Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Great Airstream Floor Plan Mystery

When I purchased my fixer-upper Airstream trailer, the original floor plan was something of a mystery. From the serial number and online sources I was able to determine it was produced during calendar year 1949, but whether it was a model year 1948, 1949, or 1950 trailer was another matter. The bewildering array of model names, and changes to those names, for their 22 foot trailer (20 foot body) confused the matter, but Airstream online archive have a scans of a few ads and a brochure from the 1948-1949 time period that helped narrow things down a little.

Alas, not very far. All of the original wood closets, cabinets, chest of drawers, bed or dinette frames, etc. were long gone. The only portions of original interior remaining intact were the stove, the stainless steel and aluminum sink cabinet, and three overhead aluminum cabinets with wood doors. The stove and sink were in a common position in virtually all of those floor plans, and the position of the overhead cabinets were not indicated in the plans at all. Window positions might have offered some clue, but the actual window positions on the trailer don't exactly match any of the plans.

I could come up with my own floor plan if I wished, but I'm approaching this project looking to largely emulate the original design aesthetic. There are a few changes I plan to make. I plan on leaving the interior aluminum skins unpainted, because I like the look of shiny aluminum. And while I'm initially leaving out the propane appliances, I'm planning to be able to add them in the future if I so wish. Nonetheless, I want something pretty close to original.

Plan from 1948 Airstream ad
The plan from the 1948 ad I'm just going to rule right out - those large closets at rear could make the adjacent bed area feel quite closed in. I'm not claustrophobic but many are, so bad idea right there. Sadly, that eliminates the possibility of a real bathroom.  I've gone to a few RV dealerships and RV shows, and checked out some of the small wet baths used in some of the smaller trailers and class B motor homes. No way. Again, I'm not claustrophobic, but there's just no room to shower comfortably in one of those. So the 1948 plan is just out.

Plans from 1949 Airstream brouchure

The 1949 brochure shows three variations each for the front and rear portion of the plans, for a total of nine possible plan combinations. But all of those combinations result in a area at front that could sleep at most two, in a bed no more than 46" wide. Great for a single person or a couple, but most of my friends of either sex are single - not cool if I want to bring more than one along.

Plans from 1949 Airstream ad
That brings me to the plans from the 1949 ad, which is virtually identical at center to the 1949 brochure (save reversing sink cabinet and cook stove), with the rear transverse double bed arrangement the same as from the brochure. The differences are at the front. There are two additional front end variations shown here.  One is virtually the same as the 1948 ad, featuring two single beds that double as benches for the dinette. The other is essentially half of that arrangement, with one single bed forming part of the dinette arrangement. One of those variations is my most likely floor plan.

With the one single bed approach, I'm back to the problem mentioned earlier, of only having the one additional spot to sleep.  However, it can easily accommodate another on an air mattress at the foot, or two on two different sleeping pads. The two beds variation looks like it might be a bit cramped, though. I'm not sure.

Closet and chest of drawers.  From 1949 Airstream brochure.
Having decided as much as I have, that leaves me with a bit of carpentry to do after or in parallel to the general repair work on the trailer.  I'll need two construct two closets and two chests of drawers, and the frame for the rear bed, all of which have at least have simple drawings in the 1949 Airstream brochure, as well as horizontal dimensions for the closet and chests of drawers. The front end variations that interest me lack an drawings but I can probably put something together. The main challenge will be getting the curves right - note the curve at the rear of the closet, to fit the curved shape of the Airstream.

Rear double bed.  From 1949 Airstream brochure.

I've cleared up some of the mystery in terms of possible floor plans, narrowed down my own choices of which to choose from, and figured out roughly what carpentry will be required for the interior. That probably enough on this topic for now.

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