Bringing back a 40 year old camper is not an easy task. There are some things we wish we would have known before we dove into the deep. Let’s start with a little history on a Airstream Argosy
History: Argosy trailers were made by Airstream Company starting 1971 in Versailles, OH. near Jackson Center, and are usually recognized as “Painted Airstreams”. Many features were first tried out on the Argosy models, and then incorporated into the more traditional Airstreams if they were a success. A good example is the large front wrap windows. These painted trailers were able to utilize steel end caps and aluminum panels that were damaged or blemished. Argosy created a series of diminutive trailers in the ’70’s called the “Minuet”. There was the 6.0 Metre (20?), the 6.7 Metre (22?), and a 7.4 Metre (24?) Minuet.
Beginning in 1974 Airstream began manufacturing a Class A motorhome, badged “Argosy”. These began as painted aluminum 20- and 24-foot models, and were followed in 1979 by the first of their Classic model motorhomes, with an unpainted aluminum body, much like the trailers they are known for. In actuality, these were modified trailers, mounted on a step van chassis also modified for the motorhome.
The first Argosy trailer was put on the market April 1971. (1972 Model)
The first Argosy motorhome introduced December 1973.
The Rehab Project: What do you do first? It can be overwhelming. More than likely, you have pulled your Argosy to a location where the renovation will take place. You probably did an initial inspection and did due diligence to pull it. Or maybe you had it lifted and towed to your designated area. Either way, you are dealing with a 40+ year old frame.
Step 1 the frame: Inspect the Frame! Crucial to the future of your travel experience. Your frame is going to have rust and perhaps some corrosion. The faster you deal with the frame, the more you can renovate. There are 3 crucial areas of the frame. 1. Axle 2. Outriggers (the camper sits on these) 3. the under frame. These have to be looked at and or fixed.
How do you fix or repair a frame? That’s a good question. It’s either going to be repairable, or you are buying a new frame. If the frame has corrosion which means there are holes in it, it has cancer. That cancer is spreading and will break down your frame to where it’s unusable. If your frame has rust and little corrosion, you can save it and even repair it. We sanded, scraped, and removed ALL the rust on the frame, and then used POR-15 to paint the entire frame to rust proof it.
Step 2 the tear down: You have to ask yourself one question: How far are you willing to go? Renovating a 40 year old Airstream Argosy is going to take on a long journey. Buckle up!!! It’s one thing to remove all the old interior. It’s another to gut it. I mean floor, walls, insulation, wiring. How far do you want to go? If your answer is: “I just want a remodel”. Then you are probably only going to live it in and have it parked. If your answer is; “I want to travel the country”. Gut it, and go to Step 3
Step 3 rivets, lots of rivets: Learn how to remove bucket rivets. Hint, automatic spring hole punch and a 5/32 drill bit is the key. We also bought a Air Pop Rivet Gun for cheap at Tractor Supply. When re riveting the Belly Pan, we used Large Flange Rivets – 5/32″ Diameter to help secure the belly pan to the frame. We did not need a new Belly Pan.
Step 4 panels: Or inner walls are long. 2 of the side panels will be at least 22 feet long. It will take two people to remove them from the Argosy. This is where you will get a feeling of…Oh crap! The top ceiling panel is in between two grooved moldings. The moldings are also riveted in. You will notice that most renovated Argosy’s that you see don’t have the center ceiling panel. There’s a reason why. It’s not easy to come off. Once you bend it, it’s over.
Step 6 the sub-floor: This is where the rubber meets the road in your rehab project. This is also where you will probably find dead things, mice, snakes, etc. that have nested in the insulation under the sub-floor. Our sub-floor was rotted mainly in the front, back, and by the door. The rest of the subfloor wasn’t that bad. But we took out the entire floor nonetheless. Read, How to Remove a Airstream Subfloor.
Tip: The entire camper sits on the sub-floor. You are NOT taking the sub-floor out without removing the bolts that are holding the camper on the frame. Everything in an Airstream Argosy is inter connected with each other. This is how your Argosy has lasted 40 years. They are built well.
Step 7 Remove the Pink Stuff:Removing the pink insulation is a good idea. Why? It get’s wet and will keep everything moist. Ants, bugs, and creatures (especially mice) love this stuff to nest in. Please wear gloves and a mask to remove all the insulation. We removed ours from underneath the sub-floor and did NOT replace it. However we did replace the inner skin insulation, this is how we did it.
After all of this, then you are finally able to start planning your design and plot how you will re-build.