We spent the following week preparing for our big trip out to Elkhart, Indiana to enjoy the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally with 41, count ’em…41 other Avions! While at it…we installed a mud flap system to protect our silver beauty!!
Back story.……When we returned from our longest road trip to date (16 days) to Dearborn, Michigan this past May/June for the TCT (Tin Can Tourist) Centennial Rally we noticed that at some point, we must have driven over some loose gravel, rock chips in a construction zone because on the curbside of our Avion front area (yes, the area where Airstreams have those protective “wings”) we had a whole lot of small, tiny dings into our aluminum skin. We know these were not there prior to our trip. It is worthwhile to note that with our multiple excursions now through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana…that the roads in those states are not nearly as good, or well maintained as ours are in NYS. So ok, higher gas taxes, and over all taxes may have some redeeming quality…but we still live in one of THE most expensive states in the union–so not much solace there.
So we have decided to purchase a mud flag bumper guard set up for our tow vehicle which is a 2011 GMC 2500 Denali HD, 6L gas, 4 WD, Crew Cab with Leer extended bed cap (which we LOVE!!).
A mudflap system would have most likely 99% prevented these chips from happening. Only sorry we did not do sooner, 46 years on the road and our baby got dinged! Not only does a mudflap protect from errant rocks coming up and hitting your rig, or worse yet, your rockguard or windows…BUT it also handles…well….MUD (snow, slush, dead animal debris, floating garbage or UFO’s on the highway!-yes it happens!) Kevin works for NYS DOT and can tell you amazing stories of what his crew finds on the highways. Mud was the other thing that washed up onto our Avion body front during this most recent trip.
Kevin got lucky when he inquired about pricing for a Rockstar Mud Flap bumper system at our favorite local after-market auto parts detailer and installer- Mac The Knife (Mac also is the one who redid our rock guard and spare tire cover- he does great work!) Mac happened to have a left over demo model of a Rockstar brand system that he had had on display in his shop a few years back. Yeah, it was dusty but Kevin got it for less than 1/2 price off current retail …and it is the same system being sold today for over $479 list. Here is link to similar set up that we have which is currently available through ETrailer.com. FYI-We have purchased several things from ETrailer.com and are very impressed with the ease of ordering online, their quick shipping and quality products. They have a huge inventory of tons of stuff and their customer service reps are very good.
Bear in mind, these things are heavy. We realized that since this will be a one time purchase for us…and when we are in our 70’s and 80’s and still on the road (don’t laugh…we will be good LORD willin’ and the creek don’t rise!) we needed the easiest way possible to lift this baby off the back hitch to store it away if we did not want to cruise around with it on the truck (it does add weight= lesser gas efficiency when not towing)
Here is a good video to show how you hook on the system to your rear bumper.
So Kevin had the idea to create a semi-permanent fix which was to affix the flap system to the receiver piece insert which then can be pulled out with the mud flap bumper system. Otherwise, we would also have to be pulling off the entire (and super heavy) GenY Torsion Hitch with the whole mudflap bumper system attached as one unit. That GenY Torsion Hitch is also a great piece of equipment and we will do a separate post just on that and cross link it here at some point.
Steps we did:
Retro fit a longer 12″ insert reducer from 2.5″ to 2″ so that we could bolt the mud flap guard system right to that. Here is the link to the additional hardware bracket needed as well. Link to hardware sold at ETrailer.com
Kevin used a DeWalt Saws-All with brand new blades to cut off the excess length off the reducer. Be sure to clamp down the reducer so you get as straight a cut as possible. The reducer was too long and butted right up to our spare tire, so that needed to be trimmed back by several inches. Doing this however, then threw off the alignment of the pre-drilled side holes in the reducer, making use of a hitch pin lock impossible.
He then used several different drill bits to cut new holes in the correct positions needed to now be able to throw the hitch lock 5/8 ” pin through. It has a key lock and we have had it rekeyed to match the truck ignition so you always have it handy!
We followed some video’s found on YouTube for the Rockstar brand installation because as we mentioned, this was a store demo unit and therefore we had no instructions or paperwork with it.
Once installed where we knew it was properly in place, we also had to install a Heat Shield (bought on Amazon, see our link/resource page) to prevent the heat from our large exhaust pipe from damaging (a.k.a melting!) our heavy rubber mud flaps.
It is very important to have this heat shield if your exhaust goes out back before using the mudflap unit. If your pipe exhausts to the side you will not need the heat shield.
IF you are purchasing a brand new kit, you may have to put your unit together yourself. See Video As a demo model…Kevin did not have to do these steps! Ours was ready for install!
