Bruce’s Airstream Overlander

Bruce Czopek is a muralist, artist and avid backpacker who decided about two years ago to stop paying rent. While the costs of home ownership were out of his reach—he still wanted to own something that he wouldn’t have to worry about losing should he not be able to pay the rent. Enter a 26-foot 1966 Overland Airstream.

Bruce found the trailer on the Denver, Colo. Craigslist and had it shipped via uShip to his friend’s home in Northern Nevada. He then spent over 80 hours stripping out old caulking and sealant from the exterior seams and resealing the skin of the trailer. Bruce spent even more time removing insulation full of mouse droppings, painting the frame with rust inhibitive paint and re-insulating the inside, refinishing the original cabinets, pulling out old plumbing and gas lines, installing a new heater, new propane regulator and new wood floors.

airstream-restore

airstream-rainbow

bruce-airstream-bed2

Bruce lives in the trailer most of the time and rents space for it from his friend. He does utilize his friend’s house for the bathroom and kitchen.

“Having access to the house meant I wouldn’t have to worry about plumbing and kitchen till Phase Two,” Bruce said. “Doing it on a budget also demands saving money for the next phase.  That will be installing new plumbing, a new water heater and finishing the bathroom.”

bruce-airstream-closet

airsteam-living

Bruce purchased the Overlander for only $4,500, but suggests if anyone else wants to attempt to restore an older trailer to be patient and accept that the amount of work will be more than originally considered.

“While repairing one thing you will find two or three other items to take care of,” he said. “The alternative is to pay a lot more for an Airstream that has been thoroughly inspected. There really are no deals out there any more. I had first thought to gut the trailer and do a modern interior but even though the cabinets were pretty tired everything was there and I decided to stick with the original look. The interior now feels like a first class cabin on an old ocean liner. Classy and comfortable.”

Bruce also plans to spend more time making the trailer more insulated for winter weather and appreciates the various Airstream forums and friends will skills who helped him along the way.

“I love the round quality of the Airsteam. Not being all angular, it has a calm feeling inside,” Bruce added. “I have found that using it as a bedroom while having the advantage of a separate bath and kitchen is actually very nice.”

bruce-airstream-lights

Photos by Bruce Czopek

 

By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

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Marsha Cowan - June 30, 2014 Reply

Great job! Looks very comfortable and classy, like you said. Being a woman, I would like to change the color of the sofa blanket, but that is just me. What you have on there right now looks very manly. Again, great and thorough job!

    bruce czopek - July 1, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Marsha,

    Yeah, I look forward to changing the color of the sofa too! It still needs to be refinished and when that is done I’ll have the mattress upholstered in something that works. And I will be sure to get some fabric swatches to bring back and check out on site with a few friends. Thanks again for the kind words,
    Bruce

John Mauldin - June 30, 2014 Reply

I am convinced that more and more people will choose alternatives to conventional housing. I applaud Bruce’s decision to make this choice.

nanaPat - June 30, 2014 Reply

Looks very cozy Bruce…did yourself proud I think !

Richard - June 30, 2014 Reply

Bruce – great job! I admire the patience it’s take to finish (at least phase 1) of a project like that. Too many people throw in the towel half-way through. Persistence is a great trait. Your comment about fixing one thing and finding two or three more is spot on. Good luck with phase 2. I’d love to see some solar eventually. Maybe for phase 3?

    bruce czopek - July 1, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Richard,

    Having worked in the trades for many years, one develops “ant mentality” – pick up the little piece that needs to be moved and do that. Then the next one , and on and on….. soon the project is moving along.

    Solar is a great idea and one I look forward to. It provides more flexibility in where one can live also.

    Thanks again for the support, Richard.

    Bruce

shelby - June 30, 2014 Reply

wow! what a beautiful outcome! My husband and I just made the decision to move full-time into a rv. It was the best decision we have ever made! Fixing it up has been a challenge, so this is very inspiring!

