Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Missing 14" Window...

My missing 14" kitchen window has arrived. Hot from Ron & Tyla Biale at Vintage Deluxe Trailers in Colona CA.  I've been looking on eBay for quite a while but with no joy, so I sent out a few emails to vintage suppliers & Ron came up trumps. Really helpful people and the frame (as you can see) was in exactly the condition they described - so I'd wholeheartedly recommend Vintage Deluxe Trailers (see their link on my recommended websites list)

Much of my internal frame is still there but the outer opening section is missing (you can see someone has just stuck plexiglass over the opening), so this was a very lucky find.

Frame is in great shape. No bends or dings to the outer frame. 

Ron helpfully sent good photos with the tape measure included - so I could be certain we were measuring from the same point.

The rubber seals have perished or are too brittle to re-use. But all the alloy is in really great condition & will clean up nicely. The glass was removed to keep the shipping costs down, and she arrived without any shipping damage.

The Hehr opening lever is missing but these are readily available from Vintage Trailer Supplies.

The only slight glitch was a UK Customs charge !  I should have asked for a value lower than the $90 I paid to be posted on the shipping documents as not only did I have to pay the VAT (@ 22.5%) but also a handling charge... but hey, I'm still very happy to have found one this size.  

FYI - UK Customs can charge VAT @ 22.5% on anything valued at over £18 and then import duty on items over £120 - it seems to be a lottery whether they pick out your package but its worth being aware of it.

Sunday, 11 January 2009


This 1954 brochure is the closest I can find to my year of 1953.  
They still list the Flying Cloud as 21ft - I thought that in 54 they went to 22ft with the longer tail-end ? But maybe it was gradually phased in ?

Floor plan is pretty similar to mine although I have two chests of drawers either end of the double bed which pushes the toilet nearer the sinks. And I don't have the small drawers in front of the water heater. Mine has no evidence of ever having a dinette fitted, though our plan is probably to fit one along these lines, with the table dropping to make a spare bed.

My chassis is identical to the single-axle picture (middle left) and it appears to confirm (bottom left) that they fitted the bellypan before they attached the frame on top of the floor - hence those sneaky rivets that attach the bellypan to the 'C' channel but are inside the outer skin.

Not sure if we'll do the same, or re-fit it after the bodyshell has been re-attached to the new floor & chassis - advice very welcome.

This Flying Cloud still has the 'suicide' door. I suppose it means that it opens without obstructing the window but (as I've found to my cost) if the catch, or dead-lock works free in transit the result can be a dented skin and a door to take apart & reshape.

Interestingly, they show it with an oval front window - mine has the rectangular Hehr one with 2 opening side lights at the front and a single, 'fire-escape' Hehr at the rear - so they must have still being offering the oval window as an option in 1954.

If anyone knows of a 1953 (or 1952) brochure, I'd love to see one.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Drilling those buckers...

Time to drill out the original bucked rivets. Its tempting to start drilling but DO use a centre punch first to centre your drill or you WILL slip off & even if nobody notices that extra rivet - you will for the next 50yrs !

Those larger holes on the LHS are screw holes for the trim, not dodgy drilling.

You'll soon find you've got some good aluminium debris around your feet.

The 'suicide' door had flown open en-route to the port, so she's off for some tlc & re-shaping.

The rivet holes are pretty evenly spaced - until you get under the trim which wraps around both ends - again Airstream's crown for quality has slipped a bit !

Ready to lift. What you can't see is that there are quite a few sneaky rivets that attach the bellypan to the C channel but are INSIDE the lower edge of the outer panel. They're best chiselled off from the inside. Next we'll remove the windows as they need rejuvenating and we plan to lift her with supports running though the matching window openings on each side.

By the way, HAPPY NEW YEAR to any fellow alumanuts & their long-suffering families.

Monday, 5 January 2009


Before you start it seems a little daunting but once you get into the swing of it its surprising how easy it is. To start with, drilling out pop rivets is a doddle; their central pop hole means the drill is always perfectly centred and it takes very little pressure before the drill pops the back off & leaves the inner flange spinning on your drill bit - you'll soon find you have dozens spinning on the drill bit. They're sharp - use a pair of pliers & run the drill in reverse to get them off.

There are two (well I'm sure there are more but two will do for now) things you don't want to do: Enlarge the original hole or follow through to such an extent that you end up drilling the outer skin.  To avoid enlarging the hole, get comfy and drill straight, use the right size of drill, or slightly undersized. I found a 3mm was perfect. I'm pretty sure that they were 1/8" (as are the solid rivets on the exterior) which is 3.175mm in metric.

There are commercial drill depth-stops but I found using 1" gaffer (sorry, my profession - you'd call it duck tape) tape wrapped round the drill bit (to about the thickness of a pencil) leaving about 3/4" of drill sticking out, cushioned any follow-through perfectly.

Solid rivets are a little trickier.....The Bucked rivets were put into a 1/8 hole (or 3.175mm) but I think most people rebuild using a 5/32 (3.969mm) Universal solid rivet which needs a slightly larger hole, so you could use a 3.5mm drill bit but I find a 3mm popped them out fine. You'll find you have bucked rivets down the side of the door. Mine had a tiny dimple in the head but I wouldn't trust it to hold your drill bit. Use a sharp centre-punch and a sharp tap & you'll have a good centre guide that the drill won't slip out of.

The last sheet comes free and despite being bent for half a century they spring flat like a new sheet.

Perfect templates - though these are fine & will go back...

... and a half-stripped interior. Since we plan to lift the body off the chassis I'm going to leave all the upper interior panels in place to help (along with a lot of wooden bracing) her keep her shape. I was prepared to get through lots of drill bits but this only took about 6. They get blunt & hot (which makes them more likely to snap), so change them when they're not cutting as well. I reckon I'll need quite a few more to drill out the solid rivets on the exterior.

Removing the inner skin...

Armed with a large selection of 3, 3.5, and 4mm drill bits I started drilling out the pop rivets holding the inner skin to the 'C' channel frame.

The first shock is how pristine the inside surface of the Alclad is. After 55 yrs, its like new.

No mistaking the product code !

On a less positive front, much of the insulation has gone to make nests and the wiring is stripped bare wherever it passes through the C channel - scary !  Lots of grommets next time around.

The manufacturer: Reynolds Aluminum (or aluminium as us Brits say) - great typeface !

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Period pieces...

Two perfect period pieces for a 50s Airstream:

A 'Juice-o-Matic', by Rival, from the US & an 'Atomic Coffee Maker'  from the 50s'. 

The Atomics were (apparently) designed in the UK but manufactured in Italy, then badged for different countries. This has the London, Sassoon label but a lot were exported to the US and even more to Australia (if you look them up on ebay they most commonly come up in Australia) where they are badged  'Bon Trading Co, Woollahra, Sydney' 

Solid, cast aluminium (and like our bullets, they will polish up - though I quite like the dull grey). Later models had a steam wand for frothing milk... 

... design classics and they make great juice & coffee.

Aluminium Idler

Friday, 2 January 2009


Now to take her apart. A little wrestling with pop rivets and all manner of inaccessible screws but after a while the cabinets all come out of the door they went in - as they say 'it all went in the door, so it should all come out' - it does... just !

The magazine rack was clearly from the next Flying Cloud - 3070
The streetside cabinets removed... now just the curbside to go.

The lightweight construction is clear in the drawers. Look after the pounds (Lbs) !

The last cabinet (fridge & heater) comes free...
... and she's nearly empty. 

Inside out ! Just the roof cupboards remaining, everything else outside.

Aluminium Idler