In November 2018, we traveled to Fairhope, Alabama to help our dear friends Kyle & Olivia Brady of Drivin’ and Vibin’ with a vintage Airstream Argosy renovation project. Join us as we walk you through the incredible shell-off restoration of this classic travel trailer!
About Drivin’ & Vibin’
Kyle & Olivia of Drivin’ & Vibin’ were full-time RVers who hit the road around the same time as us back in September of 2015, except unlike us in our 33ft fifth wheel they were traveling in at 16ft vintage Fiberstream travel trailer! We’ve always admired their ability to living and work on the road from their smaller rig – and we thought we were minimalists!
After 2 years of traveling on the road in the Fiberstream, they started dreaming of their next rig. A 1979 Airstream Argosy practically fell into their laps, and they started a project that would define their lives for the next year.
The 1979 Airstream Argosy
This 1979 Argosy was already completely gutted when they got it – not even a subfloor remained – and so Kyle & Olivia started a complete shell-off restoration with plans to replace/rebuild everything except the outer and inner shells of the trailer.
We first got involved with the project when we passed through the coastal Alabama area (where Kyle & Olivia are from) in the spring of 2018.
Over the summer, they had extensive work done to the frame, subfloor, axles, and body of the Argosy. Read all about it on their website here.
They also did extensive research and design work on what floorplan to prepare for – and there is so much to consider when doing this. They asked us to come and hang out in Alabama and help with the renovation, so we did!
Underbelly & Insulation
Just before we arrived, the Bradys were working on the underbelly of the Argosy as well as installing the rock wool insulation between the outer skin of the RV and the inner walls. They also installed a foam pad in between the ribs and the inner skin.
Walls – Wiring & Riveting
When we arrived, the wiring in the walls was laid out, the insulation was done, and the interior walls were washed and ready to go back in!
Cleco temporary rivets made putting the panels up pretty easily, and it happened pretty quickly. We developed a good system of someone setting up the panel and the Clecos, and others coming behind and doing the riveting.
Ceiling and Lights
The only piece of the inner skin we couldn’t complete that first day was the ceiling panel, and this was because we needed to install some support brackets for the future interior structures, remove and install the new Fantastic Fans, and finalize the decision for lighting plan, drill the light holes, and install the panel slowly to pull the wires into place at the same time the panel was being positioned and riveted.
They decided to be fancy and wire the lights into three different zones to have more control over the lighting pattern.
Argosy Interior Build
The interior started to take shape as the interior studs were installed around the closets and fridge area and the bench over the battery bank was built. The framing and supports were important to get figured out to set the stage for the rest of the interior structures. This was time-consuming as we quickly found all the edges of the RV are curved, so no two measurements were the same!
The framing of the kitchen counter support and the bed area were completed after major decisions about positioning of the sink, oven, and underbed storage cubbies. Kyle and Olivia procured a beautiful butchers block countertop for their kitchen and desk area. Several of the “walls” were templated, cut, and installed around the fridge and closets and it really started to look like a RV!
Argosy Window Restoration
Olivia and I finished up replacing the hazed and crazed windows which made a HUGE difference.
DIY Custome Airstream Curved Cabinetry
One of the other major accomplishments around this time was the design and building of the overhead cabinets along the curved wall/ceiling. Undercabinet lights were installed to illuminate the kitchen counter.
Update Video/Walk-Thru Dec 10, 2018
The RV Geeks Visited!
We were delighted to have John and Peter of The RV Geeks stop in for a visit! We had been looking forward to meeting them for a very long time and it was so great to finally meet them. They were with us for just over a week – plenty of time to hang out, get to know them, and make some great collaboration videos!
- Geeking out with the Geeks – Tom walks through several geeky topics with the Geeks
- Classic Argosy Renovation – The RV Geeks walk through the Airstream Argosy Renovation at the time of their visit.
- What the RV GEEKS think about RV LIFE? – Kyle & Olivia interview John and Peter about RV Living after being on the road for 16 years.
Argosy RV Bathroom Renovation
The vanity was framed up and a matching butcher’s block counter top was cut. Kyle fabricated a custom shower pan out of layers of foam, fiberglass, and sealant.
Stain, clear coat, sink, faucet, and stove installed!
Since this was a fully gutted renovation, all new plumbing was run, new connections built, and new water appliances installed, including sinks, the shower, and the water heater. Kyle and Tom got in touch with their inner plumbers to put the system together – with some trial and error…Upon pressurizing there were a few leaks realized (and quickly addressed) and it was discovered that the water pump wasn’t shutting off upon reaching the desired pressure. A new water pump remedied this.
This was an animal all of its own!
CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL DETAILS OF THE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM
(complete with diagrams and component list)
From a high level, it involved lots of wires, 5 Battle Born Batteries, 640 watts of solar panels, a Victron MultiPlus Inverter, and a monitoring system.
The 1979 Argosy Minuet has very limited and curved space for installing solar panels. They were still able to install 640 watts of Zamp Solar panels. Some of the kit brackets were able to be used, but a few custom brackets needed to be fabricated to finish the installation. The panels were wired in parallel to maintain a constant voltage across the panels.
Finishing the solar panel installation was the final project that Kyle & Olivia were really hoping to have us help them complete before the end of the year. While there were quite a few projects left after our departure like running the propane line for the stove and water heater, finishing the cabinets, putting down the flooring, and putting in all the final touches, it is amazing to look back at where the Argosy was when we first started working with them on it at the beginning of November and where it is now!
Finishing the Airstream Argosy Renovation
Ready to see the finished product? Here you go!
Do you love vintage renovations? Check out how Flyte Camp Makes Amazin Vintage RVs New Again.
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Friday 3rd of July 2020
I have an Argosy that needs rebuild. As a matter of fact someone just tried to steal it and stripped the axles (axles themselves still in place) when that was not successful. Can anyone advise on qualified re-builders for this effort?.
Sunday 31st of March 2019
Olivia we also are rescuing a argosy. I am interest in how you redid those side window. Did you replace with new windows or replace the panes? If you replaced the panes can you please share with what you replaced them with?
Friday 22nd of March 2019
That airstream looks amazing! I've been looking at getting one myself. I would have to go with a company to do the renovations for me.
Monday 25th of March 2019
Thanks, Caden! It's a lot of hard work. Doable - but definitely challenging :)
Monday 14th of January 2019
Have you considered Panama canal as a destination. I have not seen any travelers documenting that kind of trip.. You have the ultimate rig minus water storage. What are your thoughts. Jess. I'm a guy that's 56. Thanks for living my dream..
Saturday 5th of January 2019
Enjoyed your article. Fun seeing the collaboration. Look forward to seeing it “live” at XAB! Safe travels!