Lisa E. - June 30, 2014 Reply

Excellent job. Looks wonderful. Anyone could live quite comfortably in this Airstream.

Susan J. - June 30, 2014 Reply

I love having the airstream on the property – instant cool.

Susan J., Bruce’s landlady

    Marsha Cowan - June 30, 2014 Reply

    Oh Susan! It is great to hear of people willing to help other people get settled by giving them a spot of land on which to build or park. Pleasure to meet you!

david - June 30, 2014 Reply

I think perhaps we’ve been conditioned to living in houses, in the same street , with the same neighbours for the rest of our lives.

david - June 30, 2014 Reply

He’s right, the round edges does have a calming effect, even just looking at the shots here. She’s a real beauty. Miss America

alice h - June 30, 2014 Reply

Gotta love those classics. Beautiful job bringing it back to life.

Edward Thompson - June 30, 2014 Reply

Would that I could be so lucky to find one like it. I am close to getting to be homeless, and on disability its not easy to find a place to live. This is a fine home, hope it stays comfortable and blessed for you.

    MJ - July 1, 2014 Reply

    This is a good example of thinking outside the box, Edward. You obviously have a computer, get on Craigslist or something similar and see what’s out there. Sometimes you can spend not much money to get started, people can be amazingly willing to help out with payments if you just look, ask, and let them know ‘here is an honest person, we can work this out’. That’s speaking from experience, not fairy tales! Good hunting!

    JACKIE M. - July 1, 2014 Reply

    HI EDWARD, I TO AM ON DISABILITY, WISH I COULD STILL WORK, AFTER LOOKING FOR A YEAR, I FOUND A GOOD DEAL, 1989 ,23′ CAMPER,( $ 1,000.oo) INTERIOR IS WELL KEPT, I TIGHTEN WATER CONECTIONS UNDER THE SINKS, SMALL DRIP ON ONE, THE OTHER KIT. SINK HAD A GOOD SIZE POURING, SO I TOOK OUT THE DRAWERS BECAUSE I COULDN’T GET TO THE PLUMBING (MADE SPACE FOR TRASH CAN),AND THEN I TACKLED THE ROOF, I CAULKED AND REPLACED ALL VENTS, LESS THAN A HUNDRED DOLLARS,AND BOUGHT 5 GALLONS OF KOOL SEAL,($ 35.00)–NO LEAKS–JUST CUTS DOWN ON ELECTRIC BILLS– I CLEANED AND WIRE BRUSH THE AREAS THAT NEEDED IT, USING AN EXTENTED PAINT ROLLER HANDLE,DUCK TAPE THE BRUSH TO IT, AND THEN ROLLED THE KOOL SEAL ON. I LET DRY 3 WEEKS AND JUST FINSH ANOTHER COAT. I WILL APPY A GALLON PER COATING EACH TIME, I DID PUT IN A 5000 BTU WINDOW IN,(free) NOT USING THE O/HEAD ONE, AND THE REF. DOESN’T WORK,SO I USE IT FOR BOX PACKAGED FOOD ETC, I DID TAKE THE FRONT SEAT OUT FROM THE TABLE BECAUSE I HAVE A SMALL FREEZER AND TURNED IT FACING THE DOOR, MY SON HAD BUILT ME A SMALL 10”X30” HIGH COUNTRY PIE SAFE WITH WIRE ON FRONT, AND
    THIS I PUT MY JARS OF PICKLES, JELLY ETC. AND A SMALL REFIG.,(free) I BOUGHT THE SHEERS AND TOPPERS, ($12.00)AND LOVE SEAT ($ 35.00) FROM GOODWILL, (TORE OUT DOG EATEN SOFA), AND REMOVED THE OLD CARPET, AND STAIN THE BEAUTIFUL PLYWOOD FLOORS, $ 20.OO AND A FAVORITE GARAGE SALE RUG.($20.00), i will in the future REPLACE 4 tires, ALL TOGETHER I WILL HAVE LESS THAN $2,000.00 IN IT. PEOPLE JUST KEEP LOOKING TILL YOU FIND A GOOD DEAL, WITH MINOR REPAIRS, GO TO A CAMPER PLACE AND ASK HOW TO DO THINGS, USUALLY THEY WILL QUOTE YOU A VERY HIGH PRICE, THEN GO TO LOWES AND ASK HOW TO CAULK, ETC. MU CAMPER IS A DOLL HOUSE, MOST I DID SPEND WAS BED COVERINGS FROM BELK, AND THAT WAS ALSO ON SALE… GOOD LUCK AND ENJOY A NICE PLACE TO LIVE… I PUT MINE ON A PRIVATE MOBILE HOME LOT, I HAD AN ELECTRICAN TO MAKE ME TH CONNECTION FOR THE 30 AMP SERVICE–LESS THAN $30.00. AND USUALLY A CAMPER SALES WILL HAVE A PRIVATE CONTRACTOR TO MOVE IT, I HAD A FRIEND TO MOVE MINE…. THANKS JACKIE FROM GA.

