Brad and Julie's 1959 Airstream Trade Wind

 

Purchased via the internet in northern California in early September 2001, our Trade Wind needed alot of work. My wife and I heard about this unit over the VAC classifieds page and I emailed back and forth with the seller. After seeing some pictures, we decided to fly out and take a look at it. The trailer was structurally sound externally and there was enough to start with on the inside. We had been looking for this floorplan for quite a long time. This is just what we were looking for and we were very excited to get it home and start the restoration process.

Originally, the "Silver Twinkie" was without any 12 volt system and didn't have any waste water tanks. This created quite a few challenges, but more on that later. The original fridge was missing as well as the kitchen countertop and sink. The original Princess stove looked as if it had hardly been used. We brought home a Dometic M52 that didn't work but I was planning on using it for parts for the one I had at home. I eventually sold the two Dometics and applied the money towards a larger and newer unit.

Without knowing the history of the trailer, how many miles it had traveled and the fact that it had hydraulic brakes, it was retrofitted with a new axle, electric brakes, drums, rotors, break-away switch, rims and tires.

All new plumbing was done with the old stuff being removed. The waste water plumbing was all cast iron and the trailer gave a sigh of relief when all of that was removed. The fresh water lines were placed with PEX.

Our vintage unit was outfitted with new propane tanks, regulator and new copper lines. The rear window glass was broken and that was an easy fix once new window moulding arrived. The rectangular vent cover was missing and a temporary cover was made from milk-white plexiglas and sandwiched the trailer body with 1 x 2's and bungy cords. That lasted until one could be made from aluminum angle and two clear lexan with a thermal barrier between them.

The interior is where most of our restoration time and dollars were spent. The original honduran mahogany was covered with four coats of paint. Even the interior aluminum walls were painted several times with the last one having a rough texture that resembled stucco. What a mess it was to remove all of this. The paint was removed from the aluminum walls with Aircraft Stripper. This is some nasty stuff and special precautions need to be taken. When removing the paint from the woodwork, you could tell the era when a layer was painted by the color of the paint. With the exception of polishing, that took care of the exterior.


Here's What I Brought Home in September 2001

These pictures were taken before any work began. As you can see, the inside needed some attention. Somebody really liked green and brown. The kitchen countertop was missing along with the sink and faucet. The blue bathroom cabinet was in shambles and it too was without a sink or countertop. A smaller cabinet with a sink is planned for the future. The wrought iron TV shelf had to go.


The Restoration Process Begins

Over the next 10 months, our Trade Wind underwent many changes and renovations. These improvements were made before the last week in June 2002, when we set out on a 4400 mile round trip to Michigan. These are some photos of the restoration process. The dinette was enlarged to accomodate the new poly 28 gallon water tank. An enclosed Group 27 battery and Intelli-Power with Charge Wizard were installed.


Getting it Back Together

After the trailer interior was torn apart, things were starting to happen. The booth needed some reinforcing and was reconstructed to accomodate the new water tank and a new 12 volt Aqua-Jet water pump. A refurbished Dometic fridge was fitted in the old opening and later vented with two 12 volt computer muffin fans. A hole was cut into the outside wall under the galley cabinet to fit the new 2 way Suburban 10 gallon water heater. I'm still deciding what to do with the cover besides painting it silver. The original water heater was under the bathroom cabinet in the rear, which we were not going to use. It was 110 volt only and would not suit our purpose when we boondock. Some of the mahogany cabinetry in the front was damaged due to the large vent cover missing. We repaired the damaged areas and covered them with mahogany veneer.


Final Stages of Restoration

Custom quilts were made for us by Julie's dad in Missouri. We picked out the colors and he made the most beautiful quilts for the twin beds. Some of the original chrome pieces to the stove and cooktop were pitted and had surface rust. We had them rechromed and had the covers for the furnace and stove vent chromed at the same time as well as the dinette area wall lights.


Once the trailer was ready to travel, we took a short ride up the freeway to see how it would tow. All went well but the entry door came open. We'll have to do something to take care of that on our two week trip to Michigan. Everything else faired quite well.


Our Travels

After packing up the trailer and bungeeing the door, we headed out on our extensive maiden voyage. This would truly be an adventure because I've not towed a trailer before. Outside of Flagstaff, the entry door flew open and came off the trailer, just pulled the rivets right out. It was a quarter of a mile down I-40 just off the driving portion of the freeway. That was an incredibly long walk. We put it back on in Gallup, New Mexico, our first overnight stay. The rest of the trip came off without any problems. We did lose a passenger side towing mirror meeting a semi on Highway 56 somewhere in Kansas. The picture on the left is our campsite in Liberal, Kansas. The one on the right is Weco Campground on the shore of Lake Michigan. We had this campground all to ourselves, if you don't count all of the bugs. That was a fun trip. We wouldn't have done it without the Airstream.


In October 2002, we went to our first Vintage Airstream Club Rally in Santa Maria, California. We didn't really know what to expect and had a good time meeting our friend that we bought the trailer from. She was amazed at the transformation of our diamond from the rough. I enjoyed seeing other vintage units and learning all I could about their history. We stopped at several places along the ocean as we are desert dwellers and can't seem to get enough of the ocean.


In June 2003, we joined some online friends at Heron Lake State Park in northern New Mexico. We had a good time meeting people from the 'AirstreamForums.com' website. We had a total of 15 Airstream/Argosy trailers and motohomes turn out. The picture on the right is Rob & Shari's '64 Globetrotter during the Open House tour.


Polishing

Next is the process of polishing. I’ve experimented with a variety of polishing products and buffers after reading about others’ experiences on AirForums.com. Several compounds were used including Rolite and Nuvite. The Nuvite worked the best but in some places, the Rolite worked better as the first ‘cut.’ Don’t let anyone fool you, polishing a vintage Airstream is a labor-intensive and messy job but the results are well worth the effort..


Made with Macintosh


All Photos ゥ 2009 ADventures