Project Vintage Thunder

The latest on Project Vintage Thunder, by Airstream Life magazine. Sponsored by George M Sutton RV, Reese hitch, Dometic USA, PPG Paint, Axis Products, GSM Vehicles, and Zip-Dee. Vintage Thunder is an "honest" RV refurbishment and travelogue. We tell you what really happens ...

Saturday, March 05, 2005


An early decision we made was to toss out the old furnace that had been occupying a large part of the kitchen cabinet space. This gave us much more storage, but also eliminated an expense, at least temporarily. While we are in Florida there's no need for a furnace.

But in April Vintage Thunder will be on the road, coming up the east coast to attend some rallies and eventually ending up in Plattsburgh NY for its paint job. Along the way we will encounter nights in the 30s and 40s.

So I bought a catalytic heater yesterday from DuckTec (, an Olympian 6000. This will mount to the exterior wall just between the kitchen cabinets and the dinette, and aim toward the door. With a catalytic heater, the orientation is important because a lot of the heat is radiant. Whatever it points at will get warm.

Without ducted heat, as the furnace had, the rear of the trailer will be chillier than the front on very cold nights. If it's really unacceptable, I'll figure a way to mount a second catalytic in the bedroom. But generally I've found that the air circulates pretty well inside an Airstream, so most of the time I expect this to work fine. We'll mount in during the big work session, which has been postponed to March 26-27.

The picture below is from the Florida State Rally, showing the crew: Eleanor (hiding behind her hair), me, Brett G, Emma, and Carol B (Photo Editor).

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Behind the scenes

During this momentary lapse of frantic activity, I thought I could take the opportunity to talk about what happens behind the scenes of a project like this.

As you might expect, it takes a lot of prep work to be ready for each stage of the project. For example, today I talked to some contacts to find a sponsor for our upcoming paint job. Painting Vintage Thunder will be a key part of the finished look, and it's very expensive. But we want to show people how to do it themselves, so I had a conversation with a very qualified fellow who produces painting videos for car buffs. Already, we are in contact with some major paint suppliers and our chances for getting a sponsor are looking good.

Brett and I have also been having email and phone conversations about the logistics of the next tasks. We need to buy supplies, some of which are relatively difficult to obtain because they are "NLA" -- No Longer Available. And it's useful to talk about possible solutions to problems we know we will face, so that we have a strategy when work begins.

I've also been working to update the budget (we've posted a new one on the Vintage Thunder homepage at And I'm still in negotiations with insurers, trying to get a "stated value" policy since they won't value the Argosy at anything above NADA book value (about $1000) otherwise. It's tedious and paperwork-intensive stuff, but it's all part of the game. The latest salvo has been a bunch of emailed photos. We'll see...

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Not Perfect But Pretty Darn Good

We're back from Florida State Rally. It was a great time, and a real pleasure to be finally using and enjoying Vintage Thunder!

I have to say that the trailer performed amazingly well, especially considering all we've done to it in the past three weeks. It towed beautifully, and all systems worked as designed. We had a regular parade of visitors who have been following this blog and the magazine articles. Everyone was surprised and impressed, especially when they saw the photo album of "before" shots.

But on the last day, the weather turned to rain and it poured all night. We woke up to a few leaks -- quite a surprise considering we thought they were resolved during the hurricanes last year. The door seal needs replacement, but we knew that. The missing clearance lights on the front are also offering an entry point to water. But there might also be a leak in the refrigerator access door, and there's a little wet spot right behind the streetside wheel well cover. That last one is going to be a job to resolve. It could be coming from anywhere. There's no obvious source for that leak.

We also have a long list of additional jobs that didn't get done in time for the rally. Some are liveability issues, like installing the oven and some additional shelving, and others are more critical, like a pair of rusted outriggers. We also need to do some work in the back closet to nail down some residual smell from the former residents (rats, literally). All in all, the "to do" list has about 25 items on it. We've got a work weekend planned for March 12-13. Hopefully we can get most of the list completed.

The picture below shows Vintage Thunder parked at the Florida State Rally last week.