do– hey, but maybe he will– I mean he was a pretty forward thinking dud way back to come up with what he call the “classic” Airstream style so why wouldn’t he like to do something fresh. Forget the plad upholstery and hanging lights, we’re in the 21st century and the coach needs to reflect that! Come back and see what we come up with.
OK, good news, Kevin is finished and Ricks bathroom and shower are refinished and looking better than new This is the last “messy” job to do on the coach. Now we can really start putting it back together. This is a base/ clear finish with hardner agents in the clear for a hard luster finish. The cracks are repaired and now Alaya is set free to install all new plumbing fixtures and get the water flowing.
At long last, Ricks Corian counter tops are here. The galley can now come together as can the audio/video cabinet . After having the AV counter in place, I am changing a few of the issues with it’s finish for a better look. We’re moving on it now so stay tuned.
Rick, we have a problem, this morning when opening the door, the lock tumbler in the latch came out On inspecting the tumbler you can see the back of the tumbler broke into 2 pieces the break is where the holdback tab fits I’m going to the local locksmith this morning, wish us luck. This mechanism has been discontinued of course!
Ricks Airstream sofa goes in first thing & I’ll be installing his flat screen as well. This project is finally looking like it should. BTW, let me say a big hello to all of the Airstram forum folks following this project out there. Got a big help from Richard Dienst from there on locating a new door lock tumbler assembly. Thanks man, the fix I tried to make broke apart yesterday so yes, we will need a new one. I’m excitied that those folks thought enough of our work to not only follow along but also lend a hand. It’s true “we all get by with a little help from our friends”.
Ricks main flat screen is in and operational , still have the water heater control overhead to install– But I think you get the picture. Oh yes, and the set moves . It’s on a Neo-Flex Ergotron arm. Presently we have a DVD player connected but it’s ready for satellite when he gets it. The fresh water system came on line today, there were a few leaks in some old fittings but I think Alaya got it together. this weekend will be all about Ricks Airstream, come back and see how it goes.
Todays project is to design a hold back bracket for the flat screen. Problem is the Neo-Flex arm is great for allowing the flat screento have motion and holding it in a stationary position but it gets “sea sick” if the coach is moving. It was designed for a home environment where the ground does not shake, rattle and roll like that of a motorhome. I love things that go through the design process and come out like a paper clip being simple, easy to make and effective. I have been putting a great deal of thought into this item. I mean you will be staring at the TV and I sure want whatever will hold it to look good. I the past I have had velcro straps and such that even though held the TV in place just was not what I call “hi-tech” and this time I wanted something spiffy to do the job. OK, the discovery process begins and we dream up stuff that would be at home on the shuttle, I still like velcro and I figured it would somehow be included. After many tries you hit a block and then the real creative juices start to flow. And then “BAM” there it is– simple to make, simple to use and it looks like it will do the job. The last pic just above is where we started, now take a look at the modification needed to hold it in place while the coach is moving One small square piece of velcro and an aluminum strap– how does it work? The strap is bent to form a tab, it has spring tension to the top front and loose tension on the back behind the set. Just lightly push up on the front spring tension area and the tab releases the set where the small piece of velcro holds the tab in place and the top of the set pops free. The harder the set pushed on the tab, the herder the front spring tension holds it in place. The set is held in position from the bottom by the Neo-Flex arm which has itseld tightly secured to the base shelf. Thats it, one small square of velcro and this bent metal bracket and the TV is in place. Awesome, I love things that come together like that!! Now I can move on to equally important fish to fry.
So now that we’re getting close to finish of Ricks interior, it’s time to finish off the window treatment. Already we have installed brushed aluminum 1/2 micro-mini blinds and custom valences , as you can see the lighting is not in but like where will the lights go And what about finishing off the blind headers– it just does not look finished. We need a place for lights, we need some “twinkies, we need to dress off the blinds– we need something like this Ah yes, shades of “The finer thing” this header contains a double bullet light fixture in front of each window plus has twinkies on the bottom to reflect off the blinds and on top for indirect lighting to reflect off the aluminum roof at night. Plus it rounds off the blind header and brings the taupe interior color up. The radius trim softens the edges and matches the rest of the interior trim. I like it, now it will be a simple matter to copy the design for the pass. side.
