Sunday, September 14, 2014

"I'm gonna make this Silver Streak shine!"

Obviously the shinny spots on the SS were not going to be acceptable and all the rubbing in the world and every product known to man, even products not designed for metal, were not going to do anything to remove the anodized surface.  This realization sent Stefan to the internet for any information that could fix the problem I created by my overwhelming need for the Silver Streak to be pretty.  The quality of the trailer was being overlooked by its dull worn finish.  Stefan came across a trucker blog that recommended an acid wash that would surely brighten the finish and remove stains.  We had nothing to lose and everything to gain since the trailer looked like leprosy had set in.  I never took any photos at this stage. Some things are best forgotten.

After locating a distributor and a one and a half hour drive we were headed home armed with the magic bullet that would surely make the SS at least brighter and with some elbow grease the dreaded shinny spots would blend in better.  The acid wash worked wonders on the silver aluminum to clean and brighten it but we quickly realized it was not good for the anodized gold.  At this point everything needed to be masked off and protected.  As you could have predicted I started wondering "what would happen if I used straight acid instead of diluting it with water like the product recommends"  Once again I started to rub and rub and rub insistent all the while that I was going to make this trailer shinny!.  Well guess what?  Between the acid and assorted abrasive tools the diamond hard anodized finish was finally giving way.  I knew at this point that there was no turning back and that the road ahead of us was going to be a long and endless one. 

That was 6.5 years ago and each summer includes several hundred hours of grinding and polishing until the day we achieve the shine we so relentlessly purse. 

          The SS monicker which I recreated from originals     
After several years we finally got a shine and were able to take her out

Crater Lake Camp Ground
   The polishing of the SS will always be part of our summer as long as we enjoy traveling with one of the most unique, unusual and beautiful trailers on the road.  I never feel more special than I do when we are pulling the Silver Streak.  It appears that this year will be a break through year for the clarity of the shine.  I will include pictures of our progress in my next post.  I have had my way with the interior as well and will post an update soon.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Oh no, look what I did !"

One sunny afternoon........
when I was passionately working on the Silver Streak I discovered something about anodized aluminum.  When anodized aluminum is exposed to years of exposure and the effects of being towed, it does start to dissolve for a lack of a better word.  That milky, chalky appearance is the anodized part of the aluminum wearing off.  Even so the finish is incredibly hard.

On this particular day of frustration with getting nowhere, I was working on the crown of the SS, on the right side of the trailer.  I was 5 rungs up the ladder with my body twisted to reach the round part of the roof so I still had leverage to rub with all my might.  I still remember my reaction when the rivets I had been rubbing across started to reflect the suns light, like sparkling jewels around the neck of a King or Queen.  The brightness and sparkle of the rivets in contrast to the rest of the trailer was so inspiring that soon the pretty rivets were no longer enough.  Like all good Americans I wanted more!  I just had to keep rubbing.  And when I started to see the shadowy reflection of myself I was almost uncontrollable.  I yelled to Stef and he came running in disbelief.  On the tightest part of the curve, where the wind and weather would have been at its worst, I managed to polish a large patch to a brilliant shine.  See I said " I knew it could be done ".

This of course was all to good to be true.  Although
it was a real back breaker to get the results I got we were determined to continue.  So we started to take on more of the roof line when we quickly came to the realization that the area I just polished happened to be the only area that was going to give up the anodized aluminum due to its location.  The wind and weather had beaten the curve so hard that the anodized layer was very thin and easy enough to remove.  This left us with a real big problem!  And a real big shinny spot on the front of our trailer.  Now what are we gonna do? 

Silver Streak Travel Trailer first days of removing anodized aluminum

Saturday, May 18, 2013

"You can't make it shinny"

When we bought the Silver Streak, David, the previous owner, was quick to tell us that this trailer was not the kind of trailer you can polish.  The aluminum was different than aluminum on Airstreams.  As soon as we got home we started searching the internet for information that would help us deal with the 40 year old finish.  All the while believing with all my heart that there was an easy answer.  For days we scoured the internet following leads to message boards that sounded hopeful but all of them ended with the same conclusion,

"You bought an ugly trailer now be okay with it".

But I wasn't okay with it.  I tried everything everyone else tried and more.  Nothing could break through that bullet proof layer of aluminum.  Although aged and oxidized, the finish was still hard as diamonds and it was not going to be polished no matter what I did.  I did appreciate it for what it was but I was having a hard time looking at it.  It looked like something issued by the army and used for total utilitarian purposes.  Very industrial and very masculine.  The SS was originally purchased by a gentleman that used it for hunting and fishing trips.  I speculate that he mostly used it as a private getaway at home when he needed some place to go.  When David was going through his newly purchased SS  he found a coffee can in the trunk that contained $4500.00.  Can you believe it?  He immediately contacted the lady that sold him her late husbands trailer and let her know what he found.  She was delighted and thanked him for his honesty by giving him back $2000.00 dollars.  Now isn't that a great story ?

