Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another couple of days, and a few steps closer

Since my last post, Bob and I have worked a few times on the Flying Cloud. Our first step was to get the front and rear sub floor installed. We spent a few hours one morning taking measurements, and looking at the only piece of flooring that I was able to salvage from the original. By the end of the day, we had both front and rear curves cut and installed. We also installed a long piece of angle aluminum to act as the steel backing plate found in most Airstreams, but not found in the early 50's (at least not on mine).

The next order of business was the front belly pan and panel replacement. The original front panel looks like it had been in a jack knife with both front corners dented, painted, and had bondo filler. It had to be replaced. I took off the front panel first to make it easier to do the front pan.Panel removed, and belly pan ready to put in place

I won't lie...it was a monster. We didn't have a special curved cut in the side of our version, and it completely effected the outcome. Our panel buckled multiple times no matter how we tried to work it, and we decided to call it a day. Bob and I both agreed to look over the forums again to see what we needed to do.

Bad buckling

Buckle in an overlap

After some research, it turns out that the small curves were essential to being able to bend it properly, and give relief. We were able to salvage most of the original piece of 5052 that we used, and will need only a small amount of beautification. It still took awhile, but we were able to get the front pan installed, and had minimal effects on the aluminum from our first attempt. We bent the new panel edges into place, and it fit with very minimal adjusting. We were stoked!

Bob lays the original panel over our first attempt.

Bob finishes the new belly piece (Notice the small curves cut on the rear edges)

Front belly pan at the A frame

While Bob was doing some work with the belly pan, I pulled out a nice new sheet of Alclad, and began laying out the new front panel. I traced the outline for the old sheet, and used a sharpie to hit all the rivet holes for drilling. We took a straight edge down the centers of the sharpie marks to ensure we had good markings on center. After we confirmed we were laid out well, I used a spring loaded punch to make a starting point for the drill bit.

Old on top of new to get a perfect cut

Checking out hole placement with the straight edge.

Starting rivet holes with a spring loaded punch

With the front panel drilled and ready for installation, we installed the front window frame back inside the opening. This would gave us some ribs to rivet to, and help the front curves hold the shape they needed to be in before we installed the panel. With the frame back in place, I decided to reinstall the piece of aluminum that I can only describe as a backing plate. This panel must have been used for rigidity.

Window frame and front ribs back in place.

Backing panel reinstalled

With the backing piece in, Bob and I grabbed the wobbly new front panel. To our surprise, the panel was very easy to bend around the front, and get into place. We placed a cleco in each window corner, and on at the edge of the 13 panel line of rivets. We proceeded to line up the holes on the front panel, and cleco them into place. One by one we pulled the clecos and buck riveted the panel into place.Bob poses after getting the panel roughed in

I drilled the front while Bob pushed the backside with a piece of steel to prevent dimples.

Almost finished with the panel

Making sure the Clecos we re holding

The first in a long line of buck rivets

The front panel was stable and attached to the frontribs. We decided that we had enough time to rivet both sides of the panel to the 13 panel crown. We started working from the window to the outside with our drilling. The rivet holes in the 13 panels crown made it simple to follow. We placed a cleco after each hole was completed. Bob was still pushing on the inside with a piece of steel so we didn't dimple the skin. By now, a good friend of mine named Rob had arrived with his family for dinner, and helped us out. He would pull the cleco out of the hole before Bob and I bucket it in permanently. Every other rivet we moved to opposite side of the panel to prevent it from walking. Rob probably saved us 20-30 minutes of just picking up the cleco pliers every time we finished with a rivet. After a loud 25 minutes, we arrived at rivet nirvana.

Streetside front

Curbside front

We are hopeful that tomorrow we will have a chance to get the front window installed along with two other completed windows, and get the front panel riveted to the C channel.

Hope you enjoyed

Saturday, October 3, 2009

How build a trailer in nine hours

I know it has been several months since my last post, but I have been busy. A couple of weeks ago, Amy and I hosted the 50th Anniversary rally to celebrate Cape Town to Cairo. At the rally, several forum folks were asking me when I was going to have my Flying cloud ready. My reply was, "Never at my current pace without any help!". Several of them said that they would be interested in helping me right the ship so to speak, and we set up October 3rd to meet up and do the work.

I have found that using the three steps below, you can accomplish anything.

Step 1: Recruit outstanding people to help you in your effort. Thank you so much to Mike, Tina, Alan, Rob, Jonathan, Roger, and Bob. Without your help, this project probably wouldn't have gotten to this point for another year. Other than being gracious enough to help with the rebuild, everyone showed up pretty early in the morning (for a Saturday), and some drove from an hour or over two hours away. These people are great friends to do this.

