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Airstream Dreamin': How to Build a Sassy Balloon Company Out of your 1973 Airstream

October 18, 2017

Airstream Dreamin': How to Build a Sassy Balloon Company Out of your 1973 Airstream

How to Build a Sassy Balloon Company Out of your 1973 Airstream

We've all dreamed the dream...

Somewhere there's a well-preserved Airstream just waiting to be plucked out of a time-capsuled, climate-controlled garage. All she needs is you to drag her from Cape Columbia to Cape Horn and let the Instagram magic begin. I dreamt it, found it and hauled it so I know a thing or two about living the Airstream Dream.

First, let's be clear: unless you want to pay five figures there are very few ready-to-roll Airstreams to be found. Which means, I hope you knowyour wayaround power tools.Second, renovating an Airstream is no piñata party. But there will be moments you will want to beat something with a stick. Hard.

Step one: Search long and hard. And then look some more.

Craigslist can be a den of thieves, but also a place to score a steal. If a deal is too good to be true, it is. Don't overlook warning signs because you want this to be the one. It's never a good idea to buy something unseen and it's always a good idea to crawl on top, underneath and all over looking all details. Specifically any signs of rust on the frame, rotting subfloors or water damage. Did you know that you usually have to take the entire outer shell ofthe Airstream off to replacesub flooring? Yeah, like literally remove the aluminum body with a crane, totally not worth it. Don't let the idea of, "There will never be another one like this..." scare you into buying. There will always be another one. Chances are, a better one. It just takes time.
​Patience is a virtue. You'll see.

Step two: Make sure you have somewhere to keep the Airstream. For. A. Long. Time.

Picture
As an entrepreneur, people assume I have a lot of money and ample free time. The truth is, we make time for things that give us actual orperceived ROI.Family, Friends, paid speaking engagements and Airstreams...not in that order.
Let me tell you something, people are either broke with a shit of ton of time, or filthy rich with no time to spend it. If you are one of those mythical creatures with lots of time and money you should definitely buy and Airstream because she's going to take a lot of cash and hours...And blood. And sweat. And tears.

And while you're at it, drag your family in to this hole you've dug for yourself. That's what I did. After storing her in a lot for a long while where there was plenty of space for demo, we prepped my mother's yard and house for thepermanenceof a 1973 Airstream Ambassador Land Yacht. We had electricians come out to run a 240v outside to the site of the Airstream so we could run all of its systems including the original 8track player that still works!

She cantosswhatever plans she had for a pool, garden or knitting circle out the window.



Step three: Map out your vision

I'm not talking about mapping out your travel route. You are so far from that, it's laughable.
What do you want your space to be? Are you trying to actually live in this thing? (Fun!) Do you want to make it a rolling bar? (Duh.) Are you trying to start a vintage boutique out of this tin can? (You're so late to that party...)

Originally I bought my Airstream with dreams to drag it from the North Pole to the South Pole on my epic solo road trip. Then a happy accident happened. I gave birth to Badass Balloon Co.

Soooo.... I needed a space to run my business out of. (What, you had a better idea?). Like all good start up stories, Badass Balloon Co. started in my living room and when I needed the space, moved to my mom Martha's spare bedroom. Since then, we've been growing like a weed (the ones with flowers of course). Turns out my mom was happy to give up her yard for the Airstream. It meant she was getting back her spare bedroom. And her own bedroom. And laundry room. Oh, and her dining room.
This would have been my mom's house in three more weeks...

Step four: Get to work

What are you waiting for? Fire up the You Tubes and search 'Airstream Rennovation'. Or get your sister to Google away while you wield the hammer. Don't get too carried away with demo. Keep all you can - not only will you save money but the resale is better the more original you keep her.Not that anyone is ever going to sell this baby. I'll haunt the grandkid that even thinks about it.

I wanted to keep all of the systems working so we kept the galley kitchen intact seeing as that the counter top served a purpose. We also kept the bathroom and shower room as we could easily stack boxes in there, tah-dah.Be warned (and comforted) they don't make shit like they used to. So don't take out that solid sub-flooring unless absolutely necessary (like your foot is about to go through) and you have a crane.

Also, Airstreams were made to be light and aerodynamic. So instead of screws, an airstream is held together with aluminum rivets. In order to remove these rivets we had to drill through the center of hundreds if not a thousand at least, and pop them out or pull them out with a pair of pliers to remove all of the pieces like the pantry, closet, bed and sofa.

So that was fun.

Oh, one more thing: be sure to let the Airstream go through a good rainstorm. Chances are there are a few leaks you'll need to chase down.
Don't forget to don long sleeves, gloves a mask and protective eyewear if youdon't want to be attacked by the pink fluffy fiberglass you will be handling. It looks like cotton candy. It's not. This attire was especially enjoyable in 120 degree West Texas desert heat. Ifyou have leaks, get ready to pop out walls, remove the wet and mildewed fiberglass insulation, treat the rotting wood and Bondo that subfloor. You'll need lots of Bondo. And twice as much caulking.

​And possibly a chest x-ray.

Step five: Get your shit back together

Seriously, you've spent twice the money you budgeted and weeks (ok, months) more than you planned. Your sisters have given up on you, your crafty friends will stop answering your calls for advice, your child labor (in this case my nieces and nephew) all went back to school, and the Youtube videos for Airstreamrenovation become more like a clip from Jackass. Step away from the caulk gun and piece the Airstream back together.

Add a fresh coat of paint and some rad furniture.

Let the Instagram magic begin.

Highlight Reel

Photo Album

This Magic Moment. The First Time I laid eyes on my most Prized possession, In a yard in West Texas.

Blissful ignorance. Patching over a shitty patchwork job.

We found a major leak in the rear right taillight and had to remove the dreded corner panel in the wall. It was a bitch to pop back in. We removed the old fiberglass and replaced it, but not before sealing the rotted wood and applying a layer of bondo on top of the 4 inch rotted area.

Paint day Bitches!

We chose French Grey for the walls and gold for the window frames.

Installing the floor.

Because this is going to be a low traffic area, we decided to forgo the traditional vinyl flooring route. Instead, I took birch plywood pieces and put them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Thank goodness I'm excellent at math. We topped it off with gold craft paint from Ace Hardware. We attempted a polyurethane top coat but it ate through the paint sadly. So we left the top uncoated and it has held up well.

How we Celebrated when it was all over...


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