Saturday, 12 December 2009


Time to buck the body shell to the new bellywrap and C channel.

Tim's skills are suited to more delicate equipment (he's an excellent sound recordist) but he volunteered to help buck a few rivets; complete with protective headgear (not sure if that's to protect from falling objects or preserve anonymity).

Of course he got the comfy end of the bucking...

... while I got the short straw.

But at least being on the backside, you get to control the crumpling of the rivet's tail. I found the most useful 'bucking bar' was a small heavy piece of Tungsten Steel; despite its size it was enough to absorb most of the blows and crumple the tail nicely. Though where there was more room this combined with the head of a 15lb railwayman's hammer helped save my knuckles.

... you just have to trust the man with the gun isn't putting smiley faces on the heads or the skin.

Luckily he did a perfect job (of course!).

... which is more than can be said of his rivet storage !

The skin fitted pretty snugly against the bellywrap.

But there was just enough room for a bead of Vulkem (or TremPro 636, as its now called - from Vintage Trailer Supplies ) - sticky stuff that gets everywhere !

Vintage Trailer Supplies have recently started to stock solid 5/32 rivets too. They are in a soft aluminium which cuts and bucks easily.

I'd ordered the longer ones and even without proper rivet cutters, found they trim nicely with some sharp snips.

... without leaving a burr or distorting the shank of the rivet.

Choices, choices...

So I had the choice of hard (AD) rivets from Aircraft Spruce or the softer ones from Vintage Trailer Supplies. Having drilled out all of the original rivets I'm pretty sure the original Airstream ones were closer to those from VTS and the some of the harder ones from AS had lettering on their heads.
So the compromise was to use the harder rivets along the ends where the rivets are hidden by the trim strip and the softer ones along the sides where they're more visible.

Outside, where it matters...

... and inside where it doesn't.

You can see the gold colour of the coating on the harder rivets (it polishes off easily). You can also see the wobbly path of Airstream's original rivet line !  While its tempting to drill a straighter line, it seems pointless to make more holes as they'll all be hidden by the trim, so we stuck with the wonky old ones.

And a big thanks also to Kelvin (who works with Pete Ritchie at Vintage American Trailer Co ) for stepping into Tim's shoes and bucking the rest of the rivets - its one of those jobs that really does need good teamwork. I'll catch him on camera next time.

The old gal, looking good and strong enough for at least another 50 years on the road...

Now to begin work on the inside... wiring, insulation and then new Zolatone.

... hurrah !


  1. Have a cold one to celebrate.....

  2. Chris,

    You're making it look like too much fun! The pictures you've posted look like they could be assembled in a "flip-book" and made to move in cinematic motion. Nice to hear you on the VAP recently, also. Remember when you do the electrical to use "220" or "221," whatever it takes!

  3. Actually, maybe a hot toddy would be in order for winter-time across the Pond!

    Nice work, the riveting looks fantastic, and doesn't it feel great to have the lid back on?


  4. Cheers Guys...

    Yes, its great to have her whole again & I'll be working on that Airstream restoration flip-book, and the feature doco will soon follow... !

    I can't say its been easy but it has been fun. Sort of feels like we're on the home straight now and yes, I did have a few celebratory drinks; beers and toddies.

    Festive best to you all and your long-suffering families


    PS On the re-wire front, Steve, not sure what 220 & 221 are (probably lost in translation - tomate'o, tomart'o) but I'm going to use 3 core 'Artic' for the 12V (& the 240V, though there won't be too much of that) - super-tough, super-felxible - and lots of grommetry.

  5. Very, very nice, Chris! She's beautiful!

    Sorry I'm a bit late, just catching up on a month's worth of blog reading today. That has got to be a wonderful thrill to be heading into wiring and systems now. A big congratulations!

  6. Heh... our good friend Dancin Hansen was quoting a fairly old (1983) American comedy movie "Mr. Mom" that featured Michael Keaton as a stay-at-home Dad, quite the novelty in 1983 I suppose.

    At one point in the movie, his character was building a new addition to his house, and when asked by another character if he was going to wire it 110 or 220, his response was, "220... 221... Whatever it takes." ;)

    I'm pretty sure you already know substantially more about electrical wiring than HE did. :)