Step 2: Supply BBQ to the workers not once, but twice. I fired up the smoker at around 0700 to cook the chicken and pork shoulder. The chicken was done for lunch, and the pork made excellent dinner. Thank you Tina for bringing the apple/sweet potato dish, and the cookies.

Smoker rolling at 0730

Step 3: Have the right tools for the job. I had most all the tools for the build that were needed, but the fact that everyone brought more tools really helped out. Mike brought his sheet metal tools, and was a great knowledge source for the belly pan. A creeper would have been a great thing to have after rolling around on my back under the belly pan.

Jonathan was the first arrival short after 0800. We had a short discussion, had some breakfast strudel, and started getting things ready. Shortly after we pulled out the wheel wells, Roger, Bob, Alan, and Rob arrived minutes within one another.

We began with centering the wheel wells over the tires, and took measurements for the new Advantech flooring we would be using. Jonathan used it in his, and I read on the forums how great it was. Roger jumped right in and began cutting.

Making sure the wells fit correctly

Bob, Roger, Alan, and Jonathan survey the sheet before cutting

Roger Makes the first crosscut

As most of us were working on the floor and wheel wells, Bob took it upon himself to put in new bracing of the shell. This was a tedious task that he did alone for the most part. It was really being an unsung hero since he was off in his own little world.

Checking the old bracing

Bob decides it needs to be redone

While attaching the first sheet of flooring, Mike and Tina showed up. Mike immediately began screwing down the second sheet of flooring into the frame. At this point there was a small dilemma, and a new piece of plywood was required along with more #2 Phillips head bits, and some decking screws to assist Bob in his bracing. When I returned, the third middle floor section was cut and attached.

Before we could drop the shell, we would have to get the C channel on, and the belly pan. I bolted the channel through each outrigger with a wide head elevator bolt, and bent the end of the bolt over once the nut was fastened tightly. Between the outriggers I used hex headed zinc plated screws with neoprene washers on them. I hope the washers will prevent some of the corrosion that had occurred with the last floor bolts that were installed.

With the middle flooring and C channel installed, we turned out eyes to the belly pan. First temporarily fastened it to the C channel on one side with some Cleco fasteners. After the Clecos were in, we began to form it to the bottom of the belly pan with the help of some pulling, and 2x4's to hold it against the floor bottom. I laid under the trailer and drilled up through the belly pan and the frame to have a good spot to rivet. The frame space just rear of the axle was left open inbetween the main frame rails. This will allow me to accompdate a gray water tank in the future. We dud however wrap from the channel to the main rail.

Cleco Vision

Mike forms the rear wheel well pan

Mike measures while I drill holes, and rivet the pan into place

Mike measures for the partial belly

Roger, Mike, and Alan cutting the partial pan

We finally finished fitting the belly pan for the middle section, and it was time to buck rivet the pan to the channel. I had bought my rivet gun and bucking bar so long ago, and finally I had a chance to use it. I was unsure about the bucking process, but Mike (MASTER of all trades) was very familiar with it. He held the bucking bar and told me to just feather the trigger to mash the buck tail. A few seconds later, I felt like I had mastered the process. Bucking rivets isn't anything like I imagined. It was fast, easy, inexpensive, and very fun. Bob wanted his turn at bucking as well since he will be restoring his Around the World Ambassador. Roger, Jonathan, and myself fell into such a groove while bucking rivets down the line. Jonathan compared us to a NASCAR pit crew since we were moving so fast.

Clamp, rivet, repeat

Roger takes over as the bucker while I hammer the rivets

The pit crew in action

Bob tries his hand at bucking

The weather was starting to get cooler out, and we were losing daylight. We knew we had to get the shell moving if we were to get it done. We rolled the chassis out of the spot we were working on it, and up in front of the shell.


We hooked the chassis up to Alan's truck so when we put weight down, it wouldn't shoot the tongue up in the air. All six of us went inside the trailer and lined up three in front, and three in the back. We lifted the shell by the bracing, and walked forward. I was the first to arrive at the chassis, and had to step over the first cross members, and then onto the first section of flooring. The others followed until we were completely over the frame.


The three young guns prepping to lift

Over the frame shimmying into place

After the shimmy, we were finally in place to stop. The shell is back on, but not completely fastened yet. That will have to be done once I get the new flooring and belly pan in place. It looks a little weird without the fender covers over the wheel wells and missing half the pan, but it doesn't look that bad to me.


Shell on...for at least another 56 years

We cleaned up our giant mess, people loaded their tools into the vehicles, and we proceeded to feast on BBQ and the normal fixings. I am sore, tired, but overall extremely grateful for the friends who game me their Saturday.

Steve