Airstream Globe Trotter - 1963

Airstream Globe Trotter, 1963 Globe Trotter, Airstream Airstream name plate

Airstream: America's finest trailer make.

This is 1963 Airstream Globe Trotter that was in rather sorry condition. The following pictures show it as it was in 1999. It is 19 feet long and had 7.00 x 15 inch tires. I hope these images can be used as a resource for those attempting to restore one of these trailers to original condition. Airstream Globe Trotter

The curb side:

It had been sitting in a field for several years. The entrance door, as well as the storage access door on the street side, were open to the weather. The window over the stove on the street side was open also. The trailer was out in an open field where the sun could get at it, but when I first looked at it, the interior was damp. There was debris everywhere, from old leaves to mouse excrement ...and even a two foot long snake skin. What a mess!

On the curb side above, you can see the bungee cord holding the door shut. (We put this on to bring it home). There is a roll out awning that was broken. The awning even when it was good, did not work well on this trailer since the door is hinged on the front side. The awning support was too close to the hinge and would not allow the door to swing open fully. Unfortunately, the door was swung open completely, which dented the door where it struck the awning support. It also nearly destroyed the hinge. There is a screen door which is behind the door within the entrance door. this would not work at all with the awning support there. The screen door access panel is held against the side of the trailer by the horizontal support bracket about midway up the front corner of the trailer. The awning was removed.

Behind the tire is an access door for the battery. The battery has no charging system. and the compartment is barely big enough for a 12 volt deep cycle battery. There is a circuit breaker in the wall just above the battery. It can be seen if you take the curb side sofa apart and look under the framework. So far, that's the only breaker I've found for the 12 volt system. There was one fuse on the 12 volt pump for the water system. There was also anther breaker in a panel under the trailer near the entrance door. I think that was for the charging wires from the tow vehicle ....or maybe for the trailer brakes. The breaker box for the 120 volt system is just inside the curb side storage access door towards the front of the trailer.

You can also see the big dent I had to pound out. I had to remove the inside wall by drilling out 100 rivets to gain access to the back of the dent. The inside wall was bent in some also. above the right side of the dent is the fill pipe for the water tank. the water tank is a cylindrical tank made of galvanized steel. It operates under air pressure. The cap on the fill pipe has a rubber gasket to keep the air pressure from leaking out

Airstream Globe Trotter street side

The street side:

On this side you can see the fiberglass rock guard that was on the front of the trailer. Below that is the place for the spare tire, which is missing in this picture. The spare tire has an aluminum cover. About midway back on the side is a round vent for a Carlson space heater. This heater has no blowers and therefore needs propane only to operate. It has no thermostat, however. Behind the heater vent are two access doors, one above the other, for the refrigerator. There is an oblong vent on the top of the trailer above the refrigerator for venting. Behind the refrigerator vent on the roof is a small round vent for the sink drain plumbing. On the lower back corner of the trailer is the shrouding for the Bowen hot water heater.

The hitch takes a 2 inch ball. The trailer hitch jack has a hand crank. It has two 20 pound propane tanks. There are two roof vents. One is 14 by 14 towards the rear of the trailer, and there is a 14 by 28 skylight in the front. The front skylight was made of white translucent plastic. It was very brittle, leaking and just falling apart. The rear vent is made of aluminum.

interior of 1963 Globe Trotter

The interior - curb side:

This picture shows the entrance door. We are looking towards the front right corner of the trailer. The color on the walls is not original. The color on the door is original. I believe the seats are upholstered in their original covering, though I'm not sure. Both the side and the front sofas pull out to make beds. The screen part of the door is the darker section of the door. The outside panel in the door opens up to use the screen. You can not operate it from the inside. The box on the wall just beyond the door is a light. There is one on the opposite (street side) wall also. These light fixtures have two bulbs in them. The bulbs appear to be identical, but the one towards the front of the trailer runs on 12 volts and the one towards the back runs on 120 volts. Don't mix up the bulbs! My fixtures are not marked as to which one is which. There is a switchplate just above the front sofa. On the left is a 120 volt outlet and on the right is the switch to turns on the water pump (which actually pumps air into the tank and forces the water out by air pressure).

The front sofa folds down into a double bed. There are four drawers under the bed. The water tank is against the wall under the front sofa. The overhead cabinet is molded into a fiberglass wall of the upper front of the trailer. The lower part of the wall is aluminum. the cabinet has two sliding doors that slide side to side. The middle of the front cabinet is difficult to access because of the design of the sliding doors.