If you have any questions about this install, or why we chose our hitch or this mudflap system, feel free to email us directly at 1973Avion@gmail.com! We would love to hear from you!
For those following our Rock Guard 3R’s (rescue, restore, reinstall) we are on the final step. Installation of our beautiful, newly rehab’d rock guard we salvaged off of a 1983-84 crunched Avion we found by sheer luck not more than 1.5 hours from our house and in a campground bone yard in a tiny town in VT.
Here is the before….and after…..then…..”THE REST OF THE STORY” ( yes, dating myself)
Below (left) is soon to be salvaged rock guard off a ’83-84 found in VT, (right) is completely rehabbed and now rehung back onto our 1973 Avion. Note the “bling factor” and read on to see how and what we did!
Obviously the first steps of this rehab was literally just elbow grease to take off years of grime. You can see all the steps we did including photos and videos in our Phase 1 & 2 blog posts. We chose a high gloss finished on the interior and exterior of the guard which was professionally painted and finished by a local auto body detailer, Mac the Knife on Quaker Road in Queensbury NY. He loved the diversion this project gave him over the long Adirondack winter!
The final phase 3 of this big project has been to reinstall the guard. But there were some issues. The hanging track of our original (the part installed to nose of trailer) was smaller than the “new” rock guard. In fact it was 7 inches longer.
We determined that this longer length was actually preferable as it would take more of the pressure off those areas that historically start to show stress cracks on countless Avion’s we have seen (yes believe this was a 45 yr old design flaw on part of original manufacturers).
This meant, we had to first remove our original hanging track. A little scary since we had never worked with rivets, etc. But as usual Kevin had watched 100’s of hours on “how to rivet” on YouTube, purchased a few books and then all necessary equipment from Vintage Trailer Supply. He felt confident in what he had to do.
First step: Drill out old rivets holding hanging track on our rig. Old track drilled out and removed. Clean up of area really well is very important. We use a “bone tool” we buy at the auto parts store to remove old grime, butyl tape, any sticky stuff. This one works perfect, it has a flat scraper end and a rounded end. It is actually a hard nylon plastic which will not scratch your aluminum but give you the ability to get stuff off…even smushed bugs too! Kev is “all about the prep!”
Installed 3/4 inch Butyl tape strip on back edge of new track before installation.
Install replacement (longer) hanging track onto trailer front. Use stainless steel rivets for install, use Parbond to cover over each rivet head to prevent any possible water penetration. Parbond along seam that runs along top of guard hanger where attaches to trailer. This is a critical step. When riveting or screwing anything into the skin of your trailer, you create a possible way for water to eek in behind and roll down into the holes made by the rivets or screws. Using Parbond, (we use silver/aluminum colored and and our handy dandy dental hygiene syringe applicator (Amazon, 8 for $10) to a make perfect thin line edges.
We tried reusing as many of the original holes we could from where the original guard track was hung. Unused holes were pre-filled with Parbond completely sealing them. Kevin snipped off the tines of the rivets and used the rivet shaver to smooth them down. Photo above with my gorgeous purple gloves shows rivets before trimming all of them. Note the small magnetic level to ensure you are keeping the track placement level. You can see some of the Butyl tape has softened and eeked slightly below the track. No worries, as this will be unseen and underneath the top of the guard. Better to have a great seal.
We let the track sit for two days to allow Parbond to dry out pretty well. Then time to hang the rock guard. NOTE: All arm hardware had been removed before hanging so it was not in the way. WE ONLY REMOVED THE ACTUAL ARMS, NOT THE RECEIVING HARDWARE since that had been re- riveted on and reinforced during the rehab by our auto body person!
We also found that the hardware locations on the NEW guard were not exact to our original. So we did have to re position the “plunger” receiver on the bottom of the window on one side (only) about 1/4 ” out so that the receiver slot, see right photo below would meet the plunger pin. Plunger pin hardware (bottom photo) is the one on streetside, note parbond behind, on top and in screw holes before reinstalling with stainless screws. To re position the curbside one, Kevin drilled the holes into slot shaped and pushed the bracket to align as needed. Once parbonded and screwed in place it is secure.
How to Hang: Carefully we hung the new rock guard
NOTE: done as a two person job only please!!! lift guard parallel to the ground and both people using step ladders, you slide the track on top of guard into receiver hanging track that is installed on trailer, slide guard across length of hanging track.
Hanging Problem! Once hanging the guard- we noticed that our new guard was not seated very securely in its track.
