Tour our Airstream Before Renovation

Since I last wrote, it has snowed and rained almost incessantly here, so we haven’t done any  work on the Airstream yet. However, all this moisture has helped me pinpoint  exactly where our silver bullet leaks. I’ve only seen two small puddles of water inside, which is promising.  But, there may still be some invisible leaks.

So, in lieu of any progress, I thought I’d take a moment to share some “before” shots of the trailer and discuss its current condition.


Nellie doesn’t have too many exterior problems. Her only dent is on the front curbside corner. It’s not a serious dent so we may or may not pull it out. Other than that she has a few scratches on the rear streetside corner.  These kind of marks are expected on a 40 year old trailer. Clearly, she’s been on some interesting adventures.

Other than these dings, she has some surface rust on the tongue, which also isn’t a serious problem in the desert, but I’d like to protect the frame against potential future humidity.

The windows will likely require the most work. The lamination on several (especially the vista windows at the top) has peeled off due to trapped moisture. Since our windows are double-paned, fixing it requires the separating the panes, which can take a while. While this problem doesn’t affect the livability of the Airstream, better tinting can help reduce radiant heat in hot climates.

It is interesting to photograph though.

The largest exterior problem at the moment isn’t one Nellie came to us with. Unfortunately, my father whacked the open rear awning with a fence post, damaging it. Now, it can’t open and the fabric won’t roll up. So, we’re on the search for a replacement part. The long side awning also may have some difficulties, but we have not tried to open it as yet.

As a whole though, Nellie has a sound exterior and good bones, which was exactly what we were looking for and I’m very happy with our purchase.


In regards to the interior, we plan to remove most of it and customize the layout. Currently, the Airstream sports two couches in the front with a pullout table, a central kitchen, bath, and (huge) closet, and a rear bedroom with two twin beds.

The only problem in the front sitting area is the crack in the plastic end cap. Around the edges you can see where someone tried to glue it back together. I’m not sure exactly how to fix this, but I’m currently thinking epoxy.

My absolute favorite part about 1970’s Airstreams is the tambour cabinetry and I adore the vintage clock and temperature gauge in the front cabinet. Tambour can be a fussy if it becomes warped or damaged though. Luckily, we have only one cabinet in need of a simple repair.

Each window except the front three are equipped with these temperamental, incredibly 70’s pull-down shades. Spencer hates the trim and I hate fussing with them. They’re the first thing I’m taking out when we start demolition.

Another incredibly 70’s detail: the pull-out radio. It’s not a tape player. Not even an 8-track player. It’s just a radio. We’ll definitely be upgrading the tech in here.

I have very little to say about the condition of the kitchen (a little alliteration). The large cabinet underneath the sink is missing its tambour, but that’s alright because we’re planning on rebuilding that cabinet anyway.

The previous owners left a decorative wooden holder on the wall, which Spencer thinks is tacky. They also left a Native American style rug on the bathroom floor. I find these little touches interesting. They tell a story about Nellie’s previous owners.

The oven has seen better days. It doesn’t latch properly and is just generally sad looking. We already have a new oven though, so that’s not a problem. It was the first thing we purchased for this project.

The bathroom is hard to photograph because of its size, but it’s safe to say we’ll be replacing the entire thing. The vinyl on the shower walls is peeling off, the flooring is gone, and the whole thing is just…dirty. My little sister named the dead bug next to the toilet “Gustave.”

Across the hall is a large closet with more clothes storage than we could ever need. When Nellie arrived, we discovered all sorts of treasures in there including sway bars and one of the propane tanks. Both tanks work, which is good news. My father tested them out.

The bedroom is the most interesting part of the Airstream to me because it tells a curious story. I didn’t notice it initially, but the bedroom shows signs of an unfinished remodel. One wall is partially stripped of wallpaper while the others have been painted a light, airy white. It actually looks really nice and it gives me kind of a glimpse into what the Airstream will look like when we’re done.

However, the most interesting part to me is how sloppy the paint job is. This painter clearly didn’t tape things off; they got paint on both the wall fixtures and socket covers. It makes me contemplate the motivations of this painter. Why did they only paint the bedroom? Where they planning on doing a full renovation? If so, why not take more care? The story is unfinished.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour of the trailer before its renovation. I’m probably a bit too excited for demolition day. If only this weather would improve! (But in all seriousness, we need the water.)

For now, I’ll leave you with a pretty picture of Nellie in the snow.

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