CathyAnn - June 30, 2014 Reply

I admire you for taking on such a project. All your efforts sure have paid off. It’s beautiful.

Chris - June 30, 2014 Reply

Awesome job, looks fantastic…

Mary - June 30, 2014 Reply

Great job! Can you give a list of what you need to have as you live in the Airstream? A good deal could be learned for those of us who need to downsize but need to be realistic about storage. Thanks

    bruce czopek - July 1, 2014 Reply

    Hi Mary,

    It is hard not to need some storage space outside the trailer. Fortunately, Susan, my landlady
    includes a storage space ( 12 x 12) in the old horse barn on the property and a few shelves in the garage. I needed some place to keep my tools and supplies for work and it works out perfectly.

    How much you want to have is such a personal issue. I’ve always lived fairly simply so letting go a few more items that I never used was easy. Try the 2 year rule. If you haven’t used something in two years do you really need it? However, if two people are going to live in a trailer some outside storage is absolutely essential. I was renting a nice 600 sq. foot one bedroom duplex before buying the trailer and I although I got rid of all my furniture, all the clothes, dishes, office stuff etc. all fit in the Airstream. I did donate my tv to Susan’s house where I have visiting rights so I do cheat a bit. One thing I would say is one has to get used to doing laundry fairly often. There isn’t a lot of space for it to pile up.

    There is a surprising amount of storage space in the Overlander, which is one reason I wanted a 26 footer.

Craig Claeys - June 30, 2014 Reply

Brilliant. Love Airstream.

I think it was wise to leave the interior intact and restore it. Airstream is celebrated for their design, and unless your interior designer brings more to the table than the original Airstream designers did, there’s diminishment.

Kim Feuerbacher - July 1, 2014 Reply

It looks fantastic, comfy and cozy!

    bruce czopek - July 1, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Craig,

    After spending so many years working in other peoples home it was nice to be a bit obsessive in my own space. In my book 1966 and 1967 are the best overall design years for Airstream. I believe 1966 was the last year that Airstream used metal hardware on the cabins and went to plastic after that. It feels great to have the wood and metal in there and although there was some nasty water damage to be repaired, I am fortunate to have the skills to do it.

    bruce czopek - July 1, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Kim!

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connie worcester - July 1, 2014 Reply

I love the picture of the exterior with the “rainbow” right over the top of the Airstream.!

Design Er - August 10, 2014 Reply

Good choice to rehab the old wood cabinets, to keep original integrity of trailer. As a painter I like minwax or better still watco danish wood oil, if the dark is too… and the lighter color is too… then buy both and tone them together- by the table spoon, just to get yer mix ratio. Then it’s one of those and two of the other. See? A well washed concrete blanket should help for extra insulation, pin it well. Nevada winds in the big empty. Live for art my friend…

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