Others Who’ve Done It (Airstream Restovations)

Here are some links to other Airstream renovators who’s posts I’ve found helpful.  There’s no way I could do what I’m doing without these people having posted their experiences (and advice).  I’ll try to keep adding to this list as I find and use more and more threads/blog.:

The Zeppelin’s Maiden Voyage

After installing a brake controller in the tow vehicle and then having the Airstream professionally checked for mechanical integrity, having the bearings packed, and having the electric brakes inspected (turns out they were brand new!), the maiden voyage of the Zeppelin has been completed: 1,200 miles from Indiana to Colorado, with minimal negatives to report.

20151007_105457

The biggest “bad” was that I lost one of my 40 pound aluminum vertical propane tanks.  Luckily no one was hurt, but it was brand new, full, and the replacements cost $200 (without the fuel).  The weird (lucky) thing is that only ONE tank fell out.  They were mounted correctly using the t-bar screw down holding system, but the failing point was a weak cotter pin holding the vertical bar in place (in retrospect, we should have used a bolt, perhaps even drilled a larger hole for a stronger cross-bolt, but the existing hole was really tiny, so we used a cotter pin that eventually failed).  After a bit of bumping (well… many hundreds of miles), the cotter pin began to bend and slip within the cylinder that holds the vertical support, thus allowing the tanks to rattle free.

I still can’t believe the tank fell in such a way that I didn’t even notice it was gone ’til I stopped for gas.  How did it NOT hit the tow vehicle or Airstream?!  How did it NOT hit another car (luckily there’s no one on the road in Kansas at 3am)?! How did it not EXPLODE in the absolute dark of the Black Kansas Night in some kind of Jerry Bruckheimer glory?!

At first I thought it must have been stolen by a meth head, but in going over the situation again and again in my mind I realize it was missing as soon as I pulled up to the pump, so there wouldn’t have been enough time for a theft.  Good to note though… these things should really be locked down so nobody can snag them.  They are pricey in the first place, and the larger 40 pound tanks are “extra-special” to crank heads, who use propane tanks to hold the anhydrous ammonia used in the production of their product.

I’m still not sure what the Airstream weighs sitting empty and gutted as it is (well, filled with parts and pieces but no cabinets, furniture, flooring, etc.), but hooked up directly to the Jeep’s ball hitch and using an electric brake (Tekonsha 90160 Primus IQ), it was pretty easy towing.  I averaged around 60-65mph and got nearly 18 mpg (oh, yeah, baby –I love my Liberty CRD!).  Late at night when the temperature dropped and the wind started blowing in KS, I could definitely feel the gusts, and I quickly learned how to prepare for passing a big rig or having one pass me, but it wasn’t too bad.  Looking forward to seeing how a good WD/Sway Control hitch changes the feel of the tow.

At one gas stop I took the turn too sharp and scraped the side of the AS on a yellow guard pole, but I noticed right away and the damage was minimal (I got most of the paint off the aluminum simply by rubbing it with a rag).  It was a good way (not too much damage) to learn the lesson of “PAY ATTENTION EVEN WHEN GOING SLOW” and maneuvering in tight spaces, and the only real pain I suffered was having the hill-billy with the three four wheelers on the trailer behind his pickup look at me with disdain (“How about a toothbrush, there, fella?”).

I also had a bit of overheating going on during the journey.  It never reached a point where any alarms went off, but the Jeep was certainly running hotter than normal, and I’m definitely installing the auxiliary transmission cooler I’ve been considering.

It was a little painful having a trip I typically make in under 18 hours take well over 22 (including my initial “stopping at every rest stop to check things out”), but once I’ve got company in the tow vehicle it’s going to be great!

 

Interior Skins – Inventory and Cleaning

The nastiest thing I have to deal with regarding our already gutted Zeppelin is the interior skins.  I’m sure they were pretty nasty to begin with (nicotine build up since 1972 and the adhesive on the back side), but they’ve also been stored on the floor of a barn for quite a while, so they’re covered in goat and chicken sh*t, and the resultant mold and other weird goos, fuzz, and oozy things that have grown on top of that.

Still, I will consider myself lucky to have the panels, as these metal skins are part of the the monocoque design and strengthen the trailer by riveting to the interior of the ribs.

I still haven’t decided if I’ll end up painting the interior side or trying to remove the vinyl covering to reveal the bare aluminum, but first things first, I need to see what’s there and get them cleaned off for the drive home.

 

Airstream Dishwasher

At first thought a dishwasher might seem like an “extreme luxury” for an Airstream, but it’s actually a smart move when considering  water conservation.  Study after study has shown that a dishwasher (especially high efficiency ones like the Bosch in our home kitchen) use far less water than hand washing in the sink.  The models I have listed below uses around 3 1/4 gallons for a full load (6 place settings plus whatever else you can Tetris in there).

