Partial restoration of a 1969 Airstream Overlander

May 2021

Full write-up below the pictures.




Honestly, I love everything about the old Airstreams. I like the way they look, I find it fascinating that they are basically airplanes on wheels in terms of the way they are constructed, and I think they are representative of an iconic period of American history.

I've always wanted to own one so when I found one for a good price not too far from where I live, I jumped at it.

Brief summary of the restoration:

I started by removing the dated interior. It was in terrible condition and had to go.

My friend Rafael disconnecting the sink

With that out, I began removing the hundreds of rivets connecting the aluminum shell to the frame. With the rivets gone, the shell was ready to be removed. 

After a bit of thought and a lot of googling, I ended up using our forklift at the shop to lift the shell off the frame. I was nervous the frame would collapse in the air, but thankfully it did not and everything went according to plan.

With the shell off, I was able to replace all of the old, rotten floor with fresh plywood.

The state of the existing plywood (rotten from water leaks)

The frame post rust removal and paint job

Cutting and installing the new plywood

After removing the old floor, installing fresh plywood, and painting the frame, I re-installed the shell and started working on removing the faded clear coat on the exterior panels. A couple weeks later and I had this:

Removing the faded clear coat paint made a huge difference (I also re-painted the signage and installed new lights)

How much?

Initial purchase price: $4,666 (includes sales tax)

Parts: $4,024.79 (spreadsheet of parts + costs here)

Grand total: $8,690.79

How long?

Bought: 7/30/20

Sold: 7/12/21

Total time: 348 days (.953 years)

Where is it now?

I sold it for $11,796 to a really nice couple from Minneapolis who plan to turn it into a coffee shop. They are documenting the process on their Instagram @overlandercoffeeco.

Final thoughts:

This was one of those projects where midway through I counted my costs, as the old saying goes, and decided I didn't have the time, energy, or focus to see it through. Basically I decided I would rather work on my other projects than spend another six months restoring an Airstream. 

That said, I still think fully restored, retro Airstreams are really cool. But if I get one in the future, it will have been bought, not built.

Helpful resources:; Great website that has all kinds of parts for old Airstreams; Official Airstream store; Good resource for parts like axles

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