We Just Bought a Vintage Airstream to Renovate!

We Just Bought a Vintage Airstream to Renovate!

We have a (borderline unhealthy?) addiction to rescuing both animals and cool old things that need some love and restoration. Case in point: We have three rescued dogs who are our children, and we’ve now spent about two years renovating first the aesthetics in my 1990’s outdated condo, then most of the systems and finishes in a 1920’s Craftsman-style home.

We survived our various insane home improvement projects, including (but not limited to) complete bathroom and kitchen remodels, plumbing and electrical challenges from nearly 100 years worth of ‘updates’, stripping many decades worth of paint from woodwork, and uncovering and refinishing our kitchen’s original pine wood floors. Being either gluttons for punishment or ambitious and resourceful individuals (you pick!), we took the plunge this past weekend into travel trailer ownership, after finding one that seems to suit us perfectly. Enter our 1965 26′ Airstream Overlander International:

The original floor plan of our 1965 Airstream Overlander International

The original floor plan of our 1965 Airstream Overlander International, from the Airstream brochure

The sellers were a camping enthusiast couple who bought it three years ago to restore, but just had too many other projects going on. Despite having already disassembled most of the interior, they decided to pass her on to someone with more time.

We lovingly “adopted” her for a very reasonable price and were given not only the original 1965 paperwork for the trailer (title, owner’s manual, warranty certificate, appliance manuals, and handwritten notes and “tips” from past owners), but thankfully all the cabinets and parts that had been removed came home with us too.

She’s going to need a total gut job and interior rebuild, due to being smoked in and water damage from being left open to the elements, but we’re optimistic about the frame and body condition and we will be reusing much of the solid wood cabinetry after a good cleaning and refinishing.

The floor is rotted through, inside the entry door, from a gasket that looks like it hasn’t been replaced since ’65, and the rear bathroom water damage is even worse, and very little was ever modified in this trailer. No new paint, flooring, or appliances that we can tell, so demolition should be easier, and most of the cool original fixtures are still in place for possible re-use.

Airstream floor rot

Watch your step!



Partially gutted already when we bought her, but the solid wood cabinets were disassembled carefully for reuse.

Everything in the trailer looks to be original – even the axles and wheels, unfortunately! A few dents to the front end, missing light lenses, a broken window, some scratches and rusty tongue/steps/bumper, and a badly peeling clear coat that will need to come off, but we’re planning to polish her to a mirror finish someday anyway.

The heavy oven stays in the front of the trailer to add some tongue weight and keep her from lifting off the ground!

What’s the next step? Well, we’ve been scouring the web obsessively trying to fill in any gaps in our DIY knowledge when it comes to the differences between renovating houses and travel trailers. We can’t wait to get started this weekend removing the rest of the interior fixtures and ripping up floor and removing the inside aluminum wall skins.

We’ll try to post pictures as we go and may desperately beg for some help from family and friends now and then, but we’re hoping it will be a hugely rewarding experience just as our home renovation has been. And the bonus? It may become our next home and office someday.

Here goes nothing!


1 Comment

  1. May 22, 2019 / 11:58 am

    I like that you mentioned that you had such a good experience renovating your own home and decided to take on the next project of renovating your airstream. I would imagine that seeing your camper get a whole new transformation would be rewarding and am interested in renovating one myself. I will have to look into used airstreams that would be perfect for remodeling into my dream camper!

I love it when you leave a reply!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: