Guys. It’s July. We have ONE MONTH to get Stella road ready before our trip! We are definitely feeling the pressure these days and it feels like we are back at square one with the build. Everything is old again and we spent the month of June removing all the old out of the Airstream, cleaning up the grime and gunk so we can get things ready for paint and pretties, practically ordering the entire internet, and just planning out what does and doesn’t need to be done for us to go on our first trip on August 3rd. So let’s recap how far we got!
IN JUNE WE:
— removed practically everything! We took off most things riveted to the outside of the airstream (emblems, lights, vents, etc.), carefully uninstalled the windows that were left in tact, took out all of the old aluminum wiring, and removed the rest of the interior walls. This led to a surprise, though. Unbeknownst to us, the two rear curbside panels had been replaced at some point in Stella’s life and so the seams on those panels were littered with olympic rivets. We’re grateful that her owners at the time of her damage thought to replace the panels and it looks like the job was done well and done right (we assume it was fixed in the factory), but we knew we had to replace those potentially leaky olympic rivets with buck rivets. It’s funny because once we’d discovered that those two panels had been replaced, we started looking around the exterior and there were so many things that indicated such could’ve happened that we never saw before; probably because we were novices in the airstream game but it’s just funny looking back thinking things like, “oh, well of course we should’ve been suspect that this piece had been replaced – the A & M on the airstream logo is riveted on from the front and the others aren’t!” or “well duh, look at the heads of THESE rivets compared to theeeese rivets.” Oh well. What’s the harm in replacing another 100 rivets at this point. Chump change compared to the rest of the Airstream ;)
— removed all the old insulation and began cleaning things up! We rolled up the walls for safe keeping until we are ready to clean them, but I test cleaned one spot and HOLY COW those wall panels were dirty!! Also, Stella looks so much bigger with everything removed from the interior and the lights reflecting off that nice shiny aluminum. It gets really exciting looking at her like that! We started scraping off old seals from around the windows and doors – it’s hard, by the way, without a little liquid help (
read-MEK), and Casey test cleaned some of the bars for the windows and they clean up so well! Lots of cleaning in our future.
— washed the bottom wall panels and worked on removing the air conditioner “thing” from the roof. The walls cleaned up pretty well! We intend to paint over the existing texture that’s on the walls so we were mainly focused on just getting the real yuckies off and it seems to have worked. I power washed the bottoms for a bit but it was mostly hand scrubbing; the power washer wasn’t doing as well to get everything off as I had hoped it would’ve, but the job went quick regardless. Casey’s job, on the other hand, was a booger. Our previous owners were firm silicone believers and boy did they ever cover the roof in that crap! Casey had a hell of a time trying to get that air conditioning thing off. But he’s awesome so of course he got the job done.
— drilled out all of the olympic rivets and began replacing them with buck rivets instead. It was a job both Casey & I did together so there aren’t many pictures but I do have a video of Casey drilling out some olympic rivets — which, we discovered, it’s easier to center punch the olympic rivets than it is to drill them out. But watch out, whoever is on the inside while this happens, because those center mandrils FLY AT YOU when you aren’t expecting it! ;) Also we received and test fitted our Fan-Tastic Vents! LOVE!
— we cleaned some more… more sealants and old caulking to remove. ALWAYS more to remove it seems. BLAH. We did read and discover that MethylEthylKetone (MEK) is the way to go. Sure it’s carcinogenic and can cause severe damage if used improperly, but by God it works so much better to remove the old yucks than just a scraper did. I worked on all the windows while Casey worked on all the crap + silicone on the roof. There aren’t many glamorous pictures of this step either because I certainly didn’t want to touch my phone while covered in grossness. I found my best plan of attack for removing the black seals around the windows & doors was using a squirt bottle of MEK and a toothbrush & scraper, plus a beer can filled with MEK to rinse off my toothbrush and a rag/paper towel. I’d just squirt a bunch of MEK at the top of the window frame and let it run down all the sealant I needed to remove, let it sit for 30 seconds, then start scraping it all off. Once most of the big stuff was off, I’d bust out the toothbrush and start scrubbing the remnants off while continuously squirting the frame down with MEK. The MEK flashes fast but man it’s worth the investment. Casey even got it to work on the silicone up top!
— WE CITRI-STRIPPED!!!! Guys, this was so so so so satisfying! We knew we wanted to remove the old clear coat that was on the airstream but mano did that citri-strip do a good job doing it! We were shocked; it was like night and day. And so easy! Just paint the citri-strip on, wait for at least 30 minutes, and scrape off. Voila! Clean up with some soapy water and you’ve practically got yourself a brand new airstream. It’s weird how the stripper gets kind of soft looking as it begins to break down the top coat.. I tried to show that in the 3rd picture. And the second picture shows the three stages of stripping; the left side has stripper on, while the top right hasn’t been stripped and the small bottom right section has been. Also mind you, it didn’t make the aluminum perfect looking; there are some spots that are still blemished and will polish out when we get there but overall she looks so much better than before. While we waited the 30 minutes between coats we did productive things like drill out the rivets between the pieces of old belly pan we are replacing with new (the parts that curve under to attach the body to our new belly pan), clean up the frame for the solar dome, remove the rest of the lights and things we didn’t get to before (so we can strip underneath of them) and the boys put in some more buck rivets where olympic rivets were before.