The floor covering in the picture was not original. It was sheet flooring that somebody placed over the original floor tiles. The original floor was crumbling and rotten. Water got under the loose flooring. The plywood under the floor was bad by the door. The rotted section was repaired by drilling 1/4 inch (or a little less) holes every inch or so. I drill almost through the floor, but not quite! Then I poured liquid polyester resin (mixed with catalyst) all over the rotted section. The resin soaked in a lot, so I kept pouring more as it disappeared into the wood. When it cured, it was hard as a rock and new floor tiles were put down.

curb side of 1963 Airstream Globe Trotter

Interior - curb side:

This is the street side sofa bed. There are three wooden drawers that pull out under the bed. The round knob under the handle is the lock. You push it in an give it a quarter turn to lock it. The panel above the drawers pulls out towards the aisle and the back of the sofa pulls down flat to make the bed. there is also a 10 inch piece of cushion that drops between the top of the sofa back and the wall. This makes a double bed. The front sofa bed is about the same size.

In the back of the trailer is a bath tub with it's shower curtain. The box on the wall between the sofa and the tub is a light fixture. This fixture has one 12 volt bulb and one 120 volt bulb. The windows crank out using the crank handles towards the top of the window. A latch on either side of the bottom of the window locks it closed. The screens are held in place by four spring loaded clips and remove in seconds. The overhead cabinet is not very big. It has two sliding doors that slide front and back. These doors and cabinets are not very convenient. They are too high for someone less than 6 foot tall. The "rags" on the sofa are what was left of the curtains. I don't know if they were original. They were yellowish green. They are held in place by a u shaped track just over the window. They slide open and closed but are not held at the bottom and tend to leave a gap

galley of 1963 Airstream Globe Trotter

Interior - street side

The kitchen is nice and simple. the refrigerator is small and runs only on propane. The grate on the front of the cabinet is the Carlson space heater. The heater consists of a large combustion chamber vented to the outside. It works by convection only since there is no fan. It works okay in this small trailer, but there is no thermostat to regulate the temperature. It's on or off! Behind the 'refrigerator is the Tappan oven. There is a four burner stove on the top and a nice sized oven with a glass door below. The stove is the best stove I've seen in a trailer. There is a cover that is flat with the countertop covering the stove in this picture. You have to lift the cover towards the back of the trailer to open it. there is a clip that holds it up. Being wood (I think) you don't want to make the mistake of putting it down if the stove is still hot! The sink is single bowl and made of porcelain. There is a cover to match the countertop that fits over the sink. With the stove and sink covers in place, there is one unbroken countertop. It has a very clean look.

The overhead cabinet is rather high, and the round shape of the roof makes it rather odd shaped too. Like the curb side, the doors are sliding doors. The doors slide poorly in their aged condition due to warping of the plastic parts. The box under the overhead cabinet and over the sink is a light fixture also with 12 and 120 volt bulbs in it. The has two faucets. The main faucet brings hot and cold water from the water tank. The second faucet seems to be filtered water faucet for cold water only. There is what looks like a filter compartment in the line inside the closet just past the stove. The closet is from floor to ceiling with a rack for clothes to hang and an upper shelf. The white folding bathroom door can be seen behind that. Behind the folding door is another closet door. The closet is one big closet, however. Both doors access the same space, though the hot water tank takes up the floor in the bathroom side of the closet.


The bathroom:

The bathroom consists of a bath tub / shower on the curb side wall, a sink against the rear window, and a toilet toward the street side. The sink has a door under it for storage and a drawer under that. The toilet is raised up about 8 inches off the floor because the black water holding tank is under the toilet. In this picture, the original toilet has been replaced by a Porta-Potti. The bathtub is small, but an adult can sit in it. It holds enough water to empty the hot water tank! It can also be used as a shower. The bathtub "faucet" is actually a shower head. The shower head has an upper bracket for taking a shower and it is moved to a lower bracket for filling the tub.

See how I made this trailer fit six people:

(click here)

Oh, No! ...WOOD ROT !

