Not all of us are lucky enough to own a piece of Airstream history, but thanks to Ben, Elizabeth and Lily, we get the opportunity to peek inside a beautifully restored 1953 Flying Cloud. What fun it is to see the details of this 65 year old beauty. And, this family has done a wonderful job of helping preserve it so that it lasts well into the future. Here's Ben to tell you all about their journey....
You can see she needed some TLC…….
In 2015 we moved from Silicon Valley to West Marin, CA. At the time we were looking to get into a more natural environment in the woods, and I was switching professional roles from being a licensed mental health therapist at seven different public charter schools to assisting families in navigating the child welfare system. And, in the best case scenario I was reuniting families after their children’s removal by CPS (Child Protective Services). The owner of the property where we wanted to move suggested that we try living in an Airstream next to the creek! We had our eye on a cabin on her property, but there was a bigger adventure in store for us…
This was our first introduction to the world of Airstream, and the Craigslist searching began… As it turned out, we found a 1956 Airstream Flying Cloud for sale in my home town of Santa Cruz, just 45 minutes from our rental in San Jose. We were the first to look at this ’56, and after letting our daughter jump around in it for an hour, we decided to move forward with the purchase. For two years we lived in the 21 foot Airstream in the woods of West Marin, our daughter started pre-school, and we survived massive flooding on the property. Throughout that time I found out how difficult it was to work on the Airstream while living in it. After replacing the sub-floor and a thorough cleaning, we sold the ’56 Flying Cloud to another family. At that time I was offered an opportunity to transfer with the non-profit and we moved to Tacoma, WA.
The Airstream bug still had me real bad though, and I found myself once again feverishly searching Craigslist throughout the country. Eventually, in November 2017, I found what was incorrectly titled as a 1958 in Idaho. At the time I asked the owner of Monsterpolish in Idaho to give me his professional opinion on the Airstream. He had seen it before, but had not looked inside. What he found was an immaculately preserved 1953 Airstream Flying Cloud with all working and original appliances: Panel Ray furnace, Dixie Wanderer stove/oven, electric Marvel fridge. I bought the 1953 on the Monsterpolish recommendation in November 2017, and it would stay in his shop in Idaho throughout the winter. Dent removal, polish, and seal were completed, and the Airstream was ready for delivery… We still had not laid eyes on it! We moved from Tacoma to Wenatchee, WA, and the Monsterpolish shop was ready to move from Idaho to Arizona. At the beginning of June 2018 we had the Airstream delivered to our driveway in Wenatchee where I was already working for a new non-profit as an outpatient mental health therapist. Honestly, when that Airstream pulled into the driveway polished and timeless, I almost cried. Now for getting our hands dirty!
Lily, now five years old, was ready to get back into another Airstream project right alongside me. Any chance she can get she will join me in cleaning, sanding, and polishing! She is also very good with sales and often brings up the family who purchased our first Airstream, pointing to the fact that she gave a set of blocks to their little boy. My wife, Elizabeth, provides her professional interior paint skills, and also puts up with my constant perseveration on the project. She has infinite patience…
Work done on the 1953 Airstream Flying Cloud:
Dent removal, polish, and seal by Monsterpolish
Letter of Origin from Airstream Inc. confirming the correct year: 1953
Title correction with the DMV to represent 1953 and put it in my name
Sand and treat original interior wood paneling
Powder coat: stovetop, stove splash, furnace heat shield, fridge shelves
New propane tanks
Clean and sand interior paint
New dinette shelf installed
New red oak hardwood front door step
New breaker box and electrical inlet
New 100% cotton white curtains
New back window glass (original was cracked)
New glass globe for gas boon-docking light
Paint interior and exterior of Marvel fridge
And archival documentation from Airstream Inc. provides the specifications for our 1953 Airstream: Overall length 21ft; Body length 19ft; Overall height 8'4"; Inside height 6'4"; Overall width 7'1"; Inside width 6'10"; Dry weight 2540#; Hitch weight 250#.
You can see with a little elbow grease and attention to detail, this space was simply and beautifully transformed….
So many great ways to use this cozy nook!
I love seeing the vintage details and how they’ve helped preserve them…..
Whenever faced with a question of design, we asked ourselves: What is closest to original? What is bright, light, and airy? While we were tempted to go back to the original Robin’s Egg blue speckled paint (you will find this in the closets still), we wanted a light and open feel and decided upon an off-white. Same with the curtains: light, airy, and open feel. The floor had already been refurbished with bamboo plank flooring laid in over the original Linoleum.
Often times, I will be in the backyard with Lily and she will start to reenact our story living out of the 1956 in California, pretending that we live in the 1953 which now rests in the driveway of our two-bedroom home here in Wenatchee. This gives her the chance to own her life story, retell it how she sees fit, and feel empowered in herself!
This is our second Airstream renovation, and we see ourselves doing many more in the future. While it feels too soon to call it a business, look out for “Northwest Restoration” soon when buying a renovated vintage Airstream!
Things that I love about this work: doing projects together as a family, teaching Lily the value of physical work, designing the look and feel of the Airstream, and engaging in a rich history of American culture.
While we don’t add modern features to the Airstream that we work on, this may be a direction we take in the future. For now, it is a work of restoring original aesthetic. It is good for me to have something like this to work on after addressing mental health difficulties throughout the work-day.
Thank you Ben, Elizabeth and Lily for sharing your Airstream with us. We wish you all the best in your future ventures.