Friday, January 10, 2014

2005 Airstream International CCD 25’ Modifications

After about two years of travel in our 2012 Airstream Flying Cloud 19’, including more than 100 days camping in 2013, and many nights debating the various floorplans that have been available over the years, we decided that a 25’ model with the rear corner bed, a side dinette and a full L-shaped couch in the front would be an ideal setup for our small family (one toddler when we started looking, but now there’s a new addition!) and some extended travel we have in mind. We found the perfect 2005 CCD 25’ in Boise, ID and had it transported to us in Northern CA. While the floorplan put everything basically in the right place, we had a substantial list of modifications we wanted to do in order to get it ready for our style of camping and to make it our own. Check out our Pinterest board for some of the inspiration we found online.

Read along as we renovated this sporty blue and orange RV into into a warm, organic, silver tiny home where we hope to spend many cozy nights on the road as a family. You can also skip down to the before pictures, a list of mods (and links to related posts) and pics of the finished product.
Stories of the renovation:

The “before” pictures (click any picture to see it larger):

Our list of mods:


All things electric, water, propane, sewer.
Solar panels mounted on the roof Three 135W panels (total 405W) from AM Solar run through their SunRunner Signature 25/6/PRO Core package. This system has been recommended by several Airstreamers including a well-documented install by Dave Burns (Wandering with Purpose). I installed the panels on the roof and ran the cables to the front of the trailer and then had an RV electrician do the wiring (see Inverter below). Some homemade tilt bars made from flat aluminum stock allow panels to be positioned at 45 degrees during winter months. We also have one 120W Zamp portable panel that can be extended into the sun when the trailer’s in the shade and is connected via a quick plug in the side of the battery box (for a total of 525W). A remote solar monitoring panel mounted on the end cap of the cabinet above the dinette reports amps in and out from the batteries.
Related Stories: [Removing the couch and fridge for wiring],[Replacing an old vent with a Fantastic Fan],[Planning and layout of the solar], [Panel wiring, battery box modification and antennas], [Solar and Inverter Wiring]
Increased battery capacity We replaced the existing batteries with two 6 volt Trojan T145’s for about 260aH of storage. For comparison, the stock Interstate Group 24 batteries hold about 150aH. We calculate that we average about 2-2.5 amps/hour so we should have power for about three days before reaching 1/2 capacity. The battery box had to be modified with some aluminum C-channel to accommodate the increased height of the batteries.  
Related Stories: [Planning and layout of the solar], [Panel wiring, battery box modification and antennas]
Inverter In the 19’ trailer, we just plugged a 300W inverter into a 12V outlet and it was enough to run the TV, Apple TV, Airport Express and a laptop. We’d just keep everything plugged into a small surge protector and switch it over to the inverter when we were on battery power. For this trailer, we installed a fixed Magnum MMS1012 1000 Watt wired to all of the outlets in the trailer, the exceptions being the fridge and the AC which will only run on shore power. Note, we removed the microwave which we don’t use and would also be too much for the inverter to handle. A remote inverter control panel was mounted on the end cap of the cabinet above the dinette under the solar remote panel.
Related Stories: [Removing the couch and fridge for wiring], [Solar and Inverter Wiring]
LED Lights The first thing we did to the new trailer (‘cause it was easy and took about 20 minutes total) was to replace all the lights with LED bulbs. Just call Dan from, and he’ll hook you up. The warm white LED’s look just like the incandescents and use a fraction of the power. We actually opted for 9 bulb LED’s instead of 12 in several places because we’d always found the 12’s in our old trailer to be too bright (which might be why the new trailers have dimmers). With the indirect lighting in the CCD cabinets, reading lights over the lounge and a mod to the dinette lights (below) we have a lot of lighting options, all with a low draw.
Rear Fantastic Fan and Vent covers We replaced a manual vent in the rear with a reversible Fantastic Fan that will allow for a quick recirculation of air when used opposite the front fan. We also added smoke colored Fantastic Fan Ultra Breeze Vent Covers which will allow us to open the vents in wet conditions (and avoid the dreaded auto up and down all night) and even while rolling down the road. It’s great to be able to stop for lunch at a scenic pullout and have the trailer already be nice and cool, not to mention grocery stops when Gorilla needs to be left in the trailer.
Related Stories: [Replacing an old vent with a Fantastic Fan]
Rewired bathroom light We loved the fact that on our 19’ you could turn the light in the bathroom on in the middle of the night without having to turn the vanity light on. Strangely, on the 25’, the vanity light has to be on for the bathroom light to work. But, we came across a great post on how to make this change, and it worked like a charm.
Related Stories: [Bathroom updates, storage tweaks, a bike rack and an AC fix]
Replaced dinette lights While extending the kitchen countertop (info below), we realized we needed another light fixture, so we took the opportunity to steal one from above the dinette and replace that one with a nice looking stainless dome light. As an added feature, this light has a red bulb as well which could come in handy while checking on the baby who might be sleeping in the converter dinette. Of course, that meant the other two dinette lights had to be replaced with switchable ones so they could be turned off when the center was in “red mode.” All these options give some nice flexibility for sitting at the table as well. 
Relocated/updated thermostat Since the new TV (below) will cover the area where the current analog thermostat is mounted, we moved it higher on the same wall and at the same time replaced it with a digital programmable thermostat. Pretty nice to have the heat kick on just before having to get out of bed and entertain a toddler first thing in the morning. Also, the old one was straight out of your grandmother’s house.
Related Stories: [Panel wiring, battery box modification and antennas]
New water pump Jarred by the rattling every time we used the water, we tried several solutions to remount and replumb the water pump. In the end, we also ended up replacing it with a newer, slightly higher volume pump which quieted things down quite a bit.
Related Stories: [Bathroom updates, storage tweaks, a bike rack and an AC fix]
New water filter at kitchen sink Plumbed a 3M Filtrete water filter into the cold line at the kitchen sink for filling water bottles. Also added angle stops to make repairs easier. All fresh water is filtered at the hose but’s nice to have a secondary filter at the faucet for drinking.
Related Stories: [Setting a deadline for the maiden voyage, ready or not]
Relocated heat vents The addition of a storage cabinet just inside the front door (below) necessitated the removal of one heat vent. We also wanted to install closeable vents in the rear bedroom and bathroom, but the furnace specifications require three open vents at all times. To compensate, we added two new vents under the oven and later, added another under the fridge so can efficiently heat the main room where the kids sleep while our room stays nice and cool behind a heavy velvet curtain. We’ll likely add another curtain to close off the lounge/pullout bed area for even less space to heat.
Related Stories: [Drawer fronts and kitchen scope creep], [Stick some cork in it - Kitchen and bathroom countertops plus one for the pup]