This was the track salvaged with the guard so we knew it was right (and longer which was good) but for some reason it was way too easy to pop out when lifted up. To combat this we studied the lifting process closely, watching the relationships between the track on rig and track on guard. We realized there was too much “play” in the track on rig and that we needed to put something back there so that the bent “J” portion of the track on guard could not rotate back and the guard come unhinged should we hit some pot hole, etc. on the road.
We found some “U” shaped aluminum in the exact length needed at Lowes. Cheap enough, under $15. You can see it in photo below just in front of the wood strips we used as shims to force it close to the hanger on the guard. We then used stainless screws and screwed this track (parbonded over each) 5 places on this track thereby securing it into the hanger track affixed to the trailer. This process allows the rotation of the guard perfectly but it cannot slip upwards and pop out unexpectedly.
Below you can also see some of the added steel reinforcement strip that we had our auto body fellow fabricate to provide additional rigidity and support to the top of the plastic rock guard itself. As mentioned previously, these guards are notorious for cracking where the arm hinges are due to years of stress on that particular part when traveling down the road. These reinforcements are on the outside and inside so the plastic guard is sandwiched between. They are applied with rivets and were painted at same time as guard so all match, inside and out.
Here is the results, we are very pleased and safe in the knowledge that the guard is not going anywhere with our filler aluminum track safety addition. You can see the reinforcement steel strip clearly on the video below too. Obviously we removed the wood shims after this part of the project was tested and done.
Some still shots of the aluminum U track we added. The last image shows the track before we installed this added piece. You can clearly see all the “play” space that was there and needed filling up to prevent the guard’s track from jumping out by accident.
Next came the re-installation of the support arms. Here Kevin is showing a prelim of how we plan to add additional support arms when set up in camp. First we needed to order additional arms, and do some changes to hardware.
We had decided to copy a fellow long time Avioner we met at the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in IN in 2017 and ordered two additional awning lift arms from Vintage Trailer Supply. These would be used in conjunction with our originals to create add on support arms when we are camped. More on that in a minute.
The new sets (sold separately) from Vintage Trailer Supply were a little shorter than our originals but would work. Kevin drilled out the receiver hardware off the new ones opting to use our original hinge hardware to mount in its original location and holes on our window frames. He used stainless screws, lock washers and nuts to install the arms to the hardware rather than riveting like was originally done. Using screws allows for adjustments, replacing or repairs on the fly far easier than riveting. Below is original mounting bracket that goes on window frame but with the NEW guard arm from VTS installed with stainless screw and lock washer, nut.
We applied Parbond again behind the hardware before installing back on to the window uprights. Using the original mounting hardware we could reuse the original holes which is always preferred over making more holes in your Avion.
Once we did this, we reattached to the bracket on inside bottom of guard. These arm brackets stay attached permanently and are adjusted using wing nuts and washers on stainless screws (1 inch #10) so that the guard can be raised or lowered to just about any height.
The “new” old arms, now with just holes on both ends will be used for additional support for the guard when we are set up in a campsite. These are screwed on with washers and nuts each time they are applied. We strongly feel that this additional support (downward) provide superior support for the guard and take away some of the stress on the permanently mounted cantilever ones that hold up and out the guard. We will simply store them in a little pouch and inside our exterior battery box so they are handy.
Finishing up the new support arm system and we are all done with this major rehab project. Notice we have repainted the underside of our rock guard in a lite off white, high gloss. What this does is it serves to reflect back out the light coming from our lamp (when guard is closed) and also to create a far brighter feeling when guard is open. Previously, the back of the guard was the medium dark grey of the plastic composite material of the guard. This darker color absorbed the light rather than reflecting it. This small change to white has made a huge effect and one we highly encourage. Even just spray painting the underside white with over the counter high gloss paint yourself will help if you do not want to spend the money on the whole auto body finish like we did.
There is nothing more heartwarming and welcoming to us than the Avion Glow!!
“We travel not to escape life….but for life not to escape us”
Clearly anyone who owns an Avion understands that they are historic preservationists in the most fundamental sense. Not only do they maintain, restore and covet their aluminum beauty…they also USE it as it was intended to be used—for enjoying the outdoors, sheltering from weather and creating memories with loved ones and dear friends. If they did not revere history and love nostalgia they would own a modern cardboard box, flat top trailer with little to no personality and certainly not built for the longevity that the Avions can boast to this day. (our Avion turned 45 years old this year-2018, and I challenge any modern box campers to be on the road in excellent running order in 45 years!).
NOTE: at the end of this blog post I have a list of resources for reproduction items talked about throughout this post. Enjoy!
Almost monthly, there are questions about, or seekers of information on the various medallions, decals, numbers and company markers on the trailers.
