Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How not to repair your floor

After returning from ordering my axle this morning, I had little time before the rain was due to hit. I wanted to try and get some of the flooring removed from the frame. I decided the easiest parts to remove would be the repairs done by the last owner.

What was this guy thinking? They used four pieces in odd shapes to replace a small piece up front, and the curbside under the window. Every place that I found an elevator bolt that would connect the shell/floor/frame together, I found the wood notched out around the bolts. Gimme a break.

Curbside piece
Front Piece

So you may be wondering how these pieces other than being squeezed together would be sitting in place. They were all silicone caulked together, and screwed into a plywood spline underneath. What a great feat of engineering on the worker's behalf. I wonder if the guy who replaced it was living in it at a mobile home park since it had no holding tanks.

After this I grabbed my trusty circular saw, set the blade for a smidgen less than 5/8" and cut out the area from the center of the floor to the curbside step. Interestingly enough, the step is comprised of a 2x8 that is capped with a 2x4. I may change this depending on how I put the floor back in. I am hoping some other folks with the 50's interior drop down step can give me measurements of theirs.

The original owner must have been really short. Not only does this trailer have the drop down step, but it also had a pull out step installed underneath the drop down step. There isn't a a lot of distance between the interior step and the exterior step underneath. I will probably remove the step underneath, and install on of my stabilizer jacks in its' place (Now to install them before or after the belly pan is installed?).

After getting the thoughts from the folks on here (Which are the same as the forum members that answered my poll), I ordered my new axle today. I took the axle to three different shops, and all three told me the same thing. I didn't have a standard size drop on my axle, and a new drop axle would bring me even closer to the ground. I opted for the 6,000# straight axle so I could keep my 6 bolt pattern wheels, and the spare off the Ambassador. The axle will give me about two more inches of clearance, so the difference will not be as dramatic as originally thought. This will also give me a little more clearance for installing my holding tank. Unfortunately the axle won't be here until the 3rd when we will be in Branson for the Spring Rally. Looks like I'll be busy on the 6th!


Monday, March 23, 2009

First floor cut made, Drop axle dropped

Today was productive. On the way home from my Chiropractor I stopped at the lumber yard and picked up five sheets of 3/4" AC fir plywood for the floor.

I only needed one, but why make two separate trips. I unloaded them once arriving home, ad took one piece over to the trailer. I left what was left of the front floor intact so I could template it later. I traced the pattern of the C channel on the plywood from underneath as best I could. I final results were not perfect, but much better than what I currently have with an inch wide silicone snake filling the space they improperly cut. I also think that the C channel I based my measurements off of may be off slightly. From what I have heard, the front and rear curves are the same. I placed the piece of flooring on the rear area, and it appears to be too wide. This piece fits the front very well, but was too wide on the rear. This piece on the front goes the entire width of the outriggers, but is about an inch too wide...weird.

Throw away piece fits nice

After I put the cut plywood back in the garage, I decided to remove the axle. I have been shopping a new axle for about a week since this axle is missing brake parts that I could not locate anywhere. I had the same problem with my 56 Caravanner. The Caravanner axle was replaced with a new complete (straight) axle. This axle is a drop axle, and I am debating whether to keep the drop or go with a straight axle. Straight axles are cheaper and ride a little higher. The extra clearance would be nice since the grey tank I add will likely hang below the belly pan area. Many folks think that the vintage trailers ride too higg with a straight axle, but I have seen torsion axles on some vintage trailers.

This trailer axle and springs are quite beefy. It has a 6 bolt star pattern, and ten total leaf pieces in the springs. I want to use the same type of tires, wheels, as my Ambassador so I want to keep the 6 bolt pattern. Every place I have called so far has said that I need anywhere from a 5000-6000 pound axle. I cannot see why this axle was installed on such a light trailer, but perhaps it was an option in 1953 or is a replacement(?).

With rusty bolts all around, I decided it better (and faster :)) to cut off the rear shackle and the U bolts. I would rather replace them with new parts. The springs will be wire brished and painted with POR-15 or some kind of epoxy paint.

I have started a thread regarding the drop axle vs straight axle with poll on the forums here.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

What a wild week or work.