This also pretty much finishes off the AV counter as well We have in now the smaller counter as well as the Corian backsplashes The Phillips rear speakers are up and playiong off of the dash radio which will also play the audio output of whatever is on the flat screnn thus a “surround sound” effect. This morning I will complete the pass side header then the sofa comes in. We will be in the polish mode soon so stay tuned for that.
Talking with Rick yesterday he asked to see what the overall look of the interior is looking like– good idea but before that I wanted to give a couple of pics of the galley counter which is of course Corian solid surface with stainless steel fixtures the roll of duct tape snuck in there. As soon aswe have the sewer and drain system complete we will be able to install the lower counter face.
OK, here is from the bedroom looking forward up the hall. The bathroom doors are still getting finishing touches with Alaya refinishing the latches and touching up with the aircraft stripper , man what a nasty job!
Another shot looking forward you can get a feel of the aircraft like main room. I really like the way the ceiling came out with the wire chase and all. The twinkies are off right now but trust me when I tell ya they really do a reflective number on the radius ceiling when on. Looking back from the front you can see the feel of the AV counter, galley and hallway to the bedroom , not finished yet and needs the details but there it is. Watch to see how it finishes off.
Thanks again to the Airstream Forum for the tip on where to get the replacement door lock tumbler, It’s in now and I will say it fits about like many parts I find for the GMC “almost perfect”. Yes, it works and I’m happy to have it but it is not quite as deep and is a bit loose in the hole– hey but it works by golly!
Lights went into the bathroom and shower yesterday, the bath fixtures are in and holding water . Had a bit of a scare this morning when I went over to the coach having water dripping but it was the seal on my hose so that means the system stayed tight all night long– hey we go for small victories! The new 6 gallon electric water heater did it’s thing and the switch is in. I wish the camera would take a pic of the night “mood” lighting in the main area . That “Fire on High” look having to do with the blind headers has worked out better than I had imagined , then with the bullets on, the “fire” gets higher BTW, that black thing on the ceiling is a gooseneck reading light, hey had to plug the hole with something ! Alaya did a great job of first stripping then rehanging the now aluminum aircraft look doors I think we are achieving our goal of interior design.
BTW, got a post from an Airstream forum member talking about the accepted norm of renovation on coaches such as this. He was talking about the exterior mods and how most times the striping is left alone. I kinda unloaded my pinned up aggression toward “purists” and I probably should not have done that. Sorry bout that man and being involved in correct antique car restoration myself with my 2 Lincolns and a vintage 1960 MGA I appreciate all you said and agree. What I was saying before my soap box showed up though was the fact that I see not only the interior but also the exterior as being an extension of the presentation of the coach. I’m not as concerned about originality in that the coach will not be worth any more as original as it would be modified as long and the style is clean and professional. You betcha I’m not in favor of sticking on a couple of those funky decal stripes the new coaches have but if we can flow the styling with some tasteful updating, maybe loose the blue in favor of some metallics I think that would be a good thing. Rick is not looking for a coach that will stack up at a Wally Burnum rally as being most accurate in fact he would like to be the guy that stands out the most. This coach is most unique and I would like folks to look at it and want to see what was done on the inside from the lure of what was done on the outside. This week we are having Walter over for a looksee and I’ll post what we come up with. I really do appreciate the comments from the Airstream folks and am honored that they are watching. I’ve stayed away from exposure there because my stuff is a bit on the edge I felt from their focus and I did not want to intrude on their threads. If more Airstream people are interested in the direction we are taking Ricks coach, give me a call. We are currently doing a Safari “hot dog stand” for Hard Rock Cafe and there is room plenty for more creative projects. Let me know if we can help.
