Airstream Case Study

Early in the year, LAS received a phone call asking if they could carry out an electrical conversion on a 1994 Airstream 350LE. After speaking to the owner of the vehicle for some time we discovered he not only required an electrical conversion, but also the road lights modifying and an MOT. The vehicle was transferred directly from Southampton docks to the LAS workshops in Northampton. The first job was to inspect the motorhome in preparation for an MOT which as it transpired, did not need a large amount of work, despite its exterior appearance. The front anti-roll bar bushes were missing, the front wheel bearings were worn and the tyres badly perished. LAS serviced the vehicle and repaired the defects prior to the road light conversion and as I thought at the time, finishing with the 120-volt conversion.

At the time of the electrical conversion, the owner of the vehicle came to visit LAS to check the progress of the job whilst also asking about TVs, DVD players, PlayStations and surround sound. Generally, this type of question would require the customer requesting what they would like, and we would examine both the vehicle and the request and tell you if it can be done. Part of this request included a front TV with a PlayStation fitted through the right-hand locker door and a surround sound system attached to this. We suggested some other ideas which would fit the situation better and he agreed to these.

Unfortunately, when it came to the point of running some of the cables we found that the wooden floor of the cab was rotting significantly, so we called the customer and we were instructed to replace it. The problem with this kind of job is that when you begin it, you tend to look further than before which lead to the discovery that not only was the cab floor rotting, but also the floor of the lounge was experiencing rot. This damage was caused primarily by the drinks cooler, being water fed, which leaked at some point and the floor covering which at one time was carpet was now laminate wood. The leaked water had seeped through the laminated floor and had damaged the underfloor, which then needed to be replaced. Things became even worse when we realised that the water tank under the bed had leaked at some point and had been badly repaired. We contacted the owner to come and inspect these new problems and to suggest the course of action he wanted us to take. He decided that we should remove the laminate flooring and replace the under flooring as necessary. LAS explained that this kind of work could result in further catastrophes in the future, yet the customer still wanted us to replace the floor. You may have guessed it already, but when the laminated floor was removed, and the underfloor was not only damaged but as rotten as the rest of the floor. To complete the job LAS had to remove the water tank, the bed and the furniture, replace the lower floor and replace the join from the vehicle body to the interior floor. Once all of this was finished, the original problem of fixing the laminate flooring could be done – sounds easy, but it took 2 weeks of work.

The owner became more and more excited throughout the project, after having taken away the seats to be recovered, he asked us to remove the dashboard in order to recover that as well. His next request was for the interior blinds to be replaced, and also began asking questions about the exterior of the vehicle. The original owner lived in Mississippi and had started to renovate the vehicle himself, polishing the Airstream aluminium panels. However, the original owner removed some of the lacquer and made a mess of it. So in order to ensure the job was high-quality LAS needed to remove the lacquer and the paint around the windows, within our time constraints. However, this job was placed on the back burner at the time and other jobs received priority for the time being. One of these was the undersealing of the chassis, so the vehicle was placed on the lifts and the underside steam cleaned entirely. This proved to be exceptionally beneficial for the motorhome which had come to England complete with cockroaches and sea spray from the USA. The decision was then made to steam clean the entire body of the vehicle, which managed to remove the paint and lacquer in the more difficult sections.

To make 1994 aluminium shine is not an easy task, even if you have the correct equipment and soaps, but LAS managed to persist in cleaning the 16-year-old metal and were left with a sparkling finish. The owner was originally happy to keep the maroon colour scheme, but as we had already done so much work with the exterior colouring, he decided to change the outer colour to an Airstream blue, which we recommended strongly.

Finished! Nearly. There was still an awning which needed either fixing or replacing and the exterior window blind canvasses were tatty. The awning was replaced eventually, for which we again recommended blue covers, however, the owner was unsure. He finally trusted our judgement and was thrilled with the eventual result.

Many customers visited the LAS workshops and watched the transformation of the Airstream and could not believe what they were seeing, in fact neither could we? The project took many hours of teamwork and an exceptionally high skill level to get a vehicle of that age to the condition which it is now in. As of now, we are not quite finished with the Airstream and have a few parts on order, but we are definitely through the most difficult parts and it is in constant use.