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mat_the_cat
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I've already mentioned this, but thought there may be interest in a dedicated thread. We've been thinking about setting up an Airbnb arrangement for a while, and had considered a static caravan but put off by the massive depreciation. This seemed a better bet, as not only incredibly well-built and long lasting, they also would be likely to appreciate over time.

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It needs a bit of work, but is very original and almost everything is present. Including the original wheel trims I found in a cupboard!

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First thing I did was hook up a battery to see if there was life:

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Yup! Amazing how cosy it feels inside with a few lights on.20191109_215554.thumb.jpg.143483ccd86fdcbf954d87f485fafc7d.jpg

The plan is to keep it fairly original, just tidied up a bit inside and maybe a polish on the outside (my arms are aching at the thought!) Ideally it'll be kept mobile, as it seems like all the systems should be functional so seems a shame to tie it down. We could even get away with not having to run a water supply to it, and just fill the 30 gallon tank every so often.

I'll try and keep this thread updated with progress...

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Hell yeah. Lots of gypsy type caravans on AirB&B and Booking.com that seem to get booked out pretty quickly in the summer months.

I don't like caravans, but would make an exception to stay in an Airstream. 

Depends on location too, but anywhere in open countryside, rather than under a bypass flyover would be great.

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22 hours ago, Jerzy Woking said:

Depends on location too, but anywhere in open countryside, rather than under a bypass flyover would be great.

That's pretty close to the intended final location, actually from where the photo was taken from is the plan. Just need to put down some hardstanding first. But I'll point out that the views are not always as visible through the cloud and rain!

It seems amazing what some people will pay to rough it - we were talking to a couple who were staying in a clamping tent just up the road, only a bed to relax on, no cooking facilities apart from a microwave and barbecue, just a log burner for heat; yet they were paying £155 a night (in October) for the privilege!

What may count against it is that we'll be in the house nearby, as some people may prefer to be away from the owners. We will see.

Here are a few more photos anyway:

Hollywood style mirror

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Original thermostat...

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...which when operated gives a click from the heater.

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I've yet to connect up the gas to see whether it's operational.

Bathroom beaker which may lead to a name for the 'van.

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Control panel with the night light on.

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Water pump which still works, electrically at least.

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The outside light has had the lens replaced with an amber version, but the correct clear replacements are available at 9 dollars. There may be a few packages arriving from the US over the next few months!

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1 hour ago, mat_the_cat said:

 

It seems amazing what some people will pay to rough it - we were talking to a couple who were staying in a clamping tent just up the road, only a bed to relax on, no cooking facilities apart from a microwave and barbecue, just a log burner for heat; yet they were paying £155 a night (in October) for the privilege!

I organise the accommodation every year on our rides down to the Balkans, and always look for somewhere unusual to stay.

I did find a tree house on one of the accommodation finding websites that I thought would be different. At €200 a night it should be. Looked like a den a few 10 year olds would build. Stayed in a former castle for €25 each instead. 

I consider staying in a caravan as roughing it, but I don't consider an Airstream as a caravan. Not even sure where in the UK you are, but book me in for a night in January, as I'll find a reason to be in whatever area you are in.

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The 'bathroom beaker' may be less of a beaker and more of a holder for a stack of 'Dixie' brand disposable paper cups. The 'Dixie' cup was America's most popular and best known brand and keeping a stack of them handy near the water fountain or tap would have been quite usual.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_cup#Dixie_cups

https://www.dixie.com/our-story

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I think you're right. It was a bizarre coincidence though, my wife was thinking of naming it Dixie, then she noticed that!

Moan time - I've ordered a battery charger for it to replace the (massive) 120V charger fitted already. Unfortunately I didn't notice the dreaded words 'Economy courier' on the eBay advert, which usually means Yodel. They don't seem to be able to find our house, and instead drop the parcel 'in a safe place' somewhere. Trouble is, I've no idea where in the group of houses sharing the same postcode this somewhere is, so there usually follows lots of emails to and fro before a replacement is sent out. Somebody is getting a lot of free stuff!