So do ya give up? Here’s another pic of it ready to go in Before it goes in though I need to custom fit then make the rear micro-mini blind vertical valences that will hold them in place . Ok with that done we hang them step back and see what we have OK the blind fits nice and can go up and down with ease but now out problems are the side curtains– they are hanging into the bedroom– it needs something. Ahh now you see what that thing is– it’s a lower valence to hold back and frame in the curtains– give them something to run in. . Open they make the curved window something as unique as it looks
A little more fitting and the 4 piece mattress come in The center section comes out and there is a scetion of the platform that also comes out. The side sections can easily come out if needed. One more cover panel for the sewer vents and the bedroom can start getting cleaned up– it’s done. We picked up a 15″ Polaroid flat screen for the bedroom which will go in tomorrow.
Outside we have to do something to fill in the old LP water heater opening we also have the furnace holes to deal with , thats a great place for an exterior 110 outlet and the other opening was nicely filled by a custom fit reverse louver vent that Nelson cut for me, thanks man.
A few final touches the wall carpeted toe kicks can now go in before the seating is bolted in. Here is the bed with it’s access panel pulled up This can make the bedroom into a wrap around sofa if needed as well as lend storage access. The carpet toe kicks will also go under here.
OK, our carpet toe kicks are in throughout the coach and we have the floor cleaned out I think the look is great, the bedroom has it’s lighting and today this wall will have Ricks 15″ flat screen TV , that wire hanging is the signal from the main TV and DVD. This set will also have a purpose driven inverter (400 watt) to run it. Stay tuned for that install. Alaya will be installing the microwave today and then button up the galley and Greg will bolt down the new sofa.
The bedroom flat screen is in now mounted to the closet wall as anticipated. The wall bracket also allows the set to rotate toward the bed head for a good view from there. This mount secures the set out of the way on the wall , it’s something I have used in several coaches and as you can barely see, it’s tied to the main TV output.
Hey Rick, give me a call & lets talk about the exterior striping, I have some ideas.
Not long now, we are really down to it.
Waiting for the lift to check out Ricks holding tank issues, we started work on the exterior renovations decided on. First things first we had to remove the spare tire and carrier from the back. Hey, just unbolt it— right? Oh no, that baby was welded in 3 places into position! Since we would be refinishing the bottom of the coach, Barry pulled the bumper to access the welding on the tire carrier Mna, look at the framework and support structure of the tire carrier does “missile carrier” come to mind? We’ll plate over the hack job the factory did on the skirt before we paint it up. So you say why pull off the tire? Hey look, I think we have progressed past the need to exercise our masculinity and try and bust loose mondo bolts to change a tire. We have cell phones and AAA for that sort of thing. This coach will be a sort of “party barge” if you will– it’s not making a trip to Morrocco and it’s my guess it will never be out of cell range of help. We have all new tires– big ones and hey if it gets a flat, guess what– the Road Rangers will be a Ricks beaconed call to deal with it so “We don’t need no stinken spare tire”! Look at the reality of todays driving and what it would actually take to change a tire on this thing out there on the road– Naaaaa, lets not do that! The look of the coach will be greatly improved by loosing the spare and hey what’s important anyway!! We’re going for a new, different look and it does not include that round thing on the back– think him nuts be before you say that think me nuts because it is my idea. I have not sported a spare for “Larry” my coach since I drove it home from Denver!! The story here is don’t drive around on old tires and keep the cell phone battery charged.
Hey Rick, Alaya is really getting into building your lower compartment in For you guys, we pulled out Ricks LP tanks and are building in some more storage in it’s place. Alaya got the short straw and I caught him gettin jiggy with his measurements! He should have it trimmed in today.
