Friday, 27 February 2009

The big frame clean-up...

With the belly-wrap removed it was time to clean-up that frame - so we could see how the 55 yr old steel had faired.

The curved end-cap 'C' channels had been removed, leaving just the straight sections.

The rear cross member has suffered the worst & needs replacing.

We may replace some of the tattier sections of C channel but they all got labelled.

The central cross member is the same heavy, pre-formed, C-beam as the longitudinal beams. I know we've learnt not to expect perfection from Airstream but this has a weld - who was on quality control that day in 1953 ? Still, its held up well & the weld looks sound.

It may look like overkill but protective glasses and a face shield make sense with so much rust & hot metal flying around... and my eyes are my career !

The worst rust is on the top side, under the floor, where the moisture had been retained by the insulation but once cleaned off revealed steel in great shape.

Streetside wheel, leaf-springs & axle... no shock, though the round welds where it attached can be seen on the axle & upper cross member.

Curbside - the shock is taking it easy !

Off-set axles - they're prohibitively expensive in the UK, so we'll use a straight shaft and a pad to keep the ride height much the same.

Spiral-headed floor bolts all rusted solid. Grind them flat & then they punch out pretty easily.

Front section wire-brushed clean. Welds all very sound & great quality steel.

The Harrier Jump Jet trainers make an entertaining backdrop.

All cleaned and ready to weld. No nasty surprises, in fact we were pleasantly surprised; the rear cross member needs replacing, the step area needs attention and two outriders need strengthening but otherwise all very sound. We plan to move one cross member, just behind the axle to accommodate a sub-floor water tank and there'll also need to be some re-jigging to take the EU tow hitch. Floor next - marine-ply is ordered - ouch !

Thursday, 19 February 2009

And now the chassis...

Flying high & safely out of the way. Luckily the shell can stay on the hoist so no need to lower her onto trestles & possibly damage the edges of the outer sheets.

Out goes the chassis...   ...hopefully when it returns it'll look brand new.

As is pretty evident the floor was in a pretty bad state, or rotted away completely.

The front & rear sections where the ply foor had all but dissolved were pretty simple to clear. Despite the rot in the wood most of the frame was in surprisingly sound condition. The step will need reinforcing.


Much of the central section of the plywood floor was pretty sound, though the fixings were very rusty.  Unless this was a later repair (and there are no signs it was) it appears the sheets of ply were joined together with corrugated fasteners.

Once all the floor was removed, it was pretty clear that trailer had not just been home to wanderlusty humans... various nut-eating critters had hitched a ride too.

It was also clear that the subfloor insulation was laid over the steel frame and the floor fastened through it. The insulation had obviously acted like a sponge, retaining water and rusting the steel - we plan to use a flat rubber strip & Sikkaflex.

I cut templates (in hardboard) for both ends (bow & stern... after all she is named after a ship!) so the 'C' channel can go back in exactly the same place - with a few kinks removed.

All-in-all we were pleasantly surprised at the condition of the steel frame. A few outriggers and one cross-member will need replacing but otherwise its a case of repairing & strengthening.

The floorspace under the shell has now become useful storage for the sections and fittings removed.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

We have lift-off...

After a few false starts due to the heavy snow we finally had the 53 Flying Cloud in the workshop &

had rigged up a bespoke gantry & chain hoist. We'd both been doing our homework; looking at blogs & speaking to fellow restorers. There seems to be a split between the 'bracers' and the 'non-bracers', though I think a lot depends on how & where you're going to apply that lifting force.

We'd decided the best option was to lift from a single central point and then spread the load evenly by using a full-length timber beam (12ft x 4"x 4")... and we'd decided NOT to brace.

Its relatively straighforward to drill out all the rivets on the outside of the skin but, as I mentioned in previous posts, they constructed the chassis, floor & belly-wrap before attaching the frame and lower panels - I'm sure later years are different - so you get rivets joining the belly-wrap to the upright frames but inside the outer skin. You can knock off the bucked backs with a cold chisel but often they still snag in the hole. We found that a thin cheap (because you'll knacker it...!) chisel was the best to slide down in between the belly skin & the frame to knock the rivet out of the frame hole without damaging the outer skin. There's also a fair amount of Vulkem or adhesive between the outer skin & belly-wrap so a decorator's flexible scraper was the easiest way of breaking that bond.

Of course you think you've got them all out but as you start lifting, the body comes free in places & not in others. Taking the pressure off & freeing up those problem areas before lifting again worked really well & the very controllable force of the chain-lift meant we soon had her free all round...

... and up she went.

... enough room for the tallest Texan in his tallest hat !

The beam spread the load perfectly and, though we had a further line through the two other removed Hehr vents to keep her hanging straight, she balanced almost perfectly on that centre point.

With hindsight, I think the decision not to brace the shell was spot-on as it allowed a little flexing when one area came free whilst others stuck. Had it been rigidly braced it may have allowed too much pressure to build up on those bracing points.

And once up the shell is flexible but holds its shape perfectly. The beam had been carefully (& evenly) padded so not to mark the roof panels and now supports her comfortably.

... A Flying Flying Cloud !

Monday, 2 February 2009

Vintage plate...

Of course she'll need a UK plate but its nice to give her a suitable US one too...

The only sign of a license plate was a rather Heath Robinson repair to a pipe hole in the floor.

So for Christmas she received a vintage Michigan plate (she spent much of her life in Ohio but came to me from Cassopolis, Michigan) - the nice touch is the 'Trailer 53' - something we don't do on our license plates here in the UK.