Monday, 25 October 2010

Wheel wells...

The summer has gone, the mushrooms too. Its been a brilliant year for fungi in the UK - my freezer is full ! 
So as the temperatures cool & the leaves fall its time to get the old girl sorted.
Wheel wells.
 The old ones were steel & rusted through, so time to to fabricate some new ones
 Aluminium ones
 With no access to fancy folding & bending presses, it was a case of cut, bend & rivet
 Using the old ones for patterns
 And adding perforated strips to attach to the inside skin

and panels to wrap round onto the bellywrap

 Its a bit of a fiddle getting a tight fit, especially as the walls curve inwards at their base which means the covers are inside the inner skin at the base and flush with it at the top.

Then the even more fiddly task of trimming the inside to exactly fit the outer skin. The Cleco-type clamps are really useful to pull the two skins together before inserting the beaded trim and drilling for the rivets.
 I found it was easiest to start in the centre and work outwards towards each edge.
I'd love to say the old beaded trim just slipped on but over the years it was dinged and kinked but eventually after a lot of teasing and tapping I got the line bucked...

 And with the flaps folded round under the belly & riveted to the bellywrap the end result was pretty neat.
and stiffened the outer skin up considerably

... it would clearly withstand the odd bump from rounded objects !
 One down, one to go...

 This wasn't precision riveting but it was strong & will never be seen

 One tip - when you're bending the tabs make a small curved section to bend against & you'll end up with a neat and consistent curve.
and bucking when you can easily get a hand to both sides is a joy.

 The second one is always easier...
 ...but still a fiddle to get the old beading sandwiched between the skin and the outer wall of the well
 Clecos and the Cleco spring clamps are indispensible... and a joy to use
 Streetside wheel well done...

 Yes, that line of rivets could be straighter... but as we all know, Airstream's quality control was pretty random when it came to unseen areas. So I'm just trying to keep up that tradition !
And the all-important outer rivet line is dead straight & should polish up nicely.
 And on the subject of polishing Kelvin @ Vintage American Trailer Co has been busy getting the old girl's shine back. But still the finer Nuvite grades to go & no doubt I'll be hand finishing the windows & drip caps.
Inside, I've primed (with a grey aluminium-rich primer) the floor and with the wheel wells in place, she's starting to look ready to have her interior re-fitted.


Taped seams on the inside and sealant on the underside - should keep any road spray out.
 Now to tackle the door - it had made a suicidal bid for freedom sometime in the past & was severely bent on the handle side.

 The old hinges were fairly bent too
 Interestingly, the hinges on the Flying Cloud are inserted under the skin on the door.
 I have a brand new set of hinges from Vintage Trailer Supply but they're fairly pricey ($199), so if I can straighten these, I may keep them & sell on the new set

Clearly there's a panel to replace here... and door furniture.
 Another drip-cap with rusty steel screws...
They're coming out... and will be replaced with Olympics

 Doors of this age have no cast aluminium parts, they're all made of bent sheet.
 Its a double-edged sword, on the one hand, a lot weaker than the later cast frames but on the other hand a lot more fixable...

 Aluminium naturally stiffens over time so needs heat to give it back its initial flex.
The risk though is that unlike steel there's no colour change to show how the heat is affecting it; it'll just look the same until it suddenly disappears, and then its too late.

 The trick is to paint the whole area with any soapy liquid (washing-up liquid) and heat, keeping the torch moving, until the liquid boils off & turns black. Then stop & allow to cool slowly.
 Once cool the annealed aluminium will be much more flexible & easier to work.
 Leaf springs are finally back - cleaned, with the odd leaf replaced, rebound and re-bushed. 
Ready to refit.
 More aluminium insulation on the inside of the wheel wells too.
 And still to come, a plywood box to cover them

There's quite a bevvy of aluminum ladies in to keep mine company - a 54 Flying Cloud, just reunited with her rejuvenated chassis and new floor after a body-off restoration. 
There's also a 60's Tradewind and a couple of 70's in the works too. 

 As usual my time ran out before we got the door sorted but I'll be back up soon. The plan is to get the Zolatone sprayed, new axles on, EU towhitch on and polishing finished... so she can head down to Devon for Christmas and begin the interior refit.
And thinking ahead to re-installing my interior, I can highly recommend David Winick's new book - beautifully produced and a great inspiration. Nice one David.


  1. Fine job on the wheel wells. Good luck on the door - I've heard they are tricky.


  2. I so enjoy your blog. I think you are holding out though, as I know you've done work these past two months! We need a Christmas update!


  3. Cheers Tom & Tim - sadly I'm not holding out on you; due mainly to Zolatone, time & money - a distinct lack of all three, I've not done a thing on her since late October. But in the New Year, things will get moving again.

    Festive best to y'all.