Today we started in on the body repair before the refinishing can start and as usual, the problem is not figuring out what to do, rather it’s a struggle to figure out where to stop!! With having the opportunity to repair years of dings and dents in the before unrepairable aluminum outer skin, the refinished surface will show everything so I think it’s important to repair what we can while we have the chance. Of course we started in on the obvious “outie” ding on the front fender then we moved on to the pass side dings. The rear end had the hack job the factory boys did to install the tire carrier where we are building in a panel to cover their cut. Then there was the dings that were behind the spare tire and cracks on the bumper extension ends– then we looked up at the refinish areas over the rear window. There were compression dings that could not have been repaired without panel replacements if you followed Airstream lead Kevin worked out in the sun on that mirror finish wearing sun glasses to be able to see his progress . The tape lines on the sides show where we will make the paint break Of course before that happens, we need a smooth surface and thats where we are. Listen, you guys with Airstream trailers and motorhomes– I understand that to bring your classic machine to a quality finish without having to excuse for dents and dings saying “well it’s old and you have that stuff over the years” you really must address all of that stuff. No amount of polishing makes a ding look good and other than actual replacement of panels will make them go away. That coupled with the huge amount of labor you must put out to keep the finish up, I’m sorry but that unique Airstream finish simply does not fit into how we use and maintain our vehicles today. Section and complete refinishing with quality base/clear paint is the only way to keep your maintenance levels to a controllable and reasonable level. Just like “Charlie Tuna” refinished for Hard Rock , Ricks Airstream while not being a complete paint covered body like Charlie Tuna will have strategic paint finish to not only cover the repaierd areas but also to cut down his future maintenance of the exterior. No, we don’t want to turn it into something different that what it is but we do want to make it fit the lifestyle of today and get rid of the past problems created by years of damage. Watch and be thinking about how to update the look, style and condition of your Airstream in this way. I think it works.
Further on the body prep, Kevin is working hard on the rear section getting ready for paint, The fix for the tire carrier has come out good and now we’re into laying on of the first layers of “skin” if you look at it like that We cover the good “skin” and prep the repaired areas with first a sealing primer to keep any chemical reactions separated.
While Kevin was doing that, I was inside fitting together the galley cabinets. Light is the key in the kitchen and also enough counter and head space to get in there and do whats needed. Counter lighting is from the 12 volt, 2 tube florescent fixture First we were going for an overhead microwave but the radius back wall came out so unique and for headspace we went this way Yes, it’s a small galley but look, Rick won’t be doing any Thanksgiving dinners, there are just too many good restaurants out there for that. This has a stainless steel sink with a single stem faucet with retractable sprayer, we have an overhead shallow shelf for maybe cooking utensils and there will be a lower cabinet under the sink for pots, pans, etc. then below that will be the microwave. This weekend we add in the microwave and lower cabinet work and we’ll be done here.
The lower galley panel was the last one in the line of all new cabinets and refinished walls. Why is it important? This last panel is like the keystone in a Roman arch, all the panels and the irregulatities all come together with this last one. Remember there is nothing square or level working in a motorhome like this and the fit and finish all comes together in the end and all must fit together. The opening may look “square” but take a measure and see what you find! Never the less, it all must be fitted together and this is the “keystone panel” I put in yesterday. How does it look The microwave is a 700 watt unit small enough to give some extra cabinet space to it’s side. The cabinet below the sink of course has the space needed for the sink drain and will be a good sized storage area. The cabinet above the frig is large but a bit shallow because of the frig venting. Now we trim the panel out and build up the doors.
Kevin has the exterior close to laying on it’s new colors. The next level of ding fill is done and the surface is given a “bite surface” for the primer. The outside receptical is secured and made ready for paint so is the other repaired areas You can see the repairs to an area under the rocker panel. When prepping a surface, you always find stuff you never saw before. This was a crack in the original rocker panel that had to be fixed It was backed up with an aluminum panel then riveted together for strength then filled over and sanded smooth. If the weather cooperates, we may have the body in primer today, stay tuned for that.