In this article I will attempt to answer many of the questions and in some cases provide some current links to where some of these items (or reproductions of same) may still be obtained today. Also included are links to other websites where directories of the Travelcade member ID # may still be looked up. Sadly, currently no one source of all those numbers exist so the hunt is on and if someone would eventually scan and post the books in an archive it would be like winning the lottery for a lot of us! More about that in a subsection below.
Lets start at the beginning…the birth so to speak when an Avion was coming off of the assembly line.
As a side note, see our post about our trip to Benton Harbor MI in April 2018 to see a video of the plant that still exists but now is a cheese factory.
Avion Coach Company Medallions and Logo Markers:
These logo medallions from what we have seen were almost always painted red. Today many look like a pale/faded tomato red, but from what we understand a deep true red was more similar to its original color. Over time, the colors have faded. This is the same with the rub rail- that vinyl strip that slides into a channel that goes around the trailers mid-belly in two layers with a shiner (non-anodized) strip in between them (at least on the years surrounding our years of production. In the 80-90’s the colors for Avions turned more to using blues and black. You can see that along the way one of the three previous owners of our trailer replaced the rub rail with black which is very common to see these days. The rub rail material is not easily found in the right size. Resource list at end of this post. Some people have taken to painting the rub rail vinyl back to red, or from faded black to black. It can be done, but I have seen them and to me it looks a bit like a cob job. Perhaps if you were to actually remove the vinyl and spray paint it it might be better—but no way am i promising you will ever get that rub rail back in the channels again very easily!
As another side note to the company medallions, above is the dealership plate from where our 1973 Avion was originally sold from. This dealership does not exist anymore but we have located where it was through old news clippings and at the time surely it was on the outskirts of Dearborn Heights in a rural area– but now that address is smack dab in the middle of a very built up almost urban environment. Our little lady did not travel that far from her birth place to be purchased for the first time. Many Avion’s also still have their original dealer emblem on them. Again, its all about nostalgia for us and we wear it proudly.
Below is our LaGrande “model” medallion which appears on both sides of the trailer to the rear-basically even with where the bathroom is located (at least with 70’s models). Early Avion photos (50’s-60’s) we have seen do not appear to have these though there were some model names. See second photo below for placement. Many of these model plates that we have seen are, like ours is pitted. They are stainless but age, and in our case, being kept in Florida near the ocean in the winters for many years has caused the pitting. If a rig has been kept under cover or in a garage these emblems may be in far nicer condition. The background is dappled/textured a bit and supposed to be painted all flat black. Only the raised lettering is supposed to be shiny. The “Travelcade” models (a wee bit of a step down, basic model of Avion) also have them in the same locations. It is not advisable to remove these unless you really know what you are doing. (again, this was before our baby had her first bath!)
HOW CAN I TELL HOW OLD MY AVION IS AND HOW LONG IT IS? In the photo below you will see the vehicle details on the orange plate that was afixed to the trailer upon completion at the Avion assembly line plant. This is not our trailer but you can see and tell the year, month, and production # as well as the model style “LaGrande”.
These plates are very important when looking at purchasing a new to you Avion or for reference for a rig you currently own. Hopefully you still have one on your trailer. This one is located just to the right of the door entry. This is also where ours is, however there is another plate on the streetside as well that also has important trailer information and should be documented.
There is an excellent resource website maintained by “DR G”, Dr. Don Gradeless that is a treasure trove of manuals (PDF by year) you can download or view, info regarding Avion specs and also early rosters of some Travelcade member units.
Here is how to read the numbers (see image below)- this stands for trailers made at least in the 1970’s that we know and cannot attest to how earlier or later models may be marked.
SERIAL NUMBER 75-L-28043
1975 production year L = LaGrande Model 28 = foot length043 = 43rd trailer made that year.
Trailer Travelcade Member ID Numbers and Units:
I will be including a whole separate blog post about the history of the “Travelcade” membership club because it really was cool! But for purpose of this post, I refer to the wonderful Avion history book written by Robert Muncy (link to purchase here) entitled SILVER AVIONS AND CAYOS. Muncy writes that the Travelcade club of Avion owners got its start in 1959 and had its highest rendezvous turn out of 818 Avions in Coldwater MI in 1970. Please see my future post about the Travelcaders and their club soon!
The photo below is our Avion, our “Pewter Palace” as we call her with her original Travelcade ID numbers and geographical unit emblem. Not all Avion owners joined this optional club and so if you do not see any type of stickers like this (front and rear streetside is where they should be) then the owners did not partake. Benefits of the club included a printed newsletter, attendance at rendezvous (FL, MI, WI) and the ability to order and wear some of the truly awesome “Travelcader Swag” like earings, jackets, knitted caps, pith helmets, bolo ties and more….remember….this IS the 1960-70’s!! See some of the swag we have gotten so far in this previous post or on our Avion Swag post page.
