Modifications:

1963 Airstream Globe Trotter

1963 Airstream Globe Trotter Front Dinette

Six people in a 19 foot Airstream:

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:



Front Dinette:

table
This front dinette was made to replace the original sofa bed that was in this location. The original bed was in bad shape. I needed more seating room, so I made this dining area that will seat seven people (with some crowding). It is made with 2 by 2 lumber and luan plywood. The table has a hinge in it to make it smaller for storage, and to make it easier to enter and exit the trailer since the table tended to get in the way. The cushions lift up to reveal large storage lockers. The cushions are built with 1/2 inch plywood and three inch foam covered by the upholstery fabric. I decided to make the plywood seat and the cushion all one piece. I could have made them separate, but I thought it would make less confusion if they were all in one.
construction detail

The water tank is against the front wall. All plywood seats were patterned in cardboard before they were cut out so that I was able to match the contour of the trailer. There is nothing straight about an Airstream wall either vertically or horizontally, so the patterns were a MUST! seat construction
The table is supported on a pipe that easily removes from the floor. table support


There is an extension next to the door that pulls out and makes the seating area larger. There is not much distance between the door and the front of the trailer in this 1963 Globe Totter. This extension was necessary to make a decent sized dinette and decent sized bed also! Note, you can still use the door with the extension in place, it's just not as easy as it is without it. extended seat



The table comes off the pedestal and drops in between the seats to make a bed. Oak slats on the seats provide the support. table dropped into position The seat back cushions fit on the dropped table to create a bed. I put a lip on the table to keep the cushions from sliding off the table. I found out later that I had to put some velcro on the cushion also to keep it from sliding over the lip. The picture shows the velcro tabs going to the underside of the table. cushions on table

Construction details

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.

Good points:

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Deficiencies:

Like all projects, after you start to use it, you find out ways you could have made it better.



Hammock:

hammock

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. hammock support inside cabinet

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. hammock support 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. stowed hammock



Cabinet / bed:

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.
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. bunk

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: bunk hinge closedbunk up


bunk hinge openbunk down

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. cabinet opened

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! bunk ready to sleep on

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.

  1. The bunk was too high off the floor. I wanted the cabinet to be out of the way (high) when it was folded. When it drops down, it is 54 inches from the floor. This lowering when opened gives a lot more clearance with the ceiling and a less claustrophobic bed. With the curve of the ceiling in an Airstream, this is very important towards the wall.
  2. There is ventilation and light from the window the way I did it. In warm weather, the ventilation from the window becomes important especially since the bunk is up where the warm air rises to.

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. bunk and sofa ready

Totalling everything up, that's:

That's all six sleeping comfortably! But, you may ask, what happens if all five of our kids want to come along? That's where our vintage Chrysler Town & Country station wagon (see picture) comes in handy. The Chrysler has a 4 by 8 load platform when the second and third seats are folded flat. It's spacious and it's private. We don't seem to have much trouble convincing somebody to sleep out there. Due to the fact that it's separte from the trailer, that kid gets to sleep the longest! I made curtains for the staion wagon for privacy.

What Next?

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!



Got any questions? Just ask.

E-mail me at mweimer@penn.com



Disclaimer:

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!



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