Today’s the day! The shell is coming off!
We were so excited to remove the shell from the frame of our trailer as this marks a huge step forward in our renovation progress.
Removing the shell was not a simple or easy undertaking, so while necessary in our process, we would not recommend it for the faint of heart. We’ve shown just a few of the tools necessary below, although we ended up using quite a bit more than those in the long run.
We had previously torn out the interior down to the subfloor, so the first step in the shell removal beyond that was to remove the belt line trim around the outside perimeter of the shell which was attached with pop rivets. We used a drill with a 1/8″ drill bit to remove the rivets.
Next we had to remove the banana wraps and drill out the rivets on the shell extensions attaching to the belly pan (common in 1970 and earlier Airstream models).
From there we used our angle grinder to cut elevator bolts where accessible. These connect the floor channel to the frame. They’re pretty difficult to reach and take quite a bit of work to remove. We had the most success in the rear of the Airstream where the bolts were rusted and there was some rear end frame separation.
After cutting the bolts that we could, we built interior supports to maintain the shape of the shell during the lift. We have a complete post and video of how we built these supports here. We also built the gantries at this time and ordered two hoists to use to raise the shell.
In places where it was too difficult to get to the elevator bolts, we drilled the rivets from the outside, which unfortunately meant that the floor channel in the rear stayed with the shell and the channel in the front stayed with the frame. This was not exactly what we had planned but ended up being the easiest way to disconnect the two major halves of the trailer.
At that point we were ready to do a few test lifts using the gantries and hoists to ensure that the frame and shell were actually separated. We had a few false starts here, so we would highly recommend going very slowly as you start to raise the shell. It’s quite likely that you will find rivets and/or bolts still attached.
Once we were sure that the separation was complete, we hooked up the trailer frame to our truck and prepared to lift the shell. We carefully lifted it little by little from each end (we were using two hoists as you can see in the photos below). This ensured minimal twisting and contorting of the shell during the lift. Once the shell was raised high enough, we drove the frame out from underneath and lowered the shell back down onto six pillars of landscape brick. We spent a considerable amount of time leveling it from front to back and side to side to ensure long term stability, as we aren’t sure how long the shell will be on the ground.
The gantries were then dismantled so that they wouldn’t fall on the shell, and we will set them back up when we’re ready to reattach the frame.
Feel free to check out our photos and video of the process below! As always we are happy to answer any questions you may have, so feel free to drop us a comment or send us an email!