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It's a 30 amp output from the charger, but that's only a few amps at 120V. But I'd have to drop the inlet voltage to 5/6 of 120 to avoid overheating the transformer, seeing as it'd be running at 50 rather than 60 hertz. Which would then obviously drop the output voltage...

Plus a modern 3 step charger is better suited to a constant connection, rather than the old transformer style which can overcharge if left connected. I just want something to fit and forget!

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Can we make a booking plz? :D 

We stayed in a Bluebird caravan in Devon which has been set up by guy we found through AirBnB - but now book directly, he's got two gypsy caravans he built from scratch, both with outdoor hottubs, eating and seating areas and loads of nice little touches. He's also just bought a fighter jet which he's converting into a hot tub and building another caravan to go alongside.

The Bluebird is the one I posted pictures of earlier in the year, it's got a hot tub in a land rover - https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/10238461

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How much?! :lol: It still surprises me what the going rate is for somewhere different. Wish I could give up the day job and make a living out of it, but can't realistically see more than one lot of accomodation here.

Next job on it was the gas system. 

As bought, the gas pipework had been cut off underneath the front of the van, so I knew we needed at the very least a regulator and pigtail to connect up a gas cylinder. A bit of research showed that the appliances are designed to work on a pressure of 11 water column inches, which equates to around 27 mbar – close enough for a UK 30 mbar caravan regulator to be suitable, meaning I can use UK gas cylinders. However, getting a UK regulator to fit the existing pipework proved impossible so I had to work out what adaptors I needed.

The main gas pipe is ½” nominal, meaning an OD of 5/8” i.e. 15.875mm. Unhelpfully, this is different to the old UK ½” pipe, which has an OD of 15.1mm, and is close enough that metric 15mm fittings can be used. I couldn’t find a metric to US ½” adaptor for love nor money, but I did discover that the French use 16mm pipework, and was able to find a 15 to 16mm adaptor! Caravan regulators seem to have a maximum 10mm outlet, which I had to step up to 15mm to fit the French adapter. I’m hoping that the spec’ing of ½” pipe is the usual American overkill, and a short length of 10mm won’t result in a pressure drop. Especially as we’re not going to be running the fridge on gas, and in all likelihood not the heater either.

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Regulator mounted next to the original warning plate.

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And a temporary gas cylinder connected up. I know that the pigtail is too long, but I'll get the right length, and make up a platform of the correct size once we've settled on a gas cylinder.

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So far I've tested the hob and oven, but the latter seems to have a blockage.

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In other news I connected up the running lights to a 12V supply. I think it looks quite welcoming - imagine driving along a forest track and seeing this waiting for you as your home for the week!

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I managed to find my Yodel undelivered charger, so out came the original...

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...and in with the new. Supposedly charges up to 20 amps, and I can't see any kind of sustained load discharging the leisure battery faster than this.

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Ideally this would be supplemented with solar panels, in which case it'd be sensible to put the charger on a timer, coming on a few hours before darkness to top up the battery if the panels haven't been able to. Otherwise the battery will be fully charged byvtye morning, and the panels will have little benefit.

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20 hours ago, mat_the_cat said:

How much?! :lol: It still surprises me what the going rate is for somewhere different. Wish I could give up the day job and make a living out of it, but can't realistically see more than one lot of accomodation here.

The guy with the gypsy caravans and Bluebird etc says he doesn't yet make a living out of it, but that's because so far the takings from each one has been ploughed into building the next one. He did say he could see a time, probably when the fourth is finished or maybe get a fifth somewhere where it would be his only job - I guess four or five quirky caravans around the country would take a fair bit of looking after.