Too windy yesterday for the primer shoot but we are ready we still have the stripe layout so that will happen today. Meanwhile yesterday I was busy inside making that last puzzle piece fit into place. The cabinet doors were next. , all ready we found a very interesting door handle to match the interior Along with the fifty million rivets an Airstream uses I thought handles with rows of dimples looked appropriate. So here you are, on, snaps in, carpet toe kick on and complete OK, now I can move on. Next is the recliners. Oh yes, Rick spied the perfect chair at Rooms to Go and dig it they had a microfiber color exact to the Taupe we have used on his interior. Of course it was a puzzle to put together An this pieces/ parts made it a challenge but hey, thats OK, it was kinda fun. Pulled out the flip up table I had made and stored away for this day and “voila” (did I spell it right) this is what we have The wood bases actually match the only other wood color in the coach which is here , behind here . Yep, it’s looking like something now. The bathroom blinds went up late last night so now I’m “pickin”, thats going around looking for unfinished edges, corners, trims and what not. We have some current drain I found last night so I’ll have to check that out and from here it edges closer to the projected middle May delivery.
Today I am hoping to get the exterior layed out and at least in primer– lets see if we can get there.
In doing the section paint inder the awning, we had a “snafoo” and the awning itself gave us trouble. We pulled the awning out and bagged it off in place to refinish the body under the case roller . Bout the time it was cleared, the awning decided to roll up and— well the clear coat did not like that. Oh well, Rick will have more paint there than other places. We had to take the clear back down to a bite surface, prime, base then reclear that area . But we’re there now and now all of the roof area is recolored All of this had to happen before the part that you always see gets done– the sides. Today is the day for that. We will prep the original aluminum with an etching primer, seal that then base and clear the areas, I’l be able to get good pics of that process for you guys so stay tuned.
Off of the roof now we turn our attention to the lower sections on the coach. Kevin started investigating the front bumper and it’s inserts trying to align the inserts. This is the problem if we just shot that, how good would it look? The made up sheet metal center panel does not fit properly which caused the plastic panel to crack. This is the way it came in but we just can’y put on our “blinders” and let it go like that. Kevin will repair the crack then cut down the tin to fit better Remember it’s the small stuff and the prep work that make for a quality finish. The top is now “bagged” off and the bottom arms of the awning are out of the way. As soon as the front bumper is fitted, we will see color.
Ready for bear, Kevin lays on the etching primer ( you must have this to allow the paint to “stick” to the aluminum) and now the base color goes on . 3 coats of base then 5 coats of clear and this is what you get, check out the color flake in the finish it really “pops” the color is what we wanted and it brings together an all new look for the coach. Can’t wait to unbag it tomorrow, it’ll be like opening presents on Christmas!! The acc. are also painted , you can see the resized front bumper insert here in color.
Late Update: Rick call and just had to have some pics– so here ya go– We’re going to highlight the window frames in black and trim key pieces in black sealant which I think will bring this all together. Check out the new vintasge Airstream look:
The new contoured electric mirror set came in yesterday so that too will really go to changing further the exterior look, stay tuned for that.
Stay tuned for more.
The grill came next. Unlike the GMC grills, this is cast aluminum but I detailed it off just like I would on a GMC. Lay on the dull aluminum etching paint , bag off the stripes and shoot satin black etching paint then pulled the bags and voila— we have a new grill and a new look All but some fussing, the exterior is done. And I’m happy with the outcome.
Worked on the on board air ride control system I had designed for Ricks Airstream. Finally got it working to my satisfaction and also tied his air horns in. Pull the string hanging from the headliner and “honk, honk” he has a trucker horn. The dash controls are pretty simple The red switch is system on/off, the green one below that ties in the auto rear ride height valves for travel and the right up/down toggle switch is manual control for the rear syste. The left up/down toggle is a manual control for the front spring helped air bags. The gauge is a green (front) and a red (rear) pressure readout to balance front to rear. A bit more complicated than the GMC control system but the GMC has no front control and no gauge readout. I think this will be a great addition to Ricks coach, the original Airstream coach did not have any air system controls or system for that matter