American Airstream Motorhomes in excellent condition are difficult to find, which is unusual considering Airstream only ceased production some 20 years ago. It is rare to be able to find a decent one, but if you can it is worth spending the money on buying it.
One of our customers managed to find a half finished one in America, the outside was in excellent condition with a smart maroon paint job and new awnings had been fitted. Although the vehicle on the outside looked impressive, the interior was the problem. Our first look at the inside was from pictures only (never a good thing), the interior had been removed and some of the floor had been replaced. One of the big failings of American Airstream Motorhomes is the floor, the sealing between the aluminium sides of the motorhome and the floor is not that good and can let in water, causing the wood to rot. When this happens the gap between the aluminium body and the floor becomes greater and the problem develops even further.
Our customer decided to purchase the vehicle with an interior make over in mind. As I mentioned the pictures showed some of the interior removed and the under floor exposed, as well as having a foot note at the bottom of one of the pictures with a reassuring note on it saying “None of the interior parts are missing”. The customer then rang me and told me that he had decided to purchase the Airstream, and started to explain what he wanted the interior to look like.
One thing to remember when purchasing a vehicle this way is that you never know what to expect and always expect the unexpected. The new owner to be was told that the entire exterior had been completely re-furbished, and it was in very good mechanical condition with a full and complete interior.
The day arrived when the new owner came to LAS with his new Airstream motorhome that he had collected 20 hours before from the docks. I took a look at it and was pleasantly surprised to find that the interior had been put back together again and the exterior looked great, this is not what I had expected.
It was late so the vehicle was parked in the garage overnight and was to be started first thing in the morning. The vehicle was inspected mechanically and was actually worse than I had expected, with items such as flexible brake hoses perished, a brake master cylinder leaking,and the wishbone bottom ball joints were worn out. Also the chassis was rather rusty so an underseal was on the agenda.
Whilst the electrical addition was being carried out, we had time to accustom ourselves with the interior layout as it is amazing what you come across when fitting the 230 volt cabling. The interior needed to have a “wow” factor, although the quality and look had to stay within the original 1990 era.
The entire interior was completely removed which made it look a bit like a cigar lube, these drastic measures were needed as the interior walls and ceiling were to be recovered. Removing the old covering and glue took lot of time and effort. The improvements started when the roof and ceiling were re-covered, it now began to look quite good. A lot of the original wood was looking very old with all different colours due to bleaching from the sun. Some of the panels were so bad they had the lacquer peeling off them. The decision was made to make new panels where needed, and also to make a panel in the centre of the roof to house some LED lights which needed to be dimmable. At this stage the overhead lockers from the drivers and passengers seats to the entrance door were to be left out as mood lighting was to be added later. All this may sound easy to do, but for starters the dimming LED lights needed to run at 36 volts enabling the dimmer (wireless) to be added. Without the overhead lockers the wooden window pelmets looked daft, so we had to make some new tops which would also have to house the mood lighting.
When the wooden floor was fitted, this brought the floor level up to 15mm which does not really sound a lot until you start to fit the interior. With the extra thickness of the new roof lining and the floor, things like the overhead lockers do not fit like they used to.
Once you start these projects you have to be careful not to get carried away, but on the other hand if you don’t get everything just right and cut corners, you will notice it with the end result not being as good as what it should be. Some things that were suggested to do I didn’t think would work, such as gold venetian blinds, although when fitted they looked superb. Red leather seats and a grey dash board was the next request, I was unsure about this too, but all in all it turned out well and I must admit looked tremendous. Our customer was delighted with the end result.