Once all the badges, vents, and trim were off, and the windows were removed, and the roof vents and antenna were taken off as well, we were finally ready to start removing the skin of the trailer. We’d removed all of the screws on the trailer at this point – a process that literally took us days. It was at this point that we started realizing that this was going to take longer than we had thought. No problem. How hard could it be to remove the skin? It’ll peel right off like an orange, certainly.
We started removing the skin from the front of the trailer first, from top to bottom. The skin was made of several overlapping sheets of aluminum, held together at the seams with small nails and staples. Removing these added quite a bit of extra time to the operation; in some places, they were hidden behind the next layer of aluminum and were extremely difficult to access. In addition to being hidden (we think some of them were actually invisible) they were also rusty and brittle and frustrating as heck.
We were careful to avoid denting the aluminum and placing too much pressure on the wood underneath– we couldn’t tell what was solid and what was rotted, and we didn’t want to crack any fragile boards. The other thing that made getting the front off tough was the fact that the propane pipe had actually worn a hole in the aluminum, and we needed to give it a good solid whack with a mallet to get it to turn enough so we could tug the skin out from underneath it.
After removing the skin, we laid it out in the grass like a giant puzzle. We eventually moved all the skin inside and stacked it as we took it off, trying our best to remember what was what, what went next to what, what side was what side… you get the point. After removing the front, we saw that there was a thin layer of fiberglass insulation along the center of the trailer, but no insulation on the sides. What possible insulation this could realistically offer anyone, we couldn’t tell you. It was like cotton candy. 42 year old cotton candy. The pine frame boards were butted up against the plywood interior walls, so we would need to carefully remove the damaged pieces to keep the interior intact. (We repeat – most folks gut these from the inside. We were determined to retain as much of the 1972 interior glory as we could, which is why we approached the frame damage from the exterior.)
We found significant damage to the left window frame board where water must have seeped in underneath the window, but also damage to the top window board that we hadn’t expected. Overall, the damage to the front of the vehicle wasn’t as bad as we’d been afraid of, but it was clear that the board to the left of the front window would need to be replaced and the top board would need some reinforcement. After spending nearly a year being apprehensive about what might be waiting inside the frame, were very glad to see that it wasn’t moldy and didn’t hold any other nasty surprises – on the front at least!