As of the 19th, I decided to make this shell off project. I have been keeping tabs on Crazy corpsman's blog and saw his shell bracing. It looked simple enough to do on my own, and with a 21 foot trailer, not that much work on my part. I also got a quote from a restoration company of $2200 to remove and replace the shell. Since most all of my rivets were already removed...I decided to give it a shot.

The bracing materials cost me about $45.00 for screws, 2x4 lumber, etc. After 2 hours of cutting and installing I was done. I cut a small hole in the belly pan to give me a point to jack it up, and proceeded to jack the shell up as you can see in the pic.

Braced and ready for lifting.

After bracing everything on the 19th, I went ahead and removed the shell the next day. It took me a couple hours by myself shoring the shell little by little. I actually had to raise the front end higher than I was comfortable with the get the tires under the 4x4 posts even after I deflated them.

Click image for larger version  Name: shell up frame out.JPG Views: 4 Size: 72.5 KB ID: 77178

After getting the front end high enough to let the tires clear, I hooked the hitch to my truck, and slowly pulled the frame out. Once that was completed, I began the process of lowering the supports so the shell wasn't so high. My neighbor came over that night, and we each picked up a side of the 4x4 while Amy removed blocks underneath until we had the shell sitting on only one block.

Finally on the ground

With the rear floor gone, I need to use the front floor to template my new front and rear end caps. From the pics you can see that this floor was pieced together with several pieces. On the curbside they actually cut the flooring wrong, and have about a one inch blob of silicone in between the wood and side skin.

Click image for larger version  Name: front floor other side.JPG Views: 3 Size: 58.5 KB ID: 77180

Bad floor repair by a PO or service department

Click image for larger version  Name: front floor without shell.JPG Views: 3 Size: 56.0 KB ID: 77179

While I prepare to template the floor and get the frame welded, I need to worry about tanks. This trailer was built before the factory started adding holding tanks, and this one just dumped onto the ground. My thoughts now turn to whether I want to do a black tank only, a combo tank, or both gray and black tanks. The trailer currently has NO plans for a shower since we have a shower in the Ambassador, and NEVER use the thing. We always camp where there are shower houses, and most of those are very nice. My old 56 Caravanner had a black tank only, and all the gray water went to a PVC pipe under the trailer to use with a blue boy or hookup.

Below is a picture of my frame. The red circle is where the old toilet dumped through the floor and onto the ground. The red square is where a propose above floor black tank would be installed. The two yellow areas are spots that I could separate gray tank. One thing that concerns me is the tanks will be either over the axle or behind the axle. To me the axle placement on this trailer is to far forward, and should be placed further back. Another concern is not only venting the tanks, but the drain and dump valves. These reasons make me consider a black only or combo tank.

I found a local aluminum supplier that carries 4x10 sheets of 5052 .032 for the belly pan for $62.00 a sheet. This is $3.30 less per linear foot than Airparts. I didn't find out if they carry ALCLAD or not, but if not then I will order from Airparts for this.

After my frame gets repaired, I want to get my new axle installed. The local Dexter Supplier can get a new complete 4 inch drop axle without springs for around $275. Yesterday I checked the bearings and they were pretty much non existant. I also looked at the axle to find two broken shackles like this.

With no bearings, shredded tires, and two broken shackles on the running gear, I cannot believe I made it home in one piece.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fantastic Fan Installation

Today I decided to install my newly purchased Fantastic Fan that arrive a week ago from Vintage Trailer Supply. With my date of departure getting close I have been mostly working on restoring windows and getting estimates from shops. No matter where I end up sending the trailer to get work done, I have to remove the old and ugly AC unit from the roof. It has been sitting up on top unsecured with no bracing or interior skins for a few months now.

I pushed around on the AC unit from underneath, but it wouldn't move at all. I got inside the trailer and used a floor jack and a 2x4 to jack the hulk off the roof. I lifted each side with the jack, and placed a piece of cardboard underneath it. The trick was going to be getting it off the roof. I called a neighbor over, and we were able to pull the cardboard towards us enough to get the AC into our arms. Climbing down a ladder with an AC unit weighing over 100 pounds was difficult, and we must have looked nuts.
After removal of the beastly former cooling unit, I had this mess to contend with. The person who installed this unit wasn't satisfied with the AC gasket's ability to do its' job, and laid a thick bead of black sealant that looks more like tar than anything else.

