Deciding on Airstream Insulation? – Vintage Airstream Argosy Renovation

Airstream Insulation is a highly debated topic among the airstream forums. Theres spray foam, reflectix, mineral wool, fiberglass, recycled denim, foam board and more. There are so many options and differing opinions.

thermasheath-foam-board-insulation-787264-64_1000We researched, debated and changed our minds. We have finally decided on two layers of polyisocyanurate  (PIC) rigid foam board. It’s water resistant and has a R value of 6 per one inch of thickness. We have a 1.5″ gap in the wall for insulation so we’re going to layer a 1″ and .5″ foam board for a combined R value of 9. Thats the highest we could get out of any of the products.

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Roxul was a close second option and we still may need to use it for the endcaps. Mineral wool is great because its very heat resistant, doesn’t grow mold, and is pest resistant. If we split a batt to the thickness we need we would get about an R value of 6.

We decided against the popular spray foam insulation for a couple of reasons. To be done correctly, it should be applied by a professional and its very expensive. We don’t want our wiring to be difficult to get to. We’re wiring the whole trailer ourselves and trying to anticipate all our electrical needs and additions, but if we need to access it in the future we would prefer not to destroy our insulation to get to it.

Another factor that influenced our Airstream insulation decision, is that we’re waiting on all our wiring to arrive. We can go ahead and get the insulation done while we wait and we can easily run the wiring over the top of the foam board. We’ll be one step closer to putting the walls back up!

This is all in theory for now, the giant foam boards are waiting to be measured and cut. We will score them with a utility knife to follow the curves and then seal the seams with foil tape. The last step will be applying double sided tape and foam sill seal (polystyrene roll) to cover all the ribs. I’ve read a couple folks have done this and it seems like a great way to help prevent the ribs from conducting cold and heat from the outer skins to the inner skins.

We’ll update with photos and let you all know if we run into any issues as we begin the insulation process, so make sure to follow our blog to receive updates!

 

Here are some of the blogs, groups and resources that helped us when researching Airstream insulation –

Air Forums

Airstream Addicts

Airstream Argosy Owners

Beahmstream

The Greatleys

 



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History of the Airstream Argosy

Today we’re excited to explore the history of the Airstream Argosy!

ArgosyWe’ve been getting to know our Airstream Argosy for about 7 months now. We bought it sight unseen in January, and knew it was a big project. It was completely gutted and had no floors, but we saw the potential to build our very own dream rig.

We love all things vintage and currently live and travel in our vintage Fiber Stream travel trailer. When we started considering a larger space, this unique travel trailer came right to us! We had loved the style and look of the Argosy, ever since we found out about them, so we jumped at the opportunity to own and renovate one!

So what is an Airstream Argosy exactly? We’re going to tell you all about the airstreams long lost cousin.

What Inspired the Airstream Argosy?

Originak Argosy LayoutsIn the 1970’s Airstream wanted to create a mid-price option for buyers, with the same great design and features of the classic airstream. They opened a plant in Versailles, OH and the first Argosy’s were released in April 1971. Argosy’s were almost identical to airstreams, but with some twits. They were painted, the endcaps were made of steel (because it was more cost effective) and it was the first experiment with the front wrap around windows. They had many layout options to choose from, ours was originally had a rear bath and two twin beds. In our new layout, it will more closely resemble the Argosy 28 double bed model with the center bath.

Minuets

 

The Airstream Argosy also experimented with “Minuet” models, which were much lighter an designed to be towed by cars. The Minuets were a foot narrower and the first years even had aluminum floors and partitions. They were made from 1977-1979 and had 3 different sizes –  the 6.0 Metre (20′), 6.7 Metre (22′), and 7.4 Metre (24′) Minuet. We have the 7.4 Minuet and its unique size makes it easy to tow, but does present some challenges in trying to re-arrange the original layout because of the width.

In 1973 they released a class a Motorhome branded with Argosy which eventually led to the classic shiny airstream motorhome.