floor rot

Something didn't smell right in the back of the trailer in 2006. I took the drawer out in the vanity back in the bathroom. I felt way back against the wall ....and I didn't like what I felt! My finger went right through the wood floor into the underbelly. Floor Rot! Not good. So, I got out my drill and drilled out the rivets holding the belly pan on under the trailer so I could see the floor. There was, in fact, no floor to speak off for the last eight inches of the trailer. There's no real indication that the trailer has this problem by looking at it from the outside; everything seems stable and solid enough. But a little prodding and poking in the underbelly yielded quite a pile of rotten wood fragments. Looking at the design of the trailer, especially the way the factory put the rear bumper compartment together, there's no way this trailer would NOT rot! The water just runs along the sheet metal box at the bumper and goes right to the plywood. To add insult to injury, there was a layer of fiberglass insulation there to act as a wick, a sponge and a reservoir for the water. There's no way that plywood could stand up to the insult it was receiving at the back bumper. I would be willing to say that any 1963 Globe Trotter that has seen some rain and humidity is missing at least the last 6 inches of the plywood floor. In order to patch this properly, you would need to take everything out of the bathroom in the trailer and remove the inner wall. I didn't feel like doing this now. So I patched it up with some sheet metal as best I could. I'm sure this area has not been as structurally sound as it could be for years, and the trailer didn't seem to be suffering for it. It can go a few more years before I get ambitious enough to replace the floor some day. The way it is, I wouldn't put any weight on the back bumper, like a bicycle rack or something (which, by the way, I did a few years ago)until the area is properly repaired. The floor is a vital part of the structure of an Airstream. Luckily, especially with these smaller trailers, they seem to be over built enough to handle a little deterioration here and there. Some day the entire floor should be replaced. That will be a major project, but then the trailer will be good for another 40 years!

You can see from the picture about that I still haven't polished the trailer. There's three reasons for that. One is that I don't want it to attract the attention of would-be thieves. Two is that the "patina" is a good example of the "before" for people who have polished their trailer. And three is that I just don't have time to devote to a time consuming job like that. (or maybe I'm lazy!)

The 2007 Makeover

The kids have grown up and moved out. Suddenly, the modifications I made to the '63 are no longer useful. So, in 2007 it was time to remodel again. The upholstery that I chose before was designed to hide stains and dirt that children inevitably get all over everything. Gone now are the muddy shoes and the spilled chocolate milk, so it's time for a new more "sophisticated" look!

curb side cabinet

Gone is the drop down bunk bed that I made. In it's place, I reinstalled the original cabinet. There's not as much storage space now, but it looks like the cabinet on the street side and gives the trailer a more symmetrical look.

side goucho

Next, notice that the goucho seat back is taller. Therefore, the bed is much wider now. I added about 9 inches onto the width of the bed by making the seat back taller. The pillows with the moose on them are actually bags with a velcro closure that hold pillows and blankets. There are several of them around the trailer. They help store the bedding and give you something pleasant to lean on. The seat back being taller gives you more to lean back on too.

bed pulled out

When the bed is pulled out, the aisle becomes very narrow and difficult to walk through; but the bed is so much nicer now! The aisle side of the bed, however, has to be supported now. So, as you see in the picture, I had to add legs onto the pull out section. I also had to re-engineer the sliders that let the bed pull out. What I wound up doing, was taking the sliders from the original front gaucho and adding them to the sliders on the side gaucho. This allows the bed to pull out that extra 9 inches.

bed velcro flap

These old gaucho beds are made up of three sections of mattress. The seat cushion and the back cushion are attached to each other on a cloth hinge so that the bed will fold up into a sofa. If you look at the picture, you can see a filler cushion next to the wall that makes up the rest of the mattress when you are sleeping. This system works OK, but there is a problem: Sometimes in the middle of the night, you wake up to find that your elbow or your knee has managed to slip down between the back cushion and the filler cushion. I put up with this for years. Then, I discovered "the flap"! I sewed a flap onto the top of the seat back cushion. Along the edge is sewn a piece of velcro. Put the hook part on the flap and the loop part on the filler cushion. With this upholstery, the loop part of the Velcro was not necessary since the upholstery itself sticks to the hook part of the velcro sufficiently. Now my knees and my elbows stay on top of the mattress at night. I like it! The flap is on the top of the back cushion when the bed is a sofa. A few small pieces of loop velcro on the backside of the back cushion are all that is necessary to hold the flap in place when it's not being used. So, it's not really visible when you look at the sofa.

inside front

I considered going back to the original front gaucho to restore the trailer to it's original configuration. When I got the old pieces out of storage to reinstall them, I could see how rotten everything was...which is why I took it out in the first place. While visiting Colin Hyde at GSM Vehicles, he showed me a trailer that had a redesigned front dining area. I liked it, so I re-modeled what I had done before. I made the cushions curve to match the curve of the front wall. Then I put upholstery on the wall all across the front of the trailer. So now, when you sit in the front dining area, you lean back against the padded wall. It is very comfortable to sit there, somewhat like an easy chair. Your back just kind of molds into the curve of the Airstream when you sit there; like the Airstream is hugging you. It feels good.

front corner

I left the wooden base of the front seating in it's squared off configuration and just made the cushion have the curve. Colin's trailer design had curved wooden bases that look much nicer than what I have, but mine were already in place and a lot easier to build. Maybe some day I'll rebuild them. One of the reasons I left it the way it was, is that the table I made previously still works to make the dining area into a bed. In the picture you can see the table base on the floor. When it is made into a bed, the cushions used as seat backs are placed on the table area of the bed. A little velcro is needed to keep everything from moving when somebody is sleeping there. There are four seat cushions in this dining area, they all lift off to reveal a large storage area and the water tank against the front wall of the trailer.