Scraping with a putty knife and my all in one painter tool was getting me nowhere. I decided to pull out the big guns, and put 4.5" wire wheel onto my angle grinder. Between the gasket being torn to shreds and the tar, I blanketed myself, the Airstream, and the driveway with a fine coating of foam and tar. A little lacquer thinner and srubbing with a sponge got me a nice clean look.

The hole you see above was the original hole from the Hehr vent. The corners on the hole are radius curves, and needed to be squared up. A few snips from my metal shears, and the buzz of the grinder to smooth them out and I was all set.

After cleaning up the corners, I dry fit the unit in place to ensure everything fit well.

I added a hole in the roof rib where the 12v wiring will be supplied from. I placed a flexible plastic grommet from Home Depot to ensure the metal wont cut the wires in the future.

Having never installed one of these fans before, I contacted the factory. I was unsure about using the closed cell foam gasket that resembles styrofoam. The factory rep was adamant about using the gasket, and then sealing around the base with sealant as well as over every screw. The rep told me to have someone on the interior push up on the skin with a block of wood where I was screwing the fan in at. Amy felt she was finally up to helping on something with the trailer, and was my helper. With some of the screws, I had to pierce the skin and rib below with a 1/8" drill bit. I installed the fan without the lid on to ease installation, and prevent my keyless drill chuck from rubbing on the lid.

After all the screws were installed, I went around the perimeter and trimmed the gasket foam that was sticking out around some of the edges. A utility knife handled this without any issues.

I reinstalled the vent lid, applied the UV protectant that came with it, and proceeded to seal the edges and screws. The instructions called for silicone, but there was no way I was using it. I went ahead and used the Parbond rubber sealant since the tip was small, and game a manageable bead of sealant. I was concerned about covering the screws, but every other fan install from the factory that I have seen has done this, and not nearly as pretty.

I still need to replace the front hehr vent with a non-fan Fantastic vent. I figure that process will take less than half the time since there is no AC unit to remove, and no tar that will require extensive removal and cleaning. I was pretty nervous about being on the roof with no interior skin in the trailer, but the shell held with no problems.

All for now.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Plans change...they always do.

A few weeks ago I was moving right along on the "FC". The weather is starting to get better, and I just received a slew of parts from Vintage Trailer Supply. My personal time for working on the flying cloud however is nearing the end.

I have been applying for radiological technology in the St. Louis area recently, and I am getting responses. The only problem with the local school programs is that they are full time Monday through Friday for two full years, would cost about $12,000, and would discourage me from working.

Enter the usual culprit, the good old US Army. The Army offers an 12 month radiological technology program that is full time, but pays you while attending. One year instead of two and paid while attending sounds good to me. The first catch is having to reenlist to get the school. This adds three to possibly six years to my military career. The second catch is that I will have to relocate from my home for another year without the family.

My current plan is to full time in San Antonio near Fort Sam Houston. It's cheaper than an apartment by far, and gives me everything I need. I will be in San Antonio for at least six months. At the end of that block of instruction I proceed to an Army hospital for six months hands on clinical work.

I have contacted a few trailer restoration companies about picking up where I have left off. I have done a great deal of work, and saved the next person working on it a lot of time. I will have the "FC" dropped off via flat bed trailer to have a minimum of frame repair, frame painted with POR-15, new plywood floor, front panel replacement, new axle installed, windows reinstalled, 12v wiring run to the old 110v light locations, converter/charger/ac/dc distribution panel installed, two fantastic vents installed, and pigtail hooked up with all running and signal lams working. This gives me a blank canvas that is towable, solid, and ready to finish whenever I am ready. The shop will have a year to work on it in between other projects, so this will help keep the price low. Depending on the shop, I can option having other work done after the initial work is completed. Shop rates quoted so far have been $50, $60, and $68.