1970 Silver Streak


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Vintage....The only way to fly.......

In another place and time .......

my partner Stefan and I both had the vintage trailering dream.  Although we were not together, we were doing it at the same time.  He was living in San Francisco and I was living in Port Orford, OR.  He had an older Airstream and I had a little box type trailer I am not sure the name of.  Both of us had partners that did not have the same dream that we did.  Stefan and I found ourselves alone when dreaming as well as alone when working on it.  Soon the dream started to loose its luster when we were unable to share the dream with our partners.   Stefan sold his trailer and I sold mine.

When we started living life together, we started comparing our vintage trailering dreams.  We both had the same basic dream.  To own and travel with one of the coolest trailers around.  But Stefan helped my dream evolve.  He introduced me to the vintage polished aluminum trailer.  Wow I fell in love.  He took me to the Airstream dealership to see the new models.  How pretty they were.  All decked out with themes and matching color schemes.  We took home the sales literature and information fully intending to bring one home soon.  After mulling over the beautiful photographs in the brochure we were sure of what we wanted.  We wanted the Safari.  The color combination was airy and light.  The exterior aluminum, interior colors and floor plan  made us think vintage.  When we went back to the dealer to talk specifics we had an opportunity to take our time and really look the Airstream over.  But the whole feeling we were seeking was missing.  The first thing you notice is the lack of quality they put into a $60,000.00 unit. The overwhelming use of thin laminates and imitation everything was shocking.  On the outside of the brand new unit we were looking at, a plastic storage door was already broken and there were several places in the interior where the laminates were separating from the counter tops, seating and cupboards.  When we brought this to the attention of the sales rep he quickly reminded us of how " it is like an earthquake every time you take it out so these things are expected, but it would be fixed before you buy it ".  We agreed and reminded him that this unit was new and had not been on the road yet.

This is when the lights went on for me.  My dream to create the Vintage trailering experience no longer included a new Airstream.  Especially at $60,000.00 for something so flimsy.  But now what?  Could it be that you cannot create the vintage feeling in a new trailer?  Even if it looks like the old ones?  We went back to the drawing board and started scouring the internet for Vintage Trailers For Sale.  There were so few makers of this type of trailer that all we seemed to find were Airstreams.  That is primarily what is and was available.  We also thought that the older Airstreams might be built better.  We found out that an Airstream is an Airstream.  Built thin and light and inexpensive.  And at the time, they were built and priced so anyone could afford one.  After searching for a while Stefan was doing the regular scan of eBay when he came across a Silver Streak Sabre.  Way cool.  An aluminum trailer that was definitely not an Airstream on the outside and better yet not and Airstream on the inside.  As popular as the Airstreams are their interiors have always left me flat when it came to creativity or style.  Not the Silver Streak.  From the wide flat roof and wrap around windows to the anodized aluminum with anodized gold trim it sets itself apart from all other aluminum travel trailers.  Their interiors had beautiful oak cabinetry and textiles that were color coordinated in earth tones.  The anodized gold used on the exterior was used again on interior trim.  Now this was love at first site even though it had the dreaded 40 year old anodized aluminum exterior.  The type of aluminum exterior that was treated to make the coach easier to maintain. The treatment makes the aluminum very resistant to everything, everything except age.  After 40 years of living outside the finish changed completely.  It went from a pewter colored satiny finish that glowed to a muddy, milky grey that showed streaks and stains.  It is not the type of aluminum you can buff to a shine.  The builders must not have tested the process for longevity.  

It did not take us long to contact the owner, scrape together the money and get on the road to Southern California.  I think we left the very next morning.  We arrived in no time to find the SS backed into a small track house driveway on a slight incline covered with a tarp. When the tarp came off it was my first look at a 40 year old Silver Streak.  Yuck!  That dull, grey, stained, pitted and tired looking finish could only be loved by someone with a dream and a vision.  And someone that knows the difference quality makes.  You can't help but see the stoutness of the SS.  There is nothing flimsy about it.  Everything is overbuilt, heavy and solid.  The outside did not sell us as much as the interior did.  The love and care the owner had put into it was obvious.  He loved this trailer.  The updates he made to the SS were thought out well and well done.  He updated it with essentials but left it original to the eye.  (electric systems, black water tank, new water system, etc.) Everything was perfect right down to the original mint condition box springs and  mattresses that have their original bed spreads made especially for Silver Streak.  How wonderful it was to see such an old trailer in such awesome original condition.  During our search we found that most vintage trailers had been horribly massacred.  Massacred to the point of unusable.  Or even worse, renovated with terrible taste and poor quality workmanship.

1970 Silver Streak Mattress

Needless to say we made our deal and headed home.  I was totally in love with the SS but how was I going to live with the absolutely ugly exterior?

1970 Silver Streak on its way home