Not to mention, it stores your dirty dishes (until you’re ready to run the cycle), so you aren’t stacking dirty dishes in the sink (cluttering up your surroundings, preventing you from using the sink, attracting flies, etc.).

I first had the idea of putting a dishwasher in an Airstream when I saw a custom-ordered Fischer and Paykel unit on clearance at Lowe’s.  I now really wish I had bought it; I think it was marked down from $1,000 to $200.  Since it was designed for home use, it was probably too heavy and power hungry for an Airstream though (I will let these sour grapes console me).

After searching “Airstream Dishwasher” I first learned about the Koldfront PDW60EB via this post:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f432/rv-dishwasher-104296.html

It’s around $211 in white, another ten bucks in black, and $240-$260 depending on which “brand” in silver (I wonder how close to “stainless” it really looks).

Koldfront, EdgeStar, Midea, SPT (the actual manufacturer?), Sunpentown (old name for SPT, I assume), Danby: judging by the item descriptions on Rakuten (they are pretty much word-for-word), I am assuming these are all “rebranded” versions of the same unit.  There are some slight variations in the controls (knobs vs. buttons,  number of buttons, digital readout, etc.), but the functionality/specs seem to be the same.  The models are things like PDW60W, PDW61W (newer), DDW611WLED, SD-2201W, SD-2202W (newer); the W stands for white in these models; other models use B for black and S for silver.  It looks to me like the PDWW61 and SD-2202 are second generation models and they added the ability to delay the start time for up to 8 hours.

The descriptions state that an internal water heater gets the water temperature to 149 degrees Fahrenheit (not very high compared to the Bosch in my house, but still much hotter than hand washing).  I am a big fan of the stainless interior (and not just because it matches the Airstream!). The unit also has an automatic rinse agent dispenser, which is nice for keeping your glassware spotless (I plan on serving quite a few cocktails!).  These units also have an internal pump for waste water, so you don’t have to rely on gravity.

They are made to simply attach to your kitchen sink faucet and can be removed when not in use, but I plan on “hard wiring” mine to a water and drain line.

Water consumption (normal wash): 3.5 gallons • Input voltage: 120 V/60 Hz • Power: 1160 W/10.7 A • Weight: 48.5 lbs • Dimensions: 17-3/16″ H x 21-11/16″ W x 19-11/16″ D” • Noise level: 55±3dB • Six (6) standard place setting capacity • Includes dish rack, cup shelf, and cutlery basket • Holds plates up to 10.5″ in diameter • Six (6) wash cycles: heavy, normal, light, glass, speed and soak (I’m assuming I would only ever use the “heavy” cycle, but still…)

User reviews state that the heaviest wash takes around an hour and forty five minutes and the “soak” setting is around 10 minutes (the other settings are just variations on time).  It’s best to make sure the water is running hot from the tap before starting the unit (so you get the hottest water possible and put less stress on the unit’s internal heater).  The biggest complaint seems to be the unit does not dry your dishes, but that seems to be expecting a bit much (the unit won’t do your laundry either).  Some people have mentioned just opening the unit’s door slightly right when the cycle is finished and the retained heat of the things being washed will allow everything to dry (though you’ll be venting steam into your living space).

SPT-SD-2202S EdgeStarDWP61ES

Koldfront-PDW60EBMideaADC3203DWW

 

Finally, a little humor from the Airstream forums.  This is what GeocamperAS posted regarding Airstream dishwashers:

I have been searching high and low for a RV dishwasher.
Not just any RV dishwasher, but one that meets my criteria.

I finally found one.

It is small so it doesn’t take up much space.
It also uses very little water.
It can be used on electric mode when you have hook-ups.
I can be used on non-electric mode when boondocking.
And even though it is small it can clean the largest pot you have.

electric-dishwasher-2

Using a Kitchen Sink for a Shower Pan

Kitchen Sink as Airstream Shower PanI’ve been thinking about using a utility sink (often referred to as a “slop sink” or “mop sink”) for our Airstream’s shower pan.  I was at an architectural salvage place last week, and they had a high-end, black kitchen sink.  PERFECT.  It looks cool.  It’s very sturdy.  And it’s a single basin with a kind of “step” for dishes that will now be an actual step!

There are two holes (faucet and soap dispenser) that will either get plugged, or maybe I’ll actually run copper pipe through the holes as part of the shower design.

This “designer” sink obviously looks waaaay better than a plastic slop sink, even though it weighs a bit more (though, that comes with being much more durable than thin plastic).  I think having a shallower sink (vs. a utility sink) will be better too.  It’s still deep enough for a kid to take a bath, but it won’t be such a pain to climb in.

Master To Do List

This “Master To Do List” might be a stupid idea (depressing to look at in a couple of years, when I still haven’t installed a sink!), but it’ll help me keep track of ideas and maybe link to the posts covering these topics.