Top NOT stripped, Bottom stripped.
— we got our rock guard in the mail and we love it! Can’t wait to put it on. Also, we citri-stripped the other half of the airstream AND the polishing compounds came in the mail as well so of course Casey tried his hand at it. Boy does Stella polish up pretty! It’s amazing what just one stage of that polishing compound does; can’t imagine how amazing she will look after all three stages. Unfortunately, we are going to have to save the polishing for after our first trip; there are just too many things to do that are more important right now. But soon she will be a mirror!
— we convinced our friend Mark to join the aluminum side!!! A few weeks ago he had been out driving and stumbled upon an Airstream in a neighboring town and had inquired about it for us; the owner was willing to sell it! Mark told us all the details about it giving us first dibs, but was interested in the Airstream himself. Considering that we have a lot on our plates right now we told Mark if he was serious about it he should definitely buy it – AND THEN HE DID!!! We helped him tow the airstream to its temporary home and we geeked out a bit towing an airstream for the first time, even if it wasn’t ours. We were super happy and mildly jealous of Mark. Hopefully the next Airstream we stumble across like that will be ours! 31 feet of 70’s glory. We LOVE that front window with the rock guard!
— butyl taped and cleco-ed the lights on! Originally our plan was to do the first stage of polish underneath all of the things we would be reattaching to the airstream (vents, lights, etc) and then doing the rest of the polishing at a later time. But as I mentioned earlier, even the initial stage of polishing just became too time consuming with all the OTHER (
more important) things we have to get done before August, so Casey & I talked it over and we chose to shelf the polishing all together ( for now) which made it possible for us to start putting things back on the Airstream sooner rather than later. Yay! We don’t have the right size rivets yet; we had to order some from Fastenal, but they should be in after the holiday weekend and we can get those things attached permanently. And great news – the lights work :)
— power washed the lower panels of the walls thanks to some help from our friends! I had volunteered my friend Gloria to help me power wash the lowers. I thought cleaning the lowers was going to be like the tops, where the power washing didn’t do much so we would need to hand scrub both the pieces as well. I was wrong on ALL accounts. My first mistake was that there were only two panels… We took the lower panels off at the very beginning of our restoration adventure (
read – Feb 2015 maybe!?) so I had forgotten how many there were! There were lower panels coming out of the shop left and right it felt like so I was glad to have recruited some help. As opposed to two panels, we had like 15! But luckily I was also wrong about the power washing not working. Most of the grime just came right off under the pressure of the water! And whatever was left Mark scrubbed off with a broom and wam bam thank you ma’am we were done cleaning all the lower panels in 45 minutes. WOO! Plus the weather was IDEAL so it made the whole thing even better. Win win all around.
Aaaand that was the last thing we got accomplished before the 4th of July weekend! We go to the Lake of the Ozarks every year for the 4th. We ended up spending 5 days away (Thursday 30 June – Monday 4 July) and while it was super duper fun, now is crunch time and we will be spending every moment we aren’t at our jobs or eating down at the shop working on Stella. LITERALLY.
Our list of things to do before August 3rd includes:
– install windows
– install vents
– install AC
– install lights
– install rock guard
– re-install walls
– have Jordan weld some holes in the aluminum
– cut patches
– install patches to exterior
– put in the last of the rivets to the body
– cut aluminum for belly pan pieces
– finish belly pan
– put all trim pieces on
– seal ALL seams on the Airstream
– check for leaks
– spare tire (buy tire, already have wheel)
– buy lock for door (looking for keypad with knob – why is it so hard to find?!)
– re-screen the screen door
– install seals for windows/doors
– paint the roof
– paint the interior?! could get shelved for after our trip.
– license & title Stella
And that doesn’t even include the stuff I forgot to put on my list, or all the stuff we have to do to prep that doesn’t involve working on the Airstream — like buying things for our trip! GAH! Pressure is on. The days are flying by. We aren’t 100% positive Stella will make the first trip in August, but we are working every day to hopefully get her there. If she doesn’t get finished in time, that’s okay too.. we can always sleep in my family’s camper since they are going with us. But why have a goal if you are quick to give up on it?! So we are trying. REALLY REALLY hard. Keep your fingers crossed for us that we make it! We’re going on vacation in 25 days! OMG!