The Airstream Argosy plant closed in 79′ due to the economy during the fuel crisis. It reopened in 1986 with some wild new designs with fiberglass end caps and a square design. These models were nicknamed the “squarestream.”

 

At first, the Argosy’s were not welcomed in Wally Byam Caravan Club or allowed to participate in their activities, due to their “almost airstream” status. Today, Argosy trailers are recognized as rare and unique part of the airstream history. They are welcome at Airstream events and rallies across the country.

 

Why are They Painted?

Some say that the Argosy was painted because they used imperfect, lower grade aluminum or discards from the Airstream factory and the paint may have hidden scratches, dents or discoloration. Other folks would disagree because many have been stripped and polished and showed no imperfections. The end caps are steel though, so they won’t polish up and would have to be painted anyways. I personally think this was probably one of the biggest reasons to paint the whole trailer.

argosy-1

 

We will be stripping the paint off our Argosy soon, to prepare for a new paint job. We may leave some shiny aluminum exposed, depending on the quality of the aluminum. We’ve removed the vinyl stripe and so far so good, but we’ll let you know what else we find under there!

Our Airstream Argosy Renovation Journey

Its been a difficult journey tackling a project this big and essentially rebuilding a trailer from the floor up, with no experience whatsoever. We’ve learned a lot of skills and start each day willing to work hard and do our best. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and theres still a long way to go, but we’re getting there.

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If you want to see what we’ve done so far, check out our post – Vintage Airstream Renovation: Subfloor, Frame & Axels This process took much longer than expected, but we have a solid foundation and we’re ready to start wiring, insulation and plumbing soon!

Sources

If you want to read more about the history of the Airstream Argosy, these are the articles I referenced for info – by Airstream and Tin Can Tourists

 

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Creating an Airstream Floor Plan

We have the Argosy in one piece and can finally get to work on the Airstream floor plan! Can I get a Hallelujah?! It’s been a long journey to get to this point, 6 months to be exact, but here we are. We have a nice sturdy reinforced frame, new axles with an added lift, new wheels and a new subfloor. The foundation of our new home on wheels.

You can read more about that process here – Vintage Airstream Renovation: Subfloor, Frame & Axles

We can finally walk around in the trailer and get a feel for our space. That means its time to make some decisions about our Airstream floor plan layout so we can plan our plumbing and electrical systems.

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I started playing around on Sketchup when we were still enjoying our winter in the Arizona desert. I had some very boring 2D layouts to start and then worked up to 3D models of those layouts. I’m no expert and I’ve got a lot to learn still, but my skills improved a lot in that time.

I’ve tried probably 30 variations of different layouts and rearranged and designed for hours on end. It really helped me narrow down my options and conceptualize the space. I even decorated a little and added some personalized touches, to make it feel more homey. Theres really no limit to what you could do, but my capabilities stop there. I was not about to attempt the curved walls!

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These are the top two options we like right now. We originally thought we would have a front bed and rear bath due to the width of our trailer and the original Airstream floor plan, but we really wanted to find a way to make the rear bed work. Here’s what we came up with. There’s always a trade off, so we’ve really had to determine what our priorities are.

If we want the separation from our living area and sleeping area, then that means we have to have either a split bath or side bath. It’s not as open of a floor plan as the front bed/rear bath but it really gives us that separation and we can have our dinette right under those beautiful wrap around windows.

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The split bath gives a nice open space in front, but the bathroom and shower would be butted right up to the bed and create kind of a cave like situation. Sounds cozy or claustrophobic. I for one don’t like the idea of having to change the sheets with four closed in corners again.

The side bath would be over the passenger side wheel well and creates less flow, but allows some walking room and a closet in front of the bed. Clothes storage is very limited in the other option.

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I’ve been taping off the layouts with painters tape on the subfloor to get a feel for the space and it really makes a difference. I’m still tweaking things and adjusting boundaries a few inches here and there to make everything as functional as possible. I’ll probably try some subtle variations of these until I get it just right.

I’m sure you can probably tell which option I’m leaning towards, but let us know what you think!