That said, he's a pro carpenter... we stayed in one for just two nights and in that time he went from a few bits of wood laid out on the floor, to a recognisable frame of a caravan with a roof on. I guess the trick is to make things desirable, and an Airstream certainly stands out from a sea of beige bedsits on the site. We were just flicking through one Saturday morning when we found his first one, made a booking there and then, and were in the hot tub by 4pm. 

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Fair play to him then, if he's letting out several caravans, building another, and holding down a day job! I guess if he's self employed it's easier to make the transition, but even so must be a drain on his time.

I added some water to the main tank on ours - bad news is the pipework leaks from several old rubber hoses, but the good news is the level gauge seems to work :-)

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He seems to build one caravan a year so I guess he has 40-odd weeks of paid work. You can see from his AirBnB though it's £100-odd a night, four caravans each bringing in £400-£500 a week in the summer and just ticking over on weekends through the off season. Not bad! The three he currently has are split between his own land, and his family's farm so I guess there's people on hand to clean and refresh between visitors.

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There's now a hotel in central Bristol with airstreams craned onto the roof. £180 a night to stay in basically a tin shed not much bigger than a double bed covered in seagull shit

Premier Inn down the road with an actual room with walls and a bog £60.

You'll make a killing.

 

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One thing I'm really liking about this project is that (almost) all spares are still available, 50 years after it was made. The outside light lens had been replaced with an orange version, which although was a very warm light it cut out some of the output. Even with postage from the US a replacement wasn't too expensive, so this arrived today.

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Obviously an old box, but the lens inside was fine.

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A nice quick job to pop it in place!

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I've got a plan to use the original fridge so have bought a 120V transformer. I'd thought it was a compressor driven one so had been concerned about the frequency difference. But a bit of research showed that it was an absorption fridge, so only a resistive load  (225w heater) therefore frequency of no relevance. Will that still work after 50 years...?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, I tried the fridge on mains, but the element was open circuit so no success. I then tried it on gas, and I really liked the simplicity of the switch arrangement which prevents you from powering it from mains and gas at the same time.

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Although it fired up ok, there was no cooling whatsoever so I guess it must be out of refrigerant. Sadly I think we'll have to replace it, but will try and get something in keeping with the rest of the interior. Fortunately American style fridges aren't too hard to find!

I've de-rusted and painted the battery tray, which although a little frilly round the edges is structurally ok. I could then replace the borrowed battery with a correctly sized leisure battery. 

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The extension lead is temporarily running the charger until I've finished all the interior electrics. On the subject of which, these are the original US sockets.

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How startled do they look?! The orientation of the sockets left me with a bit of a problem. I could either fit UK sockets vertically (which would look strange), or I'd have to fit a filler plate to cover the vertical rectangle cut in the lining. Or...

There is a range of electrical outlets, mainly for data, which are based on a modular system fitting into a square recess.

 https://socketstore.co.uk/products/sockets-and-switches/accessories/euro-data-modules#

There are socket modules in the range, which being square I could rotate to be correct with the outlet vertical. Happy days!

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I'm using the original wiring, which although in the 'wrong' colours is still in good condition, and saves stripping out the interior to re-lay new cabling. I can't find anything in the UK wiring regulations that forbids the use of non-standard wiring colours, so long as they are correctly identified and none of the original colours is used to designate an earth conductor. So I've bought a couple of rolls of blue and brown sleeving to slip over the original wires.

And here's another shot of it looking quite welcoming and cosy :-)

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Isn't the trick with those caravan fridges to take them out and leave them upside down for a week or so.

Also don't expect instant cooling, a good few hours is required either on gas or mains.

If wiring is in good order then no reason not to use it, as long as you sleeve everything, doubling the voltage halves the current requirement to give the same power. So the wires should be more than up to it. You can always get it checked for leakage.

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As a last resort I wondered about that. I've heard it mentioned but never had reason to try it. I left it on for a day or so, so definitely long enough to have seen some cooling if it had been working :-(

Yes, the wire thickness is definitely overkill for 230V - I'm guessing 4mm2, so difficult to physically squash it all in a 35mm back box!

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