light fixture

The original light fixtures were not very good looking. The shade was made of metal with little holes in it. There was a fiberglass diffuser sheet behind the metal. The metal rusted and stained the fiberglass diffuser. Then a clip broke that held one of the shades onto the wall. So, I decided to create some new stained glass shades for the light fixtures. These original light fixtures still have one 12 volt bulb and one 120 volt bulb. I replaced the old incandescent light bulb with one of the new "twist" fluorescent bulbs. Instead of burning 60 watts, it uses 13 watts to make the same amount of light.


In the summer of 2007, I found two hubcaps for the Globe Trotter at a car parts swap meet. The vendor did not know what they were for, but they look just like the hubcaps that came with my trailer when I got it ...except these are not all rusty and crusty. I also found a trim ring that fit the wheel. The trailer never had trim rings, but I like the way it looks with them now.

When it came time to take a wheel off the trailer to grease the bearings and check the brakes, I jacked up the trailer, but I could not get the wheel and tire out from the wheel well. In fact, when I jacked up the trailer, the wheel and axle did not seem to move at all. In order to get the wheel off the trailer, I had to let all the air out of the tire and then struggle with it for a while. To get it back on was even worse. If I had a flat tire out on the road, it would have been nearly impossible to change the tire. That's when I decided that it might be time for a new axle. Airstream used a torsion axle in 1963. Torsion axles are suspended by rubber. The rubber apparently gets hard after 40 years. So basically, my axle was frozen solid, and I had no suspension. This would explain the fact that the inside of the trailer was popping rivets when traveling down the road, and that things inside the trailer moved around a lot. I talked to Colin Hyde at GSM Vehicles about this. GSM Vehicles sold me a new axle made by Axis Axle. After some measurements were made, Colin ordered the axle for me. A friend and I installed the axle when it arrived a few weeks later. The axle fit perfect and it was easy to install. The hard part was getting the trailer up in the air safely so that it didn't fall on me. A cutting torch took care of the old frozen and rusted nuts and bolts. A couple new holes were drilled and some welding needed to be done to secure the new axle in place. Even before I let the trailer back down onto the ground, you could tell there was a big difference. It was EASY to put the wheel on! When I put weight on the axle as I let the trailer down, you could see that the suspension was actually working!

The proof that the new axle was working well came very soon; we took the trailer on a trip to Disney World in Orlando. At first, the new brakes on the new axle didn't seem to work very well. I had to adjust my brake controller for maximum brakes (the resistor set at minimum). After a few miles, the brakes seemed to get some better. Then about 50 miles into the trip, a traffic light turned red on me suddenly. I stopped pretty quickly, and when I did , I had left two big black skid marks behind me! The trailer brakes were now locking up I had to adjust the brakes way down towards minimum (the resistor towards maximum) so the brakes would be just right. After that the brakes worked well. The inside of the trailer was much different with the new axle. Dan left his toothbrush and toiletry kit on the vanity in the back of the trailer. After 500 miles, the two items were still where he had left them. There's no way they would have stayed there before; there's no telling where they would have been thrown to. So, the new axle makes a huge difference. It was a great improvement for less then $750.

One problem with these vintage Airstreams is that there is no system on board for storing grey water. Grey water is drainage from your sink. Black water is waste from your toilet. The grey water from the two sinks and the bath tub in this trailer runs directly to the sewer connection on the trailer and runs onto the ground (unless you put a water tight cap on the sewer connection). You have to either let the grey water run onto the ground (which is no longer permitted in most places these days), or collect the grey water in an external tank. You have to bring this tank with you if you don't have a sewer connection at your campsite. My 1963 Globe Trotter had a toilet with a black water tank under it in the streetside rear corner. The toilet itself was corroded to the point that it was no longer useful. I replaced it with a Porta-Potty(Porta-potty example -click here)), which, of course, has it's own waste storage tank. So, the black water tank in the trailer was no longer being used. So I came up with a plan. I replumbed the sink drain in the galley. I put a tee fitting in the drain pipe and ran a new drain pipe over to the black water tank's vent pipe, which was located in the closet next to the galley. Then I put a valve in the original drain pipe, downstream from the tee fitting. When the valve is closed, the drain water is shunted into the old black water tank. The black water tank is not very large, but there is enough capacity to collect grey water for a day or two. This is convenient when stopping overnight at a Walmart or other rest area. Proper "Walmart camping etiquette" calls for not deploying awnings or other paraphernalia that makes it appear that you are camping, rather than just parking there. I believe this new system will work well for me.

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