  • Have brakes gone over (before hauling from Indiana to Colorado!) DONE! 10-7-15
  • Brake Controller for Tow Vehicle DONE! 10-8-15
  • Purchase/install Weight Distribution Hitch (EAZ-Lift? Reese WD Hitch? Husky HD? –Hensley would be great, but it’s just way too pricey for where we are in life)
  • Inspect and repair exterior skin leaks DONE! 11-15-15
  • Fix Vista Vue Window Leak DONE! 11-5-15
  • Clean and coat underside before installing wires/tanks/plumbing and belly pan
  • Insulation
  • Belly Pan
  • Layout
  • Toilet
  • Shower
  • Exterior Shower
  • Door Lock and Deadbolt
  • Refrigerator
  • Range/Cooktop
  • Microwave/Convection Oven
  • Kitchen Sink and Faucets
  • Bathroom Sink and Faucets
  • Lighting
  • Retractable Dining Table (converts banquette to bed)
  • Bunk Over Banquette
  • Speakers
  • A/C
  • Heater
  • Water Heater
  • Water Filter
  • Waste Tanks
  • Fresh Water Tanks
  • Interior Skin
  • Floor
  • New Rims

The Wishlist (Purchasing Plans)

This is some of the fun stuff we’ll need to buy (not necessarily a “to do” list, just some of the things that will make this Airstream extra cool).

Inside

  • Dishwasher (this will actually SAVE water)
  • Washer/Dryer Combo (?eventually?)
  • Full (-ish   …yes, I realize that sounds an awful lot like “foolish”) Size Fridge (?eventually?)
  • 4/5 Burner Range (I will be doing some serious cooking in this thing!)
  • Microwave/Convection Oven
  • Tankless Water Heater (for those long showers when we’re hooked up to city water!)
  • Point of Use Water Heater for Kitchen
  • Composting Toilet (still trying to make sure this is what we want)
  • Component rack for computer and speaker amplifier 

Outside

  • Awning
  • Solar Panels
  • Exterior Shower (no hunching over when it’s warm outside!)
  • A/C (possibly a split?)
  • Front Window Rock guard (why do I think these look SO COOL?!) 
25' Airstream Floor Plan

Floor Plan Template

So the first step in laying out a new floor plan is creating a template to sketch out ideas.

I searched online for a while, but ended up making a template out of the original manual’s layout and a piece of graph paper.  Here it is if you want to download it (click image for hi-rez PDF):

25' Airstream Floor PlanI removed everything (beds, bathroom, kitchen, etc.) except what might be kept, like the battery compartment and water heater location.  I may end up changing those too, but I decided to leave them on the grid.

Scale is one square to 6″.

 

SCORE! Dometic RM2310 RV Refrigerator

20150813_104011Last week I was at an architectural salvage place, and someone had just dropped off a Dometic RM2310 3-way (propane, 110v, 12v) refrigerator.

I plugged it into a power outlet and… it works!

Evidently the original owner, an older guy, had actually returned the day before to bring in some additional things for the fridge that he hadn’t been able to find when he dropped it off (original receipt, schematics, operating manual, etc.), so I’m guessing it was well taken care of.

My dad just paid $1,000 for a new Dometic fridge for his camper-van, so $25 for mine seems pretty darn good! Yahoo!

It even has a groovy, padded, off-white vinyl front, which I think we may keep!

With my extreme love of cooking, I was originally planning for a larger fridge and will still likely end up with one in the future, but this is a great way to at least start out with a solid, propane powered RV fridge for almost no money.

Boondocking here we come!

20150813_104029

The Airstream Drea(h)m Begins

We purchased an Airstream!

It’s a 1972 25′ Tradewind Land Yacht (twin axle).  Gutted to the skin.  Shell off frame restoration.  New LED lights have been wired.  New 3/4″ ply sub floor has been installed.  New disc brakes in 2011.

It’s completely empty (I mean, like, no insulation or anything), so the rest is up to us, and I can’t wait to design and build!

It has the optional Vista View windows (super cool!) and the original style (tall) propane tanks.  The previous owner had already also purchased new black and gray water tanks as well as a large fresh water tank, a new vintage-style porcelain toilet, new water heater, water pump, inverter, power conditioner, new waste hoses, pex lines for water, propane regulator, a pneumatic riveting gun, rivets, clecos and cleco tool, gaskets, grommets, wires, Vulkem 116, SikaFlex 221,  TremPro 635, Parabond, etc., etc.  Major bonus.

He also kept all the original interior skin panels, so I have TEMPLATES for creating a new interior skin (or I can just use the skins, though they have holes for things we won’t use)!

The only thing I’m not looking forward to is fabricating the non-existent belly pan (right now the undercarriage is exposed).

I will be using this blog to help me remember what I did and where to find things (both web links and also where I have physically placed my stuff!).  Perhaps it will lead to the Airstream restoration and renovation business I’ve always dreamed of creating (I love these things, and I love making small spaces make sense!).