Our trailer’s second owner was from CT and therefore was part of the New England Unit which sadly no longer exists. In fact, the whole “Travelcade” club and movement died out after the corporation sold to the Fleetwood RV company in the 80’s. Happily, a diehard group have resurged the zeal for hosting rallies of Avions again and now there is are very active “Sliver Avion Fellowship ” units based in MI, TX and more recently one started in Arkansas. The trend and desire to all get together again is growing each year as is the popularity of owning one of these classic, well-built beauties. We attended the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in Elkhart MI in the summer of 2017 and had a blast with over 25 Avions of all designs, lengths and styles present. The MI group, I believe is the one who got the whole Fellowship rolling again. Search Facebook for The Silver Avion Fellowship and ask to join. There is a similar named fb site for the event too. I believe that black numbers and letters were the standard issue of these rigs. People attending the Travelcade official rallies back in the day would register with their trailer number. There were published member directories for each year and geographical unit. If you are lucky, someone at one of today’s Fellowship Rallies may come with one and you can look up your original Travelcade member’s name, address, etc. On occasion someone will also post out on one of the Avion FB pages that they have access to one of the books , or you can post out on the Avion Owners facebook pages that you are seeking a “look up” for the numbers on your rig. Folks are more than happy to help find this nostalgic piece of history out for a fellow Avion owner.
As you can see by our membership number—our trailer owner’s were the 14229 members enrolled. WOW!
Below these emblems, or on the curbside somewhere near the front side panel, some Avions also have a vertical list with smaller letters of the location and date of EACH Travelcade Rendezvous that they had attended. It is an amazing story for your Avion and we highly recommend that you LEAVE it, or if needed get repro stickers if some of the letters or dates are worn off. Some trailers only have a shadow (left from fading of the finish) on their rigs. Again—this is a badge of honor that should be maintained in our opinion and we know many other Avioners agree. So please keep them visible! We wish we had some but perhaps our owners were more interested in just reading the member newsletter than traveling south. We do know they took our trailer to Alaska twice though!
If you look very closely below you will see under the “pie slices” a discolored area on the body. In the right light, you can see EACH of the rendezvous that this trailer has been to. It was quite amazing and yes—a badge of honor we are happy to see they have kept even though the actual black letters are long gone. Those letters were issued to you when you arrived at the Travelcade Rendezvous. Today’s Silver Avion Fellowship Rally we attended in MI is reissuing these once again and we will put it on our trailer once we get our clear coating done by Chuck Cayo this spring.
Below are some resources for items mentioned above. Please do remember to check back to my blog often as I will be adding an entire post about the Travelcaders and club which will include some vintage photos of rallies, people wearing Travelcade swag and more… including where to buy reproduction Travelcade Large Member Stickers like what is on the front and rear of our rig (we have purchased new ones to replace our very faded and worn out ones)
CURRENT RESOURCES THAT WE ARE AWARE OF:
(these were viable at date of this post, sorry if no longer active) Please contact me if you find new or other sources!!
(1) Chuck Cayo (above) keeps black in stock most of the time.
(2) Others have used sources found on Airstream (gasp!) forums, recently someone used vinyl stripping found on a website that sells it for lawn chairs. He said it worked well. I got some samples, nice colors but is very thick and not sure how well it will last with temp changes/extremes of full timing plus would be really hard to insert in because it is flat, not curved and very stiff. They said do it on a sunny warm day, and use a heat gun to soften and insert- perhaps with a putty knife to help tuck into track gutter.
(4) Travelcade Member ID #’s and Units: This is a very recent link that I found posted on one of the handful of Avion facebook pages that i belong to. So far, I believe the folks who have ordered from her have had a positive experience. Mind you, you must have a steady hand to apply these…or take the letters and numbers to a professional sign shop or automotive detailer who does this kind of thing and have them apply them! As mentioned, so far, we have only seen black letters on originals but I believe some current owners are using red for their numbers. I guess its a matter of choice.
As always, I hope you have enjoyed this post and gotten some “take aways” from it. I would love to hear your feedback, or if you have other sources for the items discussed above or anything to do with Avions. Its all about helping each other to preserve and enjoy our beloved Avions as much as we call.
We look forward to meeting fellow Avioners on the road in days ahead….till then…
ONE LIVE–LIVE IT!
Adventures with a Vintage 1973 Avion Luxury Coach Camper