Staying connected to friends and family (and the next place to camp or the solution to the latest problem)
Cell Booster While traveling with several Airstream full-timers who work from the road, we learned the power and value of cellular boosters. Of course, many of these people also have connections through two or three providers so they can choose the best one for any location, but often the signal strength still needs to be amplified. We went for a simple solution that's actually worked great for us, the Wilson Sleek Universal which is basically just a cradle to boost a single device whose data connection can then be shared through wifi. We can put either of our AT&T phones into the cradle and hotspot the connections or, more commonly, just leave the Verizon JetPack in the cradle (not always with the cradle plugged in, it gets hot and the JetPack batteries have some history of bulging with heat!) 
Wifi Booster Frankly most RV Park wifi is not really worth extending. It seems that most road warriors just do what they have to to supply their own connectivity and not worry about slow or finicky park service. We went with a cheap but capable solution of a Pepwave Surf On-The-Go . At $99, it has an external antenna port (see below) and can autoswitch between either our JetPack or any campground, library, restaurant or mooch-docking spot wifi network we can find. It also serves as our internal network for things like the Apple TV. 
Antennas Our friends at Riveted seem to like their dual antenna setup, but while looking into it, we opted to go with one omni and one directional antenna instead for more flexibility. We could hook the cell booster to the omni to generally boost coverage and then point the directional across the campground to pick up the wifi. Alternately, we could boost the campground wifi with the omni and point the directional towards a far off hilltop to bring in cell service. Links to the antennas we went with and a neat idea to mount them in the blog post linked below. 
Related Stories: [Panel wiring, battery box modification and antennas]
Air conditioner leak repair After an initial leak during hard rain was fixed by an RV repair guy with gobs and gobs of sealant, another emerged when running the AC. We traced the issue to a cracked drain pain leaking condensation into the trailer.
Related Stories: [Bathroom updates, storage tweaks, a bike rack and an AC fix]


