Using a small Airstream trailer for a large family presents a big problem! An Airstream was designed to sleep four people. We have seven people in our family. As fate would have it, the last child came along about the time the first kid decided that camping (with her family) wasn't her favorite thing (and now she's away at college). This 1963 Airstream was drastically modified to do that.
I have modified two trailers now to sleep six people. My 1971 Globe Trotter can also sleep six, but I didn't really change the trailer at all to do that. You can find that story on the 1971 Globe Trotter Page.
Since this 1963 Globe Trotter was so messed up when I got it, I decided to see what I could do to make this trailer useful for six people. This project seems to be contrary to what I see in all the new trailers I have looked at. Today's standard is big. bigger, and biggest! Here I am with this 19 foot trailer trying to do the opposite! I have created a small, reasonably sized trailer with an efficient use of space. The following articles list my modifications:
The framework for the seats is made of a 2 by 4 sawed in half to make 2 by 2's. The framework is glued and screwed together with decking screws. They are screwed to the floor and to the wall. The outside facing of the seats is made of 1/4 inch luan plywood. There is a 3/4 inch lip of the 1/4 inch luan plywood above the 2 by 2 framework so that the cushions are held firmly in place (they drop down into place). The table is supported by 3/4 inch square oak supports which are visible in the previous pictures above. The table was made out of 3/4 inch luan plywood with an edging of oak to give it a nice finished look. The cushions are made of 1/2 inch plywood and 3 inch foam.
Like all projects, after you start to use it, you find out ways you could have made it better.
I constructed a hammock to sleep a small child. The hammock consists of three lengths of 1 by 2 inch hickory cut to the width of the trailer. There is one hickory board inside the molded in front cabinet to give some strength.
The other two have canvas between the hickory boards. The front side of the hammock is attached to the under side of the front cabinet with two 1/4 inch bolts, 3 inch long. The bolts are passed through the front hammock support up through a hole I drilled in the bottom of the cabinet and through the hickory board I put in there for support.
The other hammock support (out from the front wall) is resting on a support I made out of a 2 by 4. Originally I made it so there was a pin that dropped into the support to keep the hammock board from slipping off. I found that this is unnecessary. I made the hammock just wide enough so that you have to stretch the hammock to put it on the support. This holds the hammock securely in the support. There is one of these supports on the opposite wall of the trailer also.
I tested this hammock by getting up there myself. I weigh 175 pounds. Daniel weighs about 50 pounds. He likes to sleep in the hammock and nothing seems to be falling apart yet!
The hammock has a problem: it's too long to stow anywhere in a 1963 Globe Trotter unless you hang it from the ceiling. I didn't want it there. I put it behind the curb side sofa bed. It doesn't fit there unless you cut a hole in the wall of the tub/shower so that the long board goes through the wall about 6 or 8 inches. It doesn't interfere with the shower or the tub.
This was my most ambitious project and the one that was the most complicated to produce. Considering my meager carpentry skills, I suppose it's wonderful that it works at all! I removed the original curb side (over the sofa bed) cabinet. This original cabinet was very small and the rounded shape of the roof really cut into the useable space. I decided to make a bigger cabinet. This cabinet stows sleeping bags and also drops down to become a bunk.
I didn't figure that the roof was strong enough to support the full weight of a teenager so as you can see in the picture, I added some ceiling to floor supports. The first one is obvious on the front corner of the sofa bed. This support doesn't interfere much with the traffic patterns in the trailer. The second support is against the wall next to the door. The third added support is a 2 by 4 placed in the doorway to the bathroom.
The above photos show the aluminum "L" brackets I use for support when the cabinet drops down into a bed. The wall supports for the cabinet are articulated so that when it's in the up position, the cabinet is against the wall. When it drops down, it drops below the level of the top of the window. In order for the window to still operate with the bunk in the down position, the bunk has to be about 6 inches from the wall. I made it 6 and 1/2 inches. These next photos try to show that:
On the support hinge (on the wall) you can see I put a spring. This helps counteract the weight of the bunk when trying to close it back up again. It's a little too heavy to raise it back up comfortably. Later pictures show I put a couple of rubber bungie cords on the bunk floor too to help counteract the weight. The following pictures shows the cabinet with the door opened.
The cabinet is made of 1/4 inch luan plywood and 3/4 by 2 inch hickory strips made into sandwich ...a hickory framework with the plywood on the top and bottom. Therefore, the bunk winds up being 1 and a 1/4 inch thick. The cabinet floor is 17 inches wide. The cabinet door is 14 inches high. When it's down as a bunk, therefore, it is 31 inches wide (plus 6 and a half inches from the wall for the support hinges).The "door" of the cabinet / bunk is hinged with a full length piano hinge. This hinge becomes an extra structural member when the bunk is down.
After the cabinet door is unlatched and opened, the floor of the cabinet has to be unlatched and dropped down into the lower position. There are aluminum "L" brackets 36 inches long that fit into the aluminum brackets you see on my support framework. These brackets support the weight on the outboard edge of the bunk (A cantilever, if you will). I originally thought I could suspend the bunk from the ceiling so I put cables on the bunk to attach to the ceiling with hooks. I abandoned this idea when I saw the ceiling flexing under the weight. I kept the cables for some security on the bunk so that the sleeping kid doesn't come crashing down at night. These cables support NO weight!
It would have been a lot simpler to make this bunk if the floor of the cabinet was just made permanently fixed. I decided not to do that for two reasons.
The 54 inch height gives enough room that someone can sit comfortably under the bunk. That's important when the kids want to sleep in because they had too many S'mores at the campfire the night before! Finally, I have a picture of the sofa bed and the bunk ready for use.
Totalling everything up, that's:
What I'd like to do is make an Add-a-room for the trailer. Somebody could sleep out there if It's made right. This trailer had a pullout awning when I got it, but it was broken and it interfered with the door. I made a "trial" awning out of a cheap plastic (silver) tarp so I could have a pattern. I haven't found a local source for canvas to make my awning yet, but I'm hoping to find one this summer. I'm looking for a "Zip-dee" like fabric!
To those purists out there restoring Airstreams to pristine condition: Sorry! My renovations to this particular trailer have nothing to do with Airstream designs. They are completely my own, for my own use and enjoyment. I like the trailer this way for now. I DO have all the old parts to change it back if I want to. Right now, however, these modifications allow my children to enjoy Airstream camping. Maybe some day they will have Vintage Airstreams of their own!