Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Restoring a '61 Airstream

Over the years in aviation, I’ve known quite a few airplane builders and restorers. Their attention to detail and perseverance amaze me -- they work years and years on their planes. Some then fly them a lot, others seem to prefer to work on them or start a new project. I’ve always been more interested in flying than building.

I think it might be the same with vintage Airstreams. Some folks love to tinker with them and their shiny babies hardly ever leave the driveway. Others head on out. My brother is the latter type.

He and his wife have owned a small Airstream for a decade and have logged thousands of miles each winter, spending months in south or southwest U.S. But over a year ago, he bought a tired old ‘61 Airstream, a 24-footer, and has bitten off an awfully-difficult renovation project. Having seen it gutted this summer and thinking, “No way are you traveling with this in December, ” I went up to see the project yesterday. Well, I think they’ll make it.

Having small little fixes to do on our own Airstream, I get tired just thinking of the work he’s doing. Right now, he’s finishing the plumbing -- after having a grey water tank added and completely redoing the belly pan. Later this week, he’ll start the electrical. The walls are all insulated and back in place, painted professionally in a warm yellow. The gaucho is out for recovering, the cupboards are all refinished, the floor is done.

We plan to meet up with them in Big Bend National Park in late January. I’ll look for the shiny vintage Airstream with the Vermont plates. I hope my admiration for Barry and Mica’s skills and energy are apparent: it’s wonderful to see a tired old camper restored to 2010 standards -- but keeping its 1960’s look. It’s tempting to consider a project .... no, I think I’ll just hook up and go.

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