Music, TV, streaming video.
New LED TV The TV that came with the trailer really shows how fast technology is moving. It was maybe a 18” 4:3 ratio LCD on a janky wall mount. We replaced it with a Haier 24” LED TV that fits perfectly on the same wall and a swivel and tilt mount that will allow it to swing 180 degrees for viewing from the bed. We also ran a new HDMI cable from the cabinet above the dinette where the AppleTV will be and another along the cable track to the couch for playing movies off the laptop.
Related Stories: [Removing the couch and fridge for wiring]
The stock radio was mounted inside of the CCD cabinet above the lounge which hangs in the center of the roof curvature with empty space on either side. Later models of the CCD extended this cabinet to fill the entire width. We installed shelves/extensions on either side and mounted a Pioneer MVHX560BT Digital Media Receiver on the right side, freeing up the cabinet for storage. Note that the stock CD player also played DVD’s and was wired to the TV via a component cable. We’ll play DVD’s off the laptop connected via the HDMI cable run to the lounge and the rest of our music via bluetooth or the USB input (which also makes a convenient charger). There was also a multi CD changer which we yanked to save space and weight. I also stuck a taller replacement antenna on the FM post in front of the front fan which actually improves radio reception. Finally, I installed a subwoofer cutoff switch in an effort to get rid of a cycling hum while the inverter was running. As an added benefit, it will decrease power usage while dry camping.
Related Stories: [Setting a deadline for the maiden voyage, ready or not], [Bathroom updates, storage tweaks, a bike rack and an AC fix]


Extended countertops While surfing around one night, we came across this picture on Pinterest which shows a similar trailer to ours with the microwave removed and the countertops extended into this space. That extra space to the right of the sink allows for a drying rack, soda stream, blender or whatever while leaving space to the left for prep, all with minimal loss of cabinet storage.
Related Stories: [Finding more kitchen counterspace and building drawers]
Replaced countertop material Honestly, the white melamine throughout this trailer just didn’t do it for us. Wherever possible, we wanted to replace it or cover it with a real wood or veneer. The countertops are an easy thing to replace (and needed to be extended anyway). We settled on slab cork as a renewable, lightweight, high performance material with a price point somewhere between butcher block and stone (which is way too heavy anyway). We also replaced the faucet with a taller model and installed a dish soap dispenser (we put this setup in our 19’ and really liked it). The sink cutout was repurposed as a removable cutting board.
Related Stories: [Finding more kitchen counterspace and building drawers], [Stick some cork in it - Kitchen and bathroom countertops plus one for the pup]
Reworked kitchen storage The storage in the cabinets beneath the kitchen countertop was pretty badly done. Of course, you lose a lot of space with bumpouts that hide ducting for the heater and some plumbing (see before pic above). Nothing to be done about that. But why you would make it so you have to open a door just to pull out a drawer, especially in a tight space? This called for a complete do-over as far as I was concerned. We gutted the cabinets, installed a full extension slider in the left bay for garbage and recycling, added two thin silverware drawer and cutting board drawers in the wasted space above (idea borrowed from Dreamstreamr) and ran new custom drawers (no doors!) all the way down the right side for tupperware, tinfoil, ziplocs, dish towels etc. For the pantry above and below the new section of countertop, we added DEEEEEEP full extension drawers with heavy duty (well, medium duty but that holds something like 150 lbs) slides for pantry items like flour, rice, pasta, canned goods, cereal, snacks, etc, and by moving the propane detector, found space for an extra drawer at the bottom.
Related Stories: [Finding more kitchen counterspace and building drawers], [Drawer fronts and kitchen scope creep], [Stick some cork in it - Kitchen and bathroom countertops plus one for the pup]
Dog bowls and food storage With a toddler on the floor and another one learning to crawl soon, it’s important for everything to have it’s place and nothing to just be left out. We’d built a dog food “station” into our 19’ and loved it. This time, we found the space underneath the fridge and built a small cork shelf with insets for two bowls with tight-fitting lids.
Related Stories: [Stick some cork in it - Kitchen and bathroom countertops plus one for the pup]


