Today a I received a wonderful update from Trailer Buff. Take a good look, YES! That is Elvis’s shell on top of a well-protected floor and frame. Woo HOOO!!!! And this is Frank, Dave’s recent hire, doing a fine job bucking rivets for some huge new sections of skin.
Elvis is getting new side skins from just forward of the wheel wells back to the rear endcaps. Joey is riveting a 12 foot section of Alclad to the streetside while Frank mans the bucking bar from the inside.
The finished streetside. This was done in part to remove the hinged sections above the wheels and restore the wheel wells to their original configuration.
This is the curbside when Elvis was first dismantled showing the old wheel well (hinged section removed) and the curbside trunk.
A positive transformation. A perfectly smooth job with superb riveting. Not an easy feat with pieces this long. These 12 foot panels are the largest skins Trailer Buff has ever had to replace on a restoration.
The front panel under the window needed new skin too. A plank of cardboard is protecting the skin from the spare tire holder during the process.
As far as the bones go, for whatever reason Elvis apparently left the factory lacking the structural support that was standard for any Airstream. I think I’ve mentioned this in an older post. The horizontal ribs between the skins were never attached to the bows.
Rather, they were riveted only to the skins, in some cases only to one side, leaving a rather disjointed and shoddy framework. We can only speculate as to why, but Dave hasn’t seen this on any other trailers, California or Ohio. I still marvel that Elvis traveled the yet unpaved Alaska highway with the Coffman’s from beginning to end without some type of structural failure.
You probably can’t tell in this blown-up detail, but sixty-two horizontal ribs have been replaced using angle brackets to secure them to the bows. Dave was really pleased how the work tightened up the entire framework making Elvis the sound and solid monocoque design he was meant to be.
Shell and frame has been moved together into the main bay, probably for the remainder of the work. The front panel looks great. You’ve gotta love a perfect line of fresh new rivets!
The long contiguous line of the curbside panel is much sleeker without the trunk. The tankless water heater will be located in the original trunk area, so reinstalling the trunk would be pointless and there really isn’t any other location for one. Hey, it’s one less place for leaks. Additional bracing for the awnings and solar panels will be next. Then on to the banana wraps.
Elvis is one piece again. I’m near dancing on the ceiling. There is still tons to do, but this is a huge milestone and a major step towards Elvis being a whole body and soul.
P.S. In spite of being only 50 miles from the epicenter, Elvis and the Trailer Buff crew survived the August 23 Virginia earthquake quite well. An explosive bang and shaky rumbling earth beneath the feet, but no real damage in the shop. Maybe Jerry Lee was trying to horn in with a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on.