AIRSTREAM RENOVATION: Putting the Shell Back On! (6 months later...)

And we are back with more Airstream renovation!

Now that we've gotten mostly moved in and settled with our new full time RV living situation, it was time to get back to work on Serenity. At this point we have two big steps left to make her mobile again and that is to:

  1. Get the shell back on
  2. Get the new axels and wheels on

After the events of last fall, the shell was left sitting in Lacie's parents front yard. It sustained a little bit of damage when it slid off the frame on the fateful night, so the first thing I gotta do is go through and straighten out all the dents and edges so that I can get it to sit properly on the frame. That turned out to be a way simpler process than I originally thought it was going to be. Turns out all I had to do was straighten one of the ribs that had taken the majority of the load when it hit the ground, once that was straight the rest of it followed(for the most part)

big dent in the side of the airstream from falling

Raising the shell

Now that most of the damage is straightened out we needed figure out how exactly we were going to lift up the shell to get it back onto the frame. My first thought was to rent a big crane and lift it up and place down onto the frame. But that would have been a big expense as well as have required more people to help. We'd need a crane driver, 2 or 3 people to handle the shell while it's suspended to keep it from swinging and rotating, and then 2 people fitting the shell into the c-channel as it's being lowered.

I also thought of building onto the wooden truss that was already inside the shell from when I lifted it off the frame, adding on to it in a way that would allow a group of people to easily lift it up and set it on the frame. But that would again require a good number of people, and while it didn't come with the cost of a crane, it was more dangerous and risky.

So my father-in-law and I put our heads together and came up with a simple way to lift the shell up without needing lot of people and it was cheap and relatively safe: cinder blocks. Using the pole jacks and the existing truss, I would lift up the shell on one end high enough to place a board on 1 pair of cinder blocks. I would then lower the shell to rest on the board. Next I would raise the other end and do the same thing. I repeated this process until I had 4 pairs of cinder blocks stacked on both ends.

This gave us the height we needed to roll the frame underneath.

Just a little PTSD

Aligning the Frame

We awakened the frame from its slumber underneath the tarp that was keeping it safe from water damage, rolled it out and underneath the shell. Thankfully the neighbors volunteered to help on this part because we had to do that last bit by hand which actually made it easier to get it aligned with the shell. This part was a lot easier than I had initially suspected which came at great relief. I thought it would be rather difficult which is why I originally avoided this method. But you live, you learn.

Dropping the shell

Hopefully not on the ground again.... 🥴

The plan here is to reintroduce the pole jacks now that the frame is in the right place underneath the shell. This time they will sit on top of the subfloor, just like it never fell it off, and we will slowly lower the shell back onto the frame and into the c-channel (this time with everything going smoothly).

Everything went swimmingly until.... we got to the back. I couldn't get the shell to fit, the subfloor and c-channel was too wide so I realized I would have to trim some more of the subfloor in order to pull in the c-channel. I thought this might happen back when I cut the subfloor last summer but I wanted to be sure I had enough subfloor instead of too little.\

So we take a quick break from lowering so that I can trim just 1/8th of inch off the back corner and that worked like a charm.

Now with it the correct width once again we finished lowering the shell. Because it was still slightly bent, the shell was not quite as wide as it was supposed to be, so we had to do a lot of pushing and forcing to get it in. But in it went. THE SHELL WAS FINALLY BACK ON.

Though by this point it was late and dark, so we secured it down with straps to make sure it didn't go anywhere and in the morning we riveted it in place! Now she won't be going any where any time.

The next project is to get the new axels on and then we will be able to wheel her wherever we need to in order to keep up the renovations. For now we throw the tarp on and call it good.

About the Author
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Ben Figueiredo

I make a living as a filmmaker & Website Designer, Telling Stories, creating content for businesses, entrepreneurs and even couples getting married. As a Five on the Enneagram, I love learning. Absorbing as much knowledge I can. I am into Biohacking, holistic wellness, and Rewilding so that I can be the best version of me to enjoy life with my family connecting with nature, our community, and God.

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