Lounge and dinette area.  
Updated CCD Cabinets Unfortunately, we liked the upper cabinets in our Flying Cloud much better than the ones in the CCD. While the CCD’s are deeper, the openings are smaller and the sliding plastic doors only allow access to one half at a time, a pain in the ass if you’re loading clothes for a trip or putting things away after a big grocery run. Not a big deal, but as mentioned above, we weren’t big fans of the white melamine, at least not with the orange interior surfaces that make the in cabinet lights (something we like) look like an amusement park. For now, we laminated roll cork onto the existing 1/4” orange interiors for a more organic reflection and soft surface for pots and dishes.
Related Stories: [Setting a deadline for the maiden voyage, ready or not]
Reupholstered couch The Airstream couch is about as comfortable as it looks. Sure there need to be some compromises for it to be useful as a slide out bed as well, but we knew we could improve upon it. We had new cushions made of thicker, higher quality foam and along with zippered, machine washable microfiber covers. Meanwhile, we saved a bit of money by stapling the same fabric to the structure of the lounge to match.
Related Stories: [Setting a deadline for the maiden voyage, ready or not]
Reworked lounge storage We pulled the door off the storage under the seat and found room for four toy baskets and some extra storage behind. Behind the lounge backrest, we removed a small storage box and completely opened up the space which will now fit a guitar, mandolin and fiddle for me and a ukulele, 1/16 scale fiddle and small keyboard for Wynne. (Don’t get your hopes up for our ability to entertain around a campfire. In addition to not being very good, we’re usually asleep by 9:30 these days!) The top of the storage is a new maple “mantle” with a wide hinged lid for easy access that makes a great spot for resting a drink while lounging. We also replaced the slides under the pullout bed with slightly longer ones and resurfaced the pullout with hardboard to make a larger and more usable play table.
Related Stories: [Setting a deadline for the maiden voyage, ready or not], [A Shakedown Weekend]
Reupholstered dinette benches The cushions with the rolls between the backrest and seat may have looked like high design when they came out but they are just not comfortable. Airstream must have figured this out ‘cause you’ll notice that the cushions in the new CCD’s are different. We had new cushions like these made of good quality foam with fabric to complement the new couch upholstery.
Built-in shoe storage/cat heater Just to the left of the door as you walk in was a fold up counter extension. In addition to being flimsy, it could only be used when you didn’t need to get out the door. There was also about 7” of space between the edge of the cabinets and the door frame. On our 19’, we built a platform for Gorilla’s dog bowls below a shallow cabinet with room for a few shoes below, an idea based on this pic. This time, we built a 7” deep extension of the cabinet with cubbies for adult and kids shoes, baskets for hats and gloves and the dog leash, and a swing out mount for a catalytic heater supplied by a tee off the propane supply for the stove. The new countertop extends over this cabinet, with a couple “junk drawers” beneath it.
Related Stories: [Drawer fronts and kitchen scope creep], [Setting a deadline for the maiden voyage, ready or not]
Replaced accordion divider We’ve always thought the standard accordion dividers were clumsy and just begging to be drawn on or crumpled by a kid. This one was also in the wrong place, leaving no floor space to stand while getting dressed in the “bedroom.” We used a flexible curtain track to hang a heavy velvet curtain from IKEA a little farther towards the kitchen. We also added another curtain to close off the front lounge/pull out bed section for heat efficiency and privacy that fastens to the ceiling with snaps. 
Related Stories: [Setting a deadline for the maiden voyage, ready or not]
Installed diaper changing station Similar to one we’d had in the 19’, a series of hanging bins – including one with an airtight seal for “soiled” diapers – mounted on the bedroom wall puts everything at an arms reach at a time when sometimes you feel like you could use a third hand.
Related Stories: [Bathroom updates, storage tweaks, a bike rack and an AC fix]
Bathroom updates After finding some rot in one of the side panels of the shower, we decided to replace it with semi-opaque, frosted acrylic panel that will let a little more light into the shower. In the process, we added an access panel for inspection and repair of the plumbing behind the shower. We put a frosted film on the lower of the two oval bathroom windows so we can leave the shade up more, remounted the shower head and some shampoo and soap holders and hung swing out towel racks and a shaving mirror. In the exterior sink area, we replaced the countertops, made use of a faucet and soap dispenser we’d bought for our house and added two inset pails for toothbrushes and a small garbage.
Related Stories: [Bathroom updates, storage tweaks, a bike rack and an AC fix], [Stick some cork in it - Kitchen and bathroom countertops plus one for the pup]


Installed Fiamma Bike Rack After considering a lot of ways to carry bikes either on the Airstream or the tow vehicle, we settled on the idea of mounting a specially designed bike rack on the rear of the trailer. Support arms secure the rack to the ribs of the body of the trailer preventing the vertical bouncing that had caused separation of the body and frame with basic hitch-mounted solutions.
Related Stories: [Bathroom updates, storage tweaks, a bike rack and an AC fix]
Upgraded tires While having the wheel bearings repacked (check out MaliMish’s tutorial if you’re considering doing it yourself), we noticed that the Goodyear Marathon tires that were on the trailer were the originals, over 9 years old (most people don’t recommend using rubber older than 3-5 years). After exhaustive searches on the Airforums, we decided to switch to a passenger car tire with an upgraded carrying capacity which would have a higher speed rating and a smoother ride than trailer tires or “E rated” heavy duty truck tires. We ultimately went with four new Michelin LTX235/75R15’s.
Ready for the after pictures? Here ya go!
Zimmerman Airstream_13
Photo by Jess Curren, Picture Me Mine Photography
Zimmerman Airstream_09Photo by Jess Curren, Picture Me Mine Photography
Zimmerman Airstream_03 Zimmerman Airstream_01
Photos by Jess Curren, Picture Me Mine Photography
Zimmerman Airstream_04
Photo by Jess Curren, Picture Me Mine Photography
IMG_2905 IMG_2558
IMG_2906 IMG_2473
IMG_3033 IMG_9824
See ya out on the road!!