I’m interested to know, what was the selling point for your Airstream floor plan?

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Airstream Renovation: Subfloor, Frame & Shell Removal

Our vintage Airstream renovation began in March 2018. The task at hand: completely renovate a 24 foot, 1979 Airstream Argosy to be used for full time RV travels.

When we purchased this Airstream, it was already demo’d (this is a good thing) and had no subfloor (this is a blessing & curse).

In this blog post we’ll show you PHASE ONE of the project. This first phase includes rebuilding the frame, installing new axels with lift, and building a completely new subfloor.

If you want to follow our renovation in real-time, head over to our YouTube channel and smash that subscribe button! Here’s a chronological playlist of all the renovation videos:

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We quickly realized the first step forward would actually be a step backwards. In order to properly install our new subfloor and fix the “c” channels we had to preform the “full monty.”

In case you don’t know – the full monty is an Airstream renovation term that means removing the aluminum shell from the frame (we’ll get into this in just a bit).

Back to the demo: Here’s a video of us unriveting the walls & the underbelly.

It was SUPER important to have two things for this project – an awesome drill and high quality drill bits.

We used a cheap drill at first and the jobs took twice as long.

Airstream Renovation Demolition

Time to get the full monty underway! From our research, there are two ways to preform the shell removal: build an inner frame and jack the shell up or build a large pulley system and lift the shell off.

We decided to go with the first option. Fortunately, we had our friends, Mortons on the Move, to help us with this step.

Constructing an inner wooden frame is VERY important. This will prevent the aluminum shell from warping and bending out of shape. It also gives us a good structure to stabilize the frame once lifted.

Airstream Renovation Shell Removal

The day after we built the wooden structure, we carefully and slowly jacked the shell off the frame. Once the frame was lifted, we positioned 4×4 beams on cinder block columns to keep the shell in position.

For the project, the high quality drill came in handy. Also, lots of heavy duty jacks and jack stands!

You can watch the process below:

Pulling the frame out from underneath the shell was eye opening! We spotted a few areas of rust that concerned us.

But, to get a full scope of potential rust damage, we decided to get the entire frame sandblasted.

Airstream Renovation sand blasting

After sandblasting, we rebuilt areas that had too much rust and we reinforced other spots just for good measure.

My favorite upgrade during this phase was adding a 3in lift! This lift gives us a lot more clearance when going off-road. In addition to the lift, we installed new Dexter axles from Inland RV. This also added a half inch of lift.

Next up, we coated the frame with rust encapsulator from Eastwood Co. The biggest tip we have for this job…buy a spray can comfort grip trigger.

To finish the frame overhaul we put some new shoes on the ol’ girl! We bought these from eTrailer.

This was the most daunting process so far…mostly because we had no template to start from. We had to use the inside shell to get an approximate measurement and EVERY time we took the measurements the numbers came back different . Albeit, the differences were all within 1/2 an inch.

We also had to trace the curves and hope it was correct.

All of this may seem easy and like a no-brainer solution, but let me tell you, the aluminum at the bottom of the shell was anything but perfect. The aluminum had about half an inch of natural flex and was wavy due to riveting (none of this will be noticeable once the renovation is complete, but it made the template far from perfect).

Once we got the measurements and cut the subfloor pieces, we also cut reflectix insulation to adhere to the bottom of the subfloor plywood.

To reattach the shell to the frame we basically preformed the “lift off” in reverse. I suggest watching the video above for all the deets.

Now that we completed the full monty, we’re beginning the wiring and plumbing systems.

Olivia has also began taping-off different floor plans to get a better idea of the space.

Airstream Renovation layout

Watch our step by step Airstream Renovation playlist for a complete understanding of our process!

Airstream Renovation YouTube Video Playlist

One of our other passions is finding the most amazing campsites. We love boondocking and camping at RV Resorts.

If you want to find the most epic free campsites in American, check out this article.  If you’re more into the luxury campground style, we can’t blame you! Fear not – we have you covered.

Here you can find our TOP